Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2022

We’re finally getting back to normal, aren’t we? After a wild theater-less 2020 and a confusing 2021, 2022 was a return to cinemas, event films, and a significant number of great films, both big and small. So many great films that my Top Ten of the year had, at one point, 44 films on it. It was tough to whittle that list down to the Ten we have today, but I did it.

It’s the dawn of the new year, and now is the time to look back at the great movies of 2022. I caught over 100 movies released in 2022, and here we just have the best of the best.

Before we begin, a few repeat caveats that are worth noting once again:

-I did not see every single film released in 2022. There are several films that escaped my grasp due to altered release strategies, weather issues, and a number of life events that may have halted films, for the moment, from being seen. I still haven’t seen some of the notable films like The Whale or Empire of Light. If you know of a film that you think deserves to be on the list and it isnt…well, I may have not seen it yet. It happens.

-On that note, this is my personal list of Best Films of 2022. It’s not a list of your favorite films, and it’s not an objective list of the best films, just the ones that connected with me enough to make the list. There may be films that were “better made” that didn’t make my list, or films that may not have earned the coveted Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and some that will miss the Academy’s selection of Best Picture, and that’s okay. So don’t be mad if something you loved last year didn’t make the cut. That’s the amazing thing about movies and art: we don’t have to love the same things to make them worthy.

-Along with all that, I should note that I crave discussion, dissection, and (respectful) disagreements. So comment below and let me know your personal Top Ten of the year (or just a list of favorites, especially if they aren’t on my list). I’d love to see what you loved last year.

Now, let’s get on with this…

  1. Elvis

-I never would’ve guessed that a Baz Luhrmann films would end up on this list. Nothing against the director, but I’ve never felt a connection with his work. While I mildly enjoyed his Great Gatsby adaptation, I wasn’t all that excited for his Elvis movie, although the casting of Austin Butler (who wowed me in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and Tom Hanks (because, I mean, c’mon, it’s Tom Hanks) had at least intrigued me.

Elvis was a hyperactive piece of cotton candy that is held together by an incredible lead performance by Butler. His acting alone would have elevated this film to my Top Ten, but Luhrmann’s frenetic and psychotic direction ensures that his film is jammed with 6 hours worth of material even with a run time of 160 minutes. The film is, at times, overwhelming, but it’s never boring, and the directorial decisions to focus on the legendary status of Presley’s gyrations sending young women into pubertal fits of hysterics is only second to the choice to give credence to the largely-black influences on his music as well as using some of today’s artists to add to his legacy with interpretations of his works peppered into the narrative.

It’s a fascinating and emotional film that took this filmgoer from being a casual fan of Elvis to a diehard, like how Edgar Wright’s documentary on The Sparks Brothers accomplished a similar task in 2021.

  1. Top Gun: Maverick

-Another 2022 surprise! I watched the original Top Gun for the first time during the 2020 shutdown, and I thought it was…okay. I didn’t have a lot of strong reaction to the Tony Scott original, so the only element that had me excited for the long-gestating follow-up was Joseph Kosinski in the director’s chair. I loved Tron: Legacy and Only the Brave, especially the former’s ability to expand and further the narrative of the original. My love for Tron: Legacy pushed my excitement for what Kosinski could potentially accomplish with Maverick.

While I had faith in Kosinski as a director and Cruise as an action powerhouse, I didn’t expect the emotional reaction I had in the theater watching Maverick with a packed audience. Kosinski’s sequel captures the magic of being at the movies as a shared experience. The OOOHs and AHHHs being uttered in the theater helped elevate the situation for me. Sure, the main story is simple: Maverick is called in to train a set of the best fighter pilots in the world to destroy a dangerous set of weapons controlled by a potentially antagonistic government. It’s Top Gun by way of the Trench Run from Star Wars, I get it.

What’s masterful about Kosinski is that he’s able to take what works from the original and expand upon it, and also take what doesn’t work and alter it. The aerial action of the original and the emotional punch of Maverick and Goose’s tragedy is expanded here to the next generation. We get emotional closure to the Maverick/Iceman story, something I didn’t care all that much about. We also get something unique to this stage of Cruise’s career: his reckoning with mortality. Up until recently, it seemed that Cruise was unwilling to confront characters that weren’t young, clever, and immortal. Going in to his collaborations with Christopher McQuarrie (who contributed to Maverick’s screenplay), Cruise began to portray Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt as an imperfect man, American Made’s Barry Seal as an idiot, and Maverick’s confronting his mortality and age as he and his profession are slowly being phased out.

  1. The Inspection

-I’ve spoken a lot about SHOE movies, where I’m able to step into the shoes of a character who is nothing like me so I can walk a mile in their life. While I will never know what it’s like to be a gay black man joining the Marines, for 90-some minutes, I can walk in their shoes. Director Elegance Bratton’s intimate story of Ellis French (played masterfully by Jeremy Pope, someone I’ve been unfamiliar with), who goes as far as to join the Marines in order to have a place to sleep and a meal to eat and perhaps a little purpose and direction, absolutely floored me.

French is a man who has been kicked out of his home by a bigoted mother, living on the street, and sees his last opportunity for survival by entering a world that will hate him for being gay, and he takes all the little moments to embrace his truth while hiding it from the general population. Bokeem Woodbine is excellent, as always (why is he not in absolutely everything?) as the leader of the training camp. Bratton’s direction is deft, always elevating the material when it has the potential to dip into melodrama. There are a number of scenes that, when described, could be played as sensational or unrealistic, but Bratton’s able to find the connection and the realism within the moment.

There’s another excellent element of The Inspection that I really appreciated: its run time and pacing. The Inspection runs a tight 95 minutes, which is the perfect run time for this film. It’s clean, it isn’t overindulging in unnecessary filler, and it moves at a breakneck pace for a movie that is mostly character interactions. Far too often, these late-year movies seen as “Oscar Bait” tend to overstay their welcome, but The Inspection is swift and never loses the intensity of the drama.

  1. Till

-I saw Till at the Twin Cities Film Festival with members of Emmett Till’s extended family, and it was so affecting, without relying on the gruesome details of the lynching, that my wife and I drove home in silence. It saddens me that this story wasn’t a bigger part of our country’s history. I was never taught anything about the story of Emmett Till in my schooling, and didn’t know about the story until the short film, My Nephew Emmett, earned an Oscar nomination.

Led by Danielle Deadwyler in perhaps the best performance by any actor this year, Till is an affecting story of grief and perseverance, but more than that, it’s about overcoming that grief and anger and using it to affect real change in the world. Deadwyler is able to channel Mamie Till-Mobley’s undeniable pain and yet I understood some of her extreme choices and the internal character arc of her struggle with joining a movement and risking turning her son’s death into political theater until she realizes that the love she shared with Emmett is the driving force to both affect real change and show the nation that her son was a real person who existed and mattered.

Credit should also be given to Jalyn Hall as Emmett Till, a performance of limited screen time and maximum impact. He plays Emmett with a heightened sensibility so that when he is killed, that absence is felt for the rest of the film. I was also impressed with Frankie Faison as Mamie’s father, Whoopi Goldberg as he mother, and Sean Patrick Thomas as Mamie’s husband. The film is full of great performances all being overshadowed by the heartbreaking work of Deadwyler in a career-making role. I can’t imagine a world in which she doesn’t walk away with the Oscar this year.

  1. Women Talking

-While Women Talking doesn’t have a great title, it certainly is true. This is a movie that features predominantly women talking. I was unimpressed with the poster and marketing (I’ve only seen a trailer playing once this entire year), this one is a word-of-mouth movie, and one of the most compelling films of the year.

Sarah Polley’s film establishes all the rules and mythology very quickly and then sits back to allow the performances to pick up the narrative and carry it all the way through. Women Talking is set at a religious colony where the women have discovered that some of the men have been sexually assaulting them for years and blaming it on “demons” and now have to decide if they will stay in the colony and forgive them, leave the colony and face eternal damnation, or stay and fight them.

This year’s Oscar ballet of Lead and Supporting Actress could just be actresses from Women Talking in all ten slots. There isn’t a faulty performance in the entire film, and I want to include Ben Whishaw in the conversation of great portrayals as well. If I had to pick the ones that really stood out, it comes down to Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley, but it’s because they both seem to have the MOST to do. That being said, I feel like every member of the principal cast gets a moment to shine. Polley uses each actress in several positions and stances as they discuss the potential options at play, and any time where the narrative could lose impact, Foy or Buckley inject the narrative with an outburst of energy that shakes the table up again.

As a person of faith, I also want to highlight something that isn’t being discussed as much here. These women are discussing the option of leaving the colony and BEING DAMNED TO HELL. To confront one’s own faith and be willing to sacrifice your position in the afterlife for your stance is utterly terrifying, and it makes their conversation all the more intense.

  1. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

-I honestly can’t tell you how I ended up seeing Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. I’m sure one of the other critics I follow mentioned enjoying the film, but I ended up at a screening and I loved it. This is inherently not the type of movie that sings to me. I have shit for fashion sense, and I base most of my outfits on whatever the hell the mannequin is wearing at the store. I’ve never wanted to own a fancy dress. All that being said, so many films lean on intensity, depressing elements, and heavy drama. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a feel-good movie with so much heart and joy spread across the narrative.

Lesley Manville impressively crafts a character that never becomes schmaltzy and unbelievable within a potentially ludicrous framework. This is a film that features a number of performers who understood the assignment and make the most of it. Jason Isaacs shines in a limited role as the drunkard friend of Mrs. Harris. Isabelle Huppert plays the “villain” of the tale, the Dior director who does not see Harris as worthy of the dress she so desperately desires and seeks to find any way to keep them separate. Lambert Wilson capably plays a potential suitor who treats Harris to the sights and sounds of Paris. Alba Baptiste also shines as Natasha, a Dior model with hopes to do a whole lot more with her life. This is a terrific cast and a delightful film that surprised the heck out of me and is sure to entertain anyone who gives it a try.

  1. X

-Alright, let’s go in the exact opposite direction with X, from director Ti West. I’ll be honest, I’ve not been the biggest Ti West fan. I’ve felt positive enough on a number of his projects but none of them have connected with me in the way I had hoped, outside of The Sacrament. All that aside, I felt like the trailer for X promised the exact movie he dropped. I love the horror films of the 70s and 80s, I’m a slasher fan, and the way in which West interweaves the adult film genre with the horror genre and seemingly celebrates all the ways in which they both compare and contrast with one another, especially during the time frame of the movie, is really something exciting. West is playing with the genres while also honoring them and the people who used them for a jumping off point, and the cast is a wildly eclectic group led by the incredible turn from Mia Goth in a dual-role performance that finally puts her in the conversation as an actress.

As these adult film actors are picked off one-by-one by the jealous killers of our narrative, the film allows a certain amount of pity for the villains while also being a cautionary tale about living your life as much as you can while you are young enough to do so. The way in which West showcases the violence of the film also adds a level of artistic understanding which makes each death scene a visual treat, particularly when one character is hacked apart in front of his vehicles headlights, covering the brights in a coat of red which shines upon the killers (chef’s kiss). Sure, X keeps its themes and metaphors relatively surface-level, but for what it’s trying to be, X absolutely succeeds (and Pearl is pretty solid as well).

  1. The Northman

-I’ve been a fan of Robert Eggers since The VVitch came out (though I was a little late to the party catching that one) and the more I watch The Lighthouse, the more I love it, so when I heard that Eggers was getting a sizable budget upgrade for his next film, a Viking epic based on the legend of Amleth, I couldn’t be more excited to see it and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

The casting was near-prefection, from the burly-Alexander Skarsgard as the vengeful prince of a slain king to Claes Bang as the betrayor, and just about everyone in between, including Eggers regulars Anya Taylor-Joy (is there any role she can’t do?) as the enslaved sorceress and Willem Dafoe as the scenery-chewing and flatulence-flinging fool, but where the film rises above the simple tale is in how Eggers tells it. Using striking visual storytelling and unique presentation alongside finely-detailed sets, costumes, and customs, Eggers is able to imbue his legend with fantastical elements while still retaining a historical backdrop that feels altogether timeless. I’ve watched The Northman at least 4 times since it came out and I keep going back, and if you missed it, now is the time to rectify that problem.

  1. The Black Phone

-I’ll admit I’m breaking a rule here. I tend to only allow films in my Top Ten if they premiered in the calendar year, while The Black Phone began a festival run in 2021. I realized very late that this was the case, but I love this movie so much that I’m willing to break my rule for it.

Based on the story by Joe Hill, directed by Scott Derrickson, and scripted by C. Robert Cargill, there’s a lot of strength behind the camera which combines to make the best adaptation of a Hill story while also being the best film in both Derrickson’s and Cargill’s filmography, not an easy feat. The Black Phone is universal themes executed well, with two of the best lead performances from younger actors in recent memory with Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw as siblings Finney and Gwen, respectively.

Ethan Hawke also elevates the material immensely while delivering a truly iconic horror performance that will be talked about for decades. His take on the Grabber, a reinterpretation of the kidnapper and slasher from Hill’s initial story, created in part with Derrickson, Cargill, and a wonderful selection of prop masks created by Tom Savini.

  1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

-I saw EEAAO almost a year ago, and I’m shocked that it stayed at #1 all 2022 long. That’s not for lack of trying, though. 2022 has been an excellent year in film, and the fact that this little wonder just stayed in my mind for months and multiple viewings has only made me appreciate it more. It’s a movie that has gotten better with each viewing, allowing me to enjoy all the little nuances and moments in the character arcs. EEAAO has an excellent film logic built into its multiverse of madness, one that didn’t make 100% sense to me until the second time I’d watched.

Great action scenes, comedic and absurdist visual gags, and an everything bagel might make for entertainment, but what elevates EEAAO is how all of it comes down to characters and story. Well-written, complex characters with real human flaws portrayed excellently by all involved, and a story that uses over-the-top fantastical elements to convey real human issues. It’s a powerful tale of love and family within the context of the conflict between nihilism and true purpose and it’s my favorite film of 2022.

There you have it. My Top Ten Favorite Films of 2022. I’ve said my piece, now it’s time to say yours. Leave your Top Ten of the year in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you loved last year.

-Kyle A. Goethe

My Policeman (2022)

Director: Michael Grandage
Cast: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, Gina McKee, Linus Roache, David Dawson, Rupert Everett
Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner
113 mins. Rated R for sexual content.

As we close out 2022, I’ve been trying to catch all the movies that passed me by throughout the year, especially the ones that ended up on streaming, as my focus tends to shift toward the theatrical (for I am, myself, rather theatrical). I recently caught half of the Harry Styles (Dunkirk) output with Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, so I figured it was time to take on the other half with My Policeman over on Amazon Prime.

Marion (Gina McKee, Phantom Thread, Atonement) and her husband Tom (Linus Roache, Batman Begins, Mandy) have taken in their ailing friend Patrick (Rupert Everett, Shrek 2, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) following a stroke. Marion finds that Patrick seems to want no help from her with his feeding and care, and he frequently asks to see Tom, who has been absent from Patrick’s side since he arrived. As time goes on, she remembers back to her courtship with Tom, the beginnings of their friendship with Patrick, and the dangerous secret that destroyed all three of them: the hidden romance between Tom and Patrick as young men.

My Policeman is a film set in two alternating time periods. There is the more current time of older Tom, Marion, and Patrick, and the flashbacks with the younger actors: Styles, Emma Corrin (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Misbehaviour) and David Dawson (All the Old Knives). The portion of the film featuring the older actors is the stronger of the two, where an actor like Linus Roache makes the absolute most of a smaller amount of screen time as Older Tom. His is a man of significant regrets, riddled with a lifetime of indecision and understandable pain. The sequences where he reckons with his past are the most engaging, if few and far between, and the mystery of what drove these three lives apart becomes a driving force in the narrative. All three Older character performances are quite good (although underutilized).

The screenplay, from Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, The Painted Veil), does not reinvent storytelling, but it’s a tight narrative that touches on familiar topics with elegance. Director Michael Grandage (Genius, Red) took it and developed that screenplay into a workable albeit pedestrian final product. Again, there’s no reinvention to the film, nothing stylistic to set it apart from any number of other similar films, but MOST of the performances make the film worth checking out.

But we simply must discuss Harry Styles here. I honestly feel like I’m piling on the Harry Styles hate train, but I’m not one to slam artists and performers without constructive criticism. I liked Styles in Dunkirk (it was a small role, but he was fine with what was requested of him) and I can’t really call out such a small cameo in Eternals when it had so many other issues with its post-credit scenes, but his work in both Don’t Worry Darling and My Policeman show an utter lack of experience as an actor. He seems to work in only two functions: completely lackadaisical and shouting emotional wreck. That’s not me saying he can’t improve. I used to have real struggles with Channing Tatum, but he took the time to learn the craft and choose the right roles for his skill set, and now I look forward to seeing him in films. The idea that Harry Styles should co-lead two films without more than a handful of film credits to his name just because he (reportedly) memorized the film script for My Policeman is frustrating. I think he has the ability to act and improve the skill, but he needs to put forth an effort before he returns to leading narrative features or popping back into the MCU. His work is perhaps all the more weak here because he shares a character with an actor who can do so much more with so much less screen time.

My Policeman has one leading performance dragging down a well-acted narrative that is perhaps a little too simplistic for some viewers, but I found enough here to recommend it. It’s still the better of the Harry-Styles-plays-a-bad-husband cinematic universe from this year. Thankfully, there are some great performances from Linus Roache, Emma Corrin, and David Dawson that elevate the material. Check the film out on Amazon Prime.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 25 – Lot 36 (2022)

Director: Guillermo Navarro
Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, Sebastian Roche, Demetrius Grosse, Elpidia Carrillo
Screenplay: Regina Corrado, Guillermo del Toro
45 mins. Rated TV-MA.

This week, the first installments of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities has premiered. The series or short features is, in many ways, a spiritual successor to Night Gallery and Masters of Horror, and I’m very glad to see a return of the anthology host in del Toro. Our first story is based on an idea crafted by del Toro himself, and it’s a strong start.

Nick Appleton (Tim Blake Nelson, Nightmare Alley, The Incredible Hulk) is a veteran looking to pay off his many debts by purchasing expired storage lockers and selling off the contents. When he buys up Lot 36, a rental that’s been owned for decades by an eccentric loner who has recently passed away. As he starts pawning off items, he begins to learn that the items in this storage locker have a demonic and monstrous origin.

The screenplay, from Regina Corrado and del Toro, does a great job at crafting interesting characters. Our leads aren’t all that likable, but Corrado and del Toro are able to imbue them with an understanding for their shitty attitudes and actions. Especially with the character of Nick, the screenplay is used to elevate the subtext around racism through fear, misdirected aggression, and the abandoning of veterans.

Sebastian Roche (The Adventures of Tintin, 6 Underground) is another standout here with such a small screen presence. Ever since his role on TV’s Fringe, I’ve been surprised by how much exposition Roche can give without ever getting bogged down in it.

Perhaps the only flaw of Lot 36 is that it just kind of ends right when it gets ramped up. We hit a moment when the narrative officially opens up and tells us what’s happening, and then about 3 minutes of intensity, and then the story is over. I felt like there was a lot of solid buildup and not enough payoff.

Lot 36 is a solid start to the Cabinet of Curiosities, promising great things ahead for this promising anthology. While the feature’s finale moves a little too fast, this is still an entertaining and engrossing tale full of style.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Armageddon Time (2022)

Twin Cities Film Festival coverage

Director: James Gray
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, Anthony Hopkins
Screenplay: James Gray
115 mins. Rated R.

I was a big fan of We Own the Night, an early James Gray (The Immigrant) film from about 15 years back, and I was rather disappointed by Ad Astra, his most recent film, so I didn’t know what to expect from Armageddon Time. It’s a even split when director’s make a semi-autobiographical film of their lives, some of them being subtle and nuanced and others being heavy-handed and overly-melodramatic, but the cast of Armageddon Time really brought me in.

Set in the heavily-divided America of the 1980s, Armageddon Time is the story of a young boy, Paul Graff (Banks Repeta, The Black Phone, Uncle Frank) as he tries to traverse a world that is changing before his very eyes. As the school year starts, Paul’s looking for companionship, and he strikes up a friendship with the troublesome Johnny (Jaylin Webb, Till), one of the only black students who has been pre-judged by his teacher to be incapable of teaching. Johnny’s a target, and Paul’s parents don’t want him to be hanging out with one of the black boys. His grandfather Aaron (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, Thor: Ragnarok) has a different perspective, having lived through many of the atrocities of the World Wars, seeing his Jewish heritage being seen as “other,” and he invites Paul to protect those that society has deemed unworthy. With the push-and-pull of this era at his backdrop, Paul struggles with his place in the world.

There are a lot of elements at play in Armageddon Time, but the one theme that jumped out at me is the idea of otherness that has pervaded many a time period, including the pivotal 1980s. They way that Gray juxtaposes the otherness of Black America with Paul’s family, who have seemingly cast aside the otherness of Jewish America that was still alive at the time (as well as in the past and, sadly, even today), is well-executed. Gray even uses the politics of the day well, showing an interview with Ronald Reagan discussing homosexuality as an apocalyptic problem, extending the range of otherness outside of race to showcase how many Americans were “others” at the time.

It would be easy to get lost in the shuffle with so many characters and a more subtle through-line in place for Armageddon Time, but the performances were what held together and elevated the material to an altogether captivating piece of cinema. I could call out practically any actor as a win here, but I want to focus on the opposing spectrum created by Jeremy Strong (The Big Short, The Trial of the Chicago 7) as Paul’s father Irving and Hopkins as Paul’s grandfather Aaron. While Irving is a stern father who cannot control his son no matter how many beatings he administers, Aaron takes a gentler, more focused parental role. There’s a central scene in the middle of the film (it’s the scene everyone seems to reference, but I’ll do so as well) in which Aaron is helping his grandson launch off a model rocket. Aaron’s soft but deft way of conversing with his grandson echoes the film’s central message of dealing with racists and those who build their lives around hatred: “Fuck ‘em.” It’s the duality of these competing messages that create the compelling back-and-forth for Paul, and it’s the eventuality of Paul’s struggle to do right by those he loves that ultimately make for a fulfilling drama.

Armageddon Time is a movie that weighs on the soul for some time after the final credits run. It’s one that only gains strength as its complex narrative web pulls at the audience. While the narrative occasionally stumbles in finding its footing, it’s one of Gray’s more accessible films, and one of his best.

-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of James Gray’s Ad Astra, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 18 – Speak No Evil (2022)

Director: Christian Tafdrup
Cast: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huet, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev
Screenplay: Christian Tafdrup, Mads Tafdrup
97 mins. Not Rated.

In a year filled with great and intense new horror films, Speak No Evil is one that’s been bubbling just under the surface. Released to Shudder, it’s been a word-of-mouth film that’s been referred to as “the one that moves slow and awkward before going HOLY SHIT!” I’ll avoid the major spoilers, and we’ll break it down today.

Bjorn (Morten Burian, Loving Adults, Sons of Denmark) and his family are vacationing in Tuscany when when they meet a Dutch family also on holiday. They strike up a rapport and have a lot of fun together, and when they get him, they receive an invite out to stay with the Dutch family at their farm home in the Netherlands for the weekend. They decide to take them up on the offer, with Bjorn not wanting to upset anyone. Upon arrival, they discover that cultural differences aren’t the only thing that the two families disagree on. As the weekend develops, they find that they’ve arrived in a very dangerous and deadly place.

Director Christian Tafdrup (Parents, A Horrible Woman) seems hell-bent on crafting one of the most awkward films of all time. As the tension and dread build up, Tafdrup keeps cultivating anxiety that was almost too unbearable at times. His direction, combined with the excellent editing of the film by Nicolaj Monberg (Cold Pursuit, Riders of Justice) constantly keeps the narrative compelling while assaulting with all manner of discomfort.

Morten Burian is brilliant as Bjorn, a husband who just wants to make everyone happy, and as his wife Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch, Itsi Bitsi, The Day We Died) gets more and more frustrated, he just tries to keep the peace. As the situation becomes more concerning, he just looks the other way, trying to see the best in others. Even up to the ending, his inability to create conflict may just be his undoing.

I would say that the film unravels a bit as it nears the ending. I think I understand what Tafdrup is getting at with the final scenes, but it strained credulity. Bjorn and Louise’s reaction to what’s happening to them isn’t convincing at all, which only sought to frustrate me as a viewer that invested time into Tafdrup’s film. It isn’t enough to derail the film, but there were character choices that I didn’t believe in. I didn’t have a lot of problems with lack of clear answers, but I couldn’t get past some of the characters.

Speak No Evil is surely an unforgettable movie and another very interesting installment in 2022’s Horror Catalog. It’s got a wholly unique structure less-focused on horror but always building toward the horrific, and when it’s unleashed, Tafdrup’s film goes some shocking places.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 17 – Halloween Ends (2022)

Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Will Patton, Rohan Campbell, Kyle Richards
Screenplay: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
111 mins. Rated R for bloody horror violence and gore, language throughout and some sexual references.

It’s been 44 years since the world has been introduced to Michael Myers. In that time, we’ve had multiple timelines, retcons, and various mythologies, and in 2018, that was wiped clean (in a move I don’t generally agree with) when director David Gordon Green (Stronger, Our Brand Is Crisis) entered with a new take, a direct sequel to the 1978 original, bringing back a new iteration of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies, Trading Places) and streamlining the narrative for general audiences and the uninitiated viewer. Now, the final film in Green’s trilogy has arrived, Halloween Ends. For this lifelong Halloween fan, the expectations were high, and can Green’s finale stick the landing?

Four years after Michael Myers rampaged through Haddonfield, leaving numerous bodies in his wake, including Laurie Strode’s own daughter, the town has never truly recovered. Laurie has believed that, while Michael has not been seen since, his presence has poisoned the town, leading to murder, suicide, and a Haddonfield that is slowly consuming itself with hatred. Laurie has done everything in her power to get over the anger of the past, purchasing a new home for her and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak, Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List, Son), and trying out normalcy for once. When she sees another young man, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell, The Professor, Operation Christmas Drop), struggling to live life in a town that sees him as another damaged soul, she takes a liking, introducing him to her granddaughter and trying to get him on the right path. It seems like Haddonfield might just heal, but unknown to its residents, Michael Myers is still in the town, just biding his time, ready to return.

As always, Jamie Lee Curtis is incredible in the role of Laurie Strode. She’s officially been in more installments of this franchise than Donald Pleasance, and with this newest trilogy, she’s truly gotten the spotlight to shine. This is as much, probably more, her story as it is Michael’s. This final chapter spends more time seeing her struggle to get right in her own mind than it does watching Myers hack-and-slashing. I particularly liked seeing her having fun, or trying, as Laurie, joking with Lindsay Wallace (Kyle Richards, Eaten Alive, The Car) or flirting with Frank Hawkins (Will Patton, Minari, After Hours). She’s a fully fleshed-out character in Green’s films.

The town of Haddonfield continues to be presented as a town in grief, stuck in trauma, but a fully-realized home to many captivating characters. When I talked about Halloween Kills, I discussed how real the town had felt, as Green had several background characters in Halloween 2018 return in Kills and fill out the town. That’s something that has lacked in just about any of the other sequels in this franchise. That continues, to a smaller extent, in Halloween Ends. That includes the rather inspired turns by Patton and Richards, who both continued to shine in this installment.

As a fan of Opening Credits, I have to celebrate the absolute perfection of this entire trilogy’s credit sequences. Having the 2018 Halloween showing a rotten pumpkin reforming, Green is telling us that we’re going all the way back to the beginning. In Halloween Kills, we get a number of Jack-o-Lanterns flying at us, symbolizing the mob mentality of Haddonfield, and with Halloween Ends (using a Blue Halloween III font), we get a series of Jack-o-Lanterns bursting through each other, as Green shows up how evil begets evil in this town, a theme for the finale.

Halloween Ends succeeds at looking back at the iconography of the entire series and playing it, sometimes as an expectation, other times like a subversion meant to showcase how far we’ve come on this journey, and how, while some things change, some things remain the same. The use of cues like “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and certain visuals from the original film, like Michael’s sitting up behind Laurie, are excellently pursued and make their mark. The same can be said of the opening scene, one that plays to its subversions while also pushing the narrative forward. Even the marketing (I only watched the first teaser) subverts expectations in a clever way.

Green and his co-writers, Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, and Danny McBride, certainly swing for the fences with this final installment. It could have been an easy assignment, getting Laurie and Michael back together for one more throwdown, but they elected to take a different path, for better and worse. I’ll give credit where it’s due, Green and his team accomplish two tasks that most of the other sequels were too afraid to go for (I can’t get into either story point in a non-spoiler review), and that’s impressive. There’re two paths that the narrative takes, one of them the obvious continuance of the Laurie and Michael thread. That plot is disregarded for a while in favor of the new story path. I’m fine with that, but by the time it gets back around to this main path, so much time has been afforded to the alternate path and so little is focused on the Laurie and Michael story, leaving it as a bit of an afterthought. I really admire the new path, but I wish we’d had a more interesting story for Michael’s return to the narrative.

James Jude Courtney (Far and Away, When a Man Loves a Woman) again knocks it out of the park as The Shape/Michael Myers, and my hope is that he continues on with the role in the next reboot, but I feel that the film under-utilizes Myers. Going back to my earlier statement, I actually really like the other direction they go in, but I wish that Michael was more of a physical presence running concurrently to it. It’s interesting how light on violence the end product is, most of it cutting away outside of one or two really grisly moments, and I think that The Shape could have done more outside the inevitable.

I’m happy that a film called Halloween Ends has an actual ending to the saga of Laurie and Michael with a definitive closure, though I won’t go into any detail on that. The Ends in Halloween Ends is conclusive, and I’m happy that each of Green’s films have a cohesiveness but end up being very different films. I think a lot of us viewers tend to review films based on our expectations, critiquing based on the film we wanted and not the film we got (though if you hate the movie, I can understand). On rewatch my opinion hasn’t changed on the positives or the negatives, but here’s hoping the rumors of an extended cut are true, because I’d love more time in this world. This final (until the inevitable reboot) chapter won’t work for some, but I rather liked it, flaws and all.

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.
For my review of David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express, click here.
For my review of David Gordon Green’s Your Highness, click here.

[Early Review] Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (2022)

Director: Derek Drymon, Jennifer Kuska
Cast: Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Brian Hull, Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Fran Drescher, Brad Abrell, Asher Blinkoff
Screenplay: Amos Vernon, Nunzio Randazzo, Genndy Tartakovsky
98 mins. Rated PG for some action and rude humor including cartoon nudity.

I’ve spent the last week binging everything Hotel Transylvania. Prior to a week ago, I hadn’t seen a single film in the franchise, but when I learned that my first press screening of the year would be Transformania, I immediately began watching these films. I watched all three original films, all three short films, and a few episodes of the television series to get into the right realm to see this fourth, and reportedly final (for now) installment of the franchise. See, I do my research.

Dracula (Brian Hull, Pup Star Rescue Dogs) is preparing to retire and hand off the ownership of Hotel Transylvania to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez, Monte Carlo, TV’s Only Murders in the Building), but he fears that her husband Johnny (Andy Samberg, America: The Motion Picture, TV’s Saturday Night Live) will ruin his beloved hotel with his HUMAN alternatives, he inadvertently convinces Johnny to use a Monsterfication Ray to turn himself into a monster. The ray also turns Drac and his buddies into humans as well. Now, they have to fix the Monsterfication Ray and turn everyone back to normal before Johnny’s monster transformation becomes irreversible.

It’s nice to see all of these characters grow and interact with one another. One of the things that I loved while watching these films over the last week was seeing this steadily growing ensemble work with one another for the sake of hijinks. I think my favorite of the group is the third film, so seeing Drac’s relationship with Ericka (Kathryn Hahn, Afternoon Delight, TV’s WandaVision) continue beyond that film was really nice and seeing that she still has memories of her time as a monster slayer helped to bridge the films nicely to its roots. So often, we get characters that turn good in one film and then become perfect little angels like their past didn’t matter, and here, Ericka’s past definitely mattered, but she’s able to use her skills for a more noble purpose. It was also awesome to see Jim Gaffigan (Chappaquiddick, Luca) return as Van Helsing, a character I found to be captivating and funny from the previous film. Here, he’s living in seclusion and has a purpose in the narrative that, again, ties to his franchise roots (though why he never considered using the Monsterfication Ray to just turn monsters back into humans instead of killing them makes me ponder).

The only missing character that I notably missed is Drac’s father, voiced by Mel Brooks. Never a large role in the franchise, he’s always a welcome inclusion, and it would’ve been fun to see him, a former human-killing hateful vampire, turned into a human. I also noticed the lack of Adam Sandler in the role of Dracula (I didn’t miss Kevin James because Frankenstein just never had a lot to do in the series). While Brian Hull does a great Adam-Sandler-as-Dracula impression, I could tell he wasn’t the same Drac, and it was notable here.

Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kuska take over directing duties from Genndy Tartakovsky, who made the first three films (and contributed to the story and script for this installment). Their directing is much more frenetic. There’s a lot going on in the frame here, and some of it is unnecessary. I can call out the opening of the film set at the hotel party. There is so much plot jammed into this beginning, and then there’s a lot of unsuccessful visual gags here as well. It doesn’t completely derail the film, but moments of the film, specifically in the handling of Johnny, gets really annoying. There’s a chase scene at the party where Johnny yells out Mavis’s name perhaps a hundred times in a five-minute sequence, and it becomes really frustrating, and headache-producing, to listen to.

Part of that falls down to the screenplay as well, co-written by Tartakovsky along with Amos Vernon and Nunzio Randazzo. There’s an excellent idea at play here that goes back to the central themes of the first movie (whereas the sequels expanded on other elements of the characters). The concept and story work pretty well, but some of the dialogue is tell-don’t-show or characters saying aloud what’s obviously happening on screen. There’s some humor that’s mined from the central premise, but it’s more hit-and-miss than the other films.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania has had five different release dates since Sony originally placed it in October 2021. The Delta variant launched this film all over the back half of last year before it rested as an Amazon Original in January, and the finished movie is probably the weakest installment of the franchise thus far, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching. If you’ve enjoyed the previous three films, then this one should be an enjoyable, though slightly less so, time in front of the television. If you didn’t like the Hotel Transylvania franchise to this point, then this one won’t sway you. I liked it but seeing it in such quick succession with the other films only highlights its flaws more.

-Kyle A. Goethe

Making Sense of Illumination’s Mario Movie

So…there’s a Super Mario Movie coming from Illumination…Um, what?

It’s been decades since we got the last Super Mario Bros movie, starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo. That film caused Nintendo to swear off any further film adaptations of their properties (though, let’s be fair, the film was way better than that weird live-action/cartoon hybrid television show). Now, in the year 2022, Nintendo has softened on their stance, and they’ll be working alongside Illumination and Universal to bring Mario to theaters once again.

It’s a weird kind of Cinderella story, or perhaps we should refer to it as a Princess Peach story. But wait, it gets weirder.

I remember hearing about this movie a few years back during Collider Movie Talk, or perhaps it was even AMC Movie Talk, but now it’s been officially announced as of September’s Nintendo Direct, a news outlet offered every month or so directly from the video game giant. With that, Nintendo even announced some of the cast, and more bits of casting have eeked out in the weeks since. Let’s take a look at this list:

  • Chris Pratt as Mario
  • Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach
  • Charlie Day as Luigi
  • Jack Black as Bowser
  • Keegan-Michael Key as Toad
  • Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong
  • Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong
  • Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek
  • Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike
  • Charles Martinet will reportedly make a cameo in the film as well.

Pratt’s involvement seems to be the one raising the most eyebrows, and I can’t say I disagree with those who are confused. Pratt doesn’t necessarily sound like the Italian plummer-turned-superhero. He also hasn’t shown his voice acting chops to take on Mario Mario (is his full name canon anymore?). You might be laughing about this, and I get it, it’s not like Mario is a complex character, but he still seems like an odd choice (he’s also voicing Garfield the cat, but let’s just deal with this first).

There are other interesting bits in that casting like Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, but there’s also some inspired choices as well, like Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach. I can certainly see her breathy cadence lending itself to Peach pretty well. Mario’s brother Luigi is also a bit of a fool, so maybe the over-the-top talents of Charlie Day might just work. Same with the utterly brilliant against-type casting of Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, which I can already see in my mind.

I’ve been working my brain on this conundrum of peculiar information for weeks now, and I finally think I cracked it: I believe this Super Mario movie will be more satirical than we originally expected. With the casting of Pratt, Day, and Jack Black as Bowser, I think the aim is to make something akin to The Lego Movie. That seems to line up with Matthew Fogel (The Lego Movie 2) screenwriting and Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic (Teen Titans Go! To the Movies) directing.

In other news, Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong will also appear in a spin-off of his own, but for now, we’ll have to wait until December 22, 2022 to see how this plays out.

What do you think of this new Super Mario movie? Does all this info bode well for the upcoming animated feature or does this film need a few extra lives to succeed? Let me know/Drop a comment down below!

-Kyle A. Goethe

Blog at

Up ↑