Best Movies of 2022

  1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: After the death of Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther), the questions on how the IP would continue without its leading man seemed endless. Black Panther‘s sequel is both the perfect memorial to Boseman and a continuation of the narrative.
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water: The 13-year wait for the follow-up to Avatar was worth it. The themes of climate change are just as relevant now as they were in 2009.
  3. She Said: Based on the book of the same name, it tells the heart-pounding story to uncover the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. NY Times reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) take on Weinstein and the Hollywood machine in a way that is jaw-dropping.
  4. Elvis: Austin Butler transforms himself into Elvis Presley, adding new layers to the music icon.
  5. Call Jane: Elizabeth Banks plays a housewife whose pregnancy is not going well in the days before Roe v. Wade. Denied an abortion by the local hospital, she finds an underground group and soon joins them in their mission to help women.
  6. Hocus Pocus 2: After 29 years, the Sanderson sisters are back. It has enough of its predecessor while holding its own in the best way possible.
  7. Mr. Malcolm’s List: Based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Allain, Mr. Malcolm is the most coveted bachelor in this Jane Austen-inspired narrative. In order to fend off marriageable young ladies and their match-making mamas, he creates a list of qualities that his wife should have. Little does he know that it will soon be moot.
  8. Downton Abbey: A New Era: This second film in the franchise opens the door to new stories while closing old ones in perfect fashion.
  9. Cyrano: This musical adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac starring Peter Dinklage adds new flavors to the well-known tale.
  10. The Tragedy of Macbeth: Shot in stark black and white, Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand star as the power-hungry and bloodthirsty Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
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Throwback Thursday: Save the Last Dance 2 (2006)

College is a time of growth and change. With that growth and change comes a few challenges.

Save the Last Dance 2 (2006) is a direct-to-video sequel to Save the Last Dance (2001). Sara (Izabella Miko, taking over from Julia Stiles) has just arrived at Julliard in New York City, taking her one step closer to becoming a Prima ballerina. But the competition is stiff. For everyone that makes it in this world, there are many whose dreams never become reality.

When she meets Miles (Columbus Short), a composer who loves hip-hop, her world starts to open. But it soon becomes clear that Sara will have to choose between Miles and her vision of the future.

I have to give this film an A for effort. It tries to live up to its predecessor. But the magic that made Save the Last Dance special is missing from its sequel.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Flashback Friday: Bring It On Again (2004)

When a film is successful, the obvious next step is a sequel. The question is, does it hold up or is it nothing more than an easy cash grab for the studio?

The 2004 straight-to-video movie Bring It on: Again is the follow-up to Bring It On (2000). Whittier (Anne Judson-Yager) and Monica (Faune Chambers Watkins) are college freshmen who want to join the cheerleading squad. When they are rebuffed by the team captain and queen bee Tina (Bree Turner), Whittier and Monica decide to form their own team.

The challenge is the following: only one squad can go to nationals. Will Bree and her establishment team win or will misfits and outsiders have their chance to shine?

There is a reason it skipped theaters and went straight to video. The generic “David vs. Goliath” narrative is predictable almost to the point of becoming boring. While its predecessor had at least some tension, there is none to speak of in this movie.

Do I recommend it? Only if there is nothing else to watch.

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Disenchanted Movie Review

Most fairy tales end with the words “happily ever after”. While this is certainly a satisfying conclusion, there is always room for more.

The new DisneyPlus movie, Disenchanted, was released last weekend. The sequel to Enchanted, it has been fifteen years since the first film ended. Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and Giselle (Amy Adams) are happily married and have a baby girl of their own. Robert’s daughter Morgan (played by Gabriella Baldacchino) from his previous marriage is now a teenager and dealing with what we all went through at that age.

The story starts when the family leaves New York City for the suburbs of upstate NY. The nice way of describing their new home is that it is a fixer-upper. While Giselle tries to make friends with Malvina (Maya Rudolph), the town’s unofficial social queen, they are visited by Edward (Jason Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel).

The gift they bestow leads Giselle to make a wish for her previous fairy tale life. As usually happens when this kind of yearning, it all goes to h*ll in a handbasket. It is up to Giselle and Morgan to save the day and return their world to what it was before.

I loved the movie. It was entertaining, funny, and the perfect follow-up to its predecessor. The easter eggs are fast and furious in the best way possible. As with Enchanted, Disney is lovingly mocking itself while recreating a narrative that fans know and love. My favorite character is Malvina. Rudolph is clearly having fun with the role, hamming it up to the nth degree.

All in all, it was a blast to watch and well worth the fifteen-year wait.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also not be surprised if it was on any top ten lists at the end of next month.

Disenchanted is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Flashback Friday: This Is 40 (2012)

Every birthday is special. But there are some that hold more significance than others.

The 2012 film, This Is 40, is a sort of sequel to Knocked Up (2007). Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) have a plate that is more than full. On the verge of turning 40, their collective lives are best described as a shit show.

Their daughters are at war with one another, their careers and financial future is on the line, and their marriage looks like it is on the way to falling apart. It is obviously going to take work to fix all of these problems. Will they be able to make it work or will everything they have worked for go down in flames?

This is a classic Apatow movie. As both writer and director, he speaks to the hard truths about life while putting a comedic spin on everyday troubles.

My only issue is in regard to a scene towards the end of the film. Pete and his father, Larry (Albert Brooks) are talking about who is a good Jew and who is a bad Jew. I don’t know what Apatow (who is also a member of the tribe) was thinking when he wrote that scene. But I got the feeling that depending on one’s perspective, it could be seen as borderline offensive.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

Throwback Thursday: Wayne’s World 2 (1993)

The idea of not just one, but two movies coming out of a Saturday Night Live skit may seem like an impossible task. How does a writer take characters who are only seen for a few minutes on television and create a full-length film narrative?

It was done successfully in Wayne’s World (1992) and its sequel, Wayne’s World 2 (1993). Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) are dealing with two major issues at the same time. They are trying to put on a rock concert. While the concert is in limbo, Wayne’s rockstar girlfriend, Cassandra Wong (Tia Carrere) has caught the eye of a record executive, Bobby Cahn (Christopher Walken). Bobby wants more than a professional relationship with Cassandra.

Like its predecessor, it is incredibly funny and remains true to its small screen roots. The references may be over the head of someone who was either too young or not yet born, but that can be overcome. I just get a kick out of watching a movie that is almost 30 years old and still makes me laugh.

My favorite part is the end scene which is essentially a throwback to The Graduate. It’s both true to its source while still being in the world of this narrative.

My only complaint (which is with many movies, both then and now) is that the women are confined to either romantic or sexual roles. While Wayne and Cassandra are dealing with their issues, Garth meets an older woman, Honey Hornee (Kim Basinger). Her name invokes everything the audience needs to know about her.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Flashback Friday: Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)

When a film is successful, the obvious response from the powers that be is to greenlight a sequel. Whether or not that second film has the same success as its predecessor is not as certain.

The 2003 movie, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is the follow-up to the 2000 film, Charlie’s Angels. After three years, the Angels- Dylan (Drew Barrymore), Alex (Lucy Liu), and Natalie (Cameron Diaz) have another case on their hands. Led by the ever-faithful Bosley (the late Bernie Mac, replacing Bill Murray), they have to locate and protect two rings that contain information on the Federal Witness Protection Program database.

Standing in their way is the potentially suspect fallen Angel Madison (Demi Moore) and bad guy/Dylan’s ex Seamus (Justin Theroux).

As sequels go, it’s not bad. The problem is that the spark that made its predecessor successful is dimmed. It is entertaining, but not as good as the original narrative.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Flashback Friday: Sex and the City (2008)

For many women, their wedding day is supposed to be one of the most important days of their lives. The expectations are that it is supposed to be the gateway to the next chapter of their life story. But what happens when it does not happen as planned?

Sex and the City (2008) is the big-screen sequel to the HBO television series of the same name. After years of will they or won’t they, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) are engaged. Carrie is preparing for her wedding, having certain ideas about how the day will go.

When he develops cold feet just minutes before the ceremony is about to begin, she is naturally angry and heartbroken. Turning to her friends, Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall), they will be the support that she needs to deal with this heartbreaking loss. Meanwhile, each of them are having their own problems. Charlotte has been trying to get pregnant after adopting her oldest daughter. Miranda is dealing with trouble in paradise. Samantha is finding that being in a committed relationship is harder than it initially appeared to be.

I know enough about SATC to get by, but I am far from a superfan. The movie is entertaining, enjoyable, and an appropriate sequel to its television predecessor. The narrative followthrough is organic and natural. It’s the kind of film I would watch if it is on, but it is far from required viewing.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Flashback Friday: Men in Black II (2002)

When a writer sits down to create a fictional world and decides to mix genres that seem to be opposite from one another, it requires a certain amount of skill. While being true to each category, there also has to be a way for them to co-mingle successfully.

Men in Black II (2002) is the sequel to Men in Black (1997). Its been four years since Kay (Will Smith) and Jay (Tommy Lee Jones) have been in the same room. Jay has since retired from the job and has erased his memories of his previous work experience. When Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) and her henchman Scrad (Johnny Knoxville) sets her sights on Earth and MiB, Jay has two seemingly impossible tasks on his hand. He has to save the world (again) and somehow remind Kay of his past.

I remember liking this film. It has the charm and the comic sensibilities of its predecessor while building on the previous narrative. The only issue that I have is that the two female characters are built on stereotypes. Serleena is a temptress whose main weapon is her sexuality. Laura Vasquez (Rosario Dawson) is the princess/love interest who has to be rescued. Unfortunately, this is not the first, nor is this the last story in which women are not just limited in number, but forced into boxes while the men are given wings to figuratively fly.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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