Best Films of 2022

Good lord, 2022 is over. How on earth…? Well, we guess that means it’s time to think back on all the many big, small, emotional, hilarious, terrifying, gorgeous, honest, bleak, hopeful, remarkable movies of the year and winnow down a list of our favorites. Here goes…

1. Tár

At Gateway Film Center or premium Prime rental

It took writer/director Todd Field 16 years to bounce back from his experience with Miramax, but it was worth the wait. Tár, a searing character study of art, arrogance, obsession and power that’s propelled by the towering presence of (surprised face) Cate Blanchett. And, as is her way, Blanchett needs mere moments to define Lydia with sharp, unforgettable edges.

It’s when Lydia dismisses ideas of gender inequality or coyly celebrates the history of patriarchy in her own profession that Field and Blanchett best expose the insidious nature of power. The storytelling is striking in its intimacy, gripping in its universal scope. Tár is a showcase for two maestros working at the top of their game.


All the severity of Beckett with the dark comedy lightened just a few shades, Banshees asks: What if the erosive accrual of daily life is the only way for us to find grace—and what if the dumbest person you know accidentally figured that out? You’d probably have a spiritual crisis too.

-Matt Weiner

2. The Banshees of Inisherin

On HBO Max and VOD

Existential dread picks up a brogue and a fiddle full of longing at JJ Devine’s Public House on an island off the West coast of Ireland in 1923. It’s a microcosm, simultaneously intimate and universal. It’s also the single finest ensemble you will find onscreen in 2022. More than that, it’s a breathing example of the mournful humor and heritage of the Irish.

The Banshees of Inisherin mines a kind of pain uncommon on a big screen. In Martin McDonaugh fashion, the mining is done with wit, insight, humanity and absolutely world-class acting. It must not be missed.

At times both brutally funny and heartbreakingly sad, The Banshees of Inisherin is a profound look at how even the best relationships in life reach their eventual end.

Brandon Thomas

3. Nope

On Peacock and VOD

There are some truly frightening moments in Nope. Some revolve around things you may think you know based on the trailer. Others feature a bloody monkey in a party hat. And writer/director/producer Jordan Peele’s third feature has plenty to say about Black cowboys, the arrogance of spectacle, and getting that elusive perfect shot.

Peele’s direction and writing effortlessly mine comedic moments, but Nope is no comedy. He unravels a mystery before your eyes, and his shot-making has never been so on point. Peele’s direction and writing effortlessly mine comedic moments, but Nope is no comedy. He unravels a mystery before your eyes, and his shot-making has never been so on point. 

4. Moonage Daydream

Prime Rental

Longtime David Bowie fans know of his early fondness for the “cut up” method to writing songs – literally cutting up lines of written lyrics and then shifting them around in search of more enigmatic creations. Director Brett Morgen takes a similar approach to telling Bowie’s story in Moonage Daydream, a completely intoxicating documentary that immerses you in the legendary artist’s iconic mystique and ambitious creative process.

Moonage Daydream is like no music biography that you’ve ever seen. It’s a risky, daring and defiant experience, which is exactly the kind of film David Bowie deserves. Expect two hours and fifteen minutes of head-spinning fascination, and a sense that you’ve gotten closer to one Starman than you ever felt possible.

5. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

On Netflix

Guillermo del Toro’s script film establishes itself immediately as a very different story than Disney’s. The 1940 film – and, to a degree, the live-action remake Disney launched earlier this year – offers a cautionary tale about obedience. So does del Toro’s, although, in true GDT fashion, he’s warning against it.

Co-director Mark Gustafson’s animation itself is breathtaking, and perfectly suited to the content, as if we’ve caught an artist in the act of giving his all to bring his creation to life. Everything about the film is so tenderly del Toro, whose work mingles wonder with melancholy, historical insight with childlike playfulness as no other’s does.


1.     Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

2.     Turning Red

3.     Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

4.     Mad God

5.     Puss In Boots: The Last Wish

6. Everything Everywhere All at Once

On Showtime and Prime

Directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are back with their brand of sweet-natured lunacy for Everything Everywhere All at Once. The result is an endlessly engaging, funny, tender, surprising, touching maelstrom of activity and emotion. This is a hard movie not to love.

Never have I been so richly rewarded by going in to see a movie knowing absolutely nothing about it. 

Christie Robb

7. The Fabelmans

At Drexel Theatre or premium Prime rental

For 2+ hours, Steven Spielberg uses all the tools of his trade to beguile you with his own origin story. In those moments, you will find everything Spielbergian – tech wizardry, cinematic wonder, artistry, sentimentality, family, loss – dance to life across the screen. The Fabelmans is no Jaws, no Raiders of the Lost Ark or E.T. Instead, it’s an exceptional movie about how those other movies could have ever happened.

8. Women Talking

In theaters January 6

With nuanced writing and one of 2022’s finest ensemble, Women Talking, the latest from filmmaker Sarah Polley, delivers quiet, necessary insight. Polley shows respect for the women in this tale – not just for their bodies, their agency, their humanity. She shows uncommon respect for their faith. This is what every faith-based film should look like.


1.     Top Gun: Maverick

2.     RRR

3.     Top Gun: Maverick

4. RRR

5. Top Gun: Maverick

9. Decision to Leave

On MUBI and Prime

Decision to Leave (Heojil kyolshim) unveils a playful, seductive mystery of longing and obsession, masterfully layered and gorgeously framed by acclaimed director and co-writer Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden, Thirst).

10. Aftersun

Premium Prime rental

Writer/director Charlotte Wells’s first feature film moves at a languid pace, but she repays your patience with a rich and melancholy experience. Like Sophia Coppola with her similar Somewhere, Wells and cinematographer Gregory Oke capture palpable longing, nostalgia and heartbreak. And while the loose narrative may frustrate some, as a work of remembrance, Aftersun film delivers something powerful and powerfully impressive.


1.     Moonage Daydream

2.     Fire of Love

3.     All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

4. The Territory

5. Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down

11. The Menu

In theaters

Darkly hilarious, bold, insightful, and an absolute fantasy come to life for anyone who’s ever worked in food service.

12. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

On Prime

Absolutely the most charming film since Paddington 2.

13. X

On Showtime or premium Prime rental

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre meets Boogie Nights. Yes, please.

14. Turning Red

On Disney+

Pixar filmmaker Domee Shi navigates the world of female adolescence with an allegorical tale as charming and adorable as a red panda.


1.     Decision to Leave

2.     All Quiet on the Western Front

3.     Holy Spider

4.     Piggy

5.     Both Sides of the Blade

15. The Northman

On Prime

Classic is exactly how The Northman feels. The story is gritty and grand, the action brutal and the storytelling majestic. 

16. The Woman King

On Prime

In many ways, the film is an exceptionally well-made, old-fashioned historical epic. But as soon as you try to string together a list of similar films, you realize that there are none. 

17. She Said

Premium rental on Prime

Frustrating, powerful and intelligently told – another highlight in cinema’s esteemed tradition of investigative journalism films.

18. God’s Country

On Prime

Measured and often visual storytelling is at work here, in a compelling look at what divides us that’s carried on the shoulders of a sensational lead performance from Thandiwe Newton.


1.     God’s Country

2.     A Love Song

3.     Breaking

4.     The Inspection

5.     Dinner in America

19. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

On Netflix

Rian Johnson’s script is funny, smart and intricate, always staying one step ahead of your questions while he builds the layers of whos and dunnits, only to tear them down and build anew.

20. Mad God

On Shudder

Thirty years in the making, Phil Tippet’s stop-motion nightmare is like a Bosch painting and a Tool video accusing each other of being too lighthearted.

21. Bones and All

In theaters

Luca Guadagnino embraces the strength of the solid YA theme that you have to be who you are, no matter how ugly the world may tell you that is.

Like a warped Stephen King riff on Terrence Malick’s Badlands, Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All is a hauntingly beautiful and achingly savage slice of arthouse horror filmmaking.

Daniel Baldwin

22. All Quiet on the Western Front

On Netflix

Grim, powerful reimagining of the timeless truth: war is hell.

23. Memoria

Best of luck to you. More info HERE

Quiet and precise as if always listening and careful not to disturb, Tilda Swinton once again disappears wholly into a role in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s meditative wonder of a film.

24. Vengeance

On Peacock and VOD

Writer/director B.J. Novak’s feature debut delivers a funny and entertaining mystery caper, self-effacing but not afraid to wander into some dark places, with a social conscience revealed in organic and endearing ways. 

25. Poser

On Showtime and Prime

A mysterious trip inside a local music scene, Poser never fails to surprise.

Villains and heroes, pigs and wolves, Aik Karapetian’s Latvian fairy tale

Squeal is populated with many things strange and unusual, and it’s all the better for it.

Rachel Willis

Werewolves of Berlin


by Hope Madden

If you’re hoping that Nazi werewolves are a kind of new villain, like the Nazi zombies that have been popular for the last decade, you may be disappointed in Burial. Rather than a horror tale of the supernatural sort, writer/director Ben Parker spins a WWII thriller more interested in the cancerous effect of a cult of personality.

So, less fun but probably more relevant.

It’s Christmas Day, London, 1991 and Anna Marshall (Harriet Walter) is watching Mikhail Gorbachev announce his resignation as President of USSR. Suddenly, she faces a home invader. The shaven headed thug (David Alexander) has come in search of information (and probably blood and terror). He believes she can confirm his deepest, most sacred belief: Hitler did not commit suicide but survived WWII.

Why would Anna know? Because she’s really Brana Vasilyeva (Charlotte Vega), and during the war she was a Soviet intelligence officer.

Quickly, we’re whisked to the spring of 1945. Brana and a small platoon of Russians are tasked with bringing Hitler’s body directly to Stalin because “Russians like to look their enemy in the eye.” That’s all fine and good until the platoon runs afoul of the “werewolves” — Nazis trained in guerilla warfare, who were unsuccessful as soldiers but pretty effective as terrorists.

The two groups come to a head just outside a small Polish village, where local Lukasz (Tom Felton) chooses between two villainous sides, deciding to help Brana and team in a standoff.

Parker’s film is never showy or lurid in the way you might expect from a movie carting Hitler’s carcass around. It’s an understated effort more interested in kicking around how toxic hateful leaders can be once they strike a chord with like-minded populations willing—eager, even—to dominate and victimize to prove how special they are.

Brana wants less to show Stalin the corpse than to end Hitler’s legacy. Given her holiday guest, that didn’t work.

There’s a lovely mixture of melancholy and fire that inform both Walter and Vega’s performances. Barry Ward, playing Russian soldier Tor, adds depth to the group but all performances are solid.

The language — English throughout with random bits of Russian, German and Polish — pulls you out of the cinematic fantasy. But Parker’s spare use of violence ensures that it makes an impression when it does show up.

The story frame works less well. Plus, I wanted real werewolves. But still, Burial is an effective piece of historical fiction.

Fright Club: Best Horror Movies of 2022

What a great year! So many horror films were both wonderful and huge box office successes, including Scream, Smile, The Black Phone and Barbarian.

Shudder hit another year out of the park with Good Madam, The Innocents, Speak No Evil, Slapface, Satan‘s Slaves: Communion, Mandrake, A Wounded Fawn and more. Plus the underseen and magnificent indies Men, You Won’t Be Alone, and Soft and Quiet still demand to be seen.

But we had to narrow down, so here are the 10 best horror movies of 2022.

10. Watcher

On Shudder

If you’re a fan at all of genre films, chances are good Watcher will look plenty familiar. But in her feature debut, writer/director Chloe Okuno wields that familiarity with a cunning that leaves you feeling unnerved in urgent and important ways.

Maika Monroe is sensational as Julia, an actress who has left New York behind to follow husband Francis (Karl Glusman) and begin a new life in Bucharest.

Monroe emits an effectively fragile resolve. The absence of subtitles helps us relate to Julia immediately, and Monroe never squanders that sympathy, grounding the film at even the most questionably formulaic moments.

Mounting indignities create a subtle yet unmistakable nod to a culture that expects women to ignore their better judgment for the sake of being polite. Okuno envelopes Julia in male gazes that carry threats of varying degrees, all building to a bloody and damn satisfying crescendo.

9. Mad God

On Shudder

Phil Tippett’s demons take center stage in his stop-motion head trip 30 years in the making, Mad God. It’s like a Bosch painting and a Tool video accusing each other of being too lighthearted.

Mad God delivers a nightmare vision like little else, overwhelming in its detail and scope. Tippett plumbs cycles of mindless cruelty. 

Mad World revels in Tippett’s vulgar, potent fantasy without belaboring a clear plotline. The world itself resembles hell itself. Tippett peoples this landscape with figures and images that also feel reminiscent: a doll’s befouled face, a fiendish surgeon, a cloaked figure.

8. Nitram


In 1996, Martin Bryant murdered 35 people, injuring another 23 in Port Arthur, Tasmania. The horror led to immediate gun reform in the nation, but director Justin Kurtzel is more interested in what came before than after.

Playing the unnamed central figure (Nitram is Martin spelled backward), Caleb Landry Jones has never been better, and that’s saying something. He is one of the most versatile actors working today, effortlessly moving from comedy to drama, from terrifying to charming to awkward to ethereal. There is an aching tenderness central to every performance. (OK, maybe not Get Out, but that would have been weird.)

Nitram looks at how nature and nurture are to blame. Socialization plus parenting plus bad wiring is exacerbated by the isolation and loneliness they demand. Everyone is to blame. It’s a conundrum the film nails.

But it’s Landry Jones you’ll remember. He’s terrifying but endlessly sympathetic in a bleak film that’s a tough but rewarding watch.

7. Crimes of the Future


In a dreary world where “surgery is the new sex,” two performance artists (Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux) turn one’s mutant organs into art.

If that doesn’t sound like a David Cronenberg movie, nothing does.

The film references, directly or indirectly, The Brood, Dead Ringers, The Fly, Naked Lunch, Crash, and most frequently and obviously,  Videodrome. Like his main character, Cronenberg has long been an “artist of the inner landscape.” And after several decades of excising that tendency from his work, Cronenberg has come full circle to accept what was inside him all along.

6. Bones and All

In theaters and on VOD

The film follows Maren (an absorbing Taylor Russell, Waves), coming of age on the fringes of Reagan-era America. She meets and slowly falls for another outcast with similar tastes, Lee (Timothée Chalamet), and the two take to the road.

Given what the handsome young lovers have in common, you might expect a sort of meat lovers’ Badlands to follow. But Bones and All is less concerned with the carnage left in a wake than in what’s awakening in these characters themselves. 

Bones and All is a tough one to categorize. I suppose it’s a horror film, a romance, and a road picture – not three labels you often find on the same movie. In Guadagnino’s hands, it’s more than that, though. He embraces the strength of the solid YA theme that you have to be who you are, no matter how ugly the world may tell you that is. You have to be you, bones and all. Finding Maren’s way to that epiphany is heartbreaking and bloody but heroic, too.

5. Pearl


Mia Goth has been impressive in every film she’s graced. But nothing prepared us for Pearl.

With her first writing credit and her first no-question-about-it lead performance, Goth delivers an unerring combination of innocence and psychosis that is as captivating as it is terrifying.

The writing is sly and the direction a magically macabre take on classic American cinema, like the most wrong-headed Judy Garland movie you can imagine. But it comes together seamlessly to deliver a concoction spellbinding concoction.

Goth’s 8-minute monologue and that truly insane frozen smile over the end credits will stay with you forever.

4. Hellraiser

On Hulu

Did you know that this is the 11th film in the Hellraiser franchise? There are 10 others, most of them terrible, a couple unwatchable. Why? How could it be so hard to create fresh horror from Clive Barker’s kinky treasure trove? David Bruckner had no trouble peeling the flesh from this franchise and exposing something raw and pulsing.

Jamie Clayton, with a massive thanks to makeup and costume, offers a glorious new image of pain. In fact, the creature design in this film surpasses anything we’ve seen in the previous ten installments, including Barker’s original. Each is a malevolent vision of elegance, gore and suffering, their attire seemingly made of their own flayed flesh.

Bruckner’s core themes replace the S&M leanings with trauma and addiction, following a young addict named Riley (Odessa A’zion) as she ruins everyone and everything she touches. The kinks may be gone, but the chains are still chilling, in a darkly beautiful world full of sensual, bloody delights to show you.

3. Piggy


Mean girls are a fixture in cinema, from Mean Girls to CarrieHeathers to Jawbreaker to Napoleon Dynamite and countless others. Why is that? It’s because we like to see mean girls taken down.

Writer/director Carlota Pereda wants to challenge that base instinct. But first, she is going to make you hate Maca (Claudia Salas), Roci (Camille Aguilar) and Claudia (Irene Ferreiro). In one tiny Spanish town, the three girls make Sara’s (Laura Galán, remarkable) life utterly miserable. Like worse than Carrie White’s.

The filmmaker complicates every trope, all the one-dimensional victim/hero/villain ideas this genre and others feast on. Redemption doesn’t come easily to anyone. Pereda also seamlessly blends themes and ideas from across the genre, upending expectations but never skimping on brutal, visceral horror.

2. X


The Texas Chain Saw Massacre meets Boogie Nights?

Yes, please!

Filmmaker Ti West delivers an utterly unexpected and absolutely inspired horror show like nothing he’s made before. A group of good-natured pornographers descends upon an out-of-the-way ranch to shoot a movie, unbeknownst to the owners. Mia Goth leads a thoroughly entertaining cast, each actor making the most of the humor crackling throughout West’s script.

West explores some common themes, upending every one without ever betraying his clear love of this genre. Blending homages of plenty of Tobe Hooper films with a remarkable aesthetic instinct, West fills the screen with ghastly beauty.



Nope has plenty to say about Black cowboys, the arrogance of spectacle, and getting that elusive perfect shot. There are some truly frightening moments. Some revolve around things you may think you know based on the trailer. Others feature a bloody monkey in a party hat.

Peele’s direction and writing effortlessly mine comedic moments, but Nope is no comedy. He unravels a mystery before your eyes, and his shot-making has never been so on point. The way he splashes color and motion across this arid landscape is stunning. His visual cues—often executed with macabre humor and panache—amplify the film’s themes while inducing anxiety.

It feels a bit like Peele is saying that making a movie will kill you, if you’re lucky. But opening a film with a Biblical passage is no accident, and on a grander scale, Peele has crafted a genre-loving ode to a comeuppance tempted by grandiose delusions.

Hooray for Hollywood


by George Wolf

Well first, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

There’s an elephant in the room. A real one, delivered to a film exec’s insane party by the ambitious young Manuel (Diego Calva). Wannabe starlet Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) has also found a way past security, and as writer/director Damien Chazelle’s extended take winds us through some impressively staged decadence, Babylon begins its frantically entertaining chronicle of intertwining fates in early Hollywood.

Manuel and Nellie meet that night, each launching a dream to break into the movie business, where Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) reigns as the king of silent films. While Manual begins climbing the ladder on the production side and Nellie’s persona as the screen’s new “wild child” makes her an in-demand sensation, the jaded Jack pines for innovation and laments that “the most magical place in the world” has become stagnant.

And before anyone can warn Jack about being careful with his wishes, “motherfucking sound!” comes to the movies.

Chazelle’s vision here is more ambitious than ever. Babylon is always big and often wild, swinging in all directions as it proposes a drug-fueled toast to the movies, the people that make them, and to the often cruel way those people are used and abused.

It’s a mess of humor, spectacle and emotion, with all angles fighting the urge to run off on their own. There’s surprising humanity in the arc of Sidney (Jovan Adepo), an African American horn player whose success in musicals can’t protect his dignity, but curious excess revealed in the strange cameo from Tobey Maguire as a scary guy with an alligator in his dungeon, as well as a sudden montage of classic movie moments that pops up in act three.

All three leads are terrific. Pitt exudes charisma and hard-earned wisdom as a man forced to admit bitter truths, Calva provides the film’s sympathetic heart and Robbie is flat-out ferocious, delivering a constant challenge for you to just try and look somewhere else. The always welcome Jean Smart is also a treat, stealing scenes with an award-worthy supporting turn as an influential gossip columnist.

Babylon isn’t just big, it’s large, with a three-hour-plus running time that Chazelle packs with enough pizazz and amazing craftsmanship to keep it constantly compelling. This film may be many things, but boring is not one of them.

Like Jack, the silent film star struggling in talkies, Chazelle knows the movie business may be at an important crossroads. But both men still believe in the power of movie magic, and that despite shame from the past and uncertainty in the future, Hollywood deserves the big loud hooray that explodes from Babylon.

Sexy Boots

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

by Hope Madden

Live like there’s no tomorrow. For some, that idea may be freeing. Not for Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas).

Down to the last of his nine lives thanks to his devil-may-care, adventuring lifestyle, the legendary tabby knows fear for the first time. Indeed, it seems to him that death itself stalks his every move.

But just as he’s resigned himself to the life of a housecat, he learns of a wishing star and decides that this one wish is his key to becoming his fearless, legendary self again. Too bad his ex, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), is also after it. So is narcissistic psychopath and piemaker Jack Horner (John Mulaney), as well as Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the three bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone and Samson Kayo).

That’s a killer cast right there. That’s five Academy Award nominations and one Oscar. Sure, most of that is Colman, but still, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is loaded with talent.

That’s no real surprise from the Shrek franchise or the gang at Dreamworks. What is a surprise is the material these pros have to tear into. Directors Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado capitalize on the talent with a heartfelt, surprisingly mature script from Tommy Swerdlow, Tom Wheeler and Paul Fisher as well as animation that looks better than anything the studio’s put out to date.

Banderas has a blast, as he has since his first appearance as the booted feline in 2004. Not every actor is cut out for voice work, but Banderas excels.

Pugh’s scrappy Goldilocks is a stitch, as is Winstone’s Papa Bear. Colman characteristically delivers a performance that’s equal parts tender, hilarious and heartbreaking. And with just her voice!

The entire cast, including Harvey Guillén as the most resilient chihuahua ever animated, populates this imaginary world with decidedly memorable characters – characters with dimension, 2D be damned.

Puss’s existential crisis drives this imaginative, often hilarious adventure, but it does more than that. It anchors all the derring-do with earnest emotion and recognizable struggle. The film never feels as if it’s winking at its adult audience while dishing out frivolity to youngsters. Instead, somehow the filmmakers bridge that, engaging all ages with an emotionally complex but digestible tale, gorgeously rendered, beautifully acted and shockingly fun.

Carry That Weight

The Whale

by George Wolf

By now you’ve probably heard plenty of accolades about Brendan Fraser’s “comeback” performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. It’s all true.

And that emotional standing O at Cannes? He deserved it.

It’s a stupendous performance, in a movie that’s always struggling to keep up with him.

Fraser, under some pretty impressive prosthetics and makeup, is Charlie, who pretends his laptop camera is broken so his online writing students won’t glimpse his obesity.

Charlie spends almost every moment of the day in his Idaho apartment, resisting face-to-face contact with anyone except his caring nurse Liz (Hong Chau, Oscar-worthy herself). Liz and Charlie share a connection to the traumatic event that sent Charlie down the path of eating himself to death, and Liz’s frustrated admonishments about Charlie’s habits seem to have little effect.

What does stir Charlie from his destructive routine are two surprise visits. One is from Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a missionary from New Life Ministries. The other is from Ellie (Sadie Sink from Stranger Things and Fear Street), Charlie’s angry, spiteful and estranged teenage daughter.

Screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter adapts his own play, and while Aronofsky offsets the chamber piece roots with sufficient cinematic vision, not all of Hunter’s themes make an equally successful transition.

The Moby Dick metaphor is frequent and obvious, but woven as it is through the lens of a composition teacher, settles in as an organic and relatable device. Similarly, Hunter’s points about the often judgmental and unforgiving nature of religious groups aren’t exactly profound, but their character-driven delivery is welcome.

But the heavily dramatic relationship between Charlie and Ellie – and later, Ellie’s mother (Samantha Morton) – suffers from the stage-to-screen edit. Emotions often escalate from two to ten in an instant, straining authenticity and pushing the manipulative wave that threatens to consume the film.

It doesn’t help that Aronofsky’s camera flirts with fetishizing Charlie’s shame, though Fraser’s tenderness is always the film’s saving grace. His every expression is etched with a soul-deep pain that’s finally being pierced by a last hope for redemption. Far from the maudlin exercise this character could have been, Fraser’s is an endlessly compassionate performance that will not let you give up on Charlie, or the film.

And you may very well see the resolution coming by the second act, but regardless, don’t forget to have the tissues handy for the third. Every time The Whale needs saving, fear not, Fraser will keep it afloat.

An Odd Couple in an Even Odder World

Joy Ride

by Christie Robb

A cozy story of mutual self-discovery, director Emer Reynolds and writer Ailbhe Keogan’s Joyride delivers a series of poignant moments but unfortunately not enough of them to result in a believable conclusion.

The excellent Olivia Colman plays Joy, a solicitor that has recently given birth to a late-in-life baby that she wishes to give away to a childhood friend. The delightful Charlie Reid plays Mully, a teenager who has recently lost his mom to cancer and is left with a scumbag dad who wants him to steal money from a hospice fundraiser to clear his debts. Their lives intersect when the two try to use the same stolen taxi.

The transitional nature of a road trip during a transitional period in both of their lives provides the opportunity for each of the two to learn things they never knew about themselves and to grow and mature as individuals. They are doing this while rolling through the Irish countryside, which is quite a pleasurable backdrop.  

The two leads are very talented and their banter is written naturally enough to be believable. However, the plot at times veers into the ridiculous, ignoring so much of the way the actual world works as to leave you wondering if you accidentally got the genre wrong and you are watching a fantasy.

It’s a world in which you can evade the police by simply turning into the first driveway on the side of the road and 13 year-old-boys can function as effective lactation consultants.

But, if you are looking for a movie to attempt to give you heart-expanding holiday feelings without the Hallmark tinsel explosion, Joyride might be the movie for you.

Rad Chad’s Metaverse

Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge

by Hope Madden

Three years ago, Aaron B. Koontz delighted die-hard horror fans with the squishy, oozy, gory mash note to the video store, Scare Package. It was an anthology of horror shorts, and those only tend to work if they have a compelling frame. In this case, each short represented a film on the shelf at Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium.

For the sequel, Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge, survivors from Part I regroup for Rad Chad’s funeral. But they find themselves trapped by a sinister mastermind with deadly games they must play if they hope to make it out alive.

Why do they watch the short films? That’s less clear this go-round, but the shorts they do watch are all pretty solid.

Both Alexandra Barreto’s Welcome to the Nineties and Anthony Cousins’s The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back – like Koontz’s framing story – rely on your knowledge of horror tropes to generate laughs. Barreto’s film has some of the sharpest insights via dialog as it celebrates the changing of the “final girl” guard once the grunge-and-garage era took hold.

Rachele Wiggins’s We’re So Dead is a fun Aussie adventure, part Stand by Me part Re-Animator, with a wry delivery. Like all the other shorts in the program, We’re So Dead offers metacommentary without surrendering its standalone charm.

For Special Edition, director Jed Shepherd sets a handful of friends in a lighthouse for the night with a one-of-a-kind video. But what is the film, exactly? As one woman obsessively rewinds, fast forwards and pauses, her friends are the ones making the big discoveries.

Nods to Aliens, Black Christmas, Halloween, Friday the 13th Part 5, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3, Hellraiser, Saw and more flavor the product and mark its makers as bona fide fans. You may have to be a fan of Scare Package to appreciate Koontz’s framing story because it picks up not long after the first left off, without explanation. Being in on the joke, as always, makes the gag more satisfying. But that’s the basic premise of every story told in this collection.