2021 Year In Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

2021 was a year filled with so many wonderful films. There are some films we’ve been waiting for because of all the delays, and others stole our hearts because they were so unexpected. This year was incredibly rewarding for many different reasons and extremely difficult to get through, but we made it. Here are my favourite films of the year that truly warmed my heart. Also, I have some honourable mentions that should be on everyone’s catch up list.

Top 10 Movies Of 2021

  1. Belfast
    dir. Kenneth Branagh
Belfast movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert
Courtesy of Focus Features

“This was a passion project for Branagh. His personal life experiences made for an emotional story that will resonate with many. There are religious and political debates that fuel the background narrative, but his family life and love for moving pictures are what makes this one of the most heart-warming films of the year.”

Belfast’ Review Excerpt

2. Judas and the Black Messiah
dir. Shaka King

The Bigger Picture: How The Black Panther Movement Echoes In Black Lives  Matter – Houston Public Media
Courtesy of Warner Brothers

“This film is beyond impressive because of Shaka King’s directorial efforts. It is just so sleek and unique to his style of filmmaking. From the cinematography, to the production design, to the costumes, to the jazz undertones in the score that fade as the film gets deeper into the story, everything was perfectly constructed and it worked.”

‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ Review Excerpt

3. Spider-Man: No Way Home
dir. Jon Watts

Spider-Man: No Way Home: Release date, cast, tickets, and Netflix deals -  Polygon
Courtesy of Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios

“We’ve seen three different versions of this character and they’ve all made Peter Parker their own. For some reason, Tom Holland is the perfect combination of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s versions. Thus creating the ultimate Spider-Man that Sony and Marvel has blessed us with. Holland’s first trilogy isn’t perfect, but Spider-Man: No Way Home sure is.”

‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Review Excerpt

4. Dune
dir. Denis Villeneuve

TIFF 2021 | Dune: A feature length first act - CityNews Toronto
Courtesy of Legendary and Warner Brothers

“Herbert’s words are mixed in with the dialogue and you could feel the regal nature radiating off of the Atreides clan. From the stunning costumes, to the richness of the colour palette complimenting each house, Villeneuve took Herbert’s material and made it his own. As someone who knows the story, it unfolded quite nicely and the ending gives viewers that hopefulness for a part two.”

‘Dune’ Review Excerpt

5. Zack Snyder’s Justice League
dir. Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021) - IMDb
Courtesy of The Stone Quarry

“Snyder does focus on the emotional connection to Superman through the eyes of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) by showing how they have been processing their grief. Because of Lois and Martha, we understand how tragic this loss is for them vs. the world losing him. Again, Snyder brings it to a very human level of processing grief, instead of keeping Superman as a global figure.”

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Review Excerpt

6. Coda
dir. Siân Heder

CODA Is a Bona-Fide Sundance Crowdpleaser, Even Without the Crowds | Vanity  Fair
Courtesy of Vendôme Pictures and Apple TV Plus

“Everything about Coda was naturally effortless and it highlighted so many important life lessons in regards to parenting, basic human decency and adolescence. It was hard to see Ruby struggle in choosing her family or her new path in life. High school is already hard to navigate as it is and to have added pressure from your parents to help with the family business is a lot to think about.”

‘Coda’ Review Excerpt

7. Tick, Tick…Boom!
dir. Lin Manuel Miranda

Tick, Tick... Boom! Review: Lin-Manuel Miranda Does Justice to a Musical  Theatre Legend - Paste
Courtesy of Netflix Film

“It’s hard to even put into words the feeling you get while watching Tick, Tick…Boom! I don’t think a movie musical has ever hit so close to home, it’s one of those films that you are comforted by given your current state of mind. A movie you didn’t know you needed in your life, yet it still made an impact. For this to be Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial feature debut, it was quite impressive. Even though the execution of a story within a story was a bit jumbled in the first half, once he finds his footing, it’s a beautiful, emotional, rollercoaster of inspiration and creativity.”

‘Tick, Tick…Boom!’ Review Excerpt

8. Don’t Look Up
dir. Adam McKay

Don't Look Up: Who Are the Characters Based On | Den of Geek
Courtesy of Netflix Film

“McKay centers this film on the reactions from everyone on the political spectrum and settles in on this grey area, as he attempts to objectively balance this script to explore both sides. As a species, we would definitely question the scientists and the government, then judge each other based on which side we are. Does it sound familiar to you? Well it should. Even though this film is directly addressing climate issues and how the government has mishandled the crisis over the past decade, it also reflects how everyone has approached the pandemic.”

‘Don’t Look Up’ Review Excerpt

9. The Power of the Dog
dir. Jane Campion

The Power of the Dog': About That Ending - The New York Times
Courtesy of Netflix Film

“The way Campion peeled back the layers of Phil Burbank in each chapter made him one of the most interesting characters to watch throughout this film. The viewer questions what more could he be hiding; Cumberbatch had this tough exterior and he also showed he had a wounded heart, that he was in fact broken. He very much lived in the past, reeling in the memories of Bronco Henry and longing to feel that connection again with someone who truly understands him.”

‘The Power of the Dog’ Review Excerpt

10. Shiva Baby
dir. Emma Seligman

Shiva Baby' Review: It's Complicated - The New York Times
Courtesy of Neon Heart Productions

“Even though this played out like a typical coming-of-age film, it also doubled as a horror film. Danielle’s secrets swirling around the house, older women gossiping about her being a failure, and her raunchy private life creeping into her perfect family life. What was so impressive about this film was Seligman’s ability to project Danielle’s anxiety so it fills the space around her. Danielle feels it, the people around her add to the anxiety, which then creates this suffocating atmosphere for the viewer.”

‘Shiva Baby’ Review Excerpt

Honourable Mentions:

Best Animated Feature

The Mitchells vs. The Machines
dir. Michael Rianda

Netflix's 'The Mitchells vs. the Machines' is how to do LGBTQ  representation in kids' movies
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation

AND…

Luca
dir. Enrico Casarosa

Luca review: the perfect summer movie - The Verge
Courtesy of Disney Pixar

Hidden Gems:

In the Earth
dir. Ben Wheatley

In the Earth review – a breath of frightening fresh air from Ben Wheatley |  Horror films | The Guardian

Courtesy of Neon

Pig
dir. Michael Sarnoski

Image gallery for Pig - FilmAffinity
Courtesy of Neon

The Night House
dir. David Bruckner

The Night House review: A haunted-house horror with cosmic secrets - Polygon
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

These films really surprised me this year and have stayed with me this entire year. If you haven’t seen the films on this list yet, then I sure do recommend them! Happy New Year everyone and I hope everyone has a blessed 2022!

2020 Year in Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

2020, what a year!

It was a rough year but we had some great films that came out to help get us through the madness! So without further ado, here are my Top 10 films of 2020 with some honourable mentions of course.

1. Promising Young Woman
dir. Emerald Fennell

(center) Carey Mulligan as Cassandra Thomas
Courtesy of Focus Features

“This film is unlike anything I’ve seen and it is because of how the story is structured. It does slow down towards the middle of the film, only to pick back up and deliver one of the most controversial endings of the year. Some will agree with the ending and others will most definitely be infuriated. However, the ending of the film is the perfect reflection of how women are treated and what men deserve.”

Promising Young Woman Review Excerpt

2. Emma
dir. Autumn de Wilde

(left) Mia Goth and Anya Taylor Joy
Courtesy of Working Title Films and Focus Features

“The film felt like the embodiment of the character of Emma Woodhouse, like her entire soul was spread into the corners of the frame and we could feel her presence, even if she wasn’t on screen. De Wilde captured Ms. Woodhouse’s entire being and made sure we understood who she was.Emma had the perfect balance of tension between possible suitors and a whirlwind of situations that caused Emma to spin out of control.”

Emma Review Excerpt

3. Da 5 Bloods
dir. Spike Lee

(left) Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo and Jonathan Majors
Courtesy of 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks

“The wonderful thing about Spike Lee, is that he makes you fall in love with his characters in the first act of the film. In the second act, he shows you their pain, flaws and grievances. Then in the third act, he exposes his characters, like an open wound, to the world that has so deeply wronged them, time and time again. It is a film, like every other Spike Lee film, that unloads accurate information about Black history. Lee has never shied away from telling it like it is and has always managed to show every perspective on racial ideologies.”

Da 5 Bloods Review Excerpt

4. The Invisible Man
dir. Leigh Whannell

(center) Elisabeth Moss
Courtesy of Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures

“Not only did Whannell write a fantastic story, he also created a chilling, isolated atmosphere that affected his protagonist, as well as the audience. You feel everything with Cecelia because of the framing and camera movements, it feels as if you’re stuck with her on this journey. The sound design is also something that flowed nicely throughout the film and was utilized at the right moments, for dramatic effect.”

The Invisible Man Review Excerpt

5. Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
dir. Cathy Yan

(left) Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Margot Robbie, Ella Jay Basco and Jurnee Smollett -Bell
Courtesy of DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.

“I loved everything about this, especially the fact that it focused on the many ways women can be mistreated by men. It definitely has a different girl power energy and maybe it’s because I’m older but this badass, anarchist, violent, R rated energy just gives off a higher level of empowerment. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something like that. Seeing all those women on screen, harnessing their powers and setting aside their differences in order to take a villain out.”

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn Review Excerpt

6. Soul
dir. Pete Docter

(left) Tina Fey and Jamie Foxx
Courtesy of Disney Pixar

Soul is emotional and incredibly moving because it has conversations about the choices people make in their lives. What makes us fully formed people? Why do we have the need to find a purpose in life and if we don’t we consider ourselves failures? These are internal struggles that we have all faced, time and time again.”

Soul Review Excerpt

7. Palm Springs
dir. Max Barbakow

(left) Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg
Courtesy of Lonely Island Classics and Neon Hulu

“It has a nice mixture of comedic moments and realistic discussions about life, which I really appreciated. The perception of loneliness, is always something that should be explored and how life can sometimes seem meaningless, if you do not have someone to share it with. That is why placing the central event, as a wedding day, in this film was extremely beneficial because of the weight it holds on everyone’s lives. It is very well crafted because they address so many different ideas of love and relationships.”

Palm Springs Review Excerpt

8. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
dir. George C. Wolfe

(left) Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Viola Davis, Michael Potts, Glynn Turman
Courtesy of Escape Artists and Mundy Lane

“The direction had this dual sense of atmosphere. Even though it takes place in a recording studio, it did not feel stuffy and static, like other plays that have been adapted for the screen. Wolfe created two separate rooms that had separate energy from each other. What was most impressive was how Wolfe captured his actors.It felt like we were on stage with these actors, the close ups and tight knit camerawork that was used was extremely effective.”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Excerpt

9. One Night in Miami
dir. Regina King

(left) Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Eli Goree
Courtesy of Snoot Entertainment and ABKCO

“Regina King’s direction was subtle and effective. She took the stage play and made it her own. It felt effortless as everything flowed from scene to scene, even light conversations to deeper ones. Even though the film takes place in one room for majority of the runtime, it’s the dialogue that holds you and the way King focused on her actors. She brought out such fantastic performances and the way she moved them through each scene was strong.”

One Night in Miami Review Excerpt

10. The Trial of the Chicago 7
dir. Aaron Sorkin

(left) Sacha Baron Cohen, Danny Flaherty, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance
Courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures and Amblin Partners

“The film is not a representation of this current era that we are living in. Instead it represents the long fight against systemic racism and how this level of injustice has not been handled properly. A Sorkin script is never easy to get through, many actors have said that it is harder than it seems. It is fast paced and the soundtrack also brought everything together, it wasn’t overused and it came in at the right moments.”

The Trial of the Chicago 7 Review Excerpt:

Honourable Mentions

Best Animated Feature

Wolfwalkers
dir. Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart

Courtesy of Cartoon Saloon

AND…

Over the Moon
dir. Glen Keane

Courtesy of Pearl Studios, Sony Picture Imageworks and Netflix Animation

HIDDEN GEMS

Definition Please
dir. Sujata Day

Courtesy of Atajus Productions

Swallow
dir. Carlo Mirabella – Davis

Courtesy of of IFC Films

Miss Juneteenth
dir. Channing Godfrey Peoples

Courtesy of Sailor Bear and Ley Line Entertainment

Well there you have it! For a year with limited new theatrical releases, there have been some great films. There’s more to come in 2021. So start making your lists now!

2019 Year in Review

As 2019 wraps up, we tend to reflect on the year that gave us so many wonderful films. So here are my Top 10 films of 2019. It was very hard to only choose 10, so I decided to break down the genres.

Top 10: 

  1. The Irishman
    dir. Martin Scorsese
    starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin and Sebastian Maniscalco.

    irishman
    The Irishman Review Excerpt:
    This felt like Scorsese’s magnum opus because there was such a finality to this piece. It was a love letter to all of the mob films that came before and in a way an introduction to the new generation.



  2.  Joker
    dir. Todd Phillips
    starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, and Marc Maron.joker
    Joker Review Excerpt: The reason why this performance was so incredibly stunning, was because his movements and facial expressions became more crisp and rigid. He went from timid poverty stricken every day working man, to confident, stand up comedian, who has A LOT to say about how society has treated him. His growth in this film is beautiful to watch but also incredibly unnerving to know that it leads him down this violent path.


  3. Once Upon A Time in… Hollywood
    dir. Quentin Tarantino
    starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Kurt Russell, Emile Hirsh and Margaret Qualley.onceOnce Upon A Time in… Hollywood Review Excerpt: The reason it’s called “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is because it’s a story about filmmakers and their everyday lives. Whether they’re old agents, washed up actors or newcomers, everyone had a story and everyone wanted to see their name in lights.


  4. Honey Boy
    dir. Alma Har’el
    screenplay. Shia LaBeouf
    starring: Shia LaBeouf, Noah Jupe, Lucas Hedges, Martin Starr, FKA Twigs, Natasha Lyonne and Byron Bowers.hb
    Honey Boy Review Excerpt: The direction from Alma Har’el was so masterful, she took the time to let these characters grow. The dialogue shared between them filled the screen because there was always heavy tension that was resting beneath the surface.


  5. Knives Out
    dir. Rian Johnson
    Starring: Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Christopher Plummer, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Katherine Langford and LaKeith Stanfield.knives out
    Knives Out Review Excerpt: It had a very intricate story and if you don’t pay attention you’ll definitely get lost in the madness. It also helps to watch this in a theatre filled with people because the reactions, throughout the film, make it a much richer experience.


  6. Parasite
    dir. Bong Joon Ho
    Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyu, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik and Park So-dam.

    parasite-recenzja-filmu-1180x541
    Parasite Review Excerpt:
    The one line that stood out to me and brought me to tears was, Kang Ho Song’s delivery of “You know what plan never fails? No plan.” he then proceeds to say that life cannot be planned. This was the moment that struck me the most because after everything that the family had gone through together, life happens and it cannot be controlled, it can change in a second.


  7. Uncut Gems
    dir. Josh and Benny Safdie
    starring: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox and Kevin Garnett
     ug
    Uncut Gems Review Excerpt: The execution of this story was beautiful. The film was visually appealing and incorporated experimental elements followed by flawless editing. The film had me at peak anxiety level the entire runtime but in a good way.


  8. The Peanut Butter Falcon
    dir. Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz
    Starring: Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnsonpbf
    The Peanut Butter Falcon Review Excerpt: LaBeouf and Gottsagen’s natural chemistry was beautiful to watch unfold because of how heartfelt both performances were. LaBeouf’s carefree nature came through and the genuine love he had for Zack was so evident on screen.


  9. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
    dir. Céline Sciamma
    starring: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajramip
    Portrait of a Lady on Fire Review Excerpt: As the story travels back into the memory of Marianne, the tones in the frame become softer, warmer and almost dreamlike. The entire film felt like we were entering this alternate timeline of another place entirely, with these characters, as if it were a fragment that was repressed. 


  10. Booksmart
    dir. Olivia Wilde
    Starring: Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie FeldsteinbsBooksmart Review Excerpt: Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is effortless. The integration of character’s and their connection with one another was not forced and it was refreshing to see it all come together in a cohesive narrative. Most of the time coming of age films force the character’s into a situation but in this case it just flowed and it was all believable.


***Honourable Mentions***
– Rocketman
– Ford v Ferrari
– Bombshell

Best Animated Feature:
Frozen 2
dir. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
starring: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad and Sterling K. Brown

f2

Best Franchise Film:
Shazam
dir. David Sandberg
Starring: Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Grace Fulton, Djimon Hounsou, Marta Milans, Adam Brody, Jovan Armand, Michelle Borth, Megan Goode, Cooper Andrews, Ross Butler, D.J. Cotrona and Faithe Herman.

shazam
***Honourable Mentions*** 

– Alita: Battle Angel
– Spider-Man: Far From Home 

Best Comedy:
Long Shot
dir. Jonathan Levine
starring: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr, June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel and Andy Serkis

long-shot-seth-rogen-charlize-theron
***Honourable Mentions*** 
Late Night 
Good Boys 

Best Horror Film
Ready Or Not
dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell.

Ready-or-Not

***Honourable Mentions***
Doctor Sleep 
It Chapter 2 

Decade in Review: The Best Films From 2018

The time has come to reflect on the past ten years of filmmaking. There are many notable films that changed the course of film criticism, box office and the entire moviegoing experience.

Here are my top picks from 2018….

  1. Blackkklansman
    dir. Spike Lee
    starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier and Topher Grace

    BlackkKlansman

  2. Roma
    dir. Alfonso Cuarón
    starring: Yalitza Aparicio and Marina De Tavira

    r

  3. If Beale Street Could Talk 
    dir. Barry Jenkins
    starring: Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King and Colman Domingo

    beale

Best Animated Feature: 
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
dir. Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey
starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Kathryn Hahn, Kimiko Glenn, Nicholas Cage, Chris Pine, Liev Shreiber, Brian Tyree Henry, Zoe Kravitz, John Mulaney, Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Tomlin and Mahershala Ali

spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-sequel-release-date
Best Comedy:
Game Night
dir. John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Michael C. Hall, Chelsea Peretti, Kylie Bunby, Lamorne Morris and Jesse Plemons

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AND…

Tag
dir. Jeff Tomsic
starring: Jake Johnson, Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Lil Rel Howery, Jon Hamm, Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher, Hannibal Buress, Leslie Bibb and Rashida Jones.

TAG-00573.dng

 

Best Franchise Film:
Black Panther
dir. Ryan Coogler
starring: Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Sterling K. Brown, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis

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****Honourable Mention*** 
– Mission Impossible: Fallout 

Best Horror Film:
A Quiet Place
dir. John Krasinski
starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward

A QUIET PLACE
***Honourable Mentions***
– Suspiria
– Venom

Decade in Review: The Best Films From 2017

The time has come to reflect on the past ten years of filmmaking. There are many notable films that changed the course of film criticism, box office and the entire moviegoing experience.

Here are my top picks from 2017….

  1. Call Me By Your Name
    dir. Luca Guadagnino
    starring: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casarcmbyn
  2. Molly’s Game
    dir. Aaron Sorkin
    starring: Jessica Chastain, Kevin Costner and Idris ElbaMOLLY'S GAME
  3. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
    dir. Martin McDonagh
    starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell3bills

Best Animated Feature:
Coco
dir. Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alana Ubach and Jaime Camill

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Best Comedy:
Girls Trip
dir. Malcolm D. Lee
starring: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish

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Best Franchise Film:
Wonder Woman
dir. Patty Jenkins
starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and Danny Huston

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Best Horror Film:
Get Out
dir. Jordan Peele
starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, LaKeith Stanfield and Catherine Keener

get