With the first Friday in March we not only got a loaded week of new releases, we got our first blockbuster of the new year. I watched them all and have some thoughts on what’s been the best weekend of films so far in 2022. One of those release was After Yang, which I previously reviewed from Sundance. You can find my take on it here. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Against the Ice (Netflix)
Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Joe Cole
Synopsis: In 1909 Ejnar Mikkelsen and Iver Iversen set out to find proof of Denmark’s claim to Greenland. In the process, their party must leave them behind, and the two men must fight for years to survive in a hostile climate, holding on to the proof that will make their expedition a success. Coster-Waldau takes the lead as Mikkelsen and does a nice job, while Cole is his equal as Iversen. This is a somewhat interesting story but the film feels overly dry as it chronicles their time stuck in isolation, then a bit rushed by the time they return. It’s an interesting idea and something different, but the final execution ends up being just OK.
The Batman (Theaters)
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, and John Turturro
Synopsis: Every few years we revisit these superhero franchises. There have been three iterations of Spider-Man in live action form alone the past 20 years. Pattinson now becomes the third actor to play Batman in a new franchise take since 2005. This one, directed by Matt Reeves, presents a different take on Batman, Gotham and the criminal element he faces. The film’s run time—nearly three hours—and tone were a big part of the discussion pre-release. But what should be the discussion after seeing the film is the unique style used to craft this take on the world. This new vision is dark, both in terms of the way it’s shot and the tone. In this version, The Riddler (Dano) is a serial killer, and Batman (Pattinson) and Lt. Jim Gordon (Wright) are trying to hunt him down and battle the mob, led by Carmine Falcone (Turturro) and The Penguin (Farrell). But it’s the corruption at the city’s core that have drawn the Riddler to action and pose the biggest challenge to the long-term health of the city. Batman is in his second year of work and questioning what good he’s doing and his overall mission. He’s not yet comfortable creating the fake Bruce Wayne guise and mostly sticks to the shadows. He is vengeance, but is that what Gotham needs? The film is as much an exploration of Batman and his mission as it is about thwarting The Riddler. The film echoed a style of two others for me—Watchmen and Seven. If you’ve seen those films, you would realize this is different from your typical superhero fare, even as dark as the D.C. Universe has been in recent years. The film is blessed by a haunting score and some great performances—particularly from Dano. I was among those who was skeptical of the casting of Pattinson, but he does a nice job in this role. I also enjoyed Wright as Gordon, and the way the two played off each other. This is a highly anticipated blockbuster that delivers. While some will likely hail it as the best Batman film, it doesn’t reach those heights for me. But it defied my expectations, creating a gritty world. It does run long in spots, and I wish the film had gone head-long into an R-rating, which would have been a better fit for the narrative. It’s not perfect, but it’s an entertaining and engaging take on one of the most iconic comic book heroes.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material.
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan
Synopsis: This film was one of the more popular ones that screened at Sundance, now making its wide debut on Hulu. It’s not what you’re expecting, I guarantee it. Noa (Edgar-Jones) is struggling with dating apps. When she meets Steve (Stan) at a grocery store, it seems like fate. After a few successful dates, they decide to get away together. Things don’t go as expected. The title for the film both makes incredible sense to the plot when it’s revealed (I won’t say more here) and to the way director Mimi Cave brings the script from Lauryn Kahn to life. The film features a couple spectacular performances as well, which helps elevate the material. The story itself is deeply unsettling but takes a few turns that are fun and unexpected. I didn’t love how the third act played out, especially with the creativity of what came before, but overall, this is a different and engaging film, one that will definitely surprise you. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth checking out.
Rating: Rated R for strong and disturbing violent content, some bloody images, language throughout, some sexual content and brief graphic nudity.
Lucy and Desi (Amazon Prime)
Synopsis: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were talented performers who had a vision for a media empire that changed television forever. Their talent on screen was palpable. But the struggles away from the camera were also serious. Amy Poehler’s documentary, which screened at Sundance and now goes live on Amazon Prime, explores their story. It includes real life audio from the stars themselves as well as interviews from collaborators, friends and even their children. It chronicles their lives from birth to their meeting and marriage, their creative partnership, divorce and the later years of their lives. It’s a beautiful and engrossing look at the stars and their life and career. It’s the kind of engaging and loving tribute some had hoped Aaron Sorkin’s scripted film, Being the Ricardos, would offer. I loved this intimate portrait and was moved by the story. Poehler creates something beautiful and powerful. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year so far, and a documentary I encourage everyone to check out. It will give you a new appreciation for the couple’s talent and contributions to the world of entertainment.
Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements, smoking and language.
The Weekend Away (Netflix)
Starring: Leighton Meester, Christina Wolfe, Luke Norris, Ann Mihalic, and Ziad Bakri
Synopsis: The latest from Netflix is a thriller, of sorts. A new mom (Meester) is invited for a girls weekend away by her best friend (Wolfe). They head to Croatia and soon things go off the rails. The friend ends up missing, then turns up dead, leaving Beth (Meester) as a suspect who has to clear her name and discover the truth of what happened. I guess this is an interesting idea but I did wonder who goes to Croatia for vacation. Sadly, that question isn’t answered. The rest of the film is mostly a by-the-number exploration of the genre. I’ve enjoyed Meester as a performer before but I wasn’t taken with this performance or role. Overall, the film is a bit thin that feels long even at an 89-minute run time.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.