2022 Movie Catch-up (Part I of II)
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Directors: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Writers: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Released in 2022
An aging Chinese immigrant is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save what's important to her by connecting with the lives she could have led in other universes.
This took so long to come out in the UK. I avoided all spoilers, even though the immense positive buzz was unavoidable so I tried to go in with regular expectations and... it was excellent! Very chaotic, like a mix of The Matrix and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World's heightened reality. But it's the balance of absurd comedy, great fight choreography and a real earnest heart that shines brightest despite all the silliness that makes this such a joy. Massive energy levels, very quirky but rarely annoying, it's filled with imaginative ideas and some cool visual effects. The cast is great, Michelle Yeoh is fantastic, it's heart-warming to see Ke Huy Quan back acting, like he never stopped, and Jamie Lee Curtis in her supporting role gets a lot of the biggest laughs.
It's a testament to all involved that this works so well, with such a chaotic first act, only to have to exposition multiverse nonsense to us, establish various multiverses and then its second half really becomes an affecting story. Most filmmakers would let this coast on gimmicks, but the real magic of the film comes from the human element rather than crazy multiverse stuff with slick martial arts choreography, and that stuff all rules as well so I see why this has the massive rep is currently has. Some of the most fun I've had in a cinema for years I think.
Director: Robert Eggers
Writers: Robert Eggers & Sjón
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Claes Bang, Nicole Kidman
Genre: Historical Fiction, Action
Released in 2022
Prince Amleth is on the verge of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy's mother. Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who's on a mission to save his mother, kill his uncle and avenge his father.
There's not really been many films released this year I've been compelled to seek out on the big screen, but The Northman was absolutely worth it. An intense movie with very impressive production values and a set of committed performances.
While it's more straightforward than Robert Eggers' previous two films, there's still a surreal dreaminess and rich atmosphere for the majority of the film. It totally sucks you into this Viking world where there's some light magic elements. The moments where it really leans into trippy visuals feel distinctly Eggers. It looks fantastic front to back and the set-pieces are all very impressively pulled off. Really impressive long takes used throughout. Some of the violence really packs a punch too, especially as the action is so well choreographed.
At the end of the day the concept of exploring "revenge is a futile, never-ending cycle" is one that's already been explored by many movies (also this is very Hamlet-esque). Though there are certain dynamics to the character relations that make sure it isn't as straightforward as you may initially expect. Though it definitely hits most the beats you'd expect, especially come the final act. It's surely one of the most impressive renditions of that moral tale though, in terms of pure epic scale.
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Matt Reeves & Peter Craig
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell
Genre: Superhero, Mystery
Released in 2022
In his second year of fighting crime, Batman uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while facing a serial killer known as the Riddler.
I like the detective-thriller vibes a lot, if you're gonna make another Batman film you might as well take it in a new direction and this does feel distinct enough. The fact that Gotham as a setting feels so vibrant again is great, feels like a nasty place where Batman and his gallery of villains feature naturally, rather than the faux-realism of Nolan's latter two films, where Gotham was just a blend of NYC and Chicago.
I especially liked that this drops pretty much all backstory and exposition, let Batman become a James Bond like character where you just assume we know his deal. Robert Pattison is pretty good in the lead role, giving the most unstable on-screen edition of Batman/Bruce Wayne we've seen yet. Paul Dano steals the show as The Riddler and Colin Farrell is having fun under copious amounts of make-up as well.
Not sure this really needed to be 3 hours long but I never felt like it was dragging until the last 15 or so minutes so it's not too bad. It does make it a film I'm less likely to revisit though. Hopefully Matt Reeves knows what he's doing and gets to craft a cool trilogy as this is an excellent base to launch more exotic Batman adventures off of. Give me Mr. Freeze or Poison Ivy, or something totally bizarre. Not Joker again pleaseeeeeeeee 🥺🙏
Director: Michael Bay
Writer: Chris Fedak
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González
Genre: Thriller, Action
Released in 2022
Decorated veteran Will Sharp, desperate for money to cover his wife's medical bills, asks for help from his adoptive brother Danny. A charismatic career criminal, Danny instead offers him a score: the biggest bank heist in Los Angeles history: $32 million.
Watching this in an empty cinema, with pizza and drinks was probably the best possible scenario to bask in the newest instalment of 'Bayhem'. This is a lot of fun for the most part, the characters and their dynamic are simple, but I'll take Jake Gyllenhaal chewing the scenery and the ridiculous back and forth between the three main characters in the ambulance as serviceable backdrop to the big action centrepieces.
Some of the editing is a bit much at times, though thankfully the action is well shot and it keeps a great pace. After a fairly standard, but mercifully quick intro we're put into a pretty nice bank robbery sequence before then commencing the main event, which is a non-stop ambulance chase sequence around downtown LA. I really appreciated the pacing and commitment to the set-piece for the majority of the film, obviously it's very silly but also a lot of fun and leads to thrills, tension and some laughs.
In its final act is where things start to fall apart a bit, specifically the ending is a whole bunch of lame cheese. Obviously the whole movie is typically Michael Bay cheesy, but the final act starts getting schmaltzy which is not as fun.
Generally though the movie is audacious and pretty loaded with dumb action that's fun & exciting. Jake Gyllenhaal is definitely the MVP here with his committedly cheesy, but not too cheesy performance. But also Michael Bay is a very good filmmaker and there's a lot of fun to be had for how he envisions the action here, I didn't even feel like it felt its length either which I was worried about going in since it's over two hours long.
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Writers: Dan Gregor & Doug Mand
Starring: John Mulaney, Andy Samberg
Released in 2022
Decades since their successful television series was cancelled, Chip has succumbed to a life of suburban domesticity as an insurance salesman. Dale, meanwhile, has had CGI surgery and works the nostalgia convention circuit, desperate to relive his glory days. When a former cast mate mysteriously disappears, Chip and Dale must repair their broken friendship and take on their Rescue Rangers detective personas once again to save their friend’s life.
It's the little details, sight gags and committal to chaos that makes this weird Chip 'n Dale sequel/reboot/spin-off work as well as it does. While I was worried this might've ended up as Disney's Ready Player One or Space Jam 2, hollow IP showcasing, this is mostly a funny little buddy-adventure film that they let get pretty wild. It's absolutely fresh compared to Disney's legion of uninspired remakes.
This obviously draws parallel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, though the blend of different animation styles and live-action is far more messy. But in that there's a chaotic energy that's fun, lots of jokes and cameos with meta-humour that's mostly funny. I liked the world this is set in is so pop-culture crazy that Batman vs. E.T. exists. The self-aware edge keeps it from becoming a circlejerk, like other IP showcase films end up.
Its mystery plot is by the books and the central character development is as simple as you'd expect, but it's funny and weird which is what I wanted really. There's enough little gags poured into this that I'm sure repeat viewings would reward. Also, I was thinking the washed up Peter Pan joke was kinda in poor taste given how Disney treated the real-life voice actor for Peter Pan...
Director: David Leitch
Writers: Zak Olkewicz
Starring: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry
Genre: Action, Comedy
Released in 2022
Unlucky assassin Ladybug is determined to do his job peacefully after one too many gigs gone off the rails. Fate, however, may have other plans, as Ladybug's latest mission puts him on a collision course with lethal adversaries from around the globe—all with connected, yet conflicting, objectives—on the world's fastest train.
Would be better off being shorter and Brad Pitt playing a Ryan Reynolds snarky cool guy protagonist who says stuff like "shitballs" a lot, is not particularly compelling, but it's nice to see a fun blockbuster that's self-contained and filled with satisfying action. Plot is serviceable and it has a nice cast, even if there's a distracting amount of unneeded stunt casting.
But the core cast develops good fun chemistry and are entertaining. It's fairly funny, mostly visually interesting and action packed enough to hold my attention and provide some really good thrills. Definitely worth a shot!