Industry News: Golden Globes 2021 Watch List

Movies and TV will be honored Feb. 28, 2021 on NBC.

This year the movie and TV awards seasons shifted a bit later than usual, with Golden Globes, a celebration of both media, airing this Sunday, Feb. 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET hosted at the Beverly Hilton by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler with nominees “zooming in” from homes. The mysterious nominating committee – the Hollywood Foreign Press – is known for anointing Oscar and Emmy darlings and also for making some curious choices like calling out a little-seen movie by pop star Sia (Music) and a creepy performance by Jared Leto (The Little Things). Most of the shows and movies are streaming, so you can either catch up on many of these or decide if some should be binged after the winners are revealed.

On the TV front, Golden Globes nominees love royalty, so expect The Crown and two of its stars, Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson, to receive lots of love. The Globes will also want to show retroactive love for Schitt’s Creek, the popular comedy it neglected for five seasons, and they may show TV veteran Jason Bateman continued affection for his dark thriller Ozark.

Two popular stars, Kaley Cuoco and Jason Sudeikis, are likely to be noticed for offbeat hits Flight Attendant and Ted Lasso, respectively. And the popular Queen’s Gambit and its star Anya Taylor-Joy should checkmate into the winner’s circle for the limited series category. Two intergalactic action movie stars, John Boyega and Mark Ruffalo are big contenders for intimate turns in TV roles on Small Axe and I Know This Much is True.

As far as movies go, expect love for the buzzy films Promising Young Woman, Trial of the Chicago 7 and the Borat sequel. Sacha Baron Cohen is in the latter two, with a drama/comedy double hitter, and the Globes producers will absolutely want to hear him do an acceptance speech. The late Chadwick Boseman may factor in for a posthumous Globe for his impressive role in Ma Rainey’s Black BottomCarey Mulligan of Promising Young Woman and Maria Bakalova as Borat’s daughter in the comedy sequel look to be among the feted. Daniel Kaluuya, who many know from Get Out, appears to have momentum for his charismatic performance in Judas and the Black Messiah.

You should also hear some awards love for the animated Soul and the Korean-American family drama Minari. The just-released trek through unexpected America, Nomadlandis a likely winner for its female director, Chloe Zhao, who we may see again come Oscar time in April.

Movie Review: Woman in Motion (2021)

Now streaming on digital and on-demand.

This nostalgic and uplifting documentary is a testament to the notion that representation matters and a surprising tale of a hidden figure in the space program who changed the institution forever for the better. Todd Thompson’s Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA (B) is the true story of how renowned Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols, known for her iconic Uhura character, pioneered the NASA recruiting program to hire people of color and the first female astronauts for the space agency in the late 1970s and 1980s. The film chronicles its subject’s life as a singer who performed with Duke Ellington, her launch into stardom in the boundary-breaking sci-fi property and ultimately her fiction-turned-fact work national blitz to recruit 8,000 of the nation’s best and brightest, including astronauts who became the first African-American, Asian and Latino men and women to fly into space. As a subject, Nichols is compelling, although too brief in direct interviews and footage. It’s wonderful to see interviews with other luminaries ranging from the late John Lewis and co-star George Takei to Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Seeing history through Nichols’ eyes and her indelible impact on real-life events delivers a powerful punch. Although the film is a bit linear in its guardrails of telling a chronological story, it does so with gusto and quiet might. It’s a must-see for Star Trek fans and budding scientists who will undoubtedly find new ways to be inspired by this trailblazer.

Movie Review: I Care a Lot (2021)

Now on Netflix.

A filmmaker’s ability to manipulate viewers to root for despicable characters is the grift that keeps on giving. A scorching dark comedy about modern day capitalism wrapped in the trappings of a dark comedic bonbon, J. Blakeson’s I Care a Lot (B) coasts on the chain-vaping, stiletto-spiked, impeccably-bobbed charisma of Rosamund Pike who absolutely demands your attention in a sharklike lead role. Her swaggering character works the system, a veritable wolf of independent living as she gains guardianship over elderly victims and then scams them with abandon. She gets more than she bargained for when a character played by a feisty Dianne Wiest becomes her latest prey, and mean-spirited highjinks ensue. The antihero’s machinations are so clever that the events of the final acts have a hard time measuring up, even though much of the escalating action is indeed quite thrilling. The punchy verve of the storytelling and amusing encounters with icy adversaries such as Chris Messina and Peter Dinklage draw the audience in deeply to the intrigue. Eiza González is also gently effective as Pike’s love interest and partner in crime, in a duo not likely to win any GLAAD Awards (hey, villainesses deserve love too!) The film ultimately swallows a few too many poison pills; but in its essence, it’s a madcap ride tracking the escapades of this brilliantly played scheme queen. 

Movie Review: The Mauritanian (2021)

There’s a compelling story seeking its sweet freedom in Kevin Macdonald’s circuitous Guantánamo Bay detention camp legal drama The Mauritanian (B-), but it takes a frustratingly obtuse approach to its subject. Jodie Foster’s defense attorney character enters the lair of Tahar Rahim’s imprisoned man in shadows as if fava beans and a nice cannibal-endorsed Chianti are on the menu, but the film subverts expectations as the incarcerated man in this case may or may not be guilty of 9/11 terrorist crimes. Rahim is the revelation here, charming and complex in his origin story and flashbacks that comprise the heart of the film, with sequences blocked like home movies compared to more procedural sequences. It’s a treat to see Foster do what she does best, serious and singleminded of purpose as she endeavors to protect the rule of law and the man she’s defending. Less successful are an underused Shaleine Woodley as her bland junior legal colleague and Benedict Cumberbatch as a boring military prosecutor with a Southern accent that seems to just be begging, “Why am I not being played by Dennis Quaid?” The film is dotted with interesting details for courtroom and cover-up fans, but little of it levels up to much of a breakthrough. Still, it’s a solid showcase for Rahim and a welcome return for Foster, which should silence the lambasters.

Movie Review: Minari (2021)

Now in limited theatrical release.

Kimchi meets kudzu in the ravishingly gorgeous family story of an immigrant South Korean family making its way in ‘80s Arkansas in Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari (A). Steven Yeun is noble, quiet and towering as the father torn between his family and his farm, and because duty often eclipses being daddy, he consistently disappoints his mate portrayed  by Han Ye-Ri, a performance of grit, grace and melancholy. Veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung turns in one of the great cinematic supporting performances as a spry grandma, a highlight of her every scene as she cusses her way through card games, pilfers from the church offering plate and guzzles “mountain water” sodas between moments of selfless love; and Alan Kim may be one of the cutest kids to ever appear on screen as the family’s precocious youngster with a heart murmur and a penchant for proclaiming what’s really on his mind.  The latter two provide the comic heart of the movie to punctuate some of the Steinbeckian drama afoot between the parents trying to make ends meet and their marriage work against a backdrop of occasional earth, wind and fire eruptions. Chung captures a semi-autobiographical story with a dreamlike gaze, exploring topics of fortitude and faith with the skills of a master. Who knew the hillbilly elegy promised moviegoers would tap into Asian origins? The film offers a slow burn tale told with deep respect and reverence for its characters, and it doesn’t miss a beat in its rural authenticity or its snapshots of bygone traditions. Its series of small moments swell into a satisfying final act, and the full effect grows on you like the movie’s titular watercress vines, pulling viewers in and adding moving details which are the spice of life.

Movie Review: Malcolm and Marie (2021)

Now on Netflix.

There’s little arguing about a two-star review for this dramatic showcase of two stars arguing, except maybe that’s too generous. Sam Lewinson’s pretentious meta two-hander Malcolm and Marie (D+) traces a contentious evening between a filmmaker fresh off a feted premiere (a confident and prickly John David Washington) and his somewhat spurned girlfriend/muse (a feisty and sometimes furious Zendaya). The two actors are basically the charged objects of a conversation story largely set during one fraught night in a modern mansion. For its entire running time, this stylish black and white film circles the drain, a trite tempest in a teacup with enough disparate theses to fill a semester of dissertations. None of it lands: not the panel on jealousy, not the discourse about film appreciation, not the seminar on appropriating loved ones into art. It’s a veritable fantasia of unpleasantness, blocked and mannered into a pulverized oblivion, blunting the skills and charms of the talented actors into becoming nearly unwatchable. The fact that Washington and Zendaya have select moments of authentic, acrobatic acting on display simply underscores that most of the film is an obtuse downer not worth the journey.

Movie Review: The Little Things (2021)

In theatres and streaming on HBO Max.

Folks, move along; there’s nothing to see here! John Lee Hancock’s extremely average homicide thriller The Little Things (C-) pairs Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as investigators of a string of murders, and a beguiling Jared Leto is getting some inexplicable awards buzz for playing a strange guy who may be connected to the killings. Far from his top-shelf performances, Washington does get to milk some anguish and obsession in some moody moments as he chews up the scenery of the urban atmosphere. Malek is both miscast and underwritten as it’s rather unclear what he brings to the table in the search for the serial killer. Leto limps and uses a strange look and affectation to create a memorable supporting performance, but he’s not really much of a character either. The film overall cribs from much better neo-noirs, and if it gets any comparisons to Se7en, it should subtract a few numerals. After a poorly paced procedural, the payoff isn’t really all that interesting either. These three acclaimed actors deserved a much bigger and better thing.

Movie Review: The White Tiger (2021)

Now streaming on Netflix.

An alternately frenetic and mellow dharma about the haves and have nots of India, Ramin Bahrani’s The White Tiger (B+) follows a mesmerizing Adarsh Gourav as a clever servant driver in his endeavor to out-caste his lowly station. In his breakthrough lead role, Gourav charismatically carries viewers into a journey through religion, rags to riches and even revenge. Early on in this panoramic genre hopper, the film postulates that the only way out of poverty is via crime or politics; and the subsequent juxtaposition of slum dogs in ascent and lap dogs in downward spiral is a whirling wonder to behold. Rajkummer Rao and Priyanka Chopra Jonas are effective foils as the upper class couple considered the masters over the protagonist’s fate. One fateful bon-pyre of the vanities sparks a veritable Vaidikas of incredible surprises. Bahrani impressively nails the execution in this downright Dickensian literary adaptation filled with both destitute denizens and opulent oppressors. The emotional camerawork and pulsating hip hop score effectively follow the complex story archs through a triumph of tonal shifts. A breakout lead, deeply flawed characters, biting comedy, sharp social commentary and gripping moments of intimacy and action help propel this film into a dark date with destiny.

Movie Review: More Than Miyagi (2021)

Available Feb. 5, 2021 on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, DVD and Blu-ray.

Director Kevin Derek’s melancholy documentary More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story (B-) traces the titular Japanese-American actor’s journey from origins as a sick child witnessing internment camps to a man who masked his troubled soul with comedy, alcohol and of course an iconic role as cinema’s iconic sensei. Through home movies and sentimental stories told by actor and crew colleagues plus the love of his life and his third wife Evelyn Guerrero-Morita, viewers get a glimpse into a singular and trailblazing pop cultural personality known for his (Garry) Marshall comedies as well as his martial arts. Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Henry Winkler and Marion Ross are among those celebrating their friend, even as the film plumbs the depths of the late Oscar nominee’s addictions which weren’t necessarily known by his fans. The film hovers around a variety of themes ranging from overcoming racial stereotypes to finding one’s voice, even if Derek doesn’t always land a clear thesis or consistently effective style. But when waxing (on) poetic about this icon, the filmmakers find greatness in a flawed but formidable man.

Note: Available Feb. 5, 2021 on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, DVD and Blu-ray.

Early Movie Review: Happy Cleaners (2021)

Available in select theatres Feb. 5, 2021 and on demand Feb. 12, 2021.

There’s memory and money in laundering as one Korean-American family comes to grips with transitions of their business and domestic life in Julian Kim and Peter S. Lee’s delightful drama Happy Cleaners (B). Yun Jeong and Yeena Sung effectively portray twentysomething siblings Kevin and Hyunny who grapple with entrepreneurial and romantic dreams while under the same roof as their parents (authentically played by Charles Ryu and Hyang-hwa Lim) who try to make ends meet at their Flushing, New York dry cleaners. Family meals provide both forum and balm for much of the conflict around finances and tradition. For these immigrants, there’s no order slip or recipe for creating and maintaining an ordered home of aligned expectations. Characters must learn to reconcile and compromise and occasionally jettison outdated notions. In the film’s details, Kim and Lee demonstrate the pride of characters to make their own way in the world without financial assistance and showcase many of the singular struggles of second generation Americans to find their space. Although full of a low boil of conflict, the film’s tone is largely optimistic and sentimental and the characters endearing. Viewers will likely see themselves in this family’s dynamics.

Movie Review: Palmer (2021)

Now streaming on Apple+.

Known more as a boy band grad who transitioned to soulful superstardom in his own right, Justin Timberlake says bye bye bye to just being a celebrity in occasional cameos and thrusts his thespian chops to a fierce forefront. Palmer (B-) by director Fisher Stevens is decent in every sense of the word, an earnest yet predictable movie about redemption and resiliency featuring JT as an ex-con with a heart of gold and child actor Ryder Allen as the gender-nonconforming boy next door who benefits from a non-judgmental father figure. The genuine goodness of the stoic single man’s burgeoning paternal qualities with the princess-loving preteen is the heart of the story and often quite affecting. Timberlake is in nearly every scene of the movie and endearing in his performance, and yet it’s still hard to connect to his past crimes and circumstances. We don’t really get much of a glimpse into his worst instincts. Allen is a revelation as his fanciful foil. But despite some seeming detours to the dark side, most of the movie sticks to formula. Alisha Wainwright is a standout with a committed performance as a teacher and love interest; but like participants in many of the plot threads, her character remains a bit underdeveloped. Still it’s a largely sunny discovery of a film and, if in case the notion were ever lost, it’s bringin’ sexy sentimentality back.

Movie Review: Supernova (2021)

Now in theatres.

This is one of those movies in which you really need flashbacks to when the characters may have been much more interesting. Playing loving partners of twenty years in Harry Macqueen’s slog of a road trip through the British countryside, Supernova (C), Colin Firth’s pianist must come to grips with revelations from Stanley Tucci as his lover, an author battling onset dementia. Firth gives the better performance and is often quietly moving. Tucci is adequate but not particularly revelatory in an underwritten role. The sad descent is sensitively handled, and the two actors acquit themselves admirably with tender material. Alas sequences on the road have the allure of one of those calming apps that helps you sleep, and none of the stops – including a mundane family reunion and a charmless rental house – hold much appeal or allure. Aside from the fact that it’s two rather well-known actors who aren’t gay playing gay, there’s really not much to see here that hasn’t been covered in other melodramas. Cosmic metaphors and the theme that even two people living in the tight quarters of a camper van can hold secrets from one another don’t really enliven the proceedings much either. I may have liked the epilogue sequence more than I should have. This movie gets points for tackling a Big Issue from an alternative perspective but ultimately feels lost somewhere between treacly and perfunctory.