Tough year for 2021 when it came to movies. Not sure why? Yet there were some great as well as awful pictures produced, along with a multitude of intriguing performances on display both on and off screen from around the world. No matter what, we finally got back into the theater! Personally, I saw five movies that get 0 SUCKS! and five that received just 1 SUCKS! out of 7 on the #gregsquaredfilms SUCK FACTOR scale. On the flip side there were easily more than ten movies worthy of the abysmal 7 out of 7 SUCKS! review. It is often harder to choose from the worst of the worst than the good stuff. Crappy movies can become like choosing between your degenerate children. For this year’s list, particularly with my top ten best films, I attempted to make it diverse in support of the hardcore film nerds like me to the popcorn junkies to the feel good movie lovers. Cheering, crying, laughing, forgiveness, understanding and fighting alongside heroes both real as well as super is what 2021 needed on screen. As far as my worst movies list, that just writes itself like any other year. Nonsensical endings, pretentious bull-s*** that fake intellectuals love, a movie made entirely on social media, and retreads of fun 90’s kids adventures that nobody asked for. YUK! Here are my Top 10 Best and Worst Movies of 2021.
Top 10 Best
10. “King Richard” ( Director Reinaldo Marcus Green) :
Inspirational sports movies, when done well, are just the best, particularly when they are based on a true story. “King Richard” is about the upbringing of the most unlikely of sports icons. Two black girls from Compton are going to be tennis stars. A sport notoriously known for being engrained with high society culture. Will Smith is fantastic as Richard Williams, a middle class man working the night shift as a security guard who is dedicated to making his daughters the best that they can be both on and off the court. He helps to create a top 10 ever competitor and the GOAT of female tennis players in Venus and Serena respectively. As Richard says to a tennis coach who is watching the girls play; “I don’t have the next Michael Jordan. I gots me the next two”.
9. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Director Michael Showalter):
Televangelists are hard to love. They swindle people’s money as they live a lavish lifestyle with zero consequences, such as taxes, because they are doing “God’s Work”. Whatever beliefs one has aside, many of which are genuine, Televangelists are con artists. Jim Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye are two of the most iconic figures in this centurie’s long racket. The brilliance of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is that it does something so called gospels such as these claim to do. It portrays Tammy Faye with sympathy and understanding, as Jesus would. Jessica Chastain is almost unrecognizable in portraying a character that, in the public eye, is terrible. And yet, behind the scenes she is as flawed as the rest of “God’s Children”. Everyone must ask for forgiveness at some point.
8. “Flee” (Director Jonas Power Rasmussen):
“Flee” is simply amazing. It also frustrates me as a critic because I do not know how to categorize it, and that is a good thing. Is it a documentary? Is it a foreign language film? Is it an animated film? Director Jonas Power Rasmussen has crafted a tale unlike any other. A young man preparing to be married is ready to tell a heart wrenching story about the demons of his past when he was trying to escape Kabul, ultimately becoming a refugee in Denmark. Now at 36 years old Amin reflects on his journey and the family members he hopes are scattered around various countries alive. The film also touches on the burdens of Amin’s sexuality as a gay man, a big no-no in the region he escaped. Above it all, “Flee” is centered around bravery. Telling one’s story honestly can be one of the greatest tasks in life.
7. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Director Destin Daniel Cretton):
Every year, another four or five big superhero movies once again. Been that way for almost two decades now. If I can get used to it, so can you fellow film nerds. While everyone loved seeing three Spider-Man actors in the same movie, for my money “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” was the best popcorn picture of the year. Simu Liu is an absolute dynamo as he plays the first Asian superhero in the MCU. What is most important is that while yes, there are CGI effects used, particularly in the climax, the best fight scenes are actually being done by the hero and his attackers. That fight scene on the bus as well as the high-rise brawl are awesome. This film is fun while also having a relatable family element at its heart. This is what a summer blockbuster looks like.
6. “The French Dispatch” (Director Wes Anderson):
The king of quirkiness Mr. Wes Anderson is back with another meticulous tale filled with well placed dry humor.”The French Dispatch” is a love letter to the field of journalism as every day brings a new story. Three unique stories in this case, all loosely based on reality, are portrayed through the gaze of a newspaper editor played by Bill Murray and his eccentric staff. An insane inmate painter who could be the next Jackson Pollack, a young upstart at the front of the “Chessboard Revolution”, and the recounts of a dinner by a culinary expert becoming involved in a kidnapping by the Ennui-sur-Blase are what shape this episodic journey. That is what Wes Anderson is going for. The world of journalism is always changing, and each story can be just as intriguing or as boring as the previous one.
5. “In the Heights” (Director Jon M. Chu):
What a way to get back into theaters. 2021’s first big wide released film was a musical full of joy that also celebrated minority culture in the times of the whole “BUILD THE WALL!” nonsense. Based on the Broadway musical that gave us Lin-Manuel Miranda, “In the Heights” is one of the best stage to screen adaptations of this century. The story of a young Puerto Rican bodega owner in New York City saving every penny in order to find a better life is inspiring. Along the way Usnavi finds love for himself as well. This is when musicals are at their best, when the audience gets to come in and root for the characters as they go for their dreams. We are all humans together every time we are “In the Heights”.
4. “Parallel Mothers” (Director Pedro Almodovar):
Of all of the best films this year, “Parallel Mothers” is perhaps the most accurate named of all. The latest from the great Almodovar is nothing short of an emotional train wreck that somehow does not make one feel like a disaster. The ups-and-downs are so unexpected and yet so human. Not to give away too much, two pregnant women are in the hospital both about to give birth. One is a 40-year-old photographer played by Penelope Cruz. The other is an unprepared teenager played by Milena Smit. They go through the labor process together and… Well I will let you discover what happens. “Parallel Mothers” is Almodovar at his best. It is multi-layered and has no right or wrong. The film is tragic as well as up-lifting. You walk out after seeing this movie wondering what you would have done in this situation, on both parallel sides.
3. “Coda” (Director Sian Heder):
Every year a film that one says “how did this movie get made?” to yourself comes out. The rarity film happens once in a decade when one thinks “thank whatever lord this movie exists”. That is “Coda”, a movie centered around actors that cannot hear. They deal with the same daily struggles ‘normal’ people must endure. A young girl in Massachusetts named Ruby is an aspiring singer. Her biggest obstacle in following her dreams is not the cutthroat business of the music industry, it is her family. Ruby’s parents and brother are all deaf and they rely on her to guide them and their fishing business as it is required by law to have a person with the ability to hear onboard once leaving the harbor. No doubt Ruby’s parents love her to no end, but they are handicapped. On top of that, Ruby’s passion is something a deaf person cannot relate to. “Coda” goes through the complete gamut of emotions, showcasing what it is to be a human being through the eyes of individuals rarely celebrated.
2. “Dune” (Director Denis Villeneuve):
Anybody who knows me has heard me say “Dune”, one of my favorite books, and I am not the biggest reader, has heard me say that “Dune” is an un-filmable book. While it is not quite the book, director Denis Villeneuve comes pretty damn close to making the impossible a reality. Sci-Fi/Fantasy epics like “Harry Potter” or “The Lord of the Rings”, while great in their own right, are fairly straight forward. “Dune” is a complex story involving class warfare and climate control wrapped in a cosmic war. This film interpretation leans into those concepts and doesn’t care if you can’t keep up. It is also simply a beautiful movie. You could watch “Dune” with the sound off and still be entranced by the images. A true epic.
1. “Drive My Car” (Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi):
“Drive My Car” is so subtle in the way in which it sticks with you. What other movie has its opening credits roll 45 minutes in? That’s not the point, it is simply an example of how this beautiful film from Ryusuke Hamaguchi showcases how we have dramatic phases in our lives and questions how one copes with tragedy. To put it simply, “Drive My Car” is about a genius playwright being forced to have a young woman drive him to and from his house whilst re-creating a masterpiece. This traveling journey includes a deaf performer, two elderly actors, and a star that has complicated history with the director. In the end, the driver and passenger come to find some sense of humanistic tranquility on their journey. Can’t top that in life.
Top 10 Worst
10. “The Last Duel” (Director Ridley Scott):
Has everybody involved here not learned yet? Matt Damon, growing out a stupid ass hair cut while trying to be brooding in a period film is a waste of your particular talents. Ben Affleck, you are not a menacing king ala King Joffrey from “Game of Thrones”. Adam Driver, I don’t even know what you are doing in this. Director Ridley Scott, we all know you think you make great epic movies because of the success of “Gladiator”. Listen to all, you SUCK at this! Ridley, your movies such as “Robin Hood” with Russel Crowe SUCK! Your “Alien” prequels SUCK! The “Blade Runner” sequel SUCKS! And now, “The Last Duel” SUCKS! Look no further than a perfect example of great talent not doing what they are good at than “The Last Duel”.
9. “Mortal Kombat” (Director Simon McQuoid):
Look, it’s a video game movie. I get it and stand by my statement that there will never be a good video game movie because they are two different forms of entertainment. That said, the 90’s version of “Mortal Kombat” was campy fun. This latest iteration tries so hard to be a tense kung-fu action vehicle for the masses without knowing its place. Who cares about the villainous Scorpion’s history? Why do they replace the main character Liu Kang with some bland white dude named Cole? Other than the throw down between Scorpion and Subzero, this movie is a complete waste of time. In the words of the video game, as soon as the film starts you will yell “FINISH HIM!”.
8. “The Tomorrow War” (Director Zach Dean):
At the height of his game, starring in the massive Marvel and Jurassic World franchises, Chris Pratt decided he could create a brand new franchise. The only problem is this movie makes zero sense. “The Tomorrow War” takes the paradox of time travel to a whole new level. So soldiers from the future have to travel to the past in order to stop an alien annihilation. I have a simple hypothesis. If you have the technology to travel through time in order to draft soldiers, maybe use that brilliance to combat the aliens invading the planet! If humans end up being this stupid, we deserve to be exterminated.
7. “Cinderella” (Director Kay Cannon):
This latest live action take on a Disney animated classic should be higher, or lower if you will, on this list. The only reason it sits at number seven is because of the awesome scene with Billy Porter as the Fairy-Godmother. That man is a national treasure that lights up the screen every time he is on it. Other than that, “Cinderella” is a dreadful experience. Camila Cabello is a great singer. On the silver screen she cannot carry a note. The evil stepmother played by Idina Menzel is just as evil as the experience of waiting in line for the movie to start. Worst of all is Prince Robert, played by Nicholas Galitizine. The young man is pretty, but I would not trust him to act his way out of a plastic bag. One thing this latest version of “Cinderella” needs is a glass slipper. Maybe then we can find a happy ending.
6. “Sweet Girl” (Director Brian Andrew Mendoza):
I’m not a fan of twist endings. David Fincher’s “Seven” is a classic and an anomaly in that category. What is worst of all is a twist that completely negates the credibility of the story. The opening makes for a compelling father-protects-daughter story with plenty of action. And then the final act happens. “Sweet Girl” is a film that does not go by the book. It instead throws the book away for a much less intelligent narrative, The ending completely negates the entire first two thirds of the movie. Too bad during production nobody asked; “are we sure this makes sense?”
5. “The Green Knight” (Director David Lowery):
And let us please present the award for the most pretentious nonsense of the year. We all have that friend who tells you a book is simply too deep for your dumb mind. Same thing with cinema. As a cinema expert, “The Green Knight” is bull-s*** for people who think they know “intellectual” movies. No, you as an audience member are not missing something because there is nothing to miss. The journey of Dev Patel hanging out with a talking fox on the hunt for a tree giant who rides a horse does not have any deeper meaning despite what many “experts” say. Do not get me wrong, “The Green Knight” is beautiful to look at. And that is about all this bottomless pit of a film has to offer.
4. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” (Director Malcolm D. Lee):
Oh, Mister LeBron James. Stop it. You are not and never will be Michael Jordan. You are a better person in real life, but you are not the GOAT. You’re reaching LeBron, and “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is the perfect example. The concept of King James hanging out with Bugs Bunny and company seems great on paper. Unfortunately the Tune Squad cannot save this monstrosity that even bores the five-year-olds to sleep. Nothing about “A New Legacy” showcases hope or fun. The new “Space Jam” is like watching a kid trying to stay within the lines while utilizing a coloring book.
3. “The Suicide Squad” (Director James Gunn):
We all would like to stay young in life. Director James Gunn takes that concept to such an extreme that “The Suicide Squad” becomes a nonsensical broke-ass version of a superhero movie. A guy who’s power is to shoot Pez candies out of a white costume. A former real-life wrestler with an aluminum mask that is a silver broke-ass Batman facade. And to top it off, this group of broke ass heroes are fighting a giant squid that will destroy the world! There is a level of funny jokes about movie ideas at the work place. Then there is “The Suicide Squad”, a never-ending journey of non-entertainment. What is Idris Elba or Margot Robbie doing being involved here?
2. “Profile” (Director Timur Bekmambetov):
I will never give up movies, my first love in life. “Profile” gets me very close to the idea of venturing into being a book reader first. This film is completely made through social media and cell phone platforms. I cannot stress this enough. Smart phones are not how movies are made! “The Avengers” was not shot on tiktok! Making a YouTube video featuring your cute dog is not a movie! Please do not make this a new way of filmmaking Hollywood, because it SUCKS!
.1. “Old” (Director M. Night Shaymalan):
Just like Christmas, one of the two worst filmmakers ever comes out with a new piece of garbage every year. Michael Bay took care of business in 2020. Leave it to M. Night Shaymalan to fill the void of nonsense in 2021 with “Old”. A bunch of rich people visit a secluded beach resort and, for mysterious reasons, begin to age very fast. Even the young babies become adults overnight. How is this happening? Well, of course there are mystical forces in the water, or the beach. Who cares. Stick around for the twist ending because it always makes zero sense in a Shaymalan adventure.