Time: 159 Minutes Age Rating: Sex scenes, offensive language & content that may disturb Cast:
Daniel Giménez Cacho as Silverio Gama
Griselda Siciliani as Lucía Gama Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
A renowned Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker returns home and works through an existential crisis as he grapples with his identity, familial relationships and the folly of his memories.
I had heard about Bardo for a while, it would be the next film from Alejandro González Iñárritu (7 years after The Revenant). The reactions seemed very polarizing, the general consensus was that it has fantastical visuals, but it was overlong and self indulgent. After it was nominated for Best Cinematography, I figured that I should give it a watch at the very least. Coming out of it, I had mixed feelings but I’m prepared to say that I liked it.
It is a bit hard to sum up what the movie is about, beyond the fact that it focuses on a Mexican documentary filmmaker and journalist and his headspace. I got the impression that is something of a pseudo biopic for Alejandro González Iñárritu, it certainly feels personal to him. It is very self indulgent but it seems aware of that, in fact at times it plays like an intentional self parody. It does seem to be playing with a lot of themes, including artistic aspirations, family history, and being lost between countries. Many of these themes are shown in interesting ways. You can tell early on that it’s going to be a weird movie, with some of the stylistic choices that are made, especially with its use of surrealism. Within the first hour I was at least intrigued in this chaotic and weird world that the movie existed in. But at a point after this, I stopped being interested, and it began to feel tedious. The choice to lean harder into surrealism and the abstract didn’t always work. Some of these segments can be special, but they became a little dull after a while. There are times where the movie had my interest, and other times where it lost it. The movie meanders aimlessly a lot, and the storytelling can be a little exhausting, made worse by the very slow pacing. It’s around 2 hours and 40 minutes, and you certainly feel it.
Daniel Giménez Cacho plays the main character and he’s really good in his part. He’s in almost every scene, and for as weird as the movie gets, he really holds everything together. Other actors are good in their parts, including Griselda Siciliani and Ximena Lamadrid.
While some of his decisions were for the worse, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s direction is at least admirable. One of the most praised aspects was the cinematography and it deserves all the praise. This is a gorgeous looking movie, and it’s shot in extreme wide angle so you see all the details. There are some locations and images where the visuals are not too dissimilar from a Terrence Malick film. The surreal imagery don’t always work but they are impressive and creative, and helped by the movie’s dream-like quality.
There’s no denying that Bardo is an ambitious film, but I admired it more than I actually liked it. The acting is good, there are some interesting themes and ideas, it is creative with memorable imagery, and the cinematography is sublime. However, my interest really waned over the course of its very long runtime, and I couldn’t help but find much of the experience to be tedious. I’m not sure I can really recommend it to just anyone, but if you’re open to a weird and surreal film, give it a go.
Time: 140 Minutes Cast:
Ricardo Darín as Julio César Strassera
Peter Lanzani as Luis Moreno Ocampo
Alejandra Flechner as Silvia Strassera
Norman Briski as “Ruso” Director: Santiago Mitre
The true story of how a public prosecutor, a young lawyer, and their inexperienced legal team dared to prosecute the heads of Argentina’s bloody military dictatorship.
I didn’t know much about Argentina, 1985 before going into it. All I knew was that it is one of the movies nominated for Best International Feature, and it won that award at the more recent Golden Globes. It turned out to be a riveting historical courtroom drama which was great.
I didn’t know much about the events that Argentina, 1985 is based on, so naturally I found this very interesting and informative to watch. For those wondering about whether they can get into this, it’s a very accessible movie. It’s a good courtroom drama, conventionally told and straightforward, with a fairly simple story. It is gripping, told with a lot of weight, and you really feel the high stakes. It can be a heavy movie at times, mainly when we hear accounts from survivors. Still, there are little moments of humour which lighten up the tension, but don’t feel out of place. Despite the length of 2 hours and 20 minutes, it doesn’t feel that it’s too long, helped by the somewhat fast pace.
The performances from everyone were really good. Ricardo Darin is in the lead role of the main prosecutor and he’s great and convincing. The rest of the cast including Pedro Lanzini are also good. The actors playing the victims make an impression in their scenes too, especially Laura Paredes.
The direction is fairly simplistic from Santiago Mitre, but overall, his work is solid. The cinematography is slick, and the production design and editing are good.
Argentina, 1985 is a great historical drama, well acted and directed, and has a compelling story which I was engaged with from beginning to end. I highly recommend checking it out.
Time: 102 Minutes Age Rating: PG – Coarse language & sexualised imagery Cast: Bill Nighy as Mr. Rodney Williams Aimee Lou Wood as Miss Margaret Harris Alex Sharp as Mr. Peter Wakeling Tom Burke as Mr. Sutherland Director: Oliver Hermanus
Overwhelmed at work and lonely at home, a civil servant’s life takes a heartbreaking turn when a medical diagnosis tells him his time is short. Influenced by a local decadent and a vibrant woman, he continues to search for meaning until a simple revelation gives him a purpose to create a legacy for the next generation.
Living was one of the remaining movies I was waiting to watch. The main reason was that in a lot of this year’s awards circuits, Bill Nighy’s performance in this movie was frequently nominated for Best Actor. I was then intrigued when I learned that this was a British remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru. Eventually it did get a nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, along with Adapted Screenplay, and so I watched it first chance I could. Living ended up being much better than I thought it would be.
I know that many who have watched Ikiru are probably concerned with the fact that there’s a remake of it at all. But for what it’s worth, Living adapts the story to Britain quite well. You can see similarities between the two movies, the story beats are the same and even some of the imagery of the original movie is recreated here (including the iconic image of the lead character on a swing). At the same time, they feel thoughtfully and deliberately placed in. It doesn’t feel derivative, there is some clear passion for this story. I was invested enough in the movie that I wasn’t thinking about the similarities, and it manages to be its own thing. It probably helps that its central message is universal. Both films are about mortality and living life to the fullest, even in the face of inevitable death and the relatable fear of not having much time left. So while much of the story is bittersweet, the end message is optimistic. It is a very heartfelt, sensitive, and gentle story, and a politely restrained character study. There was clearly a lot of care taken in crafting the film; it takes its time and is a slow burn, but I was invested throughout. Perhaps the third act did have a bit too much of characters flat out stating the themes, but that’s what Ikiru did too. The movie is relatively short at an hour and 40 minutes, but I think it could’ve afforded to be a little longer. There are some aspects in the second half that I wish had more fleshing out.
Bill Nighy is in the lead role and while I haven’t seen a ton of his work, he gives possibly his best performance here. He’s so nuanced and subtle with so many powerfully quiet moments, and he fits the Takashi Shimura role in the original so well. His change over the course of the movie is so genuine and convincing. So much of the film relies on Nighy, and he had me so emotionally invested. The rest of the cast do some great work too, with Aimee Lou Wood and Tom Burke especially leaving strong impressions.
Oliver Hermanus’s direction is quite good. The technical elements aren’t anything too special but aren’t a slouch either. Right from the beginning, it seems like efforts were taken to make it look like the movie came from the 1950s, but isn’t so overt that it becomes overbearing or feels like its trying too hard. The cinematography is vivid and captures the time period and setting excellently. One of the stand out aspects of the movie is the elegant piano centric score from Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch. It’s incredible and pleasantly melodic music which carries so much emotion, accompanying the rest of the movie excellently.
Living is an understated, melancholic and existential drama with fantastic performances, especially from a phenomenal Bill Nighy. Whether you’ve watched Ikiru before or not, I highly recommend checking it out.
Time: 114 Minutes Age Rating: Violence and offensive language Cast: Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers David Arquette as Dewey Riley Melissa Barrera as Sam Carpenter Jack Quaid as Richie Kirsch Mikey Madison as Amber Freeman Jenna Ortega as Tara Carpenter Dylan Minnette as Wes Hicks Jasmin Savoy Brown as Mindy Meeks-Martin Mason Gooding as Chad Meeks-Martin Sonia Ammar as Liv McKenzie Marley Shelton as Judy Hicks Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Sam Carpenter returns to Woodsboro after her sister gets attacked by the Ghostface. She approaches Dewey Riley to help catch the killer, who warns Sidney and Gale.
11 years after the last movie, Scream gets its fifth installement with the confusingly titled Scream. While I have some issues with it, I liked it overall, and did pretty well considering its task of following up on Wes Craven’s movies.
Meta satire is a present aspect through all these Scream movies, but I found it to be a mixed bag in this one. Instead of poking fun as cliches of horror movies, sequels, threequels and remakes, it’s about toxic fandom, and somewhat about legacy sequels and modern horror, including “elevated horror”. Some of the dialogue about that can be very on the nose and grating. I still like the satire, but it’s not done nearly as well compared to what Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson did with the previous movies. That’s especially the case when it comes to the commentary on modern horror, since Scream 4 back in 2011 executed this a lot better. Scream 5 does work a little better outside of the meta aspects, even if the plot is kind of predictable, beginning with another great Scream opening. The mystery is maintained well, and it does play with your expectations for a new Scream movie. The twists aren’t as surprising as previous movies, but it doesn’t feel like there as much of an emphasis on surprising you, so I was fine with that. It does well at introducing some new characters to the franchise (even if some of them are underdeveloped), and it does nicely handle the legacy characters for the most part. Humour usually plays a key role in the Scream movies, even with Scream 4. However, Scream 5 does feel distinctly darker despite some comedy. Not that this choice is bad, it just felt like an interesting change. There’s a particular backstory for the main character which I’m not certain about yet, but at least it’s revealed early on instead of being a twist halfway through. For whatever reason though, they felt the need to give her these random hallucinations, which I just found to be a little silly. Finally, while it is mostly well paced, it does slow down a bit during the second act.
The cast are generally good and have great chemistry together. Melissa Barrera plays the protagonist and I thought she was alright, unfortunately she wasn’t quite on the level of some of the other actors. Jenna Ortega fares a lot better and is great, particularly in the horror scenes. The supporting cast is good with Jasmin Savoy-Brown and Mason Gooding being convincing as twins, and Jack Quaid and Mikey Madison being among the standouts. Some of the original characters from the first four movies return, however for the first time they serve as notable supporting roles instead of leading roles like in the last four movies. The trio of Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette are great in their respective parts, with Arquette particularly giving his best performance as Dewey.
Scream 5 is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and the one thing I knew about them is that they made Ready or Not, which I liked. They did some good work with Scream 5. I really like the cinematography and it does have a better ‘modern’ look than Scream 4 did. The attack scenes are thrilling, and the kills are the bloodiest, goriest and most brutal in the franchise up to this point. Along with the kills, this Ghostface with the personality and dialogue is probably the most vicious version of the killer yet. The movie is helped by a solid score from Brian Tyler. If there’s issues with the direction, it’s mainly with the obvious jump scares. More annoying is the amount of fake out jump scares, where it looks like a character is about to turn around and walk into the killer, but this doesn’t happen, and this is repeated a lot. While it wasn’t as tensionless as Scream 3, Scream 5 just wasn’t that scary to me.
Scream 5 isn’t one of the best Scream movies, but it’s definitely not the worst. While some aspects of the meta commentary, the plot and the scares are flawed, there’s still a lot to like, with the performances, the humour, much of the direction, and some great sequences. As far as legacy sequels in horror franchises, Scream 5 does its job pretty well.
It’s time for me to present my (as usual very late) list of my favourite films of the year.
So far I’ve watched 78 movies from 2022, and I think I’ve seen most of the movies I wanted to watch. Still, there are some I didn’t get around to before making this list. So to cover all bases, here are some of the movies I haven’t seen yet:
Cha Cha Real Smooth
Emily the Criminal
The Quiet Girl
Honourable Mention: Barbarian
Barbarian is best experienced if you go into it blind. This new horror movie is greatly written ans does well at making you feel unsettled from the start, with the strong atmosphere, suspense and feeling of dread. There’s even some surprising humour which fits into the movie and doesn’t take away from the tension. The performances are really good, including Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard and especially Justin Long. Zach Cregger’s direction was great, with outstanding camerawork and cinematography, from the movements to the choice of lens. It’s not without some issues: the social commentary is a little muddled, the twists don’t hit as hard in the second half, some unexpected jumps in the narrative causes hiccups in pacing, and it would have benefitted from a longer runtime. Still, Barbarian is a solid, suspenseful, entertaining and well crafted horror movie, and one of the best horror movies of 2022.
With the honourable mentions done, here are my favourite movies of 2022.
I admit I’m one who wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the Elvis Presley biopic considering that I’m not always favourable on Baz Luhrmann’s movies, but I was surprised by his latest movie. As someone not familiar with the central subject, I liked it. It’s not a particularly complex biopic and it is very familiar and standard, but it does succeed for me because it tries to capture the spirit of Elvis and emphasizes the spectacle. The story is fairly engaging and has this consistent energy throughout, and the interesting choices (hit or miss) help to make it somewhat stand apart from other music biopics. There are also some great performances from the cast including Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh, while Austin Butler is fantastic as Elvis Presley, talking and singing like him but also capturing his essence incredibly well. Luhrmann’s style is in your face and while it didn’t always work for me in his other movies, it did here. It’s very chaotic and perhaps a bit overwhelming, but it was a real experience watching in the cinema, from the dazzling visuals to the sound and music. I do feel like it might not hit as hard on a rewatch, especially on a smaller screen. But from my first viewing, I really liked it.
When I watched Everything Everywhere All at Once for the first time, I assumed that it would still be in my top 10 of the year. I will admit that this movie has gotten worse for me. On the second viewing, the very quirky humour felt more grating, random for the sake of being random, and it didn’t hit as hard this time. That being said, I still like the movie and it is impressive in some ways. It is sincere and heartfelt, and I even found the family drama to be more compelling than the actual multiverse part. The film is helped by the great performances, especially from Michelle Yeoh, Ke Guy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu. The Daniels (Scheinert and Kwan) directed this well, with a visually kinetic style and is energetic from beginning to end. The action is really entertaining, the editing is perfect, and the score is great. When I watched the movie, I was sure that Everything Everywhere All at Once wouldn’t be for everyone, and while there’s certainly others who understandably can’t get into this at all, it ended up being a hit and one of the most beloved movies of the year by audiences. In spite of my problems with it, I do at least like it.
One of the more overlooked movies from 2022, especially when it comes to horrors/thrillers. Resurrection is a slow building paranoia thriller about emotional abuse and trauma, which becomes more disturbing as more shocking revelations are presented. It’s effective in making you constantly anxious and stressed. For a while it’s hard to figure out what is happening, adding to the uncomfortable feeling. The sharp and unsettling tone is helped by the strong direction, striking cinematography and ominous score. It strongly benefits from some fantastic performances, including Tim Roth and Grace Kaufman. However the standout is Rebecca Hall, giving a phenomenal performance in the lead role. So much of the movie relies on her, and she conveys terror, trauma and guilt so well. Resurrection does get shaky as it approaches its third act and goes in a different direction compared to the otherwise grounded first two acts. Also, while I respect the vague and ambiguous ending, it’s still one I’m not sure about yet. Overall though, Resurrection is a tense, anxiety driven and unsettling psychological thriller that deserves more attention.
Michael Bay’s latest film is one of his best, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. The story is straightforward, focussing on a heist and hostage situation taking place in an ambulance. It’s really over the top and implausible, and comparable to the action movies from the 90s. It comes with the sense of self awareness, yet remains one of Bay’s more emotional movies, mainly with the central three characters. It also benefits from the performances: the main trio with Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abduel-Mateen II and Eiza Gonzalez are all really good, especially Gyllenhaal in a wonderfully unhinged and energetic performance. While it’s comparatively restrained for Bay, it was still refreshing watching a modern action movie and being able to feel the director’s style throughout. The action is spectacular with wonderful destruction, and was excellently captured on screen, especially with the use of drones. This made it an action movie like none of the others from 2022. Ambulance was one of Michael Bay’s best movies and a highly satisfying cinema experience.
There’s usually at least one or two war movies released every year. However of those, I think this most recent All Quiet on the Western Front definitely deserves all the acclaim. It’s a bleak and moving anti-war film from the perspective of German soldiers in World War 1. It humanizes soldiers on all fronts while capturing the worst of humanity. It’s really one of the only recent war movies I’ve seen which successfully conveys that there are no winners in war. The story isn’t particularly complex but it’s handled so well and the emotional beats hit hard. The acting is all excellent (especially from Felix Kammerer in the lead role), who all deliver devastating and raw performances. It’s also a film so carefully and immaculately crafted, it’s fantastic on a technical level and help to form an accurate picture of WW1 from the production design and environment to the brutal war sequences. All Quiet on the Western Front was a lengthy but impactful, brutally realistic and unsettling portrait of war. Not an enjoyable movie to watch, but one well worth watching.
From brief glances, White Noise looked a little weird and I didn’t pay attention to it much. Yet it’s one of the most interesting movies to come from 2022. It’s an ambitious film which takes a lot of risks and is firmly not for everyone. It initially starts out simple with an initial plot focussing on a family’s lives being disrupted by an airborne toxic event. However, that’s just the start, and the plot isn’t really consistent. I found it to be strange and perplexing initially, especially with the very strange and unnatural dialogue. However there was something intriguing and exciting about it that had me curious to see where it would go, and I quickly found myself wrapped up in this off kilter and multi genre movie. The film benefits from a strong cast who deliver in their roles, with Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle all being great. Even Noah Baumbach gives it a distinct style that adds a lot to the movie and gives the right tone through visuals alone. White Noise is a darkly humorous, absurdist, satirical, and wonderfully weird dramedy. I admit that there’s a lot that I didn’t understand and much of my liking of it comes from its boldness and uniqueness. I’m not quite sure I understood everything that it was going for, but I’m sure things will be clarified upon rewatch. Still, the end result just seemed to work for me.
A very late entry on this list, Women Talking is fantastic and lived up to all its acclaim. It’s a self contained and dialogue heavy movie, but is handled in such a way that its not too stagey. It touches on heavy topics like rape and sexual assault, but handles them well. It’s very layered, has depth, and handles the subject matter with a lot of empathy and sensitivity. It’s a hard movie to watch, but in spite of the bleakness, it is hopeful by the end. There is an outstanding ensemble of performances, especially with Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, and Ben Whishaw. It’s further helped by Sarah Polley’s strong direction, it is top notch on a technical front with great editing and cinematography, and has one of the best scores of the year from Hildur Guðnadóttir. It’s a riveting, sensitive and powerful movie, and well worth watching.
My first venture into Indian and Tollywood cinema paid off. RRR is a well constructed movie which is a lot of things: part action, part romantic comedy, part historical drama. As a result it’s tonally all over the place, yet the combination works quite well. It’s an unabashedly wild movie with spectacular and over the top action and exhilarating musical numbers, yet has genuine heart and emotional stakes, especially with the central relationship between the characters played by N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan. It is a long movie at 3 hours, but I never once felt bored. RRR is an entertaining and visually gorgeous spectacle, and it’s not a surprise that it ended up being such a hit.
I admit I was skeptical from the looks of the movie despite George Miller directing and Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton starring. Yet it ended up being one of the most distinct and surprising movies of the year. The best way I can describe the movie is that it’s a subdued, endearing and existential fairy tale love story for adults, and a sincere character study about stories and the importance of them. Much of it is just one character recounting the many stories from his past and I found it all riveting. Helping this are the strong performances from Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, and George Miller’s direction, with stunning visuals and plenty of spectacular and creative sequences. Three Thousand Years of Longing is rough in parts from the CGI and some pacing issues towards the second half, however it’s great on the whole. It’s visually beautiful, director driven, sincere, and not afraid to be creative, weird or different. Definitely worth checking out if you missed it.
While I didn’t watch the other two Pinocchio movies released in 2022, it seems Guillermo del Toro’s version is easily the best of them. It is also one of the best films of the year. It tells its captivating story incredibly well, and it is more complicated and complex than expected, with it being childlike, sweet and uplifting, yet heavy, emotional and unafraid to get dark (as expected for a movie set in Mussolini’s Italy). The voice performances are excellent and convey the characters incredibly well, especially David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Cate Blanchett, Ewan McGregor and Christoph Waltz. The stop motion animation is gorgeous and stellar, everything looks like a work of art, and the movements are flawless. The designs are great and the production designs are wonderful with so much detail. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a mature, charming, magical and wonderfully crafted film, with so much passion on display. I highly recommend it, it’s very likely the best animated film from 2022.
After Yang released earlier this year but seemed to have been forgotten, which is a shame because it is incredible. Despite its futuristic setting, at its core, it is about coming to terms with a potential death in the family. It’s a very contemplative and meditative movie with an intimate story about memory, losing time and what it means to be alive and in a family. The conversations are thought provoking and meaningful, and the film sticks with you long after watching. It certainly helps that the committed cast all give tremendous and powerful performances, especially Colin Farrell. Koganada unsurprisingly delivers with his direction, given his work on Columbus. It has this calming and dreamlike atmosphere as well as visually stunning, from the cinematography to the production design. After Yang is fantastic, an intimate, existential yet beautiful reflection on life, loss and humanity. It definitely deserves a lot more attention than it’s been receiving.
I admit that I was cautious going into Aftersun. Every time a slice of life or coming of age movie releases and reaches critical acclaim, I end up just liking it but finding it underwhelming and not being able to get into it, Aftersun was an exception. The plot is simple with a girl spending her last holiday with her father and not much happens. However, characters and details reveal themselves over time and I was invested. I found the subtle approach to be very effective, no dramatic outbursts or monologues to be seen here, it feels like we are right there with the characters in real life. It captures the feeling of childlike innocence but with an undercurrent of profound sadness. Charlotte Wells was amazing with her directorial debut. So much is conveyed from the story with visuals alone and the way things are filmed and portrayed. And of course, Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio are key to making the film work as well as it did, delivering some of the most believable and best performances of the year. Aftersun is a contemplative, quiet and moving film that snuck up on me. It only gets much better the more I think about it.
Crimes of the Future is a welcome return for David Cronenberg, delivering yet another bizarre film with great worldbuilding, a strange and interesting futuristic setting, and a unique vision of the future of human revolution. If anything, I wished that I could’ve seen more or even get a sequel. There’s also a lot happening thematically, including the fascination with the human body and how it evolves over time. The cast including Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, and Kristen Stewart all deliver in their roles, and help to sell the strangeness of these characters, their actions and the world they live in. Cronenberg’s direction is stellar and on a technical level it’s fantastic on all fronts, the cinematography and production design help to convey this vision of the future. The effects are outstanding with all the CGI and makeup effects, mainly for the body horror, and said body horror is used to serve it’s concept and story instead of trying to provoke a reaction. Finally it has a fantastic score from Howard Shore that is among his very best work. Crimes of the Future was a welcome return to form for David Cronenberg; a thought-provoking dystopian horror neo noir.
Park Chan–wook’s latest movie was predictably great. It initially presents itself as a police procedural (relatively standard compared to his other films), but over time reveals itself as a romantic thriller, almost like a Wong Kar-wai film if it was made by Park instead. The first half of the story is engrossing and intriguing, filled with details, clues, and is layered with important subtleties. It all came down to the central relationship which is unconventional yet compelling and I was wrapped up in it. This is certainly helped by the performances from Tang Wei and Park Hae-il, who excellently portray the central compelling on screen relationship. Park’s direction is phenomenal, the cinematography is spectacular, the visuals are alluring, and the camerawork is incredibly inventive. It’s certainly one of the best films of the year on a technical level. The only reason this movie is not higher on the list is mainly because of a somewhat disappointing second half which I wasn’t as invested in outside of the ending. Beyond that, Decision to Leave is a phenomenal movie that deserved a lot more attention.
As a fan of the first Knives Out, I consider its sequel to be at the very least on the same level of quality, while trying enough different stuff that it’s a distinct enough film. Rian Johnson has delivered another snappy and sharp screenplay which doubles down on the twists, humour, social satire and more. While initially hard to follow where it was going, it was overall well plotted and not easy to predict, and the third act and conclusion was satisfying. Again a talented ensemble cast is assembled, including Janelle Monae, Edward Norton, and Kate Hudson. Also, Daniel Craig once again returns as Benoit Blanc in more of a lead role, and is delightful and entertaining to watch as ever. Glass Onion is thoroughly entertaining and was one of the most fun experiences I had with a movie in 2022.
Tár is a great character study focusing on the rise and fall of a (fictional) esteemed conductor and composer, and is one of the best crafted films of the year. It’s riveting from beginning to end, the long stretches of dialogue are excellently written, and Todd Field’s direction is outstanding with a great and distinct visual style. It’s the performances which tie everything together, particularly with a career best Cate Blanchett. The lead character of Lydia Tár is already compelling, excellently crafted and put together, and Blanchett portrays her wonderfully. One of the year’s best films for sure.
Bones and All is many things, a horror film, a romance, a roadtrip movie, and a coming of age story, and it succeeds at all of them. It’s certainly deranged and disturbing given that it’s a movie about cannibals, yet remains sincere, tender, and beautiful. The relaxed approach to the story pays off well and helps us get emotionally invested in the troubled central characters. Luca Guadagnino’s direction is amazing, capturing the 1980s Middle America time period and setting especially with the gorgeous cinematography and the great use of the different locations. The performances are all great with a strong cast including Mark Rylance, but it’s particularly Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet who stand out. Those two share believable chemistry and their endearing relationship is the heart and soul of the movie; the movie just wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if that didn’t succeed. Bones and All is a riveting, brutal, unique and beautifully made romantic horror film that I was very invested in from beginning to end.
Steven Spielberg’s latest film is his most personal, and one of his best. A semi autobiography and coming of age story, it’s a heartfelt reflection on his own life that’s cleverly written and excellently directed (as to be expected). It showcases the passion of films and the pursuit of one’s dreams, and while it is a love letter to movies, it still highlights the cost and sacrifice that comes with pursuing said dream. It’s also a love letter to Spielberg’s family, as he recreates his childhood memories and personal struggles within his family life. The movie could’ve easily been self indulgent, but it’s authentic, genuine and compelling to watch. Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams and Paul Dano are fantastic and believable here but really everyone plays their parts well, including Seth Rogen and a memorable David Lynch appearance. The Fabelmans is an intimate, personal and earnest love letter to cinema and family, and its definitely one of the most ‘complete’ movies released in 2022.
The Banshees of Inisherin is one of the most layered and complex films of the year. It’s initially simple as it focuses on a friendship fading away, but reveals itself as something more. It’s a tragicomedy with lots of levity, humour and witty dialogue, yet is a melancholic, existential and bittersweet movie at the heart of it, with a darker undercurrent. It’s Martin McDonagh’s most emotional, mature and layered film yet, focussing on loneliness, despair and inner turmoil. It exceeds greatly particularly because of its outstanding performances: Colin Farrell (potentially career best here), Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan are all amazing. The Banshees of Inisherin is a beautiful, layered, darkly funny and emotional tragicomedy. McDonagh’s latest film just might be his best yet.
Nope is Jordan Peele’s most ambitious film yet, and it just might be my favourite of his. He has delivered a suspenseful horror spectacle which also works as a genre picture and love letter to sci-fi. While it’s his least scary movie, there’s a real sense of unnerving dread, eerie tension and atmosphere, and it even contains his most disturbing scene yet. At the same time, there’s effective comedy, whimsical moments that are reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s movies, and is entertaining throughout. As expected it’s thematically dense and layered with social commentary about exploitation, and turning tragedy and trauma into spectacle, making Nope a spectacle about a spectacle. The small but effective cast give great performances, with Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Kalmer, Steven Yeun and more bringing across their characters wonderfully. Jordan Peele delivers in his direction of his biggest movie yet. The cinematography is stunning, capturing the sky at different times of the day, the sound design is immersive, and the scenes of tension are effective, even the shots of clouds are unnerving. Nope is a spectacular and memorable sci-fi horror movie, and I’m looking forward to what Jordan Peele makes yet.
I have watched Top Gun: Maverick more times than any other 2022 movie: twice in cinemas and on the third viewing at home, it was just as thrilling as the first two times. Maverick remains one of the biggest surprises of 2022 for me, considering I mildly enjoyed the first movie as a cheesy 80s classic. However, the sequel is a genuinely great blockbuster. Joseph Kosinski directs this excellently, it’s an incredibly well put together action film, from the cinematography to the editing and sound, and the aerial sequences are intense and fantastically done. The cast all deliver including Miles Teller and Val Kilmer, and Tom Cruise sells his role of Maverick, still the same character from the 80s but with an added emotional weight I wasn’t expecting. In fact, the most surprising aspect was the genuine and meaningful drama and an actually solid story. While it’s similar to the original in some ways, it’s executed better here, whether it be with more fleshed out character dynamics, or the sense of gravitas. Unlike the original it builds up to the climax and you feel the stakes leading up to it, giving each action sequence added weight and tension. It even does justice to the original with a mix of old and new; honouring the original while moving forward to do its own thing. It felt like there was a genuine reason for this sequel to be made, and is definitely up there as one of the best legacy sequels. It surpasses the first movie in every regard and is one of the best action movies of recent years. It is really worth watching even if you’re not a big fan of the original.
The latest take on Batman by Matt Reeves was immensely satisfying. A murder mystery detective action thriller inspired by Se7en, it’s dark, bleak and grungy and I was invested throughout. It embraces the goofiness of the comics, while taking itself seriously. It also benefits from being self contained, not feeling that it needs to set up the next film or tie in any other characters. The cast are all wonderful in their roles, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell, John Turturro and Paul Dano deliver great portrayals of their already iconic characters. Robert Pattinson as Batman is however the standout, who is thankfully another unique take on the Caped Crusader. As a reclusive Bruce who spends most of his life as Batman, Pattinson’s performance is mostly minimalist, but very fitting for this version of the character, and he conveys a lot physically and emotionally. The direction from Matt Reeves was excellent; the noir ambience and atmosphere from the stellar cinematography, to the lived in Gotham City (which may well be the best representation of that setting). I can say with certainty that The Batman is at least one of my favourite versions and portrayals of the character, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Reeves delivers next.
The latest film from Robert Eggers may be his most accessible, but is still a dark, brutally and wonderfully weird film, and remains one of the best cinema experiences I’ve had. It may be a fairly straightforward simplistic revenge story, but it is riveting and immersive, and does well at depicting vengeance and the endless cycle of violence. As expected with this being an Eggers movie, it’s authentic to the time period, from the dialogue to all the other little details surrounding the movie. A large and impressive cast including Alexander Skarsgard, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Nicole Kidman all deliver. The direction from Eggers was exceptional, more than delivering on the larger scale. The cinematography and visuals are outstanding, and the battle sequences are brutal and gnarly. It really helped you feel like he took you back to that time and place. Apparently Eggers had to make some compromises for this movie, but you wouldn’t know it from the fantastic end result. The Northman is a creative, ambitious and uncompromising hard R epics that we don’t get much of nowadays.
These next two are so close together, they could practically be tied for first place.
2. Avatar: The Way of Water
I used to be in the group of people that just wasn’t that into the first Avatar, but in rewatching it, I gained a greater appreciation. It held up very well over the years, and is crafted on such a high level compared to most of the blockbusters released today. That certainly enhanced my experience for the sequel, which improved upon the original in just about every way. James Cameron continues to build this world further and expand into new territory; with the level of detail in this world, you can really feel his passion for these films. Despite the larger scale, The Way of Water still feels intimate with the focus on characters. There is so much heart and sincerity throughout, even allowing for the middle hour of the film to be quiet and lacking with conflict so that we can just spend time with these characters. While the first movie felt a little trapped within a familiar plot structure, The Way of Water feels freer to follow its characters. And of course, it ends with a satisfying climax which is a blast to watch, especially in the cinema. James Cameron’s direction is on another level, and he delivers yet another amazing technical achievement, with the technology not only serving as a visual spectacle, but also helping to tell its story. The visual effects are outstanding, everything from the characters, the water, the creatures and more look so real, and the action is entertaining and well captured. Avatar: The Way of Water is spectacular, epic and beautiful. I would love to see more modern day blockbusters to have as much passion and craft put into it. With the expected success at the Box Office, it seems that we are definitely getting all of James Cameron’s planned sequels, and I am thoroughly looking forward to them.
When I first watched Avatar: The Way of Water, I thought that my favourite film of 2022 was locked in, yet a month later, a little movie called Babylon changed that. Damien Chazelle’s most ambitious work yet takes massive swings and is one of the more polarising movies of 2022. An epic covering the rise and fall of multiple characters involved in Hollywood in the 1920s, it’s chaotic yet coherent and I was enthralled throughout. It’s funny and entertaining with outrageous moments, while also being a sad and tragic story. It explores eras of cinema and how much film has changed, celebrating cinema while also serving as a hate letter to Hollywood. It helps that there’s a great and talented cast behind it, especially with Diego Calva and Margot Robbie delivering excellent performances. It’s phenomenally directed, bombastic and stylish, with stunning cinematography, frenetic energy from beginning to end, and the best score of the year. Babylon is ambitious and an enthralling and exhilarating experience. It isn’t for everyone but it worked perfectly for me.
Time: 103 Minutes Age Rating: Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & content that may disturb Cast:
Olivia Colman as Hilary Small
Micheal Ward as Stephen
Colin Firth as Donald Ellis
Toby Jones as Norman
Tom Brooke as Neil
Tanya Moodie as Delia
Hannah Onslow as Janine
Crystal Clarke as Ruby
Monica Dolan as Rosemary Bates Director: Sam Mendes
The duty manager of a seaside cinema, who is struggling with her mental health, forms a relationship with a new employee on the south coast of England in the 1980s.
I had heard about Empire of Light, it was an upcoming awards contender from Sam Mendes which would be starring Olivia Colman. I heard some very mixed and disappointing reactions to it, but it seemed to do enough to get nominated for the cinematography from Roger Deakins, so I thought I’d check it out. I don’t think it’s that good considering the talent involved, but its passable.
Sam Mendes wrote the script by himself for the first time, and its definitely the worst part of the movie. The plot meanders, I wouldn’t say I was bored but I found it somewhat dull and I wasn’t very invested in it. The plot mainly focuses on a few main aspects, the operation of a theatre (and as such this movie aims at being a love letter to cinema), mental illness (relating to Olivia Colman’s character), and racism (relating to Michael Ward’s character). These three threads just don’t work together at all and I’m not really sure what Mendes was going for here. It jumps between being three separate movies over the course of this one and it doesn’t do anything with any of them. I hesitate to call Empire of Light a love letter to film, because that aspect felt a bit underdeveloped. The other two storylines were worse, and it was messy with how it attempted to take on weighty subject matter. The racial element particularly felt detached from the characters. It’s not even a constant thread throughout, but instead has designated racism moments sprinkled in at various moments where Mendes deems it important. The movie highlights these social issues, but doesn’t really investigate them or do anything with them. Instead it falls back onto half baked tropes and cliches more than anything with value, leaving you with a feeling that you’ve seen these moments done before and better. The only somewhat substantial aspects of the movie are the love of the movie theatre and the central romance, and neither are all that compelling.
The movie does benefit from its strong cast at the very least. Olivia Colman is as usual fantastic as the main character, and she really helps to sell her character. The next major character is that of Stephen played by Michael Ward, who does a good job but there are issues with his character. Stephen almost seems like he’s there to serve Colman’s character than to be a character of his own. He doesn’t have much of a personality or identity, and it’s only later in the film that we get his home life. A prominent aspect is a romance between Colman and Ward, and it’s just as well that the chemistry between the actors is strong enough considering that the relationship felt very forced and sudden. Honestly, I would’ve bought it much more if it was just a friendship instead. Other actors like Toby Jones, Colin Firth and Tom Brooke are good, I particularly wished that we got more of Jones because his scenes were usually the standouts in the film.
For what it’s worth, Sam Mendes does deliver better when it comes to directing, he is usually pretty reliable on that front at least. The cinematography from Roger Deakins is stunning as usual, even if it’s far from his best work, and helps set the melancholic tone of the film. The production design also brings to life the old locations and settings in 1980s London, particularly with the theatre. The score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is delicate, tender and very good on the whole, even if it sounds like they’re somewhat aping Thomas Newman.
Empire of Light has solid performances, good direction, and is strong on a technical front, but it is held back by the messy, underwhelming and somewhat dull story and writing. It did really feel like Sam Mendes had a passion for this story beyond just making Oscar bait, but I don’t think it really came together despite the potential. It’s not bad, just okay at best.
Time: 104 Minutes Age Rating: Sexual violence & domestic abuse Cast:
Rooney Mara as Ona
Claire Foy as Salome
Jessie Buckley as Mariche
Judith Ivey as Agata
Ben Whishaw as August
Frances McDormand as Scarface Janz Director: Sarah Polley
The women of an isolated religious colony reveal a shocking secret about the colony’s men. For years, the men have occasionally drugged the women and then raped them. The truth comes out and the women talk about their new situation.
I had been waiting to watch Women Talking for some time. Even before the highly positive reactions, I was already sold on the cast, including Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Frances McDormand and Ben Whishaw. I finally got the chance to see it, and it was incredible.
The premise of the movie is simple, following constant attacks and rapes from men, the women of an isolated colony have to make a difficult decision about whether to stay and fight, or to leave. Women Talking is based on a book, which is itself based on true events. Still, with the emphasis on its characters debating and discussing what they are going to do, it could’ve fallen into being too stagey, especially with how self-contained much of the movie is. There is a lot of dialogue and conversations, and its riveting to watch these characters talk. While much of the important scenes focus on the main characters in a barn talking, the scope of the movie is wider than just that. The film touches on some incredibly heavy topics like rape and sexual assault, and I thought the movie handled those well. It can at times be on the nose with its messages, but it is layered, has quite a lot of depth, and is handled with a lot of empathy, sensitivity and nuance. It can be a depressing movie to watch, still there is some hope at the end in spite of the bleakness. There are little moments of humour which fit in seamlessly, and there’s even a romantic subplot between Ben Whishaw and Rooney Mara which doesn’t feel out of place. I do have some minor issues, though they aren’t enough to take away from the movie too much. You do somewhat need to suspend your disbelief with some of the dialogue and writing. The women speak very well considering that as stated in the film, they weren’t allowed to learn to read or write. Also, there is quite literally a “not all men” moment where it cuts to Ben Whishaw’s character, which the film really could’ve done without.
One of the film’s biggest strengths is the excellent performances. This has one of the best ensemble casts from 2022, and they convey their characters and emotions so well. Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley and Claire Foy are fantastic in the lead roles (with Buckley probably being the standout), and Michelle McLeod, Judith Ivey and Sheila McCarthy are equally as good. Frances McDormand is one of the biggest names in the movie, although has altogether 5 minutes of screentime max. One of the biggest surprises was Ben Whishaw, who plays the colony’s schoolteacher who’s recording the conversations, and is one of the only male characters in this movie. He’s great in his role too.
Sarah Polley directs this film very well. Despite it being mostly a movie focussing on conversations, Polley does a lot to make Women Talking not feel too limited in scope. It’s edited very well; we don’t see much on-screen violence, and the brief flashes of it convey enough without lingering for too long. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score is great, it is somewhat subtle and quiet but heightens the movie even further and adds so much to the emotions. Easily one of the best film scores from 2022. The cinematography is also stunning and captures everything perfectly. That being said, one of the biggest criticisms I heard before even going into the film was the desaturated colour grading. I do wonder if changes had been made before the movie’s release, because I thought that the shots from the trailer looked murkier than what I just watched. In any case, the colour grading didn’t bother me too much, and it did well to get me immersed and set the mood of the movie. However, it might’ve worked even better if they went all the way and set it in black and white.
Women Talking is a riveting, sensitive, and powerful movie, incredibly written and directed, and with outstanding powerhouse performances from the great ensemble cast, especially from Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, and Ben Wishaw. One of the best movies from 2022.
Time: 167 minutes Age Rating: Cast:
Ana de Armas as Norma Jeane Mortenson/Marilyn Monroe
Adrien Brody as The Playwright, Arthur Miller
Bobby Cannavale as Ex-Athlete, Joe DiMaggio
Xavier Samuel as Cass Chaplin
Julianne Nicholson as Gladys Pearl Baker Director: Andrew Dominik
A look at the rise to fame and the epic demise of actress Marilyn Monroe, one of the biggest stars in the world.
I distinctly remember the lead up to Blonde’s release. The idea was certainly intriguing, Ana de Armas was cast as Marilyn Monroe, and it would be directed by Andrew Dominik, who made The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, Chopper, and Killing Them Softly, and this would be his first movie in 10 years. Not only that, but the source material it was based on seemed to indicate that it would be a very different and unconventional biopic. Then the controversy started, from the spread of awareness about the highly questionable source material which was a fictional take on Marilyn Monroe, to the announcement of it getting an NC-17 rating, to the eventual polarizing reactions of the movie itself. I admit that the very strong reactions caused me to put off my viewing of the film. However, with de Armas being nominated for her performance, I decided I might as well check it out. Unsurprisingly, I ended up being very conflicted about Blonde.
I should clarify first of all that I don’t know much about Marilyn Monroe, nor have I seen any of her movies. I think it’s fair on Blonde’s part to acknowledge that it isn’t meant to be a straight up Marilyn Monroe biopic. It is an adaptation of the book, which is itself a fictional take on the icon. While I can sort of get what Andrew Dominik was going for here, perhaps it would’ve been better to have a fictional character based on Marilyn Monroe instead. I understand that focussing it on such an icon would be more impactful for people, but there would’ve been more freedom to tell the story he wanted instead of having to tie it in with true events. As I said, there is a lot of controversy over the way that Marilyn Monroe is presented, mainly with it having her being subjected to abuse and more. Even as someone who doesn’t know much about Monroe, I get the impression that some people don’t want to be confronted with any tragedies that she went through, at least not without an optimistic or upbeat end to it. Even if some of the more extreme content was toned down, people wouldn’t take too kindly to this sort of story for her because it doesn’t reassure them that everything is okay. That being said, it’s still on the creators to handle these topics and events with a degree of care and delicacy, and sadly I have to say that some of the scenes border on exploitation for me. It’s not a full on sensory overload of bad stuff happening, but it is very drawn out. There are sex scenes and nudity but considering the controversy, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be (although the uses of them do come across as weirdly prominent). It’s just that there are a few key scenes that are somewhat problematic. The rape scenes are very mishandled, a moment in the third act particularly signalled that I was about to check out of the movie entirely. There’s a scene that particularly garnered criticism for being potentially anti-abortion, with the inclusion of a CGI fetus talking to Marilyn Monroe. Even if it was to convey a feeling of guilt, it was misguided at best. The last hour is where the movie really leaned into just making everything worse for Mariilyn Monroe, and that’s where my tolerance wavered. I had has a reveal that twists the knife further, and it turned me off the last minutes of the film entirely. So as someone who doesn’t know much about her, it isn’t exactly a flattering portrayal. If you’re a fan of her in some capacity, I imagine that this would be very difficult to watch.
That being said, I had heard lots of these criticisms before going in. So I decided to try to view this version of Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe as if she was a fictional character. I do see what Andrew Dominik is going for with Blonde, he’s going for a tragic portrait of a rising and falling star, of someone that Hollywood and everyone used, abused and spit right now. We first see Norma Jeane in her childhood and it highlighted things which would stick with her throughout the rest of her life. Then when it jumps from childhood to adulthood, it’s very startling and strange. Her rise to fame is jarringly fast, and it feels like it skipped past some critical moments and details. There are multiple threads relating to Norma which Dominik goes for, but there is a real lack of depth and it feels very shallow. The approach to these aspects are very obvious, and that continues to the dialogue too. It comes across as pretentious at points, especially when they state the obvious over and over again. One notable thread is how there is a difference between Norma Jeane the real person and Marilyn Monroe the star. It is conveyed by some very on the nose dialogue, for example, Norma talks to her mother about Marilyn Monroe rising in popularity and says “I guess there isn’t any Norma Jeane”. Blonde also emphasizes the way that men look at Marilyn, her relationships with men, and how men abuse and take advantage of her. By that it usually just has men treat her horribly and have more on the nose dialogue like “Am I meat to be delivered?” . Norma not knowing her father is a massive part of the movie, introduced at the start and carried through to the end. She is constantly searching for him and holds onto any little bit of hope that he’s still out there. Dominik also conveys this by having Monroe refer to her husbands as “Daddy” (and you’ll be hearing that word a lot in the movie). The repetitive and grim nature only makes the nearly 3 hour runtime unbearable and tedious. If it was cut down to 90 minutes, it wouldn’t be missing any key moments or details that would take away from the main points, because Dominik doesn’t give it that much depth.
There are some good performances, with standouts in the supporting cast being Bobby Cannavale and Adrien Brody, and they bring believability and nuance to their characters. However the star of the movie is Ana de Armas as Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe. The best thing I can say about de Armas is that she gives a very committed performance. She gives little glimpses of further humanity, and there are opportunities where she gets to shine. However, the script mostly calls for her to be fragile, to cry, and be abused. It really doesn’t help that her character isn’t fully formed. This brings me to the key problem with Blonde: it is hard to get a clear idea of the character. It paints Norma as a tragic figure, someone with traumas and who is abused by so many people. However, there is nothing else to say about her, there are only a couple times where she is shown to have any personal drive or motivations. Despite the movie being in her psyche for a few hours, I didn’t understand her beyond the surface level. There are moments which I can tell would’ve hit harder if I was right there with Marilyn, but we are distanced and disconnected from her. Other tragedies on film like Diana Spencer in Spencer (a fictional take on a real person) or Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks (a fictional character) gives their subjects a clearly defined character. Blonde does not do that with Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe.
Andrew Dominik directs Blonde, and he certainly has a unique vision for the film. It’s directed incredibly well on a visual level. The cinematography is stunning with some compelling imagery, and there are some interesting camera techniques. On the editing front, it does make some unique choices, the aspect ratio and colours change often, and there are some creative transitions. Dominik is also great at making scenes feel uneasy, with much of the movie having a very nightmarish and dreamlike feeling. This is only helped further by the excellent, melancholic, and haunting score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. That’s not to say that all the technical and directing choices were good. As said before, some of the handling of the sex and rape scenes were in bad taste, whether it be what it showed or how long they went for. Other stuff like the aforementioned CGI fetus imagery is terrible, even with context.
After reading all the negative takes on Blonde, I made a strong effort to meet the movie halfway. There are some good aspects; some of Andrew Dominik’s direction is at least interesting; the cinematography is stunning, and the score is amazing. Additionally the performances are solid, or at least committed. With that said, even if you were to remove the uncomfortable portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, I don’t think Dominik’s take on this story succeeded. It lacks the depth and nuance that it sorely needed, and while I tried to not focus on it too much in the review, the feeling that its subject was being exploited really doesn’t help matters. I’m not really sure that I could recommend it, but I guess if you know what you’re going into, maybe it’s worth checking out. If you’re hoping for a Marilyn Monroe biopic though, Blonde is the last place you should look.
Time: 100 Minutes Age Rating: Cast:
Rosalie Chiang as Meilin “Mei” Lee
Sandra Oh as Ming Lee
Ava Morse as Miriam Mendelsohn
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Priya Mangal
Hyein Park as Abby Park
Orion Lee as Jin Lee
Wai Ching Ho as Wu
Tristan Allerick Chen as Tyler Nguyen-Baker
James Hong as Mr. Gao Director: Domee Shi
A thirteen-year-old girl is torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the changes of adolescence. And as if the challenges were not enough, whenever she gets overly excited she transforms into a giant red panda.
I remember Turning Red in the lead up to its release. It came out much earlier in 2022, however I just never got around to watching it. After it got nominated for best animated movie, I thought I might as well check it out, and I thought it was good.
Admittedly when the movie started, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it; it does have a bit of a rocky opening. From the moment protagonist Mei turns into a red panda however, that’s when it really picked up. There are plenty of animated family dramas and coming of age stories, but something about this movie makes it stand out. There’s something so genuine here; it’s very earnest and is a relatively grounded and smaller movie, with some earned emotion. This is a personal story, with it being inspired by the director’s experiences growing up, and you can really feel that throughout. It balances the humour with the emotions, and it tells its story about growing up very well. It’s also helped by the pitch perfect cast (including Rosalie Chiang and Sandrah Oh) who play their distinct characters very well. The third act does have a very by the numbers and generic climax, but it still has an emotionally satisfying conclusion for the film.
The movie is directed by Domee Shi, who previously directed the animated short film Bao, and her work here is great. The animation is unique and vivid, separating it from other Pixar movies. It’s very detailed and stylistic, with sharp editing, fluid sense of movement, and a constant amount of energy throughout. While much of the climax is generic, it does get particularly visually stunning there.
Turning Red is enjoyable, energetic, genuine, stylistically and gorgeously animated. It was a real shame it wasn’t distributed that well and was dumped onto Disney+, because it would’ve benefited from being shown on the big screen. It’s really well worth checking out.
Time: 94 Minutes Age Rating: Violence, offensive language, sexual themes & content that may disturb Cast:
Karen Gillan as Sarah/Sarah’s Double
Aaron Paul as Trent
Theo James as Robert Michaels
Beulah Koale as Peter Director: Riley Stearns
Upon receiving a terminal diagnosis, Sarah opts for a cloning procedure to ease her loss on her friends and family. When she makes a sudden and miraculous recovery, her attempts to decommission her clone fail, leading to a court-mandated duel to the death. Now, she has one year to train her mind and body for the fight of her life.
I was interested in Dual ever since I heard that it was the latest movie from Riley Stearns. I hadn’t seen Faults, but I liked The Art of Self-Defense, and was intrigued what he would make next. I checked it out without seeing a trailer, only knowing going in that it involved two copies of Karen Gillan, and co-stars Aaron Paul. It’s nowhere near as good as The Art of Self-Defense but on the whole, I liked Dual.
From the beginning, Dual establishes itself as being set in a somewhat futuristic world, with the practice of cloning yourself being a thing that some people openly do. So this setting makes this Stearns’s most ambitious project so far. Much of the movie feels unnatural and off kilter, especially with the dialogue, and not everyone will go along with this style. It’s almost like a mix between The Art of Self-Defense and a Yorgos Lanthimos movie. However, I liked that tone. There’s a lot of dry and darkly comedic writing, effective deadpan delivery, and a mix of tones. It is funny but there’s also a sadness and bleakness to it, especially with a fear of being replaced or abandoned. There’s definitely a lot of elements with potential, but some aspects could’ve been better. In some ways it feels caught between this off kilter tone and a more grounded natural one, and I think it could’ve leaned towards the former. Most of all though, I don’t think it lived up to its potential. It lost steam over time and is really lacking in the third act, particularly with the ending. The end is rather underwhelming and isn’t that interesting, despite the potential from the rest of the movie.
Karen Gillan gives very committed performances as the lead character and her twin. There are some issues with her performance and character though. There are times where the character is supposed to be emotional and it doesn’t really hit. Sometimes the performance Gna be a little too cold when the film sometimes calls for humanity. Some of the writing doesn’t help, there isn’t a lot of complexity to the character. Still, Gillan is good in her parts. The supporting actors play their parts well, but the standout was Aaron Paul as Karen Gillan trainer. He knew what kind of movie he was in and delivered some great deadpan comedy, some of the funniest scenes was his. He’s definitely a highlight of the film.
The direction of Riley Stearns is on point and is in line with his writing style and tone. It’s very well shot, and it benefits from a great and tense score from Emma Ruth Rundle.
Dual is a little disappointing considering the talent involved, and doesn’t quite live up to its potential. However it’s still a decent and effective enough dark comedy, with nice deadpan humour and good performances from Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul. If you liked any of the past films from Riley Stearns, I think it’s worth checking out.