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Well, we’re looking for the impossible shot.

Nope (2022) (SPOILERS) Jordan Peele’s movies may ultimately fail to deliver, but he’s nevertheless a persuasively proficient, talented moviemaker, an expert in scene setting and pacing, mood and atmosphere. He also tends to mine intriguing territory conceptually. Indeed, his last movie Us was ALL ideas, replete not so much with soft disclosure as a resounding dump of the hard stuff that went largely unnoticed. Probably because – going back to the ultimately-failing-to-deliver part – as a whole, effective movie, it just wasn’t much cop. Nope is more successful in that regard, but still only really half successful. Once Peele reveals the contents of his box of tricks, all he has left is that proficient filmmaking technique, and it isn’t really enough.
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The future is coming, and you're not it.

Top Gun: Maverick  (2022) (SPOILERS) I’m a long way from the effusive responses of – seemingly – the preponderance of Top Gun: Maverick ’s audience. Nevertheless, it’s undoubtedly possible, as some have attested, to appreciate this sequel while in no way having any partiality toward the original. Indeed, in some respects, Maverick even manages to cast a certain lustre on that movie’s iconographic elements (the soundtrack, the visual acumen), even as it also rehearses its essential emptiness of character and emotion in tandem with its rousing militarism. That’s principally because Joseph Kosinski’s movie is a technical marvel, and every time it takes to the air, it throws everything else about the picture (those characters, emotions, and the rousing militarism) into sharp relief.

We're coming for you, tiny man!

Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022) (SPOILERS) I’m far from immune to the appeal of the Minions, although I’m much less persuaded by the parent series that spawned them. This second prequel manages to throw in a more-than-healthy slice of Gru, and has him in the title, which rang a mild alarm bell. However, perhaps because this is a pre-reformed supervillain, albeit a pre-reformed supervillain who’s also pre-supervillain – so when it comes down to it, we never really see him all that villainous, ever – I found the overall brew much more appealing, conjuring something of an Austin Powers vibe with its ’70s setting via The Incredibles , with its teams of villains and their high-tech gadgetry. Plus, of course, little yellow creatures fond of exposing their arse cracks (well, either them or the Illumination staff).

At least I have the Spider to keep me company?

Watcher (2022) (SPOILERS) Maybe I’m just weary of this kind of movie, however proficiently put together and performed. That would be my explanation for a very mild acknowledgement of Watcher ’s merits. It generally seems to have garnered plaudits as a smart, intelligent entry in the horror genre. Chloe Okuno’s feature debut is well done for what it is, but immerses itself so heavily in genre tropes that it struggles to emerge with its own distinct identity.

I’m smarter than a beaver.

Prey (2022) (SPOILERS) If nothing else, I have to respect Dan Trachtenberg’s cynical pragmatism. How do I not only get a project off the ground, but fast-tracked as well? I know, a woke Predator movie! Woke Disney won’t be able to resist! And so, it comes to pass. Luckily for Prey , it gets to bypass cinemas and so the same sorry fate of Lightyear . Less fortunately, it’s a patience-testing snook cocking at historicity (or at least, assumed historicity), in which a young, pint-sized Comanche girl who wishes to hunt and fish – and doubtless shoot to boot – with the big boys gets to take on a Predator and make mincemeat of him. Well, of course , she does. She’s a girl, innit?

Well, he’s not your standard-issue feline.

Lightyear (2022) (SPOILERS) Lightyear ’s disastrous box-office showing might seem like a miscalculation, based on the pointed finger of the going broke for woke lesbian relationship and kiss disincentivising a section of parents from taking kids to a family movie. That, and a frankly confused status for the hero; this is the movie the toy was based on (so a 1990s animated kids movie featuring a mixed-race lesbian couple; almost as unlikely as “sex” in the clouds in The Lion King and the Centaur with a penis head in Hercules ). But the truth is surely that the Buzz’s failure was intentional. How else to explain the decision to reveal Buzz as the seething embodiment of the despicable toxic white male? Lightyear represents express and wilful destruction of a kids’ hero (be it toy or his animated movie “antecedent”), and there isn’t even a nominally successful attempt to replace him with a stamped-and-approved, gender-swapped version. Unlike the similarly baleful Star Wars and the MCU.

I learned everything about people from Thomas. Everything.

Bullet Train (2022) (SPOILERS) A big summer movie that isn’t a sequel, superhero or superhero sequel animation would, you’d have thought, be welcomed by critics wont to complain about all three. But it seems Bullet Train has fallen foul of being too wanton and unapologetic in its cheerful ultraviolence. Meaning, it’s the kind of picture that gets dismissed as soullessly derivative, when it’s actually a pretty good variant on wanton, unapologetic, ultraviolent Tarantino/Ritchie/Vaughn originals. Sure, it’s a strictly functional affair, but its expertly put together by David Leitch, peppered with engaging performances, characters, twists and quirks, and only about twenty or so minutes too long.

Kiss me, my dear, and I will reveal my croissant.

The Mask (1994) (SPOILERS) The movie that confirmed Jim Carrey as a megastar. There’s probably a groundswell of opinion that The Mask hasn’t aged well, owing to a combination of special effects and Jim fatigue. Coming back to it, however, confirms it as a frequently very funny picture, one that might even go down better now, shorn of all the surrounding hype. It’s Carrey’s Nutty Professor , essentially: a meek and mild nobody transformed into an uber-confident smart mouth. The only caveat being that, unlike Jerry Lewis, Carrey isn’t quite downtrodden enough as bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss; there’s already clearly a quipster in there.

That’s all we need. A robot who’s into equal rights!

Short Circuit 2 (1988) (SPOILERS) Evidently, the inspiration for Babe: Pig in the City . And, in turn, as Time Out put it “ a chromium Crocodile Dundee ”, as our anthropomorphic hero is led astray in the Big Smoke. Johnny 5’s the original Chappie, and on balance, far preferable. Short Circuit may not have been able to boast an actual Indian benefactor/human sidekick, but it at least avoided the blight that is Die Antworte. This sequel was divested of stars Steve Guttenberg and Allie Sheedy (the latter has a voiceover), and director John Badham also opted out, so it’s unsurprising the box office halved. Short Circuit 2 is by no means terrible – Johnny 5 is nothing if not personable, in an irrepressible, ADHD, Roger Rabbit kind of way – but it’s unmistakeably a big-screen TV movie.

Extra ten million to the first guy to put a bullet in this Ken doll’s brain.

The Gray Man (2022) (SPOILERS) Somehow, all those MCU movies, with the immaculate pre-vis work, had a great many convinced – studio execs included, doubtless – that the Russo Brothers were auteurs of the first order. And somehow, the wretchedness of Cherry did nothing to dent their reputation in any serious way (perhaps because it was tucked away on Apple). The Gray Man , a $200m Netflix monster, may be less forgiving, however, since it ought to confirm to a great many that the siblngs’ action chops are about as convincing as Anthony’s rug.

Piece by piece, the camel enters the couscous.

The Forgiven (2021) (SPOILERS) By this point, the differences between filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and his younger brother, filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, are fairly clearly established. Both wear badges of irreverence and provocation in their writing, and a willingness to tackle – or take pot-shots – at bigger issues, ones that may find them dangling their toes in hot water. But Martin receives the lion’s share of the critical attention, while John is generally recognised as the slightly lesser light. Sure, some might mistake Seven Psychopaths for a John movie, and Calvary for a Martin one, but there’s a more flagrant sense of attention seeking in John’s work, and concomitantly less substance. The Forgiven is clearly aiming more in the expressly substantial vein of John’s earlier Calvary, but it ultimately bears the same kind of issues in delivery.