Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Directed by Jon Watts

(2021, Columbia Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Marvel Studios)

Admittedly, when I hear about a new Marvel movie, I find myself sighing, wondering what they have thought of now to milk yet more cash from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

So, when I heard about another installment in the thrice rebooted Spider-Man series, I didn’t pay too much attention to it, I didn’t think too much of it, and I didn’t really care.

However, I did want to keep up with the pop culture zeitgeist, so there I was ready to watch yet another superhero movie with throwaway action scenes, “cool” tounge and cheek one liners and explosions galore.

But something happened on the way to the multiverse: I became entranced. Yes, just like a spell woven by Dr. Stephen Strange, I was instantly zapped into the web crawler goodness that was Spider-Man: No Way Home.

So, what happened to dissipate my curmudgeonly pessimism? The storytelling.

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West Side Story

West Side Story

Directed by Steven Spielberg

(2021, 20th Century Studios (as Twentieth Century Studios)/Amblin Entertainment/Amblin Partners/TSG Entertainment (made in association with)

Tonight! Tonight! I saw West Side Story tonight! 

What if you took the best director in Hollywood (Steven Spielberg), the best writer on Broadway (Tony Kushner), and had them adapt this classic movie musical by Leonard Bernstein? Would I still dislike the musical, West Side Story?

The short answer is a resounding, yes. 

Don’t get me wrong, the remake here is very well done. The attention to detail in casting, costuming, scenery, choreography, and directing is second to none. The issue here is simply me.

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Directed by Pablo Larrain

(2021, Shoebox Films/Komplizen Film/FilmNation Entertainment)

Picture this: Christmas with the family snuggled away in a secluded town with your own private chef, fireplaces galore, and all your outfits laid out for you. Lovely. 

That is unless you are Diana, the Princess of Wales, and you are with your husband, the Prince of Wales’ family castle at Sandringham in Norfolk for eight grueling days.

What is assuredly one of the most unique takes on the Diana story, Spencer (Diana’s maiden name), is not your typical drama. 

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Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

(2021, Searchlight Pictures/Searchlight Pictures (as Searchlight Pictures)/Double Dare You (DDY)/Ontario Creates/TSG Entertainment)

The remake of Nightmare Alley is really two movies rolled into one.

The first part is about Stan (Bradley Cooper), a drifter who wanders into a carnival taking any job he can get for a warm bed and a hot meal. He then endears himself to a fortune teller couple within the carnival learning the tricks of the trade on how to “read” people astonishing them with stories about their past and departed loved ones.

Fast forward to the second part of the movie where Stan has run off with Molly (Rooney Mara), a fellow carnie who he’s fallen in love with taking a job as a mentalist at the Copacobana wowing the rich and elite. It is there that he crosses paths with a psychologist played by Cate Blanchett who trades secrets of her well-to-do patients with Stan so he can “read” them for money in exchange for him submitting to her psychoanalysis of him.

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House of Gucci

House of Gucci

Directed by Ridley Scott

(2021, BRON Studios/MGM/Scott Free Productions)

At one point in the movie, The House of Gucci, Paolo Gucci, the incompetent cousin played by Jared Leto warns: “don’t confuse sh*t with chocolate.”

This couldn’t ring truer of a tag line for this disjointed mess of a movie.

The movie centers around Patrizia Gucci nee Reggiani played brilliantly by Lady Gaga. Patrizia comes from an Italian middle-class background where her father is in the trucking business. When the fates align to deliver her unto Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the son and heir to the Gucci empire, Patrizia does everything she can to flirt, fenagle and force her way into Maurizo’s heart and subsequentially the world of Gucci.

Once Patrizia is married into the family, she takes every opportunity and manipulates her husband at every turn to ensure that they scoop up as much control of the iconic fashion company as possible everyone and everything else be damned.

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Directed by Jason Reitman

(2021, Columbia Pictures/BRON Studios/Ghostcorps)

For many years, fans of the original Ghostbusters have been asking if there would be a sequel. Sure, there was the sequel that dare not be mentioned, Ghostbusters 2 in 1988, but that just didn’t do it.

At one point, the next rumored movie in the franchise seemed to be getting some traction with the original team (without Harold Ramis who sadly passed in 2014) but then then the ghost in the machine had other ideas and we got Ghostbusters (2016) with an all-female cast including Melissa McCarthey, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Not only did fans seem to not have their needs satiated by this version of the Ghostbusters story, but they also seemed to have outright disdain for it. 

Cut to 2021, and here we are with the long awaited “sequel,” Ghostbusters: Afterlife. 

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Being the Ricardos

Being the Ricardos

Written and Directed by Aaron Sorkin

(2021, Amazon Studios/Escape Artists (An Escape Artists production)/Big Indie Pictures (produced in association with))

When you think of someone to play the part of Lucille (Lucy) Ball, you may come up with a list of actresses who look like Lucy, have red hair, are comediennes, who you feel would encapsulate this Hollywood icon.

Assuredly, and without a doubt, before you heard of the movie, “Being the Ricardos,” you would not come up with Nicole Kidman in the titular role.

However, when the first trailer came out for the film, there she was – red hair, sculpted eyebrows, channeling that infamous raspy voice. As impressive as this was, was it just going to be a characterization of Lucy? A mimicry if you will. Could Nicole Kidman carry an entire movie playing someone the public knows and loves?

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Don’t Look Up

Don’t Look Up

Directed by Adam McKay

(2021, Bluegrass Films/Hyperobject Industries)

In Adam McKay’s movie, Don’t Look Up, two scientists played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, are tasked with the mission of alerting all citizens of Earth of devastating findings that a comet is on a collision course with the planet in what is called a “planet killer.”

Among these citizens of Earth are the President of the Unites States, played by Meryl Streep, her son who serves as her Chief of Staff, played by Jonah Hill, and the rest of her cabinet.

Unfortunately, due to the ever-growing, non-science believers in the country led by the President, who is more focused on her image than that of an oncoming doomsday, the scientists face an uphill battle finding themselves in the surreal moment of actually having to convince people of these facts.

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Normal People

Normal People

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald

(2020, Element Pictures/British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)/Hulu Originals)

Some shows are just too beautiful to review.

As a viewer, you know almost instantly that mere words alone will not do justice to the so well deserved story you are watching.

Normal People follows the story of Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), who from the same small town in Ireland but different backgrounds, weave in and out of each other’s romantic lives.

The show produced by the BBC now available on Hulu based on the book by author, Sally Rooney, is an emotional rollercoaster of a ride portraying painstakingly the ups and downs of young love, sacrifice, pleasure, and torment.

Both Edgar-Jones and Mescal embody and encapsulate their roles so well one has trouble imagining them as simply playing their respective parts and not actually being the parts they are actually portraying.

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An American Pickle

An American Pickle

Directed by Brandon Trost

(2020, Point Grey Pictures/Gravitational Productions/Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) (in association with)/Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Max)

HBO Max’s first big movie, “An American Pickle” starring Seth Rogan is as humorous as it is touching.

The story of Herschel Greenbaum, who is a worker in a pickle factory it the late 1800’s, who gets transported to modern day New York City by falling into the brine and is preserved for 100 years.

He then meets his only living relative, Ben, also played by Seth Rogan, who is the same age as Herschel, who shows him around the modern world as he pursues his own career in web development.

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