Updated: One More Time with Feeling: Every 2021 Movie I've Seen This Year So Far



The written movie review curse reigns over this humble little site. I review movies weekly on The Movie Breakdown podcast and I've done several ghost written reviews this year, but after I wrote three already late review pieces on this site, the promised storm of more 2021 movies reviews subsided and the hankering for Christopher Spice written reviews was left unfulfilled.

Even worse, I started writing this specific piece days ago and yet fates keep intervening to stop it from being posted, so yet another week has laughed in my face while it blows past me.

Now, at this point, I am sure that I'm down to about three people who actually want or hope for movie reviews, but the only way to draw back an audience is to have actual new reviews to read.

Or call it quits and just turn this site into cat poetry.

I don't want to call it quits and I struggle with poetry let alone focusing it on one specific animal. Though I guess, it could be the entire kingdom of cats, and I'm sure I could make some impressive word salad about tigers. Tigers are cool.

But movie writing is one of the niches that I have at least a miniscule following compared to absolutely no following, so movie reviews must be written.

Despite the kid excuse lost to the return of school, this month has been a whirlwind of administrative and client work, so sadly, once again this site is left swirling in the storm of chaos. I'd like to make a powerful declaration that is all about to change, and I am sure am going to fight to make that the truth, but for my readers who have followed me on this journey, those words are probably about as hollow as those chocolate Easter bunnies. Delicious but not much there.in the middle (unless it is one of those treats that has extra candy hidden inside).

Anyway, I actually had an unfinished Candyman review collecting metaphorical dust since the end of August, and I had all the intentions to write several other reviews. But hey look, here we are ins the middle of September with none of those promised reviews written. (Full disclosure, I had the date in this sentence but it kept changing as the days passed by, so I replaced it with a more generic time frame).

As my very wise and beautiful wife has pointed out in her delicate way, I can't expect an audience to stick around if I continue to not deliver what is promised. So, I apologize. Again, despite the current chocolate Easter bunny words. I hope my proceeding actions will be the Smarties or Skittles to fill up the value of my promises with truth. By the end of the month, I hope we all can accept that this is the last time I need to write something like this because articles and reviews are pouring from the heavens.

I have addressed it before, but the big thing is this constant idea of thinking reviews need to be a certain length or be worthy of the movie that is being reviewed. I keep getting psyched out that it isn't the next masterpiece to be compared alongside legend Roger Ebert or feel that it is a pithy contribution to the conversation around a major movie. All this is utter nonsense of course.

A movie review can be 250 words or it can be over a thousand. It can focus on specific aspects or analyze one major part or it can try to tackle as much about the movie as possible. A movie does not have a limit on how many times one writer can explore it, so those truly great works can be revisited ten or twenty or infinite times. The key is that I am honest and authentic, and I write from the heart. If I follow that path, then I'll have something relevant to write about every time.

But you're here, because I promise a catch-up on every 2021 release that I've seen this year. In alphabetical order, I will list every 2021 movie that I've seen with a out of four star rating and links to my review, and for the movies missing reviews, I have some mini-reviews alongside them.

Some movies deserve much more in-depth reviews and some day they will get them, but for other movies, hopefully this will be one of the last times that I need to write or think about them.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever (***) 

Army of the Dead (**)

Bad Trip (**½)

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell (**½)

Black Widow (***)

Bliss (**½)

Boss Level (*): Remains my least favourite movies of the year. Mountain Dew Action!

The Last Blockbuster (**½)

Candyman (***½): This follows the path of 2018's Halloween by being a direct sequel to the original while ignoring all the following movies but for some reason adopting the name of the movie it is supposed to be the sequel. It can be forgiven since this a really good horror movie that follows the recent trend of blending its big scares and suspense with relevant social commentary. 

The Candyman is a supernatural killer that is summoned when one repeats his name five times while starring into a mirror. This movie does a great job exploring the life and power of urban legends as ways of controlling groups through fear or the stigmas the stories can create. The legends only have strength if they continue to be told, and so their power can shift depending on who is the storyteller framing the message. 

It is the creators, storytellers and artists that bring life back to the legends and myth. Visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Marteen II) inadvertently resurrects the bogeyman when he becomes obsessed with him and does an art installation all about Candyman at an art exhibition. Not only does the obsession start haunting himself but then the body count starts rising as many who encountered the works meet a gory fate. 

Candyman haunted the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, but his name was starting to be lost to time as the area became gentrified. The best parts are when director Nia DaCosta allows the actions and scenes to explore the ideas of gentrification, racism, myth-making, obsession and oppression, but there are some moments it can get a little too on-the-nose and use expository dialogue to spell things out for the viewer.

The movie excels when it allows its visuals to set the mood and tone in crafting a disturbing and unsettling bloody ghost story. DaCosta makes great uses of mirrors and windows, and creates parallel worlds that collide with a visual of the natural world and the mirror world where we see the visual representation of Candyman. The performances are top notch as we see Marteen create a character slowly losing connection with himself, and Teyonah Parris is great as Brianna Cartwright who tries to rescue her boyfriend from his descent. 

There is so much to dissect in this complex yet thrilling picture, and a full review will happen when I revisit what is one of the best movies of the year so far.   

Coming 2 America (***)

Concrete Cowboy (**½)

The Dig (**)

Fear Street 1994 (***)

Fear Street 1978 (***)

Fear Street 1666 (***)

Finding 'Ohana (***)

Free Guy (**½)

Gunpowder Milkshake (**): Somebody recently saw John Wick, but the library and diner are nowhere as compelling as the unique places created in that action movie. There are a few fun action sequences like when the hero needs to use her limp arms to kill three baddies. It is a shame that great stars like Karen Gillan, Michelle Yeoh, Lena Headey, Angela Bassett and Carla Gugino lacked a script that really made use of their talents rather than this picture trying to capitalize on the popularity of a better movie.

I Care a Lot (*½)

Jungle Cruise (***)

Love and Monsters (***)

Malcolm & Marie (**)

Malignant (*½): I should have written a proper review of this movie as it was what I saw last Friday. I understand that Director, James Wan, who has given us Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring and Aquaman, was trying to merge '80s style campy B-movie horror with big budget filmmaking, but it all feels like a forced homage rather than a true throwback to that crazy kind of horror gore filmmaking. There are some moments of brilliant technical filmmaking like some perspective changes when the protagonist is trying to escape a threat in her house. But the film suffers from long stretches of dull set-up, and some action sequences that are purposefully ridiculous but don't really fit the tone of the movie, so it comes off hokey thus disarming the tension. I get I am in the minority among other critics, but while there are shocks, I don't think they are strong enough to make the whole movie work.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (***½)

The Marksman (**): It is Logan but generic and dull. Liam Neeson actually brings a lot of heart and depth to his role even if the script just makes him the grumpy old given up hope trope that finds meaning when he must protect a child. It is an action road trip action movie, but I kept just wishing I was watching Logan instead.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines (****): It has been an okay year for movies with many of them just sort of existing rather than really connecting in the magical emotional way that great movies do. But it has been a strong year for animation, and my Best of 2021 list may have quite a few this year. 

Moxie (***½)

Nomadland (***): The more I think about this one then the more I feel it should be considered for a rewatch before I make my Best of 2021 list at the end of this year.

Old (**)

Operation Varsity Blue: The College Admission Scandal (**½)

Outside the Wire (*)

Paw Patrol: The Movie (**½)

A Quiet Place Part 2 (***½): A fantastic follow-up to one of my favourite horror movies of the past decade. The opening sequences is a masterwork in thrills and tension as we see our beloved Abbot family try to escape the invading monsters. There is also one amazing sequence where Director John Krasinski jumps back and forth between three scenes where all the main leads are encountering a life or death situation. It creates so much tension and parallels the situations that they are in, and demonstrates how each solution is linked, and how the bond of the family still exists despite the separation. It is a great moment of technical filmmaking, and it is this use of emotions and tension that elevates this movie even if the plot may not be as strong as the original. It also continues the tale of parent and child relations, and how we deal with past pains. The relationship between Emmet (Cillian Murphy) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is touching and believable, and also shows how an adult can still learn from a child. Emily Blunt continues to be one of the most diverse and compelling actors, and she anchors this movie as both the loving and sacrificial mother while also radiating the feel of a kick-ass action star.

Raya and the Last Dragon (****): Still stands strong as my number one favourite movie of the year so far.

Run (***)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (***½): I will write a full review of this one while I revisit every MCU in release order. This is special, not only because it is the first to have a predominantly Asian cast, but like Black Panther it embraces elements of the culture, myths and style to craft an original big blockbuster event movie. It also incorporated some martial arts action sequences that help it stand-out from typical MCU action, and has some long shots that follow the fight rather than resort to the usual frenetic cuts. The bus action sequence feels like a proper blending of big MCU CGI action with more intimate hand to hand martial arts choreography that makes it one of the more memorable set pieces in all MCU movies. 

This follows recent MCU trend of moving into the fantastical and trusting audiences will go on this over-the-top journey with adorable furry butts with wings sidekicks and the hero riding a giant dragon to save the day. It also grounds it with an intimate plot about family and regrets with the past. Tony Leung brings lots of depth and heart to main villain Xu Wenwu who has a complicated agenda that on some level an audience can relate making him one of the top villains in MCU history alongside Loki, Thanos and Killmonger. 

Simu Liu and Awkwafina have a great chemistry in the lead roles as long-time best friends. Awkwafina balances comic relief with sincere emotion to pay-off some of the big dramatic moments. Liu is charismatic and has what it takes to be one of the next big Marvel stars, and the end credit scenes make me think he may be set-up as the next Iron Man type figure.

The new realm is gorgeous and the movie takes some bold directions with how bizarre it is willing to go. It is a little disappointing we get the usual loud CGI soup ending, but it has done enough crafting compelling characters that the heart remains. Meng'er Zhang is compelling as the lead's sister, Xu Xialing, as she is a complicated character and we both attach but also fear her. It is always great to see Michelle Yeoh in an action role, and Ben Kingsley is fun in a comic relief role. This is proof that there is a lot of creativity and interesting directions for the MCU post. Endgame.

Space Jam: A New Legacy (**)

Stillwater (***)

Sweet Girl (*): A real disappointment that the charismatic Jason Momoa and compelling Isabel Merced are in a bland action dud. Follows the stupid trend of big corporations being the big bad and shows why that is such a dull, shorthand choice. This move makes some really crazy turns, but they are baffling and not the least bit fun. 

The Suicide Squad (***½)

Things Heard & Seen (**)

Thunder Force (***)

The Tomorrow War (*½): Early in this movie, a soldier who came back from the future mentions how he is still haunted by the clicking that is made by the monsters they need to battle. I think, he may have stopped by at the movie theatre to see A Quiet Place before going to this support groups because there is almost no discernable clicking in these creatures unlike the ones in the much better movie. That is the problem with this generic and dull sci-fi actioner, it sets up plot points and stories that it never bothers to explore or follow-through on, and it creates stakes that always feel forced and hollow. It also has officially made Chris Pratt a bland and typical action star.

The White Tiger (**½)

Without Remorse (**)

The Woman in the Window (**): Amy Adams is on a streak of some duds recently, but her amazing talent has kept me excited for all her future projects despite stuff like this.

Wrath of Man (***)

Yes Day (***)