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Top Holiday Weekend Movies: The King’s Man and the Rest

Okay, so Spider-Man: No Way Home remains omnipresent on my mind - that's no great shock. However, I have to admit that The King's Man is tops on my list during this year's holiday weekend moviegoing. Meanwhile, The Matrix Resurrections and Nightmare Alley are a distant three and four.

A quick guide to the biggest movies you might be heading to this weekend…

Okay, so Spider-Man: No Way Home remains omnipresent on my mind – that’s no great shock. However, I have to admit that The King’s Man is tops on my list during this year’s holiday weekend moviegoing. Meanwhile, The Matrix Resurrections and Nightmare Alley are a distant three and four.

4. Nightmare Alley

The stunning visuals and art deco decor are the ONLY reasons to watch this remake, which plays out like a succession of gorgeous vintage postcards (with a dearth of writing on the flip side). It’s a costume drama that seldom works, perhaps because Bradley Cooper is playing against his body of work and the drama unfolds without any lesson.

Skip it. Maybe watch it at home. But do go and watch the original 1947 flick (which can be found for free on YouTube).

3. The Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix Resurrections is the lone non-Disney film I include on my list, mostly because I can’t ignore the big red pill in the room.

Quite similar in premises to Tron: Legacy and Agents of Shield (yes, you read that right), it is a worthy successor to the franchise films that came after The Matrix, and overcomes much that was missing in the two sequels.

However, it relies heavily on a knowledge of the first film and it would do my fellow Gen Xers a solid if they watch The Matrix (and perhaps its sequels in sequence) before trusting the bladder-shattering run time to your aging gray matter.

Many details in those movies are quite important as we revisit the premise. And you’re saying, “Duh.” But I am no neophyte (pun intended) and there were moments where I felt lost.

Hey, at least I can admit it.

Did I enjoy it? Sure. Would I watch it again? No.

If I were going to watch any of them again, it would still be the original and revisit the ground-shattering visuals and story.

Beyond the somewhat tired fight sequences, I get the whole “meta” thing. Hell, The Force Awakens remains a favorite. But in this case, the whole movie relies on nostalgia so much that if you don’t buy in it’s going to be a long program.

That said, it is gorgeous and well worth your time (especially if you can do the required homework).

2. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man delivered on the promised premise and, while keeping spoiler-free, any fan of Marvel will come away thrilled by the interesting, entertaining (while somewhat telegraphed) result.

The three “young” actors, with Tom Holland doing his utmost to make himself seem much younger than his years — and Willem Dafoe being Willem Dafoe — provide a solid bedrock, which overcomes a distracted Benedict Cumberbatch and so much fan-servicing eye-candy that it almost chokes the optic nerve.

With all that said, Spider-Man is a must-see – especially for MCU completists.

However, it won’t be the film I choose to plunk down my money for again this week.

1. The King’s Man

Yes, I probably shocked you by placing the latest in the Kingsman franchise alone at the top of my viewing list.

I’m shocked myself. Maybe chalk it up to my being a history major in college.

However, based on the source material (actual history), and the fact that I think it may be the best prequel I’ve ever seen, The King’s Man will be repeat viewing for me.

Oh, and BTW, you do not have had to see the first two editions of the franchise to enjoy The King’s Man. In fact, seeing them “in order” might just make the whole enterprise that much more fun.

Thought-provoking, anti-war, and with its heart squarely in the right place, the current Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, and Djimon Hounsou vehicle traversed well-paved paths and pushed through the more poignant territory as it continued to explore Dulce et decorum est pro patria more.

Or, “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

No other film that I watched this year combined thought-provoking messaging with humorous notes, whip-smart dialogue, and amazing (if not overly CGI’d) action set pieces. As a father, I was often spellbound by The Duke of Oxford’s work toward sheltering his son.

As for my assertion regarding its strength as a prequel, there is a piece of me that hopes Matthew Vaughn sticks to this time period and fleshes out the characters of Polly and Shola more in a second stanza. Unfortunately, the word-of-mouth and genuine affection afforded Spider-Man might just be too much for Oxford and the rest of The Kingsmen to deal with this Holiday Season.

Here’s hoping this unique and thoughtful approach to fictionalized world history isn’t snuffed out by the powers that be. IMHO: This film is better than the original.