22 things we loved in 2022
CHICAGO - While 2022 has been a rocky one for the world in general — a trait it shares with 2021, 2020, and plenty of other years besides — it’s been a great one for lovers of pop culture. In that respect, 2022 delivered, offering everything from Lizzo’s winning debut as a reality show mogul ("Lizzo’s Watch Out For the Big Grrls") to the unexpectedly gripping travails of the staff of a Chicago sandwich joint. (Did we love "The Bear"? Yes, chef!) We fell in love with the staff and students of "Abbott Elementary," danced around "Harry’s House," bid farewell to TV greats like "Better Things" and "Better Call Saul" and felt the loss of a generational talent all over again with Marvel’s elegiac "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," to name just a few of the things we loved this year that aren’t in the list you’re about to read.
It’s impossible to cull this year’s treasures to a mere 22, is what we’re saying. But we’ve got to cut the list off somewhere. So here are 22 of the many things we loved in 2022, in no particular order. And because many of our faves from this year broke some rules and traditions, we’ll do the same and start things off with an honorable mention.
Honorable mention: the Marshawn Lynch episode of "Murderville" (Netflix)
Murderville. (L to R) Lilan Bowden as Amber Kang, Will Arnett as Terry Seattle, Marshawn Lynch as Guest 105 in episode 105 of Murderville. Cr. Darren Michaels/Netflix © 2022
"Murderville" is one of those shows that’s better in theory than in practice. The conceit — Will Arnett plays a down-on-his-luck cop saddled with a new celebrity "partner" every week, only everyone other than the celeb has a script — is too dependent on the guest to be a sure thing. There’s exactly one fix to that problem: Every week, the guest should be Marshawn Lynch. The football star doesn’t have the comedic bona fides of some of the other stars who moonlight as detectives in "Murderville," but he’s easily the best of the bunch, approaching the task before him with a perfectly pitched blend of playfulness and commitment.
Read more about critic Allison Shoemaker’s favorite TV shows from the first half of 2022.
Half-hour improvised comedy detective series. Featuring: Will Arnett, Haneefah Wood, Lilan Bowden, Phillip Smithey, Marshawn Lynch.
1. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (now available to buy or rent)
Screenshot: Marcel The Shell With Shoes On trailer
Back in 2010, a humble little shell named Marcel took the internet by storm in a three-minute YouTube stop-motion shortcalled "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On." Two more shorts and several children’s books eventually followed, and this year, after an eight-year hiatus, the tiny sneaker-wearing shell returned with his first full-length adventure. While this coming-of-age mockumentary from A24 is very much a funny, family-friendly good time, it’s also a surprisingly poignant story about friendship, family, and finding your place in the world. Expect laughter and tears in equal measure.
Read film critic Caroline Siede’s full review of "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On."
Rated PG. 90 minutes. Dir: Dean Fleischer Camp. Featuring: Jenny Slate, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, Isabella Rossellini.
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas! — get the app
2. Andor (Disney+)
Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in Lucasfilm's ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
For a decades-spanning franchise about the burdens of living under fascism, "Star Wars" has never spent much time exploring what it’s like to actually live under fascism. In the most literal way possible, the Empire and the First Order provide a very theme park take on villainy — the better to befit the classic "Star Wars" hero’s journey storytelling. That all changed with "Andor." Darker, grounded, more complex and more character-driven than your average "Star Wars" property, "Andor" is a decidedly new take on that classic galaxy far, far away. It’s not just one of the best "Star Wars" stories. It’s also one of the best TV shows of the year.
Standout performance: This is a cast of heavy hitters, but we have to salute Andy Serkis, whose three-episode run willearn him an Emmy nod next year. We’re manifesting that.
Read critic Caroline Siede’s full review of "Andor."
12-episode sci-fi action series. Featuring: Diego Luna, Genevieve O'Reilly, Stellan Skarsgård, Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona,Denise Gough, Fiona Shaw, Forest Whitaker, Anton Lesser, Kathryn Hunter, Robert Emms, David Hayman, Alex Ferns,Clemens Schick, Ebon Moss-Bachrach.
More genre TV we loved in 2022: "Ms. Marvel," "House of the Dragon," "Peacemaker," "The Lord of the Rings: the Rings of Power," "Stranger Things," "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," "Bridgerton"
3. Everything Everywhere All At Once (now streaming via Showtime)
Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in "Everything Everywhere All At Once." Photo: SXSW
What can you expect from "Everything Everywhere All At Once?" Well, the title says it all, really. Michelle Yeoh stars as an everyday woman who suddenly discovers access to a multiverse of worlds where other versions of herself exist as chefs, movie stars, martial arts masters and people with hot-dog fingers. In her review of "Everything Everywhere All At Once," FOX Digital film critic Caroline Siede calls it "a transcendently singular film that remixes familiar genre tropes into something that feels wholly new and quietly revolutionary."
Standout performances: Take your pick. Yeoh is a near-lock for an Oscar nomination, if not a win. Her excellence is matched by that of costars Ke Huy Quan (the beating heart of the film), Stephanie Hsu (visceral and vulnerable) and iconic scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis, whose deranged performance — we mean that as the highest praise — combines the unadulterated charisma of a movie star with the chaotic energy of high school theater kid who’s just happy to be involved.
Read FOX Digital film critic Caroline Siede’s full review of "Everything Everywhere All At Once"
Read FOX Digital’s interview with "Everything Everywhere All At Once" directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Rated R. 140 minutes. Dir: Daniels. Featuring: Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong.
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: Michelle Yeoh in "The Lady"
4. Broadway is back!
(l-r) Abby Mueller (Jane Seymour), Samantha Pauly (Katherine Howard), Adrianna Hicks (Catherine of Aragon), Andrea Macasaet (Anne Boleyn), Brittney Mack (Anna of Cleves), & Anna Uzele (Catherine Parr)
After the tumult of the pandemic hit live theater particularly hard, Broadway was finally back in full swing in 2022! Just ask triple-threat Ariana DeBose, who crushed her role as host at the 75th annual Tony Awards in June. There the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "A Strange Loop" took home the statue for Best Musical, proving there’s space for an original, innovative "big, Black, and queer-a-- American Broadway show" among the jukebox musicals and star-studded revivals that so often dominate the Great White Way.
On a recent trip to New York, FOX Digital film critic Caroline Siede was blown away by the lead performance of "A Strange Loop" star Jaquel Spivey, whose gorgeously sensitive work anchors this funny, challenging show. Other highlights of Broadway’s current slate include the 2019 Best Musical winner "Hadestown," which retells the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice through the indie folk sound of creator Anaïs Mitchell and some of the most impressive stagecraft of the decade. Also not to be missed is "Six," in which King Henry VIII’s infamous six wives reclaim their stories via an 80-minute pop concert that evokes the styles of Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Adele. Infectiously energetic and sneakily smart, "Six" is some of the most fun you can have in a Broadway theater — or a local one. Productions of both "Six" and "Hadestown" are currently on tour across the country.
And, hey, if you’re looking for a star-studded Broadway revival, it’s hard to beat the excitement of watching Hugh Jackman have the time of his life as Harold Hill in "The Music Man." Talk about the greatest showman.
5. Fire of Love (now streaming on Disney+)
A still from Fire of Love by Sara Dosa, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
A documentary unlike any you’ve seen before, "Fire of Love" tells the story of Katia and Maurice Krafft, two French volcanologists who fell in love at university and spent the next two decades capturing stunning footage of volcanic eruptions. As film critic Allison Shoemaker wrote in her glowing review from the Sundance Film Festival, "Pick just one of the major elements of this remarkable film — the Kraffts’ mind-boggling footage, Miranda July’s appealingly curious narration, direction that’s equal parts playful and mournful, masterful editing, a real humdinger of a love triangle — and that one element would be enough to make "Fire of Love" well worth approximately 100 or so minutes of your time. (93 minutes to watch, plus at least 10 to recover.) But director Sara Dosa allows all those fascinating pieces to roil together before, yes, erupting into a singular experience."
Read the rest of film critic Allison Shoemaker’s full review of "Fire of Love."
Rated PG. 93 minutes. Documentary. Dir: Sara Dosa. Featuing: Miranda July.
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: Sara Dosa’s 2019 documentary "The Seer & the Unseen" — get the app
More documentaries we loved in 2022: "The Janes," "We Met in Virtual Reality," "Last Flight Home," "My Old School," "Lucy and Desi," "Mija," "Aftershock," "The Last Movie Stars," "Prehistoric Planet"
6. Jeopardy! (syndicated)
Amy Schneider in "Jeopardy!" (Screenshot: YouTube)
It’s been a tumultuous few years for fans of America’s most iconic quiz show, but 2022 turned out to be one of the best years in the history of this TV mainstay. 2022 kicked off with juggernaut Amy Schneider continuing what would ultimately become the second-longest winning streak in Jeopardy history. She’s one of several "super champions" who made waves in the show’s 38th season, including two other super champs who cracked the show’s all-time top five (Matt Amodio, whose run ended in 2021, and Canadian wunderkind Mattea Roach, who dominated the game a few months after Schneider’s tenure ended).
That made for a terrific regular season, but not even Schneider’s extraordinary run compares to 2022’s Tournament of Champions. Preceded by the show’s inaugural "Second Chance Tournament" (for great players who narrowly lost to a super champ), the ToC saw the 38th season’s top competitors — as well as two "Second Chance" victors — square off on the Alex Trebek stage. And it was a treat from the very beginning, as competitors demonstrated wildly different styles of play, jaw-dropping knowledge, and often (as with eventual finalist Sam Buttrey) an abundance of easy charm. A first-round exhibition game gave audiences the chance to see Amodio, Roach and Schneider go buzzer-to-buzzer just for fun, while the finalists — Schneider, Buttrey and Andrew He, whose initial run ended when Schneider won her first game — served up a downright thrilling six-episode series.
The final game is still streaming for free on Jeopardy’s YouTube channel, so you can watch this nail-biter right now. And lest you think the excitement is confined to the 38th season, know that the current reigning champ, Cris Pannullo, has already cracked the top 10 in three different "Leaderboard of Legends" categories with (as of this writing) no sign of slowing down. This is no fluke. This is Jeopardy.
"Jeopardy!" is syndicated nationally; check your local listings.
7. Turning Red (Disney+)
"Turning Red." Photo: Disney+
Like "Soul" and "Luca" before it, "Turning Red" is the latest Pixar film to get a direct-to-streaming release instead of a full theatrical one. And while that may make some Pixar fans nervous that Disney isn’t throwing its full weight behind the studio anymore, parents will no doubt rejoice at the chance to mix up their home viewing rotation with something new. Set in the early 2000s, "Turning Red" tells the story of Meilin "Mei" Lee, a confident 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl who’s horrified to discover that she magically transforms into a giant red panda whenever she gets stressed or excited. Writer/director Domee Shi (the first woman with solo directing credit on a Pixar film) created a funny, sweet metaphor for puberty and growing up, thanks to what critic Caroline Siede calls a "savvy mix of universality and specificity." It’s a winner.
Standout performance: Sandra Oh’s funny, soulful voice performance is this wonderful movie’s secret sauce.
Read film critic Caroline Siede’s full review of "Turning Red."
Rated PG. 99 minutes. Dir: Domee Shi. Featuring: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Wai Ching Ho, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Hyein Park, Orion Lee.
More family-friendly entertainment we loved in 2022: "The Bad Guys," "DC League of Super-Pets," "Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers," "Bluey," "Wolfboy and the Everything Factory," "The Mysterious Benedict Society," "Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock"
8. Severance (Apple TV+)
Adam Scott in "Severance." Photo" Apple TV+
Former "Parks and Recreation" star Adam Scott gives the performance of his career in "Severance" — a good thing, as Apple TV+‘s nimble, riveting workplace thriller-dramedy is enough to make its audience think seriously about retirement, to say nothing of its cast. If he never takes another role again, we can and should hold executive producer Ben Stilleraccountable. A little of "The Office," a little "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and a tiny dash of "Lost" are all in the mix in this nightmarish yet oddly familiar scenario. Like much great science fiction, the outsize reality of this world is tailor-made to prompt the viewer to question their own. We may not all have coffeemakers branded with our employer’s logos waiting on us at home, but the questions "Severance" asks about how we sell and spend our time and how we’re shaped by the corporations that employ us are as relevant to the real world as they are to this fictional one. It’s a crackerjack premise brought to life by a uniformly excellent ensemble, and those are reasons enough to watch this corker of a series.
Standout performance: Another cast of stunners, but we want to single out Tramell Tillman, whose carefully calibrated turn as the seemingly affable corporate stooge Mr. Milchick is the stuff nightmares are made of.
Read FOX Digital film and TV critic Allison Shoemaker’s full review of "Severance."
Nine-episode Apple TV+ thriller series. Featuring: Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, Britt Lower, John Turturro, Zach Cherry, Tramell Tillman, Dichen Lachman, Jen Tullock, Christopher Walken, Michael Chernus, Yul Vazquez.
More TV dramas we loved in 2022: "Karen Pirie," "Better Call Saul," "Outlander," "Station Eleven," "The Girl from Plainville," "The Dropout," "Heartstopper," "Dark Winds"
9. Top Gun: Maverick (now available to buy or rent)
Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.
This decades-in-the-making "Top Gun" sequel dropped its first trailer in July 2019 ahead of a planned summer 2020 release. That date was obviously pushed back by the pandemic, but as other blockbusters switched to streaming releases, Tom Cruise stuck by his, well, guns, for a theatrical release. And in 2022 it was finally time to reignite the need, the need for speed. Cruise returned as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, the courageous test pilot who’s charged with training a group of new Top Gun graduates. When it turns out one of them (Miles Teller) is the son of Maverick’s late friend "Goose," the aging aviator is forced to reckon with his past and figure out how to forge a new future. Critic Caroline Siede called it "old-fashioned summer popcorn movie fun in all its high-octane glory," praising both the clarity of its thrilling action sequences and its "knowingly corny earnestness."
Read film critic Caroline Siede’s full review of "Top Gun: Maverick."
131 minutes. Rated PG-13. Dir: Joseph Kosinski. Featuring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell. "Top Gun: Maverick" begins streaming on Paramount+ on Dec. 22.
More action we loved in 2022: "Prey," "The Northman," "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent," "RRR."
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: The airplane battle of "Air Force One" — get the app
10. Fire Island (Hulu)
(From L-R): Matt Rogers, Zane Phillips, Tomas Matos, Joel Kim Booster, Torian Miller and Bowen Yang in the film FIRE ISLAND. Photo by Jeong Park. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved
The most surprising thing about Hulu’s empathetic and sharply funny film "Fire Island" is how faithful it is to Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice," tracing the contours of the beloved novel’s plot and (perhaps more importantly) brilliantly updating its ideas about class, agency, financial anxiety, difficult familial bonds, the institution of marriage and more. It’s also the funniest Austen adaptation since "Clueless," and that’s no small feat.
But Booster’s skills go far beyond just punchlines. He and Ahn pitch this story perfectly, anchoring it to the friendship between "sisters" Noah (Booster, playing the adaptation’s Elizabeth Bennet) and Howie ("SNL" standout Bowen Yang, the Jane to Booster’s Lizzy). In doing so, they make "Fire Island" the rare Austen adaptation to understand that while Jane writes a hell of a romance, her protagonists all have first loves who pre-date their swoon-worthy suitors. Be they sisters, aunts, schoolmates, neighbors or friends, the truth is the same: The Austen heroine first gives her heart to her chosen family.
Standout performance: Bowen Yang is so talented, it’s unfair to the rest of us.
Read film critic Allison Shoemaker’s full review of "Fire Island."
Rated R. 105 minutes. Dir: Andrew Ahn. Featuring: Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, Matt Rogers, Tomás Matos, Torian Miller, Nick Adams, Zane Phillips, Margaret Cho.
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: "My Big Gay Italian Wedding" — get the app
11. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (now streaming on HBO Max)
Anna Cobb in "We're All Going to the World's Fair." Photo: Utopia.
Many directors have tried to grapple with the internet’s profound effect on humanity. Few have succeeded like Jane Schoenbrun, a New York-based filmmaker whose new movie, "We’re All Going to the World’s Fair," feels the alienation of a life lived online deep within its bones. Rarely does a film convey the internal lives of its characters as viscerally as "World’s Fair." Rarer still is a filmmaker who can accomplish this task with such clean, unadorned storytelling. In this film, the space between pixels is both a warm blanket and a terrifying void.
Standout performance: Keep an eye on star Anna Cobb — this newcomer is going places.
Read film critic Katie Rife’s full review of "We’re All Going to the World’s Fair."
Unrated. 86 minutes. Dir: Jane Schoenbrun. Featuring: Anna Cobb, Michael J. Rogers.
12. Nope (now streaming on Peacock)
(from left) OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya), Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) and Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) in Nope, written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele. Photo: Universal Pictures
"Nope" is "Get Out'' writer-director Jordan Peele’s third and most self-consciously mainstream film. That doesn’t mean that Peele has sacrificed daring for accessibility, however. Although it’s not as cryptic as his sophomore feature, 2019’s "Us," this is a multi-layered movie that — for better or for worse — follows its obsessions wherever they may lead.
What it does mean is that "Nope" adds rollicking Western adventure to Peele’s genre palette, making an intriguing case both for original summer blockbusters and for Peele as a filmmaker in the process.
Standout performance: Is there anything Keke Palmer can’t do? Nope.
Read the rest of film critic Katie Rife’s review of "Nope."
Rated R. 131 minutes. Dir: Jordan Peele. Featuring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Wrenn Schmidt, Keith David.
More horror we loved in 2022: "X," "Pearl," "Bodies Bodies Bodies," "Barbarian," "Something in the Dirt," "Master," "From."
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: Steven Yeun in the Korean mystery thriller "Burning" — get the app
13. The Fablemans and Armageddon Time (both in theaters now)
Left: Courtesy of Universal. Right: Anne Joyce / Focus Features
Given that "The Fablemans" and "Armageddon Time" arrive in the wake of Alfonso Cuarón’s "Roma" (2018) and Kenneth Branagh’s "Belfast" (2021), it would be reasonable to feel just a little bit weary at the prospect of two more loosely autobiographical coming-of-age stories from celebrated directors. But if you feel that weariness, please consider setting it aside and giving the latest from James Gray and a young upstart named Steven Spielberg a look anyway. Critic Jesse Hassenger calls Spielberg’s "The Fablemans" "both playful and off-handedly stunning," adding that the director’s capacity for "elegant understatement and virtuosic peacocking" allows "The Fablemans" to feed off "the tension between the dazzling fakeness of movies and the truths they can’t help but reveal."
Read film critic Jesse Hassenger’s full review of "The Fabelmans."
Conversely, Gray’s story has little interest in razzle-dazzle. Critic Keith Phipps calls "Armageddon Time" a "thornier sort of tale, one whose central character comes into his own in part by coming to realize that he’s surrounded by injustice and prejudice — some of which touches him, but some of which he’s able to escape," praising the "vulnerable, naturalistic performances" of young stars Jaylin Webb and Michael Banks Repeta, as well as that of Anthony Hopkins, whose character "might descend into cliché if he weren’t brought to life by Hopkins, who dispenses wisdom with a twinkle but peppers his advice with an understanding of just how dark the world can be."
Read film critic Keith Phipps’ full review of "Armageddon Time."
Standout performances: Williams turns in another unsurprisingly excellent performance in "The Fablemans," while Repeta and Webb manage to outshine three of the best actors on the planet in "Armageddon Time."
"The Fablemans." Rated PG-13. 151 minutes. Dir: Steven Spielberg. Featuring: Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams,Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Julia Butters, Chloe East, Judd Hirsch. | Armageddon Time." Rated R. 115 minutes. Dir: James Gray. Featuring: Banks Repeta, Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Anthony Hopkins, Jaylin Webb, Tovah Feldshuh, Ryan Sell.
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: James Gray’s acclaimed period drama "The Immigrant" — get the app
14. RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, season 7 (Paramount+)
Thanks to some brilliant producing decisions and a never-to-be-topped cast, the seventh season of "RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars" is the best season this once-scrappy franchise has ever turned out. Seven superstars returned to go heel-to-heel in the show’s first "all winners" season: inaugural "Drag Race U.K." champ The Vivienne; U.S. regular season winners Raja (season three), Jinkx Monsoon (season five), Yvie Oddly (season 11) and Jaida Essence Hall (season 12); and "All Stars" victors Shea Couleé ("All Stars" 5), Trinity the Tuck and Monét X. Change (joint "twinners" of "All Stars" 4).
Every season of "Drag Race" showcases some exceptional drag artists, but these seven are also reality TV savants who understand one all-important truth: The real grand prize of "Drag Race" isn’t the crown; it’s the career you get when you make incredible, wildly entertaining television, on the mainstage and off.
Standout performance: Jinkx Monsoon’s performance as Judy Garland in "Snatch Game" is so good, "Drag Race" should retire that challenge entirely. No one will ever top it.
Read more about critic Allison Shoemaker’s favorite TV from the first half of 2022.
One-hour reality competition series. Featuring: RuPaul Charles, Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Ross Mathews.
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: "Jinkx Monsoon: Drag Becomes Him" — get the app
15. The Woman King (in theaters and available to buy)
Nanisca (Viola Davis) in TriStar Pictures' THE WOMAN KING.
Previously best known for excellent romantic dramas like "Love & Basketball" and "Beyond the Lights," writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood made an exciting pivot into action filmmaking with the 2020 Netflix superhero film "The Old Guard." And now she continues that trend with an excellent Viola Davis vehicle that hasn’t gotten half as much attention as it deserves. "The Woman King" tells the story of the Agojie, a unit of all-female warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey against colonizing forces in the 1800s. With an impressive ensemble led by Davis as a battle-hardened general training a new generation of recruits, "The Woman King" is a familiar yet groundbreaking historical epic.
Standout performance: Davis’ Oscar buzz is well deserved.
Read film critic Caroline Siede’s full review of "The Woman King."
Rated PG-13. 144 minutes. Dir: Gina Prince-Bythewood. Featuring: Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, John Boyega, Hero Fiennes Tiffin.
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: Gina Prince-Bythewood’s stellar romantic drama "Beyond the Lights" — get the app
16. Cha Cha Real Smooth (Apple TV+)
Cooper Raiff and Dakota Johnson in "Cha Cha Real Smooth," premiering June 17, 2022 on Apple TV+.
"Don’t be put off by the fact that "Cha Cha Real Smooth" sounds like a movie you’ve seen before," film critic Caroline Siede explains in her review of this breakout indie Sundance rom-com. "This is a tale as old as time (or at least as old as "The Graduate"), yet [writer/director/star Cooper] Raiff elevates it so gently and empathetically that the well-trod beats somehow feel fresh all over again." Raiff plays Andrew, an aimless 22-year-old college graduate who gets a job as a bar mitzvah party starter and quickly falls head-over-heels for a 30-something single mom played by Dakota Johnson. As Siede explains, "Wistfully romantic and impossibly charming, "Cha Cha Real Smooth" is a special little movie that somehow feels a warm blanket and a gut-punch all at the same time."
Standout performance: Johnson weaponizes her sharp-edged charisma to great effect.
Read film critic Caroline Siede’s full review of "Cha Cha Real Smooth."
Watch FOX Television Stations’ interview with "Cha Cha Real Smooth" writer, director and star Cooper Raiff.
Rated R. 107 minutes. Dir: Cooper Raiff. Featuring: Cooper Raiff, Dakota Johnson, Vanessa Burghardt, Leslie Mann, Evan Assante, Brad Garrett, Raúl Castillo.
17. Glass Onion: a Knives Out Mystery (in theaters now)
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY (2022) Jessica Henwick as Peg, Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc and Janelle Monáe as Andi. Cr: John Wilson/NETFLIX
Sequels can be tricky. But when we’re talking about a sequel to one of the most winning, original crowd-pleasers to hit theaters in the last decade, it’s not just the level of difficulty that’s set too high. Audience expectations can be even higher — and so is the risk of disappointment.
When it comes to the adventures of Benoit Blanc, you can put such fears aside. Writer/director Rian Johnson and star Daniel Craig return to the realm of whodunits and Foghorn Leghorn accents with "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery," the hotly-anticipated sequel to 2019’s Oscar-nominated "Knives Out," and while it’s not quite the breath of fresh air that its predecessor was, it’s still a start-to-finish delight. As irreverent, well-cast and sneakily pointed as its predecessor, "Glass Onion" confronts Craig’s Blanc with a new cast of suspects, another memorable rich-person house and most importantly, a new fiendishly clever mystery. Maybe the whodunnit is a little easier to solve than its predecessor, but that’s not the point of "Glass Onion." Like the "Columbo"-inspired series Johnson is making with Natasha Lyonne (who has a brief cameo here), Blanc’s second mystery is less a "whodunnit" than a "howcatchem," and the how is wildly entertaining. Throw in a career-best performance from Janelle Monáe and solid turns from Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista and Craig himself, and you’ve got a hell of a reason to go to the movies.
Unfortunately, you’ve already missed your chance — Netflix released "Glass Onion" to approximately 600 theaters for the week of Thanksgiving only. Those who missed the boat will have to wait until Blanc moseys onto the streamer’s platform on Friday, Dec. 23.
Standout performance: As fun as it is to hear Craig’s drawl back in full force, this movie belongs to Monáe, and we can’t say more than that without letting some spoilers fly. Suffice it to say that the charismatic pop star has to walk a tightrope, and that’s a skill she’s mastered.
Rated PG-13. 140 minutes. Dir: Rian Johnson. Featuring: Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr. Dave Bautista, Kate Hudson, Edward Norton, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Noah Segan.
18. "Nona the Ninth" (The Locked Tomb Series, book 3)
Image: Tordotcom Publishing
The books we loved in 2022 could fill another long list, and it would probably be easier to leave them off entirely. Still, we can’t pass up an opportunity to celebrate one of the stories that we were obsessed with most this year. New Zealand novelist Tamsyn Muir exploded onto the scene with her 2019 debut novel, the wildly inventive and wickedly funny "Gideon the Ninth," which nabbed one of the all-time great cover blurbs (from sci-fi master Charles Stross): "Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!" That was followed by 2020’s emotionally rich puzzle box "Harrow the Ninth," and "Harrow" was meant to be succeeded by the third book in the trilogy, "Alecto the Ninth."
"Nona the Ninth" barged in instead (a surprise for readers and Muir alike). The excellent "Nona" brings Muir’s space opera down to not-earth, leaving behind the haunted gothic palaces, space stations and graveyard-dormitory hybrids of the first two novels to explore life in a city far away from the godlike necromancers called Lyctors (and the godlike God named John.)
Nona doesn’t know who she is, both literally and metaphorically, but she’s a quick study — and more importantly, she knows who she loves. She loves the people who care for her (people readers know well, who have secrets to keep and lives to save). She loves her gang (a pack of wild schoolkids with names like Hot Sauce, Beautiful Ruby and Kevin) and her teacher (a one-time veterinarian the kids call the Angel). She loves the dangerous rebel leaders she encounters every so often, even if Commander We Suffer And We Suffer and Lieutenant Our Lady Of The Passion don’t exactly return her affections. (Lieutenant Crown Him With Many Crowns, at least, is firmly Team Nona.) She even loves the menacing blue circle in the sky. And she really, really loves dogs — in particular, Noodle, a six-legged wonder who doesn’t like to wear little booties on his many feet even though the pavement is really hot.
If Noodle doesn’t make you want to read this series, nothing will. Enjoy!
"Nona the Ninth" is available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook formats everywhere fine books are sold. "Gideon the Ninth" and "Harrow the Ninth" are both available in paperback. "Alecto the Ninth" will arrive in fall 2023.
19. Our Flag Means Death (HBO Max)
Photograph by Aaron Epstein/HBO Max
It’s been such a good year for TV comedies that you could throw a dart and hit a winner, but if we left this show off our list we’d have to walk the plank. HBO’s Taika Waititi-produced pirate comedy about a dandy (Rhys Darby) who tries out life on the high seas started out, predictably, as a droll genre parody on par with the similarly excellent "What We Do in the Shadows." But "Our Flag Means Death" meaningfully zags as the season goes on, turning the dynamic between Darby’s Stede Bonnet and Waititi’s Blackbeard into a gentle, yearning, unapologetically queer love story. Add to that some genuine laughs and some of the best needle drops of any TV this year (hi, Fleetwood Mac!), and it’s no surprise that HBO made so many people’s Pride Month when the network renewed "Flag" for a second season in June.
Standout performance: Pick a pirate, any pirate.
Read more about film and TV critic Clint Worthington’s favorite TV from the first half of 2022.
Half-hour comedy-drama series. Featuring: Rhys Darby, Taika Waititi, Vico Ortiz, Joel Fry, Ewen Bremner.
More TV comedies we loved in 2022: "What We Do in the Shadows," "Reboot," "Starstruck," "A League of Their Own," "Girls5Eva," "Atlanta," "Russian Doll," "Only Murders in the Building," "Derry Girls," "Reservation Dogs," "The Bear," "Barry," "Hacks," "Bad Sisters," "Abbott Elementary," "Better Things"
20. The Worst Person in the World (now streaming on Hulu)
Renate Reinsve appears in The Worst Person in the World by Joachim Trier, an official selection of the Spotlight section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Kasper Tuxen.
Do we ever stop coming of age? That’s the question that implicitly sits at the heart of director Joachim Trier’s exceptional romantic dramedy, "The Worst Person in the World" — Norway’s official entry for Best International Feature Film at the 2022 Academy Awards and a contender for best film of the year. Julie (Renate Reinsve) is a 20-something who swiftly decides that med school isn’t for her, even if she isn’t entirely sure what comes next. Her new boyfriend Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) is fifteen years older and struggling to figure out his own next step in life after finding early success as an acclaimed underground comic book artist. The movie they inhabit is pure magic.
Standout performance: Try not to fall in love with Renate Reinsve. We dare you.
Read film critic Caroline Siede’s full review of "The Worst Person in the World."
Rated R. 127 minutes. Language: Norwegian. Dir: Joachim Trier. Featuring: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum.
WATCH: Joachim Trier’s "Thelma" and "Louder Than Bombs" — get the app
21. Beyoncé‘s "Renaissance"
RENAISSANCE Album Cover. Photo by Carlijn Jacobs.
We’ll keep this brief: Sometimes a great album is notable for the profundity of its lyrics, the scale of its ambition, and the daring originality of its musicality. Beyoncé has made such albums, and "Renaissance" certainly has traces of all those things. But sometimes a great album is notable because it is absolutely impossible to resist. That’s "Renaissance," a party from start to finish made not in spite of but in response to the chaos and darkness of the last several years. Release your anger, your mind, your job, the time, your trade, the stress, and, of course, your wiggle — and just enjoy this musical ride.
"Renaissance" is streaming everywhere and available for purchase.
More music we loved in 2022: "Harry’s House" (Harry Styles), "Dance Fever" (Florence + the Machine), "Un Verano Sin Ti" (Bad Bunny), "Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers" (Kendrick Lamar), "Wild Creatures" (Neko Case), "The Loneliest Time" (Carly Rae Jepsen), "Motomami" (Rosalía), "Midnights" (Taylor Swift), "Bleed Out" (The Mountain Goats).
22. She Said (in theaters now)
Photo: Universal Pictures
Hollywood’s reckoning with the #MeToo movement comes full circle with this cinematic retelling of how "New York Times" reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor broke the story of Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct allegations. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star as the dogged journalists whose reporting not only shattered decades of Hollywood silence but also kicked off a worldwide conversation about abusive power dynamics. Based on Twohey and Kantor's book of the same name, "She Said" is helmed by "Unorthodox" director Maria Schrader and written by "Disobedience" screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz, two women who know their way around complex stories about gender and patriarchy.
And their experience pays off. While it may not be as tidy, narratively speaking, as previous journalism dramas like "All the President's Men" and "Spotlight," "She Said" is a quietly profound experience. While its narrative follows the determined reporters, its heart rests not with Kantor and Twohey (though Mulligan and Kazan are both great) but with the women who are the real heroes of this saga: those who came forward at great personal risk in hopes of stopping a monster and (perhaps more importantly) outing the industry that kept him in power for decades. Mulligan and Kazan's characters are really there to listen to their sources, brought to life by incredible actors like Samatha Morton, Jennifer Ehle and (most surprisingly) Ashley Judd, who plays herself in a piece of meta-casting that's jarring at first and deeply moving thereafter. Judd told Kantor and Twohey about the abuser who seriously damaged her career when she had the audacity to refuse him. How fitting that she should return to the screen to help tell the story of his long-delayed downfall — one she played a part in bringing about.
Standout performances: Mulligan’s thorny determination is compelling, but the showstopper here is Ehle, who nearly steals the whole movie in a few short scenes.
Rated R. 129 minutes. Dir: Maria Schrader. Featuring: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Morton.
WATCH FOR FREE ON TUBI: James Norton plays an intrepid 1930s journalist in "Mr. Jones" — get the app
About the writer: Allison Shoemaker is a Chicago-based pop-culture critic and journalist. She is the author of "How TV Can Make You Smarter," and a member of the Television Critics Association and the Chicago Film Critics Association. She is also a producer and co-host for the Podlander Presents network of podcasts. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @allisonshoe.
About the writer: Caroline Siede is a film and TV critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. A member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, she spent four years lovingly analyzing the romantic comedy genre one film at a time in her column When Romance Met Comedy for The A.V. Club. She also co-hosts the movie podcast, Role Calling, and shares her pop culture opinions on Twitter (@carolinesiede).
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Tubi is available on Android and iOS mobile devices, Amazon Echo Show, Google Nest Hub Max, Comcast Xfinity X1, Cox Contour, and on OTT devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Vizio TVs, Sony TVs, Samsung TVs, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S, and soon on Hisense TVs globally. Consumers can also watch Tubi content on the web at http://www.tubi.tv/.
Tubi and this television station are both owned by the FOX Corporation. Clint Worthington contributed to this report.