I will continue to say this over and over until it sticks: there are plenty of movies to see, you just have to be willing to watch them. Over the holiday weekend, I took it upon myself to catch up on a number of films that had been on my radar. I may have bitten off more than I could chew, because there are just simply too many movies and not enough time to give them all the proper review I would like to. Hell, there are films on this long list that are in contention for being some of my favorite films of the year. There are that many movies to watch, and all of them are at your fingertips. I know not everyone can go to the movies as much as myself, so here are 10 films you can watch at home right now that I highly recommend, and my quick review of each of them.
Let’s watch some movies!
Causeway – Apple TV+
This one has been on my list since it premiered at TIFF, and I simply haven’t gotten around to it as timely as I would’ve liked. I’m glad I finally caught up to it, because “Causeway” is a quiet but powerful character piece that says a lot without having to do much to get it all out. It is a subtle piece of filmmaking, with Lila Neugebauer (making her feature film debut) patiently executing the story at hand and letting her characters breath with a sense of realism and purpose. Jennifer Lawrence returns to the big screen in brilliant fashion, reminding everyone why she is one of the best performers out there. This is easily her most subdued character yet, a deeply introspect character struggling with PTSD, identity and connection. She is complimented by another terrific performance from Brian Tyree Henry, who continues to rack up stand out performance after stand out performance. I’m convinced that no one has really be able to tap into Henry’s full potential, but Neugebauer’s “Causeway” is about as close as anyone has gotten.
The pairing of Lawrence and Henry works a treat, and delivers my personal favorite performance from the pair so far. Any other year and these two would be all over the award nominations. Sadly, the races are a little too stacked for a little film like “Causeway,” and it will more than likely be overlooked by both audiences and critics alike. I wouldn’t skip this one, though. It is a taut, impactful drama that sports solid direction and strong performances, and sheds any glamor or gloss for a down to earth, relatable story of mental health, trauma, and the importance of connection on the road to recovery. Thankfully, “Causeway” tops out a crisp 92 minutes, so it doesn’t waste time with being overstuffed and gets to its themes and character journeys quickly. In a world where everything is needlessly 2 and half hours long, “Causeway” being short and sweet is a breath of fresh air.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
The Wonder – Netflix
Speaking of tight, brisk dramas, “The Wonder” is another solid entry that trims all the fat off its premise and gets to the meat and potatoes quickly. A period piece that takes places after the famine in Ireland in the 19th century, “The Wonder” follows a nurse who’s charged with observing a girl who the small religious village believes to be a miracle blessed by God. The young girl has not eaten in 3 months, and shows no signs of a girl malnourished. What transpires is a mystery of truth vs conviction, and the consequences of religious devotion as well as bringing the truth (whatever it may be) to light. Director Sebastián Lelio helps create a chilling atmosphere amidst the rolling green hills of the Irish countryside, not unlike “Banshees of Inisherin” and feels just as immersive. “The Wonder” is a quiet and introspective, but well crafted and unique in its delivery.
Florence Pugh once again proves that she can do no wrong whatsoever, and there’s no project she can’t shoulder and elevate. She thankfully doesn’t have to carry things as much as she did in “Don’t Worry Darling,” but she’s still giving everything she’s got in “The Wonder,” and she does it so effortlessly you don’t even realize how goddamn good she is. She’s the bright light in this bleak drama, and even though narratively I’m not completely sold on where everything leads and where everyone ends up, Pugh is just unstoppable once again. She is quickly becoming a can’t miss performer, and while I can’t say that “The Wonder” is a perfect film, Pugh is worth firing it and giving it a shot. There’s a lot of craft packed into a relatively small film, and though it falters in some of its final moments, “The Wonder” has enough going for it to be an enjoyable movie watching experience.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
You Won’t Be Alone – VOD
A missed Sundance Festival Film, “You Won’t Be Alone” is a truly unique film, packed with unforgettable imagery and cinematography that will have you thinking about it long after it concludes. I don’t know that I can say it’s for everyone, and takes a certain frame of mind and mood to really dig into and connect with all “You Won’t Be Alone” is trying to convey. But if you’re in the right headspace, the film unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Narrated by our titular character who doesn’t actually speak in the film itself, “You Won’t Be Alone” reframes the examination of witches, humanity, love and loss. It tells the story of a mute peasant girl living in Macedonia in the 19th century. She is isolated in a cave by her mother trying to keep her from ancient spirit, who comes to free her and curses the girl as a shapeshifting witch. She is abandoned by her witch-mama and left to experience humanity through numerous different lives and perspectives.
“You Won’t Be Alone” is yet another film that refuses to use glitz and glamor to tell their rather deeply human story. Magic and witches and supernatural forces are treated as plainly as the village the witch girl inhabits, and it pushes her constantly changing understanding as she embodies new lives front and center in lieu of extreme violence or CGI shapeshifting. “You Won’t Be Alone” is a strange film, one that truly requires as much introspection and thoughtfulness as the titular character. I’m actually still processing it even after being a few days removed from it, and I may actually revisit it as I think there’s more to mine from its themes once you have a handle on what “You Won’t Be Alone” is trying to accomplish. This one won’t be for everyone, but for who it is for, just know…well…you won’t be alone!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Happening – AMC+
I was genuinely not prepared for how incredible “Happening” was going to end up being. Winner of the 2022 Best International Feature Gotham Award, this french film is simply riveting and necessary. It tells the story of a young student 1960s France who becomes pregnant at the worst possible time in her young life. Abortion is illegal in France at this time, and the story begins to capture a woman desperate for options in a world that makes all of her decisions for her. It is deeply frustrating that “Happening” is as relevant and timely today as it was 60 years ago when the film takes place, demonstrating how far back women’s right have been set by horrific decisions by the powers that be. You should not be able to watch “Happening” and feel like it could happen this year, but alas, you can and it is all the more reason that this film is frustrating in the ways that evoke revolution inside of you and is a must watch.
Laurent Tangy cinematography is brilliant here, with her and director Audrey Diwan choosing to never have a frame wider than a medium shot for “Happening’s” entire run time. It creates a claustrophobic and suffocating experience, instantly engaging the audience to feel the noose around the titular characters’ neck as she desperately tries to figure it all out on her own. It beautifully captures the immense physically and emotional toll abortion takes on women when they don’t have a choice of what to do with their own body, and Anamaria Vartolomei gives a transcendent performance. This is as good as films get even if the content of “Happening” is hard to watch. It’s not an easy film to stomach, and its patience and unflinching portrayal of its touchy subject may turn some viewers off. But “Happening” has instantly become one of my favorite films of the year, and though it may be hard it is beyond necessary.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Athena – Netflix
Let’s stay with the French, oui? Another international offering, “Athena” is a gripping action thriller with something very meaningful to say. This is one helluva thrill ride, and implements tracking one take shots in genuinely unique ways. “Athena” utilizes these creative camera techniques to immerse viewers in the chaos that erupts almost immediately and never, ever slows down. Even when we step away from the violent revolt and spend some time with our characters, we are never given any room to breath. “Athena” tells the story of a young boy who’s murder is captured on film. The residents believe it to have been the result of police brutality, and the youngest brother leads a riotous revolution against them police until his brother’s killers are brought to justice. His other two surviving brothers are all trying to reckon with the death of their youngest sibling while also trying to quell and/or understand the drastic actions their youngest brother has taken.
What unfolds is a violent explosion of frustration and social commentary, with “Athena” packing a wallop of a punch both visually and thematically. It leaves you changed, and sports some powerful, chaotic visuals that tells an incredibly poignant and once again, timely story about the cycle of violence. The ambiguity of “Athena’s” conclusion doesn’t quite land as hard as the rest of the film, but the rest of the film is so exhilarating it makes up for any misgivings you may have when it ends. “Athena” is action done right, blending thrills with deeply moving social commentary with neither overshadowing the other. It is balanced, thrilling, and thought provoking. Seek this one out and add it to your watch list.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Emily the Criminal – VOD
Another Sundance Festival miss, “Emily the Criminal” is an Aubrey Plaza showcase, and adds a new facet to her game in this short and sweep crime thriller. Plaza tapers back her charming eye rolling, always on the defense but still somehow inviting cynicism for a more dramatic turn, and it works better than you’d expect. Saddled with debt and struggling to find a job that can even come close to providing a living wage, Emily stumbles upon a credit card fraud ring that pays extremely well for a lot of risk. After a dangerous encounter for a bigger job, she is taken under the wing of her criminal employer, who guides her in the ways of fraud and expands her knowledge of the criminal underworld. Of course, there’s no reward in crime without extreme risk, and Emily may soon find herself in too deep. “Emily the Criminal” isn’t necessarily novel in its narrative, and plays other rather predictably but still manages to be intriguing thanks to its relatively fast pace and solid performances.
Theo Rossi as Youcef and Emily’s (erm, partner in crime?) criminal teacher is terrific, delivering one of the better performances of his career. His chemistry with Plaza is undeniable, and they are both really strong working together in “Emily the Criminal.” Both give nuanced and layered performances and elevate the rather basic material. It does require a little too much suspension of disbelief at times the further down the rabbit hole things get, and I don’t know that the film’s overall conclusion sends the right message. But “Emily the Criminal” is still a lot of fun, and sports some strong performances from its leads and a hope that Plaza takes on more dramatic roles in the future to expand her charisma.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Good Night Oppy – Amazon Prime
2022 has been the year of Documentaries, with some of my favorite films of the year coming from the genre. “Good Night Oppy” is a critical darling about the Mars rovers and their long journey on the red planet. It focuses on the creation of the mission and everything that went in to creating and executing in impossible mission of space exploration. It was supposed to be a 90 day mission, but the rover Opportunity defied all expectations and lasted for 15 years. “Good Night Oppy” follows that long and exciting journey, narrated by Angela Bassett and blend emotion and science beautifully. Not since “Short Circuit” has a robot been so endearing and, well, human. You really start to understand how the people who dedicated their careers to make this dream come true begin to anthropomorphize the robots, and the personal connection and bond they share with Opportunity light years away.
It does become a bit too cute and sentimental for its own good, with “Good Night Oppy” sometimes forgoing its far more intriguing look at space exploration for trying to drum up a deep emotional connection to the robots. It feels a little manipulative at times, but is still a fascinating documentary worth checking out. It’s a feel good story through and through, and even with some reservations, “Good Night Oppy” still drums some nice warm and fuzzies and will have you rooting for a robot just like its creators.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Crimes of the Future – Hulu
Welcome back to body horror, Mr. David Cronenberg. His latest offering “Crimes of the Future” has been on my list for a while, largely because I dig a good body horror flick and I need to see the hype train for myself. When the film premiered at Cannes, people walked out and passed out from its grotesque body manipulation. So of course, I took that as a challenge. “Crimes of the Future” certainly sports some gross out effects of bodies being ripped a part for pleasure and performance art, but anyone passing out from it needs a stronger stomach. I’ve seen way worse, and actually feel like even for Cronenberg, it’s rather tame. It tells the story of the near future where humanity has increased pain thresholds and perform surgeries and body manipulations for show. As the film says, “Surgery is the new sex.” However, as biological changes begin to take shape both through mutation and synthetic manipulation, a new way of life and a new breed of human may threaten everything the future has become.
“Crimes of the Future” is well put together, and sports some pretty solid world building and performances. Kristen Stewart as Timlin is a stand out, playing a mousy bureaucratic creeper who gets off on the all the weirdness and surgery. It’s the best, and she chews through scenery even though she’s a side character a part of an even smaller sub plot. Though Cronenberg creates a disturbing dystopian future, the narrative crumbles a bit under its own ambition and doesn’t quite bring everything together as efficiently as it should. There’s some plot threads that get lost in the shuffle and don’t have a pay off, and the film’s overall message doesn’t land with the same gusto that warrants the stunning body horror visuals. If you’ve got a weak stomach, I’d say to stay away from “Crimes of the Future,” though I would argue its visuals have been wildly exaggerated.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
So there you have it! 8 Films you can watch right now without leaving your couch, or bed, or precious movie watching snacks!