Movies in Review, Part 1: 2022 Movies
2022 was quite a year for me, as far as movie-watching. I'd say movie-going but these days getting out to the theater in time (for any film that actually deigned to come to the cinema at all) has been problematic. Granted, with so many kids about my home, it's tough to get away but only a few great films were even released to the theaters, rather than directly to a streaming platform. Even for the exceptions, they didn't stay long. All of this, of course, is a ripple effect of the pandemic. I was nevertheless pleasantly surprised how often I went to the movie theater, especially at the beginning of '22.
I had quite a few favorite movies released last year. Some that I enjoyed but didn't make it to the 'favorites' list. There were also some real dogs and/or films I simply did not connect with. I decided not to "pick a winner" here either. Honestly, if I labeled them as a "favorite" then it's a winner for me, and each is unique in how they gave me movie-watching joy.
My Favorite 2022-Released Films (In Order of Viewing):
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE - I was wide-eyed and smiling throughout every minute of this Michelle Yeoh-led adventure. Everyone in the cast was giving their all and having fun with this mind-bending and over-the-top movie about a simple, sad mother and wife who is suddenly forced to live as every possible iteration of herself from every possible universe in order to save, well, the universe.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK - my daughter and her boyfriend brought me to an IMAX showing of this sequel to the fun (though mediocre) 80's film for my birthday. Maybe because I went into it with ho-hum expectations, and definitely because we were sitting in an IMAX theater, this movie rocked! It was silly entertainment, with an obviously generic "enemy" they had to deal with, but the entire experience of the theater, sound and visual made this a movie theater trip I won't long forget. Fun.
NOPE - so much of Jordan Peele's style reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan, maybe because they both seemed to start their careers in the same unique position of the management upstairs seeming to leave them alone to make exactly the film they want to. Jordan's plots are often dreamlike in their surrealism. No more so than NOPE. My brother and I walked out not quite understanding everything we saw, until we took the time to talk it through. NOPE originally was not listed in my favorites, but the damn film kept lingering in my thoughts, months after seeing it, so I finally had to concede it was brilliant because of that and moved it up here.
ELVIS - a rocking, musical feast, visually stunning more often than not, with Oscar-worthy performances by both Austin Butler as Elvis, and Tom Hanks as his creepy, manipulative manager. Like every mammoth rock star's life, the story follows a rise to stardom followed by self-destruction, but in Baz Lurhmann's (MOULIN ROUGE!, 2001) hands it was -- if not still just as much of a bummer knowing how it all ends -- at least amazing to watch. Much like what I hear the singer's performances were like.
THE SOUND OF 007 - This documentary about the composers and theme song writers throughout the history of the James Bond film franchise was simply brilliant. Yes, there was a little too much focus on the most recent Bond film, but if you've been a fan of the series since Connery carried the mantle, and especially of the music, then I highly recommend this one.
SPIRITED - is a fun, almost brilliant take on A Christmas Carol, starring two of my favorite comedic actors, Will Ferrel and Ryan Reynolds. SPIRITED is another one that started on my "liked" list but moved up to the favorites after my wife insisted on watching it, oh, maybe forty times over the holiday season. It never got old to watch, and my admiration for Reynold's talent (already with acting and producing) with his singing and dancing only grew. This is a fun family show with just enough adult humor (and some language) to be enjoyed by everyone. The music and choreography, though, is what makes this a brilliant Christmas event each time you watch it.THE FABLEMANS - I've always been a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, to whom I owe many thanks for years of movie enjoyment, starting with DUEL (1971). I'd watched the 2017 documentary SPIELBERG about his life, and so knew his overall story. THE FABLEMANS is a fictionalized version of his early life. More than anything, it's a sweet homage to his parents and their quirky, broken marriage which ended when he was a young man.
PREY - this sequel, or prequel, to so many of the PREDATOR movies, made the list with the caveat that one has to view this for what it is, a monster/adventure movie much like its predecessors. PREY takes place a few hundred years ago in the untamed Commanche wilderness, at a time just before the Europeans stomped all over everything and everyone. Like every other film in the ALIEN (1979) / PREDATOR (1987) franchises (unfortunately these two are forever linked), the protagonist is a strong woman facing horrific evil. Still, the way the Comanche people are portrayed and the time the director takes to build real characters makes this one of the best films of its kind (important caveat).
AMSTERDAM - I went into this one knowing nothing about it yet knew it would be good based on the cast and director. Starring Christian Bale, Margot Robie, and John D Washington as a threesome (of friends) who bond during the war and find themselves in an ever-growing web of conspiracy and intrigue and plenty of tongue in cheek comedy - what surprised me the most after this tremendous movie was that it was, as the opening line specified, "mostly true".
THE WONDER - Florence Pugh commands every scene she is in, such a tremendous actor and presence on the screen. THE WONDER is about an English nurse sent to post-famine Ireland to observe a girl who has supposedly not eaten in forty days but still healthy, the film is slow in pace and action, but so fascinating you simply have to stay to see where it goes. Decent payoff too.
VENGEANCE - B.J. Novak's "big screen" directorial debut (he also wrote it and starred) was unique, heart-warming at times, and even deeply philosophical. His protagonist isn't the nicest person, but you're rooting for him as the story goes along. If for no other reason, watch this for a five-star performance by Ashton Kutcher. He was fantastic. The ending was a bit uncomfortable, but inevitable and true to the story as it progressed. (No, not giving anything away, I promise).
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN - took me forever to finally watch this Irish film, starring that country's best of the best, including Colin Farrel (in his most humble and human role), Brendan Gleeson, and an actor who shone brighter than everyone, Kerry Condon (THREE BILLBOARDS..., 2017, ROME TV Series) as the main character's beleaguered sister. A melancholy movie, but stunningly beautiful in its honest humanity. Watch with subtitles, though.
Interestingly, most of the above films (aside from the first three) I did not watch until late in the year. The films below I enjoyed in various ways, some almost making the favorite list, but not quite. I'll list my favorite and least favorite thing about each, briefly.
Other 2022 Movies I enjoyed:
BIG BUG - Very funny in parts, though this French comedy from the creator of my absolute favorite French film, AMELIE (2001) was a little crowded beat-wise as it went along. One never quite knew what the point was, though I enjoyed watching it.
THE BATMAN - definitely gave the first two of Nolan's Batman adverntures a run for the money, in fact THE BATMAN is almost on par with them in acting, grittiness and style. However, part of that was also its con: so gritty it ran way too long. Sometimes editing is a good thing. Still, this almost made it to my favorites.
THE BOB'S BURGERS MOVIE - another "for what it is" accolade. It's BOB'S BURGERS, after all, and did not veer at all from the style and humor that make the TV series what it is. Still, nothing that will indelibly mark the annals of cinema history.
FATHER STU - A sweet, touching film which was told in its entirely in the trailer, but still, well-acted and heart felt. No real surprised but enjoyed watching it.
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT - a Disney+ "television special" (a series of shorter movies introduced in the old style of ABC Sunday Night Movies and its ilk), this short, goofy homage to one of my absolute favorite comic characters was simple and honoring and a hoot beginning to end. Too short, I want more.
BULLET TRAIN - non-stop bloody violence and biting humor, it was exhausting, though not quite the Tarantino it strived to be at times. Still, a lot of fun if the mood strikes for something like this.
A CHRISTMAS STORY CHRISTMAS - I know, "Really, Dan?" But, come on, think about this one moment: A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) wasn't that good a movie to begin with. It wasn't bad, but not the best. This call-back (with almost all the same actors, except for his Mom and of course the late Darren McGavin) did exactly what it should have and did it as best as it could. If you liked the original, you will like this.
SEE HOW THEY RUN - Sam Rockwell (one of my favorite actors these days) and Saoirse Ronan starring in a drawing room style mystery during the run of an Agatha Christie play. Can't get a better premise than that. It almost worked. Overall, enjoyable, but the cast never quite gelled together (except, of course, Rockwell and Ronan)
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER - A decent sequel, incorporating the death of titular actor Chadwick Boseman into the plot of the original Panther dying, and its aftermath and power vacuum. Oscar-worthy performance from Angela Bassett, and a great appearance of Namor (aka the Submariner), something about this run, even with A+ acting and effects all around, felt a little too much like the actors actually mourning, which I'm sure they were, and so less cohesion in the cast.GLASS ONION - in the same vein as SEE HOW THEY RUN, we have another fun flick, a sequel to KNIVES OUT (2019), and another drawing room mystery with a hilarious cast of characters who serve also to skewer a lot of the social morays of the time (not all that deserve skewering, but enough). Ed Norton was brilliant, and Craig again played a fun detective to watch.
TROLL - last of my "for what it is" nods, TROLL is a fun, B-Movie Nordic film about a Troll woken from its slumber and the efforts to save Oslo from destruction. Again, for what it strove to be, it was.
Of the 2022 movies I did not enjoy, two that broke my movie-loving heart were DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS and THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. I was so looking forward to these two, but STRANGE was a mess. Though a good homage, in principle, to the drug-induced, sometime-unfathomable plots of the comics I read as a kid, this messy storytelling did not translate well to the screen. I did enjoy the short stint on the alternate Earth with the tribunal Strange needs to convince to help him, but that's about it. I might also be mad about what they did overall with the Scarlett Witch. THOR overused the same humor (to an nth degree) which had been utilized in the previous film to make it an almost-perfect Marvel movie, like the GUARDIANS films, but LOVE AND THUNDER was this too much. As a comedy, it simply wasn't funny. As an adventure superhero film, it was annoying. I liked the Jane Foster storyline, actually, but not much else. And that makes me sad.
MOONFALL, hate to say, just sucked, and doesn't deserve any more typing here. LIGHTYEAR was a valiant attempt at making a quasi-serious Buzz Lightyear movie, but the kids (their supposed audience) had no clue what they were watching. Finally, I held out hopes for MORBIUS, though it had been panned by pretty much everyone who saw it. They were right. Such amazing talent in this film, but it felt like the writers and director had never seen any modern superhero (or horror) films and so did not know that every... single... plot beat was a trope. Someone should have said something when this was being made, or at least edited. Apparently, no one did. Too bad, because I enjoyed the character Morbius in the comics.