My View: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) PG-13 Spider-Man (Tom Holland) has been unmasked, and now everyone knows who he is, making it hard to separate his private life from being a superhero. He turns to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell that everyone will forget who he is, only that spell has lasting consequences, including bringing back an old enemy. First, if you have never seen a Spider-man film before, this is not where you should start. In fact, even for fans, it might be wise to go back and watch a few of the films from the past (just skip the Toby Maguire Spider-Man 3 film with Spidey tap-dancing away, I will never be able to get that scene out of my brain). 2nd, pack a lunch to take with you because it’s two and a half hours long. The bad: it tries to make every fan out there in the MCU happy, bringing back villains from the past packing way too much into the film. The problem is if anyone out there is really asking for the Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) to come back (besides Church’s agent)? Or the Lizard-man from what every Spider-Man movie that was from? Probably not. Now the good. The film has a lot of heart, and it’s because of the winning performance of Tom Holland. Holland is allowed to give depth and meaning to a character that always has had a side of pathos to his makeup. From the comics on down to the movies, Spider-Man is a character that has felt the pain of loss and the heavy burden of responsibility, trying to live up to a code that few can live by. This is a Spider-Man character trying to live in a world where his father-figure is gone (Ironman), and half the population has turned on Spider-Man, blaming him for a death of a person that some people feel was a hero. And now Peter can’t hide behind the mask, as he has been outed. Peter not only has to deal with how this impacts him but also that his actions have had an impact on his friends and loved ones. The film’s core message is one that has been preached to Spider-Man by his family, and his mentor’s “With great power comes great responsibility.’ That underlying theme of this Spider-Man film makes it stand out from the past films and makes it work seeing. There are two post credit scenes; one after the first section of credits that may set up the next Spider-Man film and a trailer at the end of all the credits. My Rating: Full Price Spider-Man: No Way Home Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Indiefest: The Lost Daughter (2021) R Leda (Olivia Colman) is on a beach vacation where she wants to be left alone to write. But her past keeps coming back to haunt her as she becomes involved with a local (Ed Harris) and a young, troubled mother (Dakota Johnson) who is part of a loud and large family that is also on vacation. Maggie Gyllenhaal has brought us a story about a woman whose past rears its ugly head when she interacts with a family that constantly interacts with Leda, even when it’s evident that she wants to be left alone. Colman gives a fantastic and impressive performance of a woman who you probably won’t like and possibly won’t understand. Leda is a woman who has made choices in her life, about her life as a wife and mother, that most people would see as selfish, and she makes decisions while on this vacation which seem reckless and almost ugly, even when you understand that most of what she does is deeply seeded from her past. One of the best films of the year and certainly one of the great performances of 2021, The Lost Daughter is a journey into the mind of a woman who, as her vacation goes on, gives us insight into her psyche and why Leda acts the way she does. Her actions may make you uncomfortable and not like her, but Leda is not regretful; it’s something that she feels she had to do. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again The Lost Daughter Website Now playing in select theatres and will be available on the Netflix platform on Dec. 31st.
Indiefest: Swan Song (2021) R Cameron’s (Mahershala Ali) life is filled with love as a father and as a husband, married to a wonderful woman (Naomie Harris). All that is about to end because Cameron has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. At his lowest point, Cameron is presented with an alternate solution by his doctor (Glenn Close), which could change his and his family’s fate. Cameron must confront just how much he is willing to sacrifice for love. If you were given a death sentence but were told there was a way that you could go on living your life, with your loved ones never finding out about that death sentence, you would take that offer, wouldn’t you? What if I told you that you will still die, but a clone, enhanced with not only your likeness but all your feelings and memories, will replace you, would you still do it? That is the dilemma that Cameron is faced in Swan Song. Mahershala Ali gives another one of his nuance and brilliant performances as a man who loves his life but must give it over to someone else so that his family doesn’t suffer. Swan Song is a film about death and how much pain we can take as people. The film is a slow burn as we go on this journey with Cameron, but the last thirty minutes has quite an impact as Cameron decides which path he will take. My Rating: Full Price Swan Song Website Now playing in select theatres and is available on the Apple TV+ platform.
My View: Fortress (2021) R Robert (Bruce Willis) is a retired CIA agent living at a secret resort in the woods. Robert’s estranged son, Paul (Jesse Metcalfe), has tracked down his father but little does either one of the men know that Paul has been followed by a criminal named Balzary (Chad Michael Murray), who is hell-bent on revenge. Now father and son must band together to defeat Balzary’s band of mercenaries as they defend Robert’s high-tech bunker called The Fortress. The premise is interesting, but the film makes too many easy choices, most of which can be seen from a mile away, to make the film worth watching. I will say this; Bruce Willis is in this film a lot more than I thought he would be, though it’s pretty evident that he shot all his scenes in just a few days. The script is lazy with a bad guy that Chad Michael Murray can’t quite get a handle on, as he chews up the scenery to the very last shot. The action sequences are pretty bland, and the ending seems too quick and easy. Fans of Willis will be disappointed in that most of his scenes are him either getting beat up or sitting in a comfortable chair, spouting dialogue that no one cares about. Fortress is the type of movie that used to be on the shelves of a Blockbuster in the 80s, waiting to be rented when all the current movies were gone on a Friday night. My Rating: Cable Fortress Info Now playing in select theatres and available On Demand.
Indiefest: The Novice (2021) R Alex (Isabelle Fuhrman) has succeeded in everything on which she has set her mind. Now, as a college freshman, Alex is ready for a new challenge, something she has never tried before, rowing. She decides to join her university’s rowing team as a ‘novice,’ but she is determined to make it to the varsity boat, no matter the cost. To say that Alex is obsessive would be an understatement. Alex is a character who, at the start, we root for because she is an underdog, someone who is willing to put in the hard work to succeed. But, soon, very soon in the film, you realize that Alex is taking this want to succeed beyond what people would see as normal. She pushes herself to go beyond what anyone else is willing to do or even should do. Fuhrman gives us a performance of a woman who is wound so tightly that Alex sees the littlest offense as an attack on herself and her goals. It’s scary how Fuhrman lets us see just how intense Alex is and how much she is willing to risk to succeed. It’s a performance that will stay with you for a long time, and don't be surprised if never again go near that rowing machine at the gym. My Rating: Full Price The Novice Website Now playing in select theatres and for rent online.
Familyfaire: Rumble (2021) PG In a world where monster wrestling is a huge global sport, and its monsters are massive stars, a teenager named Winnie (voiced by Geraldine Viswanathan) decides to follow in her father’s footsteps and turn a lazy, mild-mannered oaf named Steve (voiced by Will Arnett), who loves sleeping and dancing, into a champion. Kids who love monsters (the fun kind) or wrestling will enjoy this film because it is filled with both. Arnett is hilarious as the monster who doesn’t want to become a star; he would rather take the easy road and be comfortable with losing all the time. Winnie sees that Steve has the potential to be a good wrestler and believes in him, now if only she can get Steve to believe in himself. Rumble is a fun ride, helped by Arnett’s humor and wild wrestling monsters that kids will fall in love with. So go and get in the ring with Steve, Winnie, and a few fellow monster wrestlers. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Rumble Website Now playing on the Paramount+ platform.
My View: Nightmare Alley (2021) R Stanton (Bradley Cooper) is a grifter, a man trying to hide from his past. After working at a traveling carnival and learning the tricks of the trade, Stanton and a fellow sideshow performer (Rooney Mara) run away and start a successful mentalist act. Using the skills he developed as a grifter, Stanton becomes involved with a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) and sees her as a way to con some of the most powerful men in the city. It's a dangerous game that Stanton is playing, and it may be his last. This is a stylized film noir filled with interesting characters that don’t often show their true feelings or motives, as everyone in this movie seems to be out for themselves. It’s a cruel world, a world controlled by greed and by crook. We meet a few honest people along the way, but they are few and far between in this film filled with carnival people and the suckers that they will hustle for their few dimes and quarters. Into this world comes Stanton, a man with a troubled past but someone who quickly learns how to play the game. He has a talent for reading people and getting to know their weaknesses in a short amount of time. Cooper is perfect in the role of a guy who gets by on his looks and his brains. The film perfectly reflects the film noir films of the forties with its editing style, lighting, and set design. The film tells a story of greed, want, and a need to get one up on someone else. Rooney Mara plays the love interest of Stanton, a woman who doesn’t give in to men easily but is seduced by Stanton, the woman who has a heart of gold, only to be corrupted by the man she loves. Blanchett plays the woman who seduces Stanton, someone he thinks he can use to get money and information. As the cool, calculating blonde, Blanchett fits the bill of the film noir temptress who corrupts a man and takes him away from someone who truly loves him. A masterwork at storytelling, Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley is a tale of horror, greed, and fate. Stanton learns early on not to tempt fate, but he can’t help himself, it's in the cards. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Nightmare Alley Website Now playing in select theatres.
Forgotten Film: Mad Love (1995) PG-13 The story of two young people (Drew Barrymore, Chris O’Donnell), both living in broken homes, who find each other and fall in love. Matt is a young man whose mother left, and his family is in disarray. Casey is a young woman who, on the outside, seems funny and carefree, but she is hiding a problem. When threatened with being separated, the two go on the run to escape and leave their lives behind. The reason I like this film is Barrymore gives one of the best performances of her career. Yes, at first, she is the usual Barrymore cute girl, but as the film goes along, we see a depth from her character that Barrymore rarely was let to explore with most of her characters. Some of the characters are a little too broadly portrayed in the film, but I love the relationship between Barrymore and O’Donnell and how it treats someone with a problem with not an easy fix, but one that takes work and love. My Rating; Bargain Matinee Mad Love Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Spider-Man: No Way Home: Special Thanks: Mack Trucks
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Scream (2022) R Twenty-five years have passed since Woodsboro was torn apart by a series of gruesome murders. Now a new killer has emerged, and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned to stop the murderer again. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette are back in this film and have played the same characters in four separate decades; 90s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s. Scream Website