Top 5 Films We Watched in 2021

This year has been very… different. Due to the coronavirus, the entertainment industry found new ways to give us entertainment and further their streaming services. HBO launched all Warner Brothers films on day one, later in the year they released in theaters at the same time. Disney+ housed a premier access model. For an additional fee, you could see a few select fils that were released in the summer. They changed the model later in the year to allow for a 45 day lag between the theatrical release and when it was available via streaming. We like this recent model and hope it continues.

Note: There is a tie for first place. So technically there are 6… because why not.

1. Free Guy (Tie)

Who doesn’t feel like an NPC (Non-Playable Character) in real life sometimes? It’s why video games and social media have become lifelines during the pandemic. They allow us to live the idealistic version of ourselves and interact with others. Behind the wonderful effects remains a story with a lot of heart. You can be the good guy and be exactly who you were meant to be. You just need to have faith in yourself and take the chance.

1. Gunpowder Milkshake (Tie)

Of all the films released this year, Gunpowder Milkshake hit every mark. We’re not sure if it was the cast, if we were in the right frame of mind when we watched it, or if it was just that good to us. Either way, we would (and have) watched it more than once. It’s just that entertaining. Make a bowl of popcorn and just enjoy the spectacle of the entire feature.

2. Cruella

The first Disney entry on our list is one that took us by surprise. Emma Stone was spectacular in the leading role and gave us everything we could want and more from the character of Cruella. The film suffers from some CGI issues that could not be ignored after a while, but overall, the film was really enjoyable. We understand many fans out there don’t want villains to have backstories, but we like them. Villains shouldn’t be one dimensional people. As Kevin Bachelder has said many times, “villains are the heroes of their own stories.” We really enjoy seeing them.

3. Black Widow

The Marvel film fans have been clamouring for finally released in 2021 and did not disappoint. Natasha Romanoff’s origin story gave us a truly heartbreaking film with funny moments. Between Yelena’s pose comments, and her subsequent disgust over using it, to the secret whistle between sisters, Black Widow had action, emotion, and comedy. Its biggest downfall was twofold. First, it felt really late to the MCU. The fans have been asking for an origin story for years and it felt that without the events of Endgame, this might never have happened. Second, the after credit scene felt like it cheapened the entire story and made it about one of the original Avengers. Everything fans were irritated about regarding Black Widow being overlooked or minimized was reinforced.

4. Raya & the Last Dragon

Raya & the Last Dragon had everything one could want in a fun Disney film. The battle for bringing an entire community together with dragons is a fun family film. Plus, Tuk Tuk is absolutely adorable. Where is seems to stall is in the overly idealistic overtones that were formulaic to a fault. With so much available in the story, we wanted more beyond the obvious message. Overall, it’s an enjoyable watch with stunning visuals with amazing actor portrayals.

5. Sweet Girl

Another surprise film was Netflix’s Sweet Girl. We’ve seen Jason Momoa in action films before, but never one like this. Playing a father and husband who fights to help his wife fight cancer. After insurance companies get involved, so do the conspiracies and back door dealings. The story isn’t perfect and requires some suspension of disbelief; however, the ending was something we did not see coming. That’s saying something for Kimberly, who usually sees twists in plot lines from a mile away.

Like we said, this year has been different from years past. The truth is, theaters are still not back to where they were before the pandemic. We don’t know if the larger 20+ screen multiplexes are approaching the end of an era. Maybe theatrical releases with the 45 day window before streaming services and VOD will be the new norm. With TV’s, sound systems, and theater seats wildly available, the landscape is  quickly transforming.

So, what will 2022 bring? We’re unsure, but what we do know is that we cannot wait to cover the upcoming films for you.


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Top 5 TV Shows We Watched in 2021

Good television has always found a way to change the world. It can introduce us to fantasy/sci-fi worlds where a woman with a destiny can fight evil with a flaming sword. It can also have a massive misstep that offends the world over. These top five shows, some we have not covered in our podcast, are the Top 5 Shows we thoroughly enjoyed this year. Our top two on this list are almost interchangeable. The storytelling, the emotions… they gripped us, devoured us, and rebuilt us forever changed by the episodes we watched.

1. Wynonna Earp S4 – Series Ended

With the witty writing, engaging characters, expert portrayals, and a same-sex wedding, the season we Earpers fought for was worth it. The 4th season (& subsequently final one thanks to SYFY) was the culmination of everything the fandom needed, even if we didn’t know it at the time. We needed our wedding. We needed Doc & Wynonna to go off and find Alice. We needed Dark Waverly to do what this show had done for its entire run – break the rules. Now… has anyone seen Eve?

2. WandaVision – Limited Series 

With the backing of Disney & Marvel Studios, WandaVision had very high expectations. It truly delivered. The first of the Marvel Series to hit the streaming service (due to the coronovirus), WandaVision led us through the stages of grief blended in a world of Wanda’s making. The depth of the characters, the gut wrenching scenes… it all led us to an end that is truly the beginning for Wanda Maximoff. We’re still discussing the Ship of Theseus Thought Experiment.

3. Motherland: Fort Salem S2 – Renewed for a 3rd & Final Season

The ending of season one left the fanbase clamouring for more. Season 2 did not disappoint. We delve further into Alder’s past and learn about the Mycelleum. Raelle, Tally, and Abigail all come into their own unique abilities as their strength as a unit becomes even stronger. Scylla’s redemption arc with Anacostia’s help is painful, powerful, and lovely. Time will tell where the fictional world of Fort Salem goes from here, but knowing it is the end brings mixed emotions. There are so many stories that could be told, yet the staff has time to put together an end they want to portray. They’ve been given the blessing of time. Here’s hoping the final season is everything and more.

4. The Equalizer S1 – Renewed. S2 currently airing as of this posting

This series is not a new concept. We grew up watching the original and Kimberly has seen the subsequent movies. All of them are good. Queen Latifa is better. Hands down. She brings an emotion to the role that no one has been able to capture before. There’s a humanity in her every move, every thought, that makes you feel a part of her journey. The cast, the writing, all of it is well done. Even in some slower episodes, you still feel invested enough because the character development is there.

5. Clarice S1 – Cancelled

Why enter a series on the list that’s been cancelled with no hope of ever seeing the light of day? Truthfully, because it should. Clarice was a slow developing series with a depth that pulled you in. Showing the gutsy emotions of Clarice after the events of Silence of the Lambs was a risk, and in truth it was brilliantly done. One can blame circumstance and delays in airing to why this show was derailed. It should never have been on main network television. This series screams for streaming. It screams for a short, tightly woven season… the networks (all of them involved in this) failed. In doing so, they removed a rich story with so much promise.

Special Nod to Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass was wonderful and could be considered on this list at anytime. The undertones, the story, the emotions… they were powerful. The only reason Kimberly pulled it off the list… the dog. When it comes to listing the best, sometimes it’s the little things.


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The Meg (2018) Review

NOT JAWS, BUT STILL FUN

In honor of Shark Week 2021, our blog reviews will cover two shark based films this month. We’re also choosing films we hadn’t seen before. First up, The Meg!

The Meg (2018) preys on our fear of the deepest parts of the ocean we’ve yet to discover. The film is a fun escape and has some bite to it. 

The film has been out for a while, so why did it take so long for us to watch it? Truthfully, we can’t really say. Sometimes you plan on seeing something, in theaters or on streaming services, and things just happen. Doesn’t mean the film is horrible; just that life sometimes gets away from you. Now that we’ve seen it, would we have spent the money in theaters? No. Is it worth streaming, buying a digital copy, etc? If you like shark films that don’t take themselves seriously, yes.

The Meg starts off like many other films in the same genre. A science facility funded by an uber-wealthy man tries to prove that the bottom of the ocean as we know it… well, isn’t the actual bottom. The cast of characters are as follows: the headstrong scientist, his colleague who also is his daughter, his innocent granddaughter, the sacrificial lamb who only lasts a few minutes, an expert who looks different than the protagonists expects, the drama of an ex-wife and new love interest, the tortured hero and even a dog that we screamed “PIPPIN” referencing Jaws at the screen. The dog in The Meg, also named Pippin, is an homage of sorts but please filmmakers just stop. Please leave our furry friends on DRY LAND! They didn’t ask for this… but we digress.

Considering all the above, why do we give it three stars? Because it never claims to be anything other than a cool, campy-esque type film. When the facility’s submersible proves that the mapped ocean floor isn’t the true bottom, they’re immediately attacked. Enter Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) as the ONLY person who could ever mount a rescue at that depth. He grabs the second submersible and heads down. Before we can cheer that the Megalodon still lives, their meddling opened the doorway for the fish to hit the upper layers of the ocean. Now the race to save the oceans and all the potential victims is on.

The action sequences showcasing the massive Meg with smaller sharks in the water or the beach with humans are done well and add to the fun factor of the film. The CGI doesn’t feel cheap in any of these scenes. The final battle feels too short, but maybe the budget couldn’t handle more at this point.

Nothing will ever come to the level of Jaws, and many films have failed trying to duplicate it. The Meg (2018) is simply a fun film. There is violence and some scares here and there, but overall it never takes itself too seriously. So, if it’s on streaming or you want a fun rental, go for it.


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Fantastic Four (2015) Review

MISSES THE MARK ON EVERYTHING

Fantastic Four (2015) streaming on Disney+ should have launched the reboot of the series brilliantly. Instead, we ended up looking back at the 2005 film and its sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007 for the quality we missed. While those two films fared better in reviews and box office, that isn’t saying much. In both cases, the storylines were thin, the acting seemed forced and some of the dialogue was flat. 

We understand that any good reboot needs a proper origin story. There must be a balance of development, action, and drama to blend into a film that resonates with the audience. You’ll have detractors no matter how you present it, but you aim for the common denominator. One only needs to look at the success of Captain Marvel (2019) to see how the formula works. True, Fantastic Four was released three years prior, but Marvel was successfully launching origin stories of Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011), and Captain America (2011) before this. Captain Marvel was the first female led film, and it proved, decisively, that even controversial casting, film topics, etc, can become blockbusters with the proper execution of said formula. 

This film seemed to miss the superhero film workshop. It is slow. It has so much development going on before the action actually begins that by the time it does, you no longer care. You have a young, engaging cast that can’t liven up dialogue that is flat and meaningless. The entire execution from start to finish lacked anything viable to make this a successful film.

All one has to do in the 2015 reboot is look at the last scene of the film. Ben (Jamie Bell) says “it was Fantastic” and Reed (Miles Teller) immediately jumps on the word for their moniker. It was a throwaway line that summarized exactly what this film became… an opportunity thrown away by lackluster execution.


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The New Mutants (2020) Review

A DARKER, MORE PSYCHOLOGICAL LOOK INTO MUTANTS

The New Mutants film has been on our radar for a very long time. Between delays and COVID-19, this film felt doomed from the get go. With a cast of young stars: Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things), Henry Zaga (13 Reasons Why), Blu Hunt (The Originals), & Alice Braga (Queen of the South), it seemed the film would be a hit. Sadly, the Box Office won’t have a say in the matter, since the film went straight to HBO Max in 2020.

The trailer (below) lays out an action based film with thriller undertones. When we first saw it, it immediately intrigued us. Yet, once again we face promotional materials that present one thing when the film is another. Let’s start at the beginning.

We open right in the middle of action. Dani Moonstar’s (Blu Hunt) father wakes her up and drags her away to safety. After that bit of hair-raising, we’re in the primary location for the rest of the film – a hospital. But this is no ordinary hospital. It’s one for young mutants to come into their powers and learn how to control them. 

This becomes the film’s strength and weakness, all in the same breath. The unique location, it’s history and creepy feel, lends to setting the mood throughout. The fact that patients cannot escape from the grounds is a parallel within their inability to escape their powers. Yet, while the trailer shows us the location and action – it doesn’t show you the spaced out scenes, slower pace or delve too far into the unique history of the building. We’re only shown snippets of what the hospital really is. 

If the film dug deeper into the background, instead of abstract hints, we might fear those who run the hospital. The tension might be more palatable. Instead, we are left to fill in the gaps while the story hurriedly moves on.

Thus begins the biggest issue with this film. It all feels like a psychological study of emerging mutants. There are elements of group dynamics and developing relationships – all interesting to watch. Yet, for someone coming into the film looking for action/adventure similar to previous mutant films – they will feel cheated. The film puts pressure on these characters to provide the continuity of story without the explosions or fear inducing moments to pull your attention away from thin sections. 

One thing that stuck out and was the continuity thread throughout the film was Dani’s proverb about the bear. She says: “Inside every person there are two bears, forever locked in combat for your soul. One bear is all things good: compassion, love, trust. The other is all things evil: fear, shame and self-destruction.” She asks which one wins out. Her father answers, whichever one you feed. 

It’s a beautiful proverb that they utilize throughout the story. We don’t want to spoil one of the better parts of the film, suffice it to say we really enjoyed this underlying theme.

Overall, this is a fun watch with a much deeper psychological element. If you are looking for explosions and action sequences filling most of the runtime – this is not your film. This lays the foundation for additional entries. If Disney picks this up for a sequel, it would be very interesting to see how they would proceed.


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Army of the Dead (2021) Review

SHUT OFF YOUR MIND & JUST LET THE ZOMBIES HAVE FUN

Army of the Dead (2021) dropped on Netflix on May 21, 2021. With Zack Snyder being not only the director but also part of the writing staff, given that his “Synder Cut” of Justice League received great reviews from fans, Army of the Dead should be winner… right?

Well, that depends. If you are looking for a heist film in the vein of The Italian Job or Oceans 8, 11, 12, 13, it’s not that. If you are looking for a 24 Days Later, or a Resident Evil-esque fun Zombie film, it’s not quite that either. It feels like the film smashed two things together and tried to make them blend. Sadly, neither one is fully developed to be truly successful.

The rundown of the film seems simple enough. The military envoy is transporting a secret package. After an accident the package, an alpha zombie, breaks free, slaughters everyone and walks over a hill to see the bright lights of Las Vegas. The city becomes overrun and the government seals it off with shipping containers. Scott Ward (Dave Bautistsa) creates a team to go into Vegas, empty a casino vault and split the money with the owner and his party. 

But we all know it isn’t that simple. There’s a lot of betrayal, lies, and senseless death. It’s a zombie film but we’ve all seen this before. The characters are thin; the story has plot holes that looks like Swiss cheese. Zombie bites affect different people in different ways with no explanation. 

Basically, the film is fun if you just don’t think about it. Sit back on your couch, have a bowl of popcorn and just laugh at the absurdity of it all. There’s no genuine connection to any of the characters. When one dies, it more about the fantastic slow motion or the blood splatter. If that was the whole point, then Snyder and his team score much higher than our rating.

After watching the trailer, marketing once again led us astray. We wanted… we expected more from this film. There were so many excellent plot points the film could have explored further, but seemed to just let the opportunity slip away. If there is a sequel, maybe they will circle back to all of that.

In the end, the film is okay even if it is a bit too long for what they’re presenting. Like we said earlier, if you want a mindless film to laugh at while stuffing popcorn in your mouth, go for it. Otherwise, skip it.


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