“My Year in Movies – 2022 Edition” – Was I talking about gas?
It’s been a couple years, but we’re finally back to the film world resembling something like pre-Covid times. This is good news, because the world outside of film continues to resemble a horror show. As I said back at the end of 2020, writing about new movies is my stress reliever and 2022 had plenty to be stressed about. Between 2020 and 2021, I saw a total of sixty-nine films, most of them in my home. Given all that happened those two years, a paltry sixty-nine films comprised mainly of subpar streaming flicks was nowhere near enough to combat stratospheric levels of stress. This year, I’ve seen nearly seventy films, many of them in theaters, and I feel better. Without all these movies to write about, how could I have survived the great gas panic of 2022?
Between Elon Musk farting from his mouth multiple times a day and certain directors blowing enough hot air to power Orion to the moon, we’re lucky to have survived the gas panic. Did you think I meant gasoline prices? That wasn’t a scare; that was comedy. Like the weather, people get amnesia when it comes to gas prices, acting like gas prices have never been high before. It happened back in the George W. Bush administration, when gas prices were high enough that people forgot that gas prices were really high in the early 1980s. I never laughed so hard as when people blamed Joe Biden for high gas prices, then laughed again when they didn’t credit him for our current low gas prices. “Thank you, Joe Biden” goes both ways.
First up in the gas panic is Quentin Tarantino. On a podcast called “2 Bears, 1 Cave,” Tarantino took aim at the Nickelback of film – Marvel movies. While trying to explain his opinion that “there are no real movie stars today,” he started by saying “But that is one of the legacies of the Marvel-ization of Hollywood movies. I don’t love them (Marvel movies). No, I don’t – I don’t hate them. All right. But I don’t love them…There’s an aspect that if these movies were coming out when I was in my twenties, I would totally be fucking happy and totally love them. I mean, they wouldn’t be the only movies being made. They would be those movies amongst other movies.
But, you know, I’m almost 60, so yeah. No, I’m not quite as excited about them…My only ax to grind against them is they’re the only things that seem to be made. And they’re the only things that seem to generate any kind of excitement amongst a fan base or even like for the studio making them. That’s what they’re excited about. And, you know, so it’s just the fact that they are the entire representation of this era of movies right now. There’s not really much room for anything else. That’s my problem.” About those not-movie stars, he continues “Part of the Marvel-ization of Hollywood is… you have all these actors who have become famous playing these characters. But they’re not movie stars. Right? Captain America is the star. Or Thor is the star. I mean, I’m not the first person to say that. I think that’s been said a zillion times, you know, but, you know, but it’s like, you know, it’s these franchise characters that become stars.”
There is a lot to unpack in those few sentences, so we’ll start with go pound sand up your ass, Quentin. It’s hard to find a director fuller of himself and full of shit than Tarantino. I find it laughable that he hems and haws about hating Marvel movies when he so clearly despises their very existence. The question I would love to ask him is what is the difference between Kill Bill and Black Widow? Or Inglorious Basterds and Captain America: The First Avenger? It’s exceptionally rich for him to claim his only axe to grind is they (Marvel) are the only movies that seem to get made. Really?! Between DC and Marvel, they released six films in 2022. If we count Werewolf by Night and DC League of Super-Pets, it’s eight. EIGHT. Out of hundreds.
Aside from Tarantino’s inability to count, he is dead wrong about there not being movie stars. Chris Evans was a relative nobody before becoming Captain America. Same with Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Pratt. Robert Downey Jr.’s career was hanging by a thread prior to suiting up as Ironman. All of them are now among the most recognizable faces on the planet and definitely a name draw when they appear in non-Marvel movies. Yes, that has very much to do with the characters they play, but it’s pretty easy to argue those actors made the characters what they are. Plus, isn’t the point of acting to convince us that they are those characters, not the other way around? Imagine the uproar if Marvel tried to replace any of those actors as those same characters, the way they did with Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as the Hulk. And, to further prove that he is just a whiny blowhard, Tarantino also insults fans in their twenties during the interview (and pretty much everyone under the age of sixty) despite those same fans comprising the bulk of those who gobble up his films.
The other notable name of the gas panic is Martin Scorsese, the one man we found who is more full of shit than Tarantino. Here is what came out of Scorsese’s food hole at the New York Film Festival, “Since the ’80s, there’s been a focus on numbers. It’s kind of repulsive,” Scorsese said. “The cost of a movie is one thing. Understand that a film costs a certain amount, they expect to at least get the amount back… The emphasis is now on numbers, cost, the opening weekend, how much it made in the U.S.A., how much it made in England, how much it made in Asia, how much it made in the entire world, how many viewers it got. As a filmmaker, and as a person who can’t imagine life without cinema, I always find it really insulting.”
Wait – you mean movies aren’t just about making art? Insanity! News flash Marty. Film studios are businesses and businesses don’t last very long if they don’t care about making money. It sounds like Scorsese woke up one day to his phone ringing, he answered it and heard “you made a three and a half hour streaming movie about unions and spent HOW MUCH?!! Confused at how anyone could be upset about art, he watched Moneyball, applied an 80-year old noob’s understanding of advanced analytics to the film industry, had a stroke, then went to the New York Film Festival and yelled at anyone with a microphone that BUSINESSES CARE ABOUT MAKING MONEY?! Emphasis on that last question mark. The part of his quote that proves he has completely disembarked from reality is that he thinks the focus on numbers only started in the 1980s. Careful Marty – keep up this crazy talk and you’ll wake up not having to imagine your life without cinema.
Hear me when I say this – the only thing that has changed about movies is technology. The stories, the source material, sequels, franchises, stars, box office, and international viewers have always existed. Even movies that go straight to streaming is not a new thing. They just used to be known as made-for-TV movies. The only differences are we don’t have to watch ads anymore and the special effects are way better. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that the Scorseses and Tarantinos of the world are jealous of the success of Marvel and bitter that their bosses have the gall to ask auteurs how they are spending their money. If anything, those two should be kissing the asses of everyone at Marvel for making just six movies that will fund their next arthouse cinema. Or, they can tempt fate and keep farting out their mouths. On that note…
My Top 5, er..3, er..5
I told you things were getting back to normal. After reducing this category to the top three the previous two years, I saw more than enough movies to expand it back to the normal five. This feels nice.
- The Menu – One of the few movies I saw a trailer for, I looked forward to seeing it for weeks. It met my expectations and then some. Ralph Fiennes delivers a creepy, yet earnest master chef who is intimidating and frightening a la Hannibal Lecter. The entire night depicted in the film was like watching a nightmare of your worst dinner date.
- The Batman – I had my doubts about Robert Pattinson donning the cowl, but he made me a believer. Considering how many reboots Batman has had, the quality of this one was pleasantly surprising and a reminder of how good the DCEU could have been.
- The Northman – One of the best movies of the year that most people probably missed. Alexander Skarsgard gives a career best performance to bring this Viking myth tale to life. I get that the violence, gore, and general weirdness of the film make it a tougher-than-usual watch, but every component of the film is done nearly to perfection.
- Bullet Train – Hands down the most entertaining movie of the year. Like the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Bullet Train embraced the idea of fun, hugging it until it exploded all over us. Bullet Train isn’t the best movie of the year, but it was my favorite movie of the year.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once – This year’s winner for best out-of-nowhere movie, as well as best movie featuring a multiverse. As much as I enjoyed the new Doctor Strange flick, nothing in that film tickled me the way Rac-a-coonie did in Everything. Or hot dog fingers. The creativity, story, and spot-on performances made Everything the best movie of the year.
You Almost Made It
If you named any of these next few movies as being in your top movies of the year list, I would just nod at you. The difference between these and my top five is very little.
- The Banshees of Inisherin – It was so unexpected to be grabbed by the first few minutes of a film whose premise is one man doesn’t want to be another man’s friend anymore. Like with The Lobster, I loved Colin Farrell in this quirky movie and I submit that he should do at least one movie like this every year.
- The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – I don’t know that this movie works with any actor not named Nicholas Cage. Given the premise, it’s also the kind of movie that has no room for error. I appreciate a movie that takes that kind of risk, even more when that movie works.
- Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery – Nearly everyone I know was looking forward to Glass Onion after enjoying the crap out of Knives Out. Glass Onion is not a sequel; it’s just another great whodunit featuring our newest favorite detective, Benoit Blanc. Nearly everyone I know who saw Glass Onion enjoyed the crap out of it.
- Nope – Jordan Peele is on a Spielbergian trajectory, delivering another very good film in Nope. Nope accomplishes everything we want in a film. A little humor, some action, good characters, great special effects, and a captivating story. If you had told me Nope was a new Spielberg flick, I wouldn’t have questioned you.
- DC League of Super-Pets – Another reminder of how good the DCEU could have been. Super-Pets has a very good case as the best animated feature of the year. The characters are lovable, the superhero story is fun, and the kids will love every bit of it, even if the film cheats a little by giving a cat the power of butt missiles. Don’t ask, just giggle.
These movies were very good, but every one of them is tough to watch for one reason or another. Re-watchability played a big factor in my rankings here. Parts of each of these would be really difficult to sit through more than once. So, they get a separate category so you don’t accidentally watch them on date night.
- Emancipation – Will Smith may have done some serious damage to his reputation by grossly overreacting to an abysmally tasteless joke, but that shouldn’t take away from his stirring performance in this Civil War flick. Based on a famous photo and real story, Emancipation does history justice and doesn’t pull its punches. As tough as this film is to watch, it should be required viewing in every school, plus nightly at the Florida Governor’s mansion.
- The Whale – Far less disturbing than your typical Darren Aronofsky film, it’s still a tough watch. Not because of the fact that Brendan Fraser’s character is morbidly obese, but because we’re watching him eat himself to death while trying to reconcile with his estranged daughter. The emotional impact hits hard enough to be disturbing in itself.
- Thirteen Lives – I’m still in shock at the way those Thai boys were rescued from that flooded cave. Hats off to Ron Howard for recreating this event without making it seem trite or indulgent.
It is almost impossible to go into a movie without some sort of expectations. Usually, it’s from something you saw in a trailer, actors who are in the movie, or what you already know about the director. Other times, it’s because they are based on thirty-six-year-old movies your parents won’t shut up about.
- Spirited – Normally, I run in the opposite direction of Will Ferrell movies. Then again, I ran directly at Ryan Reynolds movies. In the case of Spirited, I kind of side-stepped into it. Fortunately, Ferrell was decent and Reynolds was typical, rewarding my side-stepping. I could have done without the bad singing from everyone in this film, but I’ll take the win on a non-irritating Ferrell performance.
- The Fabelmans – This movie is another bit of evidence proving Tarantino wrong about superhero movies being the only films that get made. Spielberg got $40 million to make a movie about himself. What’s more is that Spielberg made a movie about himself that is well worth watching. Even I had a skeptical eyebrow raised going into this one.
- Top Gun: Maverick – I’m glad to see a big, dumb blockbuster showing up on some top-ten movie lists for the year, but it shouldn’t be this one. While I enjoyed the heck out of it, it’s getting far more credit than it deserves solely because it isn’t the shitty sequel we all expected it to be.
- Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio – After the massive disappointment of last year’s Nightmare Alley, del Toro atones with a very del Toro Pinocchio. It’s creepy, imaginative, visually appealing, and a refreshingly new adaptation of a story that has been adapted nearly to death.
- Babylon – I’m still exhausted from watching the first hour of Babylon. What a ride. I considered it for my top ten, but the three-hour-and-change runtime had too much filler in it. However, the scene where they are filming their first talkie is arguably the best scene of any film all year.
How many years late is the Avatar sequel? I joked about it years ago as we kept getting promised “this was the year,” like we were Knicks fans. Well, this finally was the year, at least for Avatar fans.
- Avatar: The Way of Water – It’s easily the best-looking movie of the year. The underwater scenes are gorgeous and the creatures in the sea look breathtakingly real. It’s almost enough to make us forgive James Cameron and friends for writing another mediocre Avatar story. They resurrected the same villain, Colonel Quaritch, putting Quaritch’s downloaded brain scan into an Avatar, which is something they can do now. This renders the concept of an avatar and the entire technology behind avatars in the first film completely meaningless. What’s worse is Quaritch and his resurrected team don’t attempt to use their new Na’vi bodies to blend in with the tribes despite literally pointing out that they could. Instead, they just thrown on their fatigues and army kits and run around burning villages in a senseless revenge plot to kill Jake Sully. Speaking of Jake, he is equally stupid. He’s been leading an armed resistance against the human colonizers, but decides to take his family away from his tribe so that his tribe will be safe. That makes sense until we learn his plan is to relocate his family to live with a different tribe. At least my eyeballs were extremely pleased.
Movies for Me
Movies for Me are my guilty pleasures. Whether or not they’re objectively good doesn’t matter. All that matters is they did the thing I wanted them to do – entertain me.
- Good Night Oppy – I’ve seen better, more riveting documentaries, but I love space stuff and hearing a bunch of nerds anthropomorphize a robot made me smile.
- Facing Nolan – Facing Nolan is a baseball love story. It’s a good thing I love baseball. You’d better love it too because the only thing non-baseball fans will find more boring than watching baseball is watching a documentary about baseball.
- Slumberland – Jason Momoa channels his best Beetlejuice impression and it’s…okay. The rest of the movie is better than him, though it’s also just okay. Luckily, I like the idea of being able to traverse through dreams, which makes the movie better than okay for me.
- Uncharted – There’s always one that makes you question my sanity. Next.
- The Adam Project – Okay, there are always two.
- Werewolf by Night – At an extremely brisk fifty-three minutes and in black and white, Werewolf by Night is a throwback to the early days of horror movies. The short runtime means it has nearly zero character development and little time for exposition, but is still quite a bit of fun to watch. This being Marvel, there is probably more coming because of course there will be.
Meh…(or Movies Not for Me)
Flip a coin on these films. These movies were okay and also were movies. None of them spoke to me in any way, but maybe they spoke to you.
- Turning Red – More than a few people praised this movie for talking about puberty in girls. I don’t think it did a good job; in fact, it seemed to be exacerbating stigmas rather than normalizing them. Then again, I’m a dude, so you can probably ignore me.
- Crimes of the Future – I can’t say I’ve ever seen a previous David Cronenberg film and Crimes of the Future doesn’t inspire me to. There’s a cool story buried somewhere under the body horror, but if Cronenberg wasn’t interested in exploring it, why should we be interested in this film?
- Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile – If ever there was a benign movie going out of its way not to offend anyone, it’s this one. This film is definitely intended to act as a babysitter for kids, throwing in enough poop and fart jokes to keep kids amused while their parents do anything else.
- Devotion – It’s worth watching to learn about Ensign Jesse Brown, the first Black naval aviator, as well as for a couple of solid flying scenes. Unfortunately, the movie fails to evoke much of an emotional response until the climax. It pulls its punches when depicting the overt racism Brown experienced while simultaneously making the very white Lt. Tom Hudner the main character. When that climax happens, we react to it more out of muscle memory than because we care about the characters. What could be more meh than that?
- The Woman King – This movie lands somewhere between a documentary and a historical drama. It has exciting parts that turn out kind of boring and non-exciting parts that turn out kind of intriguing. This movie doesn’t know what it is and neither do we.
Many other things outside of movies entertained me this year, including Dave Barry’s annual year in review. Much of my inspiration comes from humor columnists like Barry and Alexandra Petri and I can’t thank them enough for being them. As a little tribute to Barry, I’m borrowing his transition ellipses to get to…
- Ms. Marvel – I appreciate getting the history lesson on how Pakistan was created, but the rest of this series was a waste of time. Thankfully, Marvel also released…
- She-Hulk – A lot of people hated the way She-Hulk ended and I can see their point. Aside from that, the rest of the series was a nice diversion from the typical Marvel formula, presented to us in the form of a law comedy. Rounding out the year, Marvel finished with…
- Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special – Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon just became Three degrees of Kevin Bacon. The plot of this goofy romp is Star-Lord is sad so Drax and Mantis decide to fly to Earth and abduct Kevin Bacon to cheer up Star-Lord. It’s as silly as it sounds, yet somehow still manages to work. Let’s call it a function of Christmas joy and move on to…
- Book of Boba Fett – The opposite of Christmas joy. Book of Boba Fett incorporates all of the bad parts of Star Wars except Ewoks. Bad storytelling, bad acting, bad dialogue, and continuing to pile on existing characters and locations rather than branch out into new worlds. I shouldn’t need to remind Kathleen Kennedy and the rest of the Lucasfilm staff that Star Wars is set in an entire galaxy. It’s right there at the beginning of every Star Wars prologue crawl. Speaking of well-worn Star Wars IP…
- Obi-Wan Kenobi – This show runs through many of Star Wars‘ greatest hits. Tatooine, Bail Organa, Princess Leia, Uncle Owen, Darth Vader, and of course, Obi-Wan Kenobi are all back to fill in a gap in time that didn’t need filling. Yet, this might be the best Star Wars series, despite rehashing the past. Unlike the other Star Wars series, Obi-Wan feels like a movie due to its top-notch production value and high quality acting. I’ve been told Andor is better, but I haven’t watched it yet because I was busy watching…
- The Mysterious Benedict Society – Another Disney+ series, but non-Marvel, non-Star Wars. Sounds weird to say that out loud. Based on an elementary school book series, our son brought this show to our attention because they were watching it in class as a reward for good behavior. To which I say bravo Mrs. My-Son’s-Teacher. The show is quite clever, quite quirky, and quite enjoyable. It’s a perfect respite for a bunch of pre-pubescents that are still trying to recover from remote learning. If they finish that, I recommend moving on to…
- Welcome to Wrexham – Rob McElhenney convinced Ryan Reynolds that the two of them should purchase a Welsh football (soccer) club called Wrexham AFC. The goal is to revive the franchise and get them back into the English Football League. It’s an exceptionally well-done docu-drama that points the spotlight at the town of Wrexham, Wales, the club’s fans, and the players, while taking us behind the curtain of the inner workings of a football club. Most importantly, McElhenney and Reynolds are sprinkled throughout the episodes just the right amount as not to take away from the real subjects of this series. While watching the low-key episodes comprising Wrexham, I got my action fill from…
- Reacher – Kudos to the casting director for hiring an appropriately physiqued actor to play Jack Reacher, rather than mimic the fool who cast Tom Cruise in the two Reacher movies. Alan Ritchson is a large, forty-year-old human who looks like he could snap Cruise in half. He is every bit the former military policeman described in the books, plus Ritchson delivers a very solid performance. Paired opposite Willa Fitzgerald as the local sheriff’s deputy, the two make for a dynamic couple in an engrossing action mystery. It’s more than good enough to inspire me to read more of the Jack Reacher novels, but first I had to watch…
- Stranger Things – Only season 4 was new this year, but my son had yet to watch any episodes. So, we started at the beginning of the series and he was enthralled all the way through. As were my wife and I. Much to our amusement, he keeps asking when season 5 will come out, leading us to explaining to him how waiting works, complete with “the old days” anecdotes of having to wait a week in between new episodes of our favorite shows, then entire summers for the next season. Luckily, he filled in some of the time with…
- Youth Baseball – My son is just ten years old and finished a season of 65 games. That’s way too many games, evident by the kids clearly being out of gas by game 50, if not earlier. On top of that, they practiced two nights a week, usually going more than an hour past the allotted two-hour practice time. Unfortunately, the head coach’s ego blinded him to the fact that the kids were not actually tiny little high schoolers, but children being pushed way past their breaking points to the tune of half the team melting down in tears every game if they so much as took one bad swing. Luckily, we found a new team with a sane coach, but not before I got…
- Covid – It was bound to happen, but my body was prepared by the miracle of mRNA vaccines. Not just the two initial shots, but the booster as well. Rather than any of the bad case scenarios happening, I was only knocked down for a couple days and for that I thank all those scientists who didn’t believe horse dewormer or injecting bleach was the answer. In fact, my body’s reaction to the second shot hit me much harder than actual Covid did. But, I did have to stay home from work for the required five days, which gave me time to start reading…
- Throne of Glass – A young adult, fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas featuring a young, arrogant, female assassin named Celaena Sardothien. I haven’t been this engrossed by a book series since reading The Expanse by James S. A. Corey. After six months of reading, I’m more than halfway through the eighth and final book and every page has been a joy to read. In addition to reading, I also took in an…
- Imagine Dragons and Macklemore Concert – This was my son’s first live concert and he was gobsmacked by it. Well, technically it was his second live concert, the first being Smashmouth performing at Camden Yards following an Orioles game. But, that wasn’t a real concert, as the sound wasn’t even piped through the stadium’s speaker system, making it sound like we were listening to them underwater. As soon as Imagine Dragons opened with their first number, he understood what we meant by “real concert.” We all had a blast, even during Macklemore (the opening act), who I was not expecting to be half as good as he turned out to be. But, the last surprise of the year was…
- Cruise Ships – We sailed on a Royal Caribbean cruise and it was by far the best cruise I’ve experienced. The ship had a zipline, boogie boarding, rock climbing walls, a park with real trees and bushes, mini-golf, a running track, a sports court, several swimming pools and hot tubs, a small shopping mall, several restaurants, a Cirque du Soleil style water show, and, I am not making this up – an ice skating rink. And to top it all off, we didn’t get Covid. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
We’re Really Only in it for the Money
Nothing provides studios more inspiration than easy money. Nothing provides studios more fear than expiring IP rights. That’s how we continually get an annual plethora of lackluster uninspired sequels, remakes, and franchise entries.
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Unlike the first Sonic, my son wasn’t excited for the sequel, so I ended up watching the sequel while trapped on an airplane. The sequel was just as mediocre as its predecessor, yet managed to pull in $100 million more at the box office. I wonder where I’ll end up watching the inevitable third Sonic?
- Scream – I recently saw announcements for Scream VI and I’m annoyed. The studios were adamant that we not refer to the most recent Scream as Scream V, even though the knife in the M in the title looks like a V. For Scream VI, they stylized the M with a VI. With that, I can update my review of Scream not-five to say that Scream V was a soulless money grab that wasn’t even honest enough to admit it really was just another sequel.
- Lightyear – In what should have been a tee-ball, Lightyear ended up landing in the bottom tier of Pixar movies, both by quality and box office. There are plenty of plausible reasons, but I lean toward Lightyear falling into the same trap as Star Wars – Disney leaning way too hard on an existing character than nobody wants to know more about.
- Minions: The Rise of Gru – Despite the Despicable Me franchise running out of ideas two movies ago, people still dropped nearly $1 billion on this creative bankruptcy. It’s that kind of thing that makes my eyes roll into my skull when people whine about gas prices.
- Prey – A perfect example of a franchise that keeps getting new movies in order for the studio to maintain the licensing. Prey was one of the worst movies I saw all year and an insult to the Predator species.
- Pinocchio – The Pinocchio story has been public domain since 1940, so licensing wasn’t behind this remake. This was just Disney continuing to turn its beloved animated features into soul-sucking, live-action remakes. In unrelated news, Disney fired its CEO, Bob Chapek.
We Decided We Weren’t Just in it for the Money
These movies are no less money grabs than the films you just read about, but they actually tried to provide some solid entertainment for your money. This might be the weakest crop of this type of movie in years, but they were all much better than everything in the previous category.
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Wakanda Forever did a great job of paying respects to the late Chadwick Boseman while delivering a good story and some tantalizing hints at the next phase of Marvel movies/shows. The one common complaint seemed to be that the lighting made the underwater scenes difficult to see, but I didn’t see what they are talking about. See what I did there? Twice!
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Easily the best movie in this category and one that I strongly considered for my top ten. For all the whining about Marvel movies being very formulaic, this film is a great example of Marvel trying new things. Sam Raimi is given a lot of freedom to make his kind of movie, adding the closest thing to a horror movie in the MCU.
- Death on the Nile – Benoit Blanc isn’t the only detective getting more movies. Detective Hercule Poirot stars in another remake of an Agatha Christie story. While not as good as Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile is a very competent remake for a generation that has no idea who Agatha Christie or Mia Farrow are.
- Puss in Boots: The Last Wish – The last Puss in Boots film was eleven years ago, so it was surprising to hear that a sequel was coming out. Equally surprising was that the sequel turned out to be quite good. I especially liked the animation style, which reminded me of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It looked like it had brush strokes, making it feel that much more like a storybook instead of a cartoon.
- Thor: Love and Thunder – One of the best things about Marvel is they never forget that they are derived from comic books and are supposed to be fun. That being said, Taiki Waititi has taken the silliness a bit too far, culminating in an absurd climax best forgotten. If not for Christian Bale turning in a fantastic villain and Natalie Portman carrying a lot of the film, we would have been talking about Love and Thunder in the same breath as Eternals.
The second category where expectations are key. Lazy screenplays and disappointing films will always exist.
- The Gray Man – On paper, this looked like a can’t-miss movie. Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, and Ryan Gosling in a spy thriller directed by the Russo brothers. What’s not to get excited about? Turns out, the entire movie. There are moments when you can see a good film peeking out, but it mostly ends up being a far lesser version of a Jason Bourne flick.
- Barbarian – Barbarian became a letdown after the second half of the movie started. The first half is one of the better tension builders I’ve seen this year. Then, the second half stomps all over that tension by making it impossible for us to suspend our disbelief.
- Don’t Worry Darling – Like Barbarian, Don’t Worry Darling let us down after building an intriguing mystery. It also managed to waste Chris Pine and Gemma Chan while confusing Harry Styles for an actor. If not for Florence Pugh delivering an Oscar-worthy performance, this movie would be much lower on this list.
- Beast – In addition to wasting Idris Elba, the film also includes three major movie tropes that refuse to die. All I really wanted from the movie was to see some Idris v lion and the lion shred some people to ribbons and the movie couldn’t even give us that.
- White Noise – Every year, I get a screener with jacket claims of “uproariously funny” or “darkly hilarious” or “comic genius.” One quote on the jacket calls White Noise “delightfully funny.” After watching these movies, my question in response is always “funny when?”
- Strange World – Hands down the most disappointing movie of the year. I was looking forward to exploring a fantastical world filled with amazing creatures. Instead, the creatures ended up as mostly background noise, pushed aside in favor of an inane family spat, a story that raised far more questions than answers, and the inclusion of one of my pet peeves – an angsty teenager with a shitty attitude. In unrelated news, Disney fired its CEO, Bob Chapek.
A Waste of Time
At least ‘The Letdowns’ contained some entertainment value. These next films were all very boring, not the least bit entertaining, and lacked any plot beyond the initial premise. They are the very definition of “two hours of your life you will never get back.”
- Emily the Criminal – Not only was the movie a complete waste of ninety minutes, but it then caused me to waste a couple of hours trying to write a review containing anything worth saying. I failed, just like this movie.
- Aftersun – There were two movies I quit after watching the first forty-five minutes. This was one of them. My own home movies are boring enough to watch, let alone somebody else’s.
- Triangle of Sadness – The other movie I quit watching at the forty-five minute mark. The beauty of watching home screeners is that I can quit boring, lifeless movies without feeling like I’m obliged to finish them, unlike when I take the time to go to an actual theater. Yes, I know I can also leave the theater whenever I like.
- The Bad Guys – Turns out the bad guys are trying to reform themselves, which makes them the not-so-bad guys. Like every movie attempting to portray villains as good guys, The Bad Guys falls flat on its face and reminds us that naps are a better use of time than some movies.
- Armageddon Time – I get how Spielberg was able to convince a studio to fund his narcissistic ego trip. He’s made a ton of great movies that made a ton of money. But, how the hell did James Gray convince a studio to let him do the same thing? He made The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra. It’s no surprise that Armageddon Time is as banal as those two duds.
- Pearl – A horror movie that doesn’t frighten. A slasher flick where the murders take place almost entirely off screen. A thriller that doesn’t thrill. A bad movie that isn’t bad in a way that is interesting or fun. I rest my case.
Not the Worst, But You Sure Tried Hard
The challenge with this category is convincing you of the one redeeming quality for each of these films that kept them out of the cellar. Good luck to me, right?
- The Lost City – Sandra Bullock seemed bored, Daniel Radcliffe seemed overeager, and Channing Tatum seemed misused in a story that seemed less coherent than your typical romance novel. Redeeming quality – Brad Pitt was hilarious.
- Wendell & Wild – Even though Jordan Peele didn’t direct, he is co-responsible for penning the worst animated feature of the year (with an assist from director/writer Henry Selick). Given Peele’s other movies, I expected so much more than this dreck. Redeeming quality – the animation style was very pretty.
- Troll – The Netflix teaser was interesting enough to convince me to give it a chance. Hopefully, I don’t get any calls from “Windows tech support,” because I might be dumb enough to listen to them as well. Redeeming quality – the special effects of the troll were excellent.
- Violent Night – Argue all you want, but watching David Harbour as Santa Die Hard his way through a bunch of bad guys is not enough to paper over this trash bag of a movie. There isn’t enough Christmas wrapping paper in the world for that. Redeeming quality – watching David Harbour as Santa Die Hard his way through the film.
- Ambulance – Filed under the heading “It’s Michael Bay, what did you expect?” Honestly, I expected exactly what I got. Speed in an ambulance, but not endearing or fun. Redeeming quality – the unintentional comedy of an EMT clamping a burst spleen with a hair clip. Oh Michael Bay, we can’t stay mad at you.
Pooping on the Silver Screen
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for – the five worst movies of the year. As with my top five, I saw plenty of terrible films to expand this category back to five. This feels nice.
- Bodies Bodies Bodies – Definitely the winner for most overrated movie of the year. The last thing I want to watch is a bunch of assholes scream at each other for ninety minutes. That’s not even fun in a train wreck kind of way.
- Studio 666 – Even for a B-movie, it fails on every level, even the levels that turn garbage movies into cult classics. Coincidentally, Taylor Hawkins (the drummer for the Foo Fighters) died just a couple of weeks after its release. There’s a joke there, but unlike Chris Rock, I know not to tell it.
- Moonfall – This is how a director’s (Roland Emmerich) career ends. Not with a bang, but with the moon being a Dyson Sphere and crashing into the Earth. It was nice knowing you, Roland. We’ll always have Independence Day.
- Deep Water – Remember the scene in Caddyshack where Bill Murray fishes the candy bar out of the pool and takes a bite out of it? That’s Deep Water, but if it wasn’t a candy bar.
- Blacklight – And we have a winner! Now that covid is over (it’s not over), Liam Neeson returns to star in shitty February action flicks that cause people to question their life choices. This feels nice.
Pooping on the Silver Screen: The Sequel
This is the bonus category for movies that were made as sheer money grabs, but were also terrible movies in general. They are the shitty sequels, prequels, remakes, and franchise entries that keep getting made because you won’t stop watching them.
- Morbius – I attempted to watch Morbius on a flight and fell asleep during the middle. Stupidly, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and attempted a second viewing on the flight home. This time, my brain refused to let me sleep as punishment for not listening to it the first time. It’s the first time I ever wished for screaming babies on an airplane.
- Jurassic World Dominion – Prehistoric, genetically modified locusts? Really?! You promised us dinosaurs running amok in cities and you give us fat locusts made by discount Steve Jobs?!
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore – Even Potter nerds have had enough of Dumbledore and J.K. Rowling rehashing the same plot over and over and over. I never thought a movie about wizards could be so boring, let alone an entire franchise, but Rowling continues to prove that if you put your mind to it, you can make anything unwatchable.
- Black Adam – I said it once and I’ll say it again…blender filled with rocks and knives.
Whew, still with me? Man, that feels good…just like old times. Apparently, I also had a lot of gas to expel and I thank you for powering through it with me. As we roll into 2023, there are a lot of movies to look forward to, sincerely or sarcastically. There are creepy doll movies (M3gan and Barbie), the smooth hum of the Marvel machine (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, The Marvels), and the death throes of the DCEU Snyder-verse (Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom). There is the return of franchises we thought were dead (Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, The Expendables 4, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes), the return of franchises that should be dead (Fast X, John Wick: Chapter 4, Scream 6), and franchises hoping not to die before they begin (Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, The Super Mario Bros. Movie).
There are a bunch of sequels we’ve been very excited for (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part One, Dune: Part Two) and a bunch of remakes we are not excited for (The Little Mermaid, The Exorcist, The Color Purple). And if you’re looking for standalone films, there is a Christopher Nolan movie about the first nuclear bomb (Oppenheimer) and an Elizabeth Banks movie about a rampaging bear on cocaine (Cocaine Bear). Yes, I said Cocaine Bear. 2023 has something for everyone.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!