Lightyear (2022). Buzz Lightyear’s excellent adventure is unfortunately not all that inspiring. The film makes use of numerous tropes that are endlessly reused in these animated SF films. Much of it is aping Star Wars. Every action part and every dialogue part feels formulaic, and the comedy parts aren’t all that funny.
Elvis (2022). Exuberant, high-energy film that feels like a 2.5 hour montage that taught me nothing. Like they shot 10 hours of film and spent months on editing it down. The result is a fast-paced romp through many locations, full of crowds, dialogue whittled down to key sentences, slow-motion and swirling camera angles. It’s all very grand but I wished that some scenes could have lingered a bit. It felt as if key emotional moments were skipped over again and again in a rush to get to the next thing. The story itself was drowning in the editing; I wish it could have removed Tom Hanks’ fat suit and ridiculous accent. It’s all about Elvis the phenomenon but after the movie ended, I still had no idea who he was as a person.
Prey (2022). Early 18th century. The Predator crashes with his spaceship in the land of the Comanche. Starring an all Native-American cast, this is a beautifully shot action film and the warriors and their culture look authentic, although I am no expert. Think Predator meets Apocalypto. It’s a simple story of hunting and being hunted in the wilds, but the atmosphere is great, action is great, the score brings to mind The Last of the Mohicans and lead actress Amber Midthunder give a good performance.
The Gray Man (2022). Behold Netflix’s bid to create a grand John Wick or Jason-Bourne-like action spectacle. Well, they got the action scenes right. Pumped millions into them. The result is a film that is nothing but action scenes. Despite having only bare-bones character writing and a cookie-cutter plot, The Gray Man nevertheless entertains for a while. But the chemistry is lacking between Gosling and De Armas, Gosling and his enemies aren’t charismatic enough and eventually the movie becomes tiresome.
Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022). It has a nun supervillain called Nunchuck. It has a 1970s style James Bond theme song. It has a minion falling in love with a rock. It has pretty primary colours. What more do you want? I wanted a story.
Nope (2022). A movie that at first reminded me very much of Signs (2002), but with some interesting twists, a little bit of comedy added, and a different subtext about the taming of wild animals and the use of them in showbiz. The film looks great, the imagery and cinematography is great. The story is restricted to a couple of locations and a small cast of characters and that works wonderfully for a sense of isolation and for a memorable tone and mood for the film. There are some fantastically creepy moments, and the tension is ramped up with scenes full of ingenuity. I really liked it, and I think it will reward repeated viewings to discover all the thematic linkages.
Pinocchio (2022). One of TWO Pinocchio adaptations coming out in 2022. This is the Disney one with Tom Hanks as Geppetto. And it is boring. It is saltless. The writing is awful. Jiminy Cricket is painful to listen to. Once Pinocchio comes to life he looks like Toy Story character from 1995. But hey, the Blue Fairy is played by a black woman now so you see how progressive this megacorporation is?
Man vs. Bee (2022). A mini-series of 10 min shorts that you might also consider as a single film. Rowan Atkinson brings his usual physical comedy with minimal text and maximal cringe. Atkinson plays a house sitter at a very modern luxurious house, in which he wages a vendetta against a CGI bee that annoys him, destroying the house in the process. I laughed really hard a couple of times but the production feels a bit small and cheap. Some flash-forwards at the start ruin what is going to happen later on. Atkinson’s character is also so dumb that it is hard to feel bad for him. Only recommended if you are a fan.
The Sandman, Season 1 (2022). Visually they got the story down pat, and some interesting changes were made in terms of merging storylines together from the comic for the show. That was all fine. It also had a number of flaws. I found the acting and directing a bit wooden. The line delivery by the actors felt a bit unnatural – a bit like those often disappointing Terry Pratchett adaptations. The first episodes were very slow because there were so many scenes where actors took unnatural pauses in their lines. I really disliked Johanna Constantine and Matthew the crow for their abrasive personalities. At times I was glad that I had read the comic because the presentation was so messy. I’m quite on the fence about this show. And then I got to episode 6 and bawled my eyes out. The great thing about The Sandman as a series is that it doesn’t present any predictable standard fantasy plots. It constantly moves in directions that you don’t expect, and sometimes lands on something elegant. And that quality has been preserved in the adaptation and that still makes it worth a watch.
Arcane, Season 1 (2021). The best animation since Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse and comparable in style. The animation is technically magnificent, but has a style that also has to suit your tastes. I had some doubts about the facial models that they used – they looked a bit uncanny, but the combined use of 3D modelling with the textures of sketchy digital artwork and hand drawn animation feels fresh and artsy. Combine that with great camera angles and very dynamic action and we have some impressive animation. But what really stands out is the story and the characters. Both are just great. The story is unpredictable, with lots of tension and heartache. The characters begin as recognisable archetypes but are layered and well written. Watch at least the first three episodes, because that third one is when the ball really starts rolling and got me hooked.
The Boys, Season 3 (2022). This series is still going immensely strong. It’s just fantastic, I think. Best show I’ve seen in years. Hilarious, shocking, cynical and sharp. By now there are patterns becoming visible in the storytelling and the writers have to be careful now. The corruption and cynicism can approach a saturation point. And there are on/off relationships that are becoming repetitive. In general, many of the personal and interpersonal conflicts start to feel dragged out indefinitely. As for now, every episode impresses anew, but I hope it isn’t going to repeat itself too much.
I am Groot (2022). A series of five 5 min short animations about tiny baby Groot losing his pot and exploring the world. Cute, but has little substance and is also a bit childish.