Another summer movie season has come and gone. While the impact of summer movies weren’t as strong as past years due to the still ongoing pandemic. There were still a slew of great summer films premiering in theaters and on streaming. In my usual tradition I have assembled my top 10 list of the best summer movies of 2021. Here I present to you A-Ron’s Best Of Summer Movies 2021!
Premiering on streaming service Paramount+ and theaters the same day. Nick Jr.’s super popular “Paw Patrol” is a phenomenon and has been a huge deal to young children for eight seasons (currently on it’s ninth). It’s really surprising to see it’s taken this long for the creators to bring the exploits of the canine rescue team to the big screen. But the pups have finally gotten their big screen due, in their first feature length big screen appearance. Director Cal Brunker doesn’t waste his opportunity to give us one of the most entertaining films of the summer season. Brunker manages to bring the thrills of the “Paw Patrol” legacy on a grander cinematic scale, offering a literal action packed widescreen feature. The action scenes can be pretty chaotic in a mix of big scale sequences inspired from the Marvel, Fast & The Furious, Mission Impossible and James Bond movies. Who knew that “Paw Patrol: The Movie” would have some of the best action scenes of the summer movie season? “Paw Patrol: The Movie” visits some hard hitting themes that include a plot of political corruption, unpacking trauma, PTSD and facing your fears. The film is engaging, funny, wonderful, has incredible pacing, big energy and is a tenderly entertaining film that is big screen fun for the whole family. Don’t call me a Paw Patroler just yet. But if they keep making movies like this one, then I just may binge watch a season or two or three or all eight.
“Cruella” (in theaters and on Disney+ this weekend), is the next live action take on Disney’s iconic puppy killer villainess. Executive produced by actress Glenn Close and star Emma Stone. “Cruella” isn’t a continuation of the original story and instead screenwriters Dana Fox and Tony McNamara are starting fresh by giving “Cruella” a “Joker” type makeover. The screenwriters and director Craig Gillespie attempt to transform a woman who once wanted to skin puppies alive and wear their fur, into a sympathetic character and make her into a protagonist that was misunderstood by society. Set in London, during the 1970s at the height of the punk rock movement that gives the film that punk rock style, with a splash of DC comic book madness. Loaded with pop song needle drops throughout in the best soundtrack to any movie in probably over a decade, featuring some risky song choices including The Rolling Stones “Sympathy For The Devil”. Academy Award winner Emma Stone gives it her all and does well in the title role of Cruella, while managing to give it her own spin. “Cruella” isn’t for the little ones and aimed more for the older Hot Topic tweens and grown adults. Armed with a PG-13 rating, director Craig Gillespie has delivered a clever, beautifully rendered, devilishly offbeat story with a wildly entertaining performance from Emma Stone. “Cruella” is dark, mature, clever, exhilarating, wonderfully devilish and wickedly fun. I’ve already seen it twice and will see it again this weekend in theaters. I love this movie and I can’t wait for what I hope will get a sequel.
Hollywood filmmaker Roland “The Master Of Disaster” Emmerich produces “The Colony”, the second feature film from Swiss filmmaker Tim Fehlbaum. “The Colony” is an atmospheric sci-fi tale, mixing in a genuinely suspenseful thriller that boasts superb set design and bleak visually stunning visuals. Creating all of the films gritty look is Markus Förderer’s cinematography filling in the films 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio, that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. I can only imagine what “The Colony” would have been like had Emmerich directed it. But don’t count Fehlbaum out, because he is a director to watch for in Hollywood. He hasn’t only made “The Colony” to be one of the most visually arresting films of the year, but also one of my favorite films of 2021. This is one to check out.
After winning an Oscar for best picture winner “Spotlight”, six years ago. Actor, writer and director Tom McCarthy returns with the inspired by true story “Stillwater”. Receiving a five minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, Matt Damon turns in a compelling performance that is one of his finest. McCarthy drops us right into the middle of the story and let’s it all unfold throughout it’s lengthy 2 hour and 20 minute running time. “Stillwater” juggles different genres that leaves it’s lengthy runtime, oddly feeling rushed at times. While not a perfect movie, McCarthy still lays on the suspense and brings some heart wrenching moments into a provocative, stirring, enthralling and ambitious affair. “Stillwater” is led by a great performance from Matt Damon, while McCarthy’s direction feels like a throwback to films of the 70’s. Presenting “Stillwater”, as a deeply personal human drama that is disguised as a crime thriller. We just don’t get movies like these very often anymore.
“Pig” is a return to acting form for Nicolas Cage. The one time Oscar winner (“Leaving Las Vegas”) hasn’t been this good since 2009’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans” and 2013’s “Joe”. While “Pig” has the set-up to be a “John Wick” style revenge actioner that replaces a kidnapped pig for a murdered dog. This is no “John Wick-ian” tale of vengeance. Instead “Pig” is a unique, original, brutal, elegant, mournful, captivating and often beautifully filmed story that mixes in the wilderness of films such as Robert Redford’s “Jeremiah Johnson” and cooking movies like Bradley Cooper’s “Burnt”. Making his writing and directing debut, Michael Sarnoski beautifully directs “Pig” in a stunning debut, with exquisite cinematography. Shot in only 20 days and given no budget for re-shoots or any delays. Cage delivers a performance of subtle greatness, grabbing every inch of the screen without hamming it up in that Nicolas Cage trademark way and dominating every scene in which he has little to no dialogue. But believe the hype because “Pig” is one of the best films of the year.
Steven Soderbergh does triple duty as the films director, cinematographer and editor for his new film, “No Sudden Move”. Premiering in select theaters and on HBO Max, his crime caper is an homage to crime films of the 50’s and author Elmore Leonard. It plays as a great companion piece to Soderbergh’s other Detroit set thriller “Out of Sight”. Soderbergh’s cast is mind blowing and the best ensemble of the year that includes: Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Brendan Fraser, Jon Hamm, and Ray Liotta. “No Sudden Move” will have most heads spinning as the audience tries to keep track of all the double and triple crosses among the large cast in Soderbergh’s labyrinthine heist film that requires close attention. This is the exact kind of film you can appreciate and catch all of the little details and story developments even more upon a second viewing. “No Sudden Move” is a solid crime thriller by one of the great eclectic American filmmakers, in another proof that you never know where Soderbergh is going to go next in what is one of the most impressive directing careers of our time.
Kevin Hart’s Netflix film “Fatherhood”, which he also executive produces is another win for the streaming service. Based on the real life of Matthew Logelin and his New York Times bestselling nonfiction book “Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love”. Kevin Hart knocks this one out of the park in his absolute best performance. He delivers one of his more understated, authentic, true, kind and believable performances. Every moment Hart and young actress Melody Hurd share on screen together, their chemistry is like lightning and we believe them as father and daughter. Director Paul Weitz’s film is briskly paced, simply told, consistently sweet tale that plays so effortlessly on screen. Netflix has released another winner and gave me one of my favorite films I saw this year. I fell in love with this one.
In another same day release in theaters and on HBO Max. Warner Bros has reunited with their “Westworld” writer, director and producer Lisa Joy for her first big screen film. “Reminiscence” is a futuristic neo-noir, romance thriller that blends Lisa Joy’s love of film noir and cutting edge sci-fi, to deliver the goods in a movie that feature solid technical effects and stunning cinematography. There are many cinematic comparisons to “Inception”, “Chinatown”, “Minority Report” and even Lisa Joy’s “Westworld”. But it evokes Ralph Finnes, 1995 underrated “Strange Days” the most, as it’s biggest influence. Starring Aussie hunk Hugh Jackman, who has proven time and again that he is a bona fide movie star and here in “Reminiscence”, it’s just another prime example of that. While he embodies the perfect noir protagonist with an obsession to finding the truth. His performance reminded me of past roles from Michael Douglas, who would have been a great choice had “Reminiscence”, been made a couple decades ago. Lisa Joy weaves out a plot that feels right at home with the classic pulp detective stories it seeks to pay homage to. She also creatively injects a couple of great action sequences into the mix. It’s a big summer sci-fi thriller that is well worth taking the time to see on the big screen. While I watched it at home on HBO Max, I’ll be finding the time to re-watch this one in theaters.
Believe the hype, because “In The Heights” is a cinematic experience unlike any other. Sure you can experience it at home on HBO Max, but this one is meant for the theater going experience. Anthony Ramos leads the best ensemble cast of the year that includes my new crush Melissa Barrera, who will be the next big star in Hollywood. Every song is infectious, it makes you stomp your feet, with every burst of color and it’s gravity defying performances. There’s a lot of themes running through “In the Heights”, with it’s passion for the Latin history and culture. But it’s also about hopes, dreams and never giving up on your goals. Lin Manuel Miranda and Jon M. Chu gives us a glorious throwback to the big screen Hollywood musicals in the heyday of MGM. “In The Heights” is well on its way to joining the great classic screen musicals. There’s no better film to make a return to movie theaters than seeing one of the liveliest, foot stomping and moving films you’re likely to see this year. One of the years absolute best and one of the best film experiences of my life. I loved every single minute, every single frame and it’s a film that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
I absolutely adore and love the AppleTV+ film “Coda” so much that this is my favorite film and I have yet to see a better movie this year. If this ends up as my best movie of the year, I won’t be surprised because this one is going to be hard to beat. Premiering as the opening night movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Apple bought the rights for an all time festival price of $25 million. “Coda” has the same movie magic power that Sundance darling “Little Miss Sunshine” had back in 2006. And it’s Sundance’s best opening night movie since 2014’s “Whiplash” and “Coda” has that same power to become a cross over hit as both previously mentioned films did. Emilia Jones gives a complete breakout performance and is a full-on star in the lead role. There is no question that we will be seeing a whole lot of her and just as phenomenal is her supporting cast. Featuring real hearing impaired actors Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant and Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, all make up the best ensemble cast of the year. “Coda” has moments of real dramatic and comedic power, while remaining sweet and sharply written. It deserves to be a major Oscar contender in all of it’s major categories. “Coda” will be hard to top as the best film of the year. Breakout hits like this are the reason I love film festivals like Sundance and why I love movies in general. It’s as perfect as movies can get.