The Plain, Simple Review of the Month: March 2021

A preamble? Nah, let’s just get right into it and look at some 2021 film and TV!

2021 Releases

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021)

★ ★ ★ ★

When I first read the synopsis of this film, I was immediately

so adamant that I was going to give it a wide berth, it being YET ANOTHER time loop story just like Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day, Arq and Palm Springs, to name a few, but then I read a few positive reviews and decided to give it a go.

And, fair play, it was a good one because it’s a film that has its heart in the right place, even if it does come across as a little syrupy in some places, and it has a good YA story at its foundation and it also makes good use of two charming leading performances while also turning the story on its head somewhat in the final act, giving us some emotional moments that are sensitively executed.

Coming 2 America (2021)

★ ★ ★

I don’t think that this film has exactly gotten a stellar reception but nonetheless, I had fun with it as I found it to be an affectionate companion piece to its predecessor, giving us so many delightful references and callbacks, and it has several impressive cameos and a cast who look like they’re really having a good time, particularly the standouts Leslie Jones and Wesley Snipes. Review HERE.

Cherry (2021)

★ ★

Well, it’s always nice to see Tom Holland tackle roles that are completely different from his turns in the MCU, starring as our favourite webslinger, but while his performance here is a pretty good one, the film he’s in is not so good.

I’ll admit that the film has one or two decent moments and the middle section, which focuses on his character’s experience in the war, is the best thing about it (barring a now infamous POV shot) but overall, Cherry is an unpleasant, pointless, and wholly depressing film that suffers because of its poor writing, giving us an uninteresting story that’s populated with often repugnant characters, none of whom are worth supporting, and surprisingly poor direction from the Russo brothers, the “saviours of the MCU” who make several odd choices, greatly overuse the slow-motion, and keep the film moving at a very disappointingly sluggish pace.

The War With Grandpa (2020)

★ ★

To be fair, this wasn’t the worst performance that I’ve yet seen from Robert De Niro and, all things considered, he actually comes across quite well here and emerges from this film unscathed and surely with no loss of street cred but as you may have gleamed from the silly title and equally silly synopsis, this is yet another RDN project which makes you wonder just how hard up he is for cash (I mean, why did he do that silly “trendy De Niro” car advert?) as The War With Grandpa, though it’s admittedly not as bad as it could have been and it’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen, is still a pathetic film with lame jokes and it wastes an otherwise impressive cast.

Though it’s billed as a comedy, there are zero laughs to be found and all the attempts at hilarity fall flat as the jokes come across as awkward and slightly embarrassing, the story is weak and not very well written at all, and the film wastes a big name cast, giving us unsatisfactory performances from people who should have known better than to be in a project like this, including Uma Thurman, Jane Seymour, Cheech Marin, Laura Marano and Christopher Walken, who here reunites with his Deer Hunter co-star and makes you realise that both he and RDN were once serious actors who were, at one point, giving Academy Award worthy performances in the freaking DEER HUNTER! How did they get here?!

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

2017’s Justice League was one of the worst films of that year and one of the weakest DCU films, only faring a little better than the trashy Suicide Squad, but those committed fans lobbied hard for the “Snyder Cut” and as a result, they (and we) were rewarded with this vastly superior version: an epic superhero odyssey that greatly benefits from proper character development, improved CGI, and a dark and exciting story that promises some important developments in the future. But will we see the continuation of Snyder’s vision? Review HERE.

Moxie (2021)

★ ★ ★ ★

Amy Poehler’s film tackles some very timely and relevant issues as we see the young girls (and guys) of a certain high school protesting against and standing up to both the chauvinistic behaviour of the boys of the school and the administration that prefers to look the other way and to belittle those who have genuine grievances. It’s a film that delves into these issues in a stirring manner, getting us perturbed at the awful behaviour of those bigheaded high school guys as well as the authority figures who won’t do anything, and it manages to not come across as preachy or as insufferable as something like the appalling Black Christmas (2019), which handled its similar subject matter with far less subtlety.

True, Marcia Gay Harden’s headteacher character is a bit too unrealistic and a bit too inept and clueless to be taken seriously, and Patrick Schwarzenegger’s antagonistic jock is just “vile for the sake of being vile”, with no real depth or reason to his character, but otherwise, the film benefits from a good, well written story, its stirring themes, and a cast of impressive young actors. And Amy Poehler herself who plays a particularly awesome mom.

2021 Television

WandaVision

★ ★ ★ ★

Ushering in an exciting new chapter for the MCU, their first original TV series has a refreshingly unique and professionally executed format, with all its “decade hopping”, the central story is mysterious, thrilling and tantalising, and the cast are very strong, particularly the popular Elizabeth Olsen. Review HERE.

The Great (Series One)

★ ★ ★

Creator and head writer Tony McNamara once again sets his sights on a particular period of history as he previously did with The Favourite, this time telling the story of Catherine the Great in his recognisable anachronistic way, and his series here is alright as it is kinda sorta informative in its own way (though I admittedly have no idea of just how historically accurate it is) and it has a few fun performances from players such as Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult and Sacha Dawan as well as some comedic moments but saying all of that, The Great isn’t particularly funny and the more or less constant dropping of f-bombs gets tiresome pretty quickly and although the writing isn’t bad, it’s also a little too silly a lot of the time and the show tends to repeat itself quite a bit, what with Peter’s constant idiocy and cruelty and with Catherine constantly going on about how she wants a progressive and more evolved Russia.

So all in all, flawed but watchable.

The Best of the Rest

Amarcord (1973)

Yet another Fellini film that I actually liked, this was a really lighthearted coming-of-age saga that told of the (mis)adventures of the inhabitants of a particular small town, occasionally focusing on a group of young men and their growing . . . desires and feelings towards certain women of the town, the often bawdy material here being played for laughs and exaggerated quite hilariously, and it just goes to show that Fellini could indeed make some really enjoyable films and that he didn’t have to be so serious all of the time, with a few of his previous films having been quite alienating and strictly for the critics and art lovers, in my opinion.

Shadowman (Nuits Rouges) (1974)

Another film by Eyes Without a Face and Judex director Georges Franju that YET AGAIN demonstrates his affinity for masks, this film is all about an elusive and dangerous criminal mastermind, perpetually donning a red mask, who goes after the treasure of the Knights Templar and just like Franju’s previous films, Shadowman is refreshingly imaginative and it has a striking design as well as an original, well written story.

What’s Love Got to Do With it (1993)

Maybe it could be called conventional by today’s standards but Brian Gibson’s biopic of Tina Turner is entertaining and enlightening and it, of course, showcases some really great music as well as a particularly sensational performance from Angela Bassett.

F**k you, Ike.

The Way Way Back (2013)

I decided to watch this film as I’d heard so much praise for it on social media and I certainly wasn’t disappointed; it’s a really affecting and engrossing film about an awkward teen who breaks free from his awful stepfather and finds great friendship with a charismatic water park manager and the film really is enjoyable, the cast is strong (particularly the wonderful Sam Rockwell), and surely many of us will be able to relate to the central character. He definitely reminded me of what I was like at that age.

Tess (1979)

Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Hardy’s Tess of the D’urbervilles was my first foray into the classic story and it certainly was an impressive one because it shows off plenty of gorgeous cinematography and production design, the story is continually interesting with nary a dull moment to be found throughout its generous runtime, and Nastassja Kinski really is quite lovely and effective in the titular role.

I also particularly appreciated the phrase “making a mommet of himself”. Honesty, that just tickled me.

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