Posts Tagged ‘movie mania’

The best new movie of 2022. Or so say I.

What a strange movie world we live in these days.

There was a time in the past when I spent countless hours camped behind a video store counter, taste-testing Reese’s Pieces, while dabbling in life as a self-syndicated movie reviewer.

From Whidbey Island to Yelm and maybe even a bit of Renton, my movie-related ramblings popped up in old-school newspapers for a decade and a half, making me a (very) low-rent Roger Ebert.

One who spent so much time at his local movie theater he could detail every small whorl of the water stain which graced the ceiling in theater #1.

And yet, because Whidbey Island is far from the madding crowd, a lot of the films which made my year-end “best-of” columns were first viewed on video, be it VCR tape or early-day DVD’s.

The surreal “win a free truck and lose your mind” documentary Hands on a Hardbody.

The smoke ’em if you got ’em fun of Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical.

Or overseas fare like Lagaan, a 224-minute(!) Bollywood musical about cricket(!), Japan’s bonkers ‘n blood-soaked Suicide Club, and The Terrorist, a stark tale from India of a pregnant suicide bomber.

In 2022, though, video stores are largely no more, and I have gone the entire year without entering a movie theater, as self-entitled asshats with phones drove me away long before Covid entered stage left.

And yet, thanks to the sometimes wonderful, sometimes super annoying, world of streaming, I’m probably watching as many films as ever.

If not more.

I opened this year on a crazy crusade to look back at 1997’s cinematic output, using the 25th anniversary of those films to justify watching Boogie Nights and L.A. Confidential for the 200th time.

Now, Batman and Robin, with its bat nipples and non-stop Arnold ice puns, was even worse than I remembered.

I am so glad George Clooney found the Coen brothers, while the Dark Knight broke up with Joel Schumacher — a decent director who gave us The Lost Boys, Falling Down, and Tigerland.

I am a huge Jack Nicholson fan (Chinatown 4 Life), but found that, while viewing multiple Oscar winner As Good As It Gets for the first time in 25 years, I kinda, sorta hated every single thing about the film.

But overall, ’97 stands tall.

Even if I’m still ticked L.A. Confidential, with its whip-smart dialogue and densely layered plot, lost the Oscar to Leonardo Di Caprio gettin’ all sleepy in the cold water in hour seven of Titanic.

But come on.

The Sweet Hereafter, Jackie BrownRomy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Grosse Point Blank, Ulee’s Gold, In the Company of Men, Traveller, Snow White: A Tale of Terror, Eve’s Bayou, The Matchmaker

Air Force One to Con Air, Breakdown to Mimic, the non-Elton John RocketMan to George of the Jungle, The Spanish Prisoner to The Fifth Element, Smilla’s Sense of Snow to Cats Don’t Dance, ’97 has a deep, deep bench.

And we’re not even talking about the cheesy pleasures of Pierce Brosnan saving the dog but letting grandma boil alive in volcano waste during Dante’s Peak.

Or Jon Voight being swallowed, barfed out whole, then swallowed again, all in loving closeup, during the slimy climax of Anaconda.

Good times.

But don’t take my word for it. Go rewatch a hundred or more of those suckers like I did and thank me later.

When I wasn’t wallowing in ’97 nostalgia, probably the best film I saw in ’22 was The Outfit.

No, not the tailor vs. the mob tale which used that title this year, but the punch-to-the-stomach 1973 neo noir starring Robert Duvall and Joe Don Baker.

Featuring an incredible cast of old pros (Robert Ryan, Timothy Carey, Karen Black, Richard Jaeckel, Elisha Cook, Jane Greer, Marie Windsor) it’s down ‘n dirty in the best way possible.

Tracking a calm, composed, but VERY upset Duvall as he carves a path of revenge through the mafia after his brother gets whacked, I found it on some obscure freebie channel on the fringes of the streaming world.

Which is where most of the gems hang out in 2022 in this strange modern-day movie world.

Or even sorta-gems like Stryker, a 1983 Mad Max wannabe which combines nuclear holocaust, killer dwarves, and barely dressed, heavily armed warriors driving dune buggies.

In other words, a decent Saturday night.

But David, you ask, if you’re avoiding theaters and spent a chunk of time watching back catalog stuff, did you just completely ignore the new films of 2022?


While my viewing of new product is hampered a bit by my current aversion to theaters, I still cleared 70+ films carrying 2022 as their release date.

And not a single one of those was illegally downloaded, so there’s that.

My thoughts on the year?

While a lot of possible award winners have yet to unspool in front of my eyeballs, 2022 seems unlikely to match ’97 in terms of depth or wanting to go back and rewatch things down the line.

Which doesn’t mean there aren’t gems, cause there are.

They’re just buried under a pile of pointless remakes (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Firestarter, Hellraiser), and lackluster sequels/prequels (Halloween Ends, Jurassic World: DominionMinions: The Rise of Gru, Lightyear, Confess Fletch, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder).

Now, Jackass Forever, Scream, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and Prey — which put the Predator up against old-school Native American warriors — bucked that trend.

Truth be told, I laughed at Thor’s screaming goats, but films like Uncharted, Ambulance, Morbius, Alice, Spiderhead, and even most of Nope faded from my brain before the end credits finished.

But there were ones which stuck the landing, ones I treasured, ones which make my personal top 20 for the year.

“Are you not entertained?!?!”

Adult Swim Yule Log — A hidden horror film with hillbillies, space aliens, cursed hanging trees, sentient killer logs, and an evil lil’ dude living in an active fireplace. Someone spiked the holiday nog.

After Yang — A young girl’s robot companion slowly dies, while Colin Farrell stares into the abyss searching for answers.

The Banshees of Inisherin — Sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying, tale of melancholy Irishmen driving each other crazy, while Colin Farrell stares into the abyss, still searching for answers.

Barbarian — The best argument against Airbnb rentals ever put on film. Twenty minutes in, you’re pretty sure you know where this is going, but you’re wrong. Really, really wrong.

The Batman — In which the Emo Dark Knight descends into the muck and mire, then punches his way back out again. As you do.

Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe — No hugging, no learning, and more laughs than any other film this year. A love letter to old fogies like me who remember when the letters MTV meant something.

Blonde — The feel-bad film of the year, relentless in wallowing in Marilyn Monroe’s pain, made memorable by often-stunning work from Ana de Armas.

Don’t Worry Darling — Ignore the endless bad publicity and enjoy a highly stylized peek into the lives of the rich and paranoid. Part futuristic, part retro, all guilty pleasure.

Dual — Chilly sci-fi film about a woman who has to fight her own clone to the death, after discovering her loved ones like the clone better than they like her.

Emily the Criminal — Aubrey Plaza should get all the Oscars (but likely won’t even be nominated) as a deeply hurting, ultimately amoral woman who survives in a world of sharks by being smarter, and tougher than anyone expects.

Everything Everywhere All at Once — Michelle Yeoh enters the matrix, in a wild mishmash of comedy, pathos, and time-traveling IRS agents.

Facing Nolan — Superb documentary about Nolan Ryan, the toughest man to ever throw a pitch in Major League Baseball.

Gold — Greed is good, as Zac Efron loses his mind trying to hold onto a hunk of gold in a blighted, futuristic hellscape.

No Exit — A group of strangers, snowed in and increasingly desperate, eyeball each other as the twists come fast and furious.

The Northman — If you see only one movie that ends with two naked dudes sword fighting in an active volcano in Iceland, make it this one.

Pearl and X — An unexpected double feature, with the latter a loving homage to late ’70s/early ’80s slashers, and the former a surprise prequel telling the tale of a young woman teetering on the edge of madness.

See How They Run — Light as a feather romp about a murder mystery unfolding backstage during the production of an Agatha Christie whodunnit. Saoirse Ronan is a delight as an overly earnest British cop.

Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 — Some people just want to watch the world burn while listening to Limp Bizkit.

Vengeance — Is it a fish out of water comedy about a big city know-it-all humbled by small town life? Or a tale of ice-cold revenge delivered too late to truly even the scales? It’s both, and all the better for it.

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story — The totally true story of an accordion-playing musical legend which finally answers the question, “What if Madonna became an international cocaine kingpin?”

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Nolan Ryan, American folk hero.

I used to have a Nolan Ryan t-shirt back in the day, not surrendering it until it finally fell to pieces.

Like the man whose image was emblazoned on it, that shirt lasted a VERY long time, and I miss it greatly.

Does the modern generation even know who Nolan Ryan is?

They should, because the dude is the real deal.

He was born in 1947, made his Major League Baseball debut at 19, played 27(!!) seasons, retired in 1993, and went into the Hall of Fame with 98.8% of the vote in 1999.

That year’s induction class, with George Brett and Robin Yount joining Ryan in Cooperstown, is the high-water mark for my own personal relationship with the diamond game.

Those three, who soared so high in the ’80s, when I was an impressionable teenager, were larger than life figures — old school folk heroes who looked like real dudes, not steroid-inflated cartoons, and their exploits still seem so much bigger than many who have followed them.

Ryan, in particular, was the guy.

He was old man strong, going bald and doing his arm curls in his dad shorts while drawling good-natured wisdom to his own sons in the TV clips we saw.

Then, every fourth or fifth day, he took the ball, went to the mound, and buzzed fools until the game was over.

Pity the manager who dared to think about pulling him early.

Nolan Ryan pitched like the rancher he was — you do the damn job, and you don’t ask, expect, or want, anyone else to come moseying along talking about “hey, do you need some help?”

He threw two of his MLB-record seven no-hitters after age 40(!!) and struck out 5,714 batters — almost 900(!!) more than his closest challengers, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.

Today, starting pitchers get pats on the head and orange slices for going five innings, then managers run 300 relievers through the game.

Ryan, death grip on the ball, wasn’t moving off the mound.

Not when Bo Jackson cranked a ball off his face, leaving the hurler (and his uniform) splattered in blood, as shown in the photo above.

Today everyone hyperventilates at the sight of a single crimson drop. Ryan retired 17 more hitters, without changing his uniform.

And not when Robin Ventura, a rock-solid third baseman in the ’90s, charged the mound one August day after being plunked.

Stop. Hammer time.

Ventura was 26, Ryan 46, and the rancher collared the upstart, pulling him in with one arm and raining blows down on the interloper with the other.

There are a ton of fake “fights” in MLB history, and then there is the one where Ryan, who was nearly wrecked after being bum-rushed by man-mountain Dave Winfield 13 years earlier, upheld his vow to protect himself at all costs if the situation ever repeated.

Enter Ventura, exit Ventura — ejected from the game, forever to be remembered more for getting beat down by an old man than for his own strong 16-year MLB career.

And Ryan? He wasn’t even ejected, cause no ump wanted to mess with the old man, either.

So, what’s this all about, other than me getting misty-eyed over a long-gone t-shirt?

It’s about how you all need to go to Netflix and watch the 2022 documentary Facing Nolan.

It’s a reverent look at the kind of baseball player who rarely exists in the modern game, but it’s also a love story.

Between Nolan and Ruth, his wife of 55 years, a champion in her own right, and the true power figure in the family.

Between Nolan and his children and grandchildren, who tease him about his old TV commercials and bring out the softer side in a tough man.

Between Nolan and the state of Texas, and Nolan and ranching.

And between Nolan and the game he played for three decades; a game he dominated in a way few others ever have.

It’s a great film, about a true American folk hero, a man who did his job one 100 MPH fastball at a time, then went home to his family and the ranch, content.

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My past, and present.

With one exception, every movie I’ve seen in 2022 originally debuted in 1997.

It’s part of my New Year’s resolution, which was to build a virtual time machine and travel back to my lazy, hazy days behind the counter at Videoville.

I ate a kajillion Reese’s Pieces, was rightly described by my boss more than once as a “gossipy old church lady,” and injected cinema into my veins at a staggering rate between 1994 and 2006.

Even got paid more than a few bucks to do so.

Life hasn’t been the same since, as future jobs in the dish pits and out on farms beat the crud out of my back — something later made worse by lounging on too many butt-eroding bleachers while writing about prep sports.

If one thing has remained constant over the years, it has been my habit of mainlining movies into my cranium.

Let’s just say I’ve seen a lot of good to great films, and a LOT of bad to worse ones.

And yet I endure.

How I watch them has changed over the years, with video stores sidelined, streaming systems taking over the world, and the act of going to the theater having irreversibly changed.

Not just by Covid, though, as ever-present cell phones, in all their annoying glory, ruined the live cinematic experience long before anyone worried about being coughed on in the dark.

Why should I go out of my way to arrange a six-movies-in-a-day marathon at the nearest mall — complete with squares of light popping on and off around me — when I can spend the same day buried under blankies on my recliner?

Especially now that I’ve chosen to spend a chunk of 2022 living in 1997.

So now I’m 38 flicks — 34 features and four short films — down the movie memory hole, and a few things already stick out.

Batman and Robin is not only still the worst superhero film ever made, but it’s somehow gotten worse in the 25 years since I ruined a Friday afternoon watching it in a theater on opening day.

The only good thing to come out of it is that George Clooney has been so willing to ridicule the film (and his own performance) every day since.

Meanwhile, Speed 2, thoroughly lambasted at the time for not being a carbon copy of the awesome first film in the series, is NOT as bad as you think it was.

Sandra Bullock is both adorable and a butt-kickin’ heroine, Willem Dafoe is reliably bonkers playing with his leeches, and the cruise ship crashing through town like Godzilla is still a hoot.

Also, it’s interesting what the passage of time will do.

I loved The Spanish Prisoner the first time around, and loved it this time too, having forgotten all the intricate surprises waiting to be sprung.

With other revisited thrillers like Switchback, Cop Land, Scream 2, and Jackie Brown, the twists were still lodged in my brain, but other than the basic outline of David Mamet’s con man caper, the rest had filtered away.

Then there’s Hercules, which I saw 17,808 times in the first few years after it hit home video, thanks to my oldest nephew — who was very young at the time.

Eventually, he moved on to new things, and there was a big enough time gap before nephews #2 and #3 arrived, that they never got hooked on the film.

Coming back after all these years, I found Hercules — with its hero channeling the nerdy charm (and vocal stylings) of Christopher Reeve in Superman — to be one of the best of the new-era Disney animated films.

Not to the level of Aladdin, certainly, but personally I prefer it to The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast.

Yes, yes, I’m a blasphemer.

Meanwhile, I Married A Strange Person, with its super-horny animated birds, is still a hoot — if you’re not watching it with other people. Then it gets awkward fast…

Snow White: A Tale of Terror with Sigourney Weaver is an underrated story perfect for those of us who wanted to see Prince Charming get thrown out an upstairs window, while Princess Mononoke remains a pristine gem.

And Jurnee Smollett, at 11 years old, knocked it out of the park in Eve’s Bayou, which, like other hidden gems such as Traveller, never had a chance come Oscar time. Which is a pity.

What’s still ahead to revisit? A lot.

All-timers like L.A. Confidential, The Sweet Hereafter, and Boogie Nights, plus more middling fare such as Anaconda, Good Burger, and Leprechaun 4: In Space.

The good. The godawful.

The ones I remember. The ones I don’t.

Even a few which, horror of horrors, I somehow never saw the first time around.

I’m stuck in 1997, and I’m not coming back anytime soon.


To follow my journey, pop over to:


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We have to go back … to the “good ol’ days.”

Everyone needs a good, irrational New Year’s resolution.

You know, the sort where other people hear it, then they nod and slowly start backing away, looking for a convenient exit. That kind!

So, instead of going with the pack and picking something normal like losing weight, or committing to never, ever comment on anyone’s inflammatory Facebook posts, I’m doing my own thing.

Which is to pretend like it’s 1997 again, and I’m back snug as a bug in the first part of my 15-year video store “career.”

I started at Videoville in ’94, and by ’97, things were humming.

My first nephew popped into the world, and we were well on our way to a (brief) time when a store in a cow town, in the middle of a rock in the water, would be renting 500 VHS tapes almost every Friday and Saturday.

I kid you not.

Movie studios loved video stores in ’97, and the free stuff, from advance screener copies of movies to autographed star photos, t-shirts, leather bomber jackets, and a whole lot of candy, cascaded down.

And to make things even better, it was a glorious year for movies. Or, at least that’s how I remember it 25 years later.

I mean … L.A. Confidential. Boogie Nights. The Fifth Element. Ulee’s Gold. Con Air. Grosse Point Blank. Men in Black. Austin Powers.

Even some film about Kate Winslet letting Leonardo Di Caprio freeze to death cause she wouldn’t share her rather ample hunk of floating wood after that iceberg punched out the world’s snazziest boat.

That one made a few bucks, I think.

But 25 years is a fairly long time. Toss in the additional 34,602 films (estimated…) I’ve seen since then, and who knows whether I can accept my Swiss cheese memories as fact.

So, I’m going back. Sort of.

My plan for 2022 — my resolution, as it were — is to watch as many films from 1997 as possible, to see what has held up, and what should have been chucked on the recycle pile.

Back then, we lived in a streamlined VHS fantasyscape, where a solid video store would have pretty much everything you were looking to find.

In this blighted streaming world, where “everything,” which often means nothing, is a click of a remote control away, it’ll be interesting to see how much of ’97 is readily available.

But what the heck, it gives me a mission.

I mean, how else will I know if the moment in Anaconda where the snake swallows an EEEEEVILLLLLL Jon Voight whole, barfs him out, then re-swallows him, is still a banger?!?

Sort of doing God’s work over here, is what I’m saying.

Want to follow along throughout the year? Pop over to:


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Nicolas Cage, restrained.

Nicolas Cage, bonkers.

We live in weird times, so why not embrace 2021 as the Year of Nicolas Cage?

The Oscar winner, who once anchored big-budget action epics like Con Air and The Rock, has remained the hardest-working man in show biz, while not always getting a whole lot of respect for it.

Cage has churned out a LOT of movies in recent times — 17 in the last three years, to be exact — but he’s not just stumbling forward, grabbing a paycheck and mentally checking out like other former big screen icons like Bruce Willis.

Some of the movies have been great — Mandy, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Color Out of Space — and some, well, let’s hope they at least had good craft service.

But Cage, unlike a lot of other A-listers who have landed in the hazy world of what used to be called straight-to-video movies, fully commits.

He brings it each time out, often going to vintage levels of weirdness, and his name on the poster is a guarantee he’s going to be in there swinging for the fences, always.

Cage may never regain his ’90s headliner status, but he’s still The Man, something on full display in two of my favorite new films from the year about to end.

Pig and Willy’s Wonderland, both available to watch on Hulu, couldn’t be more different, and yet they both scratch my movie junkie itch.

In the former, Cage is ultra-restrained, a man plumbing the horrors of lost memories as he tries to reenter society while in pursuit of his kidnapped pig, who had a nose for finding tasty, and expensive, truffles.

The duo lived a quiet life off the grid, with the human half of the pair still able to cook a mean risotto, but also so scarred by his past he can’t bear to play a cassette tape recorded by his now absent wife.

A former chef of great renown, Cage’s deeply-hurting hermit is spurred to action when a pair of tweakers burst into his cabin and make off with his only companion.

But, if you’re expecting a John Wick-style revenge movie, this ain’t the one.

Instead, it’s a melancholy journey, with some bizarre side touches and a profoundly sad finale, as Cage burrows deep into his character.

Slouched at a table in an ultra-ritzy restaurant, blood staining his face and grungy clothes, he completely breaks the owner/chef — a man he fired for constantly overcooking pasta back in the day — by asking him, “Is this really what you wanted?”

It’s not, and the ensuing conversation, quiet and emotionally-shattering, is as powerful as anything on screen in 2021.

If, and it’s a big if, Oscar voters actually see Pig, Cage should reclaim his front-row seat at the awards shindig.

And then, just because he can, the man who memorably wailed “Not the bees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” delivered another winner with the low-rent horror comedy Willy’s Wonderland.

In which he plays a drifter stuck in a small town, forced to clean up a broken-down Chuck E. Cheese style restaurant … in which the animatronic robots are possessed killing machines looking for their annual sacrifice.

And did I mention Cage never says a single word in the entire film, despite being the lead?

Oh, it’s true. It’s all true.

Slamming back energy drinks at a dizzy rate, demonstrating primo white boy kung fu moves while wielding a mop like a katana, he’s a silent killing machine.

Now, you probably could have made this film with any actor, since there’s no dialogue, and yet, without Cage, I swear it wouldn’t have worked.

It’s grungy, gross, darkly funny, always-entertaining, and gets off the stage in less than 90 minutes, just like a quality B-movie should.

In a year where the pandemic continued to throw release schedules haywire, our TV’s largely replaced movie screens.

Heck, even Hollywood heavyweight Warner Brothers put its entire theatrical output — from Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie to Dune and Matrix: Resurrections — directly onto HBO Max.

Pig and Willy’s Wonderland, so different in style and content, yet anchored by the funkiest star still blazing across the cosmos, fit perfectly into that re-sized world.

From beneath my blankies, while nestled into my recliner, thank you, Mr. Cage.


Some other good 2021 films (and where to find them):



Far From the Tree (short film)
Jungle Cruise
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings


HBO Max:

The Little Things
No Sudden Move
Suicide Squad
The Super Bob Einstein Movie



Boss Level
Shadow in the Cloud
Summer of Soul



Fear Street: Part One – 1994
The Guilty
I Care a Lot
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Power of the Dog

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