Sailor Monsoon’s Year in Review: 2021

One of the casualties of the coronavirus was the accelerated death of cinemas. Studios pulled their major releases and the theaters that did stay open chose to play older films instead of indies. It was terrible but it was still marginally better than last year because there was at least SOME movies to see but at a cost. New releases were spread across every streaming service, which meant that if you didn’t have all of them (which I don’t) you were shit out of luck. There was also so many great films that only played festivals I couldn’t attend (Belfast and C’mon C’mon), so many great films I didn’t get around to watching (Beatles: Get Back, Spencer) and so many I heard about too late for me to have seen before making this list.

Unfortunately, this is not a comprehensive list of the best films released this year. For one thing, it doesn’t include any documentaries and like I said, it doesn’t include every film I wanted to see this year. This is however, a ranking of my personal favorite films released this year. It is purely subjective. I’ve ordered them from the absolute worst thing I saw to my favorite film of the year.

These are my five favorite films of 2021 (plus 41 honorable mentions).

46. Gunpowder Milkshake

Of all the directors who’ve inspired other directors, Tarantino is the only one not to spawn a legit heir. Every time someone tries to do his dialogue, it comes off as painfully uncool. Films like Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead and Lucky Number Slevin both suffer from “look at how hip and clever I am” desperation. If you couldn’t tell by its title, Gunpowder Milkshake is the latest film to try and ape Tarantino’s swag, which would be bad enough but, it’s also trying to be a John Wick film as well and that’s just one sin too many. The dialogue is flat out awful (with the Librarians having the worst bit of zippy back and forth I’ve seen since I was forced to watch Gilmore Girls years ago), the action is mediocre at best, with most of the fights performed so badly, you can almost see the actors mouthing their steps. Karen Gillan is horribly wooden and unconvincing in the role of a badass, the plot feels cobbled together from multiple different cool guy assassin movies and the neon aesthetic is so obviously Refn inspired, the director of this owes him an apology. In fact, he owes anyone who’s seen this or anyone who might see it in the future an apology for making something this terrible.

45. Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Moving away from the overly convoluted plots of the past 8 films was the smartest thing Spiral could do. And I have to say, I didn’t hate the premise this time around. Instead of targeting people who have wasted their lives (or whatever contrived bullshit the other ones were about), this Jigsaw copycat is going after corrupt cops. Like I said, I don’t hate that premise and I think a good filmmaker could really do something with it but this is Saw. The only good filmmaker attached to one of these things, left the series behind twenty years ago. Any discussion of topical events such as police brutality or whatnot is tossed aside in favor of unfunny Chris Rock shtick, Chris Rock trying to look tough or morose and scene after scene of Chris Rock trying to act. He is distractingly bad in this. This is a series that has the third most famous Wahlberg and Chester Bennington from Linkin Park and he’s still far and away the worst actor in the franchise. It doesn’t help that he’s also in every scene in the movie. The movie was probably never going to be good but with Rock in the lead, it guaranteed it was going to be one of the worst.

44. V/H/S 94

Seven years after the almost unwatchable Viral, the V/H/S franchise is back with an equally bad follow-up. 94 has four segments and a wrap around that all vary in quality from the entertaining to the outright painful. Holy Hell, the connective tissue that ties everything together, offers little in the way of spooks or even surprises. There’s a cult that distribute haunted tapes or something and the tapes are the films that make up the anthology, I’m assuming. I don’t know. I could look it up to double check if I’m right or not but I also don’t care because it doesn’t matter. No one watching this cares how everything ties together and after watching this, I guarantee they’d be mad that they wasted time and energy on such a lackluster explanation. If the wrap around is superfluous, why not just throw a little bit more money at another story? Since this is such a mixed bag, there’s no guarantee another segment would be an improvement but if it was as good as the first story, this movie might’ve actually worked. Storm Drain kicks things off in fun and suspenseful fashion, with a reporter and her cameraman chasing down the urban legend of “The Rat Man”. Locals have spotted what they claim to be a gigantic rat hanging around a local reservoir, so a eager reporter decides to go check it out. You can probably guess what happens next but it’s still regardless. Up next is The Empty Wake involves a woman stuck at a mortuary with a corpse that might still be alive. Again, you can probably guess where this one is headed and you’d be correct and also somehow still disappointed that it delivered EXACTLY what you’d expect. Series favorite Timo Tjahjanto is given the largest runway to deliver his segment and it pays off. The Subject is easily the best of the bunch. Since it’s longer than the others, it does tend to drag here and there but the action and practical effects are strong enough to overlook any quibble or nit pick. And instead of ending on a high note with The Subject, V/H/S 94 decides to send everyone home with the taste of The Terror in their mouths. To sum it up easy, this one involves a group of redneck conspiracy theorists that then have to confront a vampire. None of it works and it seems to go on forever. Like I said up top, this movie is a mixed bag but unfortunately the good doesn’t even come close to outweighing the bad.

43. Boss Level

What hath Groundhog Day wrought. One of a handful of movies that have the exact same premise, Boss Level is Groundhog Day but this time Bill Murray is played by Frank Grillo, Andie MacDowell is played by a bunch of assassins and the groundhog is Mel Gibson. Joe Carnahan’s filmography can be split into two radically different categories: the realistic dramas (The Grey and Narc) and the mindless action (A-Team and Smokin’ Aces) and Boss Level is definitely the latter. It’s dumber than a box of illiterate hammers and is littered with eye rolling stupid coincidences (everything solution to every problem he comes across just happens to be in the same bar, it takes him almost a half a year of dying every day before he realizes that he’s being tracked, one of his plans involves breaking into the bad guy’s lair with a fake pads and one of the assassins just happens to look identical to him, allowing him to use his ID and he becomes a master at sword fighting in literally less than fifty days) but there’s a lot of action and Grillo looks good without a shirt on, so there’s that.

42. Halloween Kills

Much like how the first fifteen minutes of the 2009 Friday the 13th reboot are the best in the franchise in my opinion, I think the beginning of this film is the second best Halloween film in the series. Which makes me hate this film even more since it’s tied to such a shitty movie. David Gordon Green nails everything I love about Michael Myers in the cold open. Since it’s taking place five seconds after the first film ended, it’s designed to feel like the Carpenter film. Everything from the digital film grain, to the camera angles, to the score and most importantly, how Myers behaves, is within that style. It’s pitch perfect but then the film cuts to present day and it falls on its face. The massacre of the fireman and paramedics is great and there’s some decent kills here and there but it’s just so fucking dumb and unbelievable, as well as visually ugly and boring, that it infuriates me that there’s a part of it that’s so fucking good. David Gordon Green clearly knows how to make a good Halloween movie but seems to want to go out of his way not to. Every character does and says the dumbest possible thing, every subplot is uninteresting and ultimately pointless and there’s not a hint of tension anywhere to be found. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard to make a good sequel with Michael Myers. He’s a shark with a knife that hunts teens on Halloween. It should write itself.

41. The Deep House

I’m a huge fan of ambition. A director’s reach exceeding their grasp (even if they reach so far, they fall off the tree and land so hard on their diaphragm, that they vomit all over themselves in an embarrassing attempt at banana glory, which I guess would be a great movie in this metaphor) will always result in a movie that will stick with me longer than a director bunting for decent. Failures can sometimes be more rewarding than successes if there’s an original idea behind them. If you couldn’t tell, The Deep House isn’t a successful movie. It’s a ghost story that doesn’t really do anything any other ghost story hasn’t already done save for it’s gimmick: the entire haunted house is underwater. Two urban explorers hear about a house that was lost beneath a massive flood and decide to go find it. Inside, they find spooky scary ghosts. There’s not much more to it than that but the fact that it’s all filmed underwater really earns it some points. I can only imagine how hard it would be to stage a jump scare involving a “ghost” that can only hold their breath for, at most, two minutes at a time. The fact that it exists at all, let alone the fact that some of it works, is a minor miracle. The Deep House isn’t a good movie but it showed me something I had never seen before in a live action movie and for that, it gets a pass.

40. Fear Street Part Three: 1666

By far the worst of the trilogy, 1666 isn’t bad per say, it’s just horribly uninteresting. The mythology behind the killings of the first movie (there’s a witch who was unjustly hung who then put a curse on the town and every decade or so since then, a random person gets possessed and starts killing people) isn’t bad and I really like that there’s multiple slasher villains attached to it but watching a whole movie explaining that origin story is a slog. Since it’s set in the 17th century, the film is without it’s bag of tricks. There’s no needle drops, no comedic relief characters, no pop culture references. It has to rely on characters and story and baby, this ain’t the series for that. Once it left that time period and jumped ahead, then I was interested again. There’s a bit where they come up with a plan to have the undead slashers go up against each other and that could’ve been the entire film in my opinion. That was great. The rest of the film, not so much. Overall, as movies, I think they’re all meh but as an experience, I think it’s a huge triumph. I’d love to see another experiment like this again.

39. Fear Street Part One: 1994

These movies are not made for me. I am not the target demo and I did not read the books as a kid. They’re also not my type of horror movie. The constant needle drops are infuriating, the narrative inconsistencies are maddening (the lead gets stabbed in the stomach with a large knife twice within the span of five hours and the film pretends it never happened), the homages are lame, the characters are either annoying, forgettable or both and the overall, it just feels like it’s trying too hard to be hip and cool. It’s made for tweens who grew up on Stranger Things but since it’s rated R, it has a slight edge. No nudity in three movies but tons of bloody violence. These movies aren’t for me but goddamn it, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy them. The first is the most eye rollingly annoying but around the half way point, it started doing interesting things and I kinda wanted to see where this story was headed. It got me to check out the other two, so mission accomplished.

38. Fear Street Part Two: 1978

Since the majority of this is a slasher set at a summer camp, it’s no surprise it’s my favorite. It also has less than half the amount of needle drops, there’s only one character in this I disliked and the humor didn’t make me cringe so hard, I wanted to rip my skin off with pliers. It still has a ton of issues (the melodrama between every character was unnecessary and Max from Stranger Things is a bit of a drip as the lead) but this is the only one of the three where I think the good far outweighs the bad. I also really like the killers mask in this. It’s like a sunken in burlap sack. It’s cool. There’s not much to say about this one and that’s exactly why I like it. It’s just a slasher movie and that’s all I wanted it to be.

37. Don’t Breathe 2

Don’t Breathe 2 is the kind of movie the phrase “damning with faint praise” was made for. It’s a competently made movie with some gnarly kills but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Turning the villain from the first one, who, let me remind you, kidnapped the killer of his daughter, tied her up in his basement and tried impregnating her with a turkey baster, into a pseudo Taken like character is a bizarre choice but I’ll take it over a continuation of the first one any day. The last one was a decent thriller that should’ve been a one and done and this doesn’t really do anything to justify bringing this character back. Stephen Lang is great as always and I love watching him sneak up on people or pop out of somewhere to get someone, I just wish he and his ninja kill tactics were in a better movie.

36. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Since there’s already an exceptional documentary with the same name out there, the only reason The Eyes of Tammy Faye exists is to see some great performances by Chastain and Garfield but is that enough? I guess if you’re unaware of the story and hate watching documentaries, her story could potentially be fascinating but it’s not even told as well as the doc. Literally, the only reason you should even bother with this, is to watch Chastain give an Oscar worthy performance. Garfield is great but it’s the Tammy Faye show and Chastain devours every second she’s in frame. She nails the voice, her cadence, her body mannerisms, the whole nine yards but even she kinda feels left out to dry. The film doesn’t even give her the stereotypical Oscar moment that are the bread and butter of biopics. If she won, I don’t even know what scene they’d use in the clip montage. She singlehandedly saves the movie from feeling like a disposable TV movie of the week but the film doesn’t repay her in kind.

35. The Amusement Park

After Romero died, his estate went through all of his belongings and stumbled across a movie of his that hadn’t seen the light of day since 1975. Commissioned by the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania as an educational film about elder abuse, The Amusement Park is a metaphor laden, psychological horror about an old man (Lincoln Maazel) having a really hard time at, you guessed it, an amusement park. There’s scenes involving him getting his things stolen, being ignored or mistreated by people, not having enough money for things, being lost, having a hard time acquiring medical assistance and even being accused of being a creep because he showed kindness to a little girl. It’s the least subtle thing Romero has ever done (and that’s saying a lot) but it might also be the scariest. Any other director would’ve recognized the assignment and turned in an educational film about how hard it is being old but Romero said fuck that and decided to turn it into a horror film. Which is far more effective. The only upside to him passing is the fact that this got to live. What a weird gem.

34. No Sudden Move

Based on the cast alone, this easily should’ve been my favorite movie of the year. I wanted to see this so bad, I signed up for HBOMAX just to see it. Y’all can have your Space Jams, your Wonder Womans and your Justice Leagues, this was all I needed. Throw Steven Soderberg into the mix AND a period crime caper story on top of that and you have a can’t miss formula. All of that shit is firmly in my wheelhouse and yet, there’s something about this I didn’t connect to. I liked Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro’s chemistry, I loved seeing Bill Duke, Ray Liotta and Brendan Fraser in supporting roles and I even liked the story for the most part. I don’t think it being slow is my main issue. I watch slow shit all the time, I’ve built up a tolerance. I think what it is, is that I just didn’t care about anything that was happening at any given time. I think Cheadle is great as the lead but if he was more of the focal point, I think I could’ve latched on to him and then cared whether or not he succeeded. But since he feels like just another character in a sea full of characters, I didn’t have an entry point. I wanted to see the story unfold and I wanted to see what would happen to the characters but I also wasn’t invested enough in any of them to root for them, if that makes sense. This feels like the middle book in a long series of books based on Cheadle’s character and I’d much rather have seen those films instead.

33. Mortal Kombat

Not including the spin-offs or what have you, the Mortal Kombat video game series is eleven games deep. It’s been going strong for thirty something years now with no signs of stopping. And that’s due mostly to the appeal of its trademark brutal fights and fatalities. Gamers love themselves some blood and guts and the series has provided that in spades. To properly bring the series to the big screen, a film would need to focus on that first and worry about the rest later and that’s exactly what the 2021 film does. If you’re not already a fan of the games and need more than gratuitous violence to entertain you, this isn’t the movie for you. It’s damn near a fan film in its reverence to the source material. There’s about a million little nods and Easter eggs for the fans to pick up and while they do change some lore things here and there, the spirit remains the same. There’s no tournament, which for some is a major problem but as the first film in a planned trilogy, it makes sense to build to it instead of coming up with reasons why there’s three tournaments back to back to back. The film isn’t perfect (the dialogue is sometimes painful, the acting is not the best and the CGI is a bit dodgy) but as video game movies go, this might as well be Citizen Kane.

32. Nomadland

Every year there’s at least one Oscar bait movie that critics love that leaves me feeling cold and last year’s was definitely Nomadland. Due to its overwhelmingly positive reception, I was looking forward to it and for the first half of it, I could see what the critics were responding to. It’s a small character study where very little happens and you just spend time watching the lead interact with people. They’re the type of films that you have to time into their frequency for them to work and I was with it. It hooked me almost immediately. Frances McDormand’s performance was captivating, the cinematography was beautiful and the eccentric cast of characters she ran into were authentic and likable. The music was a bit overbearing but that’s a minor gripe.

I really thought I was going to like it until it dawned on me that nothing new was going to happen. I wasn’t expecting a huge change in the narrative or a sudden conflict to arise to create some sort of third act drama but I was expecting something to happen. After the thirty minute mark, you have literally seen everything this film has to offer. After that, the film just starts replaying the cycle (she travels into town, gets a small job, talks to some people, leaves job and leaves town) over and over again. It’s shockingly light on material and while seeing the same shit play out over and over again was tedious, I was never bored. I don’t regret watching it, I just wish there was an actual movie here for me to enjoy.

31. The Green Knight

I really want to like the films of David Lowery. He’s clearly got an eye for visuals and that mustache could be in the hall of fame alongside Selleck, Elliott, Fu Manchu and Hitler but there’s something about his films that just don’t click with me. I liked Pete’s Dragon while I was watching it but it didn’t stick with me; Ain’t Them Bodies Saints did nothing for me and A Ghost Story gets dangerously close to being unbearably pretentious. I haven’t loved anything he’s done but I also recognize his talent, which is why I haven’t dismissed him as a boring hipster who’s trying too hard to impress me with his bullshit. Which is exactly how I feel about The Green Knight. If I wanted to be a cynic, I could easily rip this film apart and dismiss it as a tryhard exercise in style over substance. I could say, if I was so inclined, that every shot feels as though Lowery is nudging you and whispering “you like that shot? It’s pretty, ain’t it?’ while simultaneously patting himself on the back as he jerks off to that same image. I could also say it’s far too long and meanders with very little in it that’s important to the plot. You can cut out at least five or six sequences and you’d lose nothing. Having said all that, I still liked a lot about it. I could really go to town on this movie and nitpick it to death but for some reason, there’s a part of me that wants to celebrate it for just existing. It’s a mess of a movie but there’s really nothing else quite like it. There’s an hypnotic quality to the film that sucked me in and kept me engaged despite my issues with it. Some of that is due to Del Patel’s performance, which is great as always but a large part of what works about it are the visuals. It’s a feast for the eyes. There are scenes in this that will linger in my mind for years to come. I just wish the plot was as rewarding.

30. Raya and the Last Dragon

Cobbled together from various influences, Raya and the Last Dragon‘s greatest strengths are also the thing holding it back from greatness. The world and characters that reside in it are all fantastically designed and if this was a three season show, I bet it and they would be great but since the lackluster story is so cliché and trope heavy, it feels like we’ve seen everything this film has to offer before the fifteen minutes mark. I have to give the film credit, it doesn’t just borrow elements from the obvious things (there’s a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Star Wars in this), it feels like it borrows from everything. Certain films, like the amazingly bat shit The Visitor, take from so many things, that they stop being copycats and they circle around to being original and Raya almost accomplishes this. The well-worn archetypes and paint by numbers story could almost be forgiven if it was unique or interesting and it just isn’t. I actually kinda dug the lore and loved that it wasn’t a musical or love story but the fetch quest structure and uninteresting characters left me disinterested long before it ended. And it doesn’t help that the moral of the film (trust in people!) feels muddy and ham fisted. I think I would’ve liked this a lot more if it was a TV show instead. It could’ve fleshed out the characters more and had room to spread around all those influences and clichés so they didn’t feel bunched together.

29. A Quiet Place Part II

While I admire and appreciate what the first one did, I think it had so many logical problems, it was impossible for me to not nitpick it to death. This one also has one or two moments that made me grind my teeth into dust (both involve the boy/son) but for the most part, I dug what it was doing more. And what it’s doing is ripping of the aesthetic and some of the set pieces from the game The Last of Us. I haven’t heard Krasinski mention it directly but I don’t give a rat’s ass what he says to the contrary — there’s no fucking way the beginning of this film wasn’t inspired by that game. He even has Cillian Murphy team up with the daughter later in the movie to mirror Joel and Ellie’s rocky relationship. And the thing is, I’m not complaining. Those two working together should’ve been the whole film because every time it cuts back to either the mom or the unbearable son, the film loses momentum. Not enough to take me out of the film (Krasinski wisely decides to jump back forth in a way that makes whatever those two are doing, exciting due to the elevated tension of what’s happening to Murphy and the daughter) but I hope we get less of them in the inevitable sequel.

28. Candyman

Jordan Peele remaking Candyman is a slam dunk of an idea. The man loves his social commentary as horror and that’s all Candyman is. It’s a boogeyman story born out of racial injustice. Everything he loves is built into the mythology, so all he had to do was dial them up a notch. But something went wrong. Making it a sequel to the first film was a great idea, as was highlighting the gentrification of Cabrini Green but those two things get lost amid a sea of underdeveloped subplots and overcomplicated mythologies. The Candyman in this film isn’t just one man, it’s a collective made up of past victims of injustice. Again, not a bad idea but the execution makes little to no sense. Without getting into spoilers, there’s a character who has a connection to the Candyman and wants to resurrect them but the how and the why are never explained. Which could’ve easily been fixed by tying it into the gentrification theme. If it was a cult made up of the homeless that were directly affected by gentrification and they wanted Candyman to come back to kill whitey as revenge, then you have something. But that’s not this movie. It’s a muddled mess of a narrative that could’ve been better. At least it’s better than the two sequels.

27. Luca

Luca is the gayest Disney movie ever and that’s a compliment. It’s as close to Call Me by Your Name as a Disney animated movie about fish kids is going to get. The critics who are oblivious to subtlety and have never encountered anything gay before, will get angry at the mere notion that it could be about anything more than two childhood friends and that liberals need to stop pushing their agenda on to everything but those are the same people who didn’t think the daughter in The Mitchells vs. the Machines was gay despite the fact that she’s the GAYEST character ever. Would I have preferred if the film addressed their relationship head on instead of skating around it? Of course I would but I also know that Disney is terrified of losing money in China, so I’ll take what I can get. I also wish there was anything more to it than boy fish’s first love affair in Italy but I’ve felt that about most recent Disney and Pixar films lately. The characters are all great and it moves along rather nicely but there’s something missing that keeps it from being something truly special. If Disney started producing high budget Disney+ originals and this was one of them, it would be one of the best films you could only find on a streaming platform but that compliment always comes with a caveat.

26. The Harder They Fall

Tarantino has inspired so many Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction-esque rip-offs, that it’s refreshing to see a filmmaker do a riff on Django Unchained. The Harder They Fall is a western in name only. Outside of the familiar iconography (the hats, the six shooters, the horses, the saloon, etc…), everything about it is modern. The way the characters act and talk is as far from period authentic as you can get and I’m almost certain I saw some graffiti on one of the buildings. This isn’t a film concerned about historical accuracy. For one thing, the entire cast save for White Town (which is a funny site gag) is entirely black. The good guys, the bad guys and the majority of the extras are all black. Not only that, but most of them are playing real life gunslingers. The film plays fast and loose with history and fully embraces the legend aspect of the West. I don’t know if it’s the intention of the director or not but using Western icons in this way will get at least some younger viewers interested to find out who the real people are, even if by accident. He’s rewriting legends so that they live on fire future generations, even if what he’s passing on is a lie. It’s like how a DJ uses samples and beats — if you’re vibing with their song, there’s a chance you’ll look up their origins and hopefully that’ll lead you down a path of musical history you were unaware of. I fully support this retelling of myths, especially when they’re this cool.

25. Annette

In their documentary The Sparks Brothers, it is revealed that the band (Sparks) were this close to making a film with famed French comedian Jacques Tati. For whatever reason, the movie fell apart but the passion remained. Years later, they attempted to adapt the Japanese manga “Mai, the Psychic Girl” into a musical with Tim Burton attached to direct but it too fell apart. It seemed as though they were cursed to never make a movie. Enter Leos Carax — the visionary behind such cinematic WTFuckery as The Lovers on the Bridge, Mauvais Sang and Holy Motors. To call his films unique would be an understatement. No one else makes films like him, which makes him the perfect director to collaborate with the eccentric brothers. I would assume whatever project they were working on with Tati wouldn’t have been this because I just can’t picture the French equivalent to Chaplin making a movie that involves a lovely duet between a couple who, as the song says, Love Each Other So Much that plays over the man in the relationship (Adam Driver) performing cunnilingus. Burton might’ve but he definitely wouldn’t have included the puppet daughter. Annette, if you couldn’t tell, is a very weird movie.

The plot involves a famous stand up comedian (Driver) falling in love with a world renowned opera singer (Marion Cotillard) and the problems and pitfalls they have to navigate in order to stay together. But this is not a love story. If you go in expecting one, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The films starts with them in love and wastes no time throwing in a child that acts as a conduit for drama. Their child is the most important character/plot point of the entire film. Everything is centered around her and it soon becomes apparent what the film is actually about. It’s not a love story, it’s a condemnation of Hollywood parents. The kind that use their children as puppets to gain either money or fame. Henry is clearly exploiting his daughter’s unreal ability to sing like her mother and he wants capitalize on that. But that’s also only part of the film. Annette is a cinematic smorgasbord of different ideas and images that, regardless of whether or not they all work, gets points for really going for it. Oh, and did I mention the baby is a puppet because that would really help paint how weird this fucking movie is.

24. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar

I’m not a fan of Bridesmaids. I find it tonally all over the place and comedically inconsistent. One moment, you’ll have a weird incest joke that’s followed by some gross out scene that transitions to a genuine heartfelt moment. It feels like three drastically different cooks were all in the kitchen at the same time and none of them could decide what kind of dish to prepare, so they made all three. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar on the hand, knows exactly what it is at all times. Which is comedic anarchy. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (who also wrote the film) play two best friends who decide to shake up their mundane lives by going to Vista Del Mar, a tropical hideaway located in Florida. While there, the two independently and without the other’s knowledge, fall in love with the same guy who just happens to be a spy working for a super villain also played by Wiig. If you think that subplot is too fucking weird to exist in a mainstream comedy, you might not be prepared for this movie. Barb and Star is so unrelentingly wacky, that it’s less a movie and more of a cinematic wavelength that you’re either tuned into or you’re not. It honestly feels like a Muppet movie where all the Muppets are played by human actors. None of it makes any sense but that’s part of its charm. It’s not set in a world where logic exists. In this reality, Jaimie Dornan could and does fall in love with TWO different versions of Wiig, there’s a crab voiced by Morgan Freeman and the third act deus ex machina is a sea goddess played by Reba McEntire. It’s a future cult classic and one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time. Trish!

23. Zack Snyder’s Justice League

I don’t know what I hate more about this movie: the fact that I don’t think it’s terrible or the fact that it exists at all. Everything I believed about this film and the one that came out before it was wrong. Due to my distain for Batman v Superman, I assumed everything bad about the original cut was Snyder and that Whedon only helped get it across the finish line. I truly didn’t believe that there was an alternate cut, let alone a whole other movie but I was wrong. I was wrong about all of it. I still don’t 100% blame Whedon for the shit show that was Justice League (Warner Bros. hired him to add in more jokes and that’s what he did) but I was wrong about everything else. This is a radically different movie than the Whedon cut. Scenes are moved around, extended scenes were added back in and everything just feels different. There’s a different tone. Whedon didn’t just reshoot scenes, he essentially remade whatever Snyder shot and in doing so, killed the essence. It’s like a bad cover to a song you’ve never heard of before but you know in your heart is better than whatever the hell you’re listening to. I have to give it to Snyder, he really knew what he was doing. He made a better film than what Warner Bros. wanted. That isn’t to say it’s great, far from it but it’s not the disaster I thought it was. The biggest issue I have with it (besides the really bad CGI), is it’s length. It’s far too long but (and this is the part I don’t understand) it never felt long. It took a while for me to get into it but I can’t say I was ever bored with it. Because every fifteen minutes or so, there will be a great set piece or moment that kept me engaged. Those moments usually involves the Flash who works far better in this version. He’s far less cringe with most of his jokes landing. Like I said, I’m grading this against the previous one and in that regard, I think it’s a success but I still hate the fact that this exists and I have to eat crow from fucking fanboys. And God help me, I desperately want that post apocalyptic sequel.

22. Nobody

Because it’s similar to so many things, Nobody is one of those movies that you’ve seen without having seen it. If you combine A History of Violence with John Wick, that’s this movie. So much so, that the creators of those could easily sue this for plagiarism. But just because it’s derivative, doesn’t mean it’s lesser than. In fact, it’s probably more fun than both of those movies and John Wick‘s sequels. Not better mind you, but more fun. The action scenes (which is what you’re here to see anyways) are all top notch, the cast is filled with That Guy actors who are all great in it (even RZA!) and there are one or two kills in this I’ve never seen in a movie before. It’s a popcorn flick that embraces the fact that it’s a popcorn flick.

21. Judas and the Black Messiah

The story of Fred Hampton is so rich with drama, that pretty much any telling of it would work. You could focus on his time in prison, how he organized the various different Black Panther factions or the FBI’s plan to infiltrate his ranks and then eventually assassinate him. Any one of those would make for a compelling narrative but Judas and the Black Messiah makes the fatal mistake of trying to do all three. The film really isn’t about Hampton as much as it is about William O’Neal, the FBI informant tasked with taking him down. His story could also make for a tense and compelling narrative like The Departed or Donnie Brasco but the film doesn’t create enough scenes where he’s in danger of being found out nor does it give me a reason to care IF he was found out. I don’t think there’s a single scene of O’Neal outside of his undercover work. The film spends so much on his task, that it forgets to show me the man forced to risk it all. LaKeith Stanfield gives a solid performance but the role isn’t written well enough for him to own the film. Even though he’s in it far more than Daniel Kaluuya, this is Kaluuya’s film. Every time he’s on screen, the film comes alive. He injects it with some much needed gravitas. He more than deserved his Oscar win and if this movie was as good as his performance, it easily could’ve taken Best Picture as well.

20. Dune

Alejandro Jodorowsky infamously tried and failed to adapt Herbert’s epic space opera 40 something years ago and while it probably would’ve been a complete mess if it ever did come to fruition, I think he’s the only one to “get” it right. Since it’s all about politics and space and sand and prophecies that span hundreds of generations, a director needs something else to inject into the story to keep it compelling and while Villeneuve did everything in his power to make the film look as gorgeous as it could possibly be, it’s missing the weird that Jodorowsky and Lynch had in their adaptations. I’m not saying they made better films (clearly since one doesn’t even exist) but there are images and ideas and scenes in them that will stick with me forever and there’s nothing in this I’ll remember in a couple of years. I just don’t find the story to be compelling. A dude goes to a planet to oversee the production of magic spice, another dude wants it, he attacks and the first dude’s son and wife run off into the desert and band up with some dirt bums that live there. Oh and the son has magic or something. I fully admit that’s a girlfriend’s oversimplified interpretation of a thing she doesn’t like but honestly, that’s how I feel about it. There’s so little plot here, I’m astonished by how many directors are obsessed with it. Maybe the sequels (which I’m unfamiliar with) are better and more interesting but this didn’t do anything for me. It looks great and the cast is fire but there’s no meat on this bone, just gristle.

19. Psycho Goreman

Because Adult Swim is synonymous with a particular brand of comedy, saying simmering is like it, instantly paints a picture as to what that thing is and whether or not it’s for you. Psycho Goreman feels like the first film released by Adult Swim if they became a horror studio. It’s an over long, one joke short stretched to 90 minutes filled with annoying characters, an insane amount of gore and jokes aimed at the dumbest, most immature viewer and I loved every second of it. While playing in their backyard, two siblings stumble across an intergalactic medallion/pendant that controls a galaxy killing alien assassin. He desperately wants to kill them and they (mostly the girl played by Nita-Josee Hanna) delight in torturing him with “fun” activities. He’s forced to watch cartoons, read hunky boy magazines and play basketball. When other assassins learn of his location, they converge on Earth to eliminate him and collect the considerable bounty on his head. It then turns into a bloody episode of Might Morphin Power Rangers that has an unnecessary amount of family melodrama thrown in. The brother/sister squabbling is the weakest element of the film but there’s more than enough blood and guts and viscera and hunky boys to make up for it.

18. The Matrix Resurrections

I am a diehard defender of the divisive Matrix sequels. They’re one of the cinematic hills I’ll die on but I feel like I won’t have to be defending them for very long. Resurrections is so polarizing, that it’s a veritable mountain compared to the anthill that is Reloaded and Revolutions. It’s the Star Wars effect — the latest one is always so bad, it pretty much forces you to defend previously terrible entries because they’re not that bad. That’s what’s happening with Resurrections, the younger fans who weren’t in the discourse originally are already coming to their defense. I like The Matrix sequels and I will never understand why people shit on them and I’m a fan of Matrix Resurrections and I TOTALLY get why someone would flat out hate it.

It’s not an easy film to defend because it’s nigh impossible to discern what’s intentional and what isn’t and that tightrope act makes for a compelling watch. At least for me. I honestly wouldn’t even know where to begin with what I like about it. Part of it is the subtle fourth wall breaking commentary the director is having with us about the fact that Warner Bros. was going to make this with or without her, so she decided to dip her toes back into the universe she helped create for one last adventure but she can’t help but to take a swipe at WB while also commenting on how dumb and pointless legacy sequels are. As long as you tap back into nostalgia, the audience will eat it up, which is why the film constantly references the first film. Not in a member berries way of “hey, do you remember this?” but in the more meta way of saying “I know this is what you want, the same thing again and you’re an idiot for wanting it”. The entire film feels like a reaction to the first film’s legacy, with multiple characters straight up asking “why do people like The Matrix?” It offers no solution by the way, it only serves as a means to shit on the part of the fandom that only cares about this franchise because of the Bullet Time. I don’t know exactly what I liked about this but one things for certain, it’s doing a helluva things all at once. It throws so much at the wall, it would be impossible for any movie, any director, to get it all to stick. In fact, there’s so much spaghetti now on the floor, that the viewer is left with two options: 1) drowning in a sea of noodles or 2) stop struggling and embrace the noodle.

Since the first film has no noodles, fans weren’t ready for the series to get bug nuts insane but with each subsequent entry, the series got wilder and wilder. There’s vampires and ghosts and more techno jargon than a million movies about hackers from the 90s combined. They went off the rails but in a good way. The sequels embraced the fact that this is a live action anime series and leaned in. This film never had a scene or moment that pushed up against an audience member’s tolerance for crazy shit. The Meta aspect is good, as are handful of other elements but it’s missing the weird and the crazy that helped define the sequels. I would’ve also liked some better fight choreography and a better villain but neither one ruined the experience for me. I don’t know why I like this film and I’m not sure it needs to exist but I’m glad it does.

17. Malignant

One of my favorite things is a blank check movie. Where a director cashes in his clout to make a risky project they couldn’t have otherwise. Sometimes it results in a classic like Jojo Rabbit and other times it produces whatever the hell Jupiter Ascending is. They’re dream projects without any strings attached and those dreams really reveal who that artist is because they’re usually the most personal projects they do. They’re the ideas that have been living within the minds of their creators for so long, they usually make no sense to anyone other than the creators themselves. That’s why they’re amazing, no one else would have or could have made them. Case in point: Malignant. There’s nothing about the filmography of James Wan that could’ve prepared anyone for the madness that is Malignant. It’s a bonkers hybrid of the early films of Henenlotter, late era Craven and the Hitchcock period of De Palma. It’s jam packed with so many stylistic and narrative inspirations it feels like one of those giant gag cakes where a stripper pops out of but instead of a stripper, it’s a never ending fountain of references. Bloody, ridiculous references to every single horror movie Wan has ever seen and loved and the love part is the crucial element to why this works. It’s not just references or homages for the sake of nostalgia, it’s Wan consuming what he loves and regurgitating it back at us. His until career is built off the backs of his idols and this is his love letter to them and it’s as great a Valentines gift as movies can deliver.

16. Being the Ricardos

If compressed time periods and claustrophobic spaces are Aaron Sorkin’s bread and butter, Being the Ricardos is akin to him slathering up a loaf of bread with a pound of margarine. He takes three different events that happened to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz over the course of making their show I Love Lucy, adds in a couple more moments for dramatic license and sets it all in one week for maximum effectiveness. In addition to her trying to rewrite an episode she doesn’t think is working, she has to navigate the fact that her husband is cheating on her, her costars constantly fighting with each other, fighting with the producers over her pregnancy, which wasn’t allowed on television at that time, all while trying to convince everyone that she isn’t a communist. It’s one thing after another after another. I’ve seen other movies collapse under the weight of themselves and they were carrying half as much plot as this but since the cast is made up of some of the best actors working today and since the dialogue is like music, it somehow works. Even though she just won the Golden Globe, Kidman will be the make it or break element for many people. She’s not playing the comedic version of Ball we all know and love so well. She’s playing the whipsmart veteran of an industry that always underestimated her and that took no shit.

Sorkin is far more interested in looking at the icon that helped shape modern television and not the physical comedian behind one of the most successful shows ever made. Make no mistake, Kidman is still funny in the role, she’s just not doing any pratfalls or any signature schtick. Bardem, like Kidman, looks nothing like Desi Arnaz but perfectly inhabits the idea of Desi. He exudes charm and convinces you through sheer force of personality that he is Desi. As good as they are, the spring cast might be even better. Nina Arianda kills it as Vivian Vance, J.K. Simmons gets the most laughs as William Frawley and Alia Shawkat steals every scene she’s in. Like his previous movie, the direction is the weakest element to the film but I’ll take a blandly directed movie with an amazing script or a visually stunning one with a forgettable story coughs The Green Knight coughs any day.

15. Last Night in Soho

If there was one theme running through most of the films I saw this year, it would be the reexamination of nostalgia. So many films from No Time to Die to Matrix Resurrections to No Way Home to even Licorice Pizza used nostalgia in wildly different ways. Some embraced the past without annoyingly winking at the audience, while others, like Last Night in Soho, treated it as the plague it is. The main character of this film is obsessed with the 60s and for unclear plot reasons (it’s a thinly veiled giallo, just go with it), she inhabits the body of a young lady from that time who’s leading a terrible life. She’s being passed around to producer to producer and is eventually pimped out by her boyfriend. All she wants to do is be a singer and the industry is hell-bent on stripping away her dream and her clothes. Although it only takes up a fraction of the runtime, her story is the meat of the film. It’s far and away the most compelling thing about the movie and introduces a concept I haven’t seen actualized on screen in quite some time, which is the idea that the past is literally a ghost that haunts us. When the main character leaves her body and returns to the present day, she’s still haunted by the figures she saw in the past but since they’re not directly tied to her, they’re a stand in for nostalgia. The past itself is the true villain of the movie or rather, her idealized version of it. We all look at previous decades with rose tinted glasses but the true is, we can never truly know how ugly a certain period of time is unless we lived through it. It’s an interesting idea for a horror movie, I just wish it was in a better horror movie. It takes far too long for the hook to reveal itself and frankly, most of the present day stuff isn’t that interesting. Wright really needs to go back to writing shit with Pegg because his solo scripts are really lacking.

14. Pig

I can only assume that the infamous older lady that sued the company behind Drive for misrepresenting what that film was about (she went in expecting a Fast and The Furious type movie and got a Nicolas Winding Refn movie), didn’t crawl out of the grave (I’m assuming her ass is dead) to double down after watching Pig. Everything about this film would lead you to believe that it’s another John Wick type revenge flick with Cage in the Wick role and a truffle pig filling in for an adorable pup but it’s actually a deconstruction of that story and is the perfect anti-revenge story. The filmmakers go out of their way to not give you what you want, which is brutal revenge. Cage is hunting the men who stole the pig but it’s not about what he’ll do when he gets them, it’s examining why he’s after them in the first place. He can easily buy another pig and minor spoilers, it’s later revealed that he doesn’t even need the pig to find truffles but as he says earlier in the film, “we don’t get a lot of things to really care about”. He cares about that pig and wants him back. Clearly the pig is a metaphor that stands in for anything. They could’ve stolen his pet iguana and the film would still be emotionally resonant because it’s about what we the viewer put emotionally weight behind. Cage’s character was a famous chef who left the culinary world behind because he felt disillusioned by the commodification of art. Does anything have any value to it if the people consuming said art don’t even care? He cares about the pig because the pig gives him joy and that joy is worth dying for not killing for like John Wick and that’s the difference between the two.

13. The Power of the Dog

This is a very hard film to discuss because the only true way to talk about it, is to talk about it’s ending because that’s the film. Every scene is building up to the last ten minutes and once they happen, the film will transform into something complete different right before your eyes. It’s not a twist, so don’t go in worried that’ll you’ll figure it out and ruin the experience for yourself nor is it a surprise gut punch where a character suddenly dies and you’re left reeling from the shock of it. It’s a brilliantly constructed payoff to a set up you didn’t realize you were watching. I wouldn’t be surprised if many viewers immediately started it from the beginning to see the plot masterly unfold. It’s a film that demands repeat viewings and will it’ll reward each and every one. It’s one of the best endings I’ve ever seen and everything around it is just as good. The direction is top notch, the score is magnificent and the cast is white hot. Plemmons and Dunst give exceptional performances but this is the Cumberbatch and Smit-McPhee show and they came hungry to prove something. Even though they’re both veterans of the screen, it feels like performances by two new up-and-comers that want to show everyone in Hollywood who the new kids are. They’ve both been great for a very long time but this the next step in both their careers. In order for this film to work, these two need to be on the same level and they both bring their A game. Smit-McPhee arguably has the harder role but Cumberbatch has the best character. He owns this film and if he doesn’t win the Oscar, there will be riots in the streets. It’s one of the most compelling characters I’ve seen in a long time and it’s the reason I will be rewatching this some time in the future, not the ending. This probably needs to go higher, I’m just waiting to rewatch it before I put it in the top five where it probably really belongs.

12. A Classic Horror Story

Five carpoolers travel in a motorhome to reach a common destination. They’re all going to the same spot but they’re all radically different people. One is an annoying YouTuber, one is a woman about to make an important life decision, one is a doctor who maybe harboring a secret. The film does a great job of setting up who they all are before it turns. While driving at night, they swerve to avoid a dead animal carcass and they crash into a tree. When they come to their senses, they find themselves in the middle of nowhere. The road they were traveling on has disappeared and there is only a dense, impenetrable forest and a wooden house in the middle of a clearing, which they discover has a woman locked in a cage inside. The group then has to decide whether or not to get involved. To reveal anymore of the plot is criminal, just know there’s a cult and shit gets surreal.

If you’re one of those people who checks out a film’s Letterboxd score before watching it, you’ll notice a lot of five star and two star reviews. The film is deservedly divisive. There’s a thing in it that you’re either going to love or hate, there is no in between. The people who love it, really love it and the people who hate that key plot point and think it ruins the movie still agree the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. I’m definitely in the former camp. I think it’s a creepy as fuck horror movie that rivals any film in its genre in terms of visuals and I think that “thing” (I’m really trying to skate around it) is ingenious. This was easily the best horror movie I’ve seen this year.

11. Minari

The reason cinephiles love A24 is because they bankroll movies that no one else would. When everyone else is obsessed with making the next billion dollar franchise, they’re producing intimate character dramas that are made for half of Robert Downey Jr’s salary for Spider-Man: Homecoming. Minari wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for them and while I’d love to say it’s good enough to justify their existence, it is however a perfect example of why they’re an essential studio. The story is simple: a Korean man moves his family to a small town in Arkansas to fulfill his dreams of being a farmer. There’s a bit of family drama (his wife is understandably worried that the dream is just that) but that’s really all there is to it. There’s no scene where a group of racists ruin his crops or try to run him out of town. The wife doesn’t have an affair with his farm hand and the children aren’t bullied. The only bit of drama outside of the farm is a subplot involving the wife’s mother but it never takes away focus from the narrative. It’s just a small intimate story filled with warmth that has a number of laugh out loud moments and a cast that perfectly inhabits their characters.

10. Licorice Pizza

There’s no director I want to love more than PTA. The people who love him, love him so much, that they consider him a top twenty director of all time. He’s a GOAT for so many, that not liking him feels like being left out of a club. I want to be in that club so desperately bad but I just can’t get into his films. I’ve used this analogy many times before but his films are like gourmet Easter bunnies, they’re amazing to look at, taste incredible but are ultimately hollow and without substance. That’s kind of why I love Licorice Pizza so much, it has no pretense that it’s anything more than a hangout movie. The plot is nothing more than a thin connective tissue to put the characters in new scenarios to deal with but it’s completely incidental. The real meat of the film is the relationship between Gary Valentine and Alana Kane. The performances from Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim are so real, so natural, that they might be my favorite characters from any PTA movie. Not the best performances mind you, but the best characters. Their romance, while on the surface could be a bit problematic due to their age difference, is more a love story of two people in a moment. He’s a young pup smitten with an older woman and she’s attracted to his youth. Since we haven’t seen this kind of love story since Harold and Maude (and parts of Juno), some have misconstrued this as something it isn’t. It’s a love story about two people in love with what each person represents, not the person themselves. It’s sweet, it’s charming as fuck and has the best use of Bradley Cooper in anything ever.

09. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Within a minute or so, I correctly guessed that Lord and Miller were involved and a second after that realization, I was hooked and with each subsequent second I fell more and more in love with the movie. I’m already a fan of Lord and Miller’s type of comedy and fast paced editing but what they don’t get enough credit for, is the heart they put in all of their films. Even the 21 Jump Street films, which are silly buddy cop movies, are deep down about a bromance between two dudes. Their films start with likeable characters that you immediately love and then build the comedy around them. That, more than anything, is how they’re able to adapt the seemingly unadaptable. Even when this film started to drag in the third act or when a couple of gags didn’t land as hard as they should’ve, I was still invested because I loved the Mitchells so much. I loved the technologically incapable father, the awkward, dinosaur loving brother, the supportive mother and especially the movie loving and totally gay daughter. This is the type of film I wish Pixar made again. Ditch the gimmicks, focus on the characters and add in a fat pug and you’ll win me back.

08. Bo Burnham: Inside

I’ve long maintained that not only is Bo Burnham a comedic genius but that he’s the future of comedy. The subversive pranksters that were born out of Adult Swim and Andy Kaufman might be dominating the landscape now but like Tom Green before them, they have an expiration date. As much as I enjoy the antics of Eric Andre, do I honestly think I’ll be thinking about him in five years? Bo Burnham on the other hand, is subversive in another way. He actually does the exact same thing as the Tim and Erics and the Eric Andres but goes about it in a completely different way. What they’re all trying to do, is blur the line between the act and the “act”. They’re pushing up against the conventional norms of what is and what is not funny. I think that’s what makes Inside genius; I honestly don’t know how much of this to take at face value. Once the pandemic hit (which is never mentioned by name once throughout the special), Burnham decided to self isolate and over the course of a year, decided to create a special. A one man show without an audience.

He says he did this for two reasons: 1) to take his mind off the pandemic and 2) to create a special that required no live show because the live shows were giving him intense anxiety. It’s at this point, that he reveals that he’s deeply depressed and that creating his cathartic but performing is painful. He then lightheartedly jokes about suicide and then sings a song about how climate change is going to kill us all and the futility of jokes during a crisis. Every new bit is tinged with a deep sadness. Or is it? We only know he’s depressed because he says he is. We only know he self isolated because he told us he did. He has no reason to lie but then again, the truth could be part of the act. He could be using his truths to get to a bigger universe truth. Which is that we were all Burnham trapped in a room going crazy for a year.

07. Nightmare Alley

Much like the original, I think the name Nightmare Alley is a terrible name for this story. It doesn’t convey what it’s about and doesn’t really factor into the plot in any way. The more obvious name would give away the game, so I suggest “The Hanged Man”. It ties into tarot cards, which is a huge element of the story and it paints a picture of impending doom. It’s a title that tells you the main character is in trouble but like the film itself, doesn’t reveal exactly what type of danger until it’s too late. More of an adaptation of the novel than a remake of the 1947 original, Del Toro’s version fleshes out the story more and let’s moments breathe. Character motivations make more sense now, the world of the carnie is better realized and more importantly, it retains the novel’s ending. The original is classic within the noir subgenre but this film is better in every conceivable way. It’s obviously better directed (Del Toro is one of the masters) and without throwing shade at Tyrone Power and the others, has a much stronger cast.

Cooper gives the performance of his career as a mysterious drifter who becomes adept at the clairvoyance trick and finds himself in over his head when one of his cons gets too big to control. He somehow rides the line between deplorable and sympathetic. Even when he was doing the worst things, I was still rooting for him for some reason. It’s a power house performance I hope the academy doesn’t forget about. The rest of the cast is uniformly great but the other stand out is Cate Blanchett who was born for noir. She has the perfect face for the femme fatale. The second she arrived on screen, I knew she was no good but I couldn’t figure out what her angle was. She’s an enigma that doesn’t reveal her cards until almost the last second. It’s a devilishly delicious performance that Blanchett fully commits to. Since Titane has absolutely no chance at winning anything and I think The French Dispatch might be too weird for the Academy, this is the one I hope wins Best Picture. It might be the best film I saw this year.

06. No Time to Die

The James Bond franchise has always been beholden to the past. Each new iteration references the one that came before it, either directly or through homage. It’s a series in constant conversation with the ones that came before. No Time to Die feels less like a film nostalgic about the past and more like a medium conjuring the ghosts of Connery, Dalton and Lazenby. It’s the Bond film the entire series has been leading up to and is the perfect ending to Craig’s run. The love story is much better than in Spectre, with Craig and Seydoux having real chemistry this time around. The lingering plot threads from the previous one are quickly resolved to make way for a new 007 (who’s terrific) and a new uber baddie with another world ending plan (not as great). The entire thing feels like the culmination of everything that came before it, while trying to deliver a satisfying conclusion and it somehow nails both. The Craig films have been uneven but the highs are so high, that it not only balances out the lows but puts him on a pedestal high above every other Bond. Craig has three all time great entries, with this one potentially being the best of the lot and that’s saying something. Good luck to whoever takes up the mantle next, you’re going to need it.

05. The Suicide Squad

There’s not a single review written about this movie that doesn’t hammer home the fact that JAMES GUNN is the man behind it. The reason behind it is twofold: everyone who saw it is happy as shit that there’s finally a great movie in the DCEU and want to praise him as the universe’s savior and because every shot of this film seems directly aimed at his old bosses. Since he got fired, he now had something to prove and he stepped up to the bat swinging. Marvel will forever get credit for giving him the opportunity to flex his muscles but DC really needs to keep him because Marvel will never let him have this much freedom. This is Gunn unleashed and if this film is anything to go by, he needs every opportunity to run wild. Since the team is made up of nobodies, anyone could die, which creates stakes not found in any other superhero movie. You’re never worried that Batman might fail because he’s never going to die but Ratcatcher II or Polka Dot Man? They’re expendable as they come. Those stakes create an investment – I’m actually worried they might not make it and since I love most of ’em, I wanna see them succeed. I haven’t cared about a superhero mission in probably ever and while I’d be lying if I said I cared about this mission or their goals, I can say I was fully invested. Especially when that mission involves a giant alien starfish. The Suicide Squad is a thoroughly entertaining action romp filled with great characters (King Shark FTW), fun set pieces and numerous laugh out loud moments.

04. Shiva Baby

The Safdie Bros might have to relinquish their title as the Kings of the cinematic panic attack because Emma Seligman might’ve beat them at their own game. Shiva Baby has the same level of ticking clock suspense as Good Time or Uncut Gems but where those films focus on a character slowing hanging themselves with a noose of their own making, this one is like watching the timer of a bomb slowly tick down to one. You know the situation will end in disaster, you just don’t know when. They’re three films that use anxiety as a weapon and turn awkward situations into horror set pieces but where I think Seligman gets the edge over the other two that, let’s be honest, feel identical to one another, is the fact that this is a comedy designed to make you laugh and not a serious drama. This film does everything the Safdie Bros excel at while also being laugh out loud funny. She somehow manages to spin every plate she found in her kitchen without having any fall on the floor. It’s masterful how well made this is on just a presentation level. She manages to ring out every ounce of anxiety, tension and laughs without ever leaving the shiva. If you didn’t know the plot it involves a college student attending a family shiva (Jewish mass) where she is accosted by her relatives, harassed by her ex-girlfriend, and has to deal with the revelation that her sugar daddy has a family that she was unaware of. It’s the perfect recipe for some juicy drama and the film delivers that and then some.

03. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Marvel somehow pulled off a miracle. They made a movie built solely out of nostalgia and I loved every second of it. Because Covid killed their release pattern, I gave up on the MCU. The second the train was late to the station, I decided to hop off. I guarantee I would’ve seen Black Widow in theaters if it released 3-4 months after Endgame but waiting a year and a half killed my interest in it. I still haven’t seen it, Shang-Chi or The Eternals. I stopped caring but goddamn it, No Way Home pulled me right back in. This movie is so entertaining, that the numerous nitpicks I have with it, which would otherwise kill my entertainment, didn’t even bother me. There’s so many stupid things that easily could’ve been fixed with a simple rewrite but I don’t care.

How does Electro know Peter Parker is Spider-Man? I don’t care. Why did they just leave the Lizard in the truck unsupervised? I don’t care. How does the spell at the end make any fucking sense? I don’t care. Why do the other Spider-Men go along with our Spider-man’s plan when they know how dangerous these villains are? Don’t care. Why does Ned suddenly know magic? Doesn’t bother me. It’s a sloppy mess of a script that has more holes than swiss cheese but every time Dafoe or Molina were on screen, I was smiling. This film utilizes the legacy characters better than the films they originally from did. Green Goblin is a much bigger threat this time around and Dafoe is dialing up both the crazy AND the sympathetic. With this performance alone, that I fully admit is boistered by the Raimi ones, might be my favorite villain in the MCU. He’s incredible. As are the rest of the villains. Lizard and Sandman have nothing to do but Electro is far more memorable here than he was in Amazing Spider-Man 2. But as good as they are, the real MVP is Garfield.

He must’ve came in with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove because he’s slam dunking every. single. scene. he’s. In. His goal was to prove that he IS the best Spider-Man and goddamn it, he ain’t wrong. I don’t know how Sony is going to add him into Morbius but it’ll be the smartest thing they could do. Marvel can have Holland, they can have Garfield and every fan will be happy. Until they inevitably fuck it up. Again. I don’t think this is the best Spider-Man movie or even the best version of the multiverse but it is definitely the most entertaining. This is my third or fourth favorite MCU film. That’s how much I like it and I can’t wait to see it again.

02. The French Dispatch

Anyone who knows my taste in movies knows how much I stan (am I using that word correctly?) Wes Anderson. He’s one of the few directors that feels like they make movies just for me. Immaculately designed living dioramas filled with quirky character actors playing quirky characters doing and saying even quirkier things all while 60s Britpop plays on the radio and with an intense color palette to glue your eyes to the screen. He’s an easy director to bounce off of since all of his films seem similar and if you’re not into that style, you’re going to straight up hate everything he makes especially The French Dispatch. This is the most Wes Anderson-y movie Wes Anderson ever made. It’s a love letter to newspaper columnists made by probably the biggest fan of The New Yorker in existence. That alone should tell you the level of Anderson you should expect. The film is broken up into three different segments (four if you count the extremely small Owen Wilson part), all covering a different sections of the paper: Art, Politics and Food. The first involves a brilliant artist locked in prison who’s in love with his muse who happens to be his guard. The second involves a writer covering a student uprising and the third is about a chef who becomes integral to a kidnapping plot. Each part is made up of Anderson’s usual cast of character actors but the the real stand outs are the new actors he hopefully uses again in the future. Del Toro gives a hilariously monosyllabic performance as the tortured artist, Chalamet feels like he was born to play an Anderson character and Wright steals the film as closeted gay man writing about a police chief, his kidnapped son and the chef that ultimately saves him. It’s everything I want from an Anderson film, which is basically everything I want from films, period.

01. Titane

I watch movies for two reasons: to feel something, whether it’s a thrilling or emotional response and to see something I’ve never seen before. Plenty of films do the first thing, I mean, action and horror don’t work if there’s no thrills and dramas fall flat if you’re not emotionally invested and few are truly original but I can’t think of many that do both. Titane gave me everything I want from art. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It constantly kept me guessing as to where it was going and it definitely showed me things I had never seen in anything else before. If all you know about it is “the thing”, I won’t ruin anything by getting into the plot but trust me when I say, it’s far more than just the one thing it will forever be described as. There’s no other film to compare it to to even pitch it. It has shades of Cronenberg’s Crash mixed with the WTF am I watching feel of insanity of Holy Motors but with an actual human heart at it’s center. The film isn’t just weird for the sake of weird, there’s a thematic point to everything. I haven’t tied together every symbolic thread but my reading of it is that it’s a story of a father accepting his daughter’s transformation. I won’t go into more than that but the fact that it an actual emotional core, much less a plot, is probably the craziest thing about it. With just two films under her belt, Julia Ducournau has already joined my list of favorite directors.

What do you think of my ranking? Any film you think I was too hard on? Which films from 2021 that I missed should I watch as soon as possible?

Author: Sailor Monsoon

I stab.