It’s already been an outstanding year for cinema in a variety of genres and styles that have celebrated the return to the big screen
‘Jackass Forever’ (Currently streaming on Paramount+)
It’s been over a decade since America’s craziest stuntmen came together to make a new Jackass installment, but the onset of middle age hasn’t slowed the boys down one bit. If anything, it seems to have made them only sturdier sponges for punishment. Jackass Forever was absolutely one of the best theater experiences you could have this year. Along with a fresh crop of young new blood added to the cast, the classic lineup of Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Danger Ehren, Wee Man, Dave England and Preston Lacy deliver the outrageous goods and then some. Ehren ends up with the worst of it, but all of these veterans have a pound or two of flesh to give the cameras once again. Filled with bears, balls, scorpions, explosions, and far too much milk, Jackass Forever is hilarious, gross and weirdly touching.
‘X’ (Available to rent or own online)
X set the bar for horror this year with a deliciously violent, steamy, scary and hilarious tale of a group of young filmmakers on a mission to create the greatest porno ever seen. Things do not go according to plan. Set in 1979 on the cusp of the home video boom, X is one of those movies you finish in either utter disbelief, bewildered delight or pure repulsion. Maybe a bit of all three. Writer and director Ti West has delivered something truly special here – a no holds barred, take no prisoners horror flick that possesses that magical ability to still genuinely (and delightfully) shock and astound you. It’s an authentically wild ride that’s some of the inspired horror to come around in quite some time.
‘Belle’ (Currently available to rent or own online)
Led by one of Japan’s most prominent filmmakers, Mamoru Hosoda, Studio Chizu has been gracing animation with rich and vibrant tales that celebrate the limitlessness of the medium. Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast, and Mirai are all dazzling in their respects, but nowhere does the studio shine brighter than their latest effort, Belle. The film is a modern take on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, and while that initially will roll some eyes, rest assured that Hosoda goes far beyond the done-to-death story in unexpected and inspired ways. A reserved and lonesome high schooler named Suzu (Kaho Nakamura) joins a massive online virtual world and suddenly becomes an anonymous international superstar, and becomes an unlikely ally to a powerful fugitive who goes by Dragon (Takeru Satoh). Incredible animation is paired with beautiful music, strong emotional stakes and even stunning action in what may be Studio Chizu’s finest hour.
‘Kimi’ (Currently streaming on HBO Max)
Steven Soderbergh has proven time and time again to be one of the cleverest and most intriguing filmmakers working today. Kimi pairs the director with legendary screenwriter David Koepp in a thriller set in the midst of our ongoing pandemic. An agoraphobic shut-in named Angela (Zoë Kravitz) hears what she believes to be a violent crime over a customer’s home smart speaker. She works for the company that makes them and when she begins to investigate the disturbing recording, she becomes entangled in a dangerous conspiracy that threatens more than just her life. The film is a tight and tense dive into isolation, paranoia and life in our modern day surveillance state that delivers on smarts and excitement.
‘The Batman’ (Currently streaming on HBO Max)
Matt Reeves’ take on The Dark Knight became an instant favorite for many fans thanks to its distinct blend of brooding noir and sweeping superhero epic all in one. Backed by breathtaking cinematography from Greig Fraser, The Batman features a younger Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) this time around, in his early days as Gotham’s nighttime caped crusader. A radicalized terrorist called The Riddler (Paul Dano) begins killing the city’s elite and sharing his crimes on the internet, launching Batman into detective mode alongside Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) in a deadly game that could end Gotham for good. The film is a brilliant and engaging big screen adaptation of the classic hero that tackles a variety of deeper themes and ideas to mostly satisfying ends, and delivers some of the best performances of an already exceptional franchise.
‘The Worst Person in the World’ (Currently streaming on Hulu)
Norwegian director Joachim Trier achieved perfection with this romantic gem of a movie. The Worst Person in the World follows a woman named Julie (Renate Reinsve) stuck in an unsatisfying search for herself and her own sense of happiness. Torn between two men, a comic artist named Askel (Anders Danielsen Lie) and a barista named Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), Julie navigates the perils of love and loss, comfortable routine versus spontaneous thrills, and more. Melancholy and intelligent, Trier’s film is a perfect blend of humor and poignant drama that will leave anyone contemplative and misty-eyed.
‘Top Gun: Maverick’ (Currently playing in theaters)
The rare legacy sequel that surpasses the original in a variety of ways, the long-delayed Top Gun: Maverick has become one of the biggest box office hits not just of the year but of all time. Tom Cruise returns and solidifies his death-defying movie star antics by actually taking himself and the rest of the cast into the cockpits of real fighter jets to deliver outstanding big screen spectacle. Superb sound design and photography fully capture the power, speed and wonderment of piloting the various fighter jets in a way that no movie ever really has before, certainly not to this immersive extent. While its story can rely too heavily on nostalgia and predictability, there is a solid heart imbued in the awesome action that has captured American audiences in a way no film has in quite some time.
‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ (Currently available to rent or own online)
Living up to its title, Everything Everywhere All at Once from filmmaking duo Daniels (Swiss Army Man) is pretty much the whole package. The film is a multiverse-jumping absurdist roller coaster that delivers fun action, an original and imaginative story, profound ideas on existentialism and identity, and ridiculous comedy. Michelle Yeoh (in one of her best performances) stars as Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American woman who lives a stressful life trying to run a laundromat with her husband Waymond and their teenage daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). One day, in the middle of an IRS audit, Evelyn’s mind suddenly fractures and she gains the ability to leap into alternative universes and versions of herself. There’s nothing else like this movie and audiences seem to agree – the film has become A24’s biggest hit to date.
‘RRR’ (Currently streaming on Netflix)
RRR is a three hour historical fiction action epic that quite honestly puts most other big budget productions to shame. It’s the kind of genuine extravagance that so few blockbusters possess nowadays; a wholehearted commitment to its awesome spectacle and heightened emotions that turns what could easily be a ridiculous and cheesy tall tale into a compelling saga by the sheer power of its sincerity. The film tells a fictionalized story of two real-life Indian revolutionaries: Komaram Bheem (Ram Charan) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.) as they take on the British empire in a glorious action extravaganza. Hollywood could and should be taking notes.
‘Crimes of the Future’ (Currently available to purchase online)
David Cronenberg returns to the realm of sci-fi and body horror in what just may be his most profound work yet. Crimes of the Future is a fascinating and poignant exploration of themes and ideas that have been with him throughout his career. Set in a near-future ravaged by climate change, the film follows Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), a performance artist who works and lives alongside his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux). Tenser has a unique disorder that causes his body to constantly develop new organs, which Caprice surgically removes before a live audience. When the two are brought into the National Organ Registry, a government branch that catalogs all newly evolved organs, Tenser gets roped into government espionage and underground extremist groups that could change humanity as they know it. It’s quietly bold, consistently sharp with its wit and graphic content, and as personal as a Cronenberg film has ever been.