Unhidden Gems of 2021!
Okay, now that I offered my list of the most disappointing films of 2021, here's the flipside. My personal favorites of last year, which I refer to as "Unhidden Gems!"
These movies. Television series or Videogames may or may not be the colossal hits compared to others within the media, however most receive enough praise from the public.
The Harder they Fall
Whoa! This Western has plenty of style and swagger thanks to an all-star all-black cast, featuring Idris Elba, Johnathan Majors, LaKeith Stanfield, Delroy Lindo, Regina King and the also beautiful Zazie Beats. There's plenty of action to complement both the cinematography and funky soundtrack. Expect a few twists and turns that will keep your attention undivided.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Based on a true story, this biopic about the assassination of Black Panther Chairman, Fred Hampton (played magnificently by Daniel Kaluula) who was placed under surveillance by William O'Neal and the FBI, to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party.
This is one of the better docudramas easily edging out Respect, and a few others. The organic portrayals by Kaluuya, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons and LaKeith Stanfield as Bill O' Neil, give this movie, much weight as in an urban Shakespearean play.
Like many docudramas that focus on the injustices inflicted upon Black Americans, is uncomfortable and disturbing, but it must be told.
Its funny how LaKeith Stanfield, plays two scumbags in one year. That said, he's one amazing actor!
Last Night in Soho
Edgar Wright's thriller was an interesting noir mystery that mysteriously takes you, the protagonist, Ellie back in time to see how a decades old mystery unfolds.
It’s both psychological and in various ways, supernatural. Great cinematography and impressive performances by Terrence Stamp, Matt Smith, Ana Taylor Joy and especially Diana Rigg in what's considered, was her last role as she sadly passed away in 2020.
What if John Wick was an everyman?
Well, the answer to that was the unexpected breakout performance by actor Bob Odenkirk who proves that you don't have to be a dashing protagonist to fit the action hero archetype. This movie is great addition to the "Wickiverse" especially for those who await the next Keanu Reeves led sequel. It's a great blend of action and comedy!
When I heard that both Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo would star in a new action thriller together, it was met with a little skepticism until I learned that Joe Carnahan ( A-Team, Smoking Aces and The Grey) was involved, I thought, it was worth a watch and I'm glad I did! Copshop pays homage to those classic 70's Crime thrillers, especially John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 which the film's premise unapologetically borrows from.
Hell, the opening theme is straight from Magnum Force! It's full of twists, turns and more than enough humor to balance out the serious moments that's gives Copshop a dark comedy vibe like most of Tarantino's films.
It's a solid hidden gem and
the main protagonist is not who you think it is and get ready for some clever pop culture references courtesy of Anthony the "Balloon Guy!"
Sandra Bullock is still a formidable actress as demonstrated in Netflix's Birdbox, but years later, she returns as a former inmate accused of patricide, who tries to reclaim her life that was lost during unfortunate circumstances. Part of the story serves as a mystery, while most of it consists of a path to redemption. You can't help but feel sorry for Bullock's character thanks to another grounded performance and it also features appearances by Jon Bernthal, Viola Davis and Vincent Donofrio as a sympathetic Attorney.
While Disney's Wandavision, Loki and Hawkeye proved to be successful among the devoted Marvel fans out there, Falcon and the Winter Soldier gets my vote as best Superhero series of 2021. With part of the series' storyline continuing the Cap mythos further delving into the semi complicated partnership between our two protagonists, solid performance by Daniel Bruhl as Baron Zemo and unapologetic social commentary, FATWS was easily my choice, haters be damned! A close second goes to Marvel's What If and then Hawkeye.
Favorite new series: Yellowjackets
I wasn't expecting much from this new series that was heavily promoted by Showtime until I watched the first episode based on an exceptional all girls Soccer team who through a horrific plane crash, is stranded in some isolated forest located somewhere in Canada??
The survivors of the crash are left to fend for themselves against wild animals, starvation and each other.
On the surface, Yellowjackets may seem like some. Lost, Alive, Lord of the Flies hybrid, but it’s much more than that. While the storyline takes place in the modern era, there are constant flashbacks detailing the team's experiencing the true meaning of "Survival Horror " and of course, there's a mystery thread that serves as the center of this series.
Solid acting from indie actress Melanie Lynsky, Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci. Also, cool intro.
Mare of Easttown
I hate the overused word: "Tour de Force" but in the case of Kate Winslet as Philadelphia Detective, Mare Sheenan investigating a disappearance while dealing with "domestic problems”. Winslet's brings a multi-dimensional presence to Mare, who is both stoic, likeable yet vulnerable at times.
This limited series is a great find that will have you in suspense from beginning to end.
Series Finale: Mr. In-between
After two seasons, show creator and main actor Scott Ryan, decided to pull the plug on an otherwise fun Dark Comedy slash Crime Drama featuring Ray Shoesmith, that Hitman with a heart of "platinum!" The final season ties up a few loose ends, like having a cathartic moment between Ray and his ex-girlfriend Amy, and how he resolves a long-standing friendship after being betrayed.
My only gripe lies at the finale itself where the last scene is ambiguous and left up to the viewer's imagination. Overall, it was a fun binge and special shout out to my bro, Bop for recommending yet another FX Program.
Zac Snyder's Justice League
Fans demanded Warner Brothers to release the Snyder Director's Cut and 2 years later, here we are! While originally working on his bookend of the Man of Steel trilogy, Zac and his wife Deborah Snyder, had experienced an unfortunate family tragedy so in comes Josh Wheldon to make lightning strike twice when it comes to helming yet another ensemble Superhero movie.
Well, suffice to say. 2017's Justice League was met with less than favorable results. So, with Zac returning to the project with WB's blessing, what we have is more than what we bargained for! Running at over four hours, 2021's Justice League fills in all the gaps and then some from Wheldon's misfire.
It's a more detailed version that even manages to throw in DC's "Thanos", Darksied, with plenty of character development and story emphasis.
A gift for fans of DC's iconic heroes, even if it's four years late!
Speaking of DC, and comebacks,
The Suicide Squad!
After the disastrous release of 2014's Suicide Squad, the tenacious folks at DC and Warner Media decided to take another crack at handling their Comic based intellectual property this time, instead of David Ayer returning for the sequel, its Guardians of the Galaxy Director, James Gunn's turn at bat. And man does he have a mean swing!
The Suicide Squad reunites a few familiars like Amanda Waller, Rick Flagg, Captain Boomerang and everyone's favorite mad muse, Harley Quinn for yet another dangerous mission called "Project Starfish," A tower that houses a humongous alien Starfish. SS is a crazy blend of action, humor and quirky dialogue. It’s like Gunn went to his Troma roots and unapologetically reanimated the dead-on arrival franchise, slapped with a hard "R" rating!
Disney who unceremoniously gave Gunn the boot for unearthed despicable tweets he made 10 years ago, has now had a "change of heart" after Warner Brothers came a knocking. So now. Gunn is back to work at the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. And speaking of....
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
Xbox/PS4 and PS5
I managed to catch this game while it was on sale courtesy of Xbox's Microsoft store for under $40 and within the first 10 minutes, I immediately gravitated to this game afterwards! Could it have been the gameplay? The characters? The story or just the overall packaging?
The answers to that are unequivocally yes, however, its Guardians of the Galaxy's exceptional narrative and voice acting that easily stands toe to toe against the Disney movie adaptations. In fact, the story supersedes Gunn's films as many themes such as friendship, accountability, love, loss and sacrifice were implemented within a game that runs roughly over five hours!
The 80's soundtrack and the scenarios fave me flashbacks of watching Transformers the Movie, so already that's a great endorsement with high praise! Also, unlike the film adaptations, they actually "have a Warlock!" And deeper story too. 😜
Ok, this is a bit of a cheat here. Although this sequel to the Mafia game franchise was released over five years ago, it was included in the restored Mafia "Trilogy set" and in Mafia 3's case, the game included DLC expansion packs that added more to this powerful story!
If you haven’t played Mafia 3 or did not take advantage of 2K's Big sale last year, you are missing out on this excellent hidden gem featuring a strong Black protagonist, (Vietnam veteran, Lincoln Clay) cast within an era of racial unrest during the turbulent sixties backdrop. In his road to revenge, Vietnam veteran Lincoln Clay embarks on taking down rival gangs, white Supremacist Cult and even a covert ops mission to stop a nuclear weapon! This in my opinion, is my favorite open world game thus far as I'm not a fan of this subgenre however, Mafia 3's progressive story and gameplay, had me hooked where GTA V, left me unimpressed that I couldn't finish the game.
Bright Memory Infinite
Unfortunately, I could not secure a PlayStation 5 due to chip shortage, supply chain issues and fucking greedy scalpers, so don't expect a review of Sony’s Returnal anytime soon! Frustrated by supply chain issues, I turned to PC gaming and in some ways, glad I did after playing Bright Memory Infinite, a rogue like first person shooter that is more committed to pattern and technique than rage quitting.
The action never lets up and as part of your arsenal, your character is equipped with a EMP bomb that weakens enemies, a grappling gun for traversing and a kickass sword that clears the screen when you strike the ground during landing!
The story although simplistic, provides you with enough worldbuilding implementation while the graphics and at times, puzzle solving, keeps you entertained aside from gunning everything in sight. I guess one would call it "Bright Memory " because if you memorize the gameplay patterns, you'll do just fine.
All this, programmed and developed by one guy from Taiwan!!
Watch out Doom and Halo, there's a new FPS contender in town!
So here are my picks for 2021. Check 'em out if you haven't already!