Entertainment Headlines and Highlights for December 2021

The much anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home will be in theaters Dec. 17. Photo Courtesy of Sider-Man: No Way Home twitter

Both the holiday season and the end of 2021 are upon us. With the conclusion of the fall semester and the start of winter break, many of us might find more time than usual, or maybe all that time will be taken up with holiday festivities. Either way, there’s plenty of great new movies, games and shows to fill up these last few weeks of the year. A surprising trend this month is old characters returning after decades away.

West Side Story - Dec. 10

“West Side Story” is a Steven Speilberg-directed remake of the 1961 musical which was itself an adaptation of a broadway musical originally written in 1957. The film has been met with significant acclaim from critics, praising the film as among Spielberg’s best works and in some cases calling it an improvement on the original. Rita Moreno, who starred in the 1961 film, served as an executive producer and is featured in a supporting role. It is important to note that the film is receiving criticism for its portrayal of a Puerto Rican community, which is central to the story and characters. Some of the issues cited are inherent in the original text, while some, like the accents performed in the film, are mistakes that belong solely to this adaptation. The film was released in theaters on Dec. 10.

Spider-Man: No Way Home - Dec. 17

Picking up seemingly right after the cliffhanger ending of “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “No Way Home” follows the titular hero as he attempts to use magic to recover his secret identity. When this plan goes awry, villains from other universes begin to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they might just be joined by a couple of extra Spider-Men. This film is already breaking ticket presale records and has been positioned by Marvel and Sony as the thrilling conclusion to the “Homecoming” trilogy as well as a follow up to both the original 2002 “Spider-Man” trilogy and the 2011 “Amazing Spider-Man” films. It’s already special seeing Alfred Molina and Willem Defoe back in roles they originally played nearly twenty years ago. This film will also be an important part of the multiverse story that the MCU has been telling, following threads from “WandaVision” and “Loki” earlier this year and leading directly into “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” next May. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” will premiere exclusively in theaters Dec. 17

The Matrix Resurrections - Dec. 22

Set an unknown amount of time after the conclusion of the original “Matrix” trilogy in “The Matrix Revolutions,” “Resurrections” features the return of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss as Neo and Trinity, back inside the Matrix. Alongside the leads, Lana Wachowski, who created and directed the original trilogy with her sister, is also back. Plot details are very light so far, with no explanation yet given for the state of the world at the start of the film, which doesn’t quite line up with where the original trilogy left off. The original film, “The Matrix,” which was released in 1999 is a masterpiece that holds up to this day, while its two sequels are less favorably remembered. I want to believe that we can get another great “Matrix” film again, and so far, I’m really liking what we’re seeing in trailers and marketing. The film will be available both in theaters and on HBO Max on Dec. 22

Movie Highlights

I’ve seen a few trailers for “Nightmare Alley,” and each leaves me less sure what the film is actually about. Fortunately, I’d go and see any film directed by Guillermo del Toro based on name recognition alone. This film seems to be a little closer to del Toro’s horror roots than he’s been in a while, centered around a carnival with a colorful cast of characters portrayed by huge actors like Bradley Cooper, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe and Cate Blanchett. The film will be exclusively in theaters on Dec. 17.

The first “Sing,” released in 2016, was a fun film about singing animals played by A-list actors. This year’s “Sing 2” continues to look like a fun film about singing animals played by A-list actors. It’s the latest from Illumination Studios, the creators of the minions and “Despicable Me.” It should be a great family pick for the Christmas weekend when it releases on Dec. 22.

“The King’s Man” is the third film in the “Kingsman” franchise, a parody of British spy films that began in 2017 with “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” This entry is a prequel, about the founding of the organization during World War I, and trailers make it look a little more serious tonally than its predecessors.

Gaming Highlights

I spotted “Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker” last month, but it ended up getting delayed to Dec. 7. This is the latest expansion to the critically acclaimed MMO “Final Fantasy XIV” which still comes with my highest recommendation and still comes with a free trial that still includes its first award-winning expansion: “Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward.”

Halo Infinite” was originally intended to launch alongside the Xbox Series X|S in Nov. 2020. It was delayed a year after poor reception to early footage, and it seems the team at 343 Industries really made use of the extra time. The product that launched Dec. 8 has been extremely well received, with a campaign that redefines Halo gameplay, a story that returns the focus to the iconic Master Chief and a multiplayer suite that has returned the franchise to its rightful place as one of the top first-person shooters in the industry. It’s all available to play at no additional cost as part of the Xbox Game Pass.

Streaming Highlights

Netflix features the return of some of its most popular series this month, starting with the second season of “The Witcher” Dec. 17. The first season came out almost exactly two years prior in 2019, and was immensely popular due in part to its supremely catchy song: “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher.” On Dec. 31, Netflix premieres both the sixth season of “Queer Eye” and the fourth season of “Cobra Kai.” Netflix’s “Queer Eye” revival has been successful since it launched in 2018, receiving increasingly positive reviews with each successive season. “Cobra Kai,” a sequel series to the four original “Karate Kid” films, is one of Netflix’s best, an over-the-top saga of high school rivals Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence reigniting their feud as adults and dragging high schoolers into it. Somehow it’s spectacular, and season four features a return to the fateful arena of the All-Valley Under-18 Karate Tournament.

Disney+ celebrates Christmas by bringing “Encanto,” the latest film from  Disney Animation Studios to the service on Dec. 24, free for all subscribers, only a month after it was initially released in theaters. The film is another masterpiece from the studio, following Mirabel, a young woman in a small town in Columbia, the only member of her family who doesn’t have amazing magical powers. The service also brings back the film everyone has been asking for, “TRON: Legacy” on Dec. 10, filling a hole in my heart. Finally, after over a year without any live-action Star Wars content following the conclusion of the second season of “The Mandalorian,” “The Book of Boba Fett” premieres Dec. 29.

Amazon Prime debuts the sixth and final season of its acclaimed science fiction series “The Expanse” on Dec. 10.

HBO Max returns to “Sex and the City” with “And Just Like That…,” a sequel series taking place eleven years after the second movie, with most of the original cast reprising their roles. The series premieres Dec. 9.