That '70s Flick

Paul Thomas Anderson/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Licorice Pizza (2021)

Essentially Paul Thomas Anderson’s take on “Once Upon a Time in . . . Hollywood,” “Licorice Pizza” is ’70s nostalgia peppered with sketchy Tinseltown lore and auteurist details variously recalling “Boogie Nights,” “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Inherent Vice,” revolving around the puppy love between 16-year-old child star Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of Philip Seymour) and arrested-developed 25-year-old Alana Kane (Alana Haim, of the namesake band) in the 1973 San Fernando Valley.

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Homeland Insecurity

Rob Youngson/Focus Features

Belfast (2021)

In a movie about people whose lives are torn apart by terrorism, it’s pretty bad to reduce your audience to rooting for the bombs, but here it’s the only rational choice. The only innovation in Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” is to make the tax situation of one family as important as the sectarian violence busting out all over. Otherwise no cliché of the Troubles or life in ’60s Ireland is forgotten. Critics who don’t know the city of Belfast are salivating over this movie. Critics who do are finding praise sticking in the throat.

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Crash and Burn

Alberto Novelli

Three Floors (2021)

Three decades ago, Nanni Moretti was dubbed the Italian Woody Allen on these shores. Fortunately, he reinvented himself as a Serious Filmmaker two decades ago with “The Son’s Room,” way ahead of Mr. Allen’s public fall from grace and Hong Sang-soo embracing his own Korean Woody Allen designation to the point of self-parody. Lately however, Mr. Moretti seems to be stuck in a rut. There’s a point in his new film, “Three Floors,” where he takes a literal beating. Enough! It’s something the Mr. Moretti from “Dear Diary” might have winced at. (Incidentally, he took to Instagram to let everyone know he winced at “Titane.”)

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Putting It Together

Josh Barrett/A24

The Souvenir Part II (2021)

“The Souvenir Part II” is, in essence, the making of “The Souvenir,” Joanna Hogg’s maybe autography about Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), the Sloane Ranger-y student enrolled at the Raynham Film School (stand-in for Ms. Hogg’s alma mater, the National Film and Television School) and living in Knightsbridge, who perpetually feigns a smile as her forehead tightens. The school seemingly expects her well-to-do folks (Tilda Swinton, Ms. Swinton Byrne’s real-life mum, and James Spencer Ashworth) to bankroll her student projects. They do, and in turn she takes some of the hard-begged handouts to support the drug habit and wastrel lifestyle of The Worst Fuckboi Ever, Anthony (Tom Burke).

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Chaos Reigns


True Things (2021)

Some people lead messy lives. They can’t get out of bed in the morning. They can’t get to work on time. You don’t have to relate to them. You don’t even have to like them. You must, however, recognize their existence. There really haven’t been many movies about these folks. “Four Weddings and a Funeral” seems to be the last to leave a lasting impression, and that’s almost three decades ago. “True Things” is one such movie though, about an individual who can’t get her act together and doesn’t bother trying.

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Future Perfect

Courtesy photo

Chal Mera Putt 3 (2021)

“Chal Mera Putt 3” bears more resemblance to an entry in a blockbuster franchise than to the 2019 Punjabi sleeper hit that spawned it. The latest sequel is a blast, but it feels for the most part like a feature-length epilogue to the previous two films. Every plot in it is tangential.

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Spies Like Him

Nicola Dove/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

No Time to Die (2021)

Danny Boyle could easily have been installed as honorary co-monarch of the United Kingdom by a grateful populace in 2012 after his efforts to bolster the national morale via the Olympics opening ceremony, five minutes of which involved him directing Daniel Craig as James Bond for a quick cutaway gag. Since 2012 the United Kingdom has fallen to bits like a clown car and deep-sea divers continue to hunt for the national morale; but James Bond himself has carried right on, fixed on the course set by "Skyfall" that same fateful year, and which reaches its final destination in "No Time to Die." Mr. Boyle was due to reunite with both Mr. Craig and 007 as director of the new film, before being replaced by Cary Fukunaga. It seems a safe bet that disagreements over that destination played a part.

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Emotional Laborer

Robert Viglasky/Sony Pictures Classics

Mothering Sunday (2021)

Based on Graham Swift’s 2016 novel, “Mothering Sunday” is another absolutely pointless reminiscence about a bygone era of wars, manners and servitude, when well-bred society people (Olivia Colman! Colin Firth!) indeed suffered real loss and tragedy – and not the elective and entirely preventable kind such as Lehman Brothers or Covid-19 – yet remained undeterred to meet for picnics and dinners just to trade barbs, throw hissy fits and be awful.

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Carole Bethuel/Neon

Titane (2021)

If you are going to see “Titane” – which, as a bona fide patron of the arts, you should; it’s won Palme d’or and all – you’d be best advised to go in cold. Engaging with it here on any beyond-the-bare-bones level – screenplay, direction, acting, special effects et al. – simply necessitates spoiling. Basically, it’s a series of bonkers body-horror set pieces built strictly on shock value, with writer-director Julia Ducournau overreaching to connect the far-fetched dots.

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Sleuth Operator

Glen Wilson/Netflix

The Guilty (2021)

Some years ago, Halle Berry starred in a movie about a Los Angeles emergency dispatcher plagued with guilt and chained to her phones called “The Call.” A few years ago, Tom Hardy starred in a movie about a man overwhelmed with responsibility and chained to the phone in his car having the worst night of his life called “Locke.” Neither of these were the impetus for “The Guilty” – that was a Danish film of the same name that came out in 2018. But if you mashed up “Locke” and “The Call,” you have the idea; an emergency dispatcher suddenly has the worst night of his life. It all takes place at a few desks in the 911 dispatch center in Los Angeles, in the middle of last summer’s wildfires, and Jake Gyllenhaal is the man chained to his phones, desperately hoping it’s not too late.

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