Tag Archives: Dune: Part One

Top 25 Best Films of 2021

Top Movies of 2021

Considering the number of movies that were delayed, 2021 was a surprisingly great year for film. So while this list may be releasing very late, here are my favourite films from 2021.

As of right now I’ve watched 85 movies from 2021. I think I’ve seen most of the films I wanted to watch before making this list. With that said, there are definitely some movies that I heard were great, but just didn’t get around to watching. So for what its worth, some of the movies I missed were:

  • Annette
  • Benedetta
  • Zola

With that now out of the way, here are my favourite movies of 2021.

Honourable Mention: The Lost Daughter

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The Lost Daughter was a strong directorial debut from Maggie Gyllenhaal. This unflinching character study follows a mother thinking back on her life, and while the unconventional narrative and plot structure doesn’t always work and it can be occasionally messy, it had me invested throughout. It’s a look at motherhood and touches on the struggles of parenthood. It’s definitely daring and bold as it talks about things that most people don’t want to think about or acknowledge, so I found that compelling if nothing else. However, the best part of the film really were the performances. Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson are fantastic in their roles, with Colman and Buckley particularly delivering some incredible work as older and younger versions of the protagonist. It’s a difficult character to portray, but they flesh her out and bring such empathy to her, and the movie just wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without them. It’s not an easy movie to watch, and it isn’t for everyone, but I do think that it is worth watching for the performances at the very least.

My review of The Lost Daughter

Honourable Mention: The Empty Man

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The Empty Man’s release may have been buried, but the slow building word of mouth around it is very well deserved. It’s a hybrid horror movie which mixes psychological detective thriller with elements of cosmic horror, surreal doomsday cults and the supernatural. The plot starts out simple with an urban legend and a disappearance but becomes much more by the end. It’s riveting and takes plenty twists and turns, with a surprising amount of existential dread and a constant ominous tone throughout. It’s also a great and confident first film from David Prior. On a technical level it is strong, with beautiful and moody cinematography, interesting and memorable visuals and imagery, and haunting sound design, all coming together to build an unnerving atmosphere. The Empty Man won’t work for everyone, it’s definitely a slow burner and requires a lot of patience. However I thought it was really good, and it’s definitely among the horror highlights from 2021.

My review of The Empty Man

Honourable Mention: Riders of Justice

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Riders of Justice at first appears to be a standard revenge thriller starring Mads Mikkelsen, but turned out to be far more than just that. While it still a movie focussing on a group of people coming together and to hunt down a gang in revenge, it’s also a dark comedy, surprisingly hilarious and entertaining to watch. At the same time it is a heartfelt and sad movie, one that addresses grief and trauma in a sensitive and poignant way. The script is smartly written with great dialogue and juggles multiple different tones and genres with ease, it surprisingly works together quite well. The cast led by Mads Mikkelsen are great, funny, yet sensitive and genuine as their fully fleshed out characters, and have great chemistry with each other. If you haven’t seen it or heard of it, I recommend checking out Riders of Justice, it deserves a lot more attention than it has been receiving.

My review of Riders of Justice

Some other honourable mentions:

  • House of Gucci
  • Army of the Dead
  • CODA
  • Old
  • No Sudden Move
  • Nine Days

25. Malignant

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James Wan’s latest film is quite possibly his craziest yet. Malignant is a horror movie that’s very strange, over the top, absurd and even has a lot of campy and comedic moments throughout, yet it all fits together by the end. The first two acts build mystery and suspense and gets you intrigued with the main mystery, before it hits you with an insane third act, ramps up the intensity with a weird twist and it just has to be seen to be believed. It’s also another well directed effort from Wan. It’s visually beautiful, has a great atmosphere throughout, and technically strong with very slick camerawork and strong sound design. The set pieces are truly a sight to behold, with some of the best filmed action sequences of the year, particularly in the third act. Add one of the most memorable horror movie killers in recent years, and you have a surprising and highly satisfying horror movie that was bonkers in all the right ways. It was an amazing experience that I highly recommend going into blind if you haven’t seen it already.

My review of Malignant

24. Wrath of Man

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Wrath of Man looked like a standard Jason Statham revenge movie as directed by Guy Ritchie, and it’s definitely that. However, this revenge thriller meets heist film just worked so much better than expected. Even though you see hints of Ritchie’s trademark style throughout, this is him at his most restrained. It’s a deadly serious, brutal and relentless thriller, his darkest film yet with a very bleak and intense atmosphere throughout. Jason Statham still plays another variation of himself as the mysterious and stoic protagonist, but is actually genuinely menacing in this and gives one of his best performances. The rest of the cast including Holt McCallany and even Scott Eastwood played their parts well too. Guy Ritchie’s directing style is comparatively restrained but nonetheless strong, very well shot with impressive long takes. The action sequences are great, bloody and brutal, and you really feel the impact of every gunshot and blow. All this is accompanied by a foreboding score from Chris Benstead, and contributes to the great sense of doom and dread in the movie. I’d argue that nearly half of the movie owes it to this soundtrack, it greatly elevates the rest of it and is easily one of the best scores from the past year. Wrath of Man is one of Guy Ritchie’s best films and was an unexpected and refreshingly different movie from him.

My review of Wrath of Man

23. The Night House

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Psychological horror The Night House really deserved a lot more attention than it had received. Horror movies focusing on grief and trauma may be a little overdone nowadays, but this film breathed new life into this very specific subgenre. There are genuinely haunting and scary ideas as it plays on the fear and acceptance of death, and I found the story to be very compelling. Rebecca Hall gives one of her all-time best performances in the central role. She’s on her own for most of the movie, and carries it so well. While it is Hall’s show, the movie’s strengths don’t end with her. It is visually striking, making great uses of optical illusions, architecture and symmetry, and the sound design and score are excellent. The film does a fantastic job at creating an eerie and creepy atmosphere, and the scares are effective and don’t defuse the tension. The Night House was one of the biggest surprises of 2021, especially when it comes to horror.

My review of The Night House

22. The Card Counter

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The Card Counter is a thematic character study that’s very reminiscent of writer and director Paul Schrader’s other work, focussing on a lonely protagonist suffering from PTSD, and with self-destructive behaviours and a tormented past. It is slower paced and meditative, and despite the title it is definitely not a hustling or gambling movie, instead focussing on consequences and guilt, particularly with the acts of torture during the War of Terror. I found it very engaging with a lot to say. There’s a great cast of performers with Tye Sheridan, Tiffany Haddish, and Willem Dafoe, with Oscar Isaac delivering a strong lead performance and possibly his best yet. It’s also supported by Schrader’s strong direction, with some truly visually stunning moments. The Card Counter is a stylish, layered and thematically rich character study, and definitely a highlight from the past year.

My review of The Card Counter

21. Judas and the Black Messiah

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Judas and the Black Messiah received some awards attention in the previous awards season, and for very good reason. It’s a very well written, engaging, and incredibly captivating film from beginning to end, with a strong energy and intense atmosphere throughout. A powerhouse tragedy of a drama, it’s riveting even when you know how it ends. It’s also incredible directed, with some perfectly executed and filmed sequences. However, the performances from everyone were what made it as great as it was. There’s the leading performances from Daniel Kaluuya’s Oscar Winning turn as Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton as well as Lakeith Stanfield’s layered work as informant William O’Neil, along with a strong supporting cast in Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishbank, Ashton Sanders and more. Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and fantastic film that definitely deserved all of its praise and accolades.

My review of Judas and the Black Messiah

20. C’mon C’mon

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C’mon C’mon is a feel good dramedy and one of the most understated movies from the past year. This slice of life film is one of the most genuine and honest movies I’ve seen in a while. It’s a heartfelt story about growing up and parenthood and asks life affirming questions, while being incredibly compassionate and tender. Joaquin Phoenix gives one of his lightest and warmest performances, subtle but genuine and one of his best. Woody Norman holds his own and is equally great. These two were an excellent pairing, their chemistry is natural and the central connection between them is very believable. It’s also very good on a technical standpoint. The black and white cinematography is stunning to look at, and the weightless camerawork was fantastic and perfectly sets the mood, tone and vibe of the movie. C’mon C’mon has been overlooked to a degree when it comes to best movies of this year, so I highly recommend checking it out.

My review of C’mon C’mon

19. The Tragedy of Macbeth

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The Tragedy of Macbeth is yet another Macbeth adaptation, with very much the same plot and script which you would expect. However, what makes this version so great comes down to the performances and presentation, as well as writer/director Joel Coen’s handling of the whole film. The performances are fantastic, Denzel Washington is a powerhouse as Macbeth, Frances McDormand is in great command of every scene she’s in as Lady Macbeth, and Kathryn Hunter makes a memorable impression as the witches. Joel Coen’s direction here is different from anything he’s done before, and the movie is a technical marvel. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous to watch, and the presentation with the lighting, shadows, fog and smoke is effectively off kilter and conveys a haunting atmosphere throughout. The way that Joel Coen manages to make the movie both theatrical and cinematic is just incredible. The Tragedy of Macbeth is very much an art movie and Shakespeare film, so it is not for everyone. However, at the very least I highly appreciate the craft on display here.

My review of The Tragedy of Macbeth.

18. Mass

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Mass was one of the most overlooked films from the past year, which is a shame because it really was a great movie. It mostly takes place in one room focussing on a meeting between 4 people, connected by a tragic event, in which they share a lengthy discussion. You feel closed in this one room much like the characters. The exposition heavy screenplay is fantastic, with very well written dialogue and a slowly revealing plot. It has a great amount of emotional weight to it, showing how each of these 4 people suffered in their own ways. It is uncomfortable to watch since it tackles a very serious and widespread issue, but Mass discusses it perfectly. It deals with trauma, grief, loss and regret with a great amount of empathy, and feels very authentic from beginning to end. The 4 central performances from Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd and Reed Birney are amazing and they convey their characters in very convincing ways. One of the biggest surprises of the year and one of the year’s best, check it out.

My review of Mass

17. Pig

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Indie film Pig at first presents itself to be a revenge story with its setup, but eventually reveals itself to be an intriguing and melancholic character study. It’s a calmly paced and existential meditation on emptiness and loss, about moving on and dealing with your past. There’s a lot to connect with here, and the take on grief is very human and is handled with a great amount of empathy. It is a reflective journey, filled with riveting conversations and memorable encounters which had me invested from beginning to end. The performances are all outstanding with each actor delivering solid work, from Alex Wolff through to actors who have 1 scene of screentime, everyone makes terrific impressions. But of course, one of the biggest strengths of the film is Nicolas Cage, who not only gives one of the best performances of the year but also one of the best performances of his career. Subdued and subtle but very powerful and believable, he’s truly amazing here. Pig is a solid debut film from Michael Sarnoski and is well worth checking out, one of the biggest surprises of 2021.

My review of Pig

16. Spencer

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Spencer is the unconventional Princess Diana biopic that’s more character study than a biopic, and it does a great job at diving into the personal life of its subject and make us see life from her eyes. Refreshingly different from a usual biopic, this character piece focuses on Diana’s sadness, anxiety and struggles as she tries to change herself to fit in, all the while being constantly haunted. It felt like a horror movie sometimes with how unsettling it was, especially with the tense and uneasy atmosphere, and I was captivated throughout. The film really benefits from Pablo Larrain’s direction, there’s some incredible visual storytelling on display. The gloomy cinematography helped convey that feeling of claustrophobia, and Jonny Greenwood’s jazzy and intense score perfectly captured the tone of the film. They all come together to make us feel the pressures of the lead character. However the movie all really depended on the lead performance, and Kristen Stewart delivers some powerhouse work as Princess Diana. She is convincing and conveys her pain and anxiety, so much of the movie is riding on Stewart, and she more than delivers. Spencer is definitely not a movie for everyone, it is very different from what some might expect from it, but I thought it was fantastic.

My review of Spencer

15. Parallel Mothers

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Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film is an engaging treat of a drama which had me engaged from beginning to end. A look into motherhood, relationships and loss, Parallel Mothers’s screenplay was brilliant and smartly handled. I was invested in the story and characters and how everything progressed; everything from the mini twists to the story of the parallel mothers, to even the subplot involving the Spanish Civil War is all well put together. It’s also directed greatly, it’s incredibly shot and captured, with a wonderful use of colour. Most of all, the acting is phenomenal from everyone, especially from Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit in the lead roles. Parallel Mothers is an engaging, emotionally charged and layered drama, and one that’s worth checking out.

My review of Parallel Mothers

14. West Side Story

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I’m not someone who wasn’t familiar with the West Side Story musical, nor the 60s adaptation by Robert Wise, I loved this new adaptation by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg’s first musical here is over the top, theatrical and cheesy at times, yet endearing, entertaining and emotional at times. Aside from the love story at the centre of the movie, I was invested in the story and characters, even with the long length of 2 hours and 40 minutes. It’s helped by the great and powerhouse performances from the cast. Ansel Elgort aside, the acting work from Rachel Zegler, Mike Faist, David Alvarez, Rita Moreno and Ariana DeBose are amazing and they play their roles incredibly. Steven Spielberg is a more than accomplished director, and this might be one of his best directing works. His direction is fluent and fluid and there’s a lot of energy throughout. The sweeping cinematography and camerawork are just perfect. From beginning to end, every shot is composed excellently and so much thought was put into frame, from the lighting to the colour. The costume designs, productions designs and environments are top notch and sell the setting and time period. Additionally, the song and dance sequences are fantastic and well put together. West Side Story is a vibrant, entertaining and excellently made musical, and one of Steven Spielberg’s best films, especially in recent years.

My review of West Side Story

13. The Worst Person in the World

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The Worst Person in the World is an authentic, empathetic and very human coming of age film for adults. It’s also a romantic comedy that is funny and entertaining to watch, while feeling fresh by subverting some of the well-known rom-com tropes. It’s a thought-provoking film about self-discovery and figuring out what you desire in life. The screenplay is heavy hitting, poignant, and handled with such care, it’s deeply touching and has such depth to it. It’s only made better by the incredible and naturalistic performances from Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie and Herbert Nordru, each conveying the subtlety and hidden layers of their characters in nuanced ways. Even the technical elements are strong, especially with the flawless direction from Joaquin Trier. The cinematography was crisp and stunning, and there are some very creative sequences that remain some of the most memorable scenes from the past year. The Worst Person in the World is melancholic, funny, and emotional, very deserving of all the acclaim it has been receiving.

My review of The Worst Person in the World

12. Nightmare Alley

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Guillermo del Toro’s latest film is his most grounded, but also a strong contender for his darkest. Nightmare Alley is a grim, slow burn noir mystery, compelling and engaging with its seedy and sinister story. There is an excellent cast of performers all making memorable impressions with Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, Toni Collette and more, led by a career best Bradley Cooper. Guillermo del Toro’s film is full of visual imagination as to be expecting, striking with great uses of colour, lighting and shadows, and with incredibly memorable imagery. Top that off with a memorable and haunting ending, and you get a fantastic film that is among the director’s best. Like with Del Toro’s own Crimson Peak, it wasn’t the best received or loved upon its initial release, but I’m sure that it will receive more appreciation over time.

My review of Nightmare Alley

11. The Power of the Dog

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Jane Campion’s slow revealing western is fantastic, a character study with layered character dynamics that is strong from the writing through to the direction and acting. It has an effectively dreadful, unnerving and haunting atmosphere which only builds up more tension as the film progresses. The acting is amazing all round, Benedict Cumberbatch gives a career best performance in the lead role, conveying the subtle nuances of the character, and Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Jesse Plemons are excellent in the supporting cast. Campion’s direction is also a big part of why the movie works as well as it does, along with some beautiful cinematography from the landscapes to the more intimate and tense scenes. The Power of the Dog is a complex and gripping character drama, well deserving of the acclaim it has been receiving.

My review of The Power of the Dog

10. The French Dispatch

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Wes Anderson has once again created a highly enjoyable film with his latest, an anthology movie consisting of a few standalone stories, all connected from being stories from a magazine. While it has the typical anthology movie trappings with some storylines better than others and the tone and pacing distinctly different across each of them, they are all good. As to be expected from a Wes Anderson movie, it’s very entertaining, witty and delightful with great humour, while also having some tender and heartfelt moments throughout. The absurdly large cast which includes Bill Murray, Benicio Del Toro, Jeffrey Wright, Lea Seydoux and Frances McDormand and more are all excellent and make memorable impressions. This is quite possibly Wes Anderson’s most Wes Anderson movie ever, almost bordering on parody. At the same time, this is stylistically his most unique movie, and he even does things that he hasn’t done before. Its creative and aesthetically pleasing with fantastic visuals, truly enthralling to watch. Overall, I loved The French Dispatch, it’s one of Anderson’s best.

My review of The French Dispatch

9. Titane

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Titane is generally known as the “craziest movie of the year” but just calling it that somehow feels a little reductive. Yes, part of it involves a serial killer with a titanium plate in her head having sex with a car and getting pregnant, and it certainly delivers on the gore especially in the first act. It is definitely insane, unsettling and unnerving with some unforgettable sequences. However the most shocking part of the movie is how heartfelt and endearing it is. Titane was more profound and emotionally resonant than I was expecting, even sincere and sweet. The script is original and ambitious, there’s a lot that can be unpacked from it thematically, whether it be about family, abandonment, gender identity or gender fluidity, and I was very invested in the story. The performances were great, mainly from its leads in Agathe Rouselle and Vincent Lindon who deliver some of the best acting from the whole year. The direction from Julia Ducournau is absolutely fantastic, and once again she has shown herself as one of the most creative and interesting newer filmmakers working today. It is certainly not a movie for everyone given it’s over the top nature and the graphic content. However I loved what I saw, and I think that it is one of the best from the past year.

My review of Titane

8. The Green Knight

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The Green Knight is a beautifully made yet contemplative and meditative fantasy film; a subversion and deconstruction of the ‘hero’s journey’ trope, with a lot to unpack thematically. The story has a grand scale and scope, but is also blended with this deeply intimate, compelling and emotional journey. I was drawn into the dreamlike world, especially with its surrealist atmosphere, and the constant sense of impending doom kept me riveted all the way through to the end. There is a great cast of performances, led by a career best Dev Patel in the lead role, who excellently carries the film. David Lowery’s work here is spectacular, on a whole other level compared to what he’s made before. Despite the lower budget, everything here on a technical level is fantastic. It is visually mesmerising, epic, and even magical. From its first scene all the way to the spectacular last 20 minutes, it is an experience, and The Green Knight lingers in the mind long after watching.

My review of The Green Knight

7. No Time to Die

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No Time to Die was a very special James Bond movie, and is by far the best conclusion to a Bond actor’s run as the character. It definitely leans into the classic Bond aspects more than the past four movies with global stakes caused by a ludicrous villain, the gadgets, the humour and the cheesy one liners. At the same time there is a real emotional core to the film, wrapping up all the storylines and characters journeys for Daniel Craig’s James Bond. There is a solid ensemble of new and returning actors including Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Jeffrey Wright and Ana de Armas. However, most of all, Daniel Craig gives his best performance as James Bond. He delivers the one liner and gets plenty of action scenes to play, while giving him such emotional resonance and a perfect sendoff. Cary Fukunaga’s direction is great too, feeling fresh and distinct within the franchise. The cinematography is vibrant and stunning, the action is entertaining and well shot, and there’s a constant feeling of energy throughout the film. Whatever the next take of James Bond is or whoever plays him, I’m satisfied with No Time to Die, and it was one of my favourite cinema experiences from the past year.

My review of No Time to Die

6. The Last Duel

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One of the biggest surprises of the whole year, The Last Duel was an amazing, dark, brutal and uncomfortable medieval drama. There was some great writing, especially with the plot structure as we get to see the events of the plot from three different perspectives, with every perspective adding even more to the movie with its important differences. The different viewpoints narrative was very effective, and by the time it reaches the segment of the truth, it is ascends to a whole other level. The movie is about rape, sexual assault and misogyny, and it is hard to watch, but those topics are surprisingly handled incredibly well here. Ridley Scott more than delivers in directing as to be expected, with the film being very strong on a technical level. There’s some beautiful cinematography and production design, with intense action sequences and the final duel being particularly satisfying to watch. Finally, the performances are all great, Matt Damon and Adam Driver played their parts well, and Ben Affleck was a surprising scene stealer. However, it is Jodie Comer who stands out the most, giving one of the all-time best (and unfortunately overlooked) performances from the past year. It might be bold to say this, but The Last Duel ranks amongst Ridley Scott’s best movies. It’s a shame that it bombed at the box office; I do highly recommend watching it if you haven’t already.

My review of The Last Duel

5. The Father

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In retrospect, I really wished that I put this film on my best films of 2020 list because it was a strong contender for best film of that year. However I left it off the list because of my uncertainty with which year it released in, so I decided to include it on the 2021 list to honour it if nothing else. A psychological thriller played in slow motion, The Father effectively portrays dementia and is handled with a lot of care and consideration as you experience the events from the protagonist’s point of view. It shows you his disoriented and confused point of view to outstanding effect. It’s especially creative with how it tells its story, the direction really helps place the audience into the headspace of the lead character with the editing, the cinematography and more. It plays like a nightmare or horror movie, even though it is a drama at its core. The acting from everyone is great. Olivia Colman is great as a daughter who has to watch her father go through dementia. However it’s Anthony Hopkins who shines the most here in a career best and Oscar winning (rightfully so) performance. The Father deserves all the acclaim and awards that it had received. If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend it, even if it’s not an easy one to sit through.

My review of The Father

4. Drive My Car

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Drive My Car is certainly intimidating with its 3-hour runtime, but it is one of the most effectively emotional and perfectly crafted films of the year. The movie starts out simple and straightforward from the 40-minute prologue, but it takes you on a layered and genuine journey full of discovery and healing that is worth experiencing for yourself. It’s a film that says so much, both with its excellently written and meaningful conversations, and its well-crafted silences. Drive My Car focuses on life, death and betrayals, and is a story about grief, loss and learning to move forward. The performances are excellent from everyone, subtle but layered and complex, especially from Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tōko Miura. Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s direction is amazing, and this film is quietly one of the best shot movies from the past year. Drive My Car deserves all of its critical acclaim, it is amazing all around and I highly encourage watching it. Despite its placement on this list, there is a strong argument for it being the best movie of 2021.

My review of Drive My Car

3. Dune: Part One

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So far, Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic and adaptation of the classic and highly influential novel of the same name has only released its first half at this point. Nonetheless, Part One of Dune is already impressive for what it is. By splitting the adaptation into two parts, Villeneuve gets to convey so much more about the world and lore instead of trying to shove everything into just one movie, and it made for much stronger storytelling. I grasped the story and lore well and I wanted to know more. Additionally, Villeneuve effectively conveys the stakes and scale of the events and setting while telling a compelling and personal story for the protagonist. There was a large cast of strong performances, including Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa and Stellan Skarsgard. And of course, it’s phenomenal on a technical level, making the whole film really feel epic and on a large scale. Everything from the visuals, cinematography, production design, score and more are outstanding, and all come together to really immerses you into this otherworldly setting and story. I will say that Dune slightly dropped some slots on this list after a rewatch, mainly because it’s a movie which is very dependent on Part 2. As it is, Dune (2021) is incomplete and while I am thankful for the story being split into two parts, the story definitely hasn’t reached its conclusion yet. However, I can’t wait for Part Two. Villeneuve and co. definitely know what they are doing with these movies, and it really was one of my best cinematic experiences from the past year.

My review of Dune: Part One

2. Zack Snyder’s Justice League

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Perhaps it’s a fanboyish thing putting this movie among my top favourites of the year. However, I can’t just deny that it was one of my most satisfying movie watching experiences from the past year. It was already a special movie looking at its circumstances, as Zack Snyder finally got to release his true vision for Justice League and effectively erase the subpar Justice League movie released back in 2017. It doesn’t feel like the generic run of the mill superhero movie that the last one was, the story is developed a lot more with more complexity, and the characters are fully realised. However, even looking past the circumstances under which it was made and released, it is great and succeeds at what it set out to do. The intimidating 4-hour runtime serves the film greatly, allowing time to build up its characters and backstories as well as setting the scene, and it is surprisingly paced really well. The darker tone and R rating is utilised well to help make you feel the stakes, while having little sprinkles of lightness and humour that don’t take away from the stakes or situations. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is truly a DC epic from the scale to the stakes and worldbuilding, but still allowing to show a lot of humanity. There’s a lot of genuine heart to the movie with strong character moments and taking time for quieter moments, especially with Cyborg. Justice League is an immensely hopeful movie from beginning to end. With the acting, pretty much everyone is redeemed in this after the 2017 film, from the main Justice League cast (especially Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman), to everyone else. Even the villain Steppenwolf gets a massive upgrade both in design and character, making for an antagonist who is physically more scary, imposing, and intimidating but also had surprisingly more depth and was more than just a generic 2 dimensional villain character. It is definitely a Zack Snyder movie just from looking at the style. The visual effects are great, and the powers of the characters are showcased wonderfully. The action sequences are also entertaining, boosted by an energetic and strong score from Junkie XL. Warner Bros is ill advisedly moving past Zack Snyder’s Justice League by not considering it canon and potentially looking to retcon Snyder’s divisive DC movies and polarise its audience even further. However at this point, I’m just glad that this movie exists. It definitely has its issues, but I can’t deny how much I loved watching this.

My review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League

1. The Matrix Resurrections

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I wouldn’t have expected a Matrix movie to be in the top 10 of the year, let alone at number 1. Perhaps it’s the effect of having just been Matrix pilled right before watching, but either way, it topped the list as a personal favourite. It is effectively in line with the divisive Matrix sequels, and is in line with what the directors wanted. I do have my issues with the previous movies even though I like them a lot more now, however there was something special about Resurrections that made me love it so much, which I admit I haven’t figured out yet even if I can identify its strengths. I was interested in how it expanded on the previous movies and continued the story. There is definitely some nostalgia including references, but in contrast to plenty of ‘legacy sequels’, Resurrections does not feel like a soulless continuation, there is an emotional core to it. It still feels personal and heartfelt and sincere, it continues the themes of the main trilogy while exploring newer territory, including meta commentary about the commodification and exploitations of IP. The cast were all great from returning actors Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, to the newer additions, especially Jessica Henwick, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff. I loved Lana Wachowski’s direction, it’s a different look for a Matrix film especially with the colour pallet, but it was visually stunning and with fantastic visual effects. The only aspect of the movie which was lacking a little compared to the others was the action, but they were still good and have their moments. Its likely that this is where the Matrix franchise stops, but Resurrections to me feels satisfying conclusion and sendoff. There’s definitely a lot to take in with this one movie, and I will need to watch it again to be certain about my thoughts. However, taking all that into consideration, there has to be something said for the fact that as soon as the credits began to roll, I knew instantly that The Matrix Resurrections was my favourite film of the year.

My review of The Matrix Resurrections

What are your favourite movies from 2021?

Denis Villeneuve Films Ranked

Denis Villenueve Ranked

With the release of Dune: Part One, I wanted to share my list ranking the films of director Denis Villeneuve.

Ever since I watched Prisoners, I’ve been interested in Denis Villeneuve as a director. Over the past decade, he quickly established himself as one of the most acclaimed, visionary and sought-after directors. He has a fantastic body of work and has excelled at any genre he attempted from gritty crime thrillers to grand sci-fi epics.

With a few exceptions, most of Villeneuve’s films are truly excellent and as such, ranking his work is not easy. Here’s my best attempt at it.

10. August 32nd on Earth

August 32nd on Earth is a very obscure and hard to find movie, and one that even most fans of Denis Villeneuve probably haven’t heard of. Even though I’m glad I watched it, it’s by far his worst movie. It isn’t riveting and it takes a while for things to happen. It is Villeneuve’s first movie, and the direction definitely feels like it’s from someone making their filmmaking debut. It is rough with the editing, music and cinematography and isn’t exactly what you would call polished, with not much of a style.

With all that being said, August 32nd on Earth is a competently made movie, and it is solid as a directorial debut. It’s a decent romance dramedy that’s written well, especially with the dialogue between the two leads. Pascale Bussières and Alexis Martin are good as the main characters, and they share some great chemistry which drives and carries the movie, which is just as well since the movie relies on them so much. Without them, it wouldn’t have worked as well. Overall, it’s directed, written and acted well enough to make it entertaining to watch. With that said, it’s not anything special, and I wouldn’t recommend it to many people outside the most curious of Villeneuve fans.

My review of August 32nd on Earth

9. Maelström

If August 32nd on Earth was a standard movie for a directorial debut, Maelstrom is Denis Villeneuve getting experimental and creative. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t, but overall, I think it’s an admirable early effort from him.  There’s a lot going for Maelstrom with it being a dark character study of the troubled lead character, and the movie tackling the themes of guilt, grief and regret. Some of its aspects are strong, Marie-Josée Croze acts very well as this complicated protagonist, and Villeneuve’s direction certainly helps the film. It’s not as polished as his later work and he’s still crafting his own distinct style, but the technical aspects like the cinematography and editing fit the movie quite well. You can even detect aspects of his filmmaking style here which would make its way into his future movies.

Although there are some interesting elements to it, the film is held back by its shortcomings. The film is very slow moving and unfortunately doesn’t really keep your attention all the way through despite the strong character focus (not helped by the unsatisfying ending). I appreciate the movie for a lot of its ideas, though not all of them work. The narration of the film is delivered from a talking fish as it’s being chopped up by a butcher over the course of the film. It’s certainly memorable and probably meant to be symbolic given that fish play a symbolic part of the film but distracts more than anything, and is just one example of decisions in the film not really landing. Despite its issues, Maelstrom is still a solid and intriguing enough movie, and it does have some interesting aspects to make it worth a watch even if not all of it works.

My review of Maelström 

8. Polytechnique

It’s a huge step up in quality from this point in the list going forward. Polytechnique is definitely Denis Villeneuve’s least rewatchable movie, this drama focuses on a very difficult subject, that being a real life tragic shooting. It is a harrowing and haunting experience of a film, yet is beautifully shot, acted, and written, and respectful to the victims of the tragedy. The runtime is less than an hour and 20 minutes, but Denis put so much into it and does so much with it.

At this point with his third movie, Denis Villeneuve has honed his skills and has become a very capable filmmaker. The black and white cinematography complements the raw brutality of the scenes, giving it an eerie feeling. At the same time, these brutal sequences never feel glorified. Along with the excellent direction, the film is also helped by the acting, which felt authentic and real. Again, Polytechnique is not an easy movie to watch at all, but it is a great and important film.

My review of Polytechnique

7. Enemy

Enemy is one of Denis’s more confusing and experimental movies. A hypnotic, brilliant and thought-provoking psychological thriller, it definitely requires more than one viewing to really appreciate it. I know that personally as soon as it ended, I looked into online theories and videos to see what everyone else thought and interpreted from the movie. The premise is initially simple, and you are pulled into this intriguing doppelganger story. Throughout there’s an eerie and unnerving feeling that grips you. Enemy is incredibly complex and layered with so much to look into and think about as it plays with perceptions of reality.

Elevating the movie are the incredible dual performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, he really delving deep into the personalities of these two roles and again does some outstanding work. Another critical part of the film is of course Villeneuve’s direction, which is amazing as always. It’s an absolutely stunning looking movie, distinct with the yellow-ish tint and with moments of scary and unforgettable imagery. There’s also a general vibe of strangeness and wrongness, helped even further by the unsettling score. Even though it’s not a horror movie, this is probably the closest that Villeneuve has made to one. There are some unnerving scenes with some great tension building, keeping you on edge from beginning to end. As I said before, Enemy is very confusing at first, but its more satisfying on repeat viewings. It’s really an unforgettable experience that is well worth checking out if you have the patience for it.

My review of Enemy

6. Sicario

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Sicario is a captivating, intense, dark and gritty crime thriller, it takes it time with its pacing and plot and is nonstop suspenseful. It has a very dark tone and feels appropriately unpleasant and uneasy throughout. There’s always an undercurrent feeling of tension and danger, you never really feel that the characters are completely safe. There’s also some stellar performances from the likes of Josh Brolin and Daniel Kaluuya, but it’s both Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro who are the standouts, delivering strong and powerful acting work in their parts.

Denis’s direction is fantastic as expected, and this film is outstanding on a technical level. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is phenomenal as usual, framed and lit perfectly and capturing the tension. Johann Johannsson’s haunting and ominous score is a presence throughout the entire film and helps maintain this unnerving and uncomfortable feeling for the movie. Overall Sicario is a tightly directed, bleak and memorable thriller that accomplishes just about everything it sets out to do.

My review of Sicario

5. Incendies

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I remember hearing about Incendies being one of Villeneuve’s earlier movies. I went in fairly blind, and I was not prepared for what I would be watching. Incendies is a brutal, harrowing and uncompromising film. The storytelling is fantastic, a mystery with a plot containing a lot of twists and turns focusing on twins fulfilling their dying mother’s last request. You are locked in from start to finish as the plot unfolds. There are some truly devastating moments and reveals, and it’s very bleak even by Villeneuve standards.

The acting is great from everyone, from the twins played by Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette, to Lubna Azabal as the mother. Everyone acts their role well, but it really is Azabal’s film, and she carries the movie excellently. Denis Villeneuve’s direction is fantastic as usual, it’s a stunning looking movie with so many memorable and emotional impactful images that are burned into your memory. Much of the movie is quiet and subtle, only making everything feel all the more real and raw, and there is a tense feeling throughout. Incendies is an unforgettable and truly remarkable film. It’s constantly engaging, greatly acted and packs an effective emotional punch when it needs to be. Not an easy watch by any means but nonetheless really worth checking out.

My review of Incendies

4. Arrival

Amy Adams as Louise Banks in ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures

Arrival was the first Denis Villeneuve movie I was able to watch in the cinema, and it was an unbelievable experience. It is a thoroughly griping, intelligent, and thought-provoking science-fiction film that deserves multiple viewings, and is worth going into not knowing anything about it. I was satisfied with all the twists and turns, and the story by the end felt complete. While it is on the surface level a first contact/alien invasion movie with worldwide stakes at play, it is still a very human and soulful movie, presenting some interesting and thought-provoking ideas.

The performances are great, but it really comes down to Amy Adams in the lead role, giving one of her all-time best performances. She is spectacular here, this really is her film. Villeneuve’s direction is also outstanding. There is some spectacular cinematography from Bradford Young with the use of gorgeous wide shots, and the CGI is fantastic and never looked overused or fake. The score from Johann Johansson is euphoric too, eerie, suspenseful and ominous, yet very beautiful and it really added to the tone of the film. Overall Arrival is one of the best science fiction films from the past 10 years and is one that gets better the more you think about it and revisit it.

My original review of Arrival

3. Dune: Part One

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The most recently released film from Denis Villeneuve, Dune: Part One is currently his most ambitious film, especially considering that its adapting one of the most iconic piece of science fiction literature ever. While we have only half of the adaptation to judge at this point, needless to say his work on this one movie was fantastic. The world of Dune is very detailed, and he conveyed it incredibly well with outstanding world-building. I grasped the story and lore surprisingly well and I really wanted to know more about it. While Part One is essentially used as a way of delivering exposition about the world, characters and lore, it felt incredibly natural and worked seamlessly with the unfolding story. It is a slow movie with a steady pace, but this helped to tell the story effectively, and still felt reasonably accessible to most audiences. Villeneuve does a fantastic job at conveying the high stakes of the story, while still having a strong focus on the lead character’s journey and internal struggle.

There are some outstanding performances from the excellent cast as these memorable characters, especially with Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa and Stellan Skarsgard. Unsurprisingly, Denis Villeneuve’s direction is magnificent, and Dune is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen, you really feel the sense of scale throughout. The cinematography from Greig Fraser is amazing, the production design, set pieces and wardrobe are unique and detailed, and the score is operatic and outstanding. Dune: Part One is an immersive experience and spectacle of a film and while it definitely needs Part 2 for me to judge Villeneuve’s adaptation on the whole, I have high hopes for it. Part 2 just can’t come soon enough.

My review of Dune: Part One

2. Prisoners

Film Review Prisoners

Prisoners was the first movie I watched from Denis Villeneuve, and it’s his first English language movie. 8 years on, it remains a tense, well crafted and relentlessly grim thriller. Mystery thrillers following a kidnapping have been pretty common but this is incredibly well executed. You are completely invested in this the whole time, and despite the many disturbing twists and turns you can’t turn your attention away from it. It’s helped by its engaging characters and thought provoking questions that it poses.

The spectacular performances from the cast also are a big reason why it works so well. Hugh Jackman gives his best performance as a father desperate to find the missing children, Jake Gyllenhaal is phenomenal as a detective searching for the children, and Paul Dano sticks in your head the entire time as a possible suspect. Other performances from Viola Davis, Terrence Howard and Melissa Leo were amazing and add so much to it. The direction from Denis Villeneuve is amazing as expected. Roger Deakins’s cinematography was incredible, really appropriate for the dark atmosphere and constantly feeling dark and damp. There is an effective sense of dread throughout, helped by the mesmerising score from Johann Johannsson. Prisoners still remains an outstanding mystery thriller film, and is still one of my favourite movies from Villeneuve.

My review of Prisoners

1. Blade Runner 2049

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Potentially a very predictable pick for number 1, but my favourite of Villeneuve’s films nonetheless. Blade Runner 2049 is a grand sci-fi spectacle and one of the best science fiction movie of recent years. Living up to the Ridley Scott directed original Blade Runner, 2049 isn’t just a continuation that remains true and faithful to the original, it also expands upon its world and crafts its own unique story that improves upon it. The fantastic script tells an intimate story for the lead character played by Ryan Gosling, and his compelling journey over the course of the film. It is a long movie and moves at a steady pace but not a single second felt wasted.

The performances were fantastic from everyone. Ryan Gosling is perfectly cast as the lead role of K, effectively carrying the whole film really well. Harrison Ford reprises his role of Deckard from the first Blade Runner and is incredible in his screentime, and Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks are very memorable in their parts. Denis Villeneuve’s work on 2049 is spectacular, with so much attention to detail. The cinematography from Roger Deakins is nothing short of breathtakingly spectacular. The world is incredibly well realised with the visual effects, physical sets and the production design working together incredibly well. Blade Runner 2049 remains one of the most impressive films I’ve seen, and is currently my favourite film from Denis Villeneuve.

My review of Blade Runner 2049

What is your ranking of Zack Snyder’s movies?