Cinema Dispatch: Top 7 films of 2021 That Need Improvement

Another year has come and gone, and as always we must take one look back before we move on to whatever comes next. Well, at least that’s usually how it goes, but 2022 started off pretty hectic for me so it took me a while to find time and collect my thoughts on the year prior. As usual, we start with the films that I thought needed improvement before getting to the good list, and hopefully, this can stay constructive instead of vitriolic. That proved to be rather challenging with some of these movies, as there were some rough ones this year, but enough beating around the bush! Let’s get started!!

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Marvel’s Underwhelming Theatrical Releases – Black Widow & Eternals

Black Widow Review; Eternals Review

Avengers Endgame was the culmination of a decade’s worth of storylines, and whether or not it was truly the peak of the MCU, it definitely feels like all the movies since then have been listless and without direction. Black Widow, in particular, felt like a holdover from the era of Iron Man 2 and while Eternals definitely has some decent imagination and skill behind it, the story never quite connected with me and it felt just as aimless as everything else we’ve gotten from the MCU this year. Now obviously the formula has proven far too successful to make any significant changes (certainly not with Spider-Man making as much money as it did), but considering how great the TV shows have been on Disney Plus compared to the films, it might be worth considering that the MCU is no longer suited for big scale and even bigger budget action films; at least not until they establish who the new crop of heroes will be and what the new threat is. There are some films on the horizon that are at least intriguing like that new Doctor Strange movie and the reboot of Blade, but the Post-Endgame growing pains have been rather frustrating to sit through.

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Nostalgia Gone Sideways – Ghostbusters: Afterlife & Space Jam: A New Legacy

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review; Space Jam: A New Legacy Review

Almost as tiresome as the discourse around Superhero Fatigue is the backlash against nostalgia-driven revivals of old properties. I’m always of the mindset that trying and failing to do something is almost always better than not bothering to do it at all, so I was not opposed to them making years later sequels to both Ghostbusters and Space Jam. To their credit, they are not outright terrible movies and both have their clever moments. Ghostbusters worked best when it was putting the new characters front and center and Space Jam got its biggest laughs when it was subverting the original like with the Michael B Jordan joke. Ultimately though, their biggest failings were in trying to hew as close to the originals as they could instead of using them to jump off with new ideas and a new vision. Ghostbusters shoved all its interesting new characters to the background to try and recreate the original film, and while the original Space Jam was no masterpiece, the new one just couldn’t find a way to match its bizarre charm and just felt like a pale imitation. We’ve had some noteworthy examples in recent years of people going back to franchises and making them relevant again. Borat 2, Bill & Ted Face the Music, even Matrix Resurrections all showed progression in the filmmakers’ understanding of these franchises and how they can still be made relevant to today’s world. These are the films I would advise the studios behind these two movies to look at if they want to keep these franchises from being mere shadows of themselves through repetitive and uninspired sequels. Then again, both of them made more money than the three examples I pointed to, so perhaps these are the kind of sequels that that audience really wants and I’m just blowing hot air over here.

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Don’t Look Up

Full Review

When a Roland Emmerich movie about the moon smashing into the Earth is a far better experience than your high-minded satire filled to the brim with A-List celebrities, then maybe it’s time to cut back on the navel-gazing. Adam McKay’s bloated and unfocused screed against the world’s apathy towards the ongoing crises we face definitely has its head on straight, but it lacks the heart to truly connect with anyone who isn’t Adam McKay himself. The Big Short remains one of the best take-downs of American-Style Capitalism and its catastrophic effects on our society, but with this, he seems to have bought too much into his own hype and starts conflating his own personal bugbears about Social Media and “disposable entertainment” with the problems that are genuinely putting the world in peril. My advice to him is to stick to telling other people’s stories instead of writing his own. He’s got an immense amount of talent and is willing to use them to tell important stories about the world we live in, but like any ally, he’s better off elevating the voices of others rather than putting himself front and center.

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Tom & Jerry

Full Review

Putting an animated feature like this on the list feels a bit mean-spirited, but it’s hard to argue that even by the standards of your average Kid’s Movie this movie falls far short of what should be the bare minimum of effort. Unappealing animation, an incredibly clunky story, and an overall tone and aesthetic that is odds with itself constantly make for a very jarring and ultimately boring experience; not to mention how it ends up wasting talented actors like () and (). It’s a movie aimed at kids and certainly has a lot of the trappings of films in that genre, but the fact is that Tom & Jerry haven’t been relevant in a long time and so whatever value the brand has is not for the benefit of the kids who are watching Spongebob and Three Bare Bears over cartoons that were made before their parents were born. Still, I am open to filmmakers trying anything, so if we’re stuck with the movie we have how would we improve upon it? For me, the best parts were the old-school cartoon antics, so perhaps something more focused on that with the humans being tertiary background elements might have at least had a clearer vision. I also wouldn’t be afraid to mess with the formula given that the target audience doesn’t know or care about the rules of the series, so make some changes to the designs or perhaps make Jerry the outright villain! Playing it safe and trying to hit all the cliches of the Kid’s Movie genre is what made the movie so unimpressive in the first place, so it’s not like swinging for the fences would have made it any worse!

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Halloween Kills

Full Review

I was stuck between this film and Tom & Jerry for the top spot on the list. Tom & Jerry is a more incompetently made and poorly conceived movie on all levels, but in the end, I had to give the honor to Michael Myers simply for how wrong-headed its approach to continuing the franchise ended up being. Where Tom & Jerry was a movie that was clearly aimed at a different audience, this film couldn’t be more squarely targeted at me and yet did everything it could to utterly repel me from the series. Now I’m not about to get on my fanboy high horse over how the movie ruined the franchise; that’s an attitude we’ve seen from far too many fandoms in recent years and is one that I want to excise from my critical framework. The Halloween franchise has been going on for over forty years with wildly different interpretations, so this film falling short of the other ones or trying to clumsily insert itself into the lore is not what makes this movie intolerable. No, it’s what it usually comes down to when talking about bad horror movies which is banal cruelty; indulging in the mindless cliches of the genre rather than coming up with an interesting new idea, and trying to have blood and death fill in the gaps. The best you could say about this movie is that it was doomed from the outset, being an extraneous middle chapter to what clearly looks to be a trilogy, but it’s that very hollowness in imagination that puts the violence in such a dismal light and makes it perhaps the least artful movie in the franchise. If there is a third one I’ll probably go see it like I have every other Halloween movie, but rarely have I seen a franchise horror movie that left me feeling so empty and tired. I’m usually the guy who’s all for trying new things with franchises and I came into this list wanting to be as constructive as possible, but they really should have left well enough alone with the 2018 film.

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And that will do it for this list, so now you can look forward to finding out what I thought were the best films of 2022! Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below!

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