Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 - The Highlights (Tetris_King)

With film and game studios figuring out how to navigate these stressful times in terms of release schedules, this year was a lot more substantial for us for newer entertainment, even if we still don't feel comfortable enough to go back into a theater. Despite this limitation, and thanks to newer films being released across various streaming platforms, a more substantial year results in a more substantial list than last time.

Each list is presented in no particular order, with links to reviews where applicable.

Top Movies of 2021

Luca (2021)

Pixar continues their return to form after Soul with Luca, featuring a comparatively low-stakes story about a pair of sea monsters set in and around the Italian Riviera. The animation is phenomenal and works well with its unique art style, backed by some amazing character writing. Not only would I highly suggest checking this out, I would also recommend watching its related short Ciao Alberto on Disney+ right afterwards, as it serves as a great companion piece to the film’s ending.

The Suicide Squad

While the original Suicide Squad film from 2016 was a mess, James Gunn cleans it up with The Suicide Squad. His experience on Guardians of the Galaxy works to great effect here, coming off less like a ripoff as he manages to successfully make you care about lesser-known DC villains on a more emotional level, particularly the obscure Batman villain Polka Dot Man. As per its R rating, the raunchier humor is more hit-and-miss depending on the viewer, and in my case it more often missed. That aside, for those who weren’t fans of the original film, it’s a great way to wash the bad taste out of your mouth.

Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train

Following from the end of the anime’s first Season and even continuing the storyline, Mugen Train is a must-see for any Demon Slayer fan. The animation is phenomenal and the plot is well-executed to where even a non-fan can get into it even if this is their first exposure to the series. While the Mugen Train arc of the manga is getting adapted again for the anime’s second Season, it’s well worth watching the film adaptation anyway just to see why it’s (currently) Japan’s highest-grossing film of all time.

PAW Patrol: The Movie

Going in with passing knowledge of the source material and not knowing what exactly to expect, PAW Patrol: The Movie pleasantly surprised me with its well-written and emotional storyline, as well as some amazing animation that far surpasses what can be accomplished on a TV budget. It’s not likely everyone’s first choice and it’s still trying to sell toys, though I’d say it’s worth giving it a watch anyway for the storytelling alone.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 1 and 2

Though I have not read the original comic storyline beforehand, Batman: The Long Halloween is a very intriguing Batman story in its own right. The overarching mystery keeps you guessing until the very end, plus it features a very interesting interpretation of Two-Face. Fans of the original comic may find themselves disappointed depending on their expectations, otherwise it makes for a very solid entry in the line of animated Batman films.

Top Video Games of 2021

Little Nightmares II

Little Nightmares II takes what the original did with its themes of gluttony and applies it to a different message, that being the overconsumption of TV, without losing the intense unnerving imagery that made the first game memorable. Enough changes are made to the gameplay to keep things fresh, making this a worthy addition to any horror game collection.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

The Ratchet & Clank series has had its ups and downs, including a divisive reimagining of the original game, however its latest installment proves exactly why the series is so well-regarded. An amazing storyline and the well-written introduction of newcomer Rivet are two of the game’s highlights, though the classic gameplay is built upon further with new elements that take full advantage of the PS5’s hardware. Even for franchise newcomers, this is a must-play for any PS5 owner.

Top Disappointments of 2021

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run

While the first two SpongeBob Squarepants movies aren’t as good as the first three Seasons of the show, the more direct involvement of series creator Stephen Hillenburg keeps them somewhat in line with those Seasons. Released as a Paramount+ launch title, the third film, Sponge on the Run, unfortunately misses the mark. While one could argue that the celebrity cameos in the first two films still managed to contribute in some way to the story, here they are totally superfluous, though the biggest sticking point of the movie is how the story feels the need to retcon early SpongeBob lore just to promote the Kamp Koral spin-off series. While the voice acting and animation are certainly on-point, they are not enough to save this film.

Space Jam: A New Legacy

While not necessarily a perfect film by any means, the original Space Jam is a film that gets more enjoyable every time I watch it, helped by Michael Jordan’s charisma and down-to-earth depiction, as well as amazing Roger Rabbit-like visual effects that still hold up nicely to this day. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Space Jam: A New Legacy, which completely misses the point of Space Jam with weaker writing, inconsistent internal logic with the original movie and a basketball game with nonsensical “video game logic” and a ham-fisted Ready Player One scenario complete with forced crossovers between the Looney Tunes and whatever Warner Bros. happens to own. While I can recommend the original film as a solid piece of ‘90s nostalgia, this one is a hard pass.

Clifford the Big Red Dog (Film)

This is a case where I had little faith going into it thanks to an odd ad campaign, and yet I still felt disappointed by the end result. While the acting is fine for the most part, the plot and character archetypes are very generic for a Clifford movie, and while the CG is great for the most part, it can get dodgy at times. While the explanation given for Clifford’s size is accurate to the source material, the way it’s presented somehow comes off a little hokey in a live-action setting. Whether you’re an existing fan or a franchise newcomer, it’s difficult to recommend this one.

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