Leos Carax is one of the few directors working today whose films – at least for cinephiles – are genuine events, partly because his style is so idiosyncratic as to be downright inexplicable and partly because his output is so slim. (Annette is only his sixth feature in 37 years, although he also concocted the most memorable part of the… read more!
Movies Released in 2021 (in alphabetical order)
Let's get this out of the way: Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, decent actors both, are distractingly miscast as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in writer/director Aaron Sorkin's docudrama about a week in the life of the hit 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. They don't look like their real-life counterparts, they don't move like them, they don't convince us of… read more!
Black Widow is a "midquel", in that it takes place in the middle of Marvel's since-concluded Avengers saga: shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War forced some of the Avengers to flee, including Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). But it opens in 1995 Ohio, when nine-year-old Natasha, her six-year-old sister Yelena, and their parents are forced to… read more!
In an unusual distribution strategy, Cliff Walkers opened day and date in both the United States and its native China. This may be a mere showbiz footnote, but it does make Cliff Walkers one of the first feature films to be shot in 2020 and released in 2021, just like any regular movie would have been, had there been no… read more!
This isn't so much a prequel to 101 Dalmatians – neither the 1961 animated original (which spelled out One Hundred and One) nor the 1996 live action retread with Glenn Close – as it is a reimagining of its famous villainess Cruella de Vil, here played by Emma Stone. I've never seen either of the Dalmatians films, but going into… read more!
After upgrading from loud Will Ferrell comedies to smart if experimentally scattershot docudramas about economics and politics (The Big Short and Vice, respectively), director/cowriter Adam McKay attempts a hybrid with Don't Look Up, a would-be Dr. Strangelove for the 2020s that, although it doesn't entirely succeed, is ultimately worth a watch. Set in the near future, Don't Look Up opens… read more!
Drive My Car's surprise Oscar nominations – not just for Best International Feature Film but also for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture – suggest that, in the wake of Parasite's multiple wins, and Chloé Zhao's Best Director win for Nomadland, the Academy is trying to keep Asian filmmakers in the mix. Which is great, but it's not… read more!
I have an unusual relationship with Dune as a cinematic endeavor. Way back in 1984, at the tender age of fourteen, I was active in the San Jose area's bulletin board scene, the precursor to social media. Throughout that year, I went to see movies on opening night with various "modem friends". It was so much fun that at some… read more!
Eternals is a Marvel movie, yet its comic book source is so unfamiliar to most audiences (including yours truly) that the film is effectively original content. As such, perhaps it would have been okay to change the names of some of its characters, saddled as they are with awkward monikers like "Sprite", "Kingo", and "Gilgamesh". This may sound like a… read more!
Ryan Reynolds plays Guy, a man who exists only in a video game. He is what is known as an "NPC", or non-player character, the game equivalent of a movie extra: someone who serves only to populate the background. One day, Guy bumps into an attractive "hero" character named Molotovgirl (Jodie Comer) and, to his surprise, becomes self-aware. No longer… read more!
At this point, we must accept that Wes Anderson's trademark visual whimsy is no mere affectation but a genuine fixation – as distinct a signature as Roy Lichtenstein's comic bookish Ben-Day dot paintings. And as with Lichtenstein, Anderson's personal challenge with each new feature is how he can adhere to the strict rules of his vision while giving us something… read more!
I try not to use the term "visionary" to describe most filmmakers, especially nowadays. Not only because filmmaking is such a collaborative endeavor, but because the high cost of production tends to bring in the bean-counters and squelch the more idiosyncratic visions. Still, even in these safe corporate times, a few genuine visionaries are still creating distinctive, meaningful, artistic work.… read more!
First, a disclaimer: I have developed an antipathy for films in which English-speaking actors adopt fake accents as they pretend to speak in foreign languages. Would Best Picture Oscar winner Amadeus have been improved if its American cast spoke with Austrian and Italian dialects? Would the awesome HBO miniseries Chernobyl have been more believable with its mostly British cast putting… read more!
The first act of I Care a Lot should terrify any senior citizen or their children. Taking a cue from real events – in particular the crimes of April Parks in Nevada – the film gives us Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike, reviving her Gone Girl ice queen persona), a court-appointed legal guardian who also happens to be a crook. Discovering… read more!
In Berlin, an archeology professor and confirmed bachelorette named Alma (Maren Eggert) reluctantly agrees to "test drive" a new android (Dan Stevens – yes, the British actor, here speaking fluent German) for a couple of weeks. The catch: this android, named Tom, is programmed to fulfill the romantic desires of whoever he is assigned to. Why the contentedly single Alma,… read more!
Despite its pretentious title, this is a no-nonsense dramatization of the short life of Illinois Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), whose natural leadership abilities, ready to fill the void left after the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, spelled danger to the FBI. It's also about Bill O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), the petty criminal who… read more!
The atmospheric Lamb opens on a snowy Christmas Eve on a sheep farm in Iceland. We sense that the camera, slowly lurching towards a wooden sheep pen, is someone's POV. We hear sinister grunting off camera. There's something evil trodding across the frozen Icelandic terrain... and it apparently knocks up one of the sheep. Five months later, the childless couple… read more!
Although it's perfectly serviceable entertainment, this by-the-numbers thriller is a little beneath the talents of its director/cowriter Edgar Wright. Those expecting Wright's trademark snappy editing and droll humor might be disappointed at how straight he plays it here. Nevertheless, there's some interesting stuff. Read on. Thomasin McKenzie stars as Eloise, a mousy girl from Cornwall who is accepted into a… read more!
Writer/director Anderson once again turns to Los Angeles of the 1970s for his latest concoction, although Licorice Pizza, a quirky romance set in 1973, is far more enjoyable than Boogie Nights and far more accessible than Inherent Vice. And it feels like Anderson's most personal work, a labor of love in the best sense of the word. The film marks… read more!
Is The Little Things a 2021 release or not? It's hard to tell, with the pandemic forcing so many films to debut on streaming services, forgiving the old rule of "must play in LA and NY movie theaters for one week to be eligible for that year's Oscars", and postponing awards season itself by a couple of months. This film's… read more!