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Is Thank God It's Friday the worst film to have won an Oscar? Leonard Maltin sure thought so.

Imagine Car Wash without the laughs or Grand Hotel set in a discotheque where nothing truly happens. It's a good way to sum up my experiences watching this era of the disco movie.

A listing of subplots for those who care:
An accountant is on his fifth anniversary with his wife where she becomes the target of lothario disco owner (Jeff Goldblum). Meanwhile, he gets caught up in the machinations of a club regular with a pharmacy in her purse!
Said owner takes great pride in his car, placing a gray coversheet over it before coming to work.
Two teen girls have designs on winning the disco contest to buy tickets to see KISS (who knew disco and KISS were related). Trivia time: The blonde girl became the lead singer from Berlin!
A garbageman with a short fuse (You bet your sweet ass you're sorry) is waiting on a blind date. Of course, she's refined, taller and bookish.
The Disco DJ is being threatened with various things if the Commodores don't show up on the air at midnight.
Yes, the Commodores are here but their roadie with all their instruments is not.
Two normal kids looking for love (she's played by Debra Winger) are escorted by two people who act like they're smooth operators but they're really not.
A local singer (Donna Summer) wants a chance to prove her vocal chops tonight.

The various subplots keep colliding on the dance floor, but there's little reason to care outside of maybe Summer's plight. The directing is listless for the most part (you don't get a chance to wow at the talents of young Goldblum and Winger, they're just there). Summer's performance is kind of rudimentary, but her character is not hard to root for and you can tell she can bring it singing. The music is well done at least with Brick House and Oscar winning Last Dance among the tracks. The film consists of multiple running jokes, most of which fall flat.

I think I counted two laughs. One involving a perfect song choice and the other involving a motorcycle cop running into something and flying off. There's also admittedly a bravura sequence involving a guy in leather dancing on top of cars and on lightpoles that recalled Singin' in the Rain.

But worst Oscar winner? I can see it. To paraphrase another film critic, too often I was listening to my watch to make sure it hadn't stopped. And it's electric.

Next: A search for a bird takes a deadly turn.



Sometimes, I decide to look at TitanTV and explore what's coming up over the next two weeks on TV. Sometimes, I might find an older movie on NBC. More often, it's what happens Saturday night on KET that piques my interest.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when I saw that The Maltese Falcon was playing...

That bit of improvisation worked last year when it was 12 Angry Men. And darn it if it didn't work again!

Sam (Humphrey Bogart) agrees to take on the case of Ruth (Mary Astor), a woman in search of her sister who has gone missing. But when the male person of interest and his partner both end up dead that night, Sam finds his neck full of lies, cops who suspect he's guilty of at least one murder, and people interested in a black bird who could be very valuable.

Bogart is convincing as Spade who can flash his wits with a biting tongue while being tough enough to not look out of place with a gun. Mary Astor may have a character who can't keep her story straight, but she's able to pull off both looking alluring when she needs to with a savvyness that lurks beneath the surface. Sydney Greenstreet makes the most of his moments as Kasper Gutman. There's a scene where he explains the significance of the bird while Sam drinks that it's just awe-inspiring. Peter Lorre offers an interesting performance as Cairo, another possible suitor of the bird. And thanks to John Huston who wrote and directed this, it manages to be intense with crackling dialogue.

If anything, the subplot about the partner's wife who comes in implying that Spade killed her husband so he could get her is kind of underdone. Maybe it's the Hays Code at work or maybe Huston didn't think it was interesting enough to elaborate. It kinda feels like a lacking element in a film that doesn't have much else wrong with it.

I'd give it 3.5 out of 4 stars and from what I've heard, it gets better with future watches. I can't wait.

Next: I don't mind.



And here's a look at my Oscar predictions for 2023...will do a best of and worst of films I've seen in 2022 soon so you can take a look at my agonies and joys.




I've gone through five films so far this year. Quick thoughts on all of them:

The Gold Rush was more emotional than I was expecting. Not like it bothered me...you did really care for The Little Tramp and the ordeals he goes through to make his fortune and win the heart of a dance hall dancer. (B)

20th Century Girl was a film I had started and kinda ran out of time to finish last year. Although it got a bit melodramatic at times, it generally was a decent rom-com set in 1990s South Korea.

Farewell Topsails fit a category in the 2023 List. A 9 minute short about a boat on its last run through England transporting clay. The accordion music helped; not so much the narration which came across as insincere at times.

Shirkers was a very good documentary about the efforts of the star of a Singapore indie and crew who spent 20 years trying to recover the footage from the director who ran off with it. Well edited and yes, I can cross Singapore off of the hadn't seen list.

Dracula Untold feels like a prequel to Underworld only with Luke Evans, a sword and chain mail instead of Kate Beckinsale, a gun and black pleather. Relatively short and time does zip by, but incoherent at times and kind of dumb. Don't expect too much and it probably won't let you down.



Shirkers was a very good documentary about the efforts of the star of a Singapore indie and crew who spent 20 years trying to recover the footage from the director who ran off with it. Well edited and yes, I can cross Singapore off of the hadn't seen list.
Planning on watching this soon---great to hear another person who's a fan of it!



Before I continue with 2023's other films, it's past time to look back at the 2022 ones that I sat through. I plan to break down the list this way:

Bottom 10 (counting backwards to the worst film I saw last year)
Dishonorable Mentions (the next 10 in traditional order)
54-45
44-35
34-21
Honorable Mentions
Top 10

And since I finally figured out the popcorn thing yesterday, will divide by tiers so you can see where certain films ended up.



Bottom 10:


10. The Identical (2014) (65)

Not sure what the oddest thing is about this one. Could be the decision to have two of the lead characters (clearly in their 30s-40s) play themselves as teenagers. Could be the smattering of original songs featured here don't feel remotely like they'd create a spark of Drexel-Mania...yep, in this world...Elvis doesn't exist but all the teeny boppers are into Drexel. Or it could be an agent's frustrating revelation that Elvis is alive in this world after all. Wait, what?

Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd and, to a lesser extent, Joe Pantoliano do the heavy lifting on this one. Casting an Elvis impersonator in Blake Rayne as Drexel and his twin Ryan Wade works about as well as you'd expect; he has some moves and a nice enough voice, but he doesn't do as well selling the melodrama. It is a faith film, but at least it's on the pleasantly forgettable side as opposed to excruciating.

9. Beach Rats (2017) (66)

Two films in and I'm not sold on Eliza Hittman.

Unlike her previous film It Felt Like Love which had the intriguing idea on focusing on a teen girl's experiences, this one flips the genders as a teen male (Harris Dickinson) faces the glare of the camera lens. Frankie hangs out with some questionable friends and his sometimes girlfriend as he grapples with his sexuality.

Dickinson does have an effortless charisma about himself that keeps your eyes on him. Throw in some striking cinematography and the potential of a good film dealing with the challenges of being gay in a world valuing masculinity looms.

But the writing lets the potential down. The dialogue is too on the nose at times, the pacing is sluggish and Hittman never focuses deeper than the surface on her characters and their world. I heard her next one is better, but color me skeptical.

Also, why is it that Dickinson always seems to be cast in roles that require him to lose his shirt?

8. The Suit (2018) (67)

It's like Let's Be Cops but set in Cairo.

Two guys who are more or less losers make their way to what they think is a costume party and dress up as cops. The resulting amount of respect received as a result leads them to keep up the charade which places them in the crosshairs of a dangerous assassin.

This film is a broad blend of a chaste romance out of Bollywood between the thinner guy and his longtime crush, an action film and a broad comedy. Some of the jokes do work and the romance has a sweetness about it that I can appreciate.

But with some rough tone shifts between hilarity and deadly serious and some technical issues, The Suit struggles in blending everything together into a cohesive whole. And it doesn't help that their running jokes that didn't work the first time are repeated in the hopes of more laughs. There just isn't enough there to make it work.

7. Breach (2020) (68)

Of course, there were some running jokes about Bruce Willis just getting a paycheck on some of his last movies where he barely showed up for 15 minutes at a time. The jokes stopped when people learned he had a condition known as frontotemporal dementia and would need to retire from acting for good.

Breach appears to be one of the last ones he did before things took a turn for the worse. He does have a presence here even in his role of the head janitor (don't ask) and although he struggles with bad dialogue and flashbacks to better movies (Die Hard, Armageddon), he does look like he's trying. Same thing can be said for Thomas Jane as the Admiral who throws in a hoo-rah speech on wiping the floor on the alien threat and director John Suits who is probably better remembered for the Die Hard battery ad.

The rest of the film around them feels like it's bad made for Syfy or possibly even the Asylum which is short on originality and long on references to better films. Nominal lead Cody Kearsley is OK, but he's overshadowed by the talents working around him.

6. Sabotage (2014) (69)

Some drug agents agree to heist some drug money from a safe house on a cartel and blow it up in order to collect the funds that they hide underground. But when the money goes missing and some of the agents wind up dead, it draws the attention of a female cop (Olivia Williams) trying to piece things together.

I get why Arnold signed up for this one: David Ayer directing, solid supporting cast and a story that looked like it'd be interesting. Same thing for Olivia Williams. But why stick around when the results are this dire?

An air of toxic machismo surrounds this one as characters like Grinder, Monster and Neck take center stage. And the one woman in the DEA group Lizzy (Mireille Enos) doesn't seem immune to it, either. So throw subtlety out the window. Also, throw out logic and reason as they replace it with gratuitous gore and plenty of foul language to ensure that Sabotage is R-RATED. And let's not forget the third act twists that are more ludicrous than convincing.

Outside of some gritty shootouts and a clever one-liner, this film is just as generic as its title. Thank goodness they didn't try to incorporate the Beastie Boys song into this one.

5. Graduation Day (1981) (70)

After a track athlete dies winning a race, her sailor sister Anne (Patch McKenzie) makes her way back to her hometown to honor her late sister at the graduation ceremony. But someone is forcibly reducing the number of members of the track team. Who's behind it?

Christopher George does what he can as the track coach fighting to stay employed. And some shots of the film feel inspired by Italian giallos (although it might have helped had they FULLY committed to the genre).

Having said that, it's a long trek to the predictable climax with time spent on trying to be clever which would have been better off spent on fleshing out the characters. And you got your cases of the stupidities such as the person who insists on pole vaulting the morning of graduation!

Felony acquits itself nicely as the prom night band of choice, although Vanna White proves to be a better letter-turner than an actress.

I think I'm running out of decent/good 1980s horror films?


4. Thank God It's Friday (1978) (71)

Right smack in the middle of the disco craze comes a film that allows me to refer to it as a Soundtrack Movie.

Set at the local discotheque, this film crosses Grand Hotel where nothing happens with Car Wash and its hilarious subplots (except of course Car Wash was actually funny). Spot actual actors like Jeff Goldblum (as the lecherous disco owner) and Debra Winger (as a girl searching for fun and a good guy) as they get caught lost in the madness of this one. Marvel as musicians such as Terri Nunn (who won't take your breath away as a girl trying to win a dance contest to win enough money for KISS tickets) of Berlin and Donna Summer (as an aspiring singer searching for her big break) end up mixed up with an obnoxious garbageman searching for a blind date and a talented leather clad dancer.

I counted two laughs in this one (one involved a perfect song choice while the other had to do with a cop bouncing off of the disco owner's car). The film is best when it sticks with the talent such as a bravura answer to Singin' in the Rain as the leather clad dancer dances around lightpoles and on cars in a parking lot and Summer's character who kills it when she belts out Oscar winner Last Dance. But its running jokes don't work and you won't care what happens to most of the people by the end. Perfunctory writing and direction don't help its case at all.

Get the soundtrack and skip the film.

3. Firestarter (2022) (72)

The score by John Carpenter was fine. But every other element was less so.

The arguments between the mother and father of Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) sound like they were borrowed from Frozen. The film itself looks like something out of the X-Men if Pyro was a teen girl on the run with her father (Zac Efron, lost as a neck-cracking tough guy).

It's hard to determine what's worse here: casting a diverse cast but giving 90 percent of them little or nothing to do, wasting Kurtwood Smith and Gloria Reubens, or miscasting Efron as a tough guy with blood coming from his eyes when he's about to use his powers. Lead Armstrong does what she can with the material, but it's not much to work with here.

Lots of things catch fire in Firestarter, but the film itself never draws a spark.

2. Sin City (2019) (73)

My first mistake wasn't paying too close attention to where this was from. I presumed that I was watching a film from Nigeria. Wrong, it was from Ghana, not from Nollywood.

It's about a couple trying to find a spark in their marriage by heading to a resort featuring a night in Sin City, a hedonistic nightclub which leads to blackmail and possible ruin.

The melodrama is on very thick, the acting is hit or miss, the dialogue is just bad and the film's twist was more headscratching than revelatory. But I laughed a few times as this might be Ghana's answer to The Room or Miami Connection with a Rifftrax or a clever video joker as there's some comedy potential here.

The quality of Sin City is low, but there is entertainment value at least.

1. Starforce (2000) (74)

It's kind of telling that the two leads are not only better known for other projects (Baywatch, Port Charles), but neither of them work as an actor anymore.

Presented as a straight to DVD film, its lack of budget makes itself clear when looking at a penal colony on a distant planet with about 10 residents, one of which is played by Amy Weber (Port Charles, JBL's image consultant on Smackdown). She finds herself helping recently graduated Starforce member (Patrick Bergin, Baywatch) out there delivering medical supplies. Perhaps it has to do with a hidden supply of a rare element that could make the colony rich if they can extract/sell it?

The story is too simple in places, too convoluted in others. Twists happen, but they don't make sense. Things are talked about for one minute and dropped the next. And in a world with a valuable secret, too many people keep blabbing about it when they should keep their lips zipped.

The visuals of the ships, lasers and other things wouldn't pass muster in a PS2 game. And I'm not sure what Vernon Wells is doing here as well.



Dishonorable Mentions:


64. The Deadly Companion (1961)

This is the first Sam Peckinpah film I have seen since Ballad of Cable Hogue. And yeah, he's 1 for 2.

The biggest crime against this film is that it has Maureen O'Hara and it doesn't know what to do with her. She plays a woman/showgirl with a less than sterling reputation who wants to bury her recently killed son in the same graveyard as her husband. This draws the attention of the guy who killed him along with two assistants who get dragged along for the ride.

All the elements are there for a good film, but it never comes together into a cohesive whole. Sam decides to focus on Yellowleg's (Brian Keith) tale over that of Kit's (O'Hara). I mean, I get it. It could make for a good drama. But it feels like more time is spent with his companions than it is with her story.

Perhaps we can blame clashes off-screen between the director and O'Hara's overprotective brother. Although Peckinpah is able to get some good use out of the scenery and some performances, the deeper meaning of the material feels like it's lost.

For what it's worth, O'Hara sings the song over the opening credits.

63. The Addams Family 2 (2021)

The unique morbidness of the New Yorker cartoon which was captured pretty well by the 1960s TV series and the live action films in the 1990s is gone in the animated films of this decade. What's left is a story that more or less looks similar to the Hotel Transylvania franchise (imagine 3, but a road trip instead of a cruise).

The comedy writing is flat and the voice acting is hit (Oscar Isaac) or miss (Charlize Theron). Although the plot pushes hard on the uniqueness of the Addams family, the result more often than not feels painted by numbers.

One set piece that clicked was Lurch bringing down a biker bar with his take on I Will Survive. Although I had a strong feeling of I don't think his character would behave this way.

62. A Beautiful Life (2011)

From China, a saintly cop who looks out for his autistic brother but otherwise keeps to himself finds himself one night saving a very drunk real estate agent from herself. Although she's a bit of a walking disaster, there's something about her that draws the cop's interest and they continue to deal with the ups and downs of life over the next few years.

The chemistry of the two leads kept me watching and director Andrew Lau is able to create a glossy look throughout. There's a few scenes that prove to be fascinating, but the whole thing has a contrived feel about it. Which doesn't help when the second half of the film moves from comedy to melodrama, one that throws our characters into the wringer. And it doesn't help that the female character is pretty annoying for the first half hour or so.

Hard to believe the same director did this also did Infernal Affairs (remade as Oscar winner The Departed).

61. Uncut Gems (2019)

Here comes an unpopular opinion: Oscar made the right call leaving Sandler out of the Best Actor mix here.

Up to his neck in gambling debt, jewelry owner Howard (Sandler) befriends Kevin Garnett who is interested in a giant opal he wants to borrow. While facing grief from a loan shark (Eric Bogosian), he also is facing a failing marriage and a hot and cold relationship with his mistress.

The Safdies who directed are able to inject some energy and dread into the film and give this slice of New York a lived in look. Throw in a solid soundtrack and there's potential for a good film here.

But I found Sandler to be annoying with a grating voice (he couldn't have improved on Little Nicky?). Although he does fine when asked to work with the Julia Harts, Garnett and The Weeknd, he struggles to keep up with veteran actors like Idina Menzel, Bogosian, LaKeith Stanfield and Judd Hirsch. Perhaps throwing in a joke or two to lighten the mood might have helped to make the film feel less long than it did.

I kind of felt bad for wife Dinah and mistress Julia, but not really anyone else. The real tragedy is that there's a better film available that could use more hype and that's Norman, a film about a guy played by Richard Gere that struggles to deal with the new realities of his world. Of course, Gere's Norman is a lot more likable which helps that sort of thing.

60. Authors Anonymous (2014)

Maybe not the perfect send-off for Dennis Farina, but he IS the best thing about this one.

A mockumentary about a writer's group in Los Angeles and what happens when the most enthusiastic (and not sharpest knife in the drawer) gets a book deal. For the most part, the characters are likable, but the comedy that follows is for the most part kinda weak. Highlights include an optometrist tricking a book agent into reading the first page of his novel while doing an eye exam and John Butzin (Farina) having multiple misadventures in the self-publishing vein.

Leads Kaley Cuoco and Chris Klein do make for a cute couple, but the film is too weak to do much good in that area.

59. Doom of Love (2022)

Facing rock bottom financially, Firat agrees to join a spiritual odyssey with a friend and her wealthy husband. While there, he falls for a singer. When they run into each other again at a corporate retreat, perhaps it's fate that brings them together. Or maybe fate has a different idea?

The film is at its best when the three of them travel together and share a solid chemistry that carries the film at times. Also, when the accompanist reveals his story, his story holds your interest.

But the goopy dialogue throughout and the melodrama of the film's second half leads to an interesting choice for the third act, a choice that does not pay off.

58. Gangster Story (1959)

Hey, did you know that Walter Matthau directed a movie once? Yep, and this is it!

While eluding the law, a gangster pulls off a brazen robbery which draws the attention of a mob boss. While he's thinking about the offer, he starts to fall for a librarian who has a thing for him as well.

Time flies by in this B movie and Matthau and Carol Grace (who became his longtime wife) have solid chemistry together.

Alas, there isn't a lot of art or story to this one. I think the blame can be laid on the director who could have hewed the stories into a film that makes sense and runs smoothly. But the opportunity is missed.

57. The Munsters (2022)

I don't think this was great, but I do think this was overhated by some who I presume was thinking this would be one of his R-rated horror classics.

It's clear that director Rob Zombie has a great affection for the 1960s TV show and the whole thing looks like a colorized prequel movie to the series as The Count (Daniel Roebuck) tries his darnedest to prevent his daughter Lilly (Sheri Moon Zombie) from falling in love with clumsy oaf Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips). The set production is nicely done and some of the supporting actors (Richard Brake, Sylvester McCoy) do a pretty good job.

Having said that, I could go for another eternity without that painful cover of I Got You Babe between Zombie and Phillips. It feels like some sections of the film are missing. And I'd argue they wasted Cassandra Peterson as a real estate agent.

It's on par with the made for TV films from the 1980s. Not a high-water mark, but definitely not the disaster people (myself included) made it out to be after the trailer.


56. Howling Village (2019)

This is from the same director behind The Grudge (the Japanese original).

A young couple decide to check out the legend of the Village one night. Supposedly, a tunnel heads straight to the Village, but it can be only accessed by those who answer a phone call at 2 AM. But when they return, she's a changed person. This causes her boyfriend to try to head back with her brother (who has enough interest in the legend that he's built a model!) sneaking in the car. But their concerned sister might be the key as she's seen ghosts from an early age!

Although there were a few decent scares, the film started to fall apart in the last half hour. Without a cohesive storyline, what's left is a series of random moments that don't blend into a film. The elements are there, but without the script or direction behind it, the result is an underwhelming horror.

55. The Monster (1925)

The title could be referring to the movie itself.

He plays a mad scientist conducting experiments in an abandoned sanitarium. But when a rival and his girlfriend end up there thanks to a car accident, it's newly minted detective Johnny (Johnny Arthur) to the rescue.

Imagine the Frankenstein legend where Harold Lloyd stumbles in. It lacks the horror elements to be scary and the comedic moments to be hilarious (although a funny sequence involving a staircase does click).

Arthur and Chaney Sr. do their best, but can't save a film that can't commit to either genre convincingly.




6. Sabotage (2014) (69)

Some drug agents agree to heist some drug money from a safe house on a cartel and blow it up in order to collect the funds that they hide underground. But when the money goes missing and some of the agents wind up dead, it draws the attention of a female cop (Olivia Williams) trying to piece things together.

I get why Arnold signed up for this one: David Ayer directing, solid supporting cast and a story that looked like it'd be interesting. Same thing for Olivia Williams. But why stick around when the results are this dire?

An air of toxic machismo surrounds this one as characters like Grinder, Monster and Neck take center stage. And the one woman in the DEA group Lizzy (Mireille Enos) doesn't seem immune to it, either. So throw subtlety out the window. Also, throw out logic and reason as they replace it with gratuitous gore and plenty of foul language to ensure that Sabotage is R-RATED. And let's not forget the third act twists that are more ludicrous than convincing.

Outside of some gritty shootouts and a clever one-liner, this film is just as generic as its title. Thank goodness they didn't try to incorporate the Beastie Boys song into this one.
This is the only one I've seen from this bunch. I agree it's a bit generic, but as far as Ahnuld's action films, I had no big issues with it. It delivered more or less what I was expecting. I do think the epilogue/last 15 minutes or so felt a bit out of place.
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54. This Little Love of Mine (2021)

From Australia, a story of a woman tasked with convincing the grandson/heir apparent of a wealthy business owner to take on the CEO role of the company. He's not interested, unless she'd be willing to put down her phone and have adventures with him.

Although the leads share some decent chemistry and the scenery is nice, the predictability of the film kind of knocks it back a peg or three. And it's not helped by a situation that a good conversation could have knocked out in three minutes.

You'll know where it's going, but it's pleasant enough rainy/snowy day fare that you probably won't care.


53. Father's Little Dividend (1951)

We remember both the original films from this and the 1990's Steve Martin remake. But quick, do you remember what the sequels were about?

Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor provide some acting, heart and humor in this largely forgettable sequel about Kay expecting a son with her husband Buckley. The situations may be familiar but the changing dynamics feel just about right.

That said, it lacks the punch its predecessor had in hitting the funny bone or the heart. Not sure what the purpose was to have the parents practice a drill for rushing to the hospital for the baby one minute and have them told to sleep it off the next. And in a reflection of how different 1950s life was, Stanley is so focused by a soccer game involving kids that he loses track of the baby he was in charge of watching...things work out with a lecture and some stern looks.

Not sure why they brought Vincente Minnelli for, there's no sequence here for him to somehow give us a set piece that would have made this more memorable.

52. Earth to Echo (2014)

For those wondering, I was planning to do a book on all the films from 2014 that I end up seeing. Maybe capping it at 300-500 reviews and selling it where e-books are sold.

In this modern take on the ET legend, three kids notice some electronic interference and discover a cute robot they want to take back to outer space. You know, because he's lonely. They have to elude the government who wants to dissect said robot and maybe take notes for later?

Pretty generic, outside of a sequence involving a semi which is honestly pretty cool. Too bad you could just watch the trailer and see it already.

And I won't get jealous that the lead character has more views on his YouTube videos than I do. I will not let it happen.

51. Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Speaking of generic...there's this film based on the videogame franchise.

A nice, but exasperated human ends up going on a road trip with the annoying, but kind of likable blue furball to find a bag of rings necessary to Sonic to head home. Or is he kind of there already?

Sonic is too-often groundbound except for a few cute moments where he breaks away. Despite a cast that knows what they're doing (Jim Carrey provides the wacky manic comedy while James Marsden knows his way dealing with green-screen creatures and Tika Sumpter does a good enough job as the super-understanding girlfriend of Marsden's sheriff), the writing lacks surprise and the action occasionally gets too violent for its own good.

The best joke is at the beginning. Something called Original Films released this. ORIGINAL FILMS...lol.

50. One Second (aka Thaneya Wahda) (2021)

The second Egyptian film I've seen last year and the better one, although this too had its issues.

Thanks to a car accident, a career woman reluctantly finds herself in care of a grown man who thinks he's ten years old. She finds herself being caught up in situations involving her stern landlord, her mother who keeps accusing her father of cheating on her, and an ex who keeps wanting to get back with her. Which leads to some turmoil in her plans until she starts thinking about the man as being the one for her. Um, okay?

Meanwhile, the smug businessman turned younger kid is starting to get his memory back. Will the situation change him when he remembers what happened?

As you can imagine, there's some tonal issues as the film careens from silly, at times physical comedy to a serious romantic drama. Thanks to its focus on innocence, the writing avoids some awkward conversations in the film's final third. But it could have been a smoother ride that would have taken better advantage of its premise.

A highlight: a hospital scene where the grown man-child starts shocking nurses with shock paddles grows to a hilarious pitch.

49. Open Door (2019)

Albania's entry for Best International Film has the married, mature sister of the family reluctantly helping her single pregnant sibling find someone to pretend to be her boyfriend so she can present a good face to their traditional father as they "celebrate" the anniversary of their mother's death.

The road trip aspect works out in the sense that the Albanian scenery is nice to look at and you can buy the two actresses as sisters. Luli Bitri comes through with a solid performance as the older sister as she faces a few crises despite appearing to have it all put together.

Open Door is kind of dull at times. And throw in the fact that several key moments happen off-screen and you wonder if it was being done on purpose. Considering its short run time of 80 minutes, they could have squeezed those moments in.


48. Red Badge of Courage (1951)

For me, this was the year of John Huston. I went from seeing 1 (the sun will come out tomorrow?) to 5 in the course of the previous year.

Feeling guilty after evading a battle in the Civil War, Henry looks for a war wound (red badge of courage) to call his own. Will he find what he's looking for?

Huston is able to do a good job with the battle scenes. Set to a rousing score, Red Badge provides some intense war scenes and a few moments of humor.

But the story itself was not thrilling. They could have dealt with this hesitation and reluctance to go into combat with a manner that would have become a powerful film. And in its efforts to cut a book into a 70 minute movie, a lot of the poetry and grace got left on the cutting room floor. Poor James Whitmore got left piecing the narrative with passages straight from the book.

47. Vampires in Havana (1986)

Pepito wants to play the horn, have fun with friends and maybe overthrow a corrupt dictator from Cuba. Not knowing he's the test subject for a formula that would allow vampires to walk out in the sun, which draws the interest of multiple branches of vampires.

Thanks to a jazzy score from Arturo Sandoval, the animation is able to keep up with a complex storyline and allow for some humor.

But, thanks to some dated elements in the animation and the characters, the film feels like a product of the 1980s. Particularly in its viewpoint of women as objects of flirtation or running away from vampires.

This animated effort for adults isn't bad, but could have been better.

46. White God (2015)

There's an interesting story of a dog trying to move heaven and earth to get reunited with its owners that's covered in a clumsy parable comparing dogs to Jewish people.

Hmm, OK?

Too much is spent on the struggling relationship between a strong willed teen who's trying to come of age and her reluctant father who she's visiting for the summer. And not enough of the dog and the situations it has to face just to get back home.

I found its ending to be solid, but considering the hype around this one, I was hoping for more.

45. Of Human Bondage (1934)

If Bette Davis clearly doesn't mind, why should we?

A medical student arrives in London from Paris and starts to fall for a Cockney waitress who appears to be indifferent to his efforts at wooing her. But try as he can to move on, he can't for some reason.

Davis acquits herself well other than her accent which comes across as a bit thick. Co-star Trevor Howard (Gone with the Wind's Ashley) proves he's better in support as he makes for a bland lead. Luckily, Reginald Owen shows up as an old fashioned British bulldog who steals the scenes he's in.

Although it's drenched in melodrama, this works best for those curious about Bette Davis and what she's capable of doing. For others, there are probably better films out there.

Next Time: 44-35




44. Mio on the Shore (2019)

I wanted to like this one more than I did.

When her grandmother gets ill, Mio is sent to Tokyo to live with an uncle where she starts to find a possible new job in operating a public bath. But town progress might put a stop to that.

Despite some nice shots and placing me in a world I hadn't heard much about, this film struggled to keep my attention. I think it's because Mio never felt like she was well defined. At times, she came across as a shorthand symbol for young people who were displaced by progress while at other times, she stayed a cipher.

I respect what it was going for, but I needed more than I got.

43. Rescued by Ruby (2022)

It doesn't reinvent the dog movie, but it still managed to be effective anyway.

On his last chance to become part of the Rhode Island K-9 unit, state trooper Daniel tries to train big, misunderstood shelter dog Ruby to do all the things that rescue dogs do. There's some rough patches along the way, but maybe if they really work together, both could have their chance to shine.

It's schmaltzy and predictable, but it doggone managed to have some tension in the sequences where Ruby was taking the test and doing her job. And it also managed to hit me in the heart once or twice. Maybe not a great cast, but Grant Gustin and Scott Wolf do their best as the trooper and the stern supervisor of the K9 unit.

Will say that the trooper unis were NOT the best, though.

42. Time of Death (2013)

Nothing about this Canadian TV movie is outstanding (you know it's a TV film when there's no nakedness in the strip club scene), but everything is serviceable or better.

An up and coming FBI agent (Kathleen Robertson) is assigned to determine who was behind the murder of a wealthy businessman. With the help of a recently promoted detective (Gianpaolo Venuta), they work on solving the case which hits some curves along the way.

There's a passable chemistry between Robertson and Venuta. The mystery did keep me guessing through the twists and turns including a couple of times where I missed what was going to happen next. The explanation for what is happening makes sense. Robertson feels credible as an FBI agent.

BUT...

The third act feels rushed and truncated in order to make its 90 minute deadline. This could have used an extra 10 minutes or so to breathe. And Montreal makes a poor substitute for Baltimore.

41. Arctic Daughter: A Lifetime of Wilderness (2018)

This documentary is about Jean Aspen and her quest to live on the land of the Yukon at the age of 22 with a male companion. With the help of photos and videos, she's able to explain the lessons she's learned with her as she goes through her life.

It could have used a tighter focus as the narrative drifts at times. Although she's been through a lot, the film tends to lose focus as it hits the tangents that Aspen and Tom Irons enthusiastically cover in their direction.

But throw in some nice dogs and some good stories and Arctic Daughter has a lot going for it. It just ends up short on the good/great documentary scale.

40. October (10 Days That Shook the World) (1927)

My second Eisenstein lacked the oomph that Battleship Potemkin had. Perhaps the novelty is gone? Or maybe it feels more manipulative and less interesting?

Supposedly a documentary on the 1917 October revolution, this feels more like something on the scale of something Michael Moore or Dinesh D'Souza might have done. It portrays the Bolsheviks as hard working, peace loving people and the rulers as demented and blood-thirsty. But without a group of people to root for or a gripping scene like the one with the stairs in Potemkin, it is easier to see through the efforts of Eisenstein.

More interesting to history buffs and those looking at film movements than those who are not.

39. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Shame the rest of the film doesn't hold up to its corker of a beginning.

Using split screens, a bored rich guy named Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) along with some accomplices (who never met before the day of) make a daring bank robbery that proves to be very successful. But it draws the attention of insurance investigator Vicki (Faye Dunaway) which leads to a cat and mouse chase between the wealthy Crown and the amoral Vicki.

Although there's some highlights after the beginning including one of the most sexually charged chess matches I've ever seen, the film's second half wastes the obvious chemistry between the two leads by meandering around almost as if they ran out of ideas.

Cool and savvy can get you only so far in life, kid.


38. Wuthering Heights (1939)

Between this and the Jane Eyre I saw the year before, I think I can tell the difference between the two books now.

While both deal with ghosts, this one features Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) planning revenge first against his stepbrother for being cruel to him. And then later on, a family whose wealth lured his stepsister away from him to fall in love with Edgar (David Niven).

Although the romance elements lead to some unanswered, potentially awkward questions, the film works best as a cautionary tale about putting your heart and soul into revenge schemes that drain the love out of you and the things you love. It appears to be a truncated adaptation of a novel that might work best in mini-series form.

It's only the 4th or 5th best film that was a nominee for Best Picture that I've seen for 1939, by the way.

37. Jab We Met (2007)

If you can survive a surprising number of jokes kinda, sorta making light of rape (basically, the girl knows karate and won't let herself become a victim even though the guy insists he isn't interested in that sort of thing), then this could be a Bollywood film you could get into.

Basically a screwball comedy about a burned out businessman (Shahid Kapoor) and a high spirited girl (Kareena Kapoor, no relation) interested in eloping with her lover who gets him caught up in her dilemmas. It's one of those cases where they're good for each other, although it takes most of the film for them to see it. The two share a good chemistry with each other (they were dating at the time, although they broke up shortly before filming wrapped) and the film's breezy tone makes it easy to sit through.

The length of the hug might be a bit scandalous to Bollywood purists, but with each film I see from them, the more I find I like of this particular genre.

36. Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

Po finds his first day of teaching kung fu disastrous after being tasked with replacing Master Shifu who has retired. But things look up for him when he meets his long-lost father who promises to introduce him to others of his kind. Perhaps, it comes in handy when a new supernatural villain seeks all the kung fu so he can grow big and powerful and nobody WILL FORGET WHO HE IS EVER AGAIN!

The film has some good lessons about embracing your strengths and accepting the past and present while continuing to blend heart and humor. The scenes at the spirit realm are a real highlight.

Although they spend too much time at the panda village and not enough with the Furious 5, this is still a solid step above the normal animated blockbusters out there.

As for that score, how many times did they hear I'm So Sorry from Imagine Dragons before composing this?

35. A Farewell to Arms (1932)

The last film I saw in 2022 was fine enough.

The romance between a British nurse (Helen Hayes) and an American soldier (Gary Cooper) stays largely intact even though their story's turns to melodrama might have gotten Ernest Hemingway sick from all the grave-spinning. Some solid support from the soldier's buddy Captain Rinaldi (Adolphe Menjou) helps as do some solid montages from director Frank Borzage and strong chemistry from the lead actors.

The plot doesn't always hold up to scrutiny and the melodrama gets a bit thick towards the end. But thanks to the chemistry and the fact it was a pre-code film, there's enough there for it to work.

Next Time: 34-25




34. Moby Dick (1956)

Here's another John Huston adaptation of a novel that I have seen in 2022 and in a lot of ways, this is better than the RBoC.

Although some of the secondary characters get short shrift and the whale feels more like it's talked about than seen, the passages of the novel brought in by Huston feel more natural than in Red Badge. There's an exciting sense of derring-do by the cast. And you have a great lead performance by Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab who is obsessed with the whale who took out one of his legs.

If Wuthering Heights is about the dangers of diving headfirst into revenge, then Moby Dick is a cautionary tale against letting obsession control your life. Perhaps he could have heeded the advice from Orson Welles who shows up as a preacher who tells his sermon from a ship hull.

33. Denial (2016)

The film's greatest assets is an impromptu trip to Auschwitz and a fascinating lead story. The former allows you to put yourself into a place where millions of people died for being considered lesser or inferior. It is as haunting as you'd expect.

As for the latter, an Emory professor talks about her latest book when she's interrupted by a provocative historian who argues that it didn't happen and Hitler wasn't as bad as he appeared to be. Although she doesn't take the bait, he decides to sue her for libel anyway in his native United Kingdom where the burden of proof is on her side. With the help of a capable team, they provide a bold strategy to prevail which might not sit well with her.

Well acted from Rachel Weisz as the professor, Timothy Spall as the historian and Tom Wilkinson as the barrister. Journeyman director Mick Jackson acquits himself well here as he keeps the action moving and allows for some strong debate between the professor and her legal team.

The film's chief liability is in its adherence to filming it how it happened which means Deborah's character remains largely on the sidelines and it lacks a moment of catharsis that might have carried it to the next level.

It does manage to be entertaining even with those limitations.

32. Beat the Devil (1953)

Even with me on the sidelines for the most part this year, I still manage to catch a film from Cinema International.

A bunch of crooks led by Peter Lorre and Robert Morley plan on taking a bunch of uranium from Africa. Their newest recruit is American Billy (Humphrey Bogart). He and his wife Maria (Gina Lollabrigada) meet with a British couple (Jennifer Jones, Edward Underdown) who are also heading to Africa on business involving a coffee plantation.

It's John Huston (again!) as everyone's trip takes a couple of unexpected turns involving doubt, partner swapping and a possible death or two.

Essentially this is a parody of The Maltese Falcon and that makes sense. Both films have a decent amount of plotting in common and contain a few actors from both films (Bogart and Lorre).

The plot is a bit sloppy at times and Huston's light touch feels a bit heavy-handed in places. But between the Italian scenery, Bogart's performance and a solid supporting cast, Devil proves to be a reasonably fun excursion.

The last punchline moved it up a notch for me.

31. Hell House LLC (2015)

Once the initial realization that it's yet another found footage horror film sinks in, its execution places this solidly in the top fifth of them.

By focusing on building depth to its characters and eschewing blood and guts in exchange for a creepy, dreadful atmosphere, the film draws you in and keeps you watching. It does explain why the cameras are there and offers a solid take on the building and running of horror houses.

It may occasionally stumble in the case of the stupids where people run into danger and act stupidly. But Hell House is still a cut above.

30. FTA (1972)

The first of two films that focus on protests of Vietnam from the troops who were inside and facing disillusionment and death.

This one focuses on the touring show featuring Jane Fonda (who would get the title Hanoi Jane for a trip she made to North Vietnam in 1972) and Donald Sutherland as comics, musicians and other special guests proved to be a potent counterpoint to the flag waving USO shows with Bob Hope. Another contrast almost pops up immediately as women and persons of color were welcome and appreciated in the FTA show (which stood for Free or F the Army depending on the context).

After a longer than expected intro from Fonda who dives into the background, we get a good look at the tour itself as well as those who attended. And I'm not sure which was better: the catchy music from the tour or the conversations among the soldiers, sailors and marines.

There could have been a check on the occasional statement made here and the film feels a bit scattered in places.

But it does make for a compelling look at a film that takes us back to when people questioned the government and started to fight for their rights.

29. Writing with Fire (2021)

A fascinating if a bit underwhelming documentary about the women of a newspaper who fight against corruption and injustice while trying to be good wives and mothers. What makes it more interesting is that these women were members of an untouchable caste yet they prove to be a powerful voice for the people they serve.

They prove to have an interesting story and they fight for journalism and democracy which is admirable. But the documentary's biggest problem is that it struggles to explain what it is about. Its impact is blunted because it tries to do several different angles at the same time. I think they should have focused on the difference they made in the lives of others.

The real life newspaper had some criticism on the documentary as they may have simplified their relationships with the authority, underplayed the role the caste plays in their lives and even offered some bias.

Still, the end result is compelling even if it could have been better done.

28. The Imp (1981)

Weird, if fascinating horror film has a man attempting to provide for his pregnant wife by working as a night watchman for a corporate building which starts dealing with a strange visions problem and a staffing problem.

The Dennis Yu horror is a bit of a slow burn and suffers from some tonal shifts as the film veers from goofy comedy to Chinese giallo (Chiallo?). But the film does pick up in the second half as the mix of dread and disturbing images lead to an unexpected climax with a breathtaking final scene.

27. Love at First Fight (2015)

From France, we got a quirky romantic dramedy about a doomsday prepper and a young man trying to sort out what he wants to do with his life. Both dive into a boot camp where expectations are upended and their worlds collide.

The tone of the romantic scenes and the military training tend to clash. But both Kevin Azais and Adele Haenel make the most of their characters and their chemistry does create sparks.

The unusual setting and solid performances allow Love to overcome its issues and become a solid romantic drama.

26. Father of the Bride (1950)

Now this is more like it!

The family led by Spencer Tracy is stunned when daughter played by Elizabeth Taylor announces that she's getting married. A tin roof, rusted sort of situation (Spoiler: no, it's not).

While he has to deal with his daughter all grown up, he also has to deal with all of the benefits and drawbacks of modern marriage as well. This leads to some clever moments of physical comedy (poor Tracy gets stuck on soda pop duty early on during the reception) and some deft staging by Vincente Minnelli (such as the sequence where Tracy and his wife try to say goodbye to Taylor).

That marriage nightmare sequence was provided by Salvador Dali. Chef's kiss!


25. Canvas (2020)

And we conclude with an animated short from Netflix where an old man starts thinking of getting back into painting thanks to the help of his persistent granddaughter.

Although it's short, the watercolor designs are able to tell a compelling story without a single word. It could have been 2-3 times as long and still had my interest.

Next: 24-11




24. Nightmare Alley (2021)

One of these days, we'll just have to all but give Bradley Cooper that Oscar he's been wanting for a while now. He's taken the mantle of try hard contender from Leonardo DiCaprio. I just hope being harmed by an animal isn't involved with his eventual win.

Much like the original film noir, Stanley (Cooper) makes his way to a carnival where he befriends Molly (Rooney Mara) and gets some useful pointers from a fortune teller (Toni Collette) and her assistant (David Strathairn). Meanwhile, Stan learns the basics of the carnival from Clem (Willem Dafoe). Eventually, Stanley and Molly leave the carnival life behind to make big bucks in the big city where they run into Dr. Ritter (Cate Blanchett) and get caught up in being a medium for the rich and well to do.

A strong cast which also includes Richard Jenkins and Ron Perlman and impressive production design are this film's strengths from director Guillermo del Toro. Blanchett's performance is superb; you can see her fitting in flawlessly with the film noirs of years past.

But some heavy symbolism and a climax which is about 15-20 minutes too long keep this film from reaching the heights it should have.

23. The Golem (1920)

Most of the fall from last year was very much touch and go for me as I had to deal with some personal issues. Having said that, I continued to improve on the number of entries seen for Letterboxd's Halloween thread.

Although it's widely appreciated as a predecessor to Frankenstein, the film itself holds up pretty well. You're definitely getting the unusual angles, but you're also getting a heady story about the dangers of playing god as a Rabbi creates a clay protector to protect the Jewish people from being evicted in Prague. But will he be able to impress the Emperor?

A bit sluggish in its pace and its subplot of a love triangle between the Rabbi's daughter, his assistant and the king's squire is less interesting than the Golem interacting with other characters in the city.

22. Blue Jay (2017)

Twenty years after their love was found and lost, two high school sweethearts (Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass) reunite. She's there to visit her sister while he's going to sort through the things in his mother's place. But like old lovers, all that fades away as they reconnect. Will the sparks lead to a relationship returning? Or will the past get in the way?

It succeeds by taking its time and not rushing the relationship. The dialogue feels natural and the chemistry between the two leads was solid. The fact they were working without a script highlights the efforts of the two leads to make the characters work.

There are rough stretches when the film shifts from comedic moments to melodramatic ones. And you can see the ending coming from far away.

Still, a nice gem from the 2010s.

21. Roll Red Roll (2018)

When a rape of a teen girl known only as Jane Doe goes largely unnoticed in the population of a football-loving small town in Ohio, a crime blogger starts investigating and finds some disturbing social media posts that implicate members of the football team. There's some blowback from teens and adults determined to protect the players and discredit the teen. But with the help of an unlikely source, justice could yet prevail.

This documentary unflinchingly captures the boys will be boys mentality and the blame the victim culture that is prevalent in the small town that is more worried with protecting the boys than anything else (something that is unfortunately still a thing elsewhere as well). And it shows the various uses of social media from the bragging post-crime by several participants to rallying those who want to give Jane Doe support and justice.

It's not an easy watch, but it's worth the effort.



Honorable Mentions:


20. The Ash Lad: Search for the Golden Castle (2019)

Proof positive that there's still life to the young adult film craze. All you need is sincerity and charm and Castle has that in spades.

Espen (Vebjorn Enger) goes on a quest with the princess of Norway (Eili Harboe) to find The Water of Life, an elixir that will cure the poison her parents drank (and his brothers are accused of supplying). But it won't be easy with danger around every corner and others also searching for the magical water.

Although it's a bit predictable, the awe and wonder of the adventures they face is more than capable of carrying the day. Its meager budget is a challenge, but between a plethora of action and a short runtime, The Ash Lad is a charmer that exceeds its expectations.

Plus, you can quickly pick up on anything that happened in their previous film In the Hall of the Mountain King.

19. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (2019)

Speaking of charming, the International Feature nominee from 2022 is here to continue the thread.

A wannabe singer who is slacking on his teaching is sent to a remote school in Bhutan after a failed evaluation. The trip over there is arduous and the electricity has a tendency to come and go, but will the townspeople and students get him to change his mind about wanting to leave?

Lunana is definitely a slow burn, but the patience is worth the effort. You just might consider becoming a teacher after this one. The scenery in Bhutan looks nice and the use of music helps make an impact. The townspeople are charming and there are those yaks to think of.

It does get a bit predictable, some subplots kind of get jettisoned after being brought up and the ending is a bit underwhelming. Which means that a potentially great film will have to settle for merely being a good one.

18. Margin Call (2011)

The feel good run comes to a screeching halt here as the cynical traders of a firm attempt to keep their corporation and their careers alive. They'd probably make fun of the vibes.

This story opens in the middle of a corporate bloodletting when a junior analyst takes a thumbdrive from his canned supervisor and makes a disturbing discovery that opens the eyes of the remaining seniors which leads to an emergency meeting to determine what happens next.

Thanks to an all star cast, this feels like a master course on ACTING. But it also does a good job allowing you to understand what led to so much economic damage in the 2008 financial crisis when the market tanked on high debt mortgages. Highlights include several Kevin Spacey speeches to rally the troops while hiding things that are bothering him and Paul Bettany revealing how he was able to spend $2.5 million in a year. And the film takes on a thriller element as the clock is ticking on a bold plan that will keep the firm solvent at a cost.

It does take on a bit of a stage play quality at times as everyone has at least one BIG SPEECH in front of the various combinations of the characters. Penn Badgley struggles to keep up with the cast that includes Spacey, Bettany, Jeremy Irons (as the international CEO), Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci and Zachary Quinto. And at the end of the day, it's kind of hard to care for the characters in front of you (although I suspect they weren't really heroic in the first place).

Thanks to the acting and solid explanations, JC Chandor makes for a good debut here. But will his followup be better? You'll have to wait for next year to find out!

17. The Hundred Foot Journey (2014)

So how many films from 2014 will I have to see before I decide to write a book on my experiences? 200? 300? 400? More?

But this film is proof positive that a film that might not click with you as a kid could be just fine at a later age. The story of an Indian family who finds refuge and business opportunities in France (guess how far they're away from an opposing restaurant led by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren)?). The competitiveness of both restaurants leads to a war that ends when someone goes TOO FAR and Mallory starts to realize the skills of her rival's son Hassan are worth cultivating.

Director Lasse Hallstrom keeps the film moving along. The food (as it would tend to do in these culinary films) looks delicious and any sentimental streaks are held at bay by both Mirren and Om Puri as the restaurant owners. Manish Dayal proves to be worthy as the lead of the film. And Charlotte Le Bon (yes, Simon's daughter) proves to be ingratiating as a character that is drawn to Hassan's journey while trying to get her career off the ground.

The film seems so focused on Hassan's rise that it puts some intriguing elements aside that a better film would have found a way to include. And although you can buy Mallory and Papa as rivals, the film never allows us to buy them as potential lovers.

But much like Hassan's ability to blend Indian and French sensibilities into his cooking, Journey is able to make the elements in front of it into an appetizing main course.

16. Blessed Benefit (2016)

Say hello to the winner of the Most Underrated Film I've Seen in 2022.

Ahmad is sent to prison after failing to work on a project and not refunding a client for work not performed. The money was given to a cousin's scheme to buy laptops to sell at a profit which hit a snag thanks to some delays in customs. While his cousin tries to get the money needed to bail Ahmad out of prison, Ahmad starts to learn the rhythms of his new location.

This may be one of the most gentle prison movies I've seen. Ahmad almost never faces physical danger. Most of the prisoners seem well behaved. Although the wardens are corrupt, they're not violent either. And the lead character is able to take a shower and sunbathe without an issue!

The film does try to be a bit too quirky for its own good. The last scene feels a bit off. And at one point, Ahmad leaves his cell only to face a chicken walking down the hallway. A chicken which is never seen again. Although I don't mind when quirks happen in a film, I do prefer it leads to a payoff of a sort.

This solid film about the lighter side of prison life is apparently based on a true story!

15. The Bishop's Wife (1947)

I guess I'm gonna have to try to watch the remake The Preacher's Wife with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston for the holiday season. Can Denzel be charming as the angel? Will they let Whitney sang? They got their work cut out to keep up with the original Cary Grant/Loretta Young film.

Bishop Brougham (David Niven) is seeking a new cathedral when angel Dudley (Cary Grant) walks into his life. But he's so occupied with work that he's forgotten his wife and their daughter. Dudley will find a way to change everyone's life and possibly make the Bishop see what he's missing in his.

Grant makes for a superb attraction as he combines a devilish charm with good intentions to make the lives around him better. Niven does a fine job keeping the Bishop in the right end of the flawed/jerk divide. And Monty Woolley is able to steal scenes as a skeptic who suspects his visitor from Vienna knows more than he lets on.

The film manages to be low-stakes at times when plotlines get resolved with a snap of the fingers. And I'm not sure how this won best sound at the Oscars?

The end result is a solid holiday film with a compelling lead performance.

14. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)

My annual kick off the film season with a classic goes off without a hitch.

This odd mix of film noir and science fiction manages to click thanks to the efforts of director Ridley Scott and lead actor Harrison Ford. As Deckard, Ford is tasked with finding four rogue replicants and kill them. Complicating things is a burgeoning relationship with replicant Rachael (Sean Young). Although it's a slow burn, Blade Runner does manage to pose some good questions on what it means to be human. It could serve as a doubleheader with Ghost in the Shell (the anime, not the live action remake with Scarlet Johansson).

The visuals are impressive. But you'll be forced to ponder them while trying to answer one of about 10-15 or so questions left unanswered by the movie.

Scott did a fine job bringing the replicants personality and life (note Hauer's speech towards the end, a bravura moment indeed). If he had did the same with the humans, Ridley would be on something great.

13. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

Colin (Tom Courtenay) ends up in a borstal thanks to stealing some bread from a bakery. But once there, he proves to be a gifted runner which draws the attention of the Governor (Michael Redgrave) of the place, Colin finds his life improving as he prepares for a race against students from a prep school. But will Colin buy into what the Governor is saying? Considering he's seen what happened to previous favorites after they failed/betrayed him, it's an open question.

Courtenay's performance as Colin lasts in the memory after the film has faded from the brain. Colin just wants to find his way out of poverty, but not in the same spot his father was in before he passed away. Director Tony Richardson throws us into Colin's world and shows us what makes him frustrating and compelling in equal order.

I think they might have overdone the flashbacks a bit here. And thanks to the subject matter, this proves to be a grim and difficult watch at times.

The end result is that Runner is a grim but effective drama.

12. The Power of the Dog (2021)

The chief operator of a ranch is sharp tongued and holds nothing back while his brother is more sedate and clean-cut. After losing his temper at a local tavern, his brother apologizes to the cook which ultimately leads to them marrying with her young son in tow.

Benedict Cumberbatch has seldom been better as the angry operator who is a cross between Daniel Plainview and Gordon Ramsay. Although Jesse Plemons seems a bit young as his brother, he acquits himself well otherwise. Kirsten Dunst proves to be up to the task as the cook. But it's Kodi Smit-McPhee who is the standout as the awkward, possibly autistic son.

The editing and cinematography are sharp. Jane Campion's direction kept things moving as the score felt ominous and the script was mostly pretty strong.

Dog felt a bit poky in its pacing at times and there's one revelation that feels more like a shoulder shrug than anything else. Also, there's a bit of a chill in the film that might have kept it from winning best picture.

But that last 30-40 minutes or so? Whew, that is how you finish a picture!

11. The Pied Piper (1986)

From Czechoslovakia, animated nightmare fuel that takes a familiar story and demands your attention.

A town with a clear divide between the haves and the have nots finds itself suddenly with a rat problem. So they decide to hire a guy with a flute to take care of things. But when it comes time to pay the bill, they refuse so he takes some drastic measures.

There's a grim mood throughout Piper. The town leaders feast on roasted pig and wine while their servants race around trying to keep up with their latest whims. Those who succumb to greed have an ugly look about them as they've lost touch with humanity. Meanwhile, the fisherman, the woman singing to herself at home and the piper look way better as their hearts are reflected on their faces. The unique look also comes from a mix of German expressionism and stop motion animation.

If there's a complaint, I felt the film suffered a bit from being heavy handed in its symbolism. But it's definitely worth seeking out (I think I saw several copies on YouTube of all places) for its animation choices and how the story plays out.

Next: The Top 10 I've Seen in 2022



The Top 10 I've Seen in 2022


10. The Block Island Sound (2021)

A scientist named Audry reluctantly agrees on a mission to check out why birds are mysteriously dying on a small island outside of Rhode Island. The reason? She'd have to get back in contact with her father and her brother even though there's some lingering family tension. Meanwhile, fisherman Tom finds himself compelled to take out his boat in the middle of the night and wakes up in the morning under strange circumstances. And her brother Harry tries to bond with Audry's daughter while hiding his concerns about his father's behavior.

Sound like a lot of good horror out there now concerns itself with building an atmosphere of dread. Which it does successfully. I'd argue that it's one of a few that sticks the landing in its ending as well. A solid cast led by Michaela McManus and Chris Sheffield as the scientist and her brother carry the story to its conclusion. Only some sequences in the second half involving Tom miss the mark.

9. Rope (1948)

I kind of find people who have the confidence to feel like they can get away with murder fascinating. Even though shows like Dateline NBC and Columbo show the folly of that endeavor (have to wonder if Levinson/Link watched this one?)

Two college kids kill one of their classmates and hide him in a steamer trunk they use to serve food at one of their parties. Among the guests are two relatives of the dead kid, his fiancee, his best friend and their housemaster (Jimmy Stewart). While Philip is having some second thoughts on what they've done, David is more cocky and arrogant. Although most of the guests suspect nothing, Rupert starts to put things together...

This is the one where director Alfred Hitchcock used several long takes to make the film. The result is very suspenseful and intriguing until its last scene.

8. Sir, No Sir (2005)

In the introduction to FTA, Jane Fonda mentions this documentary as being helpful to those who want a better grasp of the soldiers protesting Vietnam.

I don't think this was because she appears in it. Or that her son is the narrator of the film. It's because Sir gives us a good grasp on the whole GI Movement and places it in the control of the soldiers who risked their lives and livelihoods to protest as opposed to FTA which looks more at it from the viewpoints of the actors behind the show.

With recollections from those who protested and why, Sir covers the high points of the movement instead of trying to cover every thing. Which is good because it makes the events they do cover here more impactful. Such as the use of coffeehouses as a spot for movement meetings and the saga of the Presidio 27.

Fascinating true story and thanks to those who stood their ground during a war we shouldn't have fought.

7. California Split (1974)

You never know what might happen when you improvise. California Split wasn't planned as an outing on my official list, but I decided to watch it anyway.

And much like Wes Anderson, I might be coming around on Robert Altman now from where I was 10-20 years ago..

Charlie (Elliott Gould) looks for that hot streak to make a big payday. For Bill (George Segal, RIP), it's about getting free of some sports gambling debts he acquired after meeting Charlie. They decide to head towards Reno and risk it all on a poker game featuring Amarillo Slim, as himself.

The two leads manage a nice chemistry as they dive into the challenges and occasional thrills of gambling. The writing by Joseph Walsh is sharp and director Altman keeps you on the edge of your seat. It definitely does a good job setting you in a specific place and time (The American West in the 1970s).

Plus, you learn here that shaving cream can heal abrasions from having your ribs kicked in.

6. Silence (2016)

Although I've submitted some Tiktoks as a streamer (and need to do a LOT more), I've never caught on to watching TikTok. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'd have worked my way through the runtime.

Remember what I said about Altman? I may be getting there on Martin Scorsese as well.

Two Portuguese Jesuit priests search for their mentor who has been rumored to turn away from the Christian faith in 17th century Japan. But as they learn, the new country proves to be a hostile challenge for their faith.

I'm a bit suspicious of them casting Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield as the priests, but they acquit themselves nicely (as does Liam Neeson as the mentor). Scorsese makes the film move quicker than its runtime would suggest and with crisp writing that allows the story to breathe and strong cinematography, the film is a wonder to watch. There's plenty of food for thought, particularly what you would do in their shoes.

If anything, the similar patterns in the case of Kichijiro makes you wonder why people aren't suspicious of him after a while.

Probably the best film about faith I've seen since Two Days, One Night. Although I've seen my share of Christian films, it may be for the best to just let the pros work their magic.

5. Midnight in Paris (2011)

Remember what I said about Scorsese? Never mind, because Woody Allen has an up and down filmography and some serious personal issues.

Having said it, Paris does make me think that I might like some of his better films though.

On the verge of getting married, a writer named Gus is facing a professional crisis. One that causes him to split from his fiancee and her parents and stumble into a world of 1920s Paris where artists and writers flourish. But only at night. After a while, this forces him into a decision: stay in Paris with actress Adriana or go back into the present day.

Either you'll dive into this wholeheartedly from the beginning or you'll be like um, no. A sharp, incisive script and the strong directing work of Allen carries this one. This feels like a career peak for Owen Wilson who never wowed once. Imagine doing that in front of Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody and Tom Hiddleston, old chap.

The stakes feel fairly low; to decide whether to be a novelist or a successful, if underwhelming screenwriter. As Inez, McAdams gets worse every time we see her. But I do think she's standing in for those wondering what Gus keeps going on about.

A good look at Paris and a fleshed out fantasy world leads us to want to join Gus at Midnight.

4. For Sama (2019)

This documentary is a series of tapes from journalist Waad to her daughter Sama. It covers her romance and marriage to doctor Hamza and when she gives birth to Sama. But the videos take on a darker subject as innocent protests against the Syrian government lead to violence by the government. Waad and Hamza find themselves in a tough dilemma: do we stay and fight for the future of Syria or do we leave the country and protect our family.

The personal angle of the relationship between mother and daughter proves to be gripping as well as the highs and lows of living life in Aleppo during the period. Although the citizens, particularly the children, try to live a normal life, the bombings and siege do take a toll on those who live there. The interviews with the kids are revealing as you see the innocence taken from their lives even as they paint and ride in a shelled school bus.

Highlight: The scene about two thirds of the way in where Hamza and his staff move heaven and earth to save a baby born against the rubble of the war. It's hard to watch that and not be moved.

3. The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

An apology to one of my college friends in the past who was raving about this one and I dared ask the question, "But was it foxy enough"?

Sorry mate. But I do get it now.

And remember what I said about Wes Anderson...good. I won't need to repeat myself then.

A roguish fox decides to make a better life for himself and his family by doing a heist of three farmers with the help of a close friend. But he might need more than the doghouse when his wife finds out about it. Or the fact he's using his athletic nephew for the last one. Or when he finds out just how cruel the humans can be.

The stop motion animation is superb. I may never get tired of watching the foxes dig holes. The story holds up pretty well as it mixes lessons for the adults (never lie to your wife) and the young ones (don't let jealousy get in the way of a good sibling relationship). The music turns out to be a nice blend of folksy tunes and classic rock (Street Fighting Man).

This could prove to be a good companion for O Brother, Where Art Thou.

2. The Mitchells vs The Machines (2021)

I learned that Netflix can be the home of great entertainment. They just gotta hope that another studio loses faith in a good film's box office and voila.

As Katie is trying to move into her college where she can be free to be herself (for more than one reason), her family decides that a road trip could be a good way to reconcile with their daughter while getting her to where she needs to go. At the same time, the AI of a device doomed to the dustbin decides to fight back by taking control of a mobile army of technology. Can the Mitchells survive each other long enough to stop the incoming apocalypse?

Like most good animated films of the last 20 years, this blends heart with wit while avoiding the need to hit us over the head with pop culture references (such as hey, remember when the lead actor of film A did Glengarry Glenn Ross that one time...what was his big phrase?). Instead Machines works with the quirks of the characters and their interactions which will allow this film to last for years to come.

The film even nails multiple callbacks (is the pet a dog, a pig or a loaf of bread...fizzles). I might have teared up towards the end.

1. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Stumbled across the top film for 2022 while looking on my local PBS station one day and saw it advertised. You never know when it'll show up.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) is in quite the bind. He's lost his private detective partner and his client's husband practically at the same time. While trying to stay one step ahead of the suspicious police, Sam stumbles onto the black Falcon, which could be the home of hundreds of jewels and which is wanted by multiple people.

Often considered one of the first noirs, Falcon features a tough hero who can outwit his enemies and land a mean punch when necessary. Wonderly (Mary Astor) is a beautiful woman who appears to be allergic to the truth. Throw in a lot of alcohol and smoke as well as a dark storyline and it hits its mark.

Tight direction by John Huston and a great performance by Bogart as Spade carry the film. The Maltese Falcon also benefits from strong turns by Astor as well as Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.

If anything, I'd argue they could have fleshed out the story of the partner's widow a bit more. There are some interesting threads there including a possible relationship with Spade that get thrown to the back burner.

Highlight: Kutman (Greenstreet) explains the history of the Falcon to a skeptical Spade over some drinks. Why reveal your hand to the detective? He has his reasons...



Hm, so nice to see you enjoyed The Block Island Sound. It's a really cool and eerie little flick.



I knew it was gonna be tough, but I wasn't expecting Come and See to be that tough to get through.