Favorite movies of 2021 offer a mixed bag of entertainment

The Beatles: Get Back / King Richard / Last Night in Soho

Making “Top 10” lists at the end of the year is a dubious task at best, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it was fun.

Really, this list is just a snapshot of my thoughts at a moment in time. It’s certainly not authoritative or even right or correct. It’s just a movie fan’s opinion during the moments it was jotted down.

I’m sure if I had written this story last week, it would have been different because I watched several movies that made the list in recent days. Could seeing them so recently have affected my choices. Perhaps? Maybe even probably?

Certainly my biases both for and against some films or performers are present in the list. I can’t help it, it’s what I think.

If your favorite movie is low on the list or not present, it’s no big deal. It’s just my opinion, and like everyone, some of my opinions are ever-shifting, while others are set in stone.

The year that was 2021 wasn’t a great year at the movies. It won’t be revered like say 1939, 1959, 1967, 1975, 1982, 1994, or 2007, but it didn’t totally stink. It was a solid year for movie-going as we all strove to fight past the Covid-19 pandemic and find our new normalcy.

10. Last Night in Soho

This psychological horror film by director Edgar Wright was a stylish, freaky and mesmerizing movie that kept me on the edge of my seat for a good portion of the film (see the review). It was a solid spook show with nice turns by Diana Rigg, Thomasin McKenzie, and Anya Taylor-Joy with a great nightmarish quality that kept me guessing throughout.

9. Dune: Part One

This epic science-fiction adaptation by director/writer Denis Villeneuve was a strong yet somber starting point with a stellar cast led by Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson. However, the movie was all setup with no real payoff as the first part of a two-part opus (see the review). I’m intrigued and excited, but it’s hard to rate half a story much higher.

8. King Richard

I got around to “King Richard” late, just before it exited its first run on HBO Max, and I’m sorry I waited so long to see this uplifting film about how Richard Williams (Will Smith) and his wife Brandy (Aunjanue Ellis) developed their daughters into all-world tennis players Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) Williams. My favorite sports movie of the year without a doubt.

7. Don’t Look Up

This outrageous satire by director Adam McKay about the world being doomed by an impending collision with a colossal meteorite is this generation’s “Dr. Strangelove.” I found the movie hilarious with great turns by Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill (see the review). I enjoyed Leonardo DiCaprio playing against type as a nerdy professor whose grad student Jennifer Lawrence first discovers the meteor. The movie got mixed reviews because it skewers both sides of the political aisle. Just the tonic we need in today’s political climate.

6. Spider-Man: No Way Home

In a year full of super-hero movie, the best of the bunch was saved for last with “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” While the movie deals with multiple universes, it’s one of the most personal and heartfelt movies in the Marvel-Sony oeuvre (see the review). Tom Holland’s character growth as Peter Parker finally puts the “Man” in the character’s title as this iteration of Spidey finally learns the lesson “That with great power comes great responsibility.” I’d rate the film on par with Marvel Studio’s best work.

5. Licorice Pizza

Just like the title there is something a little bit icky about “Licorice Pizza” with the age difference between stars Alana Haim, who plays a mid-to-late 20-year-old women, falling in love with Copper Hoffman’s precocious 15-year-old Gary Valentine in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film that transports us back to the early 1970s. The dramedy is so on point that the age difference between the characters isn’t really an issue. Love is complicated and funny after all. The witty movie has great dialogue, and Hoffman and Haim look to have big careers ahead of them.

4. Tick, Tick…Boom

The musical drama directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda stars Andrew Garfield in a powerful performance as a near 30-year-old writer/composer who hears time ticking away as he works tirelessly to perfect his musical as his somewhat pivotal birthday approaches. Garfield soars in the role, and Miranda shows great chops in his directorial debut.

3. The Power of the Dog

Written and directed by Jane Campion, this savage Western is beautifully shot and takes its time revealing this story of grief, resentment, and jealously between brothers Phil and George Burbank, played respectively by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons. Kirsten Dunst plays Rose Gordon, who marries George after the suicide of her husband, while Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Peter her son, whom Phil picks at for his effeminate ways. The movie is a complex family drama, with a biting finale.

2. Coda

This coming-of-age dramedy is about teenager Ruby (Emilia Jones), who would like to pursue a singing career, but she is depended upon by her deaf father, mother, and brother to help run their fishing business. She joins the school choir that’s directed by Mr. Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez) who helps her develop her natural singing ability and courage. The movie is a fantastic family story that’s heart-tugging and heart-soaring. This was biggest surprise of the year for me. Just a wonderful movie.

1. The Beatles: Get Back

Peter Jackson’s three-part documentary is an amazing, eye-opening film about The Beatles recording sessions for their album “Let It Be” and some of “Abbey Road.” Whatever we thought the break-up of the greatest rock-and-roll band of all time was like from news reports and a previous documentary is proved to be a jaundiced view by this revealing movie that certainly shows that the the band members were growing apart but not nearly as acrimoniously as we had been previously led to believe by all forms of media. It’s fantastic to watch their creative process and to see the love and respect that Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon had for each other even when their band was imploding under the weight of its enormous success.

  New in Local Theaters

The King’s Man (watch trailer) / (R) 2 hr. 11 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight

Sing 2 (watch trailer) / (PG) 1 hr. 50 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight

Matrix: Resurrections (watch trailer) / (R) 2 hr. 38 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight

Licorice Pizza (watch trailer) / (R) 2 hr. 13 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback

American Underdog (watch trailer) / (PG) 1 hr. 52 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne

A Journal for Jordan (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hr. 12 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne