These are 8 Best Movies to Watch in 2021 So Far!
|Nomadland's poster. Photo: Breaking Asia|
Release date: February 12
Director: Lee Isaac Chung (Munyurangabo)
Cast: Steven Yeun, Alan Kim, Yeri Han, Youn Yuh-Jung
In Lee Isaac Chung's Minari, a grandma arrives from Korea carrying seeds to grow a minari plant, a delicious tasting water dropwort that spreads like a weed in marshy spaces. Just where crops and people can grow and thrive is on this gorgeous film's mind. It's a drama about a Korean family that moves from California to Arkansas to chase father Jacob's (Steven Yeun) dream of becoming a farmer. The minute they arrive at the trailer house that Jacob has purchased on a vast patch of land, his wife Monica (Yeri Han) is distressed.
As a compromise, the couple invites Monica's grandmother (Youn Yuh-Jung) to come live with them. Chung mostly documents this journey through the eyes of 7-year-old David (the incredible Alan Kim). He has adopted his father's enthusiasm for this place and complains about his grandma, a wily woman who does not act like the Americanized idea of a matriarch he has envisioned. David's adorable insolence often makes for big laughs, but the incisive portrait of a couple at odds is always in the background.
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Release date: February 12
Director: Josh Greenbaum
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr.
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar took us by surprise like a benevolent water spirit, a reference you'll get if you watch this truly zany comedy from the minds of Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, who also star as the titular Barb and Star, best friends who decide to leave their little Nebraska town for a vacation in the fictional Floridian paradise of Vista Del Mar.
What they don't know is that a pale villain with a severe bob (also played by Wiig) is targeting that very spot because of a personal grievance. Barb & Star has multiple musical numbers, some wild camels, and an infectiously goofy spirit largely thanks to the brilliant work of the pair of women at its center. It's hard to describe the specific lunacy of this film, so just go watch and be swept away by the good vibes.
Release date: February 5
Director: Jo Sung-Hee (Phantom Detective)
Cast: Song Joong-Ki, Kim Tae-Ri, Jin Seon-Kyu, Yoo Hae-Jin
|Photo: Business Daily|
Why it's great: Right from its first, electrifying sequence involving a bunch of bounty hunting spaceships chasing after a careering piece of garbage, Space Sweepers spins a far-future of multicultural, multilingual human life in space that's as exhilarating as it is crushingly dystopian. Tae-Ho is a pilot aboard the freighter Victory, along with Captain Jang, engineer Tiger Park, and loudmouthed robot Bubs, all of them part of an outer-space trash-collecting bounty-hunter guild known as the Space Sweepers, who capture space junk and sell it for parts. After a particularly harrowing chase, the crew finds a little girl hiding in a derelict spaceship, who just happens to be a nanobot-filled android that a group of space terrorists have fitted with a hydrogen bomb. At first the Victory crew plans to sell the "little girl" back to the terrorist group who lost her, before they realize that she's much more special than she seems.
A Glitch in the Matrix
Release date: February 5
Director: Rodney Ascher
Cast: Paul Gude, Erik Davis, Nick Bostrom, Joshua Cooke
What if reality wasn’t actually real? That’s the question plumbed by A Glitch in the Matrix, Rodney Ascher’s latest documentary to traverse unreal terrain in search of answers about human existence, alternate realms, and our conscious and unconscious connections to our celluloid dreams. Like his prior Room 237 and The Nightmare, Ascher’s film features a chorus of out-there voices, who articulate opinions about the likelihood that we’re all cogs in a program about which we’re unaware, and which is operated by higher beings we can’t understand.
Ascher chats with these individuals via Skype, recreates their stories with computer animation, complements their hypotheses with movie clips, and conceals their identities through the use of digital avatars, creating a seamless (and playful) marriage of form and content that speaks to the material’s issues of self, truth, alienation, and loneliness. Simulation theory comes across as a fantasy of both enslavement and escape, and Ascher’s amusing and critical inquiry posits it as a reflection of timeless human impulses to explain the inexplicable.
Release date: January 29
Director: Rose Glass
Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight, Lily Frazer
|Photo: Den of Geek|
Hell hath no fury like a religious zealot scorned, as demonstrated by writer/director Rose Glass’ feature debut, which concerns a young hospice nurse named Maud (Morfydd Clark) who comes to believe that her mission from God – with whom she speaks, and feels inside her body – is to save the soul of her terminally ill new patient, famous dancer Amanda (Jennifer Ehle). What begins as a noble attempt to share the pious belief and provide comfort for the sick swiftly turns deranged, as Maud is possessed by a mania impervious to reason, and enflamed by both the slights she receives from Amanda and others, and by her own moral failings.
The sacred and the profane are knotted up inside this young woman, whom Clark embodies with a scary intensity that’s matched by Glass’s unsettling aesthetics, marked by topsy-turvy imagery and pulsating, crashing soundtrack strings. A horrorshow about the relationship between devoutness and insanity, it’s a nerve-rattling thriller that doubles as a sharp critique, punctuated by an incendiary final edit that won’t soon be forgotten.
Release date: January 14
Director: Simon Stone
Cast: Lily James, Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan, Johnny Flynn
The Dig, based on the novel of the same name by John Preston, rights that wrong. It is directed by Simon Stone with a distinctly British tone of restraint worthy of film producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, who made the 1990s hits Howards End and The Remains of the Day. The film approaches English passions cautiously, shining a light on Brown’s incredible contribution, as well as that of Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), the landowner who hired Brown to dig under the mounds on her estate because she had a “feeling” they would find something of note, New Scientist cites.
Release date: November 26, 2020
Director: Fernanda Valadez
Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela, Laura Elena Ibarra, Ana Laura Rodríguez
|Photo: AI Dia News|
Whether seen in agonized close-ups or at an alienated remove, director Fernanda Valadez's characters are alone—and forlorn—in Identifying Features, a masterful Mexican drama of grief, guilt, and dislocation. Consumed with finding her son, who’s gone missing while trying to cross the Mexican-American border, single mother Magdalena (Mercedes Hernández) embarks on an investigative journey through a dusty, dangerous country of migrant shelters, remote gas stations, vacant homes, and wide-open plains that echo their inhabitants’ lonely sorrow, Esquire cites.
Her path eventually crosses with Miguel (David Illescas), a young man who, having been deported by the U.S., now seeks to reunite with his long-abandoned clan—one of many lyrical parallels found in this haunting descent into a national heart of darkness. Though the dialogue is minimal, Hernández and Illescas’ pained-yet-resolved countenances speak volumes about the anguish and terror of a people plagued by separation and yearning.
Release date: December 4
Director: Chloé Zhao (The Rider)
Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May
According to Thrillist, Chloé Zhao's film is both a travelogue of the West, displaying some of the most stunning vistas ever put to screen and a document of the innate hardness of American life under corporate structures. It's, above all, an immensely peaceful film, brimming with the kind of empathy that feels necessary and rare right now. Zhao, known for her docudramas, adapts a piece of journalistic nonfiction by Jessica Bruder, using some of Bruder's subjects, but anchoring the piece with a performance by Frances McDormand as her protagonist Fern, who lived with her husband in a small mining town known as Empire before the corporation keeping it afloat shut down and the zip code was rendered nonexistent.
Fern is living out of her van and taking shifts at Amazon when her friend Linda May tells her about the teachings of Bob Wells, a van life guru. What at first appears to be an aimless narrative, dotted with mesmerizing tracking shots in which McDormand strides across landscapes as parades of mobile homes move out in the distance, subtly reveals itself to be a purposeful journey. Patiently, Zhao and McDormand reveal how Fern's insistence on traveling is a means of coping with grief over the loss of her spouse. Nomadland is gorgeous but never glamorizing. Instead, it's a generous work of art.
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