Another year of movies is in the books, and while it was not the strongest year there was still much to enjoy. Let us look back at the best movies of 2022!
10) The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (3.5 Stars)
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a zany adventure that proves Nicolas Cage has still got it. The film follows a down on his luck actor(Nicolas Cage playing himself) who accepts a gig to appear at a birthday party on the island of a wealthy superfan(Pedro Pascal), sparking unintended hijinks. Cage commands the screen with his unique persona, although a delightfully humorous performance by Pascal as the co-lead further elevates the film beyond the recent “watch Cage be weird” fare that we have come to know. The film utilizes a creative meta premise to form an effective blend of action, comedy, and heart. Tiffany Haddish is wasted in a generic CIA agent supporting role and the film drags at times, but a smart storyline manages to overcome these faults to create a clever, if a little on the nose, experience that will be treasured by Cage diehards.
9) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (3.5 Stars)
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a blockbuster with more on its mind than just riveting action sequences. The story centers around Shuri(Letitia Wright) and the nation of Wakanda as they mourn the unexpected loss of their king, T’Challa(Chadwick Boseman). The film possesses a great deal of emotionality as the loss of its central figure runs parallel to the loss of Boseman in real life. The theme of grief serves as the central vessel through which the film operates, sending every character on their own journey. The movie is packed with an engaging ensemble cast, notably Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett who both evoke a great deal of pathos, as well as one of the best antagonists the MCU has seen thus far in Namor(Tenoch Huerta). All character motivations are clear and the story works on a multitude of levels, from grieving hero’s journey, to buddy spy comedy, to MCU origin story. The biggest knock against it is the overstuffed nature of the plot, which works from an entertainment standpoint, but undeniably possesses extraneous story arcs. Wakanda Forever is successful as a self-contained superhero story that should be seen by all fans of the genre, mainly for Letitia Wright’s phenomenal performance which solidifies her ability to carry a franchise.
8) See How They Run (3.5 Stars)
See How They Run is a clever riff on the classic whodunit. Set in 1950s London, a world-weary Inspector(Sam Rockwell) and a bright-eyed Constable(Saoirse Ronan) are tasked with solving a murder case centered around the movie production of a hit play. The film is quite aware of all the classic genre tropes and takes great pleasure in toying with them. The central mystery is effective on its own merits, but what makes it stand out is the terrific acting on display by Saiorse Ronan, Sam Rockwell, and Adrian Brody. They are terrific in their roles, particularly Ronan and Rockwell, who exhibit great chemistry together. Ronan’s wide-eyed optimism and youthful vivacity contrasts well with Rockwell’s more reserved nature. It’s an intelligent story brimming with witty dialogue, fun twists, and a clever climax. It’s a top-notch recommendation to any fan of the genre.
7) Bullet Train (4 Stars)
Fights, jokes, and Brad Pitt!
6) Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (4 Stars)
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the event movie of the year. The film follows Doctor Steven Strange(Benedict Cumberbatch) as he is forced to grapple with the multiverse when a traveler(Xochitl Gomez) arrives from another dimension in search of help. The highlight of the film is without question Elizabeth Olsen, who is mesmerizing with her latest take on the Scarlet Witch. She brings a gravitas that elevates every scene she is a part of. The story requires a lot from her, but she is more than up to the task, displaying a wide array of emotional complexity. It is likely one of the best performances of the MCU to date. The film possesses a tone unlike any past MCU entries that acts as a breath of fresh air for the overarching franchise. The pacing is a little all over the place, dragging some after the initial introduction, but by the climax is pitch perfect. Utilizing a smart screenplay, a phenomenal antagonist performance, and cool visuals, Multiverse of Madness conjures up a gripping adventure with genuine applause-worthy moments.
5) Enola Holmes 2 (4 Stars)
Enola Holmes 2 is a rousing period piece with an immensely charasmatic lead. The film follows Enola Holmes(Millie Bobby Brown), now a detective for hire, as she takes her first official case to find a missing girl. The success of the story begins and ends with Brown, who is joyous in her return as the titular character, providing a pitch perfect representation of the fictional character, with amble amounts of humor and bravado to spare. She truly feels like a real person with tangible emotions and motivations. The remainder of the cast is pleasant as well, notably Henry Cavill who is quite effective as Sherlock Holmes. The storyline is well-executed, providing a plethora of twists and turns that culminate in an exciting conclusion. This is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery flick that functions incredibly well as an episodic story, in addition to building up this universe for more tales. The story doesn’t contain any memorable high points but is without any glaring faults. It is a film that never tries to be more than it is and is greatly appreciated for it. Anyone seeking out a fun time should check it out.
4) I Want You Back (4 Stars)
I Want You Back is a throwback to the classic romantic comedies of the 90s with an updated screenplay, resonant themes, and an amusing cast. The story centers around Peter(Charlie Day) and Emma(Jenny Slate), two recently dumped individuals who decide to work together in an attempt to win back their exes(Scott Eastwood and Gina Rodriguez). The premise sets up plenty of opportunity for comedic moments which allows the entire cast to shine, while also mixing in some weightier scenes that prove equally effective. Scott Eastwood is the scene stealer here, showcasing his comedic chops admirably. The structure of the story is predictable, running the romantic comedy playbook to perfection, but there’s still something to be said for an incredibly well-executed movie that(pardon my old man moment) they don’t make like they used to. While the destination may be a familiar one, the main characters are enlivened by great portrayals by Day and Slate. Throw in a climax will leave you with a smile on your face and this can be recommended to anyone who is a fan of the genre.
3) Take Your Pills: Xanax (4.5 Stars)
Take Your Pills: Xanax is an emotionally resonant documentary that hits on an incredibly relevant topic. The documentary revolves around the topic of Benzodiazepines, particularly Xanax, which is a class of medication prescribed for anxiety. It looks at the history of the drug, as well as first-hand accounts of those who have been on the medication, which is ideally utilized for short durations, but so often is taken chronically. The documentary succeeds in its goal of drawing attention to Xanax and the problems accompanying its consistent usage. By spotlighting this subject matter, the film calls attention to an important issue and creates a platform to get more information on the matter out into the world. The film could be clearer at times with its delivery of information, but the interviews are remarkable. This powerful mix of emotion and education results in an engaging film that everyone should see.
2) Prey (4.5 Stars)
Prey is a rip-roaring tale that is more well-made than it ever needed to be, but audiences will be thankful that it is. Set in the Northern Great Plains in 1719, we follow Naru(Amber Midthunder), a Comanche tracker, who comes across a Predator traveling to Earth. The film breaths fresh life into a worn-out franchise with a solid premise and pristine execution. A fantastic screenplay establishes a fully realized world and leads the viewer on an expertly paced journey that never looks for shortcuts and feels logically sound throughout, aside from just one climatic moment that requires some suspension of disbelief. The story functions as a masterclass in tension building. There are some gory moments, but in a Predator flick what do you expect? This is a suspenseful story with a complex central figure, effective use of multiple languages, and payoffs that truly feel earned. The end result is the most thrilling cinematic experience of the year.
1) The Fabelmans (4.5 Stars)
The Fabelmans is partly an intimate family drama, partly a love letter to cinema, and in all ways an expert craftmanship. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the story follows Sammy Fabelman as he falls in love with the movies as a child and through his adolescence as he aspires to become a filmmaker. The story drifts through life, following the Fabelman family without urgency. The film is in no hurry to get to any particular point in Sammy’s life, instead opting to reveal what day to day life was like for this family during childhood and adolescence. These snapshots into Sammy’s life reveal a true family filled with fully realized characters, notably Mitzi Fabelman(Michelle Williams) and Burt Fabelman(Paul Dano), the parents of the family. Everyone in the ensemble brings something to the table to elevate the material, but the standout of it all is Michelle Williams who commands the screen with the performance of her career. She plays Mitzi with a great deal of complexity, at times providing an over-the-top bubbly quality that borders on the line of being too much, while at other times evoking heartbreaking emotion with no more than a silent facial expression. The transitions are seamless, resulting in a portrayal all the more powerful, especially when paired with the adolescent version of Sammy(Gabriel Labelle) who possess the best scenes of the movie while onscreen together. All this praise comes without even mentioning the cinematography and music which are equally phenomenal. It truly captures the era, as well as the art of filmmaking. The Fabelmans is a passionate story that does it all. It evokes laughter, sadness, and wonder, demonstrating the true magic of cinema.