THE TOP 5
1. Past Lives
This brilliant and oh-so-moving American-Korean film is an instant candidate for best of the year. Spanning decades, it’s the story of two Koreans (Greta Lee and Teo Yoo) who are best friends as kids but who grow apart, only to reconnect years later when she’s married. The childhood sweethearts spend a long weekend in New York getting to re-know each other, testing whether there’s still anything between them. It’s romantic, refined, and gorgeously shot without ever veering anywhere close to sappiness. Writer-director Celine Song has created something this close to a masterpiece.
2. The Night of the 12th
Winner of six Cesar Awards, including Best Film and Best Director (Dominik Moll), this dark, bleak crime drama about the unsolved murder of a young French woman may just be the best of its kind in a good long while. Reminiscent of American fare like ‘Mystic River’ and ‘Gone Baby Gone’, it’s a creepy slow burn, punctuated with brilliant bits showing how violence (and the job of investigating it) affects those doing the digging. It’s a slice of life (ripped from the actual headlines) that will haunt you long after.
3. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
As heartbreaking as it is inspirational, this powerful film about the ‘Back to the Future’ star’s battle with Parkinson’s is as fine a documentary as you’ll see this year. Director Davis Guggenheim (‘He Named Me Malala’) lets Fox tell his story, warts and all, and spares us the traditional documentary tropes like reminiscences from co-stars and praise from family members. It’s all Michael, all the time, raw and honest and unflinching, as we’re let into the soul of the man many of us grew up watching and loving. Brilliant, poignant stuff.
Taken almost word-for-word from the transcript of the FBI’s 2017 interrogation of NSA leaker Reality Winner, this fascinating film from playwright Tina Satter is an intense character study that sucks you in from the get-go. Starring as Reality, Sydney Sweeney absolutely knocks it out of the park, doing far and away her best work yet. And the intimate feel of the sparse film only adds to the intensity. It’s a unique glimpse at a too-easily overlooked fragment of recent history.
Based on the popular webcomic, this wildly clever and super-whimsical animated feature is pretty close to as good as they get. Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Nimona, a shape-shifting creature who teams up with a medieval knight (in futuristic times), after he is framed for murdering the queen. The dazzling animation is unlike anything seen recently (perhaps a little reminiscent of 2020’s ‘Wolfwalkers’) and is perfect not only for the fantastic action but also the buckets full of heart that will have you sucked in and cheering along instantly. The sharp, witty script will keep adults rolling, and their kids will have the time of their lives.
6. Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant
8. Titanic Re-release
10. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
13. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
14. John Wick: Chapter 4
15. Asteroid City
16. No Hard Feelings
18. Filmmakers for the Prosecution
19. The Last Rider
21. Women Talking
23. A Man Called Otto
24. The Magician’s Elephant
26. We Have a Ghost
28. Extraction 2
29. Being Mary Tyler Moore
30. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
31. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
32. Flamin’ Hot
33. Enter the Slipstream
34. The Little Mermaid
35. The Mother
36. What’s Love Got to Do With It?
37. A Tourist’s Guide to Love
38. To Catch a Killer
40. Prom Pact
41. Boston Strangler
43. Scream 6
44. Cocaine Bear
45. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
47. She Came from the Woods
48. Who Invited Charlie?
49. True Spirit
50. 80 For Brady
52. Shotgun Wedding
54. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre
55. Fast X
57. Die Hart
58. One True Loves
59. The Super Mario Bros. Movie
61. Murder Mystery 2
62. Maybe I Do
63. When You Finish Saving the World
65. Somebody I Used to Know
66. You People
67. Alice, Darling
68. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
70. Seriously Red
71. The Old Way
THE BOTTOM 5
It may have a decent amount of promise—Shailene Woodley and Jack Whitehall starring, a thought-provoking plot, a script co-written by Ant Hines (‘Borat’)—but nothing in this horrible misfire comes together to become anything even remotely entertaining. A decade in the future, people can buy lifelike robotic versions of themselves, but when Elaine and Charles discover their robot versions have fallen in love with each other and run away, the humans realize they need to find them and destroy them. What could have been a sly ‘Black Mirror’-esque episode of television instead plods along without any sense of humor or even a sense of what it’s trying to accomplish.
73. The Drop
A wannabe cringe comedy and societal commentary, this film—about a gaggle of friends at a destination wedding in Mexico who go into upheaval when one accidentally drops another’s infant (don’t worry, she’s fine)—never comes close to getting off the ground. Instead, we’re presented with a weekend in the life of a half-dozen boring and generally unlikeable people. It’s almost as if someone made you sit and watch home movies from that group of weirdos on the other side of the pool from you at your resort vacation last summer.
74. Dog Gone
Rob Lowe and Johnny Berchtold star as father and son in this Hallmarky drama about the search for the lost family dog. It’s based on a true story, but you get the sense early on that much of the goings-on have been melodramatized to amp up the…suspense? Even with that, the script still lands with a resounding shrug, and despite Lowe’s attempts to carry the film on his back, it falls far short of anything approaching worthwhile. Give your own pooch some time in the backyard, instead, and leave this thing in the doghouse.
75. Fool’s Paradise
What could have been a fairly sharp Hollywood satire instead lands with one of the louder thuds heard in recent years. Written and directed by (and also starring) Charlie Day, it’s the story of a mute mental patient who is released from a facility only to somehow land on a movie set and be given a starring role… because he looks exactly like a temperamental star who everyone hates working with. Yes, glitz, glamour, and fame all get skewered along the way, but there’s nothing here we haven’t seen hundreds of times before—and done much better. And frankly, a lot of Day’s appeal must be in his voice, because when he doesn’t use it, he becomes insufferable.
76. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A #@%!
After his wildly successful 2016 ‘self-help’ book, blogger and author Mark Manson brings his mantra of not sweating the small stuff to the big screen. Alas, the worthwhile message gets diluted in the presentation, which is essentially Manson giving a profane Ted Talk while mostly-nonsensical video plays over it. Without any dissension or even another voice of any kind, it’s hard to take him seriously and see him as anything other than just a dude who likes the f-word and the spotlight.