Okay, let’s do the bad news first: 2020 changed the movie industry forever, or at least for the foreseeable future. The way films are released, the way we engage with them, and the rate at which they come out is different now than it was a year ago and there’s no telling when or if there’ll be a return to normal.
On the bright side, good movies still exist. They’re still being made, remastered, and re-released as limited theatrical runs, on streaming services, and from boutique home media outlets like Criterion and Arrow Video, who specialize in bringing old films back better than ever before. Whether you’re rediscovering an old favorite thanks to one of those flashy new releases or taking in some of the new films 2021 has to offer, these are the movies you need to add to your watch list this year (full disclosure, some of these came out last year but weren’t widely available until recently).
Translating live theater to film is hard enough as it is. Throw in live theater that heavily relies on sleight-of-hand magic and illusions and the sort of intimacy a performer can only create with his audience when they’re in the room with him and you’ve got an uphill battle. Thankfully, director Frank Oz was up to the challenge when it came to bringing master illusionist Derek DelGaudio’s acclaimed stage show In & Of Itself to the small screen. Part magic show, part confessional, and part group therapy session, there’s nothing quite like it.
Academy Award-winning actress Regina King made her directorial debut with this stunner now streaming on Amazon Prime. It’s an imagined scenario based on true events, depicting the coming together of four icons (Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke) who meet in the aftermath of Ali’s legendary defeat of Sonny Liston to discuss their lives and the shifting racial landscape of the United States. Packed with powerhouse performances from its four leads, you’re sure to see this one grabbing some Oscar nominations soon enough.
Did you catch the trailer for Godzilla vs. Kong? Finding yourself in the mood for some kaiju action? The folks at Arrow Video have you covered. Their new Gamera box set collects the trilogy of films directed by Shusuke Kaneko, to this day some of the great monster movies of all time. The restoration is gorgeous and it comes with some stunning box art and a great lineup of special features sure to satisfy longtime kaiju enthusiasts and newbies alike.
An adaptation of the 2008 novel of the same name, The White Tiger is one of the first must-see Netflix original films of the year. It’s a darkly comic rags-to-riches story like no other, following a young man from a poor village in India who becomes the personal driver for the upper-class son of a local landlord. Fans of 2019's Parasite would do well to check this one out.
Perhaps the first true must-see film of the year based on buzz alone. Emerald Fennell’s dark, moody satire features a career-best performance from Carey Mulligan as well as, well, just about every other actor involved. It’s a tough watch best experienced spoiler-free, and the controversial ending is sure to rock you to your core. Long-delayed after its premiere on the festival circuit in 2020, this one has been well worth the wait.