After a baker's dozen music year-end lists, we have just one more list to go and it's courtesy our resident film critic DLo. Check out his picks below for stuff you should watch. Thanks DLo!
Hey everyone! It’s DLo, I hope your holidays have been blessed and loving. I’m here to give y’all my end of the year watch list for 2021. I wrote about films and series that really stuck with me during this troubling year and I hope I can push you to go check ‘em out soon!
A Quiet Place II: John Krasinski does it again with the sequel to his blockbuster hit, A Quiet Place. It’s fascinating how this cast uses the least amount of dialogue to invoke an absurd amount of emotion, using only their eyes and facial expressions. The most terrifying scene occurs when the monsters first attack. It’s captured from the perspective of the deaf daughter, Regan, played by Millicent Simmonds. You could hear a pin drop in the theater; the chaos that ensued left everyone extremely tense. Emily Blunt and the supporting cast kills it! Though I hope this is the end of the line, because there’s not much more story left to tell. Especially when the basis is alien monsters who can kill anything they hear at the blink of an eye. Unless they introduce a new family into the story, in a totally different location, it’ll be redundant. Just the same story we’ve already received the most out of.
Last Night in Soho: Edgar Wright’s psychedelic trip into 1960’s Soho captured the time period very well. From the soundtrack and set design, to color and composition, it really feels like you’re in London for most of the movie. Something I didn’t mind being lost in! The story revolves around Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), a girl who occasionally sees her deceased mother in the mirror (pretty much a medium when you really think about it). Ellie, lover of fashion and the oldies, gets accepted into the London College of Fashion. From here, everything seems to finally start taking off for her. London has always seemed to be one of those cruel, shadowy places that people romanticize. We get to see that unravel as Ellie tries to get comfortable during her first couple days there. Snobby roommates cause her to leave the dorms searching for her own place; which comes at a price due to her higher sense of spirit. She starts having dreams but realizes she’s not herself in them. Instead she’s this girl from 1960’s London named Sandy (Anya Taylor Joy) who in some ways seems just like Ellie, trying to fly too close to the sun. Her dreams become violent after a man named Jack (Matt Smith) begins making appearances, taking advantage of Sandy in the worst ways possible. Ellie ends up going insane from the dreams with shadow figures constantly harassing her. She tries to contacts a man she thinks is Jack and accidentally kills him. Soon after it all clicks; She figures out the woman who let her move into her apartment is actually Sandy and the men she keeps seeing are actually Sandy’s murdered victims. Sandy attempts to kill Ellie, but eventually faces her sins; allowing herself to burn to death inside the bedroom. Edgar Wright really seems like a good guy to say the least man.
Spider-man No Way Home: I feel like i’ve heard the word multiverse so much in the last year that i’m starting to mumble it in my sleep. This movie is a homage to the Raimi universe and Andrew Garfield’s Spiderman iteration, and it doesn’t disappoint at all. Peter (Tom Holland) is facing the repercussions of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhal) outing his secret identity to the world. We finally get to see Peter hate being Spiderman for once (something the past iterations have dabbled in as well). Peter looks to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help with a situation too big for him alone to handle. Peter asks strange if he can make everyone forget he’s Spiderman which he accepts even thought Wong tells strange not to lift a finger (as always). But then spell gets botched due to Peter not knowing how to shut his mouth which is something we all shouldn’t expect at this point if you follow the character closely. This ends up bringing some of my favorite comic book villains back into the fold for one more shot at redemption! We see Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Lizard (Rhys Ifans). The multiverse is officially cracked wide open but instead of Peter sending all of the villains back like Strange wants, he ends up trying to “fix” them to avoid any further conflict. Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) suggests holding everyone at an apartment that Happy (Jon Favreau) owns and it leads to a pretty good scene showcasing Peter’s spidey sense when he’s surrounded by all the villains at once. Goblin flips to his more sinister self and fights Peter inside of the small apartment. Witnessing them suplex each other through the floors reminded me of watching WWE as a kid. Goblin ends up killing Aunt May when it’s all said and done which leads Peter to believe he needs some help from some familiar faces. The crowd reaction when Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield walk through their portals had the same impact as Captain America wielding mjolnir in Endgame. We get to see the science side of each Peter while working together to figure out the best way to bring everyone back home and keeping their hands as clean as possible while doing so. The final fight on the statue of liberty was one for the ages. Seeing 3 different generations of spiderman fight their villain counterparts all in the name of doing the right thing felt reassuring to say the least. The redemption that was given to Andrew’ spiderman stole the show along with his individual performance as well which he absolutely deserved. I’m sure with his recent newfound popularity it’s not gong to be the last time we see him in the MCU and I look forward to it.
Lamb: Definitely one of the most peculiar films of the year from A24. Director Valdimar Johansson gives us a Swedish tale about a half-sheep, half-human hybrid, raised by a couple on a farm in Iceland. Beautiful cinematography all around! Each scene’s colors pop out and are consistently memorable. This story kicks off when a herd of horses are spooked by an unknown entity in a barn. Later, the two main characters, Maria (Noomi Kapace) & her husband Ingvar (Halmir Guðnason), realize one of their sheep has given birth to one of the most bizarre creatures I’ve seen on the silver screen. Things get even more uncomfortable as they give the child a name (Ada). Igvar struggles to warm up to Ada amid the tension building between him and Maria. The other sheep begin to act out, due to them feeling threatened by Maria’s actions to keep the child as her own. This provides for some pretty cool imagery, such as a dream sequence where the sheep all have glowing golden eyes. The ending makes perfect sense though I wasn’t too fond of it. It would’ve been more satisfying to see Maria die at the hands of the demon hybrid rather than Ingvar. All in all, this movie is definitely something I plan to revisit with an eighth of shrooms!
(Honorable Mention) Ghost in the Shell 1995 in IMAX: When I seen an ad on Instagram saying Ghost in the Shell would be in IMAX for a couple days, I bought a ticket immediately. Words cannot give any justice to the chills I had once the theme music blasted from the surround sound at my local AMC. There were probably a good fifteen people inside, including myself (which kind of annoyed me but made the experience a lot more captivating). I’ve only known about this movie for about six or seven years, due to one of my homies putting me on, but I fell in love immediately! I’m sure that feeling will never leave.
Midnight Mass: Mike Flanagan redeems himself after his confusing effort with The Haunting of Bly Manor. This series follows a small community of die hard Christians on a isolated island. The lead is Riley Flynn who is tormented by a woman he killed driving drunk in the first episode. He ends up going to prison for a few years but when he comes back home the embrace of the community feels cold, especially from his father. The cast does a great job of giving the viewer this unsettled feeling, not to bring you to the edge of your seat but to make you ask questions to see what lies beneath the surface. Things pick up great steam once Father Paul comes onto the island saying the previous Father fell sick and had to be replaced. Paul has a very eerie vibe about him that doesn’t get explained until midway thru the season. I don’t want to spoil much but this show is a great ride for a limited series from a director who constantly proves himself to have a vision that keeps us involved.
Succession: One of the best, if not the absolute best tv series to drop this year. The Roy family made it clear why Logan (Brian Cox) is the only deserving top dog. Don’t get me wrong though, there was a great amount of character development with each family member sharing the spotlight as much as they should. My favorite was Kendall (Jeremy Strong) simply because of us all knowing how it would potentially end for him. The slow burn you feel seduced by regarding his plan makes you want to root for him til the world blows but his continued poor decision making and scatter brained behavior doesn’t let it stick too long. Roman (Kieran Culkin) even gets a better grip on his place in the corporate world even though all he really cares about is making his pops proud of him. We finally get to see Shiv (Sarah Snook) for the person she truly is … a Roy. A dinner between Kendall and Logan became my favorite scene of the whole season. The acting was phenomenal and the writing just hit you right in the fucking jaw. None of the kids actually succeed in attempting to show how much they aren’t like their dad (Logan) and the finale put a dagger in each of their hearts with a twist im side nine of them saw coming. Season 3 was flawless and I can guarantee the last season or maybe last 2 seasons will surely keep living up to the hype.
Loki: Marvel actually trying to give their characters solid character development for once is a trend I hope they keep getting better at. Loki starts off right where God of mischief (Tom Hiddleston) was left in Endgame, stealing the Tesseract and fleeing that dramatic battle in NY. The TVA (Time Variance Authority) captures him pretty quick due to him breaking the sacred timeline during his escape. It’s all downhill from there for Loki as we dive into a hint of how much the multiverse will impact the MCU going forward. Mobius (Owen Wilson) even makes a strong appearance alongside Loki and eventually starts to feel sorry for him after showing him how much his selfish actions mean nothing. Mobius ends up asking Loki to help him find Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) who is another version of the original MCU Loki from another universe(i know this is getting confusing but stay with me). She’s attempting to take down the TVA for good reasons and the romance between her and Loki end up being a strong point within the show due to them being the exact same person with slightly different intentions. We get some amazing comic book easter eggs once Loki gets pruned to an alternate universe. From Kid Loki & Lizard Loki to President Loki & the old Loki with his original comic accurate costume. Some episodes drag a tiny bit due to the paving being a little off but things end up paying off during the last 2 episodes. Sylvie and Loki figure out the TVA are a corrupt and fake organization who lied about the Beyonders. But when He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) is finally introduced shit gets real. He who remains is just an actually decent variant of Kang The Conqueror who is the soon to be new Big Bad in the MCU. He’s 10x worse than Thanos and we’ll end up hating Sylvie for killing him later on down the line.
Invincible: One of the most meme’d series in recent years and based off a comic book series of the same name. Invincible follows a teenage boy named Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) who is the son of the most powerful superhero on earth, Nolan Grayson/Omni-Man (JK Simmons). The action picks up immediately and never really takes its foot off the gas at all. If you add in the ridiculous amount of gore then you’ll be saying “WTF” just as much as anybody else who’s seen the show. Mark struggles with balancing his regular life and being a part time hero just like every other superhero and he gets his ass kicked more than enough times to count. His dad being Omni-Man doesn’t help much at all since he’s the figure Mark is constantly trying to live up to and make proud in the same breath. The voice acting cast is magnificent and completely star studded; ranging from Mark Hamill & Zazie Beetz to Seth Rogan & Sandra Oh. They all play their part with keeping the story engaging and forever moving forward. One of the most talked about moments within the show if during the final episodes where we see Omni-Man finally admit to killing a group of superheroes known as the Guardians of the Globe. Multiple characters had a feeling he committed this senseless act but him finally explaining his motive were some of the best high points of the show. Omni-Man is actually an alien from a far away planet called Viltrum where his species the Viltrumites were born. This turning point in the story is a huge pill for Mark to swallow. How do you forgive a man who committed a heinous act such as that especially if that man is your father and one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Mark confronts Nolan and obviously gets his ass handed to him but his strong will and spirit is admirable and the voice acting from JK Simmons and Steven Yeun really drives it all home. “Think Mark!!” is still one of the biggest sound bites of the year and will continue to be a staple until the next season premieres. I just hope Mark can learn to put himself and his friends in better positions up until that point. (Also hope the animation style improves a bit too)