2022 in Review: Best and Most Disappointing Films of the Year

2022 was a pretty great year for the movies. We finally saw things return a little more to normal after suffering through the drought of 2020 and 2021. Plus, the quality of films released was outstanding. That’s not to say there weren’t a few duds (there definitely were but we’ll get to that momentarily). I went to the theater plenty throughout the year and saw 45 new releases, along with my usual ventures to visit returning favorites.

As is my tradition I have compiled lists for both my favorite films of the year, as well as my biggest disappointments. Since I like ending on a positive note, let’s start off with those films that did not live up to expectations.

10. Moonfall

I think my exact words after seeing this were, “Wow, was that stupid.” I won’t pretend that I was expecting a masterpiece but I was expecting a little more than what we got, especially considering how many Academy Award winners and nominees were in the film. I went into the film hoping to enjoy some mindless fun action and explosions but unfortunately I couldn’t even do that because the storyline was just too ridiculous, and the action so over-the-top.

9. Ambulance

This was another film I went into with very little expectations and just couldn’t come away feeling like my money was well spent, despite the LA setting and appearance of Jake Gyllenhaal. On top of yet another poorly executed action storyline, the shaky camera effects actually made me sick. It felt a little like Gyllenhaal was trying to step into being this generation’s Nic Cage with this flick so, perhaps that could be the one plus this movie has to offer.

8. Elvis

As is the case with my past bottom of the year lists, there are a few titles on here that are more disappointing than bad films. This is one of those. I was really looking forward to this, as I am a big Baz Lurhmann and Elvis fan. I just thought there were a lot of missed opportunities. The story felt jumbled and inconsistent, the music never got the punches it deserved, and I could not get on board with whatever it was Tom Hanks was doing.

7. Lightyear

I wouldn’t have believed it possible for a Pixar film to feel so devoid of life and joy. The color palette is depressing, consisting of dull grays and desaturated neutrals. The story is overly convoluted and hard enough to follow for an adult audience, let alone the children for whom the film is intended. It hits so much more how much of a letdown this is when considering this is the same studio that brought us Wall-E, a film about a trash collecting robot that opens with a 45 minute dialogue-less section that is more captivating than this entire film.

6. Amsterdam

There was so much here that should have made for a great film, David O. Russell in the director’s chair, a stellar cast, and a gorgeous production design. Sadly it all gets lost in a meandering story and overly stylized acting directions.

5. Don’t Worry Darling

This movie makes zero sense. The only worthwhile part of the experience is the gorgeous cinematography and Florence Pugh’s unreasonably perfect performance considering the material she’s given.

4. Barbarian

A simple concept is all a good horror movie needs to get started. In this case, what would happen if two people “accidentally” book the same AirBnB? The first act of this film sets about answering that question, and does so quite effectively. Both actors are believable and the mood is beautifully set for the next sequence of events. Unfortunately a good start is not all that is needed in order to finish strong, and therein lies the issue with Barbarian. It goes off the rails in the second act, begins strong again at the start of the third, and falls completely apart by the end. It tries to be something else in the middle rather than sticking with the idea that brought it, and in doing so completely loses focus and eventually its impact.

3. The 355

It should not have surprised me that a January release would end up being so disappointing. What should have been a fun girl power spy flick ended up being mind numbingly boring. The performances were all very stiff and no one seemed to get the memo that this was supposed to be a fun action film. Even the action that was there was overdone to the point of also being boring. This was the second film I saw in 2022 and it made me very nervous that it was setting the tone for what was to come. Thankfully it ended up being a fluke.

2. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

This is on my list purely for what it does to Wanda. I know there are plenty of fans that enjoyed where the storyline went but to me it seemed such a disservice to turn this character we have spent a decade with into a villain in the span of one scene. The rest of the plot relies on this one event and as such comes off as weak and contrived. I don’t accept the excuse of “this is what happens in the comics” because this isn’t the comics and we as an audience should require that the level of storytelling is elevated from its source material. I guess this is how fans of Game of Thrones felt about the Daenerys storyline in the final season but at least they had seven seasons leading up to it to get used to the idea.

1. Babylon

How far the mighty fall when given too much creative control. That’s the biggest issue with Babylon. Damien Chazelle is clearly a talented filmmaker, and I’ve loved each of his previous features very much. Unfortunately here, at just over three hours, the film is overloaded with unnecessary sequences and tangents. As a result it loses what beautiful moments it does have to the unbearable weight of excess and debauchery that ends up on screen.

With the “worst of” list finished, let’s dive into the good stuff and get to my favorite films of the year.

10. The Menu

The brilliance of this film is in its execution. It has just the right amount of self-awareness and snark to not come across as too arrogant and indulgent. It does have a bit of commentary running through its veins but it doesn’t let that distract it from delivering a really fun experience supported by an outstanding cast.

9. Vengeance

This will likely be the main source of my Oscars rant this year. Ashton Kutcher deserves a nomination for his surprisingly poignant performance. The rest of the film is also wonderfully funny and insightful. Much like the previous film on the list it has something to say but doesn’t let it get in the way of also telling a clever story.

8. Top Gun: Maverick

In case anyone had any doubts, Tom Cruise showed us once again why he is a true movie star. In one of the rare cases, this was absolutely worth the extra two year wait. The action was incredible, the stunts breathtaking, and all of it supported by a solid story and great supporting performances at its foundation.

7. Devotion

Had to have the two plane films back to back on my list. The reason this one gets a slight bump is the fact that it’s based on a true story. It’s the story of Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in the U.S. Navy, who helped turn the tide in the Korean War. Yet again at the heart of the film is a strong story, told with great performances. The amazing stunts and beautiful cinematography are just extra on top of that.

6. Bullet Train

This may have been the most fun I had at the theater this year. Unlike the other entries on my list there isn’t necessarily a strong plot at the center of this film but rather what makes the experience is the all-star cast, gorgeous production design, and excellently choreographed stunts.

5. Scream

It is rare for the first good film I see to remain on my top list until the end of the year but that’s what happened with Scream. It was my first film in theaters in 2022, the fifth in a series I love, and my most anticipated movie of the year. It lived up to all my internal hype, and continued with the tradition of the others in the franchise with its ultra insider commentary, which is all I really ask. I laughed out loud, was pleasantly surprised by the turns, and overall very excited to jump back into this world.

4. The Greatest Beer Run Ever

This film snuck onto my list despite being a streaming focused feature because it did have a limited exclusive run in theaters that I was able to take advantage of. Those that only saw it on Apple TV+ missed out on one of its biggest draws, it’s amazing cinematography. You just don’t get the full impact on a small screen. It is another war film based on a true story, this time about a kid from New York who goes on a beer run to cheer up his friends during the Vietnam war. It all comes together thanks to the excellent performances, particularly from Zac Efron as the lead but also Russell Crowe in a surprisingly subdued but effective role as the seasoned journalistic photographer.

3. See How They Run

Once again there was a Whodunit film that came out the same year as a Knives Out film that just did the job so much better. This one takes place in 1950s London and involves a cast of players in the wildly successful Agatha Christie story marking its 100th performance on stage, and that’s about to be made into a film. We get hilarious performances from Sam Rockwell, Adrian Brody, Saoirse Ronan, and so many more. Plus, the mystery was actually really clever. 

2. The Fablemans

A semi-autobiographical story from Steven Spielberg about a young Jewish boy who learns to express himself through film while dealing with a slightly unstable home life. Was there any real doubt this would end up on my favorites list? It is interesting to watch what is a very personal story told through the lens of nostalgia brought to life by the very person whose story it is. It could have gone poorly due to the bias alone but Spielberg brings his unique touch and makes it heartwarming, emotionally moving, and laugh out loud funny all at once.

1. X

Set in 1979, X follows the ill-fated production of an adult film cast and crew as they attempt to create a low budget film in the guesthouse of a farmhouse in Texas. This had everything I love about the Horror genre, a simple premise executed brilliantly that relies on slow building tension for impact. And, as was the theme for most of my list, at its foundation is a strong plot with quality actors. It also has the added benefit of seeing an equally strong sequel released the same year. The only reason Pearl wasn’t on my list is because I feel that film rests entirely on Mia Goth’s performance,  which will be part two of my Oscar’s rant this year. X, on the other hand, is a solid ensemble picture that ends up being a really good, creepy story.

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30 Favorite Fictional Characters

Reposting my #30DaysofFavorites project here on my blog. Sharing my 30 Favorite Fictional Characters.

 

 

 

30 Favorite Movies

Reposting my #30DaysofFavorites project here on my blog. Sharing my 30 Favorite Movies.

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Scene Ever!

Reposting some older pieces from my other blog.

 

It is no secret to anyone that knows me that Jaws is my favorite film and I rarely let an opportunity to watch even the smallest scene pass me by. So it should come as no surprise that when I happened upon it on satellite the other day (and in HD no less) I, of course, stopped to watch. My timing, it was revealed, was quite perfect. The first shot I saw was the shark falling back into the ocean, followed by Brody telling Quint, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” The next scene is perhaps the most noted, Quint’s monologue about the U.S.S. Indianapolis. I believe this is the best scene in the movie and it is all due to Robert Shaw’s performance.

Shaw starts off the speech with an explanation to Brody about what the mission of the Indianapolis was then quickly goes into a description of the horrors he faced following the sinking of the ship. Now, this entire scene is a credit to Shaw’s brilliant acting abilities. All you need as proof of his talent are the looks on his two fellow actors at the end of the scene. Those expressions are real and they are reactions to Shaw’s performance. They look simply dumbfounded. I have seen this movie countless times and I have been astonished every time I watch this scene at how expressive Shaw’s eyes are. He goes back and forth in the story between several emotions. At one point he is angry and the next second scared, then insane. All of these he shows through not only the pitch in his voice and the movement of his body but also in the changing shade and look in his eyes. When he delivers the line, “They didn’t even list us overdue for a week,” his voice is angry and his eyes dark. When he says, “The thing about a shark … he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya he doesn’t seem to be livin’ until those black eyes roll over white and then … oh then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red and despite all that poundin’ and hollerin’, they all come in and … they rip you to pieces,” he seems to be staring off into space and gets a glazed look in his eyes and cracks a smile, showing that Quint is clearly traumatized from this incident and has lost some hold on sanity. Finally when he speaks of being picked up by the PBY his eyes widen and his face loses some color. Clearly he was afraid he was going to die just before he was saved. He confirms this by claiming he’ll never put on a lifejacket again. He would rather drown than wait to be ripped apart by something more terrible.

It is a crime that Robert Shaw never won an Oscar, let alone that he wasn’t even nominated for this role. Shaw was a truly amazing performer.

Steven Spielberg Spotlight: From Page to Screen

Reposting an older piece from my other blog.

 

This post is part of the SPIELBERG BLOGATHON hosted by Outspoken & Freckled, It Rains… You Get Wet, and Citizen Screenings taking place August 23-24 2014. Please visit these host blogs for a full list of participating blogs.
Spielberg is a wonderful storyteller. I’ve known this since I was four-years-old and my parents showed my sister and me Jaws for the first time. Don’t worry, they were diligent and covered our eyes and ears at the scary parts. Unfortunately, later that week when our grandmother was babysitting us, and we had picked it as the film we wanted to watch, she did not know this. I’m pretty sure I have permanent psychological damage, seeing as I have a deep fear of the ocean to this day.
While there are a great many things Spielberg excels at, telling stories is what he does best. Nowhere is this more clear than in the films he has made that have been adapted from others’ stories. I know that there are several films in his catalog that are adaptations but for the purpose of this post, I am focusing on Jaws, Jurassic Park, and The Lost World.

 

jaws

Though I may be scarred from having seen Jaws at such a young age, it has also been my favorite movie for the last twenty-two years. I have never read the book, nor do I have any plans to in the future. Various people have told me that because of my love of the film, I would not enjoy the novel. However, I know enough of the plot of the book to know that Spielberg took a great concept but slightly convoluted story and turned it into a masterpiece. Many things tend to get lost in the move from page to screen but the mark of a good filmmaker is in keeping the most important story elements. Of course, we can’t have a discussion about the adaptation of Jaws without giving credit to both Peter Benchley, the author of the novel, and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb. Benchley came up with an incredible concept, and Gottlieb did an outstanding job with the screenplay. However, it was Spielberg’s direction that tied the two together, and managed to create a masterpiece, despite troubles with the script before and during shooting, issues with the mechanical shark, and a seasick cast and crew.

 

jurassic_park

I actually just read Jurassic Park, and can now fully appreciate just how well the story was adapted. The movie and the book are pretty close as far as the plot. There are a few additional characters in the book, and the ending is slightly different (in Spielberg’s version there are a couple of extra characters that make it off the island). The things that are left out, while interesting to read, would add too much complexity to the film. Spielberg keeps the concept, and focuses on a couple of solid characters and a smart idea to tell a story. Again, we must give credit where it is due. Michael Crichton did a good job with the novel, and David Koepp helped make the screenplay successful. It is Spielberg though that carries the story through. He directs his actors to great performances, demands groundbreaking special effects, and delivers a film that defined an entire generation of future filmmakers’ childhoods.

 

lost2bworld

I also recently read The Lost World for the first time, and it is the example from the three I have chosen where Spielberg’s influence did the most to change the story. There are very few similarities between the book and the film. There are dinosaurs, a Site B, and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is one of the main characters. That is about where the similarities end. While Crichton deserves acclaim for creating the world that this story takes place in, the novel consists of a series of episodic-like events that don’t hold much logic in the context of the story. For example, in the book the group on the island keeps returning to the trailers, and then sets out again to investigate some new issue. In the movie, the group has to move through the island to get to the center where the radio is, and as they travel, they keep bumping into dinosaurs, rather than seeking them out. Again, David Koepp helped with the screenplay but it was Spielberg’s direction that created an exciting thrill-ride that kept audiences on the edges of their seats. While the novel and screenplay provide the base and blueprints for the film, Spielberg is the contractor that saw brought the vision to life. He knew exactly how to build the tension, and turn the film into a chase. It is a much more satisfying experience. The novel has some interesting elements but it gets lost in some of the scientific language, and is too quick to go from action scene to action scene, without worrying how you get there. The movie is tighter and feels very much like a rollercoaster, going from high excitement to building anticipation, to high excitement again effortlessly, an indication that its director knew what the audience wanted, and how to deliver it to them.
Steven Spielberg is my favorite director. I have seen all of his feature films, and he is the only director I have done this with. I am more likely to see a Steven Spielberg directed film simply because his name is attached to it, than I am to see any film because a certain actor is attached to it (although Keira Knightley comes close). I have been fascinated by film since my first viewing of Jaws and that is due in large part to Spielberg’s excellence as a visual storyteller. Spielberg recognizes a good story when he sees one, and he understands that film is a very different medium than books are, and each needs to be approached with a specific vision in mind. I enjoy reading almost as much as I enjoy watching a good film, and I know it is impossible to please everyone with an adaptation but Spielberg comes pretty darn close.