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The Matrix Resurrections

Mister Anderson We Missed You (not really)
THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS (2021) ** Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jones, Christina Ricci, Lambert Wilson. The Wachowskis return to the sci-fi action franchise reuniting Neo & Trinity (Reeves and Moss in their iconic roles) in a mega meta way that manages to balance reality with surreality in recognizing the fact that life is still not what it seems. While the largesse of visual effects outweighs the heavy handed plot line littered with annoying new characters and not inviting old cast members back (hello Laurence Fishburne & Hugo Weaving) the heart of its protagonists' love story keeps things pointed in spite of the overachieving ass-kicking and wow stunt work.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Game-changer in the web-headed franchise with great visual effect, sweet action sequences and some suprises along the way.
SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021) ***1/2 Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans, JK Simmons, Benedict Wong, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire. Game-changer in the web-headed franchise with Peter Parker (Holland at his most affable best) facing public awareness of his identity threatening his loved ones and involves Dr. Strange (Cumberbatch) to concoct a spell that goes sideways which splinters the MultiVerse with past foes of 'other' Spider-men to enter our own void. Stunning visual effects with astounding action sequences and peppered with enough meta humor for several film the apparent final chapter of the HOME trilogy does just that - hits home. A lot of fun and by all means splurge on the IMAX version.


Branaghs' semi-autobiographical film is like a warm blanket on a snowy day that transports you effortlessly back in time.
BELFAST (2021) ***1/2 Jude Hill, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds, Lewis McAskie, Lara McDonnell, Colin Morgan. Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical coming of age story set in his hometown of his native Ireland is shown through the eyes of youngster Hill (a charmer) whose family finds themselves swept up in the sudden strife uprising between the Protestants and Catholics. Shot in nostalgic black and white and peppered with Van Morrison tunes the film is like a warm blanket on a snowy day that transports you effortlessly back in time.

Promising Young Woman

Mulligan gives an outstanding performance in a dark unsettling psychodrama.
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (2020) ***1/2 Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Jennifer Coolidge, Clancy Brown, Laverne Fox, Adam Brody, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Max Greenfield, Molly Shannon, Alfred Molina. Filmmaker Emerald Fennell scored a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for this dark, psychological drama with Mulligan (nominated for Best Actress, justifiably so) as the titular character, a former law school student, whose traumatic past encapsulates her future by planning vengeance upon those who perpetuated a crime against her and her late best friend. Dark, black humor and unsettling to the point of disturbing the film penetrates toxic masculinity with pin pricking intensity and deeply felt undertones of despair.

Dead County

Well-produced low-budget indie zombie horror thriller outweighs its short-comings.
DEAD COUNTY (2021) **1/2 Well-produced low-budget indie zombie horror thriller by novice filmmakers Christian Fescine and Everett Lauster employs all the usual tropes of the sub-genre but prove a labor of love with some inventive camerawork (note the drone coverage well shot and conceived) outweighs its short-comings (i.e. Graphic violence and carnage). For a first film it has potential for a promising start to their careers. Worth a viewing alone.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

Middling prequel to the franchise attempts some fresh blood origin story with a game Scodelario.
RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY (2021) **1/2 Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Neal McDonough, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, Marina Mazepa. Middling prequel to the franchise of the vastly popular video games enlist game Scodelario as a former resident of the titular town that has fallen on hard times no thanks to the nefarious Umbrella Corporation which has designs on turning its populace into blood-thirsty 'weapons of mass destruction'. While the action is scattershot at best the listless direction by Johannes Roberts makes the attempt at a fresh blood infusion for the film series lacks some punch and originality.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Reitman's valentine to the original comedy horror classic will make you feelin' good.
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021) *** Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, Celeste O' Connor, Bill Murray, Dany Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, JK Simmons, Olivia Wilde. (voices of : Josh Gad & Shohreh Aghdashloo). Filmmaker Jason Reitman, son of executive producer and director of the original comedy horror classic, returns the franchise true to form in this valentine to the team of paranormal exterminators with the Spengler family retiring to their estranged paterfamilias Egon (the late, great Harold Ramis) where his granddaughter (Grace, in a winning and often uncanny turn as the famed comedian) discovers her grandfather's plans to stop the return of Gozer the Gozarian to return for another shot at destroying the world, while in the process of uniting her family in their new Mid-west environs. Reitman, who co-wrote with Gil Kenan the chock block of Easter eggs screenplay that wisely incorporates its source material with its new cast (the weight of the legacy rests well on the slender yet able shoulders of Grace, the heart of the film). Fun mix of visuals and much welcomed extended cameos make for a heckuva night at the cineplex.


One of the year's best horror films (and best films period).
ANTLERS (2021) *** 1/2 KERI RUSSELL, JESSE PLEMONS, JEREMY T. THOMAS, GRAHAM GREENE, SCOTT HAZE, RORY COCHRANE, AMY MADIGAN, SAWYER JONES. Effectively creepy horror film centering on a young boy (a truly amazing Thomas) whose family's encounter with a wendigo in the Pacific Nothwest results in a paralyzing grip of fear and intimidation that eventually catches the attention of his new (and equally traumatized) teacher (Russell giving some unexpected gravitas) with some truly harrowing results. Excellent direction by Scott Cooper (who collaborated on the to-the-bone scary screenplay by Henry Chaisson and Nick Antosca - based on his short story 'The Quiet Boy'), eerie atmospheric score by Javier Navarrete and beautifully shot cinematography by Florian Hoffmeister dovetail into a compelling supernatural chiller with some also impressive visual f/x and make-up concoctions. Executive produced by Guillermo del Toro. One of the year's best horror films (and best films period).

The French Dispatch

Masterful filmmaker Wes Anderson's most ambitious production extends his reach in twee-ness in spite of a powerhouse cast
THE FRENCH DISPATCH (2021) *** BENECIO Del TORO, ADRIEN BRODY, TILDA SWINTON, LEA SEYDOUX, FRANCES McDORMAND, TIMOTHEE CHALAMET, LYNA KHOUDRI, JEFFREY WRIGHT, MATHIEU AMALRIC, STEVE PARK, BILL MURRAY, OWEN WILSON, BOB BALABAN, HENRY WINKLER, LOIS SMITH, CHRISTOPH WALTZ, LIEV SCHREIBER, WILLEM DAFOE, EDWARD NORTON, SAOIRSE RONAN, ELIZABETH MOSS, JASON SCHWARTZMAN, FISHER STEVENS, GRIFFIN DUNNE, (narrator - ANJELICA HUSTON) Masterful filmmaker Wes Anderson's most ambitious production extends his reach in twee-ness in spite of a powerhouse cast of eccentricities in his latest venture about a fictitious American magazine stationed in France with somewhat colorful writers, a dyspeptic publisher, and varying degrees of criminal activity afoot. The rambling screenplay by the director with long-time associates Roman Coppola, Schwartzman & Hugo Guinness often gets in the way of its sprawling cast with some getting short shrift (hello Mr. Waltz & Ms. Moss) with three separate vignettes set up as the The New Yorker-esque story lines unfurl.

Halloween Kills

You (seriously) can't kill the bogeyman!
HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021) *** Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Jim Cummings, Dylan Arnold, Robert Longstreet, Anthony Michael Hall, Charles Cyphers, Scott MacArthur, Michael McDonald, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens. Filmmaker David Gordon Green (who re-unites on the screenplay with Scott Teems & Danny McBride) returns to the scene of the crime from HALLOWEEN (2018) where the attempted kill of Michael Myers by the long-suffering Laurie Strode (Curtis back in Mama Bear mode) fails to stick to the landing letting The Shape continue his bloody carnage of vengeance & homecoming, albeit amidst Haddonfield up-in-arms with a vigilante group let by Strode's former babysitting charge Tommy Doyle (Hall). While there are some impressively cool kills with so many annoying new characters to knock off, and a decent body count the film only suffers in very little for Curtis to do let alone have a moment with her sibling rivalry. Leaves the door wide open for the penultimate HALLOWEEN ENDS then.

The Many Saints of Newark

Successful prequel adaptation of the the iconic TV series.
THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK (2021) *** Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom, Jr., Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Ray Liotta, Michela De Rossi, Michael Gandolfini, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, (voice of Michael Imperioli) Big-screen prequel to the iconic HBO drama TV series THE SOPRANOS looks at the origin story of mob boss Tony Soprano and his 'famiglia' set against the backdrop of the race riots of 1967 thru the '70s. Show creator David Chase's screenplay with veteran series director Alan Taylor transplants the small screen's largesse successfully for the most part with a fine ensemble and a casting coup of the late, great James Gandolfini's real-life lookalike son Michael as the teenage Tony.

No Time to Die

A fitting swan song for Craig as 007 delivers all the goods.
NO TIME TO DIE (2021) ***1/2 Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Jeffrey Wright, Billy Magnussen, Christsoph Waltz, David Dencik, Ana de Armas, Dali Benssalah. Craig's swan song as 007 delivers all the goods with his brute force tactics and surprising vulnerability are on tap when his services are requested after 5 years retirement to stop baddie Lyutsifer Safin (silky Malek) from infiltrating a deadly nanobot virus via DNA into the world populace while also nursing his love for Seydoux who is in the mix in oh so many ways. Filmmaker Cary Joji Fukunaga (who collaborated on the screenplay with Nal Purvis, Robert Wade and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) infuses death-defying set pieces with visual flair to spare (best viewed in Imax) as well as some much needed dry wit and humor.


Vaughn & Newton make a DynamicDuo having a field day in this fun mixed w/fear horror comedy in a perfect blend.
FREAKY (2020) ***1/2 Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O' Connor, Misha Osherovich, Emily Holder, Nicholas Stargel, Kelly Lamor Wilson. High concept horror comedy with serial killer Vaughn (having a field day) transposing his soul with that of a would-be victim, teen misfit Newton (ditto) when he attempts to kill her with a supernatural dagger that is cursed causing their transmogrification with the hitch begin they have 24 hours to reverse the process or be doomed in their new vessels. Filmmaker Christopher Landon (who co-wrote the sharply edged and sharp witted script with Michael Kennedy) transcends the slasher genre while embracing its tropes (the killer is rightbehindyou!) and infusing some truly heinous kills and LOL quips while balancing the gore with heart (often at the same time; a rare feat for a thriller). Fun and fear mixed perfectly together.

Cry Macho

Clint's smaller less is more tale of redemption benefits from the legendary filmmaker's grace and grit.
CRY MACHO (2021) *** CLINT EASTWOOD, DWIGHT YOAKAM, EDUARTO MINETT, NATALIA TRAVEN, FERNANDA URREJOLA. Eastwood, who also directs, stars as a has-been rodeo star whose checkered past and not too bright future is at a stalemate when his ex-boss Yoakam puts him to task to journey from Texas to Mexico to retrieve his estranged son (Minett), who has become troublesome for his wayward mother, by getting involved with the underbelly including cockfighting. While the bare bones of the adaptation by Nick Schenk & N. Richard Nash (based on his novel) becomes one of the filmmakers smaller less is more tales of redemption, the legendary actor none-the-less makes the most of it with his trademark dignified grit and undercurrent of decency thru out this road-trip familial bonding story.

Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster

Karloff's legendary career and life is explored with great finesse and dignity. A must for fans and future filmmakers.
BORIS KARLOFF: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER (2021) **** Thomas Hamilton's insightful and illuminating documentary on the legendary horror icon offers a full display of the actor's canon from bit player to Hollywood royalty with rare pictures and talking head tributes from the likes of filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro, John Landis & Joe Dante to fellow thespians such as Ron Perlman and Christopher Plummer. Karloff's English gentleman off-screen persona counterbalanced the often sinister and deeply scary onscreen madmen and monstrosities that he enlivened with his own trademark heart, passion and pathos. As Frankenstein's monster he cemented what would be a unique legacy of the genre as well as his generosity for his fellow man. A must for fans and future filmmakers.

The Suicide Squad

Filmmaker James Gunn gets his ya-yas out in this go-for-broke kitchen sink epic
THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021) *** 1/2 MARGOT ROBBIE, IDRIS ELBA, JOEL KINNAMON, JOHN CENA, DANIELA MELCHIOR (the voice of SYLVESTER STALLONE), DAVID DASTMALCHIAN, VIOLA DAVIS, MICHAEL ROOKER, NATHAN FILLION, PETE DAVIDSON, STEVE AGEE. Filmmaker James Gunn gets his ya-yas out in this go-for-broke kitchen sink epic taking of the cult DC Comics characters including in Robbie's hell-yeah Harley Quinn and Elba's morose Bloodsport forced to go on a secret mission with a melange of oddballs to thwart a worldwide threat in the form of an alien creature being housed as a military weapon in the fictional Corto Maltese. Totally bonkers and a ton of fun the ensemble motley crew is gonzo for destruction, mayhem and sure, saving the world at any means possible. King Shark is the wild card voiced by Sly as a man-eating cuddly great white in Jams.

Have at it!

The Night House

Hall is remarkable in this excellent modern ghost story.
THE NIGHT HOUSE (2021) *** Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin. Compelling supernatural drama about a recently widowed woman (Hall in a remarkable performance) who begins to question her sanity when she begins to make discoveries of her late husband's past as well as their home which seems to house a sinister presence. Well directed by David Bruckner with just the amount of dread and genuine jolts thanks also to a shrewd screenplay by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowsk. The pin-pricking score by Ben Lovett & handsomely shot cinematography by Elisha Christian makes all the difference in this modern day ghost story.


James Wan's return to form in a truly unnerving Giallo inspired horror film with echoes of THE DARK HALF.
MALIGNANT (2021) ***1/2 Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie, Christian Clemenson, Mercedes Colon, Zoe Bell. Filmmaker James Wan - who script collaborated with Ingrid Bisu based on Akela Cooper's screenplay - returns to form in this eerie and involving horror film with Wallis as an abused woman who learns a horrifying truth when she learns her imaginary friend 'Gabriel' is real and seeking revenge with a body count she viscerally experiences. With a dollop of Romero's THE DARK HALF and some Giallo underpinnings the film manages to unnerve as it unspools particularly in its last WTF act of highly stylized cinematic wizardry with aplomb and awe. Wallis - who resembles a hybrid of Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Adjani - particularly the latter's tour-de-force in POSSESSION that her performance echoes in her possession sequences.


Better than expected reboot of a '90s classic slasher flick
CANDYMAN (2021) *** Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky, Vanessa Williams, Brian King, Miriam Moss, Rebecca Spence, Michael Hargrove. (Cameos - Tony Todd & the voice of Virginia Madsen) Nia DaCosta's imaginative reboot of the 90s slasher flick updates the vengeance seeking demon with a Buppie couple (artist Abdul-Mateen & curator Parris) setting up shop in the bougie new confines of the mythical Cabrini-Green projects of Chicago where the urban legend of the titular spirit is resurrected when the painter begins to invoke the bogeyman for his own personal interests, unleashing a bloodletting as well as a nightmarish discovery. Executive produced by Jordan Peele - who co-wrote with DaCosta and Win Rosenfeld - the effective production design and atmospheric scoring by Rober Aiki Aubrey Lowe pairs incredibly with the handsomely shot cinematography of John Gulesarian employing effectively the dread building up .

Gretel & Hansel

Not Your Stepmother's Fairy Tale
GRETEL & HANSEL (2020) ***1/2 Sophia Lillis, Samuel Leakey, Alice Krige, Jessica De Gouw, Fiona O, Shaughnessy, Doncha Crowely, Charles Babalola. Spookily and atmospheric re-imagining of the Grimm fairy tale (um note the title's billing for one thing) with the titular siblings (a very impressive Lillis and Leakey) who find themselves homeless and being taken in by an old woman (scary as fuck Krige) who is actually a witch agreeing to keep them for more salacious reasons. Filmmaker Osgood Perkins smartly employs a very rich production with gorgeous cinematography by Galo Olivares, eerie production design by Jeremy Reed and Christine McDonagh's impeccably colored art direction gives new meaning to new blood in a re-telling of a children's classic. Kudos also to Robin Coudert (aka Rob)'s musical score that echoes the likes of Goblin (!)

Saint Maud

Clark echoes Sissy Spacek's mousy demeanor of CARRIE, Mia Farrow's haunted mother-to-be in ROSEMARY's BABY and Angela Bettis' outsider-looking-in misfit MAY
SAINT MAUD (2019) *** Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Frazer, Lily Knight., Noa Bodner, Marcus Hutton, Carl Prekopp. Filmmaker Rose Glass' directorial debut - and screenwriter - offers her talents with deft aplomb in an unnerving tale of faith, spirituality & mental health depicting a seemingly pious palliative nurse (a truly amazing Clark) whose latest charge, a cancer stricken dancer (Ehle equally good) who she decides needs her soul to be saved after the professional's recent conversion to Roman Catholicism leads her down a rabbit hole of sinister presences echoing her hedonistic past. As Maud struggles to maintain her faith, devotion as a caregiver and facing a moment of clarity of divine purpose, Clark echoes Sissy Spacek's mousy demeanor of CARRIE, Mia Farrow's haunted mother-to-be in ROSEMARY's BABY and Angela Bettis' outsider-looking-in misfit MAY yet also elevates the maddening slow burn of the film's plot and themes with a unique balance.

Walk of Shame

AFTER HOURS in La-La-Land ; Banks shines her comedic chops in a tailor-made role
WALK OF SHAME (2014) *** Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Gillian Jacobs, Sarah Wright, Ethan Suplee, Bill Burr. Banks shines her comic chops in this tailor-made (pun intended - you'll see) as a up-and-coming LA tv anchor whose one shot at the top is marred by a daylong excursion to get to her station for an interview at a promotion after a girls-night-out heads her down a rabbit-hole of unexpected pitfalls (i.e. no money, transportation and only a formfitting yellow dress). Basically a remake of AFTER HOURS in La-La-Land. (Dir: Steven Brill)


Zellweger's uncanny Oscar win is a thing to see
JUDY (2019) *** Rene Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Richard Cordery, Royce Pierreson, Darci Shaw. Zellweger is truly uncanny in her Oscar-winning turn as the gifted yet troubled iconic entertainer Judy Garland, warts and all, as she attempts a career comeback against all odds (her failed marriages, custody fights thru divorce, a new love in her life and money issues to name several) with guts and gumption to spare. Based on Peter Quilter's play 'End of the Rainbow' with Tom Edge's fairly balanced adaptation and Rupert Goold's solid direction.


POSSESSOR (2020) ** Andrea Riseborough, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Abbott, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves, Raoul Bhaneja. Filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg proves the apple doesn't fall from the tree (his dad is iconic director David) with this ambitious but muddled sci-fi terror flick about an assassin (Riseborough) employed by a secret agency infiltrating the mind of potential victims assigned to kill with albeit trippy visuals the sum of its parts is at best provoking yet somewhat uninspired and frankly dull. While there's enough visceral graphic violence to satiate the typical gorehound the movie itself is listless and its leads do not resonate sympathy or empathy whatsoever.

First Reformed

Hawke gives an undersated turn as a conflicted man of the cloth
FIRST REFORMED (2017) *** Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer, Victoria Hill, Philip Ettinger, Michael Gaston. Hawke gives an understated turn as a small-town pastor grappling with morality and personal issues when one of his parishioners commits a deadly sin impacting him to his core. Written and directed by Paul Schrader - no stranger to complex men instilled with good yet seeing the darkness within.

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