November 2022 In Review

2022 is almost over, which means there's limited opportunities to catch-up on the years releases. So, without further ado, let's see what films I watched this past November.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992) - 2/5 - This lacklustre Chevy Chase vehicle which tries transforming the comedic actor into a serious leading man would be forgettable enough, yet it's bizarrely directed by John Carpenter. It's a film which aims for North By Northwest meets Starman, and there's touches of intrigue, particularly in a rainy scene. Although these moments are fleeting in place of a dull film with an unconvincing romance and a miscast lead. The latter is especially insulting when Sam Neill would be the perfect actor to front the film, yet is instead cast in a thankless antagonistic role.

Doctor Who Am I (2022) - 2.5/5 - A love-letter to the fandom and the man behind the TV movie, told with heart in repetitive fashion.

The Naked Gun (1988) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - I cannot wait for The Crown to adapt Queen Elizabeth getting saved by Enrico Pallazzo.

Red Rocket (2021) - 4.5/5 - Another fantastic film from Sean Baker, following ex-porn star Mikey Saber who crawls back to his Texas home town in order to stay at the house of his estranged wife and his mother-in-law. As he settles into a routine and seems to be making a life within this dysfunctional family, he meets a teenager named Strawberry who works at a doughnut shop. What's been crafted is a fascinating look at a reprehensible character, constantly hustling and bragging to give himself a sense of importance. Simon Rex is exceptional in the lead role, while Suzanna Son is brilliant as the young girl who catches the eye of the despicable man. A film that will laugh, make you feel icky, and has great use of *NSYNC.

On The Edge (2022) - 3/5 - An interesting film about healing through a hellish ordeal.

Best film of the month, Best film seen in cinemas, and
Best film rewatched: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Hard Boiled (1992) - 5/5 - What a phenomenally directed work from John Woo. The story of Chow Yun-Fat's cop, determined to avenge his deceased partner by bringing down the crime lord responsible, intertwines with Tony Leung's assassin that dislikes the path his life has taken. What unfolds is delivered so compellingly, complete with exceptional action sequences that are balletic and make me surprised nobody got seriously hurt during their creation. An action masterpiece.

Bros (2022) - 4/5 - Nicholas Stoller is a director whose work I rather enjoy, and that hasn't changed with his latest film. What unfolds is a charming romcom between Billy Eichner's opinionated podcaster and Luke Macfarlane's lovable meathead who feels stuck in life. Despite the former's character feeling difficult to like at times, there's a sweetness to this central couple which makes it easy to get onboard with their romance and root for them to work through their commitment issues. There's also a fair bit to say about the LGBTQ+, from on-screen depictions to erasure of history, and it feels taken from places that are very real and have been bubbling up for a while. It's also very funny, with the films Hallmark parodies being highpoints. While it feels a bit longer than necessary, what's left is one of the years most charming comedies.

One Piece Film: Red (2022) - 3.5/5 - To celebrate the 25th anniversary of One Piece, creator Eiichiro Oda got actively involved in the series' latest film (which is also the first film I've watched from this excellent series). The film follows the usual heroes, the Straw Hat Pirates, led by the rubber-man Monkey D. Luffy who aims to become King of the Pirates. The adventures sees the crew crossing paths with Uta, a famous musician that's hosting a live concert and is the daughter of Shanks, a renowned pirate who's Luffy's idol and mentor. What unfolds is a tale of the impact family leaves, told through Uta and her interesting power which leaves the World Government and the Navy on a mission to stop her. There's a grand amount of songs which feels a bit much, especially when one wonders if a few could've been cut to make this flow more smoothly. Regardless, the film is full of great battles which are wonderfully animated, along with scene-stealing characters, emotional relationships, and easy laughs.

Vesper (2022) - 3.5/5 - A tremendously realised fantasy with real-world parallels.

Clerks (1994) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - When I was a young film-fan trying to expand my tastes, Kevin Smith's feature directorial debut was a favourite of mine which left me so entertained whenever I watched it. It's been a while since I last saw this, but i'm thankful it remains such a joy to watch. An entertaining day-in-the-life of two friends, convenience store clerk Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and video-rental worker Randall (Jeff Anderson), as they grapple with their personal lives in-between stressful encounters with annoying customers. It's a never-boring and constantly entertaining film based around these instances and, thankfully, the film doesn't fall into traps I was worrying about. Whenever things threaten to become irritating with Dante's whining and Randall's acerbic attitude, the film pulls it back to not let the former off for his awful behaviour, while giving the latter interesting points to make along with a clear heart for his best friend. A fascinating entry into Smith's rocky career.

Although, I'm uncertain of one thing. Was Dante supposed to be there today?

Breathing Happy (2022) - 4.5/5 - A fever-dream tale of addiction and healing.

Best film watched for the
first time: Red Rocket

Twilight (2008) [rewatch] - 2.5/5 - In preparation for The Evolution of Horror covering the Twilight films, I went back to give the first film another try and found myself more fond of it. While I wouldn't call myself a fan, the dislike this garners leaves me mystified. Catherine Hardwicke delivers some interesting directorial flourishes, utilising the likes of camera angles and colour grading to give the misty town of Forks an interesting look which helps set it apart in distinctive ways. I cannot say these choices all worked for me, but it fits well into this world.

There's fun to be had with the vampires, such as the Baseball scene showing them let loose, while the controversial sparkly skin is a unique element which allows the bloodsuckers to show beauty within their unnatural environment of the sunlight. The villainous element, however, is a forced addition which feels undercooked from characterisation to plotting.

The family elements are engaging, be it Bella's father who relishes the chance to reconnect with his daughter, or the Cullens who work on quelling their bloodlust while being part of the community. The central relationship between Edward and Bella is a different take on the typical "girl falls for the bad boy" tale, while Pattinson and Stewart convey the teenage awkwardness as they try feeling comfortable with each other. Their performances are full of odd choices as they struggle with the lines they're given and, despite some nice scenes of them bonding, there's a creepiness to Edward stalking Bella and breaking into her bedroom.

With each watch, I like this film a bit more. Maybe on the eighth watch, I'll consider it to be a masterpiece? I doubt I'll find Bella's annoying friends endearing, but maybe I can finally complete this series.

Clerks II (2006) - 2/5 - Over a decade since his feature-film debut, Kevin Smith has come a long way and returns to the Quick-Stop employees who kickstarted his career. There's some emotional scenes to their characters, along with genuine laughs, and an excellent performance from Rosario Dawson, although these are unfortunately a rarity with a sequel that feels contractually obliged. Where the conversations and pop-culture references came from boredom at the clerks trying to pass the time in their mundane jobs, they feel more forced here with the Lord of The Rings rant especially feeling egregious. This is also true of the humour, delivering conversations about slurs and gay panic which feel so heavy-handed in Smith trying to shock. This is mirrored in how Randal is a full-on edgelord, while there's no growth for Dante since the last film. Elias has his moments, and the emotional finale culminating in a donkey sex-show is humorous, yet it feels like a disappointment after the original.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) [rewatch] - 1.5/5 - After a paper-cut incident which Edward makes worse, he fears for Bella's safety and leaves her "for her safety". This causes Kristen Stewart's character to seemingly sit in a chair for months, saddened by her lost love while finding comfort in her childhood friend Jacob, who wants their friendship to be something more while undergoing his own changes. The first sequel in this series takes a step back to focus on these core relationships and expand this vampire world by introducing the snobbish bloodsucking elites known as the Volturi. It's an interesting idea, but the story stalls in dull ways that make this feel like franchise filler. Stewart plays the awkward teenager stuck on their first love rather well, despite some spotty moments, while Pattinson is missed as he's sidelined for the emotionless set of abs that is Taylor Lautner. Despite Michael Sheen gloriously feasting on the scenery, this is just boring.

Dragonball Evolution (2009) [rewatch] - 0.5/5 - Hollywood brings to life Akira Toriyama's popular Dragonball franchise, adapting the original series which focused on a younger Goku adventuring across the world with Bulma to find the seven Dragonballs which could grant any wish when brought together. This live-action adaptation brings to life some of the best elements from the series, including the Lord Piccolo arc, and bastardizes it in such boring ways. A grand and fantastical world feels confined to a high-school setting early on, before being trapped in drab locations which which would make The Last Airbender ashamed. In a film involving giant CGI apes, a green alien from Namek, and shapeshifting assassins, what's most unbelievable are the characters. It's difficult to believe in their relationships or their actions, the film just expects you to buy into it because it needs this next thing to happen because...reasons. It's a shame the performers are so wooden, made to perform limp action scenes which are embarrassing to be associated with an anime known for its many lengthy action scenes. Once again, Hollywood has delivered a whitewashed, live-action mess of a renowned anime.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) - 3.5/5 - It took 3 films but, I've found a film in this series that I actually like. Maybe that's because David Slade takes over, delivering the best directed film in the franchise so far as seen with the battle between the newborn army and the heroes. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart certainly feel more comfortable in their roles, selling the teen romance and the weight of Bella's decision regarding what life she wishes to live. It also takes the time to flesh out some secondary characters, with Rosalie's backstory being an engaging element complete with a killer line of her murdering her abusers in a wedding dress because she "was a bit dramatic". It's wild that the film casually drops how Jasper was a soldier for the Confederate army though. This film finally reaches the point of Victoria being the key villain, and she's a damp squib that doesn't feel worth all the build-up. Also, I'm left very confused about the "Team Jacob" of this series. I remember the story has been positioned as a love-triangle, yet all I see regarding Jacob is how he's painted as a "nice guy" who won't take no for an answer, despite Bella clearly stating she has no romantic interest in him. It's especially egregious here when he makes so many unwanted advances, making for the least interesting aspect of this series. A shame, as the idea of him representing Bella's life not changing is an interesting one, yet the execution is unfortunate. At least we get a fantastic Edward line, questioning whether Jacob owns a shirt.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) - 2/5 - What an odd film for this franchise. The story is too thin for this runtime, as the wedding transitions into Edward worrying about fucking Bella to death, before it takes the body-horror route as Bella experiences a rapid pregnancy which is draining her from the inside. There's also ridiculous effects to bring alive the werewolf side of the story, before it culminates in a very troubling end for Jacob. I feel there's an intention to be more ambiguous and make him more of a godfather figure, but there's enough there for it to be utterly icky. It's admirable that things take a step backwards to focus on smaller instances, yet the execution doesn't work, particularly when Bill Condon feels too safe a director for the routes the story takes.

Biggest Disappointment: Clerks II

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (2012) - 3/5 - The Twilight Saga comes to its end, with the final film focusing on the second half of the final book. While I question if there was enough material to justify two films, the split has allowed elements to have more space to breathe, such as Bella discovering what it's like to be a vampire, and allowing Charlie to have some happiness (Billy Burke may be the most underrated element of this franchise). Granted, it's a messy tale that's overstuffed with underdeveloped characters, yet it's also the most fun I've had with this series. A lot of that comes down to the big battle, a wonderful workaround from the book's resolution to the conflict, in shocking head-ripping fashion. Then there's the Jacob of it all, the toxic element of a love-triangle which has gotten worse after the marriage. The film spends time early-on seemingly clarifying that Jacob's imprinting doesn't mean one thing, only for the films ending to seemingly contradict that. It certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth when this film reaches a genuinely touching end.  I'm left glad that I took this journey with Edward and Bella on their love story, particularly with the hilarious line about the Loch-Ness monster.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) - 3.5/5 - After Black Panther grossed over $1 billion and received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, it seemed like an uphill battle to make the sequel and that began with the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole retooled the sequel to be a tribute to the departed actor, and those elements of the film are rather moving. Mixed in with that is a tale of grief which impacts the Wakandan figures, particularly well-played by Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, and a lovable Winston Duke.

The story sees them clash with Talokans, an ancient Mayan race who are barely visible in the murky underwater. Tenoch Huerta Mejìa is the standout as Namor, the Talokan king with no love for humanity who wants to protect his people. There's interesting ideas about them trying to find solutions while facing the underhanded nature of the U.S. government, but that gets replaced with a less-interesting subplot involving Tolkien white guy Martin Freeman. It's part of an oddly placed narrative which needed some trimming, but what's faultless are Ludwig Göransson's score and Ruth E Carter's costume design. A touching, yet messy film.

Final Cut (2022) - 2/5 - It tries recapturing the wit and charm of the excellent One Cut of the Dead, but feels too artificial to work.

Triangle of Sadness (2022) - 4.5/5 - A pitch-black satire of the modelling industry and how the rich live their lives told with a wicked sense of humour, Ruben Östlund has crafted a 150-minute film which flies by so effectively. The film peaks during the middle section, particularly with an unforgettable sequence that had me laughing so much, although key to this film are an array of fantastic performances, particularly Charlbi Dean and Dolly de Leon. With all these elements, I could've sat there for much longer watching this all happen.

Feardotcom (2002) - 1/5 - Whether it's from studio interference or the directors influences, this film really wants to be a cross between House on Haunted Hill and Se7en, but the result is too dire to work. A ramshackle script does little with the pitiful characters, leaving the cast with little of interest to do, including Stephen Rea to overact in jarring ways. Most criminally, this is utterly boring.

Barbarian (2022) [rewatch] - 4/5 - A rewatch of this was lovely, but the viewing was heightened by my friend experiencing this for the first time. A fantastic look at red flags told through a wild ride.

Biggest Surprise: All Eyes

Goodbye, Don Glees! (2022) - 4/5 - A touching tale about the end of childhood and discovering what makes you happy.

Meat Friend (2022) - 3.5/5 - When young Billie microwaves some beef, it comes to life as the talking Meat Friend. The friend refers to Billie as children while teaching dark lessons, in a surreal short that's stylised as a retro TV show in ways that bring to mind Too Many Cooks. Not all of it worked for me, but it's a fun time nonetheless.

HeBGB TV (2022) - 3/5 - A humorous journey through demonic cable TV.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) [rewatch] - 5/5 - No matter how long I leave it between viewings, this remains an utter joy to behold. Henry Selick's feature directorial debut effectively blends the horrific and the festive in a glorious package, with the magnificent songs and exceptional score from Danny Elfman greatly sharing so much about the characters. The real star is the gorgeous stop-motion animation, particularly in how it depicts the spindly nature of Jack Skellington and how he moves. A tremendous film that wonderfully fits both depicted holidays.

Moongirl (2005) - 2/5 - This short film from Henry Selick and Laika is a mixture of interesting ideas, although perhaps there's too many ideas within making it feel messy. The worst element is the ugly animated style, so thank goodness that wasn't continued on by the company.

Stag (2022) - 2.5/5 - A blend of Bridesmaids and The Wicker Man which keeps the relationships grounded.

Worst film of the month:
Dragonball: Evolution

Bumblebees (2022) - 3.5/5 - A stylish short about a group of women, intent on doling out punishment on captive men. A slight yet decent short that's populated with a great cast.

All Eyes (2022) - 4.5/5 - An emotional character study with shades of The Endless and Home Alone.

Pinocchio (1940) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - What begins as a charming tale of Geppetto and his adorable pets longing for a son turns into a dark fable, where the temptations of veering from the straight and narrow come alive as a horrifying fantasy. While the story may be episodic, the emotional core, catchy songs, and themes hold it together in spectacular fashion.

Free Birds (2013) - 1/5 - After seeing Woody Harrelson be so fantastic in Triangle of Sadness, it's quite the come-down to hear him phone in his lines here. Luckily that's par for the course with this cast, as they're all part of such empty, disposable nonsense which gives them little to work with. Key to it is a bizarre plot that should be more entertaining than it actually is, but instead feels like slop that an executive churned out because they believe kids will watch anything.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) - 4.5/5 - If Rian Johnson could keep delivering Benoit Blanc mysteries, I would be a happy bunny. This next mystery may feel baggier in places than its predecessor, yet it all comes together by the end in glorious fashion. Johnson has delivered another stunner that's timely, utterly hilarious, and phenomenally acted by this tremendous cast. Kate Hudson and Janelle Monáe are the standout performers within this magnificently woven tale that I immediately want to rewatch.

Bones and All (2022) - 4.5/5 - What an utterly glorious tale this is. The unity of screenwriters David Kajganich and Camille DeAngelis with director Luca Guadagnino has created a heartfelt tale of loneliness and generational trauma told through the prism of a cannibal romance. There's exceptional performances all around in this beautiful piece that merges finger-licking brutality with heartfelt sensuality.

Best film of the month: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Best film seen in cinemas: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Best film watched for the first time: Red Rocket
Best film rewatched: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Biggest Disappointment: Clerks II
Biggest Surprise: All Eyes
Worst film of the month: Dragonball: Evolution

Number of films watched: 35