Sunday, December 5, 2021

2021 Movie Guide

Nightmare Alley - 4 Stars - THEATERS DECEMBER 17TH - Update of the 1947 film noir far surpasses the original.  Bradley Cooper leads a grand cast in the rise and fall of a carney con man. 

The Tragedy of Macbeth - 4 Stars - THEATERS DECEMBER 25TH - Shakespeare doesn't get much better than this moody atmospheric triumph with Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington.  

The Power of the Dog - 4 Stars - NETFLIX - Cruel rancher Benedict Cumberbatch dislikes his brother's new wife and son in a grand epic with a shocking finale.    
Coda - 4 Stars - APPLE TV - 17-year-old girl discovers her passion for singing in Coda, which stands for Child of Deaf Adults. Break out star Emilia Jones soars in this heart warmer about the tension between ambition and family duty.  With Marlee Matlin.  Heart-warming.     

Summer of Soul - 4 Stars - HULU - One of the greatest concerts films ever culled from footage shot during the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival - a series of free concerts held over six weekends in a Harlem city park. The music captures the great cultural changes in society during that time.  The footage intended for syndication languished in the wake of Woodstock - held the same summer.  This is better.  

Come From Away - 4 Stars - APPLE - Video of the Broadway Performance, based on the story of the people of Gander, Newfoundland, who take in 7000 residents on 9/11.  Uplifting. 

Belfast - 3 1/2 Stars - Kenneth Branagh's touching memoir of growing up in Northern Ireland during the Irish civil war.   

West Side Story - 3 1/2 Stars.  Steven Spielberg reimagines the iconic musical in some wildly creative new ways.     
Worth - 3 1/2 Stars - Michael Keeton as Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who distributed payments to victims of the 9/11 attack.  A memorial to 9/11 from a different angle that stay human and avoids sentimentality.  Surprisingly touching.  

Barb and Star go to Vista Del Mar - 3 1/2 Stars - HULU. Gloriously silly comedy with Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo.  A Saturday Night Live Skit write large. 

Passing - 3 1/2 Stars - NETFLIX - Provocative story of a Black woman passing for white in 1920's society and her friendship with a Black doctor's wife.  Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga amaze.      

King Richard - 3 Stars - HBO MAX - Will Smith as Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena and his determination that they succeed. 

Being the Ricardos - 3 Stars - AMAZON PRIME - I love Lucy backstage lore revisited with Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem.  J. K. Simmons stands out as William Frawley. 

The French Dispatch - 3 Stars - THEATERS - Wes Anderson shaggy dog tale of three stories within the context of a fictional magazine.  Sometimes flags but often amuses.      

The Card Counter - 3 Stars - THEATERS - Dreamlike thriller with Oscar Issacs as a gambling prodigy wracked with guilt over his war crimes in the middle East.  

No Sudden Move - 3 Stars - HBO Max - Old school crime caper directed by Steven Soderbergh.  Don Cheadle wriggles in and out of trouble in a plot much larger than he knows.    

In the Heights - 3 Stars - DISNEY PLUS - Written before Lin-Manuel Miranda stunned the world with Hamilton, In The Heights feels less ground breaking but entertaining nevertheless.  Family and romance and the dream of a better life motivate the residents of Washington Heights.  Some of the musical numbers would make Busby Berkeley proud. 

Annette - 3 Stars - AMAZON PRIME - Wildly creative musical with Adam Driver as an aggressive comic who marries opera star Marion Cotillard.  Their daughter inspires murder and exploitation. 

Mass - 3 Stars - ON DEMAND - Two families who lose children to a mass shooting share their grief.  Strong acting, especially Ann Dowd and Martha Plimpton.  

The House of Gucci --- 2 1/2 Stars - Lady Gaga married a member of the Gucci family and the fireworks begin and go on for a long time.   

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain - 2 1/2 Stars - Amazon - Benedict Cumberbatch as eccentric turn of the century British artist, who specialized in cats.  Quirky, cute, and a little slight.  

C'Mon C'Mon - Juaquin Pheonix goes on an NPR style road trip with his bratty nine-year old nephew.  
Spencer - 2 Stars - THEATERS - Kristen Stewart makes a credible Princess Diana in a depressing meditation of the  unraveling of her marriage to Prince Charles and her dislike of life in the royal family    

The Eyes of Tammy Faye - 2 Stars - THEATERS - Jessica Chastain goes over the top as over the top Televangelist Tammy Faye Baker.  This story overlooks the victims of the scams pulled with husband Jim Bakker, played by Andrew Garfield.   

Respect - 2 Stars - THEATERS - Jennifer Hudson covers Aretha Franklin's greatest hit in a by the book bio-pic.  Long and slow and a little too pat telling a rise and fall and rise again tale.  

The Green Knight - 2 Stars - THEATERS/ON DEMAND - Widely praised fantasy with Dev Patel as Sir Gawain who faces beheading by the Green Knight.  Dark, slow, and tedious.

Old - 2 Stars - M. Night Shyamalan's latest sci fi horror twist.  A slow boil at best.    

The Many Saints of Newark - 1 Star - HBO MAX - The Sopranos it aint.    

Reminiscence - 1 Star - HBO MAX - The excellent Hugh Jackman can't save this run of the mill sci-fi film noir, with Rebecca Ferguson as a femme fatale with an agenda.