Opening this week on a screen near you:

 

The Matrix Resurrections   (2021) R

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The Matrix Resurrections

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a successful, award-winning programmer of video games. However, Thomas is dealing with feelings and thoughts that his world isn’t real and that a great love has been lost. Soon, Thomas will have to make that choice again; to take the red or blue pill.    The Matrix Resurrections Website

What to Watch For: The film is written and directed by Lana Wachowski, who, along with her sister, wrote and directed the first three Matrix films.

What to Watch For: The cast includes both returning actors from the film series and new additions, including Carrie-Anne Moss, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Jessica Henwick, Jada Pinkett Smith, Christina Ricci, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

My Take: It will be interesting to see these characters back in this world after over 20 years since the first The Matrix film exploded on the screen in 1999.

 

Sing 2   (2021) PG

Sing 2

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) and his friends are convinced that they are ready for the big time, but first, they must convince a mean and ruthless promoter, Mr. Crystal (Bobby Cannavale), that they have the star to headline their latest show, Clay Calloway (Bono). Now, all Buster and his gang must do is convince Clay to come out of retirement and seclusion to headline their new act.     Sing 2 Website

What to Watch For: The all-star voice cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Kroll, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, Halsey, Pharrell Williams, and Eric Andre.

Word on the Street: Bono and The Edge have written an original song for the film.

My Take: I can’t wait to see what Scarlett Johansson and Bono do with one of my favorite U2 songs, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.’

 

The King’s Man    (2021) R

The King's Man

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

In the early 20th century, the Kingsman agency is formed to stand against a cabal, led by Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), who want to start a war that will wipe out millions. Now it’s up to Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) and his fellow Kingsmen to stop the cabal.     The King’s Man Website

What to Watch For: This is a prequel to the first two Kingsman films: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017).

Word on the Street: The films are based on the comic book The Secret Service by Mark Miller and Dave Gibbons.

My Take: One of the film’s stars is Gemma Arterton, who I have followed since her appearance as Strawberry Fields in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace (2008).

 

The Tender Bar    (2021) R

The Tender Bar

Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

JR (Daniel Ranieri) and his mother (Lily Rabe) must move back into JR’s grandfather’s house (Christopher Lloyd). Under the tutelage of his uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), the manager of a bar called Dickens, JR will learn everything he needs to become a man. But JR will always be haunted by his missing father, a man he only knows as The Voice, a DJ on the radio.     The Tender Bar Website

What to Watch For: The film is directed by the six-time nominee and two-time Oscar winner George Clooney.

Word on the Street: This is the second collaboration between Ben Affleck and George Clooney. They both served as producers for the 2012 Academy Award Best Picture winner Argo.

My Take: The film is based on the book of the same name written by Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper writer J.R. Moehringer.

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A Journal For Jordan    (2021) PG-13 

A Journal for Jordan

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

When Dana (Chanté Adams) first meets Charles (Michael B. Jordan), she doesn’t think he is her type. However, after a few dates, she realizes that there is more to Charles than meets the eye. They fall in love, get married, and are about to have their first child when Charles is deployed to Afghanistan. Before he leaves, Dana gives Charles a journal to fill with his thoughts for his son to read after he is born. It will be how Charles’s son will get to know his father.     A Journal for Jordan Website

What to Watch For: This is the fourth film directed by the two-time Academy Award-winning actor Denzil Washington, his first since his 2016 film Fences.

Word on the Street: The film is based on a true story told in Dana Canedy’s memoir of the same name.

My Take: I think Michael B. Jordan is one of the best actors working today, and I will see any film that he is in, knowing I will see an outstanding performance.

 

American Underdog    (2021) PG

American Underdog

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

The story of Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi), a man who had a dream of playing in the NFL and went from stocking shelves of a supermarket to becoming an NFL quarterback who won a Super Bowl and a member of the Hall of Fame.      American Underdog Website

What to Watch For: The cast includes Anna Paquin as Kurt Warner’s love of his life, Chance Kelly as St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Dennis Quaid as St. Louis Rams head coach Dick Vermeil, Adam Baldwin as Warner’s college coach, and Bruce McGill as the owner of the Arena League team that Warner took to the championship game that made him noticed by the NFL.

Word on the Street: Hayden Zaller, who plays Kurt’s adopted son from Brenda Warner’s first marriage, is making his film debut. Like Kurt’s real son, Zack, Hayden is blind. Zack experienced a traumatic brain injury as a baby that left him visually impaired. That inspired Kurt Warner to start Treasure House, a supportive living community for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Go to www.Treasurehouse.org for more information.

My Take: Zachary Levi and Adam Baldwin, who plays Warner’s college coach, starred together in one of my favorite TV shows, Chuck.

 

Licorice Pizza   (2021) R

Licorice Pizza

Photo courtesy of United Artists Releasing

It’s 1973, and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) is a fifteen-year-old high school kid living in Hollywood who thinks he has the world by its tail because he is a famous working actor. Then he meets Alana (Alana Haim), an older woman who is about to change his life.     Licorice Pizza Website

What to Watch For: Cooper Hoffman is the son of the legendary actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Alana Haim is one of the members of the rock group Haim, for whom Paul Thomas Anderson, writer and director of the film, has directed nine music videos.

Word on the Street: The film won four awards from the Atlanta Film Critics Circle, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay.

My Take: In the two film critics groups that I voted in so far (Atlanta Film Critics Circle, Southeastern Film Critics Association), I have voted for Alana Haim as my pick for Best Actress.  Bradley Cooper, who plays Jon Peters, real life former film executive and ex-boyfriend of Barbara Streisand, is getting a lot of buzz about a possible Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination for the role.

 

Red Rocket    (2021) R

Red Rocket

Photo courtesy of A24 Films

Mikey (Simon Rex) is a porn star who has hit hard times. With nowhere else to go, he goes back to his hometown to try and live with his ex, Lexi (Bree Elrod). While doing odd jobs, he meets a young woman working at a donut shop named Strawberry (Suzanna Son), who just might be his ticket back into the big time.    Red Rocket Website

What to Watch For: The film is written and directed by Sean Baker, whose film’s Tangerine (2015) and The Florida Project (2017) were massive hits on the Indie film scene.

Word on the Street: The film was a big hit at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Palme d’Or. The film also won the Jury Prize at the 2021 Deauville Film Festival.

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My Take: Simon Rex is one of the few actors who has transitioned from X-rated adult films to the TV and feature film world. Rex played Eli in the TV series Felicity and made appearances on TV shows such as What I Like About You, Summerland, and NCIS.