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Top Ten Films of 2022

January 22, 2023

 

These annual lists are never easy. I toil over them and still lament the ones I couldn’t fit into the Top Ten of the year. There are certain films I still have to catch up with, but at some point the list must be compiled and posted and that’s it. Recently, I was reminded why such lists are necessary. It’s not because my opinion is integral, but rather because there are some out there who think that 2022 wasn’t a very good year in film. Well, they’re wrong and I hear that every year. Composing and sharing such lists will not only prove them wrong, but also steer them in the right direction. But then again, it’s all subjective and every list is arbitrary. Read more…

A MAN CALLED OTTO (2022) review

January 12, 2023

 

written by: David Magee
produced by: Fredrik Wikström Nicastro, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks & Gary Goetzman
directed by: Marc Forster
rated: PG-13 (for mature thematic material involving suicide attempts, and language)
runtime: 126 min.
U.S. release date: December 30, 2022 (limited) & January 13, 2023 (wide)

 

Knowing “A Man Called Otto” was coming out, I finally caught up with the 2015 Swedish dramedy “A Man Called Ove”, which was an adaptation of 2012 novel of the same name by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. That film, which was Oscar-nominated the following year for a Best Foreign Language Film, starred Rolf Lassgård as the curmudgeon title character, a 60-year-old widower who serves as the self-appointed chairman of the townhouse association he resides in. He’s about to give up on life when the kindness and warmth of his neighbors wear him down and gradually give him newfound purpose. It won me over with its whimsy and sincerity, without ever relying on heavy-handed antics or thickly laying on any kind of message. However, the American remake “A Man Called Otto”, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Swiss filmmaker Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland” and “Christopher Robin”) didn’t have the same effect on me. Read more…

M3GAN (2023) review

January 6, 2023

 

written by: Akela Cooper and James Wan (story) and Akela Cooper (screenplay)
produced by: Jason Blum and James Wan
directed by: Gerard Johnstone
rated: PG-13 (for violent content and terror, some strong language and a suggestive reference)
runtime: 102 min.
U.S. release date: January 6, 2023

 

All January horror flicks should be as good as the outrageous “M3GAN” a sci-fi horror flick that fully and confidently embraces what it is. Typically, the first month of the year is a dumping ground for crappy and lame retread horror flicks (or the latest interchangeable Liam Neeson actioner) and one generally goes in simply looking for a break from the heavy subject matter of the often verbose award-season fare. Well, director Gerard Johnston (who helmed 2014’s clever “Housebound”) delivers on all levels, fully embracing what many will expect in a robot-gone-haywire premise, while taking so much ridiculousness seriously in a refreshingly hilarious approach. Read more…

BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (2022) review

November 15, 2022

 

written by: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
produced by: Kevin Geirge
directed by: Ryan Coogler
rated: PG-13 (for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture)
runtime: 134 min.
U.S. release date: November 11, 2022

 

Ryan Coogler had the unenviable task of figuring out what a sequel to “Black Panther” could look like after the surprise death of actor Chadwick Boseman in 2020 from cancer. Not only did the writer/director helm a mega-hit for Disney/Marvel Studios in 2018, but the movie became a phenomenon that superseded expectations, bringing empowerment and representation to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) in an captivating and confident manner. Boseman as T’Challa, the noble King of Wakanda and mighty Black Panther was one of the main reasons the blockbuster succeeded, easily becoming the charismatic heart of the story. With a sequel being inevitable, the challenge (and question) would be how to do it without the actor. Read more…

ON THE LINE (2022) review

November 3, 2022

 

written by: Romuald Boulanger
produced by: Robert Ogden Barnum, Romuald Boulanger, James Cooney & Marc Frydman
directed by: Romuald Boulanger
rated: R (for language throughout and some violent content)
runtime: 104 min.
U.S. release date: November 4, 2022

 

Mel Gibson as a shock jock sounds like something that we could’ve seen back in the 90s, after something like “Ransom” where he played a wealthy father who would do anything to get back his kidnapped son…except pay the ransom. But in this post-controversy phase of his career, where so many are surprised that he’s still getting cast in movies, one would think he’d be more selective in his material, maybe choosing roles that would require him to stretch his acting chops (like he did in 2011’s “The Beaver” and 2018’s “Dragged Across Concrete”), but lately he’s closing in on territory claimed by Bruce Willis, by showing up in bit parts of crappy movies. While he’s still capable of delivering something good and really different (see 2020’s “Fatman” as a prime example), unfortunately his latest lead role as a late-night radio host in writer/director Romuald Boulanger’s “On the Line” doesn’t provide viewers with anything new or different for the actor. Read more…

CIFF 2022: Empire of Light & The Banshees of Inisherin

October 13, 2022

 

Along with narrative films and documentaries from around the world – or around the corner, those being films with a focus on Chicago or Illinois – the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) will traditionally curate films that will inevitably be considered buzzworthy or wind up on year-end Best of the Year lists. The 58th edition of the venerable festival doesn’t deviate from that position- and why would it? The goal is to get butts in seats, after all. These are films that have generated much anticipation around them after their respective premieres at other festivals in the last couple of months and because of that they don’t really need any extra attention the way other films playing at the festival do because they haven’t been picked up by distributers yet. Read more…

THE WOMAN KING (2022) review

September 21, 2022

 

written by: Dana Stevens and Maria Bello
produced by: Cathy Schulman, Viola Davis, Julius Tennon & Maria Bello
directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
rating: Rated PG-13 (for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing material, thematic content, brief language and partial nudity)
runtime: 135 min.
U.S. release date: September 16, 2022

 

“The Woman King” is the kind of historical action epic that would’ve fit perfectly alongside the kind of movies studios were releasing during the second half of the 90s (somewhere between “Braveheart” and “Gladiator”), but no one thought back then that the world was ready for some Black Girl Magic! Now, after the popular reaction to the Dora Milaje (a fictional, all-female group of elite warriors that serve as bodyguards for the Black Panther, protective of the nation of Wakanda) which appeared in the successful, award-winning 2018 blockbuster “Black Panther”, such a movie can be embraced. Since “The Woman King” revolves around the Agojie, an all-female African group of warriors assigned to defend the kingdom of Dahomey, it would be easy to draw comparisons with that Marvel Studios hit. But, that movie leapt so this ambitious movie could surprise attack viewers with its ability to balance impressive physical conflicts with gripping emotional drama. Read more…

CONFESS, FLETCH (2022) review

September 16, 2022

 

written by: Zev Borow and Greg Mottola
produced by: Bill Block, Connie Tavel and Jon Hamm
directed by: Greg Mottola
rated: (R for language, some sexual content and drug use)
runtime: 99 min.
U.S. release date: September 16, 2022 (limited and VOD)

 

Best known for “Superbad”, writer/director Greg Mottola’s last feature was 2016’s “Keeping Up with the Joneses”, a fun action comedy which was received negatively by critics and wound up a box-office dud. His latest is “Confess, Fletch”, a retooling of the two Chevy Chase comedies from the 80s that is supposedly a bit more loyal to the novels written by the late Gregory Mcdonald, reuniting Mottola with “Joneses” actor Jon Hamm. While it is understandably different from those previous movies, primarily due to the lead casting, the amusing “Confess, Fletch” doesn’t have any truly laugh-out-loud moments nor does it have a mystery that truly captures the interest of viewers, but it makes up for those things in charm. Read more…

OFFICIAL COMPETITION (2022) review

September 12, 2022

 

written by: Andrés Duprat, Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat
produced by: Jaume Roures
directed by: Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat
rated: R (for language and some nudity)
runtime: 115 min.
U.S. release date: June 12, 2022 (Tribeca Film Festival) and June 17, 2022 (limited)

 

Movies about movies are at their best when they shine a satirical light on all the insanity that can involve actors and directors and their sometimes ridiculous and specific requirements. That’s what the Spanish comedy “Official Competition” leans into and it winds up being one of the more refreshing and hilarious comedies of the year. Co-directed by Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat, the feature has a sly and witty sense of humor about it, while focusing on the egos and insecurities of artists. The three main actors are having tremendous fun, exhibiting brilliant comic timing and clearly losing themselves in fun roles as predominately insufferable individuals that ultimately cannot work together as they near the start of production on a new film. Read more…

THE STORY OF FILM: A NEW GENERATION (2022) review

September 10, 2022

 

written by: Mark Cousins
produced by: John Archer
directed by: Mark Cousins
rated: not rated
runtime: 160 min.
U.S. release date: September 9, 2022 (Music Box Theater, Chicago, IL)

 

Just because I write about film often and lead film discussions with audiences doesn’t mean I know everything about the art form. In fact, sometimes I don’t even think the medium can be called “art”, but that’s a provocative angle to a discussion for another time. So, whenever I can, I turn to documentaries (or books, for that matter) on the subject, such as Mark Cousins’ “The Story of Film: A New Generation”, a continuation and update to his expansive 15-part “The Story of Film: An Odyssey” from back in 2011. Some see such endeavors as the filmmaking industry celebrating itself, but that’s an obtuse conclusion. If a filmmaker can take an observant and ruminative look at both the history and current state of cinema, it’s a benefit to those who consider themselves film enthusiasts as well as those with relatively no knowledge of the medium. Read more…