New Movies for the New Year

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If your New Year’s resolution was to watch more movies, well, this list will be a good start. The outlook for movies in 2022 is bright, but whether or not the movies will live up to expectations will be decided throughout the year. In the meantime, take a second to catch up on the bigger releases of 2021, in December’s movie review. 


Spider-Man: No Way Home

No spoilers for the movie will be included in this review… but let’s be honest, if you’ve wanted to see this movie, you’ve seen it already. Probably a couple of times by now. The biggest movie of 2021 did not disappoint.  With one of the most substantial build-ups in movie history, the film somehow exceeded expectations. Spider-Man: No Way Home is the culminating end in the trilogy directed by Jon Watt and starring Tom Holland. With trailers teasing the appearance of villains from previous Spider-Man film adaptations, the movie was expected to rival Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing film of all time. 

Spider-Man is a superhero who is elevated in popular culture to the likes of Batman, or Superman, where the generational connection with the character goes beyond years to include several decades. The fact that the Spider-Man character has seen three live-action iterations in the past 21 years is a direct testament to its capability to connect with fans. Spider-Man: No Way Home is the best Spider-man movie created to this date. Without going into great detail, as previously mentioned, the movie lands perfectly. 

In the “pandemic era,” Spider-Man: No Way Home has become the first movie to gross over a billion dollars worldwide. Although I don’t believe performance at the box office (ticket sales) always reflects the quality of the movie, this is another exception to the rule. This movie is very ambitious with the number of characters it brings into the world, and as other Spider-Man movies have proved, more is not always better. Yet this film is precise; every second that each character receives on-screen allows for the storyline to guide the viewer. 

Spider-Man: No Way Home is one of the most enjoyable movie-going experiences one can have; it truly dazzles from start to finish. The movie is available to watch now in theaters. 



Belfast, written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, is a loosely biographical movie about Branagh’s own experience growing up in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. The movie is in black and white (a common device for various 2021 movies) and is told through the perspective of Buddy, a young Protestant boy. Buddy’s father, only referred to as Pa (Jamie Dornan) is balancing work in England and making sure his family is safe at home  He has left  Ma (Caitriona Balfe) in Northern Ireland with Buddy and his brother Will.  

Although the movie’s historical backdrop is a tension-filled Ireland, the movie’s overall feeling is lighthearted. This is because the story is told through the eyes of a young child, whose innocence shields him from many of the horrors occurring around him. The only scenes in the film that are in color are when Buddy goes to the movie theaters with his family, providing a metaphor for escapism and overall fantasy in which family takes comfort. 

Throughout the film, Buddy’s parents contemplate plans about whether to seek a new home or to stay in the area. Similar to Nomadland, one of the movie’s main themes is the search for what defines a “home.” Does it have to be Northern Ireland, where all of one’s family and friends are, or can it be a place where safety and comfort preside over one’s immediate family? This question is what guides the movie, allowing for the introspection of innocence to be played poetically from the perspective of Buddy. 

Belfast will likely be making an appearance at the Oscars in March, with a possible best picture nomination, and potentially acting nominations for Jamie Dornan and Cirán Hinds who plays the grandfather. Whether you are watching the film to better pick Oscar winners, or you want to watch a movie that adds a light-hearted interpretation to heavy events, Belfast is an enjoyable experience that will charm any viewer. 

Belfast can be watched on VOD or in select theaters. 


Don’t Look Up

In a year full of great casts, Don’t Look Up might take the cake. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Jonah Hill, and a little unknown actor named Meryl Streep. In addition, the movie was written and directed by Adam McKay, whose credits include Step Brothers, Vice, and The Big Short. Yeah, this movie had a big budget. 

Don’t Look Up tells the story of two astronomers, played by DiCaprio and Lawrence, who attempt to warn the world about an impending dooms-day comet that will destroy the Earth. Yet, a seemingly simple plot becomes complex with a selfish president, wealthy elite intervention, “comet-deniers,” fake news, and a million other problems that dilute the message of the scientists. If the list of issues didn’t give you a clue, the movie is a satire based on the impending climate crisis. Filmed during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the movie also can be seen as a parody of the COVID-19 response. 

I did not enjoy Don’t Look Up.  The movie is an ironic take on the climate crisis; yet, it also has moments that will make one wonder “that might happen in the modern-day,” and that is where my issue with the movie is. The movie can’t attempt to be a gritty portrayal of the issues of today while attempting to inflate the reactions and scenarios with irony. Instead of dealing with one issue, the movie dives into practically everything wrong with society. This is a tall task in which the movie falls flat.

Jonah Hill, who plays the son of the president (Meryl Streep) gives by far the best performance of the movie, with excellent lines that add to the attempted lightness of the movie. Yet, many characters simply could be eliminated and not create a change in the film’s dramatic theme..Specifically, the role of Chalamet, whose performance isn’t bad, is introduced at the end of the film, but doesn’t add anything substantive to the film. 

Those who have enjoyed the film are praising it for its ability to draw awareness to the issues that it addresses. Although the issues are important, to review the movie, the product versus the idea have to be evaluated separately. Just because the climate crisis needs more attention doesn’t make Don’t Look Up a good movie. To differentiate those two means to better understand where the movie falls flat from an entertainment and storytelling stance. 

Don’t Look Up is available to watch now on Netflix.


The Power of the Dog

If you are reading these reviews looking for films to catch up on before the Oscars, then The Power of the Dog is for you. Director Jane Campion, whose last directed feature film was in 2009, is back with a probable best picture front-runner. Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the lead role of Phil Burbank, a rugged cowboy in 1920s America. Joining him is his brother George, played by Jesse Plemmons. Based on the setup of a cowboy in the Midwest, it is easy to assume the movie is a western. Yet, it is instead a drama with…cowboy themes.

Masculinity, specifically “toxic masculinity” is ingrained to such a degree into the film that it could be regarded as its own character. The movie is centered on Phil, the previously mentioned cowboy who is viewed as a “man’s man.” He spends his day working at the ranch, he doesn’t wash, and he surely doesn’t use manners. Simply, he is encapsulated as the embodiment of “toxic masculinity.” Serving as an antonym to Phil’s view on masculinity is the character Peter. 

Peter is a schoolboy who is a gentle individual whose experience with “ranch life” is very limited. After Peter’s mother Rose marries Phil’s brother George, the contrast between Peter and Phil is further illustrated. The question of what it means to “be a man” is explored in the balance of expressing and suppressing certain qualities about oneself. 

The Power of the Dog is certainly going to be an Oscar contender for best picture. The movie is well-directed, well-acted, and has a storyline to draw in the viewer. One criticism I have is that it takes a while for the movie to “start.” The Power of the Dog has one of the best third acts of films in the past year, yet the first act takes a little too long to introduce the interactions that define the latter half of the movie. 

The Power of the Dog is available to watch on Netflix. 

Apple TV+


Technically, including CODA on this list is cheating because the movie was released in August of this year, but the movie may have stayed under the radar for the majority of people. CODA stands for Children of Deaf Adults.  Ruby Rossi, a high school student, has two deaf parents. In addition, her older brother is also deaf, making Ruby the only hearing member of her family. Living in an undisclosed New England fishing port, the Rossi family strives to make ends meet with their struggling fishing business. 

Poetically, Rossi is a singer. This leads to her decision to balance her choir life and the life of her actual family. The film begins to seem like a Lady Bird rip-off, as a high school girl has to balance her aspirations with the struggles of her family. However, CODA dives into a much more heartfelt and emotional story. It asks the question, “How can you connect your gift to those who don’t understand?” 

One of the best aspects of the movie is that none of the sign language is in closed captioning. Unless the viewer is fluent in ASL, the audience must rely on the facial expressions and the body language of the family to decipher the meaning. This places the viewer in an oddly alternate universe where the hearing individual is using methods similar to those used by the deaf in order to understand the intent or meaning behind what has been said. Although there is dialogue in the movie, especially at school with Rossi, the balance of the “two worlds” is very interesting.  One scene of the movie will be completely in sign language and another will be full of oral dialogue. Thus, the viewer can further understand the struggle and pressure that Ruby is feeling. 

Similar to The Power of the Dog, this movie has one of the strongest, if not the strongest, third acts in movies of the past year. The film leaves the viewer with a heartfelt enjoyment. CODA is one of my favorite films from the past year and is surely one to add a smile to one’s face. Considering the past year, that can’t hurt. Whether CODA will play a role in the Oscars is optimistic as of now,

CODA is available to watch now on Apple TV Plus. 

With 2021 all wrapped up, I wanted to provide a list of some of the movies that I’m looking forward to in the first half of 2022. Hopefully, these movies will live up to the excitement and will start 2022 on the right foot.

The Tragedy of Macbeth – January 14th, 2022 (Release on Apple TV Plus)

The Batman – March 4th, 2022

Bullet Train – April 8th, 2022

The Northman – April 22nd, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – May 6th, 2022

Top Gun: Maverick – May 27th, 2022

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