Licorice Pizza (2021) Review SSP

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Looking Back and Looking Forward: 2021

Clash of the titans: Legendary/Warner Bros

2021 was a better year than 2020 purely by virtue of big screen cinema being available for the majority of its months, so at least you could distract yourself more effectively from the world continuing collapse like a flan in a cupboard.

Following that cheery thought, and before I look to my top 20 films of 2021, I’ve picked 10 individual scenes I’ve yet to forget from this year’s cinematic offerings.

Best Scenes of 2021:

ANOTHER ROUND – Martin’s dance

Martin and his teacher friends have been on a journey of self-discovery and experimentation with alcohol, ending in tragedy for one of them, and an impromptu uninhibited let-it-all-out dance for Martin.

DUNE – Arriving on Arrakis

The House of Atreides land in their colossal ships on the resource-rich desert planet bequeathed to them by the Emperor and survey their new domain, with bonus space bagpipes accompaniment.


Faded performer Hugo tells aspiring drag queen Jamie his heartbreaking backstory of glitzy success and love in his youth cruelly ripped from him by the AIDS crisis in a heartbreaking musical montage.

GODZILLA VS KONG – Hong Kong clash

Godzilla and Kong, two alpha titans come face to face for the second time in spectacular fashion, their almighty Earth-shaking wrestling match bathed in the neon lights of the Hong Kong city skyline

MALIGNANT – Gabriel in the bullpen

Following this batshit horror’s audacious final act twist, relentless supernatural killer Gabriel is let loose in the bullpen of a crowded police station to slaughter all comers in stylishly splattery fashion.

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO – First night at the Café de Paris

Fashion student Ellie falls asleep in a Soho boarding house and wakes up in the swinging sixties, on the dance floor of the buzzing Café du Paris and somehow sharing bodies with a singer called Sandie dancing with a sleazy promoter called Jack.


Cassie’s plan for revenge against the men who raped her friend Nina comes to fruition with the most dramatic of dramatic timing, dumping a load of pre-recorded evidence against the perpetrators midway through a picturesque wedding reception.


Filmmaker Katie Matchell and her outdoorsman, technophobic dad Rick finally manage to put aside their differences and work together to stop a worldwide machine uprising utilising their childhood bonding song, TI and Rihanna’s “Live Your Life” to give their battle rhythm and humour.

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME – Portal to Peter Parker

With their own universe’s Peter AWOL, Ned and MJ use Doctor Strange’s sling ring to “find Peter Parker” and hilariously and inadvertently summon individuals that will cause a mass superhero fanboy wet dream.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD – Rats are the lowliest creatures

The Suicide Squad face impossible odds in their battle to defeat alien colossal Kaiju Starro the Conquerer, but a perfectly timed and emotional recollection from Ratcatcher II of her dad’s wisdom not to underestimate any living thing no matter how seemingly insignificant, plus a handy horde of rats, saves the day.

Now for my Top 20 films of 2021 screened in the UK in 2022. As always, there’s a holdover for some awards favourites not yet released over here, so I haven’t had the opportunity to see LICORICE PIZZA, BELFAST and THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH, not to mention some films that are absolutely my bag, baby, like Paul Verhoeven’s BENEDETTA.

Best Films of 2021:

20. LAST NIGHT IN SOHO Review in brief here.

19. THE GREEN KNIGHT Review in brief here.

18. PASSING Review in brief here.

17. SHITHOUSE/FRESHMAN YEAR Review in brief here.

16. LIMBO Review in brief here.

15. RIDERS OF JUSTICE Review in brief here.

14. NOMADLAND Review in brief here.

13. ANOTHER ROUND Review in brief here.

12. INSIDE (It’s a film, shut up!) Review in brief here.

11. ALI & AVA (film festival screening, released early 2022) Full review here.

10. GODZILLA VS KONG Full review here

9. SOUND OF METAL Review in brief here

8. WEST SIDE STORY Full review here.

7. THE SPARKS BROTHERS Review in brief here.

6. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN Review in brief here.

5. FIRST COW Review in brief here.

4. LIFE IN A DAY 2020 Review in brief here.

3. PETITE MAMAN Review in brief here.

2. THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES Review in brief here.

1. TITANE Full review here.

Happy New Year everyone, let’s try again for 2022, shall we? SSP

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10 Best Films 2021 SSP

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‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ at 15 – Review SSP

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Titane (2021) Review SSP

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Review in Brief: Petite Maman (2021)

Céline Sciama’s latest film PETITE MAMAN is an absolute delight, a gentle little exploration of family, friendship and grief. Ever wondered if you’d get along with your parents if you could meet them when they were children? Young Nelly gets to find out. “Why do you always ask questions before you sleep?” / “Because it’s when I see you”. As she proved with TOMBOY, Sciama knows the way to get a great performance out of a kid is to just let them play and be kids, to let their innate energy shine through. The story is a low-key magical realist piece with most of the big emotional hits coming from performance rather than dialogue or music, so it’s a good job Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz, playing eight year-old Nelly and the same aged version of her mother Marion, are such natural screen presences. SSP

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Review in Brief: The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

Well this is about as good as a really meta belated follow-up to THE MATRIX was ever going to be, which given Lana Wachowski’s return to direct the project means, pretty damn good. Decades after the events of the Matrix Trilogy, Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) find themselves trapped in a new and more sophisticated version of the Matrix simulation awaiting liberation by human freedom fighters lead by Bugs (Jessica Henwick). Wachowski comments on, and takes full advantage of how the real world’s society, culture and technology has changed over 20 years and, perhaps uniquely for a distinctive cinematic auteur, fully acknowledges that the preeminent art form today is video games, not film. As with all of the Matrix sequels, the philosophising in RESURRECTIONS can be laboured and tedious, but the dazzling presentation, flow of the action and the wealth of new ideas on show makes it well worth another trip down the rabbit hole. SSP

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Review in Brief: The Souvenir: Part II (2021)

Not many indie films get sequels, but Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical drama following grieving film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) was a story that demanded continuation. It’s a compelling tale that will make a profound emotional connection with many, and many more will appreciate the playful way Hogg looks at the filmmaking process and soulful expression through the medium. Hogg has expressed desire to do a musical somewhere down the line, and a scene here where Richard Ayoade’s entertainingly abrasive filmmaker is busy shooting one makes this a particularly enticing prospect. Julie’s frustrated creation of her final graduation film, inspired by her personal life and helping her search for explanations to life’s great unknowns, makes up the majority of THE SOUVENIR II’s runtime to captivating effect, semi-fantastical vignettes and warm domestic interludes with her nice but posh and out-of-touch parents (Tilda Swinton and James Spencer Ashworth) providing added emotional heft along the way. SSP

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A Christmas Carol Films Ranked SSP

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Review in Brief: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Despite a few laboured franchise references and a script that’s not always firing on all cylinders, SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME serves as a crowd-pleasing and fittingly ambitious third part of the Jon Watts/Tom Holland trilogy. Peter’s (Holland) secret identity has been exposed to the world, so in order to avoid the wrong kind of attention for himself and especially his friends MJ and Ned (Zendaya and Jacob Batalon) he goes to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a corrective spell that goes spectacularly wrong. As gleefully fun as all the universe-hopping and brawls with multiple returning villains is, when the film is at its strongest is in the less flashy moments when Holland can really flex his dramatic muscles and wrestle with the dilemmas of what it really means to be Spider-Man. Destined to be picked over by diehard Spidey-fans for a long time to come. SSP

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