Hot Fuzz (2007)

Hot Fuzz follows the incredibly talented Sergeant Nicholas Angel after he is transferred for making his colleagues “look bad”. Angel is initially resistant to the reassignment, but soon uncovers a dark mystery in Sandford that puts all of his policing skills to the test. Let’s consider the pros and cons of Hot Fuzz…

Pros: Edgar Wright does an excellent job balancing the mysterious and comedic elements of this movie. These notably different tones don’t seem easily compatible, but they mesh together perfectly in this action comedy. Wright’s unique directing style also elevates this story by utilizing dialogue in fun ways and using clever transitions to move the story forward. These minor touches add tremendously to the replay value of this movie, because there are tons of subtle jokes in and in between every scene.

Cons: While I do love the editing during transitions and quirky montages, there are way too many cuts during the final action sequence. With several back to back shots lasting for only one second a piece, the action becomes disorienting after a while. My final con also has to do with the ending, which feels like a completely different movie than the preceding hour and a half. I’m not sure if this is a pacing or plot issue, but it’s jarring when the gore gets turned up to 11 after being around a 5 for the majority of the film. Regardless, I LOVE the ending of this movie and it remains as one of the most enjoyable scenes I’ve ever experience in a movie theater.

I give Hot Fuzz a B+. There’s a great balance between action and humor, and enough subtle touches to warrant a rewatch from time to time. Pair this movie with Shaun of the Dead for the ultimate double feature! Happy Watching!

GRADE:

B+

7.5/10

Pros/Cons

  • Dialogue
  • Direction
  • Tone
  • Editing
  • Pacing

Where to Watch

“The Greater Good.”

Top 10 Movies to Watch in 2021

Movies in 2021 will face many obstacles after a year of abysmal box office numbers. Of course this isn’t the fault of the movie industry, but as people begin to normalize, so must our various forms of entertainment. Let’s take a look at my 10 most anticipated movies of 2021!

10. The Suicide Squad

I don’t think anyone liked the first Suicide Squad less than I did. The plot was contrived and overall, it felt like DC was trying too hard to mimic Marvel’s success with Superhero mashups. However, with James Gunn set to take over the sequel, I believe this property is in competent hands and I’m looking forward to it! The release date for The Suicide Squad is August of this year in theaters and HBO Max.

9. West Side Story

Few directors can hold a candle to Steven Spielberg’s career and therefore, any movie he directs will always be highly anticipated. Although this isn’t an original screenplay, given that West Side Story is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, I think this could easily be Spielberg’s next blockbuster. The release date for West Side Story is December of this year.

8. Godzilla vs. Kong

Warner Bros has steadily added to their Monsterverse since 2014, and this 4th movie of the series is where I think they’ll see their biggest payoff. Two of cinema’s most iconic creatures clashing in what is sure to be an exciting and visually stunning experience. What’s not to like? The release date for Godzilla vs. Kong is May of this year in theaters and on HBO Max.

7. Space Jam: A New Legacy

Even with his legendary status, Lebron James has big shoes to fill in this Space Jam sequel. Whether you’re drawn to this movie by nostalgia or a love of basketball, it’ll be lighthearted fun for the whole family. The release date for Space Jam: A New Legacy is July of this year in theaters and on HBO Max.

6. Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun is regarded as a classic by many and with Tom Cruise returning to the cockpit, it’s hard to imagine a better recipe for success. With the sequel taking place over 30 years after it’s predecessor, it’ll be interesting to see whether this movie can fly solo. The release date for Top Gun: Maverick is July of this year.

5. A Quiet Place Part II

John Krasinski struck gold with A Quiet Place and after deciding to delay the sequel’s release by a year, he’s sufficiently built up everyone’s anticipation for this movie. Cillian Murphy also joins the cast and I’m eager to see how he and other characters change the dynamic of this story The release date for A Quiet Place Part II is April of this year.

4. 007: No Time To Die

This will be Daniel Craig’s last performance as James Bond, after portraying the iconic character for over a decade. It is truly the end of an era and I have a feeling he’s going out with a BANG! The release date for No Time to Die is April of this year.

3. The Last Duel

Ever since Ridley Scott and Matt Damon’s resounding success in The Martian, I’ve been anxiously awaiting their next team up. Luckily, the wait is almost over and we can look forward to seeing more great actors in this movie, such as Ben Affleck and Adam Driver. The release date for The Last Duel is October of this year.

2. The Matrix 4

The original Matrix has remained in the Top 5 of my Favorite Movies list since it’s debut in 1999. Naturally, I’m very excited to see Keanu Reeves return to his role of Neo and see what else this sci-fi world has to offer. The release date for The Matrix 4 is December of this year in theaters and HBO Max.

1. Dune

The first trailer for Dune released four months ago and I’m still riding the wave of excitement. Denis Villeneuve is quickly becoming one of the top directors in Hollywood and at 25, Timothée Chalamet is already an exceedingly talented actor. This team up is sure to be brilliant, but hopefully my high expectations won’t get the better of me. The release date for Dune is October of this year in theaters and HBO Max.

There has been a noticeable shift towards remakes, reboots and sequels in recent years and 2021 is no exception. However, I’m still looking forward to watching the movies on this list and I hope you share my anticipation! Let me know in the comments which movies you’re excited about this year! Happy Watching!

Tenet (2020)

Tenet is Christopher Nolan’s latest attempt to bend our minds with his bold storytelling and patently unique manipulation of time. Throw away any preconceived notions you have about this movie because I promise it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen! Let’s consider the pros and cons of Tenet…

Pros: Christopher Nolan is a visual storyteller and nowhere is that more apparent than in this movie. The precision with which he directs and structures Tenet shows a meticulous confidence that I appreciate as a viewer. Although the story is confusing at times, Nolan pieces it together in an oddly satisfying way that rewards repeat viewings. Equally enjoyable are Tenet’s intertwined themes of inversion and accepting one’s fate. By the end of the movie, both the Protagonist and his handler, played by John David Washington and Robert Pattinson respectively, have traveled backwards through time, sometimes even coming into contact with their unsuspecting past selves. It is when the Protagonist begins to look at the world differently and understand that destiny is what’s propelling him forward, that this movie unquestionably fulfills it’s potential.

Cons: There are moments that benefit from the punctuating score, but there are also scenes that suffer from the intense noise level. With Tenet’s already complex and scattered storyline, not being able to hear crucial lines of dialogue is frustrating to say the least. Subtitles are an easy fix for this flaw, but it’s disappointing they’re needed at all. Lastly, I think this movie tries to do too much in too short an amount of time. Yes it’s 2.5 hours long, but there are a lot of moving parts and almost no breaks in-between beats. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Nolan’s work, but it’s still worth mentioning. All in all, these cons hardly detract from the overall impressiveness of this movie.

I give Tenet an A-. It’s an action packed sci-fi thriller that is sure to wow you with it’s high concept premise and stunning visuals. Subtitles are not required, but highly recommended. Happy Watching!

GRADE:

A-

8.5/10

Pros/Cons

  • Direction
  • Originality
  • Theme
  • Visuals
  • Pacing
  • Sound

Where to Watch

“What’s happened, happened.”

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Safety Not Guaranteed is a charming movie about a relatable outcast who interns for a magazine and embarks on a road trip for an unusual assignment. It’s not your typical rom-com, but it is delightful nonetheless. Let’s consider the pros and cons…

Pros: This movie has an interesting plot that takes a backseat to the slice of life story of Aubrey Plaza’s character, Darius. Her character is a likable introvert, while the people around her are slightly exaggerated stereotypes. There is the ruthlessly unempathetic boss, the nerdy virgin and the pessimistic editor going through a midlife crisis. Darius’s bond with Mark Duplass’s character is natural and well developed. My final positive is the length, which is just under an hour and thirty minutes. The movie doesn’t waste time with unnecessary beats or scenes, which is always appreciated.

Cons: It may seem contradictory to praise a movie’s characters and criticize the acting, but that’s exactly what I’m about to do. The actors do a serviceable job here, but there’s nothing especially spectacular about any of these performances. In fact, it’s hard not to see hints of previous performances shine through in this movie. Aubrey Plaza is playing her same character from Parks and Rec, Jake Johnson is playing his same character from New Girl. It’s difficult to say whether these actors are typecast or lack range in general, but either way it may pull you out of the movie.

I give Safety Not Guaranteed a solid B. It’s a perfectly harmless movie that won’t change your life, but it has fun characters and an interesting plot. If you’re in the mood for a quirky rom-com, look no further! Happy Watching!

GRADE:

B

6.5/10

Pros/Cons

  • Characters
  • Plot
  • Length
  • Acting

Where to Watch

“WANTED: Somebody to go back in time with me… Safety not guaranteed.”

The Queen’s Gambit (2020)

The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix Original limited series that follows a young orphan’s obsession with chess and her journey to become a World Champion. The story spans over 7 hour long parts, showing us the career defining moments for Beth Harmon, chess prodigy. Let’s consider the pros and cons of The Queen’s Gambit…

Pros: Firstly, this is an exceptionally well told and compelling story from start to finish. Scott Frank particularly deserves credit for adapting Walter Tevis’ book and making such a complex game digestible for people without extensive chess knowledge. Secondly, the performances are topnotch all-around. Real life Grandmasters were consulted during filming and it shows by the way Anya Taylor-Joy exudes confidence in this role. Finally, the theme of relying on others for support instead of resorting to drugs is a powerful and inspiring message which is prevalent throughout this show.

Cons: My only negative has more to do with the format this show is presented in, rather than the content itself. I am of course referring to the time commitment, which in this case is roughly 7 hours broken up into hour long episodes. Although Netflix does make it incredibly easy to binge through content, I can see why the length of a limited series could make one hesitant to take the plunge. Ultimately however, the show uses this format to it’s advantage and allows the audience to live and breathe in this world with its characters.

I give The Queen’s Gambit a solid A. Although it is essentially a 7 hour movie, this show exceeded my expectations with every passing episode. I highly recommend it to everyone with a Netflix subscription. Happy Watching!

GRADE:

A

9/10

Pros/Cons

  • Acting
  • Direction
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Length

Where to Watch

“Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful.”

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is the sequel to 2006’s infamous phenomenon Borat. It’s filmed in the same documentary style as the first, but instead of making fun of America as a whole, this one singles out a political party. It will have you either rolling on the floor in laughter or cringing until well after the credits roll. Let’s consider the pros and cons of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm…

Pros: Firstly, Sacha Baron Cohen is a comedic genius and gives an absolutely bonkers performance as Borat. And similarly to the first film, Sacha is able to provoke unbelievable yet predictable reactions from seemingly real people. Which scenes have actors and which don’t could be a topic worth debating, but the ingenuity of splicing it all together to fit the overall narrative is an accomplishment in and of itself. Maria Baklova also deserves credit for the heavy lifting she’s doing as Borat’s daughter.

Cons: As I have said in the introduction, there is just as much here to cringe at as there is to laugh at. For instance, there were several moments that were so violently awkward that I couldn’t even bear to continue looking at the screen. Not only are these scenes uncomfortable to watch, but some are extremely shocking as well. Finally, while I acknowledge that Borat is making jokes at the expense of both Democrats and Republicans, it is heavily slanted to one side. This will inevitably limit the audience for this movie, which is unfortunate because there is a lot of cleverness going on beyond the political jokes.

I give Borat Subsequent Moviefilm a B. It is not the easiest moviefilm to recommend to anyone, but it may be worth watching for it’s uniqueness alone. If you enjoyed the first Borat, you will surely find plenty of laughs here. If you tend to lean more conservative, you may want to skip this torture altogether and no one will blame you. Check it out now on Amazon Prime Video and let me know what you think. Happy Watching!

GRADE:

B

6.5/10

Pros/Cons

  • Acting
  • Originality
  • Plot
  • Scenes

Where to Watch

“I go to America! (gets booed)”

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

The Haunting of Bly Manor is Mike Flanagan’s follow up to Hill House in “The Haunting” anthology series. Since the first show received critical acclaim for it’s ingenuity, expectations were understandably high for this entry as well. The story follows an American nanny who is hired to care for two orphans at the dreary and ominous Bly Manor. However, this is anything but your typical horror story. Let’s consider the pros and cons of The Haunting of Bly Manor…

Pros: Firstly, there is not a single weak performance in this show. Most of the actors are affecting their truest British accents, and they all do outstanding jobs. The child actors also deserve recognition for their part in holding this tragic story together. Secondly, I like the reuse of the ominous and unsettling score from Hill House. It sets the tone just as well here while also adding an extra layer of connection to the first story. Sometimes anthologies can feel too far removed from others in the series, but Bly Manor feels like a seamless transition from Hill House both visually and thematically.

Cons: While I applaud the unique storytelling process of Mike Flanagan, it is not the easiest to follow. For example, around episode 5 we learn that some characters are actually ghosts and they are stuck reliving their memories. This isn’t impossible to fathom, but as we continue to see characters return to certain memories only to be perturbed themselves, it becomes unclear what the takeaway from such scenes should be. Not only does the pace of the show change halfway through, but so does the direction. Instead of progressing forward at full speed, the story continues through memories using a series of edits. This could certainly be considered a positive for viewers that enjoy finding Easter eggs and hidden meanings in stories. However, I found the change in pace and sudden edits to be jarring midway through the series.

I give The Haunting of Bly Manor a B+. Your expectations may be high after Hill House, but Bly Manor stands out in it’s own uniquely dreadful way. If you’re a fan of the horror genre, there should be no hesitation regardless. Happy Watching!

GRADE:

B+

7.5/10

Pros/Cons

  • Acting
  • Characters
  • Score
  • Tone
  • Editing
  • Pacing

Where to Watch

“I’ve been tucked away again, in another memory.”

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is the latest Netflix release to confuse the masses. Charlie Kaufman, known for mind bending stories such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, writes and directs and doesn’t holding anything back. Some will write this off as pretentious fodder for movie buffs, but there’s something to be said about the unconventional moviemaking style of Kaufman. Let’s consider the pros and cons of I’m Thinking of Ending Things…

Pros: This movie may seem all over the place plot wise, but all of the themes and moving parts intermingle extremely well with each other. In fact, the seemingly accidental wardrobe changes, sudden edits and repeated character lines all serve a purpose by the end of the film. The acting and dialogue driven script are also resounding positives. If you’re able to identify the subtle nuances of every performance and appreciate it’s pairing with the vivid imagery, you may find yourself particularly enthralled by this film. All in all, my biggest praise for I’m Thinking of Ending Things is that it begs discussion and analysis. You could have a completely different understanding of the story than the person sitting next to you, yet both of your perspectives would be valid. And as is alluded to in the movie, art can make individuals feel singled out. And indeed it does.

Cons: In spite of phenomenal acting and directing, this movie is not for everyone. Charlie Kaufman is no stranger to using metaphors and symbolism in his movies, but in this instance it may be done to excess. It also requires your 100% undivided attention which could be considered a negative for passive movie watchers. The several slow stretches of dialogue may tempt you to lose focus, but there’s always something happening in the background. In other words, you’ll need a sharp eye to catch the subtle nuances in every scene. And even then, you probably won’t fully understand the story until at least a few repeat viewings.

I give I’m Thinking of Ending Things a B+. It doesn’t have a straightforward plot, but the many metaphors and subtle nuances in every scene make this well worth a watch. It may be confusing experience initially, but it will also pique your curiosity in a way that few other films do. Happy Watching!

GRADE:

B+

7.5/10

Pros/Cons

  • Acting
  • Dialogue
  • Direction
  • Theme
  • Length
  • Plot

Where to Watch

“Coming home is terribly lonely…”

Palm Springs (2020)

Palm Springs is a Hulu original that took this year’s Sundance Film Festival by storm, garnering positive reviews from both audiences and critics alike. In a Groundhog Day-esque story, one man is forced to relive the same day over and over until a few unsuspecting bystanders join him along the way. Let’s consider the pros and cons…

Pros: The acting in this contained little story cannot be overstated enough. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti have an effortless chemistry that will effectively pull you into their world and situation. J.K. Simmons also turns in a great performance and manages to steal the few scenes he appears in. Finally, although we’ve seen many interpretations of time loops in movies, I think Palm Springs uses the format brilliantly to advance the story.

Cons: It’s not easy to find flaws in such a carefree film, but there are some things worth mentioning. Firstly, while I do think Palm Springs uses its time loop premise to its advantage, I completely understand that some will find this to be too gimmicky. Secondly, the sections where this movie struggles the most is when the characters try explain/understand the mechanics of the time loop they are trapped inside. Of course any clarification is appreciated and necessary for the resolution, however the time loop and escape are ultimately yada yada-ed. This ending could spoil the entire movie for you if your expectations are too high, however I would contest that the movie is less about escaping the time loop than it is about the relationships formed inside.

I give Palm Springs an A-. It’s a unique rom-com with an absolutely bonkers premise and solid performances all around! I highly recommend this to everyone with a Hulu subscription. Happy Watching!

GRADE:

A-

8.5/10

Pros/Cons

  • Acting
  • Originality
  • Plot

Where to Watch

  • Hulu with Subscription

“I felt everything I’ll ever feel. So I’ll never feel ever again.”

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Monsters, Inc. is a charming little movie with unique animation, a wild premise and a lot of heart. It shows us monster life when they’re not scaring children in their bedrooms, although there is some of that as well. Let’s consider the pros and cons of Monsters, Inc….

Pros: The voice acting is superb, especially from John Goodman, Billy Crystal and Steve Buscemi. Their voices fit seamlessly with their monster counterparts, with none so over the top as to pull you out of the movie. The writer/directer, Pete Doctor also deserves his share of the credit for this masterpiece. Not only does he craft this family friendly monster movie, but adds the whimsical twist of monsters being scared of children. This gag gets a lot of mileage throughout the movie, but because of everything else it has to offer, it never feels like a one-trick pony. Lastly, Randy Newman composes a playful score that does an excellent job of setting the tone for the film.

Cons: Although the plot is unique, it is also painfully predictable. You can only expect so much from a G rated family film, but overall it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Even with a foreseeable ending, it still has a satisfying conclusion, so don’t let that deter you too much!

I give Monsters, Inc. a B+. It’s a lighthearted family film that offers excitement, fun visuals and a lot of heart. Your kids will love the zany characters and you will likely come away with a chuckle too. Happy Watching!

GRADE:

B+

7.5/10

Pros/Cons

  • Acting
  • Originality
  • Theme
  • Plot

Where to Watch

“We have a twenty-three nineteen!”