This has been a unique year of watching. I’ve seen many things I’ve loved and many I have hated. I have quit watching more television shows and movies this year than I can count. I have rewatched more movies and television shows this year than any other year I can remember. For the life of me I do not know why.
I’ve considered the possibility that I have gotten older, that I have seen and read more and that part of my attitude is coming from a place of being wiser and better informed. Or, conversely, that I am jaded and grouchy and things that are perfectly fine are rubbing me the wrong way. There is also the possibility that because I have not been creating my own work that my frustration surrounding this is spilling onto other people’s. I cannot say for sure.
What I can say is I saw some truly wonderful, impressive and inspiring things this year. I cannot wait to share them with you and try and tell you what I love about them. Breaking with tradition I am also going to share a “Bad List” because there are so many films and shows I need to express my frustration and anger about.
I am also posting a “Rewatched List”. This was an interesting year for rewatching. A number of my opinions changed rewatching shows and movies, often only a month or two after seeing something for the first time.
I am also including new things this year, like programs I watched on Masterclass and stand up comedy.
That is a lot of introduction, let’s get to it.
The world of movies has become strange since streaming became commonplace. Where once a film with these actors would have been news, Spiderhead arrived unannounced and, I think, unloved. One morning I awoke and found it existed. I like Chris Hemsworth. Outside of Thor I believe I’ve seen him in one film I liked (13 Strong). The rest have been middling or boring (looking at you Extraction) or I have not gotten to them yet. Miles Teller is there. I don’t have much of an opinion of him as I have not seen him in much. I enjoyed his Fantastic Four and watching Too Old to Die Young is an absolute experience. I have not seen Top Gun: Maverick yet – which I should point out was directed by Joseph Kosinski, director of Spiderhead.
When I saw this film I was unaware it was based on a short story. George Saunders is someone my literary friends have been raving about forever. Prior to reading “Welcome to Spiderhead” I had not read any of his work. The short story is decent but unremarkable. Largely it feels like an exercise in making up fake drug names – which I respect. It’s just light on plot or character development or any purpose in existing other than the drug names. Which is what makes this film being decent all the more impresive.
Given that the writers had so little to go on, that they had a gloomy literary fiction ending to rework – that a film with substance and actual characters emerged is impressive. I liked Miles Teller in this and the supporting cast. Everyone did a good job with their parts (Mark Paguio in particular). Chris Hemsworth is just a bit off. It’s a weird role for him and the fact that he’s the really good looking, muscular guy who happens to be the brilliant mastermind makes the role fall a bit flat. Another actor, someone who does not appear to have it all and has problems they are attempting to overcome, would have made more sense in the role (it is hard to fathom his motivation for what he is doing, yet another case of it being hard to empathize with someone who appears to have it all).
That being said it is a good film. The backstory for the main character, the romantic plot, all flesh out a short story that was bare bones at best.
The Last Duel
One of two films to be released in 2021 by Ridley Scott, The Last Duel is wonderful. First and foremost it has a great cast. It has great locations and it has an interesting story. To no one’s surprise Jodie Comer is excellent in this film. To everyone’s surprise, I think, we have a layered, nuanced film about perspective and believing women. From Ridley Scott in 2021. What a time to be alive!
My favorite aspect of this film is probably Ben Affleck getting to have fun in a role. It’s nice to see. He is enjoyable to watch even when his character is being a bit awful. He plays excellent villains (which this character is, kind of) and I wish he would do it more.
I am forgetting why I write about these films – I found this film to be incredibly moving because of its structure. Told from three character’s perspectives you get an interesting glimpse into how people see themselves. There is a great deal of nuance and subtlety as well as some pretty blatant sexism and male chauvinism. What I enjoyed most about these perspectives is how even in Adam Driver’s character’s version he still comes off poorly.
It’s sensitive material and it is handled well. The general consensus is that Nicole Holofcener, one of the three screenwriters of this film, is largely responsible for this. The Last Duel could have been a very different film, something more like gladiator in terms of the inner lives of the characters, and it isn’t. I don’t write that to disparage Gladiator, only to stress that this is a character study on a very large scale. It’s a shame it did not receive more love and attention because it is surely deserving of it.
No Time To Die
I’ve written about Jame Bond before and, I think, my take on that film is abnormal. Given the weird world we live in now I am unsure where I land in relation to the general consensus. I think this film was well received but I am not sure. What metric would I use at this point? Box office returns mean nothing, aggregate scores make no sense and going on social media only leads to more confusion. All this is to say that I enjoyed this film far more than I thought I would (and I think more than most).
My first viewing attempt was brief, I gave up at the nine minute mark. The opening felt long and drawn out and frankly I did not care. My memory of Spectre is spotty. Long, dark and full of people I never understood or cared about. So, naturally this film is centered around one of those new people and how important she is to James Bond.
I should point out that I have not seen all of the Bond films so I may be wrong but I think this is the first time the same romantic partner has returned. It’s nice. In fact, once I finally gave myself over to the film I was surprised at how mature it is. This is film centered on relationships and feelings and how we behave because of them. None of these are things I expected to find in a Bond film.
The villain isn’t really important. The big nefarious plot is there but it isn’t the center. I don’t want to say much more in case people have yet to see the film. If you don’t love the gadgets and quips and predictable plots and behaviors of Bond films I suggest you give this a try. It’s a well made action film that is character-driven and has wonderful performances from the leads. Color me surprised.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
I’m not an Arthurian scholar so the fidelity of this film to the legends is not a problem. I imagine for many it must be. During a dry spell this year when nothing looked appealing I watched several Guy Ritchie films that had slipped past my radar (and rewatched Snatch). What I can say about this film is if you like Guy Ritchie films and you can handle him doing what he likes to the legend of King Arthur you will probably enjoy this.
In particular there is a montage sequence (something Mr. Ritchie excels at) early in the film. The audio of this sequence is fantastic and caused my heart to race. It does the work of a montage sequence (covers a large period of time and shows how the character has changed – and adds a good deal of energy to the film).
Jude Law is a fine villain and the special effects get the job done. I’m not sure this is a film I would recommend to most people, it isn’t that memorable, but if you like Guy Ritchie and you want an “easy” movie to watch one night I would give this a try.
Lost Bullet and Lost Bullet 2
I don’t think I have lumped two films together before so why start now? Laziness? Hard to say. Much like with King Arthur I found myself in a rut and wanted to watch something that I could enjoy. Lost Bullet fit the bill for that. It is a streamlined action film, not much in the way of exposition or explanation. It’s French, which for some reason I almost always love. It is also, largely, a film operating in the realm of reality.
On that last point what I mean to say is that this film exists in a world with rules, which we are demonstrated and then behaves appropriately within those rules. The main character is a mechanic of sorts who is able to retrofit cars to do incredible things. He’s also something of an unstoppable force when he decides to be. Which means the film has some intense action scenes with motor vehicles and hand-to-hand combat.
Lost Bullet is a lean film, with a barebones story. I enjoyed it. The sequel is fine but largely unnecessary. It adds little to the first film and many of the action sequences are lesser. That being said I enjoyed both and I was happy for the entertainment they brought me in this somewhat dismal movie/television watching year.
The Terminal List
Quite possibly the highest point of my watching year was this show. It was completely unexpected. After watching The Tomorrow War I had assumed, incorrectly, that this show was part of some deal Amazon had made with Chris Pratt similar to the ones Netflix has made with prominent stars of late. These deals seem to yield results like The Tomorrow War, Extraction, The Do Over and other mediocre movies and shows. Which is to say competently made films with movie stars that are ultimately forgettable.
The Terminal List is none of these things. This show easily has the best performance I have seen from Chris Pratt. This is one of the best television shows I have ever seen, largely due to the approach the filmmakers took to the material. You can feel the respect everyone has for the story they are telling and the quality of the production reflects this.
The actors are all wonderful – Constance Wu in particular. I enjoyed her performance immensely and her role is not something I have seen before. She is not a plot device nor a love interest. Her character is a complex and complicated person with her own agenda and foibles. Chris Pratt gives a nuanced and wonderful performance full of deep emotion. Prior to watching The Terminal List I would not have thought he was capable of doing what he does in this show.
Given how much I enjoyed watching this I find I have little to say. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has not seen it and I respect it too much to try and over-analyze it. Every part of this show is well-made and thought out. Clearly a lot of effort was spent gettin things right, not cutting corners and making something excellent. I am thankful that they did, it is wonderful.
I’ve not read the books but I understand that people love them. I have seen the two film adaptions with Tom Cruise and I like them as much as I am confused by them. They feel strangely incomplete. Now that I have seen Christopher McQuarrie’s take on the Mission Impossible films I can’t help but feel it’s him and how he makes movies (I realize he didn’t direct the second film, which I think is the better of the two, but I believe he set the tone with his first). I’m not sure I could put my finger on what, exactly, he’s leaving out but whatever it is, it is crucial to having a complete and fulfilling movie-watching experience.
Which is a weird way for me to say I really liked this show. It helped that I didn’t know the lead or the story so I could sit back and let everything wash over me. When I had heard people complain about Tom Cruise being cast in this role it felt foolish. He’s a great actor and he does physical roles so well. Watching this it became clear. Probably every ten minutes there is someone saying something like, “You’re so big,” and then Reacher snapping plastic handcuffs off and strutting out of his cell. They made this fun rather than annoying but I imagine this is common in the books and Tom Cruise certainly does not bring size to the party.
I’m interested in the next season and hopefully they will have a bit more faith in the audience when they make it. There was a lot of “now pay attention” moments in this show (what does he need all the cattle feed for?) that could have been reduced. I think they wanted to make a smart show with intense action scenes and were worried about losing some audience members. Overall it worked and was quite enjoyable. I just hope they put a bit more faith in people with the next one and make it touch smarter.
A Discovery of Witches – Seasons 1-3
I saw the trailer for this show and thought it looked well-made and interesting. It’s a supernatural show that at it’s heart is a love story. Which meant I could watch it with my wife. We watched all three seasons and I enjoyed it. There are two or three episodes in the second season where they absolutely lost the plot and I attempted to beg off watching any more.
I am pleased I was watching this with my wife because she made me stick around and the filmmakers absolutely course-corrected and made something I enjoyed watching. After sitting through hours of nonsense with shows like Raised by Wolves and The New Pope it was a pleasure watching something that has parts you are meant to enjoy.
It struck me as a strange revelation that a good amount of prestige television seems to delight in making it’s viewers suffer. If Walt and Skyler had a good relationship would people watch Breaking Bad? I don’t know but I do know that this show more than anything else I saw this year, got me to thinking about why I am tolerating the deeply unpleasant things that I watch.
This show isn’t a series of rainbows and puppies but it does have it’s fair share of good moments and those are the reason why I enjoyed watching.
Overall I like this film. I’ve seen it three times now and I think they did a fantastic job with the look and feel. We’ve had a lot of Batman movies and to make something that feels different is no small feat.
There are elements of this film that feel forced or incorrect (the sudden romance with Catwoman for one) but on the whole I think it’s well done. And oh, Batman doesn’t use guns or kill people in this one, so that’s neat.
Not a lot to say about this movie. The high points:
- Noomi Rapace
- I’ve not seen this movie before
- Ice Skating
If you are a looking for an action(y) movie with Noomi and ice skating you should watch this. It’s good, it’s different and it has Noomi.
If you read anything about this movie then you know the story it is based on is a precursor to Hamlet….I don’t think I’ve ever seen more bald-faced marketing for a film than for this one. I suppose it is because they spent a ton of money making it and then realized the indie director they trusted did not give them a blockbuster. Shocking!
Instead he gave them a weird and interesting tale of revenge. That’s it. I love that everyone was keen on playing up the Hamlet angle considering that the hero of this tale is one of the more decisive characters I’ve seen on screen. Yes, his uncle kills his father. Yes, his mother is in on it. That’s about as far as the similarities go.
There is witchcraft though and shamans and oracles and prophecies. There is a magic sword that can only be unsheathed at night. There is also a sword fight on a volcano and the film has Nicole Kidman and Ethan Hawke.
I enjoyed this movie thoroughly and found myself wanting to read stories written from this time period after watching. There is something comforting about these kinds of characters who do not struggle with who they are and what they want to do.
When I saw this film I did not know it was a video game adaptation. What I knew was
- I liked the lead from other things I had seen him in (Veep in particular)
- It looked funny
I like this film. It’s silly, it’s spooky and it is loaded with little jokes or moments that add up to a fun experience. It is self-aware but in the good way where the mood stays light and people continue to have a good time. When it goes over the top it does it in an enjoyable way, where you can laugh at the movie while also enjoying the movie. This is rare. I dig it.
I saw this almost immediately after watching The Terminal List so the similarities were not lost on me. I like the film. So much of what they did correctly with The Terminal List they did with this movie. They took the material seriously, they showed respect to people who are in the armed forces and largely they tried to ground things in reality.
The Terminal List and The Contractor both do something I enjoy – the operate within a genre and they defy your expectations. In defying your expectations they venture into areas you may not have expected, allowing the performers to behave in ways that are surprising and this makes the story feel fresh. In truth I don’t think either of these are new or surprising stories but they are told in a manner that makes them feel that way. Which I think, at this point in time, is the best you can hope for when it comes to storytelling.
The Racer and The Jailbird
First things first: the title of this film in France is “Le fidèle”. Depending on the source you use the title can be translated differently (The Faithful being the most common) but somehow it became “The Racer and The Jailbird” for American audiences. Bon. Le Big Mac.
As I have previously stated I have a strong affinity for French films (I know that this is Belgian – work with me) and I enjoyed this one. I like the structure of the film and the pacing. I like the way information is withheld from the audience and from the characters. The performances are fantastic and the action sequences are incredibly well done. I highly recommend this film to any and everyone.
This is one of those movies that you hear about and you put off watching because you don’t believe it will live up to the hype. Before it won any awards I was hearing about this movie and I wasn’t sure it could be as good as people were saying it was. Turns out it is that good and everyone was right.
I don’t think I have to try and persuade anyone about this film. I really just want to state that it surprised me and won me over and I am pleased I was able to watch it. It has heart, there is a reason why this story is being told and it is well-made. You cannot ask for anything more.
The trailer for Nobody made me think someone saw John Wick and Atomic Blonde and thought, “Anyone can make those movies,” and then cast Bob Odenkirk to prove the point. This may be true! Whatever the case, the movie works. There are a few moments where it seems poised to become a parody of those other films and somehow it doesn’t. It also doesn’t feel derivative when you are watching it which is impressive.
This was a big action movie year for me and Nobody is a solid entry in that category. It’s the good kind of action movie where the violence doesn’t feel senseless and there to just titillate. Learning about the new division of labor in many Hollywood films, having separate units that handle shooting and creating action sequences makes sense when you see such wonderful results. The dramatic scenes work and the action scenes pop. Nobody probably won’t win any awards but it accomplishes what it sets out to do and I find that admirable.
Thor Love and Thunder
I love this movie. I didn’t think I would. Thor: Ragnarok left me cold. It’s not a terrible movie but it isn’t great. I appreciate trying to take Thor in a new direction but that film was a bit too silly (and offered no real explanation as to why Jane wasn’t around – she left him? Thor?!) With everyone suddenly behaving differently. This film knows what it’s about and almost immediately gets things right. I mean, the opening is terribly dark and upsetting but then it’s light and silly and features Guns and Roses so….yay?
The movie works, the parts that people felt HAD to be included didn’t (do you need to see a lot of god -butchering or can you just imagine it?) and everything with silly, pompous Zeus was fun. There is seriousness in this movie and loss and sadness. But it isn’t dour, it’s not Zach Snyder trying to impress upon us that these are gods and they have been through some stuff! The film is largely a good time. We get more Natalie Portman and honestly the ending is fantastic. I can see why people did not like the movie (these are the people that thought Thor 3 was amazing I am sure) but I think in time people will come around and appreciate this for the excellent film that it is.
It turns out Morbius is a perfectly fine movie. I enjoyed it. There were several interesting things they did with the special effects and storytelling that I hadn’t seen before. I always like that. Jared Leto was quite good as well, giving a performance that allows the audience to understand his character and empathize with him. The supporting cast is great – I honestly will never understand why the Internet attacks the things that it does. Leave Morbius alone, Internet!
The poster for “Code 8” has followed me around for a few years now. It is a bad poster (not the one above, the one above is great). So I never had much interest in watching it (to be fair Netflix does their poster-dance nonsense where they continually change the poster on titles in the hope that they can entice you to watch the film or trick you into thinking it is new – bad Netflix! Bad). During a movie-watching glut in November I scrolled through Netflix and decided to check out “Code 8”. This is a low budget action/science fiction film that is better than it should be.
“Code 8” is a great example of people having an idea and working within their limitations to execute it. Considering how low budget this film is, it is truly impressive what they accomplished. You get a real sense of this alternate world and how things work. The actors are good and the look of the film is great. It’s a solid movie.
Masterclass – Roy Choi
I watched a few Masterclass courses this year, as I have in years past. I never felt the need to mention them before because, honestly, they were so lackluster and unhelpful that I saw no point. Most of what I have watched relating to filmmaking and writing in terms of advice is generic, topical and trite. However I watched two classes this year, Roy Choi’s and James Cameron’s and found them to be wonderful.
Roy Choi is a chef who in the past few years has done quite a bit of television. I became acquainted with him via The Chef Show with Jon Favreau. Watching that was where I learned Roy was the consultant for the movie, Chef, which was also made by Jon Favreau. It then made me aware of Roy’s other television show, “Broken Bread”, which I have watched and found quite interesting (I’ve not seen him as a Judge on Masterchef because I do not watch reality tv).
As I mentioned earlier this year, cooking television has become a big part of my life. One of the fun things about finding these different shows is seeing the various chefs and writers pop up in other shows. David Chang makes an appearance on The Chef Show and it’s fun to see him with Roy Choi – as both are interesting chefs with wildly different personalities.
In part that is what makes Roy’s Masterclass so interesting to watch. On The Chef Show he is soft-spoken, often in the background and quite meek. In his Masterclass his personality is bigger. He curses. He tells stories about himself and is less humble. It’s fun to watch. He makes cooking feel approachable and easy. I’ve found myself trying to remember what he did and then improvising instead of looking up his recipe (and his course is about intuitive cooking so I think he’d be proud of this move) which is not something I would normally do. He’s inspiring and he makes connections between food and culture and identity. Roy embodies everything I think of when it comes to a modern chef and what cooking should be. I love this class.
Masterclass – James Cameron
The other Masterclass I watched was James Cameron’s. I’ll be honest, I went in with low expectations. Scorsese, Herzog, Howard, Sorkin all have such lackluster Masterclasses that I assumed it would be more of the same. Not so.
James Cameron does the clever and rather obvious thing of structuring his Masterclass around filmmaking principles and concepts that he employs. He then uses specific examples from his films to illustrate the points he is discussing. He walks the viewer through scenes and moments explaining his thinking and decision-making process so you can best understand the concept he is explaining.
It is so simple that it feels silly to write this out. But he makes use of the medium, to best teach you how to make films. Most of the other filmmakers approach their Masterclasses like an interview. They sit in a chair, they talk at the camera and occasionally show a clip. Herzog blathers on about the importance of reading and pulls out a book and reads to the camera.
Cameron often sits at a computer, uses editing software and plays a clip. He pauses the clip and explains. He resumes. He replays. He talks over the footage. He shows you examples. I imagine that not all of the other filmmakers are capable of editing, or understand the software well enough to do what James Cameron does. I don’t know. I would hope that in the future filmmakers creating Masterclasses will take advantage of this method as it is vastly superior.
What I do know is I learned more about his approach to filmmaking in five minutes than I did in the entirety of the other filmmaker’s Masterclasses. That being said, it is just information. I am not going to make a movie like James Cameron would. But understanding how he made his films can help inform my approach. It can provide me with a tangible starting point which I can then deviate from. This is incredibly helpful. Having an approach beyond, “Let’s go out there and shoot some stuff and hope for the best,” is invaluable.
What I have found with Masterclass is the people who can demonstrate tangible things: this is how you chop an onion, this is how you cross cut a scene with three people in a nightclub, make better courses. If you are trying to teach someone skills it is important to be able to demonstrate those skills and instruct others how to acquire them. Imagine Stephan Curry having his Masterclass where he doesn’t touch a basketball. What would be the point of that?
Dave Chapelle – The Closer
A few weeks ago my wife, who pays no attention to stand up comedy or comedians, told me she read an article in The New York Times where they alluded to Dave Chappelle’s well documented anti-semitism. I can’t lie, it made me angry. I had assumed, since I no longer watch Saturday Night Live, that it was in reference to a joke he makes in The Closer. I went back to the special, rewatched the joke and shook my head. Could the New York Times really interpret this joke as long-standing anti-semitism?
Of course not. The article was referring to the monologue he delivered two weeks before on SNL. The same monologue which begins with him making a prepared statement expressing that he is not and has never been anti-semitic. After which he makes a quip about Kanye West who just made many anti-semitic remarks.
I write all of this because it sums up my frustration with the current state of affairs. It’s okay to not get stand up comedy. It’s okay to see a brief clip online where someone is saying something and to take them seriously…unless that clip comes from a set where a comic is performing. Because, of course, they are performing and most likely are making a joke. Which you are watching only part of because the Internet is now just full of people trying to be offended or get others upset.
I watched The Closer and enjoyed it. I’ve seen Chappelle’s other Netflix specials and this builds on his earlier work. I’m not sure if a comedian has done what Chappelle is doing now. He had a special, received harsh criticism and responded to that criticism in a new special. People attacked his response and he created another special and responded again.
What’s troubling is that people seem to keep thinking he’s the enemy. That despite what he says on stage that he really is a hateful, terrible person who is trying to dig himself out of a hole in order to save his career. Except all the people who have attempted that very thing, saving their career after a misstep or accusation has derailed it, have done the very opposite of what Chappelle is doing now. They haven’t tried to engage – they have apologized, hidden away for a while and then quietly re-emerged hoping that people have moved onto something new or calmed enough to let them be. Dave Chappelle never went away. He hasn’t apologized. Instead he’s tried to have a dialog and explain where he is coming from and why he’s saying what he’s saying.
The man is having a public discourse about sensitive material while also delivering solid laughs. This is not easy to do! It reminds me in many ways of J.K. Rowling responding via essay about claims that she is a T.E.R.F. Anyone who has read her essay and tried to understand her points can see she isn’t spewing hatred. Dave Chappelle isn’t getting on stage and putting hate into the world. He is asking questions and trying to get others to consider what he is saying. I love this kind of comedy and I am frankly amazed that Netflix has not bowed to pressure and continued to give Mr. Chappelle the space to share his unique voice.
Greg Davies: You Magnificent Beast
On the complete other end of the spectrum you have Greg Davies. He strikes me as the uncle who tells the embarrassing stories at family gatherings, gets terribly drunk, and then assaults the Christmas tree. Only he means well, is truly sorry afterwards and makes everyone laugh when he tells the story at a later time.
This special is a good time and strangely touching. I only became aware of Mr. Davies after discovering The Big Fat Quiz Show in 2021. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through the year without it. There is a person who has posted all of the shows, thirty something of them I believe, on YouTube. They are amazing. Not only are they full of trivia, which I enjoy, but they are full of people like Greg Davies. Funny people who enjoy making others laugh. I spent a solid month cackling like a fool in the evenings in 2021 and it helped with the funk I had fallen into.
That show made me aware of a number of British comedians and to my joy I found that many of them had specials on Netflix. I watched a great deal of these in 2022 and managed to keep my sanity.
So here is the deal – I love basketball. I mean, really love it. But I stopped watching and playing around 1997. So I have a strange relationship with basketball and basketball movies. I’m also 44 which means that the 90’s were the prime years for all things basketball for me. By which I mean playing but also watching movies. To be into basketball in the 90’s and watching movies meant there was an overflowing bounty of things to watch. Frankly, I was spoiled.
I saw the trailer for Hustle and it excited me. I know how much Adam Sandler loves basketball and the look and tone of the film felt correct. It’s a good movie. I like the story and the acting and most importantly the way they shot the basketball scenes are amazing. The camera is right on the court moving among the players and the ball. You can hear all those great squeaks of the shoes and the playing is fantastic.
That being said because I don’t know any of the players I think a fair bit of the impact of this movie was lost on me. I found out afterwards that a lot of the people in this movie are NBA players. I think knowing them would certainly add to their scenes.
Sadly I didn’t love the film. I liked it but when it ended I did that half-shrug you do when something is good but not what you’d hoped it be. I think in part it’s because I grew up watching so many of the best players of all time and because I saw so many good basketball movies. It’s a high bar for me and Hustle, despite it’s efforts, didn’t clear it.
Doctor Strange: In The Multiverse of Madness
Watching Spiderman: No Way Home made me sad. I enjoyed the first two, stand-alone Spiderman movies and I had gone into No Way Home thinking it would be more of the same. It really wasn’t. Bringing two other versions of Spiderman into the movie, getting rid of Aunt May, and having a gaggle of villains from other movies should have been wonderful and fulfilling. It felt like pandering (see also: the season finale of She-Hulk). I found it to be tedious and predictable. Which is why when I watched Doctor Strange: In The Multiverse of Madness I was pleasantly surprised.
Although I did not love WandaVision seeing it before M.O.M. was helpful. I understood what Wanda had gone through and why she would be untrustworthy in this film. What I enjoyed most about M.O.M. was the tone. Sam Raimi took the material seriously but he also had fun with it. The horror elements of the first Doctor Strange remained but they shifted. Whereas the colors and feel of the first film felt like the 1970’s this film has more of a 1980’s feel. I enjoyed this progression (while generally not enjoying horror elements.
I don’t find the above guy scary but somehow I find him less cartoony than the creatures in The Guardians of The Galaxy. It’s a fine line and I think Mr. Raimi did an excellent job of getting things right. The actors were all quite good in this film and unlike WandaVision I liked the emotional arc that Wanda has here. The idea of imprisoning a town and manipulating its inhabitants because she’s upset about her dead android fella did not land with me. Whereas losing her magically created children and looking for an alternate, magical, ways to be with them does. Perhaps it is because I am a parent. Or perhaps it is because this is a film and the condensed nature of the storytelling gives the viewer less time to ponder matters. Either way Wanda’s motivations and actions made sense to me in this film in a way they did not in WandaVision.
I also appreciated the creativity applied to the magic in this film. The musical fight between the two Dr. Stranges in particular was pleasing to watch. I had not seen that before and the concept conveyed both the character’s intelligence and ingenuity. It’s always odd writing about films and shows based on comics now – everyone wants to compare them to what was done in the actual comics. These are adaptations, largely, and I do not find the comparisons helpful. I liked this movie and I found it strange that people who loved and celebrated No Way Home did not care for M.O.M. It’s a similar concept that is properly executed.
Jack Ryan – Season 3
Despite the interval between season two and three getting back into Jack Ryan is easy to do. The show is well-made, it is entertaining and, strangely, it is a pleasure to watch. Which is saying something given how dark and unpleasant most of the plot is for each season. In hindsight I feel there are a number of points I could make about this show being less than stellar. The plot is not the most original (speaking about season three specifically), the show succumbs to the “only one man can save the day” trope when it would clearly benefit from showing how all of the people involved contribute to averting each crises.
Does the show make the “bad guys” simplistic and cartoonish at time? It does. Does it smack of patriotism and jingoism and a skewed US-centric perspective? Absolutely. Yet…when I’m watching none of this is bothering me. I’m not thinking about implausibility or originality. The filmmaking is so confident and assured that I sit back and enjoy. There are not a lot of shows and movies that get everything right. Jack Ryan does and I am looking forward to season four (which apparently is not that long off which is neat).
Things I am looking forward to watching in 2023
I included this before and it made me happy. I even came back at times during the year when I could think of nothing to watch and it helped so, win/win.
- House of Gucci
- Tulsa King
- Top Gun: Maverick
- Aquaman 2
- Dune 2
- Petite Maman
- Luther: Fallen Sun
- The Mosquito Coast – Season 2
- The Idol
- The Palace
- Copenhagen Cowboy
- Decision to Leave