It's been quite a while since Nicolas Cage has been given something so grounded in reality. The Academy Award-winning actor has most recently become notorious for starring in a string of bizarre cult films...sure, he has occasionally come back to the mainstream to voice Grug the dad in "The Croods" and Superman in "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies," but mostly he has stockpiled his filmography with B-movies ("Mandy" and "Joe" perhaps stand out, while the direct-to-VOD releases "Rage," "Dying in the Light," "Arsenal," "The Humanity Bureau," "Kill Chain," "Primal" and "Jiu Jitsu" do not).
In "Pig," the premise is on par with his recent stretch of totally-bananas movies: Cage plays a lonely truffle-hunter whose pet pig is stolen, and so he goes on a mission to find it. But there is a surprising tone to "Pig," and it gives Cage his best platform in years to remind us that there is an Oscar-winning actor still in there, somewhere.
Finally, a movie that actually IS cool, instead of one that keeps desperately insisting so.
"Gunpowder Milkshake" is not without misfires, but it creates one hell of an explosion of fun.
It's not all "Black Widow"'s fault. This long-awaited Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) feature film was supposed to have reached theaters back in May of 2020, but well...you know. Had there not been a pandemic, this movie would have seen release just under one year after the Phase Three final chapter, "Avengers: Endgame." And while the additional year of waiting has perhaps allowed us to enjoy the Marvel Disney+ TV shows a bit more ("WandaVision," "The Falcon and Winter Soldier" and nearly all of "Loki"), most Marvel fans are getting increasingly impatient as they await some forward traction with the over-arching story.
And while "Black Widow" is supposedly the first feature-film of Marvel's Phase Four, it doesn't feel like it. It does finally give Scarlett Johansson's beloved Black Widow character time to shine, a scene-stealer who has to this point just been a team player, appearing throughout other hero's films as one of two (along with Hawkeye) human Avenger members. But her new stand-alone film feels like it could have been released five, or seven years ago...a good but not great Marvel film that feels disappointing only because fans - I'm assuming - are chomping at the bit for things to move on from "Endgame."
In some ways, it's hard to believe we're half-way through 2021...but following 2020 (the year that felt like an entire decade in and of itself), the faster we get back to some sense of "normal" the better.
Movies are just now starting to pick up into full swing, with Summer blockbusters like "F9" setting post-pandemic records and inching towards pre-pandemic levels. Theaters across the country are open and at full capacity, and we're somehow just a few months away from what is hopefully a "normal" awards season for film.
Before that rush of "award films" in the Fall, I thought it would be nice to take a look back at the best of 2021 so far. I've left off films that came out in early 2021 that were still eligible for last year's pandemic-adjusted awards season (films like "The Father" and "Supernova" were omitted). And you'll note four of my top ten thus far are documentary films (it's already a strong year for the genre).
With that, here are my Top 10 films of 2021 so far...in no particular order...as well as where you can watch them currently.
Shot entirely in Detroit, "No Sudden Move" is a fun, throwback crime caper. And it's not a gimmick or arbitrary that the movie takes place in the Motor City...in fact, this is one story that really couldn't have taken place anywhere else.
History is a funny thing, in that it takes blood, sweat and tears to sometimes set the record straight. We know what we are taught, and we don't know what we're not told about. And in some cases, history is simply lost to the winds of time.
Thank goodness then, for Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, the prolific musician and frontman for the hip hop band "the Roots." He's the man responsible for preserving the memory of the Harlem Cultural Festival, a massive celebration of music, heritage, culture and Black Pride, that took course over six days spread out over the Summer of 1969. Questlove directs "Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)" and in doing so, he has not only preserved an important piece of history, but he's unearthed a treasure trove of clips that will live on forever.
"The Forever Purge" is the fifth and supposedly final chapter in the Purge franchise, and it has a lot of big ideas it looks to tackle. The saga has expanded its world since the first 2013 film, which took place all at one house. In subsequent chapters, we got to see a wider perspective of the annual 12-hour killing holiday known as "The Purge," where all crime - including murder - is made legal, an outlet which has apparently made America a better place.
The scariest part about "The Forever Purge" is how it tackles some real-world issues, albeit clumsily, presenting a dystopian version of our country that - in the wake of the 1/6 insurrection - doesn't seem all that far-fetched. For the first time in the saga, the events depicted feel like something that could actually happen...it's too bad that the film didn't take a smarter overall approach.
Some stories are so bizarre, they can't possibly be untrue.
"Zola" is one such tale.
Our country has never been more polarized, and facts have never been as important as they are now. But despite our differences, we should all be able to come together with pride to denounce that the new, R-rated, raunchy, gory, silly "America: The Motion Picture" tries way too hard at pretty much everything it attempts to do.
This might be the revisionist history we deserve, but it's more of a missed opportunity.
Meyer Lansky is one of the most enthralling mobsters in American history, and yet, he seems to always be represented as a supporting player. Finally, Lansky is given his due.
There is a lot to like about "Lansky," and if you're a fan of Mafia movies or crime dramas, you won't be disappointed that you checked this out. But you can't help but feel that there was a better version of his story to be told on-screen.
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