Opening this week on a screen near you:

 

Encanto    (2021) PG

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Encanto

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) is a young girl who has a problem. Mirabel lives in a town, called Encanto hidden in the mountains of Colombia. She belongs to a family named the Madrigals, where everyone has magical powers except her. Mirabel learns that the magic that surrounds Encanto is in danger, and it’s up to her, the only ordinary Madrigal, to save the town and its magic.     Encanto Website

What to Watch For: Songs for the film have been specially written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Stephanie Beatriz, who voices Mirabel, just starred as Carla in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s film In The Heights (2021).

Word on the Street: The film has several Columbian actors in the cast, including Maluma, an actor and Grammy-nominated Latin artist.

My Take: I am proud to welcome Mirabel to the list of Disney Princesses, the 14th and the first South American princess.

 

House of Gucci    (2021) R

House of Gucci

Photo courtesy of United Artists Releasing

Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) has fought her whole life to get ahead in life. As an outsider from humble beginnings, Patrizia marries into the Gucci family, and her drive and ambition begins to unravel their legacy and starts a downward spiral into betrayal, decadence, revenge, and finally…murder.     House of Gucci Website

What to Watch For: The stellar cast includes Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, Adam Driver, Jeremy Irons, and Al Pacino and is directed by four-time Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott.

Word on the Street: Before casting Lady Gaga in the role of Patrizia Reggiani, a long list of actors were considered for the role, including Angelina Jolie, Marion Cotillard, Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, and Penelope Cruz.

My Take: The question is not if this film will be getting Academy Award nominations, but how many?

 

Bruised   (2020)  R

Bruised

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Jackie Justice (Halle Berry) used to be somebody, a mixed martial arts fighter who left the sport in disgrace. Now scrubbing toilets for a living, she has a son (Danny Boyd, Jr.), who she gave up as an infant, show up unexpectedly at her door. Jackie gets discovered by a fight league promoter (Shamier Anderson) after Jackie fights in a brutal, illegal underground fight and is given the chance to fight back in the octagon. This isn’t a second chance for Jackie; it’s her last chance.   Bruised Website

What to Watch For: This is the first film that Oscar-winning Best Actress Halle Berry has directed.

Word on the Street: Berry is a huge UFC fan and has two legendary fighters in the cast, Amanda ‘The Lioness’ Nunes, the current UFC woman’s featherweight champ, and Valentina“Bullet’ Shevchenko, whose only two losses were to Nunes.

My Take: It will be interesting to see this film that is so close to Halle Berry’s heart.

 

C’mon Cmon  (2021)  R

C'mon C'mon

Photo courtesy of A24

Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is a radio producer who is struggling just to make ends meet. When his sister, Viv (Gaby Hoffmann), is unexpectedly called away to handle a family crisis, Johnny is given the task of taking care of Viv’s son, Jesse (Woody Norman). Johnny decides to take his nephew on a cross-country trip that will change both their lives.  C’mon C’mon Website

What to Watch For: The film was a huge hit on the film festival circuit, winning the Audience Award at the 2021 Mill Valley Film Festival and the Achievement Award at the 2021 Newport Beach Film Festival.

Word on the Street: The film is written and directed by Oscar-nominated Mike Mills, known for his films Thumbsucker (2005), Beginners (2010), and 20th Century Women (2016).

My Take: I can’t wait to see this film as Mike Mills film Beginners is one of my favorite movies from 2010.

 

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City    (2021)  R

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Set in 1998, Raccoon City was once home to the pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation, but now it’s a decaying and dying city. Amid the ruins, there lays an evil that is soon unleashed, changing the world forever.   Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City Website

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What to Watch For: The film is said to be a faithful origin story adaptation of the video game and is based on the first two video games in the series.

Word on the Street: The film is being released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the video game.

My Take: It will be fun to see the CW’s The Flash actor (Ronnie Raymond/Deathstorm), Robbie Amell, in the role of Chris Redfield.

 

The Beatles: Get Back    (2021)

The Beatles: Get Back

Photo courtesy of DIsney+

The Beatles were the world’s greatest rock band, but they hadn’t performed live in two years, and in January 1969, they faced a nearly impossible deadline and created two of their greatest albums (Abby Road, Let It Be) and did their last live performance on a rooftop on London’s Savile Row.       The Beatles: Get Back Website

What to Watch For: Three-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings trilogy, has put together a three-part documentary on the recording sessions using over 60 hours of never before seen footage and 150 hours of unheard audio.

Word on the Street: The film takes footage shot by Michael Lindsay-Hogg (Brideshead Revisited, Tinsel’s Town) over a 21-day period with the complete cooperation of The Beatles.

My Take: I am a massive fan of The Beatles, so this will be a huge treat.

 

Drive My Car   (2021)

Drive My Car

Photo courtesy of Janus Films

Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a writer and director who is mounting a new play using international actors. Yusuke likes to drive while listening to his wife (Reika Kirishima) on tape, reciting the play’s dialogue to understand the play better. Due to liability purposes, he now has a driver (Toko Miura) to drive him as he listens to his wife’s recordings, a wife that was a writer who mysteriously disappeared.    Drive My Car Website

What to Watch For: The film won three awards at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and is Japan’s official submission for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ category of the 2022 Academy Awards.

Word on the Street: Filmmaker Ryûsuke Hamaguchi is one of Japan’s preeminent directors, known for his films Happy Hour (2015), Asako I & II (2018), and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (2021).

My Take: This film is on my list to see for end-of-the-year voting.

 

Cusp   (2021) 

Cusp

Photo courtesy of Showtime

Documentary about three teenage girls, Brittney, Aaloni, and Autumn, growing up in a Texas military town, dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing up under the constraints of being a teenager clashing with wanting to find out who they are.    Cusp Website

What to Watch For: The filmmakers Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt found the girls in a chance encounter one evening.

Word on the Street: Hill and Bethencourt won the Emerging Filmmaker Award at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

My Take: I have heard fantastic things about this film from critics that saw it at film festivals this past year.

 

The Humans    (2021) R 

The Humans

Photo courtesy of A24

A family gathers together to have Thanksgiving dinner in the NYC apartment of Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) and her boyfriend Richard (Steven Yeun). As the tension mounts, this is a Thanksgiving for this working-class family will not soon forget.    The Humans Website

What to Watch For: The film is based on the Tony Award-winning play of the same name. The film is written and directed by the playwright Stephen Karam.

Word on the Street: Jane Houdyshell, who plays Brigid’s mother in the film, won a Tony Award for her role on the stage.

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My Take: The cast includes June Squibb, Amy Schumer, and Richard Jenkins.