Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Best of 2022: Top 10 Movies

This has been the year’s final countdown on Vagrant Rant for a decade now, but it’s usually a relative breeze to put together after the competitive stress of the album and videogame lists – which in fairness do tend to require more time investment. But it also rarely feels like the biggest list of the year, despite its prime slot.

And yet here we are. Not since 2014 has my top ten movies ranking been this ridiculously stacked; I probably wouldn’t hesitate to throw the entire thing at last year’s list and watch it displace the majority of 2021 like an Archimedes dream. Three films that provided mentions on both the characters and scenes lists this year don’t even make the overall top ten here. The Black Phone, Elvis and After Yang don’t even make the honorable mentions. I tried to fit them. I don’t know what else to say; it really was so much fun to watch movies in cinemas this year, and that did not seem likely for the majority of this decade thus far.

I finished 2022 with 41 new-release movies in the can – yes, including Morbius – and because I doubt I’ll ever get up to a number that high again, we’re going for a full deck of ten (still un-ordered) honorable mentions to close out the year – hey, that’s still only covering under 50% of what I watched so it doesn’t feel gratuitous, right?

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VR BEST OF 2022 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is as likely as avoiding MCU fatigue. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. The Batman

For the first time in ten years, the best superhero movie of the year came from DC. Anything is possible, folks; especially when a movie looks and sounds this good. Sure, this is a Batman story with eyebrow-raising things to say about Bruce Wayne, his allies and his enemies; and the vast majority of the new classic character interpretations justify themselves. But this isn’t just a comic book – it’s a movie, and I mean, just look at it. You could probably just overlay the red-and-black film logo over the entire film and it would barely look out of place; shadows and blood-red highlights define a stunning vision for Gotham City courtesy of Planet of the Apes trilogy director Matt Reeves. That main score is also evocative and weirdly catchy, and it’s bolstered by the best use of a Nirvana song since Weird Al gargled marbles.

9. The Stranger

This was surely Netflix’s best-ever year for exclusive new films (I’d love to comb through properly and confirm that though), and The Stranger is a compelling start to that argument. Based loosely on a gut-churning true story, this tale of an undercover cop trying to make friends with a slippery drifter suspected of cold murder is rendered scarily relatable by Joel Edgerton’s anxious two-sided performance. Sean Harris is even better as the mark in question, and the cinematography makes the isolating open plains of Western Australia feel as bleak as the claustrophobic interior shots rife with unsettling buzzing. The Stranger is definitely more about the journey than the destination, but what a journey.

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Best of 2022: Top 10 Disappointments

Another year, another increasingly personal and petty list full of stuff that upset me personally about the media I consumed in 2022. And in a year filled with more deeply upsetting stories about the people who work on said media, that is absolutely worth repeating more than ever: this list exists as a chance to whinge and complain about the end products that make their way into consumer’s hands and have a bit of fun getting a bunch of first-world problems off my chest. As a normally quite optimistic person, I wouldn’t bother to start this otherwise positive two-week-long celebration with a negative list if that wasn’t the case. And my oh my, were there some petty things to complain about in 2022. Time to dig in.

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VR BEST OF 2022 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is as likely as avoiding MCU fatigue. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. No Hands on Deck Down Under

We are entering another golden age for dedicated portable gaming, roughly a decade after it was given its last rites across media outlets the world over. The Playstation Vita and the Wii U sure as hell didn’t save it from the threat of casual phone gaming, but the Nintendo Switch sure did – and now years later there’s a burgeoning handheld PC market bubbling up to fill the processing power gap left by the Switch’s ageing components. The golden child of this movement? Valve’s Steam Deck, which has been in the hands of enthusiasts and influencers overseas for over a year now. Every few months Valve announces a few more worldwide territories for the hardware’s launch, and every few months Australia fails to make the cut. Thank goodness for the AyaNeo range.

9. The Dinosaur Movie That’s Somehow Too Big

2022 was actually a really good year for movies; I personally found actual disappointments not only hard to come by, but vastly outnumbered by genuinely wonderful surprises. Alas, I can’t very well have this entire list be videogame-related, so I’m giving a dishonourable shout-out to Jurassic World: Dominion. Somehow a perfect fan-servicing cast and more onscreen dinosaurs than ever added up to an overblown, unfocused mess unwilling to pick a lane or convincingly land any punches. All-up there was probably one 2022 movie more disappointing than Jurassic World: Dominion, but this was still probably the least fun I had in the cinema all year.

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Another Ten 2022 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

I don’t know, I’ve never done a third one of these within a single year before; I’m not sure what else to title this one.

This probably still would’ve felt like a bonus list even if we weren’t living through one of the best cinematic years in recent memory; but here we are, so I’ve enjoyed somewhat of an unfamiliar feeling of lightness to accompany this third batch of 2022 films. Every new release is like an extra sprinkling of spice on a delectable banquet; the usual slightly anxious anticipation of wondering when the next good movie will hit just isn’t there for me at the moment.

Which is great because while the pleasant surprises keep on coming, the quality over the American summer blockbuster season thus far has been a bit all over the place.

Another ten quick ones for you:

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After Yang

Dizzying, ponderous themes curbed by stunning visuals and merciful length.”

Cyrano

The only aspect not joyously surprising is Dinklage’s powerhouse performance.”

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Ten More 2022 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

So, uh, this happened. Never had to do back-to-back movie summaries before – but don’t say I didn’t warn you. It turns out that this is a pretty huge cinematic year.

I don’t know what feels more surreal: The near-certainty that this is the most new release films I’ve ever fit inside a month across my whole life, or the fact we live in a world where I could manage a whole nineteen movies before the first Marvel release of 2022. And a lot of those movies are good! Who knew!

Some of them are even really good; in fact I’m feeling bold enough to say that come the end of December, if my overall movie of the year somehow isn’t on this page I’d be shocked. In that unlikely case we would have truly enjoyed a special 2022.

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The Bad Guys

Sam Rockwell is back! And he brings thoroughly entertaining support.”

Ambulance

Michael Bay’s return to big screen spectacle matches his best.”

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Ten 2022 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

We are fully back to our regular schedule of movie-watching! Getting to the ten new releases mark when April has barely begun – without having to scrape around on streaming services – feels a bit like coming home if I’m honest. While you can probably say I started that journey in earnest last year, 2022 so far has largely brought my friends’ enthusiasm for the big screen back as well, so I’ve been having a better time watching as a result. That might have affected how positive I feel looking back at this batch of cinematic morsels, but who knows; they might just actually be decent viewing.

Well, with one or two exceptions.

The Aussie film release calendar is about to get properly packed, too – here’s hoping a good start leads to a good year!

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Death on the Nile

Mystery hits different after Knives Out, but this film’s gorgeous.”

Uncharted

Viewed as alternateuniverse homage, it’s a surprisingly fun outing.”

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Best of 2021: Top 10 Movies

What a difference twelve months makes.

The year in general may have felt like its own form of tired sequel when all was said and done, but after scrambling to the finish line in 2020 and doing my best to bask in the unexpected, I finished 2021 having seen 31 whole new-release movies. Sure, that’s mostly because we got almost two years of delayed blockbusters crammed into one, but numbers are numbers.

More movies means I can be more confident of a quality list that properly reflects my tastes, but it also makes ordering the movies a tad trickier. I found this year in particular that quite a few of the films I saw came off somewhat uneven, with plenty of individual elements worth praising but almost as many misfires. That, of course, just makes them more fun to discuss, which in turn tends to make me like them more. Some even make this list. Because I will be vaguely gesturing towards such individual elements, you may find slight spoilers here, but it’s unlikely.

Let’s finish this thing.

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VR BEST OF 2021 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is beyond unlikely. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. In the Heights

My most anticipated movie of an uncertain year for movies – mostly cause I knew I’d enjoy at least some of it, and that first trailer was incredible – John M Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage musical In the Heights is exactly the visual feast fans could’ve hoped for. Though it hacks one of the main characters’ stories to bits in the name of streamlining an already-long runtime – and the musical already lacks the plot momentum of Miranda’s Hamilton – some of the other changes to the source are neat, efficient and well-executed. Some of the stage songs even take on new life with the visual flair added in the film, while the ones that were already highlights take another step up.

9. Raya and the Last Dragon

It’s a bit of a struggle to articulate what I enjoy so much about this movie, but ultimately I think it comes down to a simple claim: Raya and the Last Dragon features the best-looking hand-to-hand combat scenes I’ve ever seen in an animated film. Any criticism that it breezes past its cool wordbuilding is definitely valid, but there are plenty of other things to like about the movie: Awkwafina’s larger-than-life performance style almost works better in animation than live action, the entirety of the team-gathering second act is good fun, and the central message about old wounds preventing current growth is poignant. I stand by what I said back in July: It’s my favourite non-musical Disney animated feature in twenty years.

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Best of 2021: Top 10 Movie Scenes

When you bring back blockbuster movies, you bring back spectacle and surprise and scale, and that makes this year’s list very different from 2020’s. Though I really did enjoy putting together last year’s list, the bombastic highlights were much easier to pick in 2021; in fact there are multiple films on this page packing more than one worthy scene, so I had a grand old time choosing. We’re looking at plenty of big action beats, coils of tension, a surprise or two, and a whole heap of spoilers.

Seriously, don’t read this if there were any big movies you missed in 2021 – especially that really recent big one that everyone’s been talking about.

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VR BEST OF 2021 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is beyond unlikely. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

HUGE SPOILERS FOLLOW!

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10. Train Fight – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

For my third mention of Shang-Chi this week, we have this fabulous character-revealing martial arts platform from the film’s first act. The one-vs-many showdown on a bendy-bus is actually quite similar in both setting and narrative purpose to another great sequence in Nobody, but of the two I think this one is more flashy and fun. With great choreography, every kind of dynamic camera move in the book, well-paced comedic beats, a properly crunchy soundtrack, and a (literally) crowd-pleasing final move, the constant momentum of the fight makes it easily the action highlight of the movie’s first two hours.

9. Scorpion vs Sub-Zero – Mortal Kombat

Speaking of martial arts scenes, Mortal Kombat fans get to see two rounds of the series’ most iconic rivalry in action within the 2021 movie of the same name: Once when neither combatant has reached the full extent of their powers in the extended prologue, and once for the grand finale of the whole (and I use this word loosely) plot. The second fight doesn’t really do anything super different from previous movie iterations; it’s really just playing the hits with much higher-quality stunt work and special effects. But the build-up to Scorpion’s re-entrance is a lot of fun, and if the thing you pay to see in a Mortal Kombat movie is the best thing about that movie, it’s kinda hard to complain.

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Best of 2021: Top 10 Movie Characters

What a line-up of scene-stealers we had at the movies (or, you know, in our homes) in 2021. That probably has a fair amount to do with all the delayed 2020 flicks that crashed on top of this year’s cinematic plans, but you analyse the hand you’re dealt, as it were. This is yet another year without any protagonists on the list, but that’s just the way it shakes out more often than not. The human focus of a film’s story doesn’t tend to capture my attention quite like the good old extended cameo or enjoyably hammy villainous performance – or indeed both at once.

This list is rarely the place to find in-depth plot spoilers, but it’s still worth being careful if you consider yourself behind on major blockbusters this year.

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VR BEST OF 2021 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is beyond unlikely. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

Spoilers may follow.

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10. Luisa – Encanto

Encanto is packed with super-powered characters that get very quick introductions (this is a Lin-Manuel Miranda work, after all, so the words-per-minute can get a real workout) and then have to fight for character arcs while staying under a Disney animated movie runtime. So it makes sense that the character with the most physically apparent power – and the solo song with the most words in it – would present the best opportunity to kick off the movie’s themes of familial expectation. But my word, do her voice actress Jessica Darrow and the entire animation team run with that opportunity. Luisa is consistently entertaining to watch and “Surface Pressure” is a throwback to the golden age of chaotic Disney visual storytelling within a musical number.

9. Cipher – F9: The Fast Saga

That’s right: the main villain from the eighth Fast & Furious movie appears in the ninth one trapped in a giant glass case for most of the runtime, wearing a bowl cut, and is still more memorable than John Cena’s primary antagonist in this one. That might be because Charlize Theron is allowed to have a lot more fun than Cena – whose comedic timing in at least two other 2021 movies proves how wasted he is playing the stoic, burdened younger brother of Dominic Toretto – but also because she commits to looking and sounding even more cartoonishly evil than she did in F8. The degree of ham in her performance is a perfect fit for this franchise, so it’s a shame she won’t be coming back for any more movies.

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Ten More 2021 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

We’ve got movies again!

It seems that due to the recent extended lockdowns down under, digital access to blockbuster theatre-only movies has been accelerating of late. It’s not the same speed for every studio – at the time of writing it still looks like we’re a way off from digital releases for Shang Chi, No Time to Die and Venom 2 – but given I didn’t even get to 20 new movies last year, I’ll definitely take this scenario. So here’s the second half of that 20, real quick-like:

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A Quiet Place Part II

In just 90 minutes, brutally wraps up the first one.”

Minari

Slowburning emotional decathlon gives way to waterworksinducing catharsis.”

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Ten 2021 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

A little later than usual perhaps, but these are the first ten films I’ve been able to give a look so far this year.

It feels particularly weird to be a movie fan in Australia right now – like we’ve been a constant mirror of our American friends in 2021 when it comes to cinematic availability. Cross-referencing streaming services with big screens one moment and twiddling our thumbs in lockdown while theatres slam shut the next, some movies have been a bit frustrating to pin down; but I’ll get to most of them by the end of the year. In the meantime, here’s a spicy mix of up-and-down celluloid quality.

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Demon Slayer: Infinity Train

The anime movie that forever changed how anime movies work.”

Boss Level

Fun, silly premise; unfortunately everyone commits except the lead actor.”

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