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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

2021 Holiday Movie Review

At this point last year, movie theaters were still closed and streaming services had become the dominant medium for movie watching. And while we haven’t completely snapped back to reality, this winter break did provide us with a slew of good reasons to venture back to the cinema, apart from escaping the cold weather.

There were stories about a shady conman in the 1940s carnival world, two young adults falling in love in the San Fernando Valley, and a web-slinging hero trying to save the day just one more time. Of course, streaming services still delivered their fair share of interesting stories too with works by big-name talents such as Adam McKay, Aaron Sorkin, and George Clooney.

Listed below are some of my thoughts, both good and bad, on a few of the new films I was able to see over the holiday break.

Films not given a full review

  • The Lost Daughter (2/5)

  • The Hand of God (2.5/5)

  • CODA (3/5)

  • The Tender Bar (3/5)

  • Cyrano (3.5/5)

  • Drive My Car (3.5/5)

  • Parallel Mothers (3.5/5)

  • Swan Song (4/5)

The Matrix Resurrections (2.5/5)

Both the most and least original entry in the series, this (supposedly) final entry earns extra points for not following the industry trend of way-too-late nostalgia-bait sequels (I’m looking at you Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Coming 2 America). But it also loses points because it’s much more fun to think about than to actually watch, as the action is not up to the usual standard and the literal story lacks a biting hook.

Don't Look Up (3/5)

Does it count for anything if the feeling a film is intended for you to have is the same one you feel every day? How much can Adam McKay expect me to react to his thickly veiled climate change film when the specific anger he wants to incite out of me is already inside of me?

Even in its unoriginality, Don't Look Up can be quite funny, mainly thanks to its legendary cast. But it's not laugh-out-loud funny. It's the kind of funny where each laugh is greeted by an equal groan by the film trying to be too smart for its own good.

Nightmare Alley (3/5)

Heavy on atmosphere, light on substance. I'm happy Guillermo del Toro got to indulge himself once again in the macabre material that he so lovingly adores. I actually wish he would have indulged himself more! It's all a little too pristine for my tastes. Almost as if he's cognizant that he needs to appeal to Oscar voters now that he's in the club. But this is a technical masterpiece, even if the script can't apply the finishing touches to this lush world.

Being the Ricardos (3.5/5)

There's an opportunity cost every time Aaron Sorkin decides to director one of his own scripts. The thought of "what could have been..." continually creeps through. This was good, but it could have been way better. I wish Sorkin would get off his self-aggrandizing streak of thinking he needs to be a director. Unfortunately, the man may be able to write anything he wants, but he still doesn't know the definition of humility.

Licorice Pizza (3.5/5)

Turning away from the youthful chaotic energy of his earlier San Fernando Valley films of Boogie Nights and Magnolia, Licorice Pizza marks PTA's shaggiest film to date, which is truly something considering the aloofness of Inherent Vice.

It's often a meandering film where you never truly know where it's going. Sometimes you like where you've ended up, and sometimes you don't. Maybe that's just what PTA intended for? Because sometimes in life - specifically in the area of love - you never truly know where you're going to be.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (3.5/5)

Was this too much of a good thing? It often felt like it. Just one really big excuse to ride the fan-service ride just one more time. But I had a really good time. And at the end of the day, that's the most important thing.

The King's Man (3.5/5)

As a history lover, this historical fan fiction was right up my alley. It's an odd clash of matter-of-fact drama and dark comedy. But the ship never sinks, no matter how many times it gets close to tipping over. Director Matthew Vaughn brings his usual flair, even going as far as to challenge Sam Mendes in a 1917 duel. Obviously, Vaughn loses. But in his loss, he still gives us a bloody good time.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (4/5)

From bloody beginning to bloody conclusion, Joel Coen's adaptation of The Scottish Play holds you in its talons with its impressive mood and visuals. Shot in stark black-and-white on a soundstage, the film has an otherworldly quality to it, which adds to the overall theatricality brought about by the amazing performances by Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand.

West Side Story (4/5)

Leave it to Steven Spielberg to make his first outing into the musical genre one that completely crushes the competition. With a cast consisting of so many stars-in-the-making, Spielberg is able to harmonize the past and the present, making this remake feel like a Golden Age musical made with modern craftsmanship. The “America” and “I Feel Pretty” set-pieces contain some of Spielberg’s greatest directorial work, with Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics proving once again why they have inspired so many.

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