I'm selecting one obscure movie from every year since I was born to watch and recommend.
The list of 2021 movies that I saw, ranked by my preference from best down to worst. Click the movie titles to go to their Wikipedia pages.
NOTE: This is ridiculously incomplete and out of date. Maybe at some point I’ll finally swing back around and catch it up and get the 2022 list going…
A solid sequel to a fun original film. It takes the story to the next logical point, while giving us more backstory as well. The cast comes through again with nice performances. The production is top notch and the editing gives it a good flow. It certainly has a few moments that are a little to obvious and cliche, but it still works pretty well.
A thoroughly ridiculous movie. That ridiculousness helps take the parts of the first film that didn’t work and make them silly enough to work, for the most part. Not a great movie, but certainly entertaining enough. The fantastic cast is the key part of what makes it work, of course. If you are easily offended, this is NOT the movie for you.
Summer Of Soul (6)
This documentary is decent enough, but it has a problem of falling between two things it could have been, and either would have been preferred. It’s part history documentary and part concert. As a history documentary, it’s too long. It starts to feel very repetitive in what everybody talks about. Honestly, the simple footage of the much-older artists finally getting to see the footage is more interesting than most of them saying the same thing as each other. If they wanted to keep the same running time, it would have been better to condense the statements and just include more footage of them watching their performances. On the flipside, they should just release the entire concert series without all the talking heads as a straight up set of concerts, or at least condense it down to a highlights concert featuring a song or two by each group/artist. I don’t know, I just kinda started to zone out after it was half over as yet another person started saying essentially the same thing as the dozen others before them. Regardless, I’m all for the preservation of the old media while they can still pull top quality from the source material.
Black Widow (5)
For all the years of this movie’s lack of existence being cited as a problem in the MCU, by the time it finally came along, it manages to get little more than a “meh” from me. It’s generic, predictable, and uh, well………. it just is. So there we go, now Black Widow has her origin story. Check that off the list.
Chaos Walking (5)
A fun central concept and a good cast, but very so-so in execution with a problematic script. I would have removed some elements from the script and punched up others. And the “Reverend” character is just plain AWFUL, pointless, cliché and stupid in every freaking scene scene he’s in. That character desperately needs to be edited out of the movie completely. Definitely not great, but could have been worse. Be warned, I would definitely recommend avoiding this one if you’re an animal lover. You have been warned.
Let’s see, we have Karen Gillan starring in a stylistic action movie, with supporting performances from the likes of Paul Giamatti, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Angela Bassett & Michelle Yeoh. How can you possibly go wrong? Apparently, this is how you can go wrong. It’s impossible to watch this movie and not want to make a “Jane Wick” joke of some kind. So I guess that’s me making that lame reference, by commenting about wanting to do so. This movie so very clearly wants to live in the John Wick universe. It’s full of stylistic wannabe elements, like an overcooked-but-still-kinda-fun music score that strains too hard at integrating the musical style of a western. It has some nice looking sequences, but it fails to come together as a whole. The action scenes are trying to be fun, but they’re just plain boring. The great Karen Gillan is trying, but the material just isn’t there. The biggest problem this movie has is its flat and derivative script. Who knows, if this movie came out before the John Wick films, it might have felt more fresh, but post-Wick? Nope. A final problem the movie has is that so much of it looks and feels fake, like some kind of uncanny valley. The action scenes in particular might as well be cartoons.
This movie is big and dumb, with a plot that is slapped together and exceedingly stupid. It BARELY holds together enough narrative to hand the few big actions scenes on. Those action scenes are generally entertaining enough with some well executed moments here and there. They are illogical and stupid, but pretty well staged. The human characters, like in the previous couple Godzilla films, are a big hinderance. Kong: Skull Island did SO much better with the human characters and plot than the Godzilla films did, and unfortunately this movie takes after the Godzilla films, including having cast members from those show back up. Those characters range from predictable and generic (the ones on the Kong side of things) to useless and annoying (the ones on the Godzilla side of things). Heck, Kyle Chandler could be edited out of the movie and it would have changed nothing. And while it’s amusing to have Mechagodzilla appear, for genre fans, the plot behind that is beyond stupid and generic. Actually, absolutely EVERYTHING involving “Apex Cybernetics” is 100% idiotic and/or cliché. Putting in all this Apex Cybernetics stuff also makes Monarch little more than a weird little footnote to the movie. And the hollow earth stuff had to have been written by an exceedingly stupid person.
So, where does this movie rank for me with the other Monarch films? It’s definitely better than Godzilla: King Of The Monster, thanks to a few decent action scenes. I’d have to re-watch 2014’s Godzilla to decide if I would rank this higher than that or not. It’s probably pretty close between the two (which is not a compliment). It VERY much pales in comparison to Kong: Skull Island, by a LONG shot. Having said all of that, if you want big, dumb, loud action scenes, this one has a few you will probably enjoy. As such, do what I did and see it on an IMAX, not streamed on HBO Max. Highlight of the movie is Kong jumping around on an aircraft carrier in full-on action mode. They could have spent more time on that moment and had more fun with it. Having Godzilla drag a battleship (or part of one) around by its anchor was also a fun idea.
Mortal Kombat (2)
Oh no… this movie takes itself seriously. Ugh. It has been a VERY long time since I struggled to stay awake during an action movie as much as I did through this one. I made it, though (at least I think I did – probably wouldn’t have made a difference if I briefly dozed off a couple times). I spent this entire movie in a state of total boredom twilight. Also, what is it with so many Warner Brothers action movies being so drab and muted and murky for the last decade, anyway? The only things in this movie with any non-muted color are the (very) occasional VFX. Even the plain white “void” that characters end up in during one scene is somehow a hazy, murky variation of a plain white void. Somebody needs to go over to Warner Bros and set off an explosive device filled with primary colored paints.
Oh, and by the way, did you happen to know that this movie is rated R? Did Warner Brothers not hit you over the head enough about that with all of their marketing? Well, in case they didn’t, the movie would very much like to make that clear. It would like to make the violence more ridiculous than a Saw sequel, and is populated by characters who swear after swear every swear word swear they swear speak swear in swear the swear movie swear sweary swearness swerity swear-o-rama. You know what, maybe I did briefly doze off at some point. I don’t remember Kano dying, but I don’t think I noticed him at the end? That’s too bad if I dozed off during his death, because he was such an annoying character. That might have actually been a scene worth watching.
While this movie is BARELY better than the abomination that is Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, so is Birdemic and Sharknado, so that’s not saying much. It is very definitely much worse than Paul W.S. Anderson’s fun 1995 original. Anderson has plenty of flaws as a director, but one thing he doesn’t lack is style and inventiveness. Yeah, much of that style is too over the top or too silly, but he’s at least TRYING to be visually interesting and fun. Most of that effort pays off in his 1995 version of Mortal Kombat. Even when the CGI looks very dated, it’s still stylistic and having fun, as is the cast. Oh my goodness is the cast in the 1995 film infinitely more entertaining, on every level, than in this movie. Even their cheesiest acting is far more entertaining than this motley array of generic dullness. And this movie has no humor. Or, rather, any very minor attempts at it are DOA. Character range from dull to bland to macho and annoying to macho and generic.
In the end, this movie felt like absolutely nothing more than some kind of fan service for fans of the video game. Or, at least I think it was. It felt like it, anyway. The problem is, I couldn’t possibly care less about the video game. Never liked fighter games, and MK was no exception to my total disinterest of the genre. So, the only comparison I’m making between this movie and Andreson’s 1995 film is as a movie. And George S. Clintoon’s music score for the 1995 film is so much better than Benjamin Wallfisch’s “action movie wallpaper” score to this one. In the end, though, this movie’s biggest problem is that I couldn’t have possibly cared who lived or died, on either side. Just boring, pointless fight after boring, pointless fight. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn……………
Did I mention how much I hated the lighting and cinematography?