Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of April 3, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 3, 2023

Rated R for language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
In Theaters

Air tells the story of how a little running company called Nike rose to be a fashion superpower by courting the up and coming legend Michael Jordan to endorse their basketball shoes. Many of us just assume that Nike has always been the basketball player’s shoe of choice but with every success comes trial and tribulation, and a lot of risk taking. Matt Damon portrays Sonny Vacarro, the Nike employee who bent the rules and put his career on the line in order to get Jordan, a man who wanted nothing to do with Nike, on board. Directing is Ben Affleck, who also stars as Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike. It is well-known that these two have a unique synergy and this is one of the best projects either has done since they won the Academy Award for Good Will Hunting. But the icing on the cake belongs to Viola Davis who portrays Jordan’s mom. Her performance is powerful to say the least and really makes you wonder if we would even be talking about MJ today were it not for her behind the scenes presence. Along with a terrific script and strong performances by a talented supporting cast, the movie not only helps you relive the true events of forty years ago, providing a ton of great nostalgia, but it also inspires in the present. It is such a remarkable story and so magically told here. I’m going to guess that the biggest criticism we will hear about this movie is that it looks like a PG-13 film but the language makes it very Rated R. Know what you are getting into here as it might not be the best film to bring your kids to, as many will want to do. I say this as someone who brought his 12-year-old without even looking at the actual rating. And of course he loved it. That being said, it’s sure to be a classic inspirational feel-good film and most likely the early front runner for next year’s awards season. It came out too early in the year you say? Everything Everywhere All At Once came out on April 8 of last year so only time will tell. A

The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Rated PG for action and mild violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%
In Theaters

This highly-anticipated animated pic tells the story of Mario and Luigi, a pair of plumbing brothers who get sucked into a strange world where major forces are in a war of conquest when the evil turtle Bowser decides to make a move on the princess in order to marry her. For many this story will make perfect sense. In the theater there was a lot of giggling and whispering and many appeared to be having fun. But I’m obviously not the target audience here as for the most part, I didn’t get it. The story is ridiculous and very silly, and the movie comes off like a nervous ball of energy that finally fizzles out after 90 short minutes. The best I can say is that it is a fairly painless experience. While the script isn’t the greatest, it also isn’t the worst. There are some good jokes and the film is well-enough paced to provide a mildly entertaining time for those not indoctrinated into the world of Nintendo. It also helps that the voice talent is top notch with Jack Black, Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Seth Rogen and Anna Taylor-Joy in the roles of the somewhat iconic characters. Was it enough to turn me into a fan? Not quite. But unlike some similar films like Angry Birds, I wasn’t miserable, which is better than I expected. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 20, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 20, 2023

John Wick: Chapter 4
Rated R for some language and pervasive strong violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
In Theaters

For most people, including me, John Wick has never been about the story, but rather about the glorious, artistic portrayal of graphic violence from a character who simply wasn’t okay with someone killing his dog. In this fourth chapter of the franchise, Wick (Keanu Reeves) is trying to defeat The High Table in any way possible, while hundreds of assassins chase him wherever he goes, always ending in their gruesome and quick demise. The ultimate villain in this new chapter is the Marquis, played by Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise from It). And since he isn’t exactly a fighter, he hires the best to protect him and go after Wick. Here that is martial arts legend Donnie Yen (Hero, Ip Man) who plays a former friend of Wick’s who must turn on him to protect his daughter. But again, it’s really not about the story. But you could say its about delivering a bigger, badder and certainly more ferocious killing spree that doesn’t have to make sense to be exhilarating. If that’s what you’re after, this film certainly delivers. Everything here is bigger as franchise director Chad Stahelski takes the adrenaline rush up a notch, to say the least. I find myself feeling a bit hypocritical since I am so vehemently anti-violent, but I can’t help myself when I sit down to watch these films. They are fun, funny, a bit silly, wildly entertaining and endearing. While almost three hours long (and longer with a ton of trailers up front) the film might hurt your bladder, but you don’t exactly want it to end as it just keeps getting crazier and crazier. At one point towards the end, Wick finds himself in a massive shootout as the camera raises through the roof and we watch the action as if it takes place through a glass ceiling. And with hardly a cut made. It’s one of the coolest sequences I’ve ever seen in a motion picture and surely one that will be studied and emulated by film nerds and directors for years to come. One of the things I find most fascinating is how you really start to feel Wick’s pain as he keeps taking punishments that would send anyone else to the hospital. I needed 4 Advil just to sit there and eat my popcorn. The intensity is that palpable. Overall, its a welcome fourth chapter that will have you hooting and hollering until the moment you limp out of the theater with bruises you can’t explain. A-

Inland Empire: The Criterion Collection
Rated R for some violence, sexuality, nudity and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%
Available on disc

This 2006 David Lynch film starring Laura Dern and Jeremy Irons follows the tale of an actress and her on-set drama as she begins to realize that her movie is a remake of an unfinished film in which the original stars were murdered. Or at least that’s what I think it’s about. Like any Lynch film, and maybe even more so here, this one is just super weird. Serving as more of a creative outlet for Lynch, who apparently shot the whole thing with a camcorder, and wrote the script as they were filming. None of the actors knew what was going on until the day of the shoot, and it is very apparent. If you are sitting down for family fun night, avoid this one at all cost. But if you are into Lynch, there are hours of special features here that will help you forget about the movie and get a better understanding of what makes this extremely odd man tick. Rather than fill the extra content with stuff about the movie, which I would imagine would have been as bad as the film, you instead get a slew of material by and about the auteur. D

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 13, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 13, 2023

Rated PG-13 for crude/sexual references and strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
In Theaters

From Dumb & Dumber and Kingpin director Robert Farrelly comes this sweet and sappy comedy about a semi-pro basketball coach who is forced to coach a team of adults with intellectual disabilities for community service after getting a DUI. Needing to get his own life in order, he begins to grow with the team as he makes them better players while at the same time making himself a better human. Much of the film is exactly what you think it will be from the trailer. It is sweet and corny and overly predictable. But thankfully there are many surprises thrown at the audience from the eclectic bunch of actors who manage to catch you completely off guard throughout. You can tell that he and the cast have a real heart for this special community and he does a superb job of creating both awareness and appreciation. While it’s not as shocking as many of Farrelly’s other films, and also not nearly as funny, it more than makes up for it in sentimentality. Much of the humor comes from sex and fart jokes, which aren’t exactly clever, but at least they come off as sort of humorous given the context. Unfortunately, some of the jokes are repeated again and again when they weren’t that funny to begin with. I really liked the effort and the attitude, but as a comedy it tends to miss the basket more than it hits. But it also manages to give enough of a feel good vibe that you find the faults to be forgivable. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 27, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 27, 2023

Creed III
Rated PG13 for some strong language, intense sports action, violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
In Theaters

This newest film in the Creed franchise begins with Adonis Creed’s (Michael B. Jordan) last fight as a professional boxer as he wins big and takes the belts. Of course it can’t end there, that would lead to a short movie, so of course he gets pulled back in. In this case, a childhood friend (Jonathan Majors) gets out of prison and asks for help with the chance of getting a title fight. When Creed discovers that his friend won dirty, he exits retirement to challenge him to a new fight to take back his titles. The story does have good bones. There is a believability that could have been developed and built upon in an organic way, giving us more of what made the original Rocky so great. But instead, we get too many inauthentic and unnecessary twists in order to get us to the final battle, which is good but not great. So even with a potentially strong story, the writing lacks the creativity required to give us something real. Here we get silly choices that lead to silly circumstances and an almost false pathway to the big set pieces. Also, distractingly missing is Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) who just happens to not be around any more. His presence might have given the film the needed gravity that it sorely lacks. That being said, the fighting, which is what we all go to see it for in the first place, is the highlight, making the film at least watchable, even if the directing, by Jordan, is extremely heavy-handed. Also, Majors is a formidable antagonist, chewing up every bit of screen time he is allowed. I almost wish they made him more likable so that the film would come across more like 2011’s Warrior than like a flashy boxing pic. In the end, most audiences will find it entertaining enough, but it really comes across as a film that could have been so much better. C+

Cocaine Bear
Rated R for language throughout, drug content, bloody violence and gore
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
In Theaters

This crazy tale follows the path of a bear who begins a cocaine habit when a drug runner drops bags of it out of a plane before meeting his own demise. High on the powder, the bear goes on a killing rampage, brutally murdering any human it comes across, hoping they have more blow. Meanwhile, the drug dealer whose cocaine was lost attempts to get back his stash. Directed by comedic actress Elizabeth Banks, the film is way more of a comedy than it is a horror film. This is surprisingly well-done. When the bear goes nuts and starts mauling folks, the audience was in stitches rather than disturbed. That being said, the film is flimsy. It is a one-trick pony and once you’ve seen the trick a time or two, it starts to get old. Thankfully there is a really great cast to make the tedium watchable. Keri Russell, Ray Liotta, Alden Ehrenreich, Margo Martindale and many other very recognizable performers keep the film entertaining enough to make it through the short 95 minutes. Funny enough, it is being touted as based on true events, which turns out to be comical on its own merits. Back in the 80s a drug smuggler did drop cocaine into the mountains where a bear ingested and overdosed from its discovery. So creativity points go to writer Jimmy Warden who pulled this “true” story out of thin air. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 20, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 20, 2023

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Rated PG-13 for violence, action and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
In Theaters

For the third Ant-man movie, marvel sends its heroes (Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer) down to the Quantum universe (the subatomic realm) where they encounter a strange new world and the ultimate baddie: Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). While there, their goal is two-fold: protect their new friends and somehow get back to the real world. This latest phase of the MCU is looking more and more like just a chaotic, pointless mess to me. I have liked a couple of the projects such as Shang-Chi, Thor: Love and Thunder and Loki, but much of it feels like they just don’t have a clear sense of direction and instead of a proper focus, they are just throwing a bunch of muck at the wall and hoping something sticks. This newest flick is very much in that category. While the new Universe shows signs of creativity and some nice special effects, the story makes little sense with plot holes that abound. The saddest part is that much of what we love about Paul Rudd’s Ant-man is largely missing here. The big personality and sense of humor pops out every now and then, but there is too little to keep the audience engaged and instead the movie is filled with huge set pieces and soulless green screens. It doesn’t help that Douglas and Pfeiffer seem wildly out of place and Lilly is practically phoning in her role. The only really likable aspect is Kang, but his role is so confounding at this point that I hope he doesn’t just morph into a giant annoyance by the Avenger’s finale, titled Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, whenever that will finally come out (listed as May 2, 2025 at this point). Marvel has shown us that you have to look at all these movies as individual puzzle pieces that will makes sense when they finally come together, but with too many of these misses, they will find themselves with an audience who used to care but has instead moved on. I need a movie or show that brings me back in, stat, or I will be part of that crowd. C

Rated PG-13 for thematic material, suicide and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
French with English Subtitles
In Theaters

This winner of the Cannes Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and also Oscar nominee for Best International Film tells the story of two thirteen-year-old best friends whose bond is ripped apart by tragedy when when one of them starts to feel a separation in their friendship and isolation from the rest of the world. This film does a remarkable job at creating a huge amount of empathy for the main character, and you can’t help but understand the hardship of not being able to give what is being asked for in the relationship and then the sudden snap and strain of the guilt and pain that develops because of it. It’s a challenging film but also an important one, especially for parents who really don’t want to think their children are capable of such actions. It is certainly one that will stick with you. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 6, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 6, 2023

Knock at the Cabin
Rated R for violence and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
In Theaters

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest horror flick follows a young gay couple (Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge) who are just trying to experience a little vacation at their lake cabin with their adopted daughter, when 4 strangers (including Dave Bautista and Rupert Grint) show up at their cabin demanding that they choose one member of their family to sacrifice in order to stop an impending apocalypse that would destroy the world. Based on the award-winning horror novel “The Cabin at the End of the World” by Paul Tremblay (which is a far superior title also) the film is a bit of a departure for Shyamalan, who is best known for his original, out-of-left-field twisty endings. While there are some interesting surprises, its kind of nice to have a film from him in which you aren’t just trying to figure out how he is going to fool you. What I liked most about this movie though is his masterful usage of suspense. I found myself literally glued to my seat and fully zoomed-in wondering what could happen next and how our heroes will escape, or even if they should. There is a little bit of cheesiness in regards to the events happening on the news and how those events are handled, but in the cabin there is a spirit of bleakness that is tangible. Thankfully, the performances, from Bautista down to the young daughter (wonderfully played by 8 year-old Kristen Cui), are just what this kind of story needed in order to make it both believable and effective. The narrative itself isn’t going to win any awards and the film isn’t the scariest of tales, but you do get an entertaining two hours and you won’t feel like you wasted your money when the credits start rolling. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of January 30, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of January 30, 2023

You People
Rated R for drug content, some sexual material and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
Streaming on Netflix

Jonah Hill writes and stars in this romantic comedy from Netflix about a young Jewish man who falls for a young African-American girl (Lauren London) only to find that their parents (Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) make the arrangement incompatible. There is a lot to like about this film. There are moments of sweetness and tenderness that will make you tear up. There are moments of insight, especially about race relations, that will make you think. There are many moments of hilarity that will have you laughing out loud. Unfortunately, the film tries too hard to give you moments of cringe and discomfort that make you not want to be in the room. Some of that discomfort is fine. Dreyfus’s running commentary is extremely awkward, but it does give the film a funny edge. Murphy on the other hand is relentlessly mean-spirited and over-the-top, and while there might be a universe where this kind of attitude is a possibility, it seems very inauthentic here. Rather than giving the story fuel and providing the couple something to fight for, it takes the wind out its narrative sails. But as I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy, and most are way worse than this, I can barely recommend it, with an asterisk. Know that you are going into a film trying to get a rise out of you and be ready to talk yourself down. B-

The Last of Us
Rated TV-MA for violence, language and gore
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Streaming on HBO Max

This was supposed to be a review of Knock at the Cabin, but the screening was cancelled due to the ice storm. So instead, I decided to bring up my new TV obsession from HBO. This highly anticipated horror drama looks like a Walking Dead retread, but once you get in, you will find out how special it is. The series is only three episodes in, but unlike most shows on right now, which I would prefer to wait until done and then devour in a 10 hour binge, this one makes it worth being home on a Sunday night to catch as it comes on. Based on the award-winning video game, the story begins in Austin, twenty years ago, as our main character, played by Pablo Pascal, finds himself at the beginning of a deadly pandemic involving a fungal infection that turns its victims into horrific, hive-minded zombie-like creatures. Fast forward twenty years to Boston, and our hero is now living in a hard-core quarantine zone where he finds a young girl (Game of Throne actress Bella Ramsey) who is seemingly immune to the infection. Since the government would kill her on sight, he must try to find a way to bring her to the people that might be able to use her to find a cure or a vaccine. It’s a thrilling ride with a production worthy of its promise. HBO is the original provider of theatrical home entertainment of this quality, and with the recent House of Dragons and this new series, they show they are still the best as they keep releasing entertainment worthy of a Stay Home Sunday. Of particular note is the third episode which brings the audience back in time to the beginning of the pandemic, as Nick Offerman, who lives alone in a well-secured neighborhood he has built up, befriends a struggling survivor played by Murray Bartlett (The White Lotus). It finds a way to tap into the main storyline while also telling a complete tale, and it just might be the best episode of television in many years. While I don’t know what’s in store for the rest of the season, I can tell you I’m hooked very early and can’t wait to find out. A

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of January 16, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of January 16, 2023

Women Talking
Rated PG-13 for sexual assault, mature thematic content, bloody images and some strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
In Theaters

This week we have a couple of powerhouse dramas hitting theaters, starting with the highly anticipated drama Women Talking. The story centers on an isolated group of women from a strict religious community who in 2010, after suffering a tremendous amount of sexual abuse from the men, had to choose one of three options to survive: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. Starring Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Frances McDormand and Ben Whishaw, the commune must weigh their choices carefully and the debate is both heated and draining. Written and directed by Sarah Polley, the dialog is intelligent and sharp, and for a movie with mostly talking, the movie still manages to be riveting. Polley, with the help from a marvelous cast, manages to draw you in fast, making you feel like you are in the room, making the decision with them. Sure it is challenging to watch, but the attention it demands and the ways in which the arguments and the story unfolds, creates an empathy that is unavoidable. This one came so close to making my top 10, and I still think it might should have been included. A

Rated PG-13 for smoking and some suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
In Theaters

This quiet little indie, based on the Kurosawa classic, starts Bill Nighy as a quiet, reserved, and rather ordinary man, who, upon news of his impending mortality, chooses to try to do something meaningful with his short remaining time. Sweet and simple, the movie is a tremendous piece of acting on the part of Nighy, who could come up with his first Oscar nomination at the age of 73. And many folks, including myself, are cheering him on in the hopes that this happens. While the film has some sadness on a basic level, it manages to put a smile on your face when it very easily could have been melancholy. For that reason alone, it manages to be the “feel good movie of the year” in a way that is true and honest and not in the least bit manipulative. It puts life and legacy, and all that they entail, in perspective. A

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of January 9, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of January 9, 2023

A Man Called Otto
Rated PG-13 for suicide attempts, mature thematic material, language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%
In Theaters

This remake of the Swedish hit “A Man Called Ove” stars Tom Hanks as Otto, a lonely and no-nonsense grump who is forced to be social again by his nosy and irritating neighbors. While his original intentions are to leave this world behind (for reasons I won’t get into here), he keeps finding cause to stick around from the most unexpected of sources. With direction by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland) and script from David Magee (Life of Pi), the film has an excellent pedigree of filmmakers, who both help Hanks with a compelling project full of laughter and heartbreak. And a quite timely one at that given the social isolation of the last few years. It’s not exactly a family film with this subject matter, but it is warm and fuzzy and all those things that can help you get through a comedy about a suicidal man. Very similar to the Swedish version, the film has its moments of cheesiness that sometimes get in the way of trying to like it, but ultimately the film’s soul wins you over. I especially liked the way that Hanks portrays Otto to be almost on the spectrum, rather than just a sourpuss with a sad backstory. It helps us like him even more and empathize in a way the original doesn’t really convey. B+

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: The Criterion Collection
Rated PG
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Available on Disc

This crazy adventure from writer/director and Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam was met in 1989 with empty theaters yet stellar reviews, and to this day is still considered a cult classic. The strange and unusual fantasy stars John Neville as the German aristocrat Baron Munchausen who goes on a fantastic voyage with a young Sarah Polley (yes the Sarah Polley who just wrote and directed the potential Oscar nominee Women Talking), leaving its audience in doubt of what is real and what is completely contrived. Filled with surprising and surreal images and stories, and also including some crazy cameos from the likes of Robin Williams, Uma Thurman and even Sting, the film is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and, lucky for us, classic Gilliam. I remember it as being one of the first films I ever went to see by myself in a theater (because none of my friends were even remotely interested), leaving me in an empty theater that ended up filling my head with joy and wonder. This new 4K restoration only gave me a reminder of that wonderful experience, in vivid and beautiful detail. A

The Best and Worst Films of 2022

The Best and Worst Films of 2022

By Danny Minton

Now that we are at the close of another year, I’ve heard so many of my friends declare that 2022 was yet another disappointing one for Hollywood. I disagree. But it was unusual. In most years, we would see several films released every week, and while many weren’t great, the law of percentages would usually win out and you could find a good one. But after Covid, we started seeing a great reduction in the number of films released Friday after Friday. If you follow my column, you would have seen that in many weeks, I just didn’t have anything new to review. That being said, while there were fewer films to choose from, there were many high quality offerings released throughout the year, as well as a number that were offered up by streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. But overall, I thought this was a fabulous year for movies, providing one of my longest honorable mention lists I’ve ever had to create. And the Top 10 here should give you plenty to catch up on before you head back to work and school in early January.

1) Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (Streaming on Netflix). Ever since the first time I experienced this marvelous musical in London (I’ve seen it 4 times since in the U.S.), I’ve been in love with it. The story revolves around a neglected little girl (Alisha Weir) whose special abilities and talents allow her to overcome her obstacles as she takes on her family, her school and especially her evil principal, Miss Trunchbull (masterfully played here by Emma Thompson). I’ve been disappointed with countless musicals that have released throughout the years, but every once in a while they turn out just right, and this is one of those instances. The cast is perfect as is the direction by Tony Award winning director Matthew Warchus, who also directed the original Matilda on stage. It’s a marvelous experience that will largely go without taking home any trophies, due to a lack of promotion by Netflix. But don’t let that fool you. It’s a gem of a film that will leave you with a big smile on your face and a tear in your eye.

2) Everything Everywhere All At Once (Available on Showtime and on paid streaming). Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan (Short Round from Temple of Doom) lead this most eclectic of adventures through the multi-verse as a struggling couple who must try to put their family back together again while simultaneously saving the world. The brilliant screenplay works on so many levels that it transcends genre, delivering the biggest action movie, funniest comedy and most heart-warming family drama, all in one two-hour package. It’s fun almost to a fault, making it a blast to watch over and over again, picking up new and exciting moments you missed along the way. Picking up the most Critics Choice nominations this year, it is certain to be an Oscar front-runner in almost every category.

3) The Banshees of Inisherin (Available HBO Max and on paid streaming). This dark comedy by Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) focuses on a dissolving relationship between two lifelong friends, played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, from a small Irish community. Here, Gleeson wants to stop being friends while Farrell simply can’t comply, to his and his friend’s detriment and impending doom. The simple story is anything but as the complexities keep adding up, keeping you on your toes as you forget about trying to figure it out and just hope that the story ends on a decent enough note not to leave you miserable. But in the meantime you laugh and dread in equal measure. The film really excels in making you feel like you are part of the town, watching the events take place, hoping that things turn out okay, but knowing that you can’t do anything about it.

4) Tár (Available on paid streaming). Everything about this movie seems pretentious. The title, the running time and the opening hour make you wonder why everyone is talking about what must be just an art-house lovers film and certainly not for the average movie-goer. But stick around and you will unravel why so many love it and why this visionary tale from writer/director Todd Field is so remarkable. Cate Blanchett is absolutely perfect as composer Lyda Tár, a famous conductor for a major German symphony, who finds herself on top of the world, until her world starts to crumble beneath her feet. It is an unforgettable drama, filled with excitement and surprises you could never expect.

5) The Fabelmans (In theaters and available on paid streaming). In Steven Spielberg’s latest, he presents a semi-autobiographical look at his life and how he came to fall in love with movies, through the eyes of young man named Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) whose family and experiences shape him into the man he becomes and the pathway he wants to take in life. It’s not only a superb family drama, but an inspiring and lovely story as well, full of emotion and laughter.

6) Babylon (In theaters). I simply don’t understand the bad reviews and audience scores this film has gotten with its release this week, but I do feel that this is the kind of film that could come back and change people’s minds. La La Land’s Damien Chazelle shows us here a vision of Hollywood from its early days, with all of its decadence and danger. Starring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie the film shows us a different world than most would expect, and I can only assume it is a more accurate portrayal than any that have come before it. It is more graphic than most can imagine, but it also comes across with a strong feeling of authenticity. And man the writing and direction are great here, with a terrific score by Justin Horowitz to boot. I believe that someday audiences will revisit this one and wonder why they panned it to begin with.

7) Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Streaming on Netflix). Netflix outdid Disney and Pixar in a huge way with a full slate of fantastic animated fare, with its flagship being this new take on Pinocchio by the master of horror, Guillermo del Toro. Set during WWII and focusing as much on Geppetto as the boy made of wood, the film presents a beautiful and heartbreaking story that at least matches the original Disney film, if not surpassing it. The stop-motion animation artistry on display here is perhaps the finest ever created and the story, while showing the familiar notes you expect, is both exciting and heartwarming.

8) Triangle of Sadness (Available on paid streaming). This year’s Palme d’Or winner at Cannes is this uber dark comedy that follows the guests on board a luxury yacht for the super rich (captained by an unhinged Woody Harrelson) that lands its guests fighting for survival on a desert island when things go horribly wrong. As much social commentary as it is laugh-out-loud comedy, the film attempts to disgust you with human behavior as much as it tries with vomit and sewage upon the yacht. Yes it’s revolting, but more importantly, it is also impactful and truly memorable.

9) Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood (Streaming on Netflix). Perhaps one of the most overlooked films of 2022 is this adult-skewing animated film from Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater (Boyhood) which tells the tale of a young boy growing up in Houston during the space race in the late 60s and the impact it had on his life, all told with narration from Jack Black. It’s a nostalgia bomb for those of us with similar experiences that represents all of the magic that most remember from those days. But more than that, it’s an entertaining story that can be enjoyed by all ages.

10) Top Gun: Maverick (Streaming on Paramount+ and available on paid streaming). While Avatar and Black Panther are ruling the end of the year box office, Top Gun: Maverick was the real winner in 2022. Taking place decades after the first Top Gun, this film beats the storytelling and action hands down, providing a rollercoaster of an experience with a power that is hard to deny. And with a U.S. gross of over $700 million, audiences obviously could not get enough of it. I myself saw it three times in theaters and enjoyed it each time. While I still have problems with Tom Cruise as a person, there is no doubt that what he does as an actor puts him and his movies fson a different level.

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): Aftersun, Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Phone, Bones and All, Elvis, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Hustle, Living, Prey, RRR, Spirited, Thirteen Lives, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Woman King, Women Talking

The Worst:

1) Morbius. Sony tried to jump in with one of their few remaining Marvel properties only to give us this incredibly lame vampire thriller that will hopefully not spawn a franchise.

2) Pinocchio. You would think that this live action Pinocchio from Disney starring Tom Hanks as Gepetto and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) would be an easy success, but this huge mess landed with a thud.

3) Firestarter. The original wasn’t great, so you’d think they would try to at least improve upon it, but horrible special effects and atrocious acting made us wish this Stephen King classic would have been left alone.

4) Jurassic World Dominion. Here lies proof that you can throw all the money in the world at a bad project and it won’t make it a good one. This embarrassing outing will hopefully finally shut down the park.

5) Blacklight. Liam Neeson can really be a great actor, but you’d never know it as he keeps making the same lousy film, over and over again, with the same bad results.