Rick's Flicks

Six Movies Worth Checking Out This Holiday Season

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By Rick M. Pezzullo

As we hit the holidays and head into Oscars season, here are some takes on a few movies that you might have missed or have been meaning to check out.

Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings

In one of Marvel’s best films since “Avengers: Endgame,” “Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings,” brings the first Asian superhero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The story revolves around Shaun whose complicated family history involves a traumatizing childhood under the supervision of his father, Xu Wenwu. Wenwu is the leader of a powerful, merciless organization known as the Ten Rings and rules using the mystical power of the artifacts with the same name. Shaun, his sister, Xialing, and his friend, Katy, fight to stop Wenwu from destroying a mystical village, known as Ta Lo.

Simu Liu and Awkwafina have undeniable chemistry and make the film a fun and action-packed adventure. The movie has some visually stunning scenes and the choreography of the fight scenes are some of the best Marvel has ever produced. The story is compelling, original and not overly complicated and does its best to honor Chinese culture without going over the top.

Rating: 9.25/10
Where to watch: Disney+

The Last Duel

This historical drama, directed by Ridley Scott, stars Jodie Comer, Matt Damon and Adam Driver and tells the story of a broken friendship amidst accusations of a heinous crime.

Set in 14th century France, the film highlights the primitive nature of this time as unresolved conflicts in the courts are resolved in a duel to the death. The film is sequenced in three different parts, the truth according to Jean de Carrouge (Damon), followed by the truth according to Jacque Le Gris (Driver) and the truth according to Lady Marguerite (Comer).

The film showcases how women were viewed more as prizes rather than equals during that time and how people can trick themselves into believing they are someone they’re not. A lack of self-awareness and ignorance is evident from both male leads, even though they have different personalities and characteristics.

The movie is certainly intriguing, but does feel very slow at times. The acting is top-notch as one would expect and Comer certainly steals the show. I would expect her to get significant Oscar consideration.

If you can last through the 2 hours and 32 minutes, “The Last Duel” is certainly worth the watch and is a compelling drama that creates important discussions that are pertinent today.

Rating: 8/10
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Youtube, Apple TV, Google Play (All for a fee).

The Eternals

Another installment to the MCU falls short of lofty expectations despite a star-studded cast featuring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden and Salma Hayek.

The story involves 10 superpowered beings who were created by the Celestial Arishem to exterminate all Deviants that had infiltrated Earth. The Eternals, as they are called, are immortal and live amongst humans without interfering with their natural development in society. As they witness war, conflict and tragedy for thousands of years, some begin to wonder about their true purpose and responsibilities should be. After finding out devastating secrets about their existence, conflict emerges among the group and creates a rift.

Directed by Oscar winner Chloe Zhao, “The Eternals” wasn’t nearly as poor as reviews might suggest, but it was slow and the dialogue and storyline left much to be desired. Madden, a “Game of Thrones” favorite, as at times too stoic and robotic, but Chan delivers a solid performance as Sersi. Kumail Najiani injects some much-needed humor, while Kit Harrington and Angelina Jolie do well in their ensemble roles.

“The Eternals” isn’t a groundbreaking film but is worth a watch for any superhero aficionado.

Rating: 7/10
Where to Watch: In theaters and coming soon to Disney+


Based on the iconic 1965 novel written by Frank Herbert, “Dune” is a science fiction film that centers around Paul Atreides who is in line to become Duke. House Atreides is in constant conflict with House Harkonnen and is sent to rule over the desert planet of Arrakis.

Devoid of abundant water supply, Arrakis is vital to the galaxy’s economy due to its abundance of “spice,” which provide heightened awareness and consciousness, but also makes the inhabitants dependent on its use. It is also valuable for navigation and interstellar travel.

Complex political intricacies become apparent, and House Atreides tries to broker a diplomatic relationship with the indigenous people, known as the Fremen. Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) discovers he has heightened abilities along with his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson).

Keep in mind that this movie covers half of the novel and is only Part 1. That said, it’s long but visually stunning. Much of the film is laying the foundation and character development in preparation for the epic Part 2.

The cast does well, but there are moments of subpar writing. Chalamet and Ferguson are certainly the standouts as well as Oscar Isaac and Jason Mamoa, who seem to fit nicely in whatever film they’re involved in. As someone who read the novel, I enjoyed the film, but I wasn’t blown away. For science fiction fans, it is a film worth investing the time, but don’t expect a significant climax.

Rating: 7.5/10
Where to watch: Coming soon to HBO Max (included) and Amazon Prime Video, Youtube, Apple TV and Google Play (All for a fee).

King Richard

Based on the Venus and Serena Williams’ father, “King Richard” is a triumph of a sports drama. Richard Williams, played by Will Smith, defied all the odds by raising two of tennis’ greatest stars while overcoming financial hurdles, societal stigma and the streets of crime-ridden Compton.

Smith, in what might be the best performance of his career, perfectly encapsulates Richard’s mannerisms, determination and character flaws. Aunjanue Ellis is exceptional in her own right as Richard’s wife, Brandy. She perfectly portrays an example of a parent who sacrificed her own happiness for the betterment of her children. Saniyya Sydney and Demi Singleton put in solid performances as well in their roles as young Venus and Serena.

The film is compelling and suspenseful despite everyone knowing the end and will certainly be an Oscar candidate. Expect Smith to be the early frontrunner for Best Actor at the Oscars.

Even if you are not a tennis fan, “King Richard” is a must-see and is a true representation of the American Dream.

Rating: 9.5/10
Where to watch: In theaters and coming to HBO Max after theatrical release.

Spiderman: No Way Home

The most anticipated Marvel film in years certainly lived up to the hype. “Spiderman: No Way Home” follows the continued storyline of Peter Parker as he comes to grips with the reality that everyone now knows he is Spiderman thanks to doctored video footage from Mysterio. Parker asks for help from fellow Avenger, Doctor Strange, to conjure a spell that makes everyone forget his secret identity. During the spell, Parker disrupts Doctor Strange’s concentration, which causes breaches in the fabric of the multiverse, which allows for villains from other universes to enter Peter’s and creates chaos for Queens’ favorite superhero.

Tom Holland was outstanding and continues to show why he is the best to play the role of the web-slinger to date. Holland and Zendaya have undeniable chemistry, which makes for a thrilling and emotional roller coaster ride in all the right ways.

This film had everything a superhero fan could ask for – action, suspense, tragedy and a few twists to boot. It was everything I’ve ever wanted in a Spiderman film and I could not have enjoyed myself more. A must-see and will certainly be the talk of the town this holiday season.

Rating: 10/10
Where to watch: In theaters

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