Matt’s Movie Review Roundup

The year is almost over, so I’m doing all my due diligence. As a result, I’ve seen some great movies and some that weren’t as great. Here’s a look at the new films I saw this week. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.

Bergman Island (VOD)
Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth and Mia Wasikowska
Synopsis: This drama is really about the creative process. It’s about a couple (Roth and Krieps) who are both filmmakers. They arrive on the island that inspired Ingmar Bergman for a retreat to work on their craft. They have vastly different approaches, and while he enjoys some creative success, she is stuck. She spends time trying to work through her story—which we see depicted with Wasikowska in the lead role. Finally, she figures it out as their time comes to an end and her husband arrives with their daughter. This was an interesting and quiet drama. At times I found it fascinating thanks to the work of Krieps. But, overall, it failed to land for me in terms of an overall narrative. I suspect this will be the kind of film that will resonate more strongly with film people than general audiences.
Rating: Rated R for some sexual content, nudity and language.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Christmas Proposal (Paramount+)
Adam Rodriguez and Jessica Camacho
Synopsis: What’s the difference between a CBS Christmas movie and a Hallmark Christmas movie? Honestly, I’m not sure. This original for CBS featured a director and some cast that have frequented Hallmark productions. It’s original Christmas romance that appeared on CBS and now is available to stream on Paramount+. The story centers on a career-minded lawyer (Rodriguez) who askes a personal chef working as a rideshare driver (Camacho) to pretend to be his girlfriend for Christmas so he can earn a promotion at his family firm. She agrees, hoping to fund her food truck dream when sparks fly. Camacho and Rodriguez are great in the lead roles and this story has some comedy and some sweet moments. It follows a typical pattern you see in Hallmark movies and does it beautifully. I enjoyed the ride.
Rating: TV-G

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Don’t Look Up (Netflix)
Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rob Morgan, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Mark Rylance, and Jonah Hill
Synopsis: The latest from writer/director Adam McKay is a satire of government and culture set against a threat of the end of the world. It is one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year and a big release for Netflix that dropped on Christmas Eve after a short theatrical run. In it a pair of scientists (DiCaprio and Lawrence) discover a comet that is headed for Earth. They discover that in six months, the world will end. When they present those findings to the President (Streep) things don’t go as planned. Can they save the Earth, or will larger forces stand in the way? I’ve enjoyed the films from McKay in the past. I particularly loved The Big Short. This one has a great cast and a fun premise. There are some delightful moments but the film runs a bit too long for me and rambles at some points. In addition, the somewhat light-hearted tone takes a bit of a weird turn in the final act. Despite that, I enjoyed the performances from DiCaprio and Lawrence in the lead roles, while Streep and Hill are a lot of fun, too. This is a good movie but not quite a great movie, and for me it doesn’t reach the highs of The Big Short.
Rating: R

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Matrix Resurrections (HBO Max/Theaters)
Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jessica Henwick
Synopsis: I still remember when The Matrix was released. I saw it in college and it was unlike anything I’d seen. I loved it and still do. The follow up films were less exciting. I am not sure we needed another trip to The Matrix, but here we are. Lana Wachowski is back to direct and Reeves and Moss are back in their lead roles. But much of the rest of the film, including familiar parts played by new actors, is different. This one finds a way back into the world, offers some meta takes on a return to The Matrix and, in the end, delivers a story that’s a bit of fun. I was skeptical going into it but this ends up being my favorite of the Matrix sequels and a worthy return to the world. I loved the work from Reeves and Moss, but it was the performances from Groff and Harris that really took it to a new level. I enjoyed the action and the story, as this one delivers a fun return to the world that works as a bit of fan service and a solid action adventure.
Rating: Rated R for violence and some language.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Nightmare Alley (Theaters)
Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Ron Perlman, and Richard Jenkins
Synopsis: This film from director Guillermo del Toro, who co-wrote the screenplay with Kim Morgan, is a re-make of the 1947 film of the same name, based on the novel from William Lindsay Gresham. It centers on a drifter, Stanton Carlisle (Cooper), who learns the carnival trade and masters it. He turns it into a lucrative career until an opportunity pushes his skill too far, taking him down a dark road. Del Toro has crafted some compelling horror films in the past but here the terror comes from the life of the mind. Cooper is incredible in the lead role and creates a compelling character part of this dark and stylishly created world. I also enjoyed the supporting cast and the way this story is told. By the time you get to the conclusion you see how all the pieces come together and much like Carlisle, you can’t help but be a little impressed how things have come full circle. This is an engaging film that delivers and may feature the performance of the year for a lead actor. It’s well worth checking out.
Rating: Rated R for strong/bloody violence, some sexual content, nudity and language.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sing 2 (Theaters)
: Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, Bono, Reese Witherspoon, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, and Halsey
Synopsis: This is the rare sequel that surpasses the original. It’s my favorite animated film of the year and an easy addition to my Top 10 for 2021. This one picks up where the original left off and finds our favorite ragtag group of singers trying to find the right showcase for their talent. They get a shot at the big time but it’s reliant on coaxing a retired, reclusive icon (Bono) out of exile. This one has some beautiful set pieces and locations, moving music and an engaging and delightful story. But what puts it over-the-top for me is the heart. I’m not a big fan of U2 but the use of their songs and the inclusion of Bono, who is great as Clay Calloway, really worked. When we get to the conclusion, the emotional high of the moment moved me deeply and added to the impact of this story. This is a great film, and great for the whole family.
Rating: Rated PG for some rude material and mild peril/violence.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (HBO Max)
: This documentary tells the story of how the iconic children’s program Sesame Street was created and made it to the air. Director Marilyn Agrelo does a beautiful job of telling the story and hitting the right emotional notes. A few years ago, a documentary on Fred Rogers moved me deeply, taking my back to my childhood. Street Gang does the same thing, serving as a beautiful tribute to the creative minds that brought Sesame Street to life, and serving as a loving tribute to Jim Henson. It was engaging and moving, one of my favorite documentaries of the year.
Rating: Rated PG for some thematic elements, language and smoking.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (January 14 on Apple TV+)
Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, and Brendan Gleeson
Synopsis: Joel and Ethan Coen are two of my favorite filmmakers, creating some beautiful and compelling films throughout their careers. Here, Joel strikes out on his own, writing and directing an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s epic play Macbeth. This film features Washington in the lead role with McDormand as his power-hungry wife. This feels like the right time to be exploring this story, and Coen creates a great dramatic rendering shot in gorgeous black-and-white. Washington is incredible in the lead role, giving one of the year’s best performances. McDormand, who is the reigning Best Actress winner, is also quite strong as Lady Macbeth. It’s not a fun or easy story, but this telling is compelling and feels like a stage play brought to life on the screen. The film is in limited release in theaters and will be available to screen on Apple TV+ in a couple weeks. It’s well worth checking out and should be a contender this awards season.
Rating: Rated R for violence.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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