It’s 2021 and I’m finally reviewing movies from 2021! Strangely enough, these films are all eligible for this March’s Oscars though I wouldn’t give any of them an Oscar nomination. WHOOPS! SPOILER ALERT – I hated all three of these movies.
Earwig and the Witch
It’s been six years since Studio Ghibli released its last film, When Marnie Was There, so the anticipation for this new release from quite possibly the world’s best animation company was intense. That’s why it was so crushing when Earwig and the Witch turned out to not only be disappointing, but just plain bad. First of all, the 3D animation is atrocious to behold, robbing all of the characters of any humanity whatsoever. They act like synthetics, in fact this entire film feels like a video captured SIMS play through someone slapped low energy voice over audio on top of. Second of all, the writing is all over the place and super vague, characters aren’t fleshed out and you never gain an understanding of what anyone wants or is trying to accomplish in this world. The villains are lackluster, the hero isn’t particularly likeable and side characters are built up in the beginning only to be completely abandoned (Custard, anyone?) in the second half of the picture. The most annoying thing about this is the soundtrack. Lacking any cohesion whatsoever other than all the songs sounding like Apple stock tracks, we get funky country, punk, classical and one of the most unnervingly obnoxious title themes to any film in recent memory. Combined with the stupid way these 3D animated turds walk around, it made me want to Hulk smash my fucking television into pieces. Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most brilliant minds working in cinema today because he’s able to marry intriguing plots, lovable characters, powerful social messages, especially about the environment and gorgeous animation, overflowing with personality, in a way that makes you feel like a kid again. His son Goro on the other hand, the mind behind From Up on Poppy Hill, Tales of Earthsea and this piece of shit, just doesn’t seem to get it. Save yourself the migraine and check out the dozens of other truly inspiring Ghibli movies available on HBOMax instead. Grade: D (HBOMax)
The Little Things
Apparently John Lee Hancock, the “mastermind” behind The Blind Side and Disney’s The Alamo, has been trying to get this movie made since the 1993. Steven Spielberg ultimately passed on the material because he thought it was “too dark”, but maybe he simply thought the material was “too dull.” Regardless, the movie all but died on the shelf but twenty-eight years later it’s back. Sometimes, dead is better. Unfortunately, Hollywood hates killing off any opportunity to make a little extra cheddar, so what we ended up with is an undercooked, mundane serial killer thriller that might have existed with a shred of novelty if we hadn’t already seen Se7en, Zodiac and pretty much every other post 90s true crime docuseries or drama in existence. Denzel Washington and Rami Malek play the country’s least interesting cops in search of a serial killer that is most probably Jared Leto, his character not the actual real life Jared Leto. The film builds up this C+ mystery only to flounder into a half-assed, self-serious examination of the toll violent murder investigations take on detective’s personal lives. It also would have played much better before 2020 and #defundthepolice. The performances are mediocre to weak across the boards, with Denzel phoning it in harder than he ever has and Malek inexplicably thinking his character is half-lizard. You know you’re in serious trouble when Jared “throw spoogey condoms at co-stars and call it method acting” Leto is delivering the best performance of your movie, a startlingly mediocre but not awful showcase that has been inexplicably met with both Golden Globe and SAG award nominations. The movie’s visual style would be a plus if it wasn’t just a straight rip-off of David Fincher and cinematographer Harris Savides‘ work on Zodiac, a much more engaging, intelligent and suspenseful detective story than The Little Things could ever hope to be. Ultimately, this is a very forgettable crime story that isn’t even terrible enough to ironically watch. It’s just a lifeless dud. Grade: D+ (HBOMax)
Malcolm & Marie
I’ve been really enjoying the Euphoria one episode specials writer/director Sam Levinson and Zendaya have been dropping, so imagine my surprise and disappointment when their dialogue-driven single location film was such a bust. It’s not Zendaya and John David Washinton‘s fault, the poor things do the most they can with the characters. They’re playing possibly the two most insufferably self-obsessed and miserable people in Hollywood, no easy feat. While two awful characters can be the gateway to great drama, you have to develop them in a way where the audience is invested and we’re just left hating everything they do and every over-manufactured word they speak. The screenplay here is laughably overwrought, like Sorkin and Mamet fucked and had a hipster baby. How am I supposed to feel sorry for a self-assured breakout filmmaker who is throwing a ridiculously profanity-laden temper tantrum over getting a rave review from the LA Times because the journalist misinterpreted his work? How am I supposed to feel sorry for a woman who viciously emotionally abuses her successful partner because she’s jealous she didn’t get cast in the lead role? And who is so incapable of having an honest conversation about her feelings that she has to play him a Dionne Warwick song on her iPhone expressing her dilemma of loving him? Yes, the movie does bring up some very valid and important points about how black filmmakers and actors are often pigeon-holed into having to be political in their art, but it does it in a way that lacks the kind of nuance and indirectness dialogue-driven character pieces need in order to work. This is a very miserable and depressing way to spend two hours that doesn’t give you much of anything to take away. It’s saved in some part due to the strength of the two actors involved. I felt worse for them than their characters. Grace: C- (Netflix)