Here’s a year-end, lazy list of everything I reviewed last year to make sure you don’t miss anything before we do it all again. It’s in no particular order because it’s a lazy list.
“I’m Your Man”: An utterly delightful German comedy featuring Dan Stevens as a robot. Highly recommended.
“Birds of Paradise”: Leggy teen ballerinas fight, dance and dance-fight in Paris. Soapy but fun.
“Swan Song”: Witty, heartbreaking character study from Udo Kier of a fabulous hairdresser who busts out of the nursing home for a final hurrah. Highly recommended.
“The Green Knight”: A beautiful and inventive version of this staple of English Literature syllabi, starring the magnetic Dev Patel, his luscious head of hair and a bunch of really cool-looking scenes.
“Charming the Hearts of Men”: A girl power-ish historical drama that is worth watching for Anna Friel alone.
“Dune”: A sandy sci-fi epic that seems to satisfy both hard-core fans and casual newbies alike. Whether you have a “Dune” tattoo or simply enjoy Oscar Isaac and his fathomless eyes, this managed to hit a sweet spot and has awesome space stuff.
“The Many Saints of Newark”: I haven’t thought of this film for one second since I watched it. Essential for “The Sopranos” completists, of course, but it is most noteworthy for a star performance by Alessandro Nivola.
“Ride the Eagle”: Jake Johnson brings his usual winning mix of shaggy dog appeal to another lovable loser character dealing with the death of his estranged mom. Filmed during COVID lockdowns, this flick might be remembered as one in which characters were rarely in the same scene together.
“The Tomorrow War”: What a bunch of nonsense and I’m not just saying that because Chris Pratt has rubbed me the wrong way since he divorced Queen Anna Farris (although that is true). It was visually and thematically muddled.
“Black Widow”: I’ll go ahead and contrast that with another action movie, which was vastly superior. The action in particular, which is, of course, an important component of this genre, was satisfying and logical. (Well, mostly; it’s still Marvel.) I loved this stand-alone superhero story that felt more like a James Bond film with the best “super” family since “The Incredibles.”
“The Suicide Squad”: This action movie was gleefully nonsensical, not to mention gory and profane. If you like this kind of thing, this zany madness was very successful, and I liked how it really channeled the look of a comic book visually.
“Kajillionaire”: Artist and filmmaker Miranda July gave us lots to think about in this dark and unnerving family drama; I just didn’t want to think about any of it. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t want to watch it again.
“In the Heights”: This jubilant musical from the revered Lin-Manuel Miranda has enough infectious rhymes and dazzling choreography to make anyone a movie-musical person.
“Pig”: I am shocked and pleased by how many people asked me if the pig dies in this weirdly affecting drama featuring Mobile’s favorite honorary local, Nicolas Cage. It is a testament to the surprising suspense generated by a lonely man’s love for his grubby farm animal.
“Cruella”: This fabulously costumed family comedy had broader appeal than you would imagine, and of the movies I have reviewed this year, this Emma Stone/Emma Thompson power combo got some of the best feedback. It’s delightful and everyone loves it.
“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things”: Maybe you, your house or your friend actually appears onscreen in this clever YA romance that was shot in Mobile and Fairhope.
“I Care A Lot”: I forgot about this nasty little flick starring Peter Dinklage and Rosamund Pike as two smart, soulless grifters. It is either perversely fun or deeply horrifying depending on your disposition.
“The Dig”: A really interesting historical film about a Viking ship found in England right before World War II, with many personal dramas unfolding around the archeological site. Deeply affecting and highly recommended.
“Moxie”: Amy Poehler panders to the mom crowd (me!) in this sweet, cute flick about girls starting an empowering zine at their high school. Turns out, I like being pandered to.
“The Little Things”: Cookie-cutter Denzel Washington crime thriller, only made watchable by Washington himself.
“French Exit”: A quirky little diversion starring Michelle Pfeiffer as a snooty, suicidal widow. Watch it and read the book by Patrick deWitt.
“The Mitchells vs. The Machines”: Did this movie really only come out this year? It burrowed itself so firmly into my family’s canon it seems like a classic. You probably already watched it, but definitely do so now if you have not.
“Pinocchio”: Glorious madness with Roberto Benigni and a beautiful snail lady and a lot of other dreamlike imagery that you will never forget. You’ll also not be sure whether or not you actually saw it because it’s just so wonderfully weird.
“Judas and the Black Messiah”: Fascinating historical drama that manages to be based on real events yet is insanely suspenseful.
“Passing”: And talk about suspenseful, this somber black-and-white film was written decades ago but feels current.
“The Power of the Dog”: The best film of the year, with an astonishingly transformative performance from Benedict Cumberbatch.
New This Week:
“A Journal for Jordan”: Directed by Denzel Washington and starring Michael B. Jordan with a screenplay by Virgil Williams. This film is based on the true story of Sgt. Charles Monroe King (Jordan), a soldier deployed to Iraq who begins to keep a journal of love and advice for his infant son. Back at home, senior New York Times editor Dana Canedy (Chanté Adams) revisits the story of her unlikely, life-altering relationship with King and his enduring devotion to her and their child. A sweeping account of a once-in-a-lifetime love, the film is a powerful reminder of the importance of family. All multiplex theaters.
“American Underdog”: This film tells the inspirational true story of Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi), who went from a stock boy at a grocery store to a two-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion and Hall of Fame quarterback. All multiplex theaters.
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