I watched over 200 movies in the year 2021, easily and happily meeting the goal I had set for myself.
I am… not going to rank every movie I saw this year. That would be really hard.
And by that I mean, I might get bored and do it eventually because I am lame and have literally NO NEW YEAR’S EVE PLANS. So what else am I going to do that night?
(Spoiler: I will watch more movies with my wife).
Of those two hundred-plus, thirty-six were movies released [more-or-less] in 2021 itself. When pressed to rank the new releases on the year, I came up with this handy-dandy list! Let’s get into it!
JUST WAIT OKAY.
I’m not necessarily saying Candyman or Ghostbusters Afterlife are poorly made or low quality. Obviously putting them alongside these other three is a bit of a sham. These two are, in fact, well-made with more than solid acting.
But this list is based on MY ENJOYMENT, and I really didn’t care for either.
I may have liked Candyman more if I’d seen the original, but… I haven’t. So this movie–which I thought was going to be a remake, not a sequel–left me confused. I walked out of the theater with a hundred questions about what the hell happened and how the whole Candyman thing actually worked. Like… if Candyman is an IDENTITY, and not ONE PERSON, and the only one that had anything to do with ACTUAL FUCKING CANDY was from the 1970’s… what did they call him before that guy? Just a bunch of stuff like that. I felt lost. The entire drive home from the theater was my peppering my wife with questions.
Ghostbusters Afterlife just made me mad. It felt so lazy and uninspired. It was just Ghostbusters all over again. Stay Puft, Zuul, dog monsters, Gatekeeper, Keymaster, Gozer, cross the streams, four identical archetypes with only Finn Wolfhard/Peter Venkman being slightly twisted. They added nothing new of note. I judge sequels by how many risks they are willing to take by going in a new direction than their predecessor, but Afterlife just went on the exact same path.
VHS 94 squeaked by as a late December watch to “surpass” Escape The Undertaker as the worst of the year, even with the glory of Raatma. Escape is probably worse, really, because it’s a nothing burger flick, but I just grew entirely weary of VHS as it went on. Each story was worse than the one before it. Escape The Undertaker was just a gimmick, and not even a particularly well done one.
Honeydew was just a bad horror movie that was trying to be smart, but… failed. Badly. Weird editing choices and a truly bizarre score undercut a movie that honestly picked up in the second half. But I was done with it by then.
One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.
So, Pig is not a bad movie. It’s actually EXTREMELY well made. But it’s tedious, and in their attempt to make a subversive flick, they strained a 60 minute plot well past its breaking point to get to an hour and a half. For me, the movie just doesn’t work at its length, and the movie seems to know it because there are countless long, lingering shots just there to stretch the runtime. If this had come in at about an hour, I’d probably have liked this a great deal more. Pig as a 60 minute flick could be top ten material. Pig at 90 minutes was just a movie you could feel padding its own runtime.
I see a lot of people with Pig as one of, if not THE best flick of 2021, and I have to wonder if they actually enjoyed it or just want to seem clever. It IS smart and well-made. No argument there. It just needed much tighter editing and an acceptance that not all movies need to be 90 minutes.
The other four movies here are… not well made. Not at all.
We got ourselves a good ol’ Zack Snyder twofer! I’ve… already forgotten every damn thing that happened in Army Of The Dead, but I remember it being not funny enough to make up for the lack of horror, not scary enough to make up for not just going as a comedy, and not having good enough action to make up for either other choice. It just felt entirely joyless and devoid of any heart.
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was having people convince themselves than Zack Snyder’s Justice League is notably better than the theatrical offering. It isn’t. For all the hype, I had really expected this movie to be great; it’s just the theatrical movie all over again, but with some Darkseid scenes. It’s ridiculous how much ZSJL did NOT live up to the hype, but people that wanted it to convinced themselves it did. It’s far longer than it has any right to be, adds nothing I cared about, and honestly felt like a Snyder parody at points with all the overdone slow motion.
Mortal Kombat and Venom: Let There Be Carnage? Man, what can I say? They both felt pushed out just to make a buck. The Venom movies are terrible action flicks, but if they’d replace them with much lower budget flicks of Tom Hardy living an average Odd Couple life with the symbiote, they’d be tons better. I’d watch Tom Hardy talk to Growly Tom Hardy about having to do chores or whatever. Throwing evil symbiotes in helped nothing.
Mortal Kombat’s protagonist was not a character from the Mortal Kombat games. I don’t even like those games that much and I know that’s an asinine choice. Aside from that: one good fight scene doesn’t make up for the rest of the below average filmmaking.
Malignant feels like the opposite of things like Pig or Candyman. It’s not well made at all. I’m pretty sure James Wan set half the budget on fire to handicap himself before making this, and then he got the whole crew drunk on the days of shooting, too. The acting is abhorrent. The story is nuts.
AND YET… I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it! Or that I didn’t appreciate it. I really love everything about the risks it took, from its deceptive marketing to just the sheer insanity of it all; I want more movies to have the balls of this one. It kept me engrossed throughout, and I laughed heartily at some of the sillier moments. But I feel like scoring Malignant higher than this would be like praising Sharknado. Just because you had a ton of money to make a B movie and you did doesn’t mean you should have. It defeats the point.
Eternals was not great. It honestly could have been much better if they had trimmed half an hour (almost all of which could have come out of the first act) and not written the best character (Kingo) out of the climax. It was gorgeous, and I genuinely appreciated the Sophie’s Choice that the heroes faced and how it split them (I liked WHAT they did with Kingo, I just wish they would have done that with one of the more boring characters like Druig or Sprite or Druig. Or Druig. It should have been Druig. He stunk). But it was just… too… long. That first act is borderline insufferable.
I’m not much of a documentary guy, and Val did little to change that. Documentaries feel like reality TV to me in that they purport to show “real life”, but everything is far too set up and dramatized for the product. This was fine, but it felt like it was trying to MAKE me feel certain ways rather than just LETTING me feel them.
Tentacles is… totally a movie I remember seeing from February. Yep. I definitely have crystal clear recall of that flick. I’m sure we’ve all seen and remember Tentacles! No reason to get any further into that then!
That leaves us with the Resident Evil reboot. I mean… it’s a movie based on Resident Evil. You know how these go. The writing is bad (the dialogue here is probably the worst of any movie I saw in 2021, new release or old!), but the setting and atmosphere work at points. It would actually get interesting for a bit, but then it found a way to shoot itself in the foot before it built up TOO much momentum.
This is the first batch where I saw more of them in theaters (The Conjuring, Antlers, and Night House) than at home!
Speaking of such things, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was my triumphant return to the cinemas for the first time since COVID hit. I think. I actually might be wrong about that. Here’s the thing, I’m pretty sure you aren’t going to fact check me on this, so until we get to the OTHER movie that may have been the first, I’m leaving this here.
It’s not awful. For whatever reason, a movie franchise about demons and possessed items and ghosts was fine with me, but when it introduced a witch who had magic dust, I was suddenly all “THIS IS A BRIDGE TOO FAR!”. It’s a strange line to draw, but damn it… I drew it. It’s still completely adequate as a horror movie.
And boy, that last line works as a sum-up to four out of the five listed here. Whoof! I should watch more genres.
Antlers gave us a brilliant Creepy Kid performance and a movie that was genuinely foreboding. But it also had even less nuance than The Babadook in making the monster correlative to real life mental health struggles. There are several abandoned plot points throughout, though (remove any hint of Keri Russell’s alcoholism or any mention of her abusive father and very little changes) that make it feel a bit haphazard.
M. Night Shyamalan gave us Old in 2021, and it was so darn close to being a return to good M. Night flicks! Sure the dialogue sucks–all of his dialogue sucks!–but the story is immersive and engaging for quite a while until it all goes off the rails in the later part of the second act. We get, in the span of five minutes MAYBE, two deaths that are impossible to take seriously because they are so over the top ridiculous. And from there, the whole thing just kind of peters out on its way to the finish line. It started with so much promise, but Shyamalan clearly didn’t know how to end it.
Red Notice was inoffensive nothingness. Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds were charming. The Rock was wasted in a role that gave him nothing to do. It was fine; it was FINE. I’m not going to defend this movie; it’s almost inarguably too high on my list. But it killed less than two hours when I was bored at home one day, and I never felt like it was worse than anything else I could have been doing.
Boy oh boy, if you thought Old had Stephen King’ed its finish, you have GOT to see Night House! Night House didn’t just NOT stick the landing; it broke both its ankles on the attempt. When we get to the climax of Night House and we see what has really been going on the whole time, my brain just went “Noooooooooooo. Come on. No. No. No. There’s… no”. It’s conclusion is, with as little spoiler as possible, ripping off a minor moment from Homer’s The Odyssey and turning it into a feature length film. I was incredulous at what this movie thought it could get away with, and that stuck with me so much more than Rebecca Hall’s absolutely top-shelf job as the lead or the great journey to that reveal.
And that’s it for #36-17 of the 2021 new releases I saw. We’ll be back soon with the breakdown of #16-1, and if you were mad at me for the movies I didn’t like, you might hate me for the ones I did!
I have bad taste in things. You’ll be okay!
Until next time… take care!