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Tipping Point: Our picks and pans ('Tick, Tick ... Boom!' 'Don't Look Up')

MOVIE TIP

Tick, Tick ... Boom!

This is a dynamic movie version of "Rent" creator Jonathan Larson's musical inspired by his own struggle to get his work produced. Kudos to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who directs with passion for the material and boundless enthusiasm. (At first, I thought he was moving the camera too much and cutting too quickly between shots, but either he slowed down or I became comfortable with it.) Andrew Garfield portrays Larson with high-energy drive, but he also reflects the character's creeping self-doubt and awareness that he can be too self-absorbed to pay attention to his girlfriend and best friend when they need it. Oh, and Garfield sings pretty well, too. The songs are clever and catchy, and the cameos in the number "Sunday" are just plain fun. Of course, tragedy looms over the story; we know that Larson did succeed with "Rent," but also that he died at age 35 before "Rent's" first preview. It gives "Tick" added emotional heft.

— Kristina Dorsey

BOOK TIP

The Man Who Went Uptown

George Pelecanos

I didn't even know George Pelecanos wrote novels anymore! Over the course of 20 books and four series, Pelecanos had astutely offered a gritty but compassionate portrait of all corners of Washington D.C. — and not just in the corridors of power. In recent years, though, he's been more visible and famous for spearheading TV shows like "The Wire" and "Treme." I was delighted to run across "The Man Who Went Uptown," which Pelecanos wrote in 2018 and then forgot to tell me about. Glad I found it; this is a thoughtful, aching story about redemption in the form of Michael Hudson, a convict who goes straight after parole thanks largely to his discovery of books and reading through the efforts of a kindly librarian. Is tender romance going to blossom? Hold on! Hudson is about to find out he was paroled for a reason: so he could come in handy in a criminal scheme about to unfold. How does he fiercely hold onto his new life and still pay a bill he didn't even know he'd accrued? And these people are violent!

— Rick Koster   

MOVIE TIP

Don’t Look Up

Remember how agile director-screenwriter Adam McKay was in maintaining the perfect tone in the complicated “Big Short”? Well, he doesn’t manage that with “Don’t Look Up.” It’s by turns too serious (see the Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence characters) and too broadly comic, and the story is unwieldy at best. In this climate change parable, astronomers discover a giant comet will collide with Earth in six months, killing all living creatures. But the president, the media and the business people are all intent on downplaying the danger so they can continue to wield power and make money. Instead of giving scientists DiCaprio and Lawrence worthy or at least interesting opponents, “Don’t Look Up” gives us utter blowhards and dimwits — in other words, people to mock, not people to watch.

— Kristina Dorsey

 

 

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