The Plain, Simple Review of the Year: 2022 – Part One

Hello, strangers! Yes, I know that I haven’t submitted a blog post since March (!), mostly due to my ever increasing lack of confidence or, hey, maybe it’s just laziness, but just like Mariah Carey, I am coming out of hibernation for Christmas in order to bring to you my big, fat review of the year. Because compiling these lists have always brought me joy in the past and even though I’ve been absent for quite a while, I know that I just HAVE to write my review of the year. Even if no-one reads it, I still believe that it’s something that I can be proud of.

As usual, I begin my annual round-up by looking at some of the best TV programmes that I watched this year as well as the worst movies and, finally, my favourite first time watches of this year.

Best TV of 2022

Now, when it comes to television, I know that I haven’t seen as many as I probably could have and the reason for this, I suppose, is that I’m honestly not as interested in TV as I am in film and additionally, I find it difficult to keep up with what everybody else is watching and since I don’t have Sky or anything like that, many acclaimed TV shows from the year are practically inaccessible to me. And, of course, with there being so many new shows out there, just how are we all supposed to keep on top of it all?

But anyway, rambling aside, I managed to view 30 new TV series this year and here are my favourite ones that I sat through (I’ve opted to discount TV specials such as Werewolf by Night and Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special)

5. Star Trek Discovery (Series Four)

Now, this is a surprise because after the third series, I was so sure that I would be done with Discovery, having thought little of the previous series, but as I had a free trial of Paramount+, I decided that I would take advantage of the opportunity and give this Trek show another go. And maybe it’s because I essentially binge watched the show in a couple of days (an unusual thing for me to do), but the latest season of Discovery actually impressed me as it had a solid story arc that makes great use of its “new” future setting and additionally, Sonequa Martin-Green really settles into her new role of ship captain and the technical elements were expectedly on the money. I’ll have to get another month’s worth of Paramount+ when the next series comes around!

4. Better Call Saul (Series Six)

I have to be honest and admit that I don’t fully remember everything that happened in the latest series of Saul but I do know that everything revolving around the Gus/Lalo conflict came to a satisfying conclusion (THAT surprise death was truly shocking) and everything that happened in “the present” was remarkably tense, engaging and interesting. The series ended on an excellent note and the biggest compliment that I could give it us this: I’ve always scoffed at those who insist that Saul is superior to Breaking Bad but having rewatched them both, I will now admit that those people aren’t completely wrong!

And hey, at least this series taught us an important lesson about what to do with a shaken-up can of soda! #lifehack

3. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Series Four)

A show that, I’m sure, always makes it into my “Best Of” list at the end of the year, the latest series of Mrs. Maisel gives us a lot more of that brilliant writing that the husband-and-wife writing/directing duo of Amy and Daniel (Sherman) Palladino have become known for and in this series, we see Midge performing regularly at a burlesque club, slowly transforming it for the better as the series progresses, and Susie moving “up the ladder” as she expands her management business. Midge becomes more of a flawed character this time around as her stubbornness and rigid nature prevents her from furthering her career and all in all, the series has been yet another strong one. Perhaps not quite as good as it once was but still, a stellar show with wonderful production design, great writing, and an endearing cast of colourful characters.

2. Beavis and Butt-Head (Series Nine)

Having used my free trial of Paramount+ to view the latest B&B movie, in addition to as many older episodes of the series that were available, I gladly sat down to watch the new 2022 series (one that follows the events of the 2022 film) and I ended up having a really good time with it. This time around, we see the dim-witted duo encountering escape rooms, behaviour-altering medication, yoga pants and virtual reality glasses, whilst occasionally providing commentary on even more music videos as well as TikToks and various YouTube videos, and despite its simple nature, the antics of the two sociopathic boys really are very funny and one particular sequence that involves their reactions to a “surviving in the wild” video got me laughing heartily – a rare occurrence for me! The updated animation works well, Mike Judge effortlessly slides back into the two central roles as if he’d never been away, and the inclusion of both the smart and middle-aged versions of Beavis and Butt-Head, the ones that were introduced in the latest film, was a particular treat.

1. The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power

A show that hasn’t been without its fair share of unwarranted criticism, Amazon’s super high budget fantasy epic does an excellent job in expanding Tolkien’s fictional universe, building on what we already know and bringing us brand new locations, characters and events, and it treats us to plenty of very good looking and well orchestrated action sequences. And speaking of “good looking” (no, I’m not going to mention the beautiful Morfydd Clark!), Rings of Power is fricking immaculate and is surely the most gorgeous series of the year, one that really makes use of its massive budget and treats us to so many well designed locations as well as great character designs, costumes, props, and stellar make-up and hair. The show has a very talented and able ensemble cast, several very engaging storylines and at the end of the day, Rings of Power is a memorable and beautiful series (one that didn’t deserve the review bombing that it received from the hateful trolls of the internet) that stands head and shoulders above most other TV shows that 2022 gave us.

Worst Films of 2022

An average year can bring us some real cinematic treats but, inevitably, most of us are unlucky enough to have to sit through some stinkers and 2022 was, of course, no exception. The cinematic year saw plenty of middling releases but here are ten of the absolute worst (it’s a particularly interesting list this year as there are actually more than ten films on this list – watch out for the DOUBLE and TRIPLE THREATS!)

10. Morbius (2022)

I’m going to surprise some people here by saying that, objectively, this Jared Leto-led Marvel film wasn’t actually that bad; at the best of times, the film was downright average but it makes it into this infamous list because the main character of Michael Morbius is completely dull, played with zero gusto or passion by Leto, and the film is also plagued by a weak story, ugly special effects, and bad direction and editing that makes it impossible to see just what’s going on in the movie’s many action/fight sequences.

9. Senior Year (2022)

The first of many Netflix films that you’ll find on my “naughty list” this year, this laugh-free affair about a selfish cheerleader who goes into a coma and awakens twenty years later (from Angourie Rice to Rebel Wilson – quite the downgrade!) is further proof that Wilson just isn’t funny and the film fails because of its unsympathetic main character and the fact that there are zero laughs to be found within.

8. TRIPLE THREAT: The Simpsons Short Films x3 (2022)

Placing Simpsons short films into my end-of-year “worst of” list has now become an annual tradition and for good reason, I think: while the popular animated series was once something special, these short films just demonstrate how unimaginative and stale the show has become. In our first one, When Billie Met Lisa, Lisa Simpson meets Billie Eilish, the famous singer teaches her a little about music, she hums the main theme song and . . . that’s about it. The short isn’t as appalling as Plusaversary but still, it’s pointless and forgettable. We also have Welcome to the Club: a wholly soulless affair in which several Disney villains sing a terrible song about the appeal of being bad – another indication that the popular family has indeed sold out – and in Feliz Navidad, Andrea Bocelli and his family sing the titular Christmas song and . . it’s OK. The lesser of three evils.

These three short films – all with MULTIPLE writers, may I add – are just completely pointless, dull, unimaginative, painfully unfunny, and it’s a sad and constant reminder that the yellow family’s glory days are well and truly behind them.

7. The Gray Man (2022)

And if those three short films are examples of how The Simpsons peaked many years ago, then The Gray Man is an example of how Anthony and Joe Russo have struggled to make a good film since their acclaimed movies for Marvel (see also: Cherry). It’s yet another completely disposable flick from the ‘flix – somewhat akin to films like 6 Underground and Extraction – and it isn’t particularly well written, shot or directed and Ryan Gosling is unconvincing in his role of the seemingly invincible action hero.

6. DOUBLE THREAT: The Man From Toronto (2022) AND Me Time (2022)

Although I like him as part of the central quartet in the latest Jumanji films, I’m not exactly a fan of comedian Kevin Hart and this year, he was unlucky enough to star in, not one, but two rubbish Netflix comedies, one with Woody Harrelson and another with Mark Whalberg. Just like with Senior Year, we here see another wholly unfunny and disposable Netflix comedy but these two films fare worse than the aforementioned movie, both because of their weak plots, off-putting characters, subpar special effects, lack of good jokes, and a couple of annoying performances from Hart – particularly in Toronto.

Plus, Toronto took a dig at people who “still use Hotmail” and as a longtime Hotmail user, I found that offensive!

5. Moonfall (2022)

“A mysterious force knocks the moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it”. In the right set of hands, this kind of film could very well have been a fun, silly, bonkers, so-bad-it’s-good cinema treat but unfortunately, under the stewardship of Roland Emmerich, Moonfall is simply a dumb – but not fun – film that fails to have any kind of fun with its ludicrous (and, I’m guessing, scientifically inaccurate?) premise and is instead a dull film that is burdened by bad writing, ineffective special effects, and bland characters that are given no life by the cast, many of whom – like Patrick Wilson, Halle Berry and Charlie Plummer – look totally bored with the material. And who can blame them?

Game of Thrones‘ Samwell Tarly is also woefully out of place as the forced comic relief/ineffective heart of the piece but at least that Donald Sutherland had the good sense to simply appear in one scene, collect the cheque, and then get the hell out of there!

4. Firestarter (2022)

When certain people – like Mike Flanagan – bring the works of Stephen King to the big or small screen, the results can often be quite glorious (see: Doctor Sleep, The Shining or Stand By Me) but other adaptations just get it completely wrong and are best left forgotten about. Films like 2022’s Firestarter can be placed into this particular group because this recent adaptation was just a massive nonevent: a dull, boring, lifeless slog with bland acting and absolute no memorable qualities. A whole load of nothing that you’ll forget about several hours after viewing.

3. Pinocchio (2022)

No, not the Guillermo Del Toro one. We’ll get to that one tomorrow.

When it comes to live action remakes of Disney’s animated films, yes they’re pointless and could never compete with their original counterparts but some are actually worth defending, like the two Favreau features and others such as Lady and the Tramp, while others just aren’t good at all. Enter Robert Zemeckis’ Pinocchio: one of the very worst Disney remakes so far and, all in all, an irredeemable mess that captures none of the original’s heart of sense of magic and wonder.

Why is it so bad? Well, the animation is ugly, the new scenes and characters add nothing to proceedings, the writing is bad (Lord, let’s not get started on that “Chris Pine” joke), and the acting, unfortunately, sucks; performers like Keegan Michael Key and Luke Evans have surely been better, Tom Hanks turns in one of his most disappointing performances, and Cynthia Erivo, much like Donald Sutherland in the aforementioned Moonfall, had the good sense to only appear in a single scene!

I may have let out a single swear word when it was all over. Not what you’d want from a Disney film!

2. The Bubble (2022)

The recent worldwide pandemic was a truly depressing and terrible thing that was clearly not funny at all so surely, a comedy that revolves around COVID-19 would have no chance. Enter The Bubble: an ugly, wholly unfunny, badly written and embarrassing film – one that seemed to tortuously last for about three hours- about horrible people making a sh*t film during a notoriously depressing period of time. Heck, the intentionally rubbish film that they make within this movie looked like more of a worthwhile experience!

The Bubble really was an all round terrible film – comfortably one of the worst of the year – but it was one tiny iota above the films that we find in our #1 spot this year. Not one, but TWO terrible movies that should never have seen the light of day . . .

1. DOUBLE THREAT: 365 Days: This Day (2022) AND The Next 365 Days (2022)

Back in 2020, the notorious 365 Days crash landed on Netflix: a Polish erotic thriller that tried hard to be the next Fifty Shades of Grey but was instead met with extreme critical disdain, with many thinking of it as perhaps one of the very worst films ever made. Myself, I certainly recognised it as a very poor film, one which suffered because of its unlikeable characters, horrible editing, confused direction, and its incredibly grating soundtrack, but I had to admit that I’d seen worse.

Well, this widely hated film must now surely seem like a comparative masterpiece because its two sequels are the absolute pits and with these final two entries, the 365 Days trilogy becomes, surely, the worst film trilogy of all time. It’s certainly one of the worst that I’ve ever seen.

To begin with, This Day is the weakest film in the notorious trilogy because, unlike its predecessor, which had at least some semblance of a story, next to nothing happens in this film and the entirety of the runtime is padded out with boring and laughable sex montages and footage of the characters just doing random things like swimming, dancing, walking, driving and drinking, all accompanied by about a billion songs on the soundtrack, which becomes so irritating after a while. The film is also technically incompetent as the direction is appalling – the two directors having no clear vision or control over their own project – and the camerawork and editing is not acceptable. And lastly, the characters are mostly unpleasant and the acting is sub-par, the male lead Massimo being boring and our leading lady Laura being smug and irritating.

And with The Next 365 Days, it has the exact same faults as its immediate predecessor, though, being generous, I’d say that it’s one tiny iota more tolerable than what came before, but by this point, I wasn’t even entertained by how laughably bad it all was and I was instead just annoyed that the filmmakers were just letting the mediocrity continue, wasting everybody’s time with a pointless and calamitous hodgepodge of nothingness – a bizarre amalgamation of cheesy soap opera, grating music videos and awkward softcore pornography. A complete catastrophe.

Favourite First Time Watches of 2022

And now, to close off part one of my big ol’ end of year list, let’s bring back some positivity by looking at ten of my favourite non-2022 films that I watched for the first time this year!

10. The Blue Lagoon (1980)

Yes, this may come as a surprise, seeing as how this picture is regarded, in certain circles, as a notoriously bad film, but I guess that I was in the exact right mood when I watched it because I liked the story, the atmosphere, the score, and the relationship that slowly develops between the two young characters.

9. Awakenings (1990)

Robin Williams and Robert De Niro shine brightly in Penny Marshall’s film about several patients who awaken from prolonged comas; it’s often joyous and uplifting but there’s also definite sadness when we realise that the good times won’t last forever.

8. The Crow (1994)

This was a dark, moody, atmospheric, gritty, violent, and entertaining comic book movie which had a great soundtrack, colourful characters, a solid story, actual emotional stakes, and a really great central performance from Brandon Lee. My kind of film!

7. Let Me In (2010)

A most impressive remake of the acclaimed Swedish vampire film; accomplished director Matt Reeves adeptly balances both the nasty horror and the sweet, blossoming friendship/romance between the two young people, Michael Giacchino provides a great score, and both Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz are likeable leads.

6. The Mist (2007)

As previously mentioned in my Firestarter entry, Stephen King adaptations can be very difficult to get right but under the stewardship of Shawshank director Frank Darabont, The Mist proves to definitely be one of the good ones: an engrossing and thrilling horror film that succeeds thanks to its emotional core and characters we can care about. There’s also great creature design and properly scary villains – in both the creepy insectoid beings as well as Marcia Gay Harden’s delusional and insane fanatic – and the ending is a humdinger.

5. A Field in England (2013)

Ben Wheatley is a director who I don’t always get on with – High-Rise being the only film of his that I’d have previously called good – but, though my attention did admittedly wander occasionally, I really appreciated A Field in England as I found it to have been a film that had an absorbing and creepy atmosphere (though moments of unexpected beauty and good feeling are also found within), excellent music and a really great featured song, and remarkable cinematography that makes great use of black and white.

4. Incendies (2010)

A huge step up from the director’s previous film Polytechnique, this film demonstrates Denis Villeneuve’s rapidly increasing maturity as a director and writer and it has an engaging dual narrative that’s easy to follow and there are plenty of impactful moments to be found.

3. House (1977)

OK, before going in, I somehow had the impression that House was a really dark and serious horror film. I certainly wasn’t expecting what we actually got!

It’s a little hard to put into words just why the film works so well but I will say this: House is completely bonkers and balls-to-the-wall insane – filled with really odd music choices, cheesy scene transitions, deliberately (I’m guessing) bad effects, weird and wonderful characters, purposefully OTT acting by its likeable cast, and a whole lot of wacky, wacky supernatural events – and I liked how the film wore its absurdity on its sleeve, the actors and filmmakers clearly having had fun whilst filming.

Kind of like the Evil Dead II of its day, I guess. And speaking of which . . .

2. Evil Dead II (1987)

A horror classic that I was lucky enough to see for the first time in the cinema this year, this is another balls-to-the-wall insane film – just like House – and everyone involved knows exactly what they’re doing – having a blast making a silly, over-the-top horror flick – and Raimi favourite Bruce Campbell truly understands the assignment as he just has fun with what he’s given.

Most groovy indeed.

1. That Thing You Do! (1996)

Comfortably enjoying the “top spot” since January, this was a thoroughly entertaining, fun, lighthearted, and enjoyable feelgood film, though it also has a tinge of sadness and emptiness right at the very end; Tom Hanks’ feature delights thanks to its great script (which cleverly mirrors the story of The Beatles), its collection of very likeable characters (Steve Zahn’s Lenny is a particular delight), and the many many excellent songs. The title track is an absolute belter.

. . . . . .

Well, that’s Part One, folks. Please join me tomorrow when I’ll be looking at the very BEST films that 2022 had to offer!

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