"The Power of the Dog" is a slow-burn balancing act, that admittedly, felt like a lot to chew on upon first viewing. But wow does its flavor linger.
A beautifully composed, intimate story of a man, a boy and a couple in the open ranges of Montana set the mid 1920s, "The Power of the Dog" is one of the most stellar achievements in story-telling you'll ever witness, a film that is challenging and compelling all the same, that wraps itself around the viewers, twisting our perceptions, and almost assuredly forces deep, intellectual post-viewing discussions.
"Encanto" is Disney's 60th full-length animated feature, and one of the only ones to not feature a typical "villain." It works, instead centering on the idea of family and community, drawing its drama out of a young girl's inward exploration of how exactly she fits into her eccentric family.
Anyone with a family (dysfunctional or functional) will relate to the themes of "Encanto," and while it feels different than most other Disney animated films, it's another successful entry into the studio's massive canon of films that will appeal to the young and old alike...and is also a wondrous celebration of Colombian culture.
There's not a more distracting actor currently working than Jared Leto. Donning a fat suit and wearing heavy prosthetics in "House of Gucci," he's only recognizable by his usual scene-chewing, and he turns in one of the lousiest acting performances of any actor in recent years.
Like Leto in this film, there might be something decent underneath all the bloat and make-up when it comes to "House of Gucci," but director Ridley Scott squanders the opportunity. Given an all-star cast to work with, this excessive, meandering exposé on the fall of the Gucci Empire should have been better...yes Jared Leto's brutal performance is the worst part of the movie, but it's sadly not the only thing wrong with it.
"The Humans" is adapted and directed by Stephen Karam, who is the creator of the Broadway play in which the film is based. It's highly-regarded, winning the 2016 Tony for Best Play, and was even a finalist for the Pulitzer. It's also noted as being incredibly frustrating to audiences, as it offers no easy answers to some of the questions it raises.
That frustration carries over to the movie, so "The Humans" will surely be a divisive film. But for those patient enough to stick with it, they'll be rewarded with one of the more unique and high-brow haunted house films that you'll ever come across.
If Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is capable of doing anything wrong, he's yet to prove it. His directorial debut, "tick, tick...BOOM!" is a gloriously energetic ode to the theater, and one of its greatest creative minds, Jonathan Larson, the one-of-a-kind talent who gave us "Rent."
Before you go off ready to hand this year's Oscar to Will Smith or Benedict Cumberbatch, don't sleep on Andrew Garfield. He is an absolute firecracker as Larson and a commanding screen presence who single-handedly energizes each frame he's in. This is a crackling performance in an equally impressive film...one of the best of 2021 for sure ("tick, tick...BOOM!" is streaming on Netflix starting 11/19/21).
The best and most unbelievable stories are often true. That is definitely the case when it comes to Richard Williams, a man who wrote out an 85-page plan detailing how not one, but two of his young daughters would take the world by storm and become the two greatest tennis champions the world has ever seen. That's a bit far-fetched, but what makes it miraculous is that he wrote this plan years before they were ever born.
His story is the story of his two daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, who did go on to become two of the greatest tennis champs and athletes ever produced. They weren't the first female African-American all-stars (look up Ora Washington, Althea Gibson or Zina Garrison), but they did open up the door for an entire generation of young girls as they absolutely dominated their sport for nearly two decades.
"King Richard" is funny, touching and inspiring. It has the make-up of a traditional underdog sports film (an over-saturated genre to be sure), yet it doesn't feel like any of the others that have come before it. It's all held together with what will surely be an award-worthy turn by Will Smith, who after a few misfires ("Bad Boys For Life," "Gemini Man," "Bright") fires on all cylinders as the man behind-the-scenes in the life of two iconic Americans.
More of a remix than a reboot, "Ghostbuster: Afterlife" definitely taps into the correct vein that made the original 1984 "Ghostbusters" such a roaring success, and such a beloved movie. It opens up the franchise for a new generation of kids, while simultaneously offering plenty for parents and old-school fans to chew on.
But while nostalgia alone might be enough for many who call themselves fans of "Ghostbusters," this latest effort is just another unfortunate reminder that, seemingly, there are no new ideas left in Hollywood. They've resorted to attempting to resurrect intellectual properties that are clearly dead and gone, literally relying on ghosts of the past to fuel their financial futures. In that spirit (pun intended), "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is running on fumes and is to the original "Ghostbusters" what "The Force Awakens" is to the original "Star Wars" film: A new cake baked from the same old ingredients.
(Minor spoilers to follow...minor! Promise!)
It comes as no surprise that NOW was the right time for 60-year-old actor/director Kenneth Branagh to bring us "Belfast." It's an auto-biographical story of Branagh's own childhood, growing up in Belfast, Ireland, and set against the backdrop of the violent 1969 Northern Ireland Riots between Protestants and Catholics.
Told through the eyes of a young Buddy (the wonderful, bright 9-year-old newcomer, Jude Hill) that is meant to represent Branagh at that age, "Belfast" finds optimism, love, humanity and their importance despite the horrendous things going on in the world around this young lad. Developed during the pandemic, Branagh remembers another time from his youth where he and his family were essentially "quarantined" on their own street in Belfast, where a community is given no other choice but to find happiness in one another.
Essentially "Belfast" is the "Ted Lasso" of movies: It's so pure and sanguine, that you just want to latch on to it and give it a big hug...and it stands out in a sea of pessimism, at a time when life feels quite desolate.
It's a film that is also wonderfully charming and accessible, and I sure hope that all movie-goers get a chance to experience it with an audience.
Actress Rebecca Hall wrote the screenplay and directs her first film in the astonishing yet awkwardly cold "Passing," now streaming on Netflix.
Who doesn't love Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot or Ryan Reynolds? Throw them all together however, and the individual flavors just don't mix.
"Red Notice" is a serviceable but forgettable action-comedy - directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who teams with "The Rock" for their third film together. Their previous two films are spiritual cousins to "Red Notice" - "Central Intelligence" and "Skyscraper" - movies that are light and implausible, that seem to want to drift by based on the sheer star-power of the actors involved, instead of offering up anything innovative to the genre.
Yes, the "Red Notice" cocktail of Johnson, Gadot and Reynolds may look delicious from a distance, but an ounce of "originality" is the missing ingredient that might have made it go down a bit smoother.
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