Let’s talk movies. The best of 2022 edition. A seemingly mundane yet required task that becomes enjoyable when I start writing out the list. Compiling it hasn’t been fun or easy.
Confession: I didn’t have a TRUE #1 movie this year. There is no “Pig” or “The Way Back” in this group–a definitive selection that carries the most points. A 10/10 for me. This year, only a couple films came close to that flawless mark, and an argument could be made for a crack in their façade. However, with that being said, there were some fine films released that are worth remembering.
The PRETTY GOOD Section
“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” wins the award for most tongue-in-cheek celebration of a single actor. Everything you loved (and hated) about Nic Cage was explored and played for a big laugh in Tom Gormican’s uproarious movie. It’s worth the $20 if you fill a room with friends and family, especially the ones who have seen “Con Air” and “Face/Off.”
Pedro Pascal is the adoring mega fan of Cage who has the actor out to his island for a meet and greet, without knowing the Coppola prodigal son is a spy for the U.S. government. Pascal could be a drug kingpin being sought by all law authorities, or he could really just be a huge fan. The best scenes are Cage, completely leaning into the absurdity of it all, and Pascal celebrating their hard love for cinema.
“Ray Donovan: The Movie” wrapped up the Showtime series perfectly, lifting up a rather dismal January release schedule. After an abrupt end to its time on the premium cable network, Showtime gave showrunner David Hollander and star Liev Schreiber the cinematic bandwidth to compose a proper finale. The result was a satisfying and soulful finish.
Schreiber, also a producer on the series, has always chosen a deft portrayal of a complicated man. Instead of chewing scenery or overplaying the west and east cast “fixer,” Schreiber goes the understated route, a move that continues in the movie. Series vets like Jon Voight, Eddie Marsan, Kerris Dorsey, and Pooch Hall are excellent. Bill Heck and Kerry Condon put in solid work that resonates. The final scenes provide closure and some room for more story.
Not all movies wear shiny, awards-time clothing. The best thing about “Ray Donovan: The Movie” is that it played like a 70s thriller.
“The Adam Project” looked like a Ryan Reynolds slushie on paper, but it hit the heart dead-on when it premiered in the spring on Netflix. Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, and Catherine Keener classed up the joint. Zoe Saldana only needs a few scenes to wire into your emotions. Walter Scobell held his own with the titular star, who got to unleash his charisma and dig deep enough to slice a few onions. A playful and entertaining spin on time travel’s bitter and sweet rewards only grows stronger with each re-watch.
“Dog” also looked like a slushie with a bag of Skittles thrown in, only this time with Channing Tatum. But the movie snuck up and floored me, using an easy-to-please formula along with its very affable star. I’m talking about the gorgeous Belgian Malinois, but Tatum is very good in his own right.
It’s not a stretch to say this movie is playing with kettle corn money with the two leads clicking. A man and dog bonding tale, especially draped here in Army Ranger tribute colors, is a double before the theater goes down. Co-directing his first film with Reid Carolin, Tatum has found a steady comfort zone again in films like this and “Lost City.”
But few will be ready for the tearful climax, where all the dog lovers (no, the animal doesn’t die, chill) will need a few sheets of Kleenex.
“Ambulance” exchanged the tears for pure adrenaline–like going from a comforting breakfast burrito to a plate of nachos with hot sauce on top. Michael Bay in medium blow-shit-up gear makes for a compelling Tony Scott-type speed of action drama. Co-stars like Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal give you a couple kings in hand. Eiza Gonzalez is the right kind of fire to go against Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen II’s bank robbers. Let me say how much I appreciated Garret Dillahunt having the chance to get his Michael Mann “HEAT” cop on as the detective charged with tracking the runaway “Ambulance” down for justice.
It’s a red bull through and through, but a more sure of itself Bay movie than usual.
“Fresh” was flat-out different. A horror film that played outside the box, creating some carnivore mischief in its wake well before Timothee Chalamet got hungry in “Bones and All.” Without spoiling the big twist planted in this film, I will just say that people should do a deep dive check on their first date companions. A meet-greet in a grocery store can go anywhere, even into someone else’s stomach. This movie goes where you are thinking yet can’t actually believe it would go. Worth a Hulu trial with a “Pig” watch and binge of “The Bear.”
The Very Damn Good Section
“Banshees of Inisherin” was the ONLY award-time release to really make a dent. Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, and writer/director Martin McDonagh can just keep making quirky comedy/drama hybrids that tackle the absurd-yet-real trials and tribulations of life. This one didn’t try hard, overstay its welcome, or become too complex. It just breathed natural life into the simple-yet-poignant tale of the ugly aftermath of the breakup involving two best friends.
Colm (Gleeson) decides one day he doesn’t want to be pals with Padraic (Farrell) anymore, and goes to great lengths to prove his new feelings aren’t temporary. Add in the news-travels-fast arena of a small Irish town, and it just gets messier. What follows is heartbreaking, honest, darkly hilarious, and oddly satisfying. Barry Keoghan and Condon are both phenomenal in supporting roles.
“Top Gun Maverick” wasn’t just a monstrous box office hit. It was an excellent, nostalgic turbo-boosted sequel that outdid its well-known (but flawed) predecessor.
Tom Cruise and a knockout cast brought director Joseph Kosinski’s film to exhilarating life. It’s hyperbole when you recall those aerial action sequences, the main reason that Cruise and his production team first decided to delay the release. The wait, and resulting execution, made for one of 2022’s finest movie theater enjoyments. If there was ever a movie made for a big screen, it was “Maverick.” The cameo with Val Kilmer is as good as they say.
Also, Jon Hamm plays a great hard-ass Admiral.
“The Menu” played a similar tune as “Fresh,” taking expectations that were brought in the door and tossing them off the balcony soon after. Having Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy is like having a couple aces at your table. Fiennes is a world-renowned chef who hosts a group of hand-selected guests off a hidden coast in the middle of nowhere (hello horror-type vibes) for one unforgettable meal. Enjoy your party, cinema fans. This movie is a real trip. Grade-A mindfuck… in all the right ways.
One more thing. Have an ample meal beforehand, or get plans together for a juicy cheeseburger after the show. Trust me on the burger part.
was a lovely celebration of film and how the universally welcoming aspect of a movie theater can unite even the most complicated of souls. Olivia Colman is good in anything, but she excels especially well here as a theater manager who harbors secrets, both sweet and sad. She befriends a new theater employee in Michael Ward’s young ambitious-minded movie lover, and the events of an English coastal town in the 1980s take their effect.
I was taken aback by Sam Mendes’ latest movie, a celebration of the escapism acquired at the movies. Take or leave the politics thrown into the plot, and take in an against-type slimy performance from Colin Firth. The “light” in this story is about being able to sit next to a bunch of strangers and feel something deeper than you do with a table full of family.
“Cha Cha Real Smooth” came closer than any movie this released this year to that illustrious mark of perfection. Maybe after another watch it will be. Cooper Raiff wrote, directed, produced, and starred in this feel-good drama that carried a couple big punches in its second half. Raiff plays one of those post-college drifters, the souls who go from job to job trying to find a match. He gets a gig as a party starter for bar mitzvahs, and that’s where he meets Domino (career-best Dakota Johnson) and her autistic daughter, Lola (Vanessa Burghardt). Their relationship takes expected, and unexpected, turns when Raiff’s Andrew bonds with both ladies.
As in real life, complications threaten nice and easy movie romance, resulting in an honest depiction of connection in all the good and not-so-good ways. Leslie Mann and Brad Garrett get a lot of mileage out of their roles, and young Evan Assante is not one to forget. This one is definitely rewatchable with some power under its belt.
ALSO Pretty Darn Good:
Come for the Robert Downey Jr. allure; stay for the legit father-son waterworks. I applaud docs that can come in and lay down a well-told Hollywood story that seems so personal that you leave wanting more.
Released a day before the end of the year, this cinematic-like documentary follows Harry, a British war veteran, who goes into the Amazon forest to take his own life–but finds a connection with baby ocelots instead. His work with Samantha, whose project aims to “rewild” young cats so they can be fit for the jungle, resonates very deeply in a movie frankly I didn’t see coming.
“She Said” was a hard-hitting journalism film that brought the ugly events of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall to the spotlight. You won’t find a better ensemble cast than the one here, but it’s the bravery of Ashley Judd that shines through weeks later when thinking about this one.
My love for Danish film grew with this lived-in tale of a middle-aged man running away from adulting and into the Norwegian wilderness. What Martin (a wonderful Rasmus Bjerg) finds is an unusual (but much-needed) friendship with Musa (Zaki Youssef), a criminal on the run. But it’s Bjorn Sundqvist who steals the film as Oyvind, the cop out to track down both men, before Musa’s men find them with much more dire consequences. It sounds like an action adventure, but it’s a slow-burning comedy at heart. It’s also where I located the greatest song of all time:
That’s my list. There were others, but you can’t mention every good movie you see. Be picky, and never apologize for giving a movie the middle finger of no thanks. You owe them little, but can genuinely find a lot of rewards in the right choice.
Thanks for reading my work this year. As they say, onto the next!