2021 Movie Reviews: Spider-Man: No Way Home / The Tragedy of Macbeth / The Matrix Resurrections

Two multi-million dollar action blockbusters and a Shakespeare adaptation from a Coen brother.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Certainly poised to be the biggest money earner of the year, Spider-Man: No Way Home arrived with a lot of buzz and Marvel nerd ramblings about how it was going to be the best Marvel movie ever made, book closed, end of discussion. While it’s personally not my pick for the best Marvel movie ever made, book closed, end of the discussion, it’s certainly one of the better ones – combining fun action, solid humor, and some very successful emotionally heavy moments that never feel unearned. Sure, there are some majorly chunky dialogue diarrhea dumps here and there, especially the interactions with Spider-Man and Doc Oc which seem to cross the line from campy into I-the-writer-am-struggling-to-get- this-exposition-on-the-page. And sure, at almost two Nightmare Before Christmases in length, it could be half an hour shorter to significantly tighten the pace and in this critic’s opinion, the overall impact of the final product. However, this was some of the most fun I’ve had in theaters in a while. You can really just turn off your brain and veg out, or you can focus and critically think about a guy who shoots dick wads out of his wrist and somehow dates Zendaya. The cast is stellar with the POTENTIAL SPOILER – ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………central trio of Spider-Men (Holland/Maguire/Garfield) really stealing the show. Willem Dafoe is unsurprisingly great, Jamie Foxx is solid, as is Alfred Molina, even if his dialogue seems the most strained, and Zendaya and Jacob Batalon (Ned) continue to be some of the best franchise side characters Marvel movies have to offer. Personally, I prefer Spider-Man: Homecoming to this, with its near-perfect execution of an origin story and a truly inspired villain in Michael Keaton. No Way Home is certainly superior to the Jake Gyllenhaal second installment though, with a whole lot to like, really jam-packed in here for a lovely, cinematic holiday sandwich that is messy as shit but still delicious to eat. Grade: B (In Theaters)

The Tragedy of Macbeth

By the pricking of my thumb, something underwhelming this way comes. Joel Coen, flying solo sans Ethan for the first time ever, brings us an impeccably acted, gorgeously designed, and certainly unique adaptation of one of the Bard’s most famous plays. The problem lies in how static and under-understated it all feels. Big, sweeping moments in the text come across as faint whispers, and by the end, I was left feeling little to nothing from an emotional standpoint. By making these two central characters much older than they are traditionally portrayed, there’s a certain energy, intensity, and maybe even sexual delirium missing. It seems softer and sadder, and don’t get me wrong, I love complex dramas about older couples experiencing things only people with that kind of mileage can, but I don’t think the way this particular text is written fully supports that kind of pivot, especially in what’s needed in the characterizations.

Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington are never better than when they are acting opposite of each other, you understand exactly where they’re coming from, plotting this ruthless power grab, but scenes not involving them often seem like excerpts from Masterpiece Theater, albeit with much bolder cinematography. The supporting cast is all solid but at times it feels like they’re all doing different things that fail to harmonize. MacDuff and Ross, in particular, feel like they’re in two separate productions. Sure there are exceptions to the rule, like Stephen Root‘s hilarious and energetic cameo as The Porter or Kathryn Hunter’s brilliant, nomination-worthy performance as the chorus of witches. Really the way Coen, with the aid of Hunter, re-imagines these characters into a single, terrifying, old flesh vessel housing several personalities is easily the best interpretation of the witches I’ve seen on either stage or in film.

This is a ridiculously ambitious attempt at adapting one of the most famous and influential works ever created and Coen does do an admirable job. The technicals are pretty much perfect, three of the performances (Washington, McDormand, Hunter) are truly transcendent, and yet, it left me feeling completely numb. It approaches you more on an intellectual level than an emotional one, and it’s fucking Shakespeare so I guess I was expecting something more rousing. I respect Joel Coen for trying to quietly nuance the shit out of this, but I think Macbeth needs to be more operatic and lively to work. Grade: B (In Theaters)

The Matrix Resurrections

After trudging through the original two Matrix sequels this past weekend, and I really mean “trudging”, I wasn’t looking forward to this. Those sequels took everything compelling, groundbreaking, and most importantly, simple and uncomplicated, about the original film and turned it into this barely coherent, melodramatic boring mess. Reloaded at least moves quickly where Revolutions sort of just drunk stumbles from one confusing and underwhelming plot point to the next. Imagine my surprise when this twenty years later Matrix sequel somehow becomes the most creative and interesting a franchise sequel has attempted to do in years. It’s meta and packs a powerful social message, without ever seeming self-important or letting you forget that this is a fun movie that’s supposed to be fun.

It does collapse a bit under the weight of its big ambitions though, it’s about half an hour too long and scenes involving an old Jada Pinkett Smith tend to drag. A lot of the dialogue and themes are undeniably on the nose, even for a franchise-action sequel. There should have been a word counter at the bottom that ticked every time someone said “binary” or “non-binary.” But that shouldn’t take away from what a large leap in the right direction this is for big-budget entertainment. Something that manages to both entertain and provoke thought, simultaneously, without a jarring tonal shift.

The cast is solid for the most part with returning vets Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss delivering fine work. I wasn’t crazy about either the actors or characters that comprised the new gang of red pillers, but there are some excellent cast additions. Mindhunter‘s Jonathan Groff and life’s Neil Patrick Harris are great as the SPOILER, but the real standout here is Watchmen and Candyman‘s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as SPOILER. SPOILER is SPOILER and it actually SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. You wish there was SPOILER SPOILER or even SPOILER SPOILER. There’s so much of this movie I’d like to dissect here but it would SPOILER the experience for you. Go into this as blind as you can and I think you’ll get the most out of it. Even if you end up disliking this bold new direction and what it does to pre-established canon, you won’t be able to deny how truly unpredictable and different it is. Grade: B (In Theaters and HBOMax)

REVIEWS for Nightmare Alley, Red Rocket and Don’t Look Up dropping tomorrow.

DON’T LOOK UP (L to R) JONAH HILL as JASON ORLEAN, LEONARDO DICAPRIO as DR. RANDALL MINDY, MERYL STREEP as PRESIDENT JANIE ORLEAN, JENNIFER LAWRENCE as KATE DIBIASKY. Cr. NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2021

ALSO IN THEATERS & STREAMING:

links to my reviews

Licorice Pizza (Theaters)

The Power of the Dog (Netflix)

West Side Story (Theaters)

Benedetta (Theaters and VOD)

Home Sweet Home Alone (Disney+)

The Humans (SHOWTIME)

C’mon C’mon (Theaters and VOD)

King Richard (Theaters)

House of Gucci (Theaters)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Theaters)

Belfast (Theaters and VOD)

Passing (Netflix)

2 thoughts on “2021 Movie Reviews: Spider-Man: No Way Home / The Tragedy of Macbeth / The Matrix Resurrections

  1. I just saw Matrix Resurrections and I’m glad to see your review.

    I rewatched the original trilogy last week as a preparation for the new one and it was a struggle to make it through Reloaded and Revolutions; the negative reviews for the fourth one didn’t create a lot of expectations, so it came as a surprise that I sat in the cinema and really enjoyed the movie. It was creative and daring for a new movie in a Franchise, the meta elements and self-references make sense and most important of all: this movie had personality. Both Reloaded and Revolutions felt sterile and lifeless, what you expect big budget franchises to look like; Revolutions felt like a personal movie.

    Definitely prefer it to Dune and can’t wait to rewatch it to see what I missed on first viewing.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: