Honeycomb (2021) [Slamdance 2022]

It’s always thrilling when you can see the beginning of what you hope will be a long, seasoned career of filmmaking. Avalon Fast is a filmmaker that has immense promise, and it’s fascinating that she delivers a movie that’s so jarring and unnerving, and absolutely original. Director Fast has a great habit for making the audience uncomfortable, opening the film on a weird portrait of a woman in a honeycomb, and then contrasting it with the image of innocence with one of her characters lying along a serene field. From there, it only escalates.

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Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Not many younger fans know this, but once upon a time, before Marvel became another arm of Disney, Spider-Man was basically Mighty Marvel’s equivalent to Mickey Mouse. He was the most relatable, most accessible, and most liked hero, even when the company was as its worst. Easily the biggest movie of 2021, “No Way Home” is a glimpse in to what makes Spider-Man such a timeless hero and why so many people continue connect to our favorite Friendly Neighborhood Wallcrawler.

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In the Heights (2021) [Blu-Ray/Digital]

In a really crappy summer and a pretty hectic year in Hollywood, one of the bigger releases in 2021 was “In the Heights.” It’s a movie I’d been looking forward to for a long time, since Lin Manuel Miranda is one of my personal heroes. It’s finally brought to film by director Jon M. Chu after being in literal development hell since 2008. Jon M. Chu is no stranger to films involving dancing and urban settings, thankfully, and we’re given an absolutely dazzling, emotional, and energetic musical.

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Baby, Don’t Cry (2020) [Fantasia Film Festival 2021]

Director Jesse Dvorak’s crime drama is a bit problematic in that it’s a film that constantly jumps from theme to theme and never quite decides on what kind of story it wants to tell. It’s both about the immigrant experience in America, followed by culture shock often experienced by main character Baby. Most of the time she struggles with what she thinks are the norms for American culture, and this amounts to a script that’s never quite focused and feels ultimately under cooked.

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In the Heights (2021)

The COVID Pandemic has changed a lot about what we love about New York City; over the years it’s become something of an environment where opportunities have dwindled and the sense of community has been lost. From Gentrification and the Exodus of its residents, the city just isn’t familiar anymore. “In the Heights” is that reminder that once upon a time New York was about tight knit communities sticking together and beating the odds. And it’s a call to the idea that maybe it all can be reclaimed.

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My Summer as a Goth (2020)

Tara Johnson-Medinger’s “My Summer as a Goth” is a lot like “Edge of Seventeen” but with so much less insight and charm than its predecessor. That’s not to say that “My Summer as a Goth” is terrible, but it’s a mostly unpleasant and surface level teen coming of age film that doesn’t re-invent the wheel. It definitely doesn’t seem to want to re-invent the wheel, spending a lot of its time trying to work in the inexplicable, often clumsy plot elements in to the narrative.

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Freaky (2020)

Blumhouse has found a little niche market in taking classic comedies and turning them in to bonafide horror movies. After “Happy Death Day 2 U,” they take the creaky Disney classic “Freaky Friday” and add a slasher twist to it. Shockingly, it works more times than it doesn’t. Christopher Landon doesn’t just embrace the classic narrative, but he tops it off with a gory slasher movie, and even injects so many LGBTQ overtones that it wouldn’t surprise me if it picked up steam as a LGTBQ classic very soon.

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