It's a new year, so here is my January movie review. Overall, I watched 24 new movies this month and every movie was released in 2022. I caught up on some fantastic movies and some hard-hitting documentaries.
I went to the cinema to experience Avatar: The Way of Water on the big screen. I wasn't disappointed. I ended up the in a 3D showing – which wasn't my first choice – and struggled with the first twenty minutes. Not just because I was adjusting to the 3D-ness of the feature, but the overly clumsy exposition.
Once Jake and his family arrive at the water tribes, it is a non-stop visual fest that keeps you engaged during its three hour runtime. There are many scenes which wouldn't look out of place in a slow-paced nature documentary. This is in contrast to the action sequences which reminded me of director James Cameron's other successful and action-focused movies; The Terminator, Aliens and The Abyss.
I can't recall a movie that made the entire human race the enemy and does so successfully. The tulkun whale was the star for me, with an interesting backstory and redemption from being an outcast. I'll definitely be revisiting Pandora when the third movie hits the screens in the near future.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
A retired school teacher is yearning for some adventure, and some sex. She has a plan that involves hiring a sex worker.
A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu.
A father's wish magically brings a wooden boy to life in Italy, giving him a chance to care for the child.
Young Sammy aspires to become a filmmaker and explores how the power of films can help him see the truth.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande was a surprising first movie of the year. It is a fantastically awkward movie with so many layers; endearing and complex but always compelling. Aside from the sexual aspect, the screenplay delves into many taboo subjects. Not only do they cover some misconceptions about sex workers, but it also talks about their benefits, such as clients using the service as a type of therapy and loneliness. There are also conversations about being a parent and about being a child — both things you can feel disappointed with.
The Menu starring Ralph Fiennes alongside Anya Taylor-Joy is a delectable treat. Set on a remote island, specially chosen guests have been invited to experience the latest experience in fine dining. With an enigmatic chef and military control over his cooks, the courses become more and more specific to each guest and soon a darker experience is on the menu. It's a blunt commentary of the ultra-rich with an explosive ending.
Pinnocchio – the stop-motion retelling of the classic story, by acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro – not the other Disney-releated movie released just a few months prior starring Tom Hanks. Known for his rather gruesome characters, I wasn't surprised to see this reflected in the character design or the origin story.
I don't remember much about the classic tale – except for his nose growing when he lied – but the whole dying over-and-over-again consequences struck me as an adult. The child-like exuberance of Pinnochio is in stark contrast to his dejected creator Geppetto and comes across as somewhat annoying. The monkey (Spazzatura) is fun and mischievous, Sebastian J. Cricket – voiced by Ewan McGregor – has a small yet vital role and the chimaera representing death reminded me a lot of del Toro's character design from Pan's Labyrinth. The entire set design and production are top-notch, beautiful and handcrafted with care. It might be a few years until I can share this movie with my son, but if you have Netflix, you should watch this as soon as you can.
The Fabelmans is an autobiography of director Steven Spielberg's youth. It focuses on how his relationship with his parents shaped him as the successful filmmaker everyone loves. There are many familial dynamics at play throughout the movie and bullies at high school help the lead character hone his artistic skills by directing short films exposing their faults. Michelle Williams gives a standout performance and the camera adjustment in the final scene is just “chef's kiss”.
A young British soldier struggling with depression and PTSD finds a second chance in the Amazon rainforest when he fosters an orphaned baby ocelot.
Girl in the Picture
A young mother's mysterious death and her son's subsequent kidnapping blow open a decades-long mystery about the woman's true identity and the murderous fugitive.
After a woman's at-home DNA test reveals multiple half-siblings, she discovers a shocking scheme involving donor sperm and a popular fertility doctor.
Follows the man who survived an assassination attempt by poisoning with a lethal nerve agent and the shocking discoveries about the attempt on his life.
I wasn't sure I could continue to watch Wildcat after the first 20 minutes. Working in the extremely remote Amazon rainforest must be an incredibly difficult task, but combining it with rescuing, fostering and releasing wild animals takes a special fortitude. The situation is a far cry from the soldier's previous life, with one purpose; to rehabilitate a wild ocelot, preparing it for release back into the wild. There are so many emotions on show, from missing family and a strained romantic relationship but none is more evident as the eventual traumatic struggle with the animals they're forced to become wild.
Girl in the Picture starts as a simple enough true-crime documentary, as they try to find out what happened to a friend who died in mysterious circumstances. But as they delve deeper, there are so many twists and turns, murders and abductions that are traced back decades. It's heartbreaking and disgusting once you realise how one man has destroyed so many people's life.
Our Father will leave you with your jaw dropped firmly on the floor by the end of this documentary about a fertility doctor using his sperm. It's obvious to the viewer what is happening, but nevertheless, this is a compelling documentary. As the investigation continues, the number of siblings keeps rising, which each number more shocking than the last. The final justification is a horrible nail-in-the-coffin of this disturbing decision that affected so many lives.
Navalny is a documentary about the 2020 poisoning of a Russian political opposition leader that many people will have followed in real-time just a few years ago. This gives a closer insight into Navalny's work before the attack, the circumstances of his poisoning and the refusal to be transferred from a Russian hospital. But it's his recovery, subsequent investigation and a certain phone call that is the true gem of this documentary.
Daniel Craig is back as the flamboyant detective in this standalone sequel to the 2019 Netflix smash hit murder mystery Knives Out. Director Rian Johnson returns to the helm, telling a brand-new story full of eccentric characters. Edward Norton plays a megalomaniac tech billionaire (that many feel was inspired by a certain real-life person) and invites his friends for a fake murder mystery game that soon turns deadly. Also starring Dave Bautista, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson and Kathryn Hahn, this movie will have you guessing throughout, with twists and turns to put a smile on your face.
I'm interested to see how many of these movies Johnson and Craig will actually end up making.
I finished the month off with two very unusual and quite graphic movies.
Bones and All is a difficult movie to summarise, but it is a coming-of-age story with cannibals. Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet both give sublime performances as runaways trying to find their next meal. But it is Mark Rylance in a supporting role that steals the show, in a quiet and eccentric performance with a deeply creepy undertone.
Resurrection stars the talented Rebecca Hall in a phenomenal performance of a mother losing control after a traumatic event from her youth resurfaces. When a former lover from her long-ago past reappears, the new life she has built comes crashing down. It is an unsettling movie with a few shocking scenes, none more so than the confrontation at the end.