Archives for category: movie reviews

These are the films that were released widely (theater, DVD and free streaming) in 2021 that I saw in 2021, ranked. Links to my reviews where I could (WordPress doesn’t make it easy). Your comments are welcome.

(Note: I know some of these films were already up for Oscars because they made the festival circuit or were briefly streamed. I didn’t have access to those films in 2020 – nor did many folks – so I’m including them in my 2021 list.)

Nomadland – ruggedly beautiful

Judas and the Black Messiah – deep themes but slightly pedantic

A Quiet Place Part II – brilliant editing and true emotion

Riders of Justice – crossfire of complexity and comedy

Here Today – pithy and poignant

Old – M. Night Shyalaman at his best

Willy’s Wonderland – example of what a B movie can be

Minari – poetic but sad and ambivalent

The Truffle Hunters – quirky story of men, dogs

Fear of Rain – actually interesting teen drama

In the Heights – happy and hopeful, not heavy-handed

The Mauritanian – solid, formula legal procedural

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar – funny but uneven and mean to Midwesterners

Cry Macho – Eastwood Canon Revisionism Tour continues

The Little Things – hauntingly unsatisfying police procedural

Dream Horse – sweet, simple heartstring-pulling sports flick

The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 – scientific sleuthing that strikes a nerve

Love Sarah – comfortable rom-comish predictability

Above Suspicion – Emilia Clarke’s redneck intoxicates

Reminiscence – Less confusing than “Inception”

Respect – the story doesn’t do justice to the music

Breaking News in Yuba County – fascinating train wreck of annoying characters

The Courier – standard spy thriller that takes a dark turn

The Many Saints of Newark – bites off more cannoli than it can chew

The God Committee – TV-ish, but surprisingly satisfying

The Virtuoso – sloppy but interesting

Stillwater – takes a dark turn, craps on American values

Profile – intense story with unlikeable characters

French Exit – slow build to a weak payoff

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard – more Hayek, less inventive

Every Breath You Take – by-the-book family endangerment with Ordinary People twist

Those Who Wish Me Dead – action mashup with a huge loose end

Wrath of Man – typical Guy Ritchie, but without the joy

The Protege – Maggie Q saves it from mediocrity

Four Good Days – well made but exhausting to watch

Dear Evan Hansen – more depressing than Four Good Days, better than Crisis

Crisis – slightly better than mediocre, suspenseful yet depressing

Lansky – Keitel is great, the rest, not so much

The Marksman – mediocre ripoff of Last Blood, Gran Torino

12 Mighty Orphans – classic, inspiring sports-flick mediocrity

City of Lies – murky, based-on-a-true-story celebrity murder procedural

Death in Texas – preposterous but engrossing mediocrity

The Seventh Day – middling horror set up as police procedural

Die in a Gunfight – easy-on-the-eyes mediocrity

Zone 414 – mediocre sci-fi that ends with a thud

Voyagers – predictable and pedantic, but well produced

Queen Bees – mediocre geezer rom-com, but harmless

Born a Champion – baseline mediocrity

Till Death – Megan Fox mediocrity, plus it’s gross

Trigger Point – also mediocre, but ending is a dud

Midnight in the Switchgrass – also mediocre, but better stars than Redemption Day

She Ball – also mediocre, but more mind-numbing than Till Death

Redemption Day- also mediocre, but more derivative than Born a Champion

The Survivalist – pandemic mediocrity of bad shooting, worse plot

Equal Standard – amateurish

13 Minutes – perfect storm of preposterous plotlines, bad acting

Catch the Bullet – also amateurish, but more boring than Equal Standard

Vanquish – implausible action, incompetent star

Girl in the Basement – shouldn’t even be a movie

In 1989, director Rob Reiner was just starting to make people forget actor Rob Reiner (Meathead from “All in the Family”) when he created a cinematic standard for romantic comedies. Helped by an all-star team (writer Nora Ephron, cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan), Reiner’s “When Harry Met Sally” is the Woody Allen movie for everyone who doesn’t like Woody Allen movies, a Manhattancentric look at Baby Boomer relationships with romance and pathos leavened by cunning wit. Crystal and Ryan are the friends who think friends can’t be lovers (or is it vice versa?) until they are.

Early in “Zone 414” (2021), you get the feeling there’s going to be an unreliable narrator or some other kind of twist that completely turns the story on its head. Maybe it’s because Guy Pearce is playing a discredited detective tasked with finding a missing person inside a community of androids in a dystopian future (I can tell it’s dystopian because the weather is lousy) and a “Memento” vibe is coming on strong. Disappointingly, the twist is nothing that inventive. Pearce is solid as usual, and Matilda Lutz plays a great android, but there are huge plot and continuity holes.