December 2022 In Review

Another year has left us, and 2023 has taken its place. To end the last month of 2022, I completed my challenge to watch 30 films from 1992 while also catching up on some of the years releases, and even getting in a few festive films. So, let's see what films I watched this past December.

Boomerang (1992) - 3.5/5 - A womanizing advertising executive finds the tables turned, when he gets treated with the same coldness by his new boss. This entertaining romantic-comedy is an excellent showcase for the stellar cast, particularly the suave Eddie Murphy as he navigates between an alluring Robin Givens and an enchanting Halle Berry. There's also Eartha Kitt and John Witherspoon, stealing every scene they appear in so magnificently. The film surrounding these performers is baggy, and it certainly feels dated when the first ten-minutes include a chat devoted to being transphobic. It's unfortunate such a thing has to rear its ugly head, as the film surrounding it is full of charm.

She Said (2022) - 4.5/5 - Bringing to screen the New York Times investigation into Harvey Weinstein's history of sexual abuse, screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz adapts the book by reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey to deliver a gripping journalism thriller told with such fury. This understated tale is magnificently directed by Maria Schrader, saying so much by focusing on interior shots while the tremendous cast absolutely deliver. The combination leads to horrifying recounts of an abuser at large, and the system which kept him in that position for so long. An exceptional film.

The Player (1992) - 4.5/5 - My first Robert Altman film, and it's an exceptionally dark satire on Hollywood. The story follows Tim Robbins' producer whose life begins unravelling when he starts receiving death-threats, which kicks off a humorous and gripping thriller that adeptly mirrors the industry. It's brought alive by Altman's exquisite directing and Robbins' magnificent performance, complete with an unnerving stare to match what Kubrick's films deliver. From the magnificent unbroken shot which opens the film to the stupendous way things close, this is a highlight of 1992 cinema.

Clerks III (2022) - 3/5 - A trip down memory lane in ways indulgent and heartfelt.

Adrift In Tokyo (2007) - 4.5/5 - An understated gem which I'm thankful has been rediscovered.

The Lodge (2020) - 4/5 - If you wanted a feel-good wintery film to watch this festive season, this is not that. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala follow a soon-to-be stepmother trying to bond with her fiancee's children at a remote lodge, although strange occurrences make things difficult. The effects of divorce, grief, and trauma are felt throughout this eerie tale, with the performances helping it all feel so powerful. While the middle section is rather good, the opening and closing 10-minutes are easily the best portions of this effective tale. Grim stuff.

Best film of the month and
Best film rewatched: Paddington 2

Paddington (2014) [rewatch] - 4/5 - It's fascinating to revisit this film because, while I have liked this since seeing it at the cinema, it seems I previously underrated it. Paul King exceptionally directs this story of what family means, never forgetting the beating heart while chaotic set-pieces hilariously escalate from good intentions in ways that feel gloriously inspired by Buster Keaton. My issues remain with Nicole Kidman, as her inclusion feels forced out of some belief that a villain is needed, when there's already an engaging enough story without it. Regardless, this heartwarming tale of much needed kindness amidst Britain's anti-immigration sentiment sadly remains relevant. It's also fascinating how this iteration of Michael Bond's character was co-opted by those who would echo Mister Curry's sentiments of deporting the marmalade loving Bear.

The Mean One (2022) - 1.5/5 - A sketch idea with more CGI blood than personality.

Paddington 2 (2017) [rewatch] - 5/5 - No matter how many times I watch this, the ending never fails to make me weep before the mid-credits sequence brings me back to laughter with such ease. With a plot that's essentially "Paddington goes to prison", it sounds like the latest try at maturing a beloved childhood character ala Violent Night or Winnie The Pooh: Blood & Honey. Yet, Paul King and Simon Farnaby use it to tell an exceptional tale of the importance of kindness, complete with masterful performances by Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson. An utter masterpiece.

Gunpower Milkshake (2021) - 2/5 - A film that feels so desperate to show off its inspirations, while misunderstanding what actually worked from them. The screenplay from Ehud Lavski and director Navot Papushado offers little for the talented cast to work with, who are at least trying, but cannot do much with this hollow imitator that prioritizes tiresome action scenes over basic characterization.

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Whenever I revisit this flick, I remain astounded by how good it truly is. A mature and resonant tale of not letting past trauma define you, as told through this engaging animated flick of animals performing kung-fu. Gorgeously animated, rather funny, and one of Dreamworks' best.

Marmaduke (2022) - 0.5/5 - I thought I knew what laziness was, until I saw this dogs mess of a film. From the ugly animation to the tired screenplay, and especially the lackluster voice-acting which doesn't even match up with the lip movements, this is a cinematic embarrassment. The impression given is that every element was created in the most cheap, low-effort way possible, and leaves me questioning whether J.K. Simmons ever turns down a film.

Best film seen in cinemas: The Muppet Christmas Carol

Twins of Evil (1971) - 3.5/5 - Director John Hough and writer Tudor Gates blend religious fervor with vampirism, for an intriguing period tale with shades of Witchfinder General and Carmilla to it. The story sees Peter Cushing in fine form, playing a puritan leader desperate to vanquish satanic forces through whatever means possible. The film paints his character as a man who spends his Friday nights rounding up the lads, as they brutally murder innocent women they consider to be servants of the devil. There's a strange moral conservatism at the heart of this tale, where this man who's no better than the vampiric Count Karnstein is treated as the hero because he's upholding what's "good and proper". There's also his twin nieces, whose journeys go precisely as one expects when one is considered virginal and the other more free-thinking. At least that final act is rather engaging.

Violent Night (2022) - 2.5/5 - A disillusioned Santa Claus stumbles onto the compound of a rich family, who are at the mercy of mercenaries that have broken in for money. It becomes Die Hard with Santa, and it left me wanting to watch John McTiernan's classic instead. David Harbour is terrific as the festive icon, disillusioned with the world and ready to lay down some seasons beatings. A shame the film around him is so messy, peaking with two entertaining set-pieces while struggling with dull action surrounding them. The tone is all over the place, while convoluted filler pads out the unnecessarily long runtime and bungling its attempted message about the evils of money for something more reminiscent of Elf. Ho-ho-no!

Batman (1989) [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - How wonderful to see this iconic classic on the IMAX screen. A rightfully iconic film that's an excellent showcase for Jack Nicholson's madcap Joker portrayal and Michael Keaton's hero that's struggling to keep himself in check as the playboy who feels ill-suited for this rich lifestyle he's part of. It does feel rather ordinary as an origin tale, and the tries to tie hero and villain origins together feel glaring, yet it doesn't detract from what works so well.

Batman Returns (1992) [rewatch] - 5/5 - Yes, it's a mismatched tale which forgets about Batman which forgets about a storyline where he's framed for murder. I honestly do not care though, because the final product is a compelling character study about the masks these characters put on, brought alive by the phenomenal performers and told in such entertaining ways. Danny Devito is especially brilliant as Penguin, in such a venomous and animalistic take on the character. A beautifully strange take on these DC Comics characters.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992) [rewatch] - 2.5/5 - Giving this a revisit, this feature-film feels like a good starting point for what the TV show would do to better effect. Kristy Swanson is charming at the titular character while Paul Reubens is having a blast as the vampiric henchman, but the more distinguished actors (Sutherland and Hauer) leave little impression while the script does poorly regarding the female characters.

Best film watched for the first time: Aftersun

Aftersun (2022) - 5/5 - For her feature directorial debut, Charlotte Wells delivers an exceptional work that feels personal and precise. The story follows thirty-something father Calum, as he sets out to make this holiday the best for his eleven-year-old daughter Sophie. Surrounding it is a reflection through video recordings and melancholy memories, as Sophie reconciles the man she knew with the sides to him she did not. The film effectively captures how some memories you want to stay within, escaping real-life while enjoying the good times, yet nothing lasts forever. From performances to score and especially direction, this is a magnificently crafted film where all the parts come together in masterful ways. This especially includes the best use of Under Pressure I've seen since Happy Feet 2. By the time the credits rolled, I felt like a weight had been placed on my chest and I did not want to move until the credits had ended. One of the year's best films, and one of my favourite debuts in a while. I cannot wait to see where Charlotte Wells goes next with her career.

A Few Good Men (1992) - 4/5 - An enthralling courtroom drama which follows a familiar path, yet it's delivered in such engrossing ways. While the dialogue can feel overindulgent at times, the cast are on top form, with Jack Nicholson stealing every moment he appears on-screen. The climatic confrontation is rightfully iconic for how masterful that moment is.

RRR (2022) - 5/5 - My goodness, S. S. Rajamouli just showed up Hollywood blockbusters with this one film. This fictionalized tale imagines a friendship between Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, two legendary revolutionaries who fought for their country against the British Raj. It's depicted through an utterly charming friendship, portrayed so effortlessly by N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, which is the core to what this film does across the breezy feeling runtime. It's one of the fastest 3-hour films I've seen in a while, as the vivid imagination of the films writer/director brings alive exceptional action, heartfelt romance, and the year's best dance sequence in ways that feel like a breath of fresh air. A film where the sheer power of bromance allows the leads to punch a tiger in the face, fight stacked on-top of each-other, and show-up snobby British bullies at a party with a one-of-a-kind dance-off. I wish I could've seen this in a cinema.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) - 4.5/5 - What an utterly exceptional film from Ang Lee. This is a gorgeously crafted tale all throughout, from the sumptuous score to the enthralling action scenes, and especially the magnificent performances. What really makes it sing is the human conflict at the center, as the characters are left wondering about the best way to live their lives. Be they trapped within parental expectations, or worrying about dishonoring the deceased, this conflict is effectively captured in writing and performance. A magnificent piece of work.

Fresh (2022) - 3/5 - I wish I liked this more than I did. I dug the initial story, focusing on the state of modern dating which leads to a meet-cute between the leads, while holding my intrigue as to what direction Mimi Cave's directorial debut would take. Where it settled on lost my interest, particularly when it focused on a specific metaphor and hammered that home quite a bit. I cannot blame my lacking interest on Daisy Edgar-Jones or Sebastian Stan, as I quite liked what they did with their roles.

Biggest Disappointment: Violent Night

Weird: The Al Yankovich Story (2022) - 3.5/5 - Expanding his 2010 short-film of the same name, Eric Appel delivers a parody of musical biopics with this rightfully weird tale of Polka artist Al Yankovic. From his disapproving father to Madonna being used to embody the Yoko Ono type who "ruins the genius man", this takes aim at the usual cliches with such glee. I do wish it was more laugh-out-loud funny, particularly when the strongest elements are later on when it truly gets weird. Key to it all is the excellent lead performance by Daniel Radcliffe, an utter joy as Weird Al that further cements the former Harry Potter star as one of today's most interesting actors.

Soft & Quiet (2022) - 4/5 - Beth de Araújo begins her directorial debut in a simple place, as a school-teacher entertains a group of like-minded women in an effort to form a community. This is just the beginning of this uncomfortable and tense tale, as the camera never cuts away from this women's group but fully gazes at this place where evil lurks in everyday forms. An enthralling tale which grows more unnerving as it goes on and, while the last ten-minutes may lose its way with minimal lighting, this remains an unforgettable tale.

Entergalactic (2022) - 4.5/5 - What if a charming rom-com with a terrific cast had the visual style of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse? You get Fletcher Moules' directorial debut, a visual companion to Kid Cudi's album of the same name which is also a heartfelt delight about an artist falling for his next-door neighbour. A creative project with such artistry and vision behind it, and it's a joyous discovery worth making on Netflix.

My Cousin Vinny (1992) - 3.5/5 - When two friends are mistakenly arrested for murder, they find a lawyer to represent them in the form of one friend's cousin, Vinny. Jonathan Lynn directs this humorous courtroom tale which may wrap up a tad too neatly in places, but is a funny time aided by the tremendous performances of Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei. A feel-good time.

Porco Rosso (1992) - 4.5/5 - Goodness, what a wonderfully imaginative piece this is. The titular character is an Italian World War 1 ace pilot, cursed with a pigs head who spends his time as a bounty hunter chasing "air pirates". This stunningly animated tale is bursting with life, yet truly comes alive during the gorgeous flying sequences, while being full of heart. Central to it is Porco Rosso himself, who'd rather be a pig than a fascist, striving to do what he loves while in the sky. A stunning flick from Studio Ghibli.

Biggest Surprise: Adrift in Tokyo

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) [rewatch] - 5/5 - Now that I've seen this on the big screen, things truly feel Christmasy. The way this film makes full comedic use of its Muppets, before being fully serious and emotional in the third act, is excellent. Also, it's a joy to see the missing song reinstated into the film. A fantastic treat that makes me feel festive whenever I watch it.

Guncrazy (1992) - 3/5 - Working off a script by Matthew Bright, director Tamra Davis crafts a Bonnie & Clyde/Badlands style tale of a doomed romance between a pair on the run. The film settles into showing Anita (Drew Barrymore) hating her life, engaging in casual sex to numb the pain of reality before she finds solace in her prison penpal, Howard (James LeGros). The film takes its time to reach the lovers taking lives and evading the law, and then once that segment activates, it rushes through elements before reaching the expected conclusion. A decent tale, even if oddly paced.

Knives Out (2019) [rewatch] - 5/5 - A magnificently written film that's tightly crafted and smart, right down to the journey of a baseball being the downfall for one character.

Krampus (2015) [rewatch] - 4/5 - A fun tale about a family rediscovering their Christmas spirit, as they grapple with a monstrous being and its sack of horrific toys. It does feel like a film cut down from a more sweary and grisly cut, but remains effective nonetheless.

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) - 4/5 - Thirteen-years after topping himself to make the world's highest grossing film, James Cameron makes the long-expected return to Pandora to revisit the characters and the world. At 192-minutes, the film does feel overlong and overstuffed, particularly in the middle hour. Despite that, what remains is an emotionally engaging tale of familial connections and revenge, while the visual effects and use of 3D are utterly stunning to behold. The third-act may have Cameron revisiting his greatest hits, yet this isn't an issue when he does such a phenomenal job here with the action throughout. An excellent tale that held my attention, and I would happily return for further sequels.

Worst film of the month: Marmaduke (2022)

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) - 4.5/5 - I knew little about this film outside of Alec Baldwin's magnificent scene, but this is a magnificent drama which kept me gripped all throughout. David Mamet adapts his stage play for a feature film directed by James Foley, as real-estate salesmen grow desperate to close sales through whatever means necessary and keep their jobs. This is a film which lives on the performances and writing, and it absolutely excels in both of those areas. Phenomenal stuff.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019) [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - A tale that's stronger with the Pokémon related elements than the human ones. I love seeing this world and its signature monsters realised, and Justice Smith plays the lead role well, I just wish the third-act and the human elements weren't so glaring.

The Long Day Closes (1992) - 3/5 - Terence Davies crafts a nostalgic tale about the power of cinema, as it provides the needed escape within a postwar Britain for a lonely boy. It's a well made tale, beautifully shot as it wonderfully utilizes music and snippets of film dialogue throughout, but the pace felt too glacial for me and left my attention waning. Not one for me.

White Men Can't Jump (1992) - 3.5/5 - Ron Shelton writes and directs this film following Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson as they play a pair of hustlers, making money by playing basketball games. This film truly comes alive during these sequences, as the sports scenes are thrilling and it's engrossing to see this pair on the edge of hating each other while trying to hang onto their livelihoods through whatever means possible. It's so good to watch that times away from this conflict is lesser, particularly the subplot involving a crime family and the third-act hinging on Jeopardy! A shame, as these unnecessary elements bring down what's otherwise a great film for me.

Poison Ivy (1992) - 2.5/5 - A film that was wanted by the studio as a "teenage Fatal Attraction", what director Katy Shea and co-writer Andy Ruben have crafted is an uneven thriller that takes leaps throughout. What helps is an excellent Drew Barrymore as the teen femme fatale, who wants to be loved no matter how she goes about it, as her integration into an already broken family shatters things even further.

Spongebob in Tehran (2017) - 0.5/5 - What a film to end my 2022 on. A bootleg Spongebob Squarepants film with a dodgy animation style and no sense of urgency. When the characters spend their time focusing on eating at various places in Iran rather than fulfilling their objective, it feels more like a weird advertisement by the Iranian tourist board. It has the characters visiting a sports game where fans fire RPGs, Spongebob and Patrick trying to sell Squidward into slavery for food, and it has no real ending. A bizarre experience.

Best film of the month: Paddington 2
Best film seen in cinemas: The Muppet Christmas Carol
Best film watched for the first time: Aftersun
Best film rewatched: Paddington 2
Biggest Disappointment: Violent Night
Biggest Surprise: Adrift In Tokyo
Worst film of the month: Marmaduke (2022)

Number of films watched: 38