Review: ‘Dumb Money’ (2023), starring Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley and Seth Rogen

September 9, 2023

by Carla Hay

Paul Dano in “Dumb Money” (Photo by Claire Folger/Columbia Pictures)

“Dumb Money” (2023)

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the United States, from 2020 to 2021, the comedy/drama film “Dumb Money” (based on true events) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Keith Gill, an insurance analyst and amateur stock-market adviser, becomes an Internet sensation with a cult-like following under his online alias Roaring Kitty, when he becomes a passionate advocate of buying stocks in the video game retail company GameStop, leading to a massive upheaval in the billionaire-owned hedge funds that want GameStop to fail. 

Culture Audience: “Dumb Money” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and stories about financial underdogs who take on corporate giants.

Nick Offerman and Seth Rogen in “Dumb Money” (Photo by Lacey Terrell/Columbia Pictures)

The slick comedy/drama “Dumb Money” takes a little too long to get to the best parts of this story of financial underdogs versus billionaire corporate bullies, but it’s still a mostly entertaining ride with a talented cast. Some of the characters are very underdeveloped, while other characters are unnecessary distractions. People who are interested in finance and computer technology will enjoy and understand “Dumb Money” the most. “Dumb Money” might get compared to 2015’s “The Big Short” and 2010’s “The Social Network,” but “Dumb Money” isn’t as outstanding as those two Oscar-winning films.

Directed by Craig Gillespie, “Dumb Money” had its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. This “Dumb Money” feature film is not to be confused with filmmaker Ryan Garry’s 2021 short narrative film “Dumb Money,” which is based on the same subject matter of the GameStop stock phenomenon that disrupted Wall Street’s stock market. From 2021 to 2023, there have been at least seven documentaries about the same subject. The “Dumb Money” short film has an entirely different cast and crew from the “Dumb Money” feature film. Gillespie (the director of 2017’s “I, Tonya” and an executive producer/director of 2022’s “Pam & Tommy” miniseries) has a style that blends intense drama and satirical comedy, even when based on true stories.

The “Dumb Money” feature film’s screenplay—which was co-written by former Wall Street Journal reporters Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo—is based on Ben Mezrich’s 2021 non-fiction book “The Anti-Social Network: The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees.” Mezrich also wrote the 2009 non-fiction book “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal,” which was adapted into Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-winning screenplay for “The Social Network.” Identical twin brothers Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss, who famously sued Facebook to get more of Facebook’s profits (as depicted in director David Fincher’s “The Social Network”), are two of the executive producers of the “Dumb Money” feature film.

If “The Social Network” and filmmaker Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” are mentioned in comparison to “Dumb Money,” that’s because “Dumb Money” has many similarities in how it approaches a complex story of financial wheeling and dealing with many players on different levels. The overarching theme of all three of these movies is that greedy corporate types are villains who don’t hesitate to crush the hopes, dreams and finances of “underdogs” who dare to challenge them. The title of “Dumb Money” comes from the term that arrogant rich people in the financial sector use for non-wealthy people who invest in the stock market. A more polite term used for non-wealthy investors are “retail investors.”

The “Dumb Money” feature film is based on the true story of a phenomenon that happened from 2020 to 2021, when the video game retailer GameStop suddenly went from being on the verge of going out of business to became a red-hot stock investment, because of a surge of working-class and middle-class people who decided to invest in GameStop stock. This massive interest in GameStop stock was based largely on the advice of an Internet media personality using the alias Roaring Kitty. It also caused a panic among wealthy Wall Street investors who did not know how to handle this unexpected grassroots movement.

In real life, Roaring Kitty was a middle-class, self-described computer geek in his 30s named Paul Gill (played by Paul Dano), whose day job at the time was working as an analyst/financial educator for insurance corporation MassMutual. He did his stock-market videos and Internet chatting on his own time at his home. Because of the unexpected success of GameStop stock, many billionaire-owned hedge funds that were betting on GameStop stock to fail (a practice known as “shorting” or “short-selling” a stock) experienced financial meltdowns. “Dumb Money” is an occasionally convoluted play-by-play of what happened during this stock-market war that led to a U.S. Congressional hearing and federal investigations.

The movie’s principal characters have the same names as the real people, while some of the supporting characters are fabricated and are partially based on real people. (For the purposes of this review, the real people will be referred to by their last names, while the characters in the movie will be referred to by their first names.) Many of Gill’s real-life quirks are also portrayed in the movie. He liked to wear headbands (especially a red hedband) and T-shirts with kittens on the front of the shirts.

In the “Dumb Money” feature film, Keith is living in Brockton, Massachusetts, with his supportive wife Caroline Gill (played by Shailene Woodley) and their infant daughter (played by Leyla Eden and Mason Eden), who doesn’t have a name in the movie. (“Dumb Money” was actually filmed in New Jersey.) Keith has invested the couple’s entire life savings ($33,000) in GameStop. Most people who know about this investment think that Keith has made a reckless and foolish decision. Caroline is skeptical and nervous about the decision. But ultimately, she stands by Keith’s firm belief that GameStop investing could make them enough money, possibly millions of dollars, for them to retire early.

The movie shows that Keith’s online persona as Roaring Kitty (which he used on online platforms such as YouTube and on a Reddit subforum called WallStreetBets) didn’t start out being popular. In the beginning he had a very small audience, many of whom ridiculed him. However, his enthusiasm for GameStop was infectious. Over time, his following grew to thousands of enthusiastic fans who eagerly listened to Keith’s stock-market advice. In order to legally protect himself, Keith had disclaimers about how he was not a licensed stock broker, and his information about GameStop was for entertainment purposes only.

Keith’s other immediate family members, who all live nearby, are mother Elaine Gill (played by Kate Burton), a retired registered nurse; father Steve Gill (played by Clancy Brown), a retired truck driver; and Keith’s younger brother Kevin (played by Pete Davdison), a stoner who has trouble holding on to a steady job. In the movie, Kevin is working in a low-paying job as a food delivery person and is living with his parents. Kevin’s only purpose in the movie is to be comic relief, since he’s not involved in any of Keith’s stock-market shenanigans. Keith’s parents don’t find out about what Keith is doing in the stock market until he tells them some big news.

The Gill family is grieving over the death of Elaine’s and Steve’s other child: Sarah Elizabeth Gill, who died of COVID-19 in 2020, at the age of 43. Keith doesn’t like to talk about Sarah’s death, but there are a few scenes in the movie that show how her death has had a profound effect on him. It’s implied that Keith’s grief over his sister’s death is the fuel behind Keith’s willingness to risk his entire fortune and reputation on GameStop stock. Many people who experience the loss of a loved one often react with extreme “you only live once” decisions.

And because the movie’s story takes place during the height of the COVD-19 pandemic, there are several verbal and non-verbal references to the pandemic in “Dumb Money.” Observant viewers will notice that in the movie, the characters who tend to wear COVID-19 masks are either required to wear the masks as part of their jobs or are in precarious financial situations where they can’t afford to miss out on work if they get infected with COVID-19. There’s also an underlying implication that people being in COVID-19 quarantines or lockdowns resulted in more people spending time at home online, which might be one of the plausible reasons why the GameStop stock phenomenon happened so quickly.

“Dumb Money” opens with a scene taking place in 2020, showing one of the “villains” of the story panicking because he sees that GameStop stock is on the rise. Gabe Plotkin (played by Seth Rogen), the CEO of hedge fund Melvin Capital, is at his mansion in California, when he calls his fellow billionaire crony Ken Griffin (played by Nick Offerman), who’s relaxing at a Four Seasons Resort in Florida. During the conversation, Gabe tries not to show how frightened he is by this upward trend in GameStop stock, while he puts on a front in assuring Ken that Gabe has everything under control. Gabe wants to get Ken’s reaction to the rise in GameStop stock value. Ken doesn’t seem too worried at all. Viewers will later find out why.

The movie then does a flashback to three months earlier, when GameStop’s stock was valued at only $3.85 per share. Keith is shown doing his Roaring Kitty activities on the Internet, while other characters are introduced as eventual followers of Keith/Roaring Kitty. Every time a stock market player is shown on camera, the movie has a caption next to that person’s head that shows the person’s net worth at the time they are shown on screen. All of Keith’s followers who are depicted in “Dumb Money” are fictional versions of real people and are portrayed as having financial struggles before investing in GameStop.

In the city of Pittbsurgh, Jenny (played by America Ferrera) is a divorced mother of two sons, who look like they’re about 8 to 10 years old. It’s briefly mentioned in the movie that Jenny’s ex-husband abandoned the family. Jenny is financially broke (when she’s first seen in the movie, her net worth is a deficit of more than $5,000) and works as a nurse at Pittsburgh Presbyterian Hospital. She becomes obsessed with Roaring Kitty’s videos, and eventually invests in GameStop. Jenny gets repeated warnings and admonishments from her sassy, openly gay best friend/co-worker Chris (played by Larry Owens), who thinks she’s making a big mistake with this investment. Chris frequently advises Jenny to sell all of her GameStop stock.

In the city of Detroit, Marcos Garcia (played by Anthony Ramos) is a low-paid and under-appreciated cashier at a GameStop store. Marcos is also financially broke. His net worth is only $136 when he’s first seen in the story, and he’s denied a request to get an advance on his next paycheck. Marcos’ boss Brad (played by Dane DeHaan) treats Marcos in a condescending and dismissive manner, especially after he finds out that Marcos has invested in GameStop.

At the University of Texas in Austin, two students meet during a drinking game at a party and eventually become lovers. Their names are Harmony Williams (played by Talia Ryder) and Riri (played by Myha’la Herrold), whose sexual chemistry with each other can be seen as soon as Riri is told to put her hand down Harmony’s pants because of a dare during the drinking game. During this first conversation, Harmony tells Riri that she’s thinking about investing in GameStop stock because Harmony has become a fan of Roaring Kitty. Eventually, Harmony and Riri (who each has thousands of dollars in student-loan debt) invest their money in GameStop stock. Harmony has a scowling, unnamed roommate (played by Andrea Simons), whose annoyance with this romance is used as an occasional joke in the movie.

All of these financial underdogs express various levels of anger and motivation to fight back against what they believe to be a rigged stock market that was designed to make the rich get richer, and non-wealthy people to be at a disadvantage. After Harmony and Riri become intimate partners, Harmony tells Riri that her father used to be the general manager of a Costco-like retailer called Shopco, but he lost his job, his pension and much of his life savings. Harmony says it’s because he was a victim of a corporate raiding firm that bought Shopco to purposely bankrupt the company, in order to benefit the people who were short-selling Shopco stock.

Real-life billionaire investor Steve Cohen (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) is another player in the GameStop stock-market war depicted in “Dumb Money,” although this character is shown intermittently and doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as billionaires Gabe and Ken. Gabe is portayed as a tone-deaf partier who likes to spend lavishly and doesn’t really think about all the lives he’s ruining by short-selling stock. Ken is depicted as a cold manipulator who is very much aware of the lives he’s ruining, but he just doesn’t care.

And in this billionaire clique, it’s very much portrayed as a “boys’ club.” The only woman connected to this clique who has a significant speaking role (and it’s still a small role) is Gabe’s wife Yaara Plotkin (played by Olivia Thirlby), a “trophy wife” type. The only purpose she’s given in this movie is to worry about whether or not Gabe is making enough money so that she can maintain the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. There are no female stockbrokers or female hedge fund leaders who are depicted as characters in this movie.

Two other characters who have pivotal roles in the GameStop stock-market war are the co-founders of the Robinhood app: Vlad Tenev (played by Sebastian Stan) and Baiju Bhatt (played by Rushi Kota), who marketed Robinhood as an app where ordinary people could buy and sell stocks for free. In the movie, Robinhood users include Jenny, Marcos, Harmony and Riri. Vlad and Baiji, who are both in their 30s, are “tech bro” stereotypes of being arrogant big talkers of start-up companies. Vlad is portrayed as the more corrupt person in this greedy and ambitious duo.

The first half of “Dumb Money” clips along at a fairly uneven pace where characters are quickly introduced, and then the movie slows down to show aspects of each character’s personal lives. “Dumb Money’ spends way too much time on Kevin, who didn’t need as much screen time as he gets, considering he had no part in the GameStop stock war. Keith was a star track runner in high school, so “Dumb Money” has multiple scenes of Keith jogging on a residential street or running on a local school’s track (sometimes with Kevin) as a way to relieve stress.

The second half of the movie is an improvement, as it gets into the conflicts created during the GameStop stock war. Still, there might be some “Dumb Money” viewers who will feel disconnected because of the movie’s first half, which can be perceived as a blur of people talking stock market jargon and Internet slang. If you’re the type of person who could care less about the intersections of technology and commerce, and if you will probably never read a Wall Street Journal article or Reddit forum in your life, then “Dumb Money” is not the movie for you.

Dano is an actor who can be counted on to deliver top-notch performances in his projects. He has made a career out of doing characters who are eccentric outsiders, so he’s not doing anything that’s very new or groundbreaking in “Dumb Money.” Still, Dano’s portrayal of Keith holds this movie together, when some scenes tend to be a little pointless (for example, there’s a scene where Jenny somewhat flirts with a guy she meets at a gas station) or completely unnecessary (any scene that shows what Kevin does when he’s not with Keith). The character of Caroline isn’t given much to do but be a stereotypical “worried wife” character.

For all of its flaws, “Dumb Money” still has enough that’s enjoyable to watch, regardless of how much viewers know about what happened in real life. A lot of the credit should go to the “Dumb Money” cast members, who admirably do as much as they can with the dialogue that they have, even if some of their characters are very underwritten. Toward the end of the movie, before the inevitable epilogue with updates of what happened in real life, there’s some archival footage of the real-life people who were involved in this stock-market war. Some of what they said was recreated in “Dumb Money,” which might be a based on a true story, but it’s not immersive enough to make you forget that you’re watching actors saying scripted lines on screen.

Columbia Pictures will release “Dumb Money” in select U.S. cinemas on September 15, 2023, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on September 22, 2023, and September 29, 2023.

Review: ‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,’ starring Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Dean Scott Vazquez and the voices of Peter Cullen, Peter Dinklage, Pete Davidson and Ron Perlman

June 6, 2023

by Carla Hay

Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts”

Directed by Steven Caple Jr.

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1994, in New York City, Peru, and other parts of the universe, the sci-fi action flick “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” features a racially diverse cast of characters (Latino, white, African American, Asian) portraying alien robots and working-class and middle-class humans.

Culture Clash: A former U.S. Army private/comms tech and a museum researcher team up with alien robots called the Transformers and Maximals to save the world from villain robots Terrorcons and Predacons.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious audience of “Transformers” franchise fans, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in crowd-pleasing sci-fi action films that are low on surprises but high on big-spectacle fight scenes and engaging comedy and drama.

Nightbird (voiced by Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), Scourge (voiced by Peter Dinklage) and Battletrap (voiced by David Sobolov) in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” (Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” is a triumphant sci-fi action spectacle that is chock full of memorable characters and engaging storylines. It strikes the right balance between evoking nostalgia and creating excitement for new aspects to the “Transformers” franchise. It’s also by far the most diverse “Transformers” movie so far, but it’s diversity that looks natural, not forced. Even people who know nothing about the “Transformers” franchise (which is based on Hasbro toys that spawned multiple animated TV series) will be charmed by “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” as long as they’re up for eye-popping ride of robot mayhem. For people who don’t know, Transformers are about alien robots that can transform into various things to disguise themselves.

“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” is directed by Steven Caple Jr. , a self-professed “Transformers” fan. This love of the “Transformers” franchise shows in how well Caple is able to pay homage to the original spirit of the 1996 to 1999 animated TV series “Beast Wars: Transformers” (also known as “Beasties: Transformers”) and make “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” a standout “Transformers” cinematic experience. The movie follows the 2018 spinoff film “Bumblebee,” which took place in 1987, and told the origin story of a popular Transformer named Bumblebee, who transforms into a black and yellow 1977 Chevrolet Camaro. “Bumblebee,” directed by Travis Knight, was a hit with audiences and critics.

It’s a welcome turnaround from the 10-year downward spiral of quality for the “Transformers” movie series under the direction of Michael Bay, who helmed the first five live-action “Transformers” movies, starting with 2007’s pleasantly mediocre “Transformers” and ending with 2017’s atrocious “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Each movie was more ridiculous than its predecessor, with Bay making many of these “Transformers” movies into overly long, bloated endurance tests for viewers.

Clocking in at a just-right total running time of 127 minutes, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” is an example of how to do a highly entertaining “Transformers” movie without it being more than 150 minutes long. “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” has five screenwriters (Joby Harold, Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber, Darnell Metayer and Josh Peters), but the story doesn’t feel like there were “too many cooks in the kitchen.” The movie also gets rid of Bay’s tired “Transformers” movie cliché of the lead actress being just a sex-symbol sidekick for the lead actor. In “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” the chief human heroine has intelligence as well as good looks.

“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” mostly takes place in 1994, but the beginning of the movie shows a scene that took place centuries earlier in outer space. In this scene, a massive evil entity called Unicron (voiced by Colman Domingo) dispatches his underlings to destroy the jungle-like homeland of Maximals, a group of intelligent robots that can disguise themselves as wild animals. Unicron literally eats planets in order to survive.

Unicron’s main enforcers are zombie robots calls Terrorcons, led by the ruthless Scourge (voiced by Peter Dinklage), who can transform into a 1994 Peterbilt 359. Scourge has two main sidekicks: Nightbird (voiced by Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, formerly known as Mj Rodriguez) is a ninja assassin who can transform into a black Nissan Skyline GTR R33. Battletrap (voiced by David Sobolov) is a scout who can transform into an orange and black GMC. Predacons, a race of ancient Cybertronian beasts, are another group of antagonists in the movie. If these descriptions sound unappealing, then “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” is not the movie for you.

The refugee Maximals, whose planet was destroyed in the beginning of the movie, fled to many parts of the universe. Many of the Maximals ended up on Earth in Peru, including Maximal leader Optimus Primal (voiced by Ron Perlman), who transforms into a 13-foot-tall metallic silverback gorilla. The other Maximals in the movie are Airazor (voiced by Michelle Yeoh), who transforms into a peregrine falcon; Cheetor (voiced by Tongayi Chirisa), who transforms into a cheetah that’s the size of a small truck; and Rhinox (voiced by Sobolov), who transforms into a rhino that weighs 8,000 pounds.

Returning to the “Transformers” movie series are the heroic robots called the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), who transforms into a red 1987 Freightliner FLA truck. Bumblee also makes his return. And having a more prominent presence than in previous “Transformers” movies is Arcee (voiced by Liza Koshy), a sharpshooter who transforms into a dark pink and white Ducati 916 motorcycle.

All of these Autobots don’t get as much screen time in the movie as an Autobot making his first live-action “Transformers” movie appearance: the wisecracking Mirage (voiced by Pete Davidson), who transforms into special edition silver 1993 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.8. It’s through Mirage that the human heroes of the story get involved in the battle to save Earth from being destroyed.

And let’s not forget the humans in this movie. The main human protagonist is Noah Diaz (played by Anthony Ramos), a former U.S. Army private who worked as a comms tech. Viewers find out that Noah was discharged from the Army and is back living in his hometown of New York City’s Brooklyn borough with his mother Breanna Diaz (played by Luna Lauren Velez, formerly known as Lauren Velez) and his 11-year-old brother Kristopher “Kris” Diaz (played by Dean Scott Vazquez), who happens to have sickle cell anemia. Noah has been struggling to find a job. I the beginning of the movie, he’s rejected for an interview for a job as a security guard because a former manager described Noah as unreliable.

Kris’ increasing medical bills are causing a lot of financial stress on the family. And so, a desperate Noah reluctantly accepts an offer from a friend named Reek (played by Tobe Nwigwe) to steal a Porsche. Noah finds out that the Porsche is really a giant robot named Mirage, who takes Noah to a warehouse, where Noah meets Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Arcee. Optimus Prime is furious with Mirage about this introduction to Noah, becaue Optimus Prime and most Autobots don’t really trust humans.

Meanwhile, a museum researcher named Elena Wallace (played by Dominique Fishback), who is an enthusiast of ancient Egyptian mythology, is intrigued by a wooden owl statuette that has arrived at the museum where she works. When she opens the statuette, laser beams come out and trigger a signal to Unicron. And you know what that means. It’s only a matter of time before Scourge and his crew will be descending on Earth so that Unicron can destroy the planet for Unicron’s consumption.

Through a series of events, Noah and Elena cross paths and have some conflicts. But they have to learn to work together when they find out what the owl statuette is part of a solution to the mystery of how to find a key that opens a portal that can help the Maximals escape. The key has been split into two. It all leads to a high-stakes, adrenaline-packed “race against time” to find the missing key parts while fighting off the villains. (“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” was filmed in New York City, Montreal and Peru.)

The visual effects in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” are some of the best in the “Transformers” franchise. But more importantly, although there are several new and returning characters in the movie, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” doesn’t look overstuffed, thanks to writing and film editing that do a good job of distinguishing the characters by giving each character enough room to be memorable. The movie is heavy on nostalgia for the “Transformers” animated TV series (which was on the air from 1984 to 1987), because the designs of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee adhere to how they looked in the TV series instead of previous “Transformers” movies.

The additions of Ramos and Fishback are definite improvements to the “Transformers” franchise, because both of these cast members have genuine acting talent. The characters of Noah and Elena are written and performed as realistic people, not generic and fake-looking action heroes. For all of the exciting battles and elaborate fight scenes in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” the charismatic rapport between the humans is the real secret weapon for why this movie succeeds and why viewers will want to come back for more.

Paramount Pictures will release “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” in U.S. cinemas on June 9, 2023.

Review: ‘The Bad Guys’ (2022), starring the voices of Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Awkwafina, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos, Zazie Beetz and Richard Ayoade

April 21, 2022

by Carla Hay

Tarantula (voiced by Awkwafina), Snake (voiced by Marc Maron), Shark (voiced by Craig Robinson), Piranha (voiced by Anthony Ramos) and Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell) in “The Bad Guys” (Image courtesy of DreamWorks Animation)

“The Bad Guys” (2022)

Directed by Pierre Perifel

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city that resembles Los Angeles, the animated film “The Bad Guys” features a cast of characters depicting talking animals and humans.

Culture Clash: Five talking animals, which have reputations for being villains that scare people, are in a thieving gang and have various conflicts about their reputations and redemptions.

Culture Audience: “The Bad Guys” will appeal primarily to people interested in adventure-filled animated films that have messages about the dangers of misjudging people based on physical appearances.

Diane Foxington (voiced by Zazie Beetz) and Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell) in “The Bad Guys” (Image courtesy of DreamWorks Animation)

Amid the high-energy antics of the animated film “The Bad Guys” are meaningful messages about redemption and the pitfalls of misjudging people based on stereotypes. This comedic movie has some sly anti-hero subversiveness that shines, even when the plot gets a little messy and jumbled. “The Bad Guys” also has plenty of eye-catching visuals and memorable action sequences to satisfy viewers who are looking for thrills as well as laughs in this entertaining movie.

Directed by Pierre Perifel, “The Bad Guys” is based on Aaron Blabey’s “The Bad Guys” children’s books. The movie has elements from the first four books of “The Bad Guys” book series. Etan Cohen wrote the screenplay for “The Bad Guys” animated film, which is Perifel’s feature-film directorial debut. It’s a rollicking adventure that has massive appeal with people of various ages. The movie also avoids the mistake of overstuffing it with too many characters.

In “The Bad Guys,” the title characters are a gang of five animals that are social outcasts because they’re perceived as “bad creatures” that humans fear because these creatures have the ability to kill humans. Because they have reputations for being “bad,” they’ve all decided to become self-fulfilling prophecies of those reputations. They are a gang of thieves in a U.S. city that is unnamed, but it’s designed to look like Los Angeles, and it’s populated with humans, talking animals and non-talking animals.

The five talking animals in “The Bad Guys” gang are:

  • Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell), the group’s smooth-talking leader, who is a master pickpocket.
  • Snake (voiced by Marc Maron), Wolf’s frequently grumpy best friend, whose specialty is safecracking.
  • Tarantula (voiced by Awkwafina), a hyperactive and sarcastic computer hacker, who has the nickname Webs.
  • Shark (voiced by Craig Robinson), a somewhat goofy master of disguises.
  • Piranha (voiced by Anthony Ramos), a short-tempered loose cannon, who has the ability to spread noxious fumes when he passes gas.

In the beginning of the movie, it’s Snake’s birthday, which the rest of his friends want to celebrate, but Snake does not want a birthday party because he hates birthdays. Snake doesn’t even want to have a birthday cake, although he does mention that he’s interested in a delicacy that he wouldn’t mind having for his birthday: guinea pigs.

Not long after Snake and Wolf have a back-and-forth debate over how they are going to celebrate Snake’s birthday, the gang robs a bank. As they all make their getaway in a car driven by Wolf, he sneers, “Go bad or go home.” Back at their hideout, the five pals celebrate Snake’s birthday with some cake. He reluctantly enjoys the party.

This gang is the ultimate anathema to Misty Luggins (voiced by Alex Borstein), the city’s hot-tempered human police chief who feels personally humiliated every time that these troublemaking pals get away with their crimes. Someone else who is determined to stop this gang of thieves is the newly elected governor named Diane Foxington (voiced by Zazie Beetz), a confident and intelligent fox. Governor Foxington announces at a press conference about these criminals: “These so-called bad-guys are second-rate has-beens.”

The five gang members see the governor insulting them on TV, so they decide to prove her wrong. Wolf is aware that the downfall of many gangs is when they make their crimes too personal, but he can’t resist the idea of making the governor regret calling the gang a bunch of laughable hacks. The gang members also take delight in embarrassing Police Chief Luggins and her police department.

It just so happens that an upcoming gala presents the ideal opportunity for the gang to do a very high-profile heist. A famous, publicity-seeking philanthropist guinea pig named Professor Robert Marmalade IV (voiced Richard Ayoade) is being honored for his charitable work with the Good Samaritan Award. At this event, this valuable prize will be given in the form of a large trophy called the Golden Dolphin, which is a portable dolphin statue made out of gold.

Access to the Golden Dolphin is highly restricted. Governor Foxington, who will present the award to Professor Marmalade, is the only one who has clearance to a room where the Golden Dolphin is being kept before the ceremony. The room can only be opened through an eye detection sensor on the door, with the sensor programmed to open when it sees an eye of Governor Foxington.

The gang concocts an elaborate plan to crash the gala and steal the Golden Dolphin. And, of course, not everything goes according to the plan. Not surprisingly, Wolf plays the role of a charming gala guest to distract Governor Foxington. Because they are both canines, it’s repeated in the movie that wolves and foxes aren’t very different from each other. And you know what that means, especially when Wolf and Governor Foxington exchange the type of romantic comedy banter of a would-be couple trying to pretend they’re not attracted to each other.

“The Bad Guys” has some plot twists that are somewhat unexpected, while other plot twists are very easy to predict. Marmalade is a do-gooder who believes that criminals can be redeemed, so he very publicly declares that this gang of five should be given a path to redemption. Most of the movie’s plot is how the gang takes this redemption offer but secretly plans to steal the Golden Dolphin anyway.

The movie also has a subplot about guinea pigs being held captive for scientific experiments at a place called Sunnyside Laboratories. A human TV reporter named Tiffany Fluffit (voiced by Lilly Singh) provides some mild comic relief as a character written as a parody of TV reporters who care more about their egos, fame and tabloid stories than in being good journalists. And there’s a cute, unnamed cat (that doesn’t talk like a human), which ends up teaching Wolf and his gang some lessons in compassion.

“The Bad Guys” is a well-cast movie, since all of the voice cast members for the main characters bring a distinctive edge to each of their respective characters’ unique personalities. “The Bad Guys” is not a movie where the characters are easily confused with each other, because each has something memorable that sets that character apart from everyone else. In an animated movie business that’s over-saturated with stories about talking animals, “The Bad Guys” is an above-average winner that is sure to inspire sequels.

Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation will release “The Bad Guys” in U.S. cinemas on April 22, 2022. The movie was released in other parts of the world, beginning on March 17, 2022.

Review: ‘In the Heights,’ starring Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Jimmy Smits

May 21, 2021

by Carla Hay

Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera (center) in “In the Heights” (Photo by Macall Polay/Warner Bros. Pictures)

“In the Heights” 

Directed by Jon M. Chu

Some language in Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, this movie version of the Tony-winning musical “In the Heights” features a predominantly Hispanic group of characters (with some African Americans and white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A young Dominican American man living in New York City’s Washington Heights is torn between staying in the neghborhood or moving to his family’s native Dominican Republic to re-open his late father’s tiki bar.

Culture Audience: “In the Heights” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in Broadway musicals with contemporary music and movies about Hispanic American culture.

Corey Hawkins and Melissa Grace in “In the Heights” (Photo by Macall Polay/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical “In the Heights” brings a cinematic vibrancy that makes it a joy to watch on screen and an instant crowd-pleaser. The movie keeps the main storyline and themes intact from the Broadway show but adds some memorable set designs, eye-popping choreography and impressive visual effects that couldn’t be done in a theater stage production. And this well-cast movie also has standout performances that will be sure to charm fans of the Broadway show as well as win over new fans. The “In the Heights” movie is set to have its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Directed by Jon M. Chu, “In the Heights” has an adapted screenplay written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book for Broadway’s “In the Heights,” which takes place in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. The movie version of “In the Heights” keeps the same songs from the stage musical, whose music and lyrics were written by Miranda. The movie is updated to include more social-awareness themes related to Dreamers, the nickname for undocumented children of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

The “In the Heights” movie, just like the stage musical, combines several character storylines in a tale that ultimately adds up to love in many different forms. There’s the love that 29-year-old protagonist/bodega owner Usnavi de la Vega (played by Anthony Ramos) has for his family, his Washington Heights neighborhood and his family’s native Dominican Republic. During the course of the story, he also falls in love with aspiring fashion designer Vanessa (played by Melissa Barrera), who also lives in Washington Heights. Usnavi is somewhat shy around assertive Vanessa, who plays hard to get, but eventually Vanessa falls for Usnavi too.

Romance is also in the air for car dispatch operator Benny (played by Corey Hawkins) and college student Nina Rosario (played by Leslie Grace), who has come home to Washington Heights while on a break from her studies at California’s Stanford University. Benny is easygoing and respectful, while Nina is intelligent and compassionate. Nina’s strong-willed and doting father also happens to be Benny’s boss: Rosario’s Car Service owner Kevin Rosario (played by Jimmy Smits), who is immensely proud that his daughter is a Stanford student, and he will do what it takes to pay her university tuition.

The beloved “grandmother” of the neighborhood is Abuela Claudia (played by Olga Merediz), who doesn’t have kids of her own, but she has a nuturing, maternal attitude toward many people in Washington Heights. Claudia is particularly close to Usnavi, whose parents are deceased. Usnavi, who is an only child, moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was 8 years old. And since his parents’ death, Usnavi has become even closer to Claudia. Meanwhile, Usnavi has also known Nina for several years, and he treats Nina like she’s his younger sister.

Usnavi is a mentor to his smart and wisecracking teenage cousin Sonny (played by Gregory Diaz IV), who works part-time in Usnavi’s bodega. Sonny needs a mentor because he has an alcoholic father named Gapo (played by Marc Anthony), who is the brother of Usnavi’s father. A local attorney named Alejandro (played by Mateo Gomez) plays a key role in facilitating what becomes Usnavi’s dream: to move back to the Dominican Republic and re-open a beachfront tiki bar called El Suenito that used to be owned by Usnavi’s late father.

Rounding out the story’s main characters are “The Salon Ladies,” a trio of sassy and opinionated beauty salon workers: Daniela (played by Daphne Rubin-Vega), who is the salon’s owner; Carla (played by Stephanie Beatriz), who is Daniela’s much-younger live-in lover; and Cuca (played by Dascha Polanco), who is their loyal sidekick friend. Vanessa works in the salon too, but she’d rather be a fashion designer. A graffiti artist named Graffiti Pete (played by Noah Catala) is one of Usnavi’s friends. There’s also a character named Pike Phillips (played by Patrick Page), who owns a dry cleaning business next door to Rosario’s Car Service, and he plays a role that affects the fate of a few of the characters’ fortunes.

“In the Heights” creator Miranda has a small role in the movie as a sarcastic street vendor named Piragüero, who sells piragua/shaved ice. Keep watching through the movie’s ending credits to see a comical scene of Miranda’s Piragüero getting into a spat with a Mr. Softee ice cream truck driver, played by Christopher Jackson, who is Miranda’s best friend and longtime Broadway co-star. It’s an example of the touches of humor in an otherwise dramatic story.

The movie begins with Usnavi in a tropical beach setting, telling four kids (about 4 to 6 years old) the story about his life in Washington Heights. The four children are Iris (played by Olivia Perez), Rosa (played by Analia Gomez), Sedo (played by Dean Vazquez) and Migo (played by Mason Vazquez). The kids are very attentive and adorable. But it’s clear that Iris is the most intelligent and inquisitive out of all of them.

Usnavi’s story is about the sweltering summer when he decided he was going to move back to the Dominican Republic and re-open El Suenito. What follows is an immersive, rollercoaster ride of a story, with plenty of joy, heartbreak, fear and love. It begins with various cast members performing “In the Heights,” in an epic sequence where viewers are introduced to Usnavi’s life in Washington Heights and all the people he’s close to in the neighborhood.

Other tunes performed by cast members in the movie are “Benny’s Dispatch,” “Breathe,” “You’ll Be Back” “No Me Diga,” “It Won’t Be Long Now,” “Cuando Llega el Tren,” “96,000,” “Piragua,” “Always,” “When You’re Home,” “The Club,” “Blackout,” “Paciencia Y Fe,” “Carnaval Del Barrio,” “Alabanza,” “Champagne,” “When the Sun Goes Down,” “Home All Summer” and “Finale.” Some of set designs for “In the Heights” are a visual treat and enhance these musical numbers. Two examples that are highlights are the massive synchronized swimming scene in a public swimming pool for “96,000,” and when Benny and Nina (with the help of visual effects) duet on “When You’re Home” with some gymnast-like moves on the side of an apartment building.

An electrical blackout happens in the middle of this summer heatwave. The movie has a timetable of events before and after the blackout. It’s a blackout that changes the lives of the characters, some more dramatically than others.

“In the Heights” is rich with Hispanic culture and doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable topics. Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Mexicans and people from Central and South America are celebrated in some way in the movie. And Usnavi’s desire to move back to the Dominican Republic is indicative of not only honoring his family but also reconnecting with his Dominican roots.

Nina represents the experience of people from Hispanic families who are the first to get a chance to graduate from a prestigious university in the United States. On the one hand, Nina is considered an exalted role model for the community and has all the pressures that come with it. On the other hand, Nina describes the pain of racism and not feeling like she fits in a privileged, predominantly white setting such as Stanford.

During a few of the movie’s more poignant scenes, Nina describes how her Stanford experience isn’t as glamorous as people in Washington Heights might think it is. Nina talks about how she was wrongfully accused of theft by her white Stanford roommate. And on another occasion, Nina attended a diversity dinner at Stanford, and someone wrongfully assumed that she was one of the servers.

All of the cast members are admirable in their roles, but the standouts are Ramos, Grace and Merediz, whose characters go through the biggest emotional arcs in the movie. Merediz’s performance of “Paciencia Y Fe” will simply give people chills. It’s the type of scene that will have audiences moved to applaud and cheer loudly. Grace is also a very talented singer/actress who can convincingly portray feelings without over-emoting like someone performing on a theater stage.

And as the story’s protagonist/narrator Usnavi, Ramos carries the movie with charm and vulnerability. He’s not super-confident when courting Vanessa, and he’s often teased about his insecurities by his observant cousin Sonny. For the two big romances in the movie (Usnavi and Vanessa; Benny and Nina), it isn’t about whether or not these two couples will get together. It’s more about if they can stay together, considering that they have long-distance issues that could wreck their relationships.

Whether or not people got a chance to see “In the Heights” on stage, the movie is a lively celebration in its own right. It’s a story with universal and relevant themes that can be understood by people of any generation. And the movie brings new dimensions and nuances to the story that will inspire people to see it multiple times, preferably on the biggest screen possible.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “In the Heights” in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on June 10, 2021. The release date was moved up from June 11, 2021.

Review: ‘Honest Thief,’ starring Liam Neeson

October 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Kate Walsh and Liam Neeson in “Honest Thief” (Photo courtesy of Open Road Films)

“Honest Thief”

Directed by Mark Williams

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Boston area, the action-crime thriller “Honest Thief” has a predominantly white cast (with a few Latinos and African Americans) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A notorious bank robber battles with FBI agents when he decides to turn himself into authorities.

Culture Audience: “Honest Thief” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching predictable thrillers that have a lot of credibility issues.

Anthony Ramos and Jai Courtney in “Honest Thief” (Photo courtesy of Open Road Films) 

If there’s an action drama with Liam Nesson as the star, then you can bet that his character in the movie is out for revenge. The problem is that Neeson has made so many of these types of “revenge movies” that they all blend together after a while, except for the “Taken” franchise which is its own separate beast. Therefore, it’s understandable if viewers really can’t tell one Neeson pulpy thriller from the next one. At least with “Honest Thief,” the title is a reminder of what type of character Neeson portrays in the movie. The film’s title might be distinctive, but the movie’s mediocre plot and action definitely are as generic and unimaginative as they can be.

In “Honest Thief” (directed by Mark Williams), Neeson plays Tom Dolan, also known as Tom Carter, a notorious bank robber whose modus operandi is to set off explosives to open a safe in a bank while the bank is closed for business. (Tom lives in the Boston area, and Neeson keeps his native Irish accent for this role.) Tom always chooses banks with older safes (which are easier to open) and which are located next to vacant buildings, so the explosives won’t affect a building next door that has an active business.

Tom has robbed 12 banks in seven states over the past eight years. His total robbery haul is about $9 million, and he’s been successfully able to elude capture for all of these years. Law enforcement has no idea who the bank robber is, and the bank robber is nicknamed the In and Out Bandit by the media, because of how quickly and efficiently he commits the crimes.

But Tom’s life is about to change when he meets Annie Wilkins (played by Kate Walsh), who works as a clerk at a place that rents storage units. Tom goes there to rent a medium-sized unit, which viewers can immediately tell is where he’s going to hide money that he stole from the bank robberies. Tom and Annie flirt a little during this transaction, which indicates that Annie might just become more than a passing encounter.

The movie then fast forwards to one year later. Annie and Tom are now a couple, and they are looking at a big house that Tom is going to purchase in Newton, Massachusetts. Tom then surprises Annie by asking her to move in with him. She’s hesitant because she’s still recovering from a traumatic divorce and is very reluctant to take her relationship with Tom to the level of “live-in partner.”

Annie hasn’t lived with anyone since her divorce. As she tells Tom, “I just don’t want to go through that again.” Tom tells her, “You won’t have to.” And because Annie really likes the house and seems to really love Tom, she then changes her mind and says yes. Annie is studying psychology to become a therapist, which is a skill she’s going to need when she has to deal with all the crazy things that happen to her in this movie.

But what about Tom’s secret life as a bank robber? He’s about to come clean and face the consequences. While staying at the Charleston Hotel, Tom calls the FBI’s Boston office and confesses that he’s the bank robber called the In and Out Bandit. He also mentions that he hates that nickname because he thinks it’s tacky, as if that’s something he should be concerned about in the moment that he confesses to his serious crimes.

The FBI agent who talks to Tom on the phone is Agent Sam Baker (played by Robert Patrick), who listens to Tom’s confession with a great deal of skepticism. Tom tells Baker that he will turn himself in and give back all the money that he stole, on the conditions that he serve a reduced sentence with a maximum of two years, and it must be at a minimum-security prison that’s near Boston.

Baker almost laughs when he tells Tom that the law doesn’t work that way, but Tom stands firm on his demands. When Baker asks Tom why he’s confessing, Tom says it’s because he met a special woman, he can no longer live with the guilt of his big secret, and he wants to start a new life with her after he serves his prison time. Tom hasn’t robbed any banks since he fell in love with Annie.

Tom tells Baker that he’s at the Charleston Hotel in Room 216. Baker then tells Tom that he will look into Tom’s claims, but Baker comments that the FBI has gotten a lot of false confessions from people claiming to be the In and Out Bandit. Tom insists that he’s telling the truth about being the real In and Out Bandit. (And he is.)

While Baker is taking this call, he’s sitting across from his colleague Agent Myers (played by Jeffrey Donavan), who’s even more hard-nosed and more cynical than Baker. Both men have a lot of respect for each other though. Myers considers Baker to be his mentor and closest friend in the FBI.

There’s a minor running joke in the movie that Myers often has his small white-and-brown dog named Tazzie with him. It’s a dog that he doesn’t really want, but he got the dog in a bitter divorce from his ex-wife, who got to keep their former marital home. And, out of spite, he doesn’t want to give the dog back to his ex-wife. Myers doesn’t mistreat the dog, but Tazzie is often seen tagging along with Myers in places that you wouldn’t expect to see a small dog during an intense FBI operation.

The dog’s presence is one of the few semi-humorous things in “Honest Thief,” which takes itself way too seriously for being such a formulaic and substandard movie. (“Honest Thief” director Williams co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Steve Allrich.) There’s plenty of action, but much of it has so many unrealistic consequences, that anyone watching this movie will have to drop any expectations that “Honest Thief” is nothing more than a cheap retread of Neeson’s other “anti-hero” rampage movies, where he gets angry at certain people and won’t stop until they’re all injured or killed.

Agent Baker thinks that Tom is just another crackpot giving a false confession, so he hands off the report to two subordinate FBI agents named Agent Pete Nivens (played by Jai Courtney) and Agent Mario Hall (played by Anthony Ramos). Nivens is single and very ambitious in his career. Hall is a happily married man with a young son.

The difference between these two men becomes obvious when Nivens complains to Hall about how parents unnecessarily gush about their children to make childless people feel like they’re missing out in life. Nivens basically tells Hall that he thinks being a parent is overrated. Later in the movie, Nivens (who thinks of himself as an “alpha male”) repeatedly manipulates Hall by using Hall’s love for his son as a way for Nivens to get Hall to do what Nivens wants.

Nivens and Hall go to the Charleston Hotel to visit Tom and investigate Tom’s claims. Tom tells these two FBI agents that he hid the robbery money in a storage unit and offers to show it to them as proof. However, Nivens orders Tom to stay at the hotel and says that he and Hall will go to the storage unit by themselves. Tom reluctantly gives them the key to the storage unit and tells them where the storage unit is.

Nivens and Hall go to Tom’s storage unit and find out that Tom was telling the truth, because they find millions of dollars in cash hidden in boxes. Nivens then convinces a reluctant Hall that they should steal all the money for themselves and pretend to everyone else that the money was never there. Nivens appeals to Hall’s desire to be able to pay for whatever his family wants, as a way to persuade Hall that he will never have any more money problems for the rest of his life.

Nivens and Hall are packing up the boxes of cash in their car trunk when Annie suddenly approaches them to ask what they’re doing with Tom’s stuff. Annie mentions that she saw them on the office’s surveillance cameras, and she came outside to investigate. Nivens and Hall lie and tell Annie that Tom asked them to help move some of his items from the storage unit.

Because Tom had told Annie that he was temporarily staying at a hotel due to plumbing repairs in his home, she believes want Nivens and Hall have to say. Even though Annie is suspicious, she asks a lot of leading questions that are easy for the crooked FBI agents to lie about, such as, “How do you know Tom? Did you serve in the Marines with him?” And, of course, they say yes.

Putting aside the fact that they know they’ve been caught on camera taking things out of the storage locker, the stupidity of Nivens and Hall’s decision to steal the money also comes from the fact that they wouldn’t be able to spend all that money without arousing suspicion. And who knows if that stolen bank money has bills that are marked? These are things that FBI agents and other law-enforcement officials are trained to know about, but the corrupt FBI dimwits in this sloppily written movie don’t consider these very realistic factors.

And not to mention that a snake like Nivens wouldn’t hesitate to double-cross his partner in crime, so Hall is incredibly naïve for putting his trust in Nivens. Hall finds out how much of a loose cannon Nivens can be when something happens after Hall and Nivens get back to the hotel and they lie to Tom by saying that they didn’t find any money in the storage unit. What happens next in the hotel sets off a chain of events that lead to Tom going on the run, Annie getting caught up in the danger, and certain FBI agents chasing in dogged pursuit.

When there’s a movie as poorly thought-out as “Honest Thief,” sometimes it can be entertaining because of the action sequences. But the action in “Honest Thief” is very unremarkable and has been seen in dozens of other movies just like it. People get beaten up, there are some explosions, some car chases, some shootouts, some chases on foot. And there are lots of scenes where Neeson just barrels along with injuries that, in real life, would put someone in an emergency room at a hospital.

“Honest Thief” is just another unimpressive action showcase for Neeson as yet another angry and misunderstood loner who’s out for self-righteous vengeance while he goes through the expected motions with gun violence and other predictable stunts. Neeson has been sticking to this formula for quite some time for his action films, so most of his fans should know what to expect. Anyone expecting high-quality entertainment from “Honest Thief” will definitely feel cheated.

Open Road Films released “Honest Thief” in U.S. cinemas on October 16, 2020.

New Year’s Eve specials ringing in 2020 will feature Post Malone, Gwen Stefani, LL Cool J and more

December 27, 2019

by Carla Hay

Watching a New Year’s Eve special on TV is a tradition for millions of people around the world. Here’s what is planned for the four biggest New Year’s TV specials in the United States:

Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020 

Ryan Seacrest (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC)

Celebrating its 48th year, “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” (which is produced by Dick Clark Productions and airs in the U.S. on ABC) is still the most high-profile televised New Year’s Eve event. Post Malone, who performed on the show last year, is headlining the show this year from New York City’s Times Square. Ryan Seacrest will once again host the show, which begins airing from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, followed by 11:30 p.m. to 2:13 a.m. ET. Former “Pretty Little Liars” star Lucy Hale, who previously hosted the show’s Central Time Zone segments from New Orleans, replaces Jenny McCarthy to provide on-site reporting in Times Square. McCarthy quit the show because she said she wants to celebrate New Year’s Eve with her family. Other performers in Times Square this year include BTS, Sam Hunt and Alanis Morrissette.

Additionally, country artist Jessie James Decker will reveal the first Powerball millionaire of the year during this year’s live broadcast. She will provide live updates from the First Powerball Millionaire of the Year party throughout ABC’s live telecast and the big reveal announcing the winner will air just after midnight on January 1, 2020.

Ciara will once again host the Los Angeles segments of the show that will feature performances that were mostly previously recorded. Artists in the show’s Los Angeles segments will include Paula Abdul, Kelsea Ballerini, Blanco Brown, Dan + Shay, Green Day, Dua Lipa, Ava Max, Megan Thee Stallion, Anthony Ramos, Salt-N-Pepa and SHAED.

Meanwhile, Billy Porter will host the show’s third annual Central Time Zone celebration from New Orleans, where Sheryl Crow and Usher will perform. The show has added a segment from Miami, where Jonas Brothers will perform.

“Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020” is produced by Dick Clark Productions with Ryan Seacrest, Barry Adelman and Mark Bracco serving as executive producers. Larry Klein is producer.

Fox’s New Year’s Eve With Steve Harvey: Live From Times Square

Steve Harvey (Photo courtesy of Fox)

After televising its New Year’s Eve show (hosted by Pitbull) in Miami from 2014 to 2016, Fox changed locations and hosts in 2017, with the show now taking place at New York City’s Times Square with comedian/talk-show host Steve Harvey and former E! News personality Maria Menounous. This year, three-time Super Bowl Champion and Fox Sports NFL analyst Rob Gronkowski joins Harvey and Menounous to co-host the show, which airs on Fox from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. ET live; CT/MT/PT tape-delayed. Performers will include headliner LL Cool J with DJ Z-Trip, The Chainsmokers, The Lumineers, Florida Georgia Line, the Backstreet Boys, Lauren Alaina, Tyga and The Killers. Select musical performances will be broadcast in collaboration with iHeartRadio. Additionally, the special will include celebrity cameo appearances by Gordon Ramsay, Will Arnett and Jenna Dewan, plus an exclusive WWE match featuring Roman Reigns. “Fox’s New Year’s Eve With Steve Harvey: Live From Times Square” is produced by Endeavor Content’s Film 45 and Done + Dusted. Guy Carrington, Katy Mullan, Michael Antinoro and David Chamberlin serve as executive producers.

NBC’s New Year’s Eve

(Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal)

Stars from NBC’s “The Voice” are all over “NBC’s New Year’s Eve” special, which begins airing at 10 p.m. ET from New York City’s Times Square. Not only is “The Voice” host Carson Daly hosting the New Year’s Eve show (with Julianne Hough and correspondent Stephen “tWitch” Boss), but “The Voice” coaches Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton are also performing on the special. Other performers include Hough, X Ambassadors, Brett Eldredge, Ne-Yo, Leslie Odom Jr. and The Struts.  Keith Urban will once again perform at Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight: New Year’s Eve in Nashville, taking place near the Tennessee State Capitol at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. “NBC Nightly News” and “Dateline NBC” anchor Lester Holt will also appear on stage before the iconic ball drop. “NBC’s New Year’s Eve” will be televised from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, followed by the New Year’s countdown segment 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. ET. “NBC’s New Year’s Eve” is executive produced by Daly and John Irwin through NBCUniversal Television Studio and Irwin Entertainment. It is co-executive produced by Casey Spira and directed by Alan Carter.

Before “NBC’s New Year’s Eve,” the network will air the special “A Toast to 2019!” from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET. Hosted by Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager, the special will highlight the year’s biggest pop culture moments and trends. Celebrities interviewed for the show include Lauren Ash, Kristen Bell, Andrea Canning, Chris D’Elia, Dylan Dreyer, Ryan Eggold, Ben Feldman, Akbar Gbajabiamila, Willie Geist, Brad Goreski, Tony Hale, NBC’s Holt, Matt Iseman, Sheinelle Jones, Carson Kressley, Loni Love, Howie Mandel, Josh Mankiewicz, Craig Melvin, Natalie Morales, Brent Morin, Keith Morrison, Dennis Murphy, Patton Oswalt, Al Roker, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Ashley Tisdale, Johnny Weir and many more.

New Year’s Eve Live With Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen

Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen (Photo courtesy of CNN)

For the third year in a row, longtime friends Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen will co-host CNN’s New Year’s Eve celebration, which begins at 8 p.m. ET. CNN’s 12th annual New Year’s Eve Show, which is telecast live from New York City’s Times Square. Performers on New Year’s Eve Live With Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen will include Christina Aguilera, Lenny Kravitz, Shania Twain, Patti LaBelle, Keith Urban, 50 Cent, The Chainsmokers, and comedian/actress Dulcé Sloan. The show will also feature CNN’s Stephanie Elam, Randi Kaye, Richard Quest, Bill Weir and Gary Tuchman with daughter Lindsay at locations across America, including the Brady Bunch House and Key West. Then at 12:30am ET, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin and Don Lemon will do a New Year’s countdown from the Central Time Zone, live from Nashville for the Music City Midnight Celebration. In previous years, CNN’s Central Time Zone countdown took place in New Orleans.

In 2017, Cohen replaced Kathy Griffin, who was notoriously fired from the show in May of that year for publicly posting a photo of herself holding up a fake bloody head of President Donald Trump. Griffin and Cooper had co-hosted CNN’s New Year’s Eve Show since 2007, but the Cooper/Cohen duo brought in the show’s highest ratings so far. Cooper and Cohen have an established rapport, since they have done numerous speaking engagements together. The CNN live stream will be available on CNN.com and across mobile devices via CNN’s apps for iOS and Android. It can also be viewed on CNNgo. Leading up to “New Year’s Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen” will be the CNN one-hour special “All the Best, All the Worst 2019,” beginning at 7 p.m. ET and hosted by Tom Foreman, covering the highlights and lowlights of the past year.

2019 Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve: Hollywood Party performers include Green Day, Dua Lipa, Dan + Shay, Megan Thee Stallion and more

December 6, 2019

Dick Clark Productions and ABC announced that multi-platinum selling artist and West Coast host, Ciara, along with Paula Abdul, Kelsea Ballerini, Blanco Brown, Dan + Shay, Green Day, Dua Lipa, Ava Max, Megan Thee Stallion, Anthony Ramos, Salt-N-Pepa and SHAED will all perform on the West Coast celebration of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020.” Grammy-award winner Ciara returns for her third year as host of the Hollywood Party. YouTube returns as the presenting sponsor and will produce special content featuring top YouTube trends and stories from 2019 during the live broadcast. “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020” will broadcast LIVE on Tuesday, December 31, 2019 beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST on the ABC Television Network.

“Hosting ‘New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest’ has become something I look forward to every year and now my friend Lucy Hale and Billy Porter have joined the family, so the party just leveled up!” said Ciara. “I am going to be performing my new song ‘Melanin,’ so I hope all my melanin kings and queens tune-in to rock out with me and the amazing line-up of performers this year.”

“Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020” marks the 48th anniversary of America’s biggest celebration of the year and will include 5 ½ hours of special performances and reports on New Year’s celebrations from around the globe In addition to Ciara on the West Coast, Ryan Seacrest will continue his reign as host of the primetime festivities for his 15th year and lead the traditional countdown to midnight from Times Square in New York City, joined by newly announced co-host, Lucy Hale. Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award-winning actor, singer, director, composer and playwright Billy Porter will host the 4th annual Central Time Zone celebration from New Orleans, providing viewers with exclusive performances and celebrity and fan interviews leading up to the midnight countdown and stunning fleur-de-lis drop at the dawn of the New Year.

Additionally, country artist Jessie James Decker will reveal the first-ever First POWERBALL Millionaire of the YearSM during this year’s live broadcast of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020.” Decker will provide live updates from the First POWERBALL Millionaire of the Year party throughout ABC’s live telecast and the big reveal announcing the winner will air just after midnight on January 1, 2020.

Special content produced by YouTube will run throughout the broadcast. Announcements on creators and talent featured will come at a later date.

Times Square and New Orleans performances to be announced in the coming weeks.

“Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020” is produced by dick clark productions with Ryan Seacrest, Barry Adelman and Mark Bracco serving as executive producers. Larry Klein is producer.

The complete lineup Tuesday, December 31 on ABC is:

8:00-10:00 p.m. EST – “Dick Clark’s Primetime New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020 – Part 1”

10:00-11:00 p.m. EST – “Dick Clark’s Primetime New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020 – Part 2”

11:30 p.m.-1:09 a.m. EST – “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020 – Part 1”

1:09-2:13 a.m. EST – “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020 – Part 2”

For additional photos, please visit www.disneyabc.com.

YouTube: YouTube.com/NYRE
FacebookFacebook.com/NewYearsRockinEve
Twitter@NYRE
Instagram@rockineve
Snapchatofficialnyre
Hashtag#RockinEve
Websitehttps://www.newyearsrockineve.com/

About Dick Clark Productions
Dick Clark Productions (DCP) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and DCP. DCP also owns one of the world’s most unique and extensive entertainment archive libraries with over 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. DCP is a division of Valence Media, a diversified and integrated media company with divisions and strategic investments in television, film, live entertainment, digital media and publishing. For additional information, visit www.dickclark.com.

About ABC Entertainment
ABC Entertainment airs compelling programming across all day parts, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” the longest-running medical drama in prime-time television; riveting dramas “The Good Doctor,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “A Million Little Things” and “Station 19”; the Emmy® Award-winning “Modern Family” and trailblazing comedy favorites “American Housewife,” “black-ish,” “Bless This Mess,” “The Conners,” “The Goldbergs,” and “Schooled”; the popular “Summer Fun & Games” programming block, including “Card Sharks,” “Celebrity Family Feud,” “Holey Moley” and “Press Your Luck”; star-making sensation “American Idol”; reality phenomenon “Shark Tank”; “The Bachelor” franchise; long-running hits “Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos”; “General Hospital,” which has aired for more than 55 years on the network; and late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”; as well as the critically acclaimed hit special ”Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons.’” The network also boasts some of television’s most prestigious awards shows, including “The Oscars®,” “The CMA Awards” and the “American Music Awards.” ABC programming can also be viewed on ABC.com, the ABC app and Hulu.

ABC’s multiplatform business initiative also allows viewers to watch current episodes of their favorite ABC shows anytime, anywhere on ABC.com and the ABC app for desktop, smartphone, tablet or connected TV devices.

About YouTube
Launched in May 2005, YouTube’s mission is to give everyone a voice and show them the world. We believe that everyone deserves to have a voice, and that the world is a better place when we listen, share and build community through our stories. YouTube is a Google company.

2019 Tony Awards: performers and presenters announced

June 3, 2019

The following is a press release from the Tony Awards:

Some of the world’s biggest stars from stage and screen will appear at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards. The list of names announced includes Darren Criss, Tina Fey, Sutton Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, Regina King, Laura Linney, Audra McDonald, Ben Platt, Billy Porter, Andrew Rannells, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Michael Shannon. More presenters will be announced soon.

The Tony Awards telecast will feature an incredible line up of celebrity presenters and musical performances for Broadway’s biggest night.
James Corden will return to host the American Theatre Wing’s 2019 Tony Awards, which will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City on CBS. The three-hour program will air on Sunday, June 9th 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. (ET/PT time delay). The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

You can also watch the Tony Awards online with CBS All Access. More info at cbs.com/all-access.

June 5, 2019 UPDATE: A second round of artists has been added to appear at THE 73rd ANNUAL TONY AWARDS(R), live from the historic Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Sunday, June 9 (8:00-11:00 PM, live ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network. The star-studded lineup includes Sara Bareilles, Laura Benanti, Abigail Breslin, Danny Burstein, Kristin Chenoweth, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Groban, Danai Gurira, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Jackson, Shirley Jones, Jane Krakowski, Judith Light, Lucy Liu, Aasif Mandvi, Sienna Miller, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Catherine O’Hara, Kelli O’Hara, Karen Olivo, Anthony Ramos, Marisa Tomei, Aaron Tveit, Samira Wiley and BeBe Winans.

Emmy and Tony Award winner James Corden will host the 2019 Tony Awards for the second time. As previously announced, Darren Criss, Tina Fey, Sutton Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Regina King, Laura Linney, Audra McDonald, Ben Platt, Billy Porter, Andrew Rannells and Michael Shannon will also take part in Broadway’s biggest night.

The TONY Awards, which honors theater professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway, has been broadcast on CBS since 1978. This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the TONY Awards, which were first held on April 6, 1947 at the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom. The ceremony is presented by Tony Award Productions, which is a joint venture of the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, which founded the Tonys.

Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment will return as executive producers. Weiss will also serve as director for the 20th consecutive year. Ben Winston is a producer.

June 6, 2019 UPDATE:

Cynthia Erivo (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)

The Tony Awards telecast will feature performances by the casts of “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations”; “Beetlejuice”; “The Cher Show”; “Choir Boy”; “Hadestown”; “Kiss Me, Kate”; “Oklahoma!”; “The Prom” and “Tootsie.” The evening will also feature a special performance by Tony Award winning-actress Cynthia Erivo.

Copyright 2017-2024 Culture Mix
CULTURE MIX