Films of 2021

With the start of this year being as difficult as last year, I think everyone saw some hope when Autumn came around. Cinemas reopened, restrictions under lockdown were tentatively lifted, and we got to see some movies again in the place they should be seen: the big screen.

With the UK getting hit hard by the Omicron Covid variant this winter, I’ve not been able to see as many as I would have hoped to towards the end of the year. So there might be some odd, delayed, mentions in next year’s list!

So this this is short, apologies for not seeing more, but at least it is more than last year!

The list is both theatrical releases, and films I hadn’t seen before.

1. Dune (2021)

Denis Villenueve’s retelling of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic is only half a movie, despite the advertisements expressing otherwise. But despite this deception and doubt from the studios, his directorial vision for the adventures of Paul Atreides on the desert world of Arrakis, and the swirling backdrop of political intrigue and destiny, proved to be near-perfect.
A solid cast working with a contemplative screenplay that evokes the best in science fiction, as well as beautiful visuals and promise of more, elevates this film above the regular blockbuster of today.

Here’s hoping that the sequel measures up!

Read the full review here.

2. No Time to Die

Daniel Craig’s tenure as the titular spy hero James Bond has been unique, especially with recent entries devising that this has been a persistant narrative throughout his films. Unlike with previous Bonds. His last outing in Spectre was disappointing, and Craig seemed done with the character. But he was dragged out once more, and was seemingly back in fine form again.
A Bond film that does what no Bond film has done before is sure to be memorable for a long time. With excellent action, set pieces, a shadowy villain played down by Rami Malek, as well as two excellent women working beside Bond himself.

Read the full review here.

3. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

After the poorly written PR disaster that was the 2016 movie, Ghostbusters: Afterlife proved to be a soothing balm to round out the awkward “trilogy”, fulfilling a seemingly unachievable goal of three films. Admittedly, it relies heavily on nostalgia, and there are one or two scenes that feel a bit redundant, but honestly… the film did the work; there were real emotions felt. Emotions that come from expecting a conclusion for these characters for thirty years.

Of course, it could very easily go wrong from here!

Read the full review here.



4. West Side Story (1961)

An oldie-but-goldie, sneaking into the list at the last moment. A stage-to-screen musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and recently remade by Spielberg, but this movie still stands the test of time! It won 10 Academy Awards in its day.
Two lovers in Manhattan are at risk of being torn away from each other as they fall on opposite sides of a gang battle between the youth of the city and the newly arrived Latino youths.
The dancing, music, and performances are excellent, along with the production values of costumes and locations.

Only a handful of small issues hold it back nowadays.

Read the full review here.

5. I Am Mother

A Netflix production that I got around to watching. A compelling, yet simple, science fiction premise with a neat surprise or two that keeps the audience intrigued.
Following the story of a young girl, born into a post-apocalypse in a protected bunker, raised and defended by a robot carer, revelations and incidents occur that twist her beliefs. The premise is simple, and the perspective small, but the production design is solid; WETA Workshop (those behind The Lord of the Rings) created the robot Mother, and it is very convincing.

Atmospheric, contemplative, intriguing. A solid science fiction experience.

Read the full review here.

6. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The first film Cinema Cocoa saw in the cinema this year, while the pandemic restrictions were lifted, and as such, maybe enjoyed it more for the cinema experience than anything else. Shang-Chi is a serviceable Marvel movie though; it has good action, very good fight choreography, a villain who is sympathetic (one of the better Marvel villains) and it all descends into a CGI mash of battle scenes at the end. It even redeems mistakes of the franchise’s past.

The tapestry of the MCU is so cluttered now that the individual pieces feel less and less meaningful. But at least Shang-Chi had some memorable visuals and villain.

Read the full review here.

7. The Green Knight

Arthurian legend “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” comes to life in David Lowery’s direct adaptation of the ancient English fable. Subdued, dark, and weird, this isn’t the standard medieval fantasy romp you might expect. Dev Patel gives a good performance in the central role of Gawain as he journeys across the land on his quest to find and challenge the titular Green Knight, an otherworldly creature.

It is a little too obscure and doesn’t quite have the impactful scenes that say, a Del Toro film, of the same theming might have. But it is an experience for anyone who enjoys dark medieval fantasy.


Read the full review here.

8. Mortal Kombat (2021)

The first film Cinema Cocoa reviewed of 2021, and all in all, a good time! Despite the first Mortal Kombat movie of the 90s is a cult classic, the creators of this reboot did a good job. Honouring the characters and bloody violence of the video game, the 2021 movie has potential for a sequel or two. Regardless of the outward ridiculousness of it the only real issue is the main character, an original character made for the film, who felt a little out of place with all of these familiar faces.

Great effects, great fights, and some memorable scenes and characters. It is all you can expect, and you got it!

Will the fans get Johnny Cage in the sequel?

Read the full review here.

9. Soul

Oft. Now we are into the realm of films that are at the bottom of the list but aren’t BAD. There simply weren’t many films to list…
Disney Pixar’s Soul was a film with much hype behind it, but it released on Disney+ at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. But upon watching it… something did not click. It is a gorgeous movie, and as a fan of jazz, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The characters were wonderful, and wonderfully animated, from the real world and the spiritual world.

But it didn’t feel like a film that kids would latch onto. The protagonist was a bit of an ass to people, and it didn’t feel like he got recompense for any of it; the morality of the film felt a little wayward. Plus when it went into slapstick comedy, it felt jarring with the rest of it.

An odd one.

Read the full review here.

10. Black Widow

Speaking of less meaningful MCU movies.
Black Widow is a peculiar beast. Delayed by the pandemic, eventually given a staggered and tentative release on Disney+, but still being weirdly placed in the MCU timeline in the first place, made a lot of people feel distanced from it.
The action is ridiculous for an un-powered/human Avenger, the villains are cartoonish or simply a jumble of everything we’ve seen already.
Which is a shame, Scarlett Johansson deserved better as this character. But there are moments. Florence Pugh and David Harbour are both good and entertaining in equal measure. Despite having to pull off Russian accents (let’s not even talk about Ray Winstone…)

Read the full review here.


11. My Life as a Courgette

Again, not a BAD film at all.
Watched in the original French with subtitles, My Life as a Courgette was a kind story with quirky characters and a fun animation style. But the story wasn’t particularly unique, and with multiple characters (several kids at the orphanage) there didn’t seem to be enough time to explore all of their backstories.

Overall, not a bad film. But it didn’t leave a huge impression.

Read the full review here.



12. Eternals

Perhaps the one film on this list which could be called a bad film.

With Marvel and Disney raking in the cash, with near infinite resources, any actors, writers, directors they could ever want. With Eternals being painstakingly developed for years, with an Oscar Winning Director at the helm and good actors involved, what happened here?

They need to be held to a higher standard. The modern adage of “Marvel movies are just meant to be fun!” shouldn’t enable sluggish storytelling, massive plotholes, way too many characters, and utterly lifeless chemistry between said characters. This was supposedly a new “super team”, with two ending stingers which promise more… What will Marvel do now to drop as much of this as possible?

Read the full review here.

It annoys me greatly that the omicron variant of Covid has me too cautious to go out and see Spider-Man: No Way Home and Matrix: Resurrections this month. So those will likely appear in next year’s listing, with reviews hopefully appearing next month some time!

Thank you all for continuing to read my reviews in this difficult time. Onwards and upwards to more movies in the future!

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