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4 1/2 Stars

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2022)

Sometimes, I really can walk into a movie with high expectations, but in the case of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, can you blame me?

Afterall, it isn’t easy getting a score of 98% on Rottentomatoes with over a hundred reviews (not to mention a 92% audience score with over 500 reviews), nor to be a film based off of a series of short films. Add in the fact that the film is literally about a living breathing Shell trying to find his family and it is no wonder one could consider this film nothing short of a long shot. 

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4 1/2 Stars

Everything Everywhere at Once (2022)

“TAKE THE RIGHT PATH. PG 43”

“TAKE THE LEFT PATH. PG 24”

I am not sure if they are popular with kids anymore, but I remember a good chunk of my free time in elementary school was spent reading some of the “choose your own adventure” book series. The options would make or break the outcome of the mood I would feel all day, which sadly lead to some downer days (I always seemed to be lead to my doom of some kind with my choices). The idea of the choices we make is just one of many, many, many, many ingredients of the film Everything Everywhere at Once.

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4 1/2 Stars Movies

Mass (2021)

We are getting to the point in our country where everyone will have either been a witness to a mass shooting or will know someone who has (or worse, known a victim).

If you don’t believe me, well you will, because I was at NIU on Valentine’s Day in 2008 when a shooter killed five students before taking his own life.

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4 1/2 Stars Movies

Belfast (2021)

Up until about 15 minutes into Belfast, it never occurred to me that memories were able to be in black and white. I’m not talking about those shown in fiction, but my own personal memories.

That director Kenneth Brannagh’s movie had me thinking like this speaks to it’s power as what will surely be an Oscar front runner in the next few months.

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4 1/2 Stars Movies

DUNE (2021)

Much thanks must be given to the little voice in my head.

When buying my ticket for Dune, the voice told me to try and buy a seat as close to the screen as possible. While my neck did not start truly hurting until the last forty minutes or so of the film, the voice was correct, as the experience gave me small vibes dating back to when I watched the original Star Wars Trilogy re-released in the mid-90s when I was nine years old.

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4 1/2 Stars Movies

In the Heights (2021)

When the credits rolled at the end of In the Heights, I stayed to see if I could find out how many extras were used for dancers. I soon realized that the list would have been at least the size of three screen shots. I returned home, I logged on to HBO Max, and (to the best of my ability) counted how many extra dancers were used.

The final count I arrived at was 274. Honestly, it may as well have been 96,000.

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4 1/2 Stars

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

In September of 2020, most people, including myself, were upset that the live action Mulan cost $29.99 on Disney Plus, only to be free to the masses the following December. Disney has done the same again with their newest film, Raya and the Last Dragon, which is, as of this writing, both on Disney Plus for $29.99 as well as in theaters. It will become free on the streaming service on June 4th.

While I was fortunate enough to see the film in theaters at a much more reasonable price of $7.79, I would say the film is such a treat that it is worth the thirty bucks. I will not say it is worth going to a theater if you do not feel safe: no movie should compromise your health. This is the best animated film I have seen since Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse.

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4 1/2 Stars Movies

Nomadland (2020)

When it comes to name recognition, it seems like the third time is definitely the charm for director Chloe Zhao.

While I have yet to see her debut film (2015’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me), I did manage to see her second film, The Rider (2017), the story of a young cowboy recovering from a near fatal accident and needing to find a new path in life. It takes more than one movie or so to discover a director’s true voice, but Zhao certainly is going down the path of intimate film making (it also helps that her first two movies were written by Zhao), which is more than evident in her third feature Nomadland.

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3 1/2 Stars 4 1/2 Stars 4 Stars Movies

The Small Axe Films (2020)

Since the mid-2010s, “binge watching” has become a thing of human nature.

TV series and mini-series have been gulped up faster than pizza at a teen sleep over, which has happened even more so in the last year with people spending more time at home due to COVID-19. While most binging seems to be associated with TV series (most notably reruns of “The Office”), some series undoubtedly have taken a more cinematic approach (this was what started with “The Sopranos” and one of the main reasons why it was so revolutionary.) While I have more than enough TV/mini series I have yet to catch up on (since I watch too many movies), I have yet to see the line get more blurred between mini-series and movies as I have after watching the five “episodes” of Small Axe.

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4 1/2 Stars Movies

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (1987)

As kids, remember how easy it was to make friends?

Perhaps a parent’s friend had kids your age, or you met a new kid on the block. You looked at that kid, and thought “We are about to be friends!”…maybe even “BFFs”. As you got older, you realized hardships would come in the way, and you would either survive them together or, sadly, have to go your own separate ways. Years would go on, and you would meet people you had no intention of being friends with, but God had other plans, and it worked out in the end.