Directed by Christian Schwochow — Screenplay by Ben Power.
Netflix releases an overwhelming amount of films on their service every year, and while not all of them are as great as their awards players, there are several hidden gems in their content library. Sometimes, though, their library can also feel like a dumping ground. In January of 2022, I’ve been a little bit worried about their recent English-language releases. I thought Monika Mitchell’s Brazen (a Lifetime-esque thriller starring Alyssa Milano) was bland and lifeless, and Rick Jacobson’s The Royal Treatment was a very cheesy, very generic, and very predictable romantic comedy. Though it isn’t without faults, Christian Schwochow’s terribly titled Munich – The Edge of War (the main title makes me think of the Spielberg film and the subtitle makes me think of it as an extremely generic picture) was much more up my alley. Based on what I’ve seen, this is the best 2022 Netflix film released thus far this January.
Directed by Ridley Scott — Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck & Matt Damon.
Based on the Eric Jager non-fiction book of the same name, The Last Duel tells the true story of one of the last judicial duels in France in 1386, when Jacques Le Gris (played by Adam Driver) and Sir Jean de Carrouges (played by Matt Damon) went head-to-head in a trial by combat to decide whether or not Le Gris was guilty of raping de Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite (played by Jodie Comer). However, all three of their lives were on the line. Because their rules stated that if her husband were to lose the duel (and his life in the process), then the courts would regard Marguerite as a false accuser and sentence her to death as a result of his loss.
The new year just started, and yet it feels like the first month of the year has almost come to an end. So, today, before the final major guilds (and the BAFTAs) share their film award nominations, I am ready to share my own predictions for the upcoming 94th edition of the Oscars (except for the short film categories). The recent SAG nominations really changed my thoughts on Best Actress, but they (and the BAFTA longlists) also focused my thoughts on Best Picture, which I feel pretty good about right now, even though the film I’m predicting to win may not be the most accessible film that I’m predicting to be nominated for the top award. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
The Coen brothers are obviously one of the most influential and acclaimed filmmaking duos of the late 20th and early 21st Century. I have had the great pleasure of watching and enjoying several of their films, and I think all cinephiles wait eagerly every time one of their projects is announced. The Tragedy of Macbeth is, however, a special entry in their filmography since it is the first solo effort from Joel Coen. Even though his brother did not work on this film, Joel Coen didn’t lose a step. The Tragedy of Macbeth, obviously an adaptation of an oft-adapted Shakespeare play that needs no introduction, is one of the best-looking films of 2021.
Directed by Chloé Zhao — Screenplay by Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo.
Although their films are immensely popular, it isn’t every day that Marvel Studios work with Academy Award-winning film directors, which makes Eternals special even on paper. Chloé Zhao, the Chinese-born acclaimed filmmaker behind Best Picture winner Nomadland, did, however, choose to have a major superhero blockbuster film be her follow-up to her poetic Oscars-favorite. In my experience, Zhao’s films (of which I think The Rider is probably her best work), which often feature non-actors, are defined by their open landscapes, contemplative themes, and an unshakable feeling that her narrative films are documentary-like. Therefore, this superhero epic is almost certainly her most accessible film, but it is also true that it feels different than most Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. Frankly, while there is a lot that I like here, I think Eternals ended up being a little bit too ambitious for its own good.
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green — Screenplay by Zach Baylin.
Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard tells the story of how Richard Williams (played by Will Smith) helped to shepherd and develop the Williams sisters — Venus (played by Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (played by Demi Singleton) — on their journey to tennis stardom. His determination to make a better life for his daughters brought them far, but in order for them to take the final steps to superstardom, he had to learn how to step back a bit.
Sometimes once a year comes to an end, I like to close it out with a few thoughts on the year that is about to be behind us. Just last year, I spent a lot of my Goodbye 2020 article on the state of the film and movie theater industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it certainly seems like this edition of these New Year’s Eve articles will have to have a similar focus.
Because while I do think it’s possible to see a light at the end of the tunnel since most people are accepting the vaccines, it is also true that the world isn’t completely out of the woods yet (in part due to the various different variants of the contagious disease that has dictated our lives for a very long time now). But what has all of this meant for the aforementioned industries and, more broadly, the ‘movie year’ that was 2021? Well, let’s talk about that.
In this edition of my monthly movie and television catch-up article series titled ‘Additional Bite-Sized Reviews,’ I mostly run you through my thoughts on several different films that I’ve missed throughout the year. That means that I have finally seen films like Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights, Rebecca Hall’s Passing, the latest entry in the Fast and Furious franchise (F9), and much, much more including a Best Picture winner that I missed during the previous Oscar season.
This is a full season review of Succession: Season Three — All episodes are available now on HBO Max.
Some of the best television show writers, directors, and creators know how to seemingly blow up their shows in exciting season finales all the while still making these unforeseen events feel true to the show, and then they pick-up where the last season left off with equally good and layered writing, and with convincing twists and turns. While that description may sound more like Breaking Bad than a show about the line of succession in a right-wing media company, it is also true for Succession (and their writers), which, again and again, takes its characters in enthralling new directions. The second season of Succession was right up there with The Leftovers, as some of the most gripping and well-written television on HBO ever, and I’m happy to say that the third season, which went in directions that I hadn’t anticipated at the end of the second season, is equally good. Jesse Armstrong and the Succession writers’ room have done it again.
Directed by Adam McKay (Vice) — Screenplay by Adam McKay.
On Christmas Eve, Netflix released Adam McKay’s star-studded pre-apocalyptic satirical science-fiction film Don’t Look Up, which is a film about scientists trying to get people to care about a life-threatening event being on the horizon. The streamers’ global audience probably didn’t expect McKay’s satirical and irreverent take on a possible world-ending event in their Christmas stockings, but it isn’t coal you’ve found on Christmas morning, rather it is a minutes-to-midnight plea to look around you and realize what needs to be changed before it’s too late that is delivered via a scathing satire whose tone sometimes even resembles a Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-esque apocalyptic comedy. Perhaps stars like DiCaprio, Lawrence, Streep, and Chalamet will get you to press play on a film that tries desperately to get people around the world to realize that we absolutely have to listen to and trust scientists and not just political campaigning.