I say this with the utmost honesty, that despite the initial criticism of “Wish” looking like generic AI produced junk, I was very optimistic about it. I defended it often. I loved Ariana DeBose in “West Side Story,” I’m a big fan of Chris Pine, I love Alan Tudyk, so its just so sad that Chris Buck, and Fawn Veerasunthorn’s “Wish” really does end up feeling like Disney is going for the bare minimum with audiences. In a year filled with humongous milestones like the 100 year anniversary and the SAG and WGA strike (which hurt their image with a lot of audiences), you’d assume Disney would pull out all of the stops for their newest animated movie.
What I loved about “The Spine of Night” is that directors Philip Gelatt, and Morgan Galen King don’t shy away from the fact that their movie is meant to be a modern “Heavy Metal.” It’s an unabashed celebration of Ralph Bakshi, Frank Frazetta, steam punk, and heavy metal right down to the rotoscoping animation that is used to bring the film’s vision to life. The animation is right on par with what you’d expect from the master Ralph Bakshi but I was happy that the pair of directors who write the film kept true to the story that they were telling through the very end.
Inside “Heroes of the Golden Mask” there’s a great film desperate to bust out. It has a cool concept, some solid animation, and a neat mythology behind it. It’s just once you get down to the nit and grit of the narrative and some lingering plot holes, it never rises above being just average. It’s definitely a direct to video kind of animated movie better suited for basic cable, despite its best efforts. That’s not for lack of trying, though. Director Sean Patrick O’Reilly has a large career in producing budget animation. He and Arcana Studios have helped engineer titles such as “The Steam Engines of Oz,” and the mildly amusing “Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom.”
It’s been almost thirty five years since we saw any semblance of “Gremlins” entertainment rear its scaley head. Now in the midst of reviving old IP’s HBO and Warner take a shot on reviving Joe Dante’s classic film series. “Secrets of the Mogwai” is thankfully built very much in the vein of the classic 1984 film, and less like “The New Batch.” It’s a dark fantasy (with charming animation obviously influenced by LAIKA Studios) with a lot of harrowing action and terror, but also revels in the inherent awe and wonder of Gizmo and the concept of the Gremlins, twisted as they may be.
We are in desperate need of a fantasy movie renaissance, and I truly hope “Honor Among Thieves” is the one to lead the charge. It takes a true D&D fan to really know how to bring this universe to life and director John Francis Daly rises to the challenge brilliantly. “Honor Among Thieves” is one of the more refreshing genre pictures of 2023; it’s a movie that is filled with so much appeal for any audience. I dare say that it might even open the door to a new generation of players.
One of the things I loved about “Love and Thunder” is that Taika Waititi holds true to the message that Stan Lee held for his heroes. Anyone can be Spider-Man. Anyone can be an X-Men, and in “Love and Thunder” anyone can be a mythic hero. While it does in a sense take away value from the concept of Mjölnir, the concept behind “Love and Thunder” is a wholesome one, one that celebrates its audience of children and inspires heroism in the vein of virtue and morality and less on revenge or malice.
There was simply too much released in 2021 to catch everything that I wanted to, or intended to see before the end of the year. That’s either a great thing or a bad thing depending on your schedule. In either case, with the influx of movies being released every single week, I managed to catch some fantastic gems that kept me entertained, thriller, and stunned. 2021 had its share of stinkers, but it also bounced back from the lull in 2020 with some bangers, to boot. This is ten of the best I saw this year.
Of course I’ll still be playing catch up with 2021 over the next month.
Streaming On: fuboTV, Amazon Prime Video, Philo, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Apple TV, Vudu, Sling TV
2011 seems like such a long time ago when you consider the career that Jason Momoa has had since then. He’s been in one of the biggest fantasy series of all time, was in a hit comic book movie as an iconic aquatic superhero, has led acclaimed dramas and crime thrillers, and seems to release a new movie or two every single year. Back in 2011 he was simply just a newcomer who was replacing Arnold Schwarzenneger in the reboot of “Conan the Barbarian.”