2022 Movie Catch-up (Part II of II)





Nope

Director: Jordan Peele

Writer: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Steven Yeun

Genre: Thriller, Sci-Fi, Horror

Released in 2022


Residents in a lonely gulch of inland California bear witness to an uncanny, chilling discovery.


Loved this. Jordan Peele's best film yet, one of the most creative and immersive films of recent years for sure. Just bursting with ideas, it can be terrifying, thoroughly thrilling and genuinely funny without dropping its overarching mysterious and uncanny mood.

I live for films with weird, tense atmospheres like this and Nope is certainly one of the more gripping to feature that sort of cryptic and 'less is more' approach to presenting a thriller. Certain sequences here are just fantastic, moments of horror, comedy and drama are captured so well. Its cinematography is excellent, the sound design is incredible (often stealing the show) and I like the chemistry developed between the characters.

One that's gonna stick with me for a while for sure. Excellent, Jordan Peele deserves all the hype.

⭐⭐⭐⭐+




 


Elvis

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Writers: Baz Luhrmann, Jeremy Doner, Craig Pearce, Sam Bromell

Starring: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks

Genre: Musical Biopic

Released in 2022


The life story of Elvis Presley as seen through the complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker.


I can imagine some other director making this exact movie with the same script and set of actors, and it being terrible. So credit to Baz Luhrmann's absolutely wild direction, he's the star of the show behind the camera in this exploration of Elvis as a showman. Initially the framing device of Elvis's story being told by Colonel Tom Parker seems odd, but in focusing on Elvis the entertainer and not going deep into his personal life, it keeps the film reasonably boxed in. Compare it to Bohemian Rhapsody for example which tries to tackle Queen's career, Freddie Mercury's personal life, solo career and more all in just two hours and falls short.

As usual for a Baz Luhrmann movie, outstanding production design. His approach to this movie is so cartoony and larger than life that it makes some of the CGI sets and his anachronistic soundtrack choices feel par for the course. For the first hour, this is so wild with the scene transitions. It's a movie going 100mph, but somehow it works, the energy is palpable. Austin Butler's central performance as Elvis is very commendable, looking and sounding the part, even getting little mannerisms down.

Tom Hanks is left as a bit of an anomaly. He's here in a cartoon-like fat suit and a lot of makeup, but it's still clearly Tom Hanks through the make-up and botched accent. It doesn't ruin the movie because of how larger than life Luhrmann is generally playing everything up to be, but compare Hanks to Colin Farrell in The Batman, similarly wacky performances under lots of make-up, but Farrell isn't anywhere near as recognisable. Every time you see or hear the Colonel, it's like "oh there's Tom Hanks". Just a weird casting choice honestly.

I think this maybe could've been trimmed down 15 or 20 minutes, and the ending is typical biopic formulas. But otherwise, it's one of the most high energy and suitably, and enjoyably gaudy films of the last few years. What Baz Luhrmann, the production designers, editors and other crew members achieve here is fantastic. Austin Butler deserves heaps of praise too, they elevate what could've been another tripe biopic into something way more exciting.

⭐⭐⭐+



 


Prey

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Writers: Dan Trachtenberg, Patrick Aison

Starring: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro

Genre: Thriller

Released in 2022


When danger threatens her camp, the fierce and highly skilled Comanche warrior Naru sets out to protect her people. But the prey she stalks turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal.


Good course correction for Predator after that awful Shane Black movie from a few years back, but this plays way better in my head when it's described to me as "Predator but in the Great Plains, 1719". The resulting film is interesting but coasts off of its novel setting, there's not really any surprises or exceptional moments here.

Its mostly a mix of two premises for action. The classic Predator solo wilderness survival stuff that the original movie does so well and the Predator waltzing in as a wildcard in an otherwise slightly benign conflict between Comanche Natives & French colonials. I wasn't really invested in the characters here, but there's some tense survival scenarios involving the lead that get us to root for her.

It's cool for sure, with the scenic setting and all Native-American cast (wish they would've committed to filming in the Comanche language but I get why they didn't). While the cast and setting don't feel very Hollywood, the formulaic script that often mirrors the original film too closely makes it feel way more safe than I'd imagined it was upon learning that this even was a new Predator film earlier in the summer.

It's very solid and while I still like the bonkers 'Predator inserts himself in LA gang wars' premise of Predator 2 more, it's the best sequel since and a fun new mould that could bring life into the franchise if they keep doing cool period-piece Predator films. I just hope the next one offers more surprises, because the main plot beats here are lifted right from the original and generally are predictable anyways. Good, but not something I'll be clamouring to see again anytime soon.


⭐⭐⭐



 

The Black Phone

Director: Scott Derrickson

Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill, Joe Hill

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Released in 2022


Finney Blake, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. And they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.



Surprisingly restrained and not as crowd-pleasing as it could've been played, and it's all the better for it. An enthralling thriller that sucks you into a convincingly grim premise and '70s setting evoking a Stephen King novel feeling (it's based on a short story written by King's son, which makes a lot of sense).

Pretty solid little thriller that got me swept up in its tension really well, more than I expected. It doesn't lean too hard on Ethan Hawke's twisted villain performance and it's lacking the expected heap jump scares that Blumhouse horror films usually peddle. It plays certain aspects of its plot enjoyably vague, has brilliant moments of levity and has a great emotional climax.

Pretty simple, but extremely well rounded and consistently thrilling and engaging. Some of the best kid acting in recent films, respect to director Scott Derrickson for ditching Marvel's Dr. Strange 2 to make something far more interesting.

⭐⭐⭐⭐