The Letterboxd Files with Cory: Vol. 12

by | Nov 29, 2022


Alright, kids, it’s time for another Letterboxd Report with your favorite Nashville-based film critic named Cory, me.

Let’s cut the chit-chat and start that reviewing. On the count of three…

The Whale

Even when his films make people throw chairs out the window, I’m so glad we’ve got Darren Aronofsky absolutely refusing to do anything but make polarizing films that feature these face-melting performances (Fraser!!!…?1?).

The Whale is challenging and claustrophobic in ways that lead to passionate reactions, rapturous and violent. The genius of it to me is just watching Aronofsky let go of the film and allow Fraser to open the air lock to send us all hurling into space…

The comeback story for Fraser is heartwarming, but his performance here is like watching someone run into a burning building. There’s a deep riskiness to it that puts the entire film in jeopardy every five minutes, but Fraser never hits a false beat. Generational fearlessness.

The themes pour all over the floor like someone dropping a full gallon of milk in the kitchen, but it all flows into one of the true landmark pieces of acting we’re going to get this decade. I get why some people hate this movie, but I also get why nobody can ignore Fraser.

If/when Fraser wins the Oscar, it doesn’t really feel like it would be one of those “pat him on the back” moments. Obviously he seems like a delightfully kind person, but this is a real, full-breath performance from an actor physically and emotionally melded to a character.

The only performance I can really liken this to is Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. You get a jovial soul to embody the kind of uncomfortable kindness that makes people uneasy and changes their lives. Fraser just adds a filter of personal trauma to devastate you even further.

In all honesty, there’s a scariness to someone giving you kindness you don’t expect, or feel like you deserve. It’s very hard to show that in a movie. The way Fraser gives such a dangerous role such levity and charm, only to pull out the rug with lighting bolts of mercy…wow.

Where to Watch: Theaters 

Violent Night

If David Harbour doesn’t commit to the bit so hard in this he delivers a genuinely great performance, it’s just a lark. He’s just way too good of an actor to keep this from floating away. It’s basically Die Hard, Bad Santa and Home Alone thrown in a blender, but it still tastes pretty darn good because Harbour throws in some weird ingredients he grew in his backyard. The best B-movies are the ones that are made with seriousness everywhere but the page. You get a legitimate performance, proper action directing and a truly stupid script. This is harder to pull off than it looks, so kudos to all involved that this isn’t a disaster. It’s actually quite fun! Would watch another one of these in like two Christmases.

Where to Watch: Theaters 


A goofier riff on 2014’s Godzilla, greatly in debt to the Roland Emmerich disaster textbook.

It’s not quite as memorable as Trollhunter, but the simple hook and ability to play around with just enough mythology to make it fantastical help a lot. You get exactly what you pay for. There’s not an ounce of fat on this. If Netflix wants to pony up just a bit more CG money, a sequel would be really fun. I’m more curious in what else is going on in this world. A taste was pretty good, but let’s dive deeper and pack on more nerdy mythos.

Where to Watch: Netflix

To Leslie 

Andrea Riseborough is one of the few truly fearless actors in Hollywood, and she and Marc Maron (!!) really elevate this beyond the traditional beats of the addiction drama. There are moments here and there where you can tell the challenging characterization for Leslie starts to get out of hand, but the performance steadies the ship. Maron has always been a good actor, and I’m glad he’s continuing to explore that side of himself. He’s been hyping this one up on WTF for a good while now, so I’m glad it delivered. It’s got a few moments that could be sanded down, but it’s good enough to stick the landing like it does. Riseborough takes a really tough role and gives it some soul and levity. She’s a gem.

Where to Watch: PVOD

Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? 

I had no idea what this was until I popped it on. I had a great time with this story, though I’m sure this could’ve been a 120m movie.

I’ll look forward to the day Craig Gillespie makes a Hulu miniseries out of it that also could’ve been a movie. The story is just too good and engaging for anyone to screw up, and this was more than solid. Though, I’m sure the absolute strongest version of this story would be … a movie.

Where to Watch: Netflix

The Menu 

A delightfully despicable B-horror comedy disguised as an artsy meditation on creation and commerce.

The movie squirms down your back like a centipede, but you actually enjoy the sensation as opposed to brushing it off in disgust. It takes square aim at the relationship between the consumer and the creator, but in a Cask of Amontillado way. It’s a trap of a film, for the diner and the viewer, one meant to squeeze and squeeze until you either give into the ludicrousness or just bolt.

I couldn’t help but howl laughing at how pitiless the film is, how it just never lets up and has no mercy for anyone at play. It’s a ribald cavalcade of unpredictability. This movie also begs you not to take it so seriously, to just give into the nastier tendencies of its mechanisms and just have guilty fun with it. It’s a wonderful script in that way. Unlike Triangle of Sadness, it’s a movie about class and opulence that actually feels like it’s playing to the cheap seats. The best satires of this ilk usually do. A big fan of this. Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy are both so good, and Hong Chau  should be in every supporting cast. Nicholas Hoult plays a hell of a prick, too.

Where to Watch: Theaters

White Noise

For a movie about death, this thing never ends.

Noah Baumbach really dipped into the Wes Anderson-influenced side of his brain to adapt a novel that seemed perfectly fine staying a novel. It’s far too highfalutin to ever find a sense of gravity, meandering about with grand gestures that come up thematically jumbled. Like, we get it, but we don’t get it, if that makes sense.

It’s a bit like David Byrne remade Godard’s Weekend right after he did True Stories, but just stayed way too faithful to the prose to find any drama. The themes about our relationship to death and mortality would feel more abundant on the page, where they could roam free of narrative responsibility. Without any literary diverting, we’re stuck in a story with no sense of itself. We get gobs and gobs of rhetoric delivered by dissertations instead of characters. We never know the people, because they are only defined by their ideas and their uncanny ability to wax poetic about them at the drop of a toxic airborne event.

I appreciate the sunnier outlook compared to last year’s Netflix December disaster movie. Baumbach seems to try and squeeze as much humor and adventure out of this occasionally pedantic exercise. It’s a film that’s very smart, but doesn’t always know how to communicate the ocean of ideas in the work it’s adapting.

The grocery-set finale is far more what this needed to be. The tone is off, the performances don’t mesh with the granular dialogue and Baumbach seems to have no clear path to connect the doomsday narrative with the more noir-y marriage drama. And yet … it’s still relatively engaging and handsomely crafted. For such an exhaustive experience, you still stick around and try to find the good. Baumbach is just too good a filmmaker to let a misfire like this go without some muscle and mirth. He’s got one sequence at a gas station in here that’s so fascinating, you wonder if he’s just going to pop off and do a studio blockbuster next.

Joe Pera’s grocery store episode does in 10 minutes what this film tries to do in 2+ hours much more efficiently. However, if you’re willing to chug a humdinger of heady exposition out of a scatterbrained story, you might get something out of it that made it worth the hassle. I know I did. As much as I don’t think this movie works like it wants to, it’s still got a magnetism that’s hard to ignore.

Where to Watch: Select Theaters, Netflix on Dec. 30

Hit the Road 

This caught me off-guard. I heard it was great, but it’s better than that. It’s spectacular and so overwhelmingly human. It’s Little Miss Sunshine with a brooding sociopolitical terror lurking after every single Batman quip and bathroom joke.

It’s just beyond remarkable Panah Panahi was able to pull this kind of tonal tightrope walk, but considering his influences, I guess it shouldn’t be that surpassing. The last 20-25 minutes will break your back and put it back together. This is just one of those movies everyone can find something in. It’s, without a doubt, one of 2022’s best. Rayan Sarlak is a damn movie star.

Where to Watch: Showtime, PVOD

Thirteen Lives

I saw someone say that this is like Ron Howard made a Clint Eastwood movie, and yes.

I like “people just doing important jobs” movies, and this was a good example of that. Nothing flashy, but the goal is to make you appreciate the absolutely stunning nature of the rescue. Mission accomplished on both accounts.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime


Romain Gavras is French Chris Nolan if Nolan was obsessed with no-cut long shots.

This is clearly explosive, a sensory attack crusted with some searing political commentary. I think it functions best as an assault on the senses, but it definitely made me think when it was over. That opening scene is as brilliant as advertised.

Where to Watch: Netflix

The House

Some weird seventh-grader who listens to The Cure just got their new favorite movie their parents have no idea they watched.

One of three (?!) stop-motion films Netflix has released this year, and it’s a deeply a weird, sullen rumination on houses. The mouse one is burned into my memory – it’s a remarkable piece of adult animation and deeply messed up. One of the scariest endings to anything I’ve seen this year.

The other two are fine! I’d watch another one of these. I might not sleep again if they make a sequel to the mouse one.

Where to Watch: Netflix


A kooky piece of messy Americana, but it’s enjoyable enough to make you appreciate the cast and craft. This film would’ve majorly benefitted from a rewrite or two, and from a firmer edit to get it under two hours. It’s excessive on details we don’t need, in characterization that never fully materialized. Yet, Christian Bale walking around like a cuckoo clock, Robert De Niro waxing poetic about being a True American, and Mike Myers just hanging out with Michael Shannon, makes it worth the fuss.

David O. Russell might not make another film at this level for a variety of reasons, but this has to be his weakest in a long time. Joy was good; don’t say it’s Joy.

Where to Watch: PVOD, HBO Max


Strange World 

After 100 years of killing parents, Disney has finally made a very good movie about parenting. I know Strange World didn’t light up the box office, but it’s like a plushier Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Also, it’s the best guide to understanding Zoomers I’ve seen yet.

Where to Watch: Theaters 

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

It’s probably going to be impossible for Rian Johnson to “top” Knives Out with another Benoit Blanc film. It was one of the better movies of the 2010s, and it’s just flawless.

This one is still a riot, maybe a bit overcooked but still so delicious. Johnson poured into this script, and the satire about the “disruptor” crowd is scathing. Elon Musk is going to ban his ass from Twitter after he sees this, though. This movie is about him. Watching Musk destroy Twitter one idiotic meme at a time makes this sting more.

Daniel Craig is a sunbeam as Blanc, and we need 500 more of these movies. Janelle Monáe and Kate Hudson are such welcome addition, and Noah Segan is just here to have fun. But this is one of Edward Norton’s best performances, and I wish people were talking about him in this more. He’s such a smarmy little worm, but someone who understands how dangerous he is, even if he’s not very bright. A stupid person who knows he can cause problems is the scariest person on Earth.

I think Johnson overwrote a little. He knew the story so well that he just packs a little too much at times that it becomes a little hard to appreciate it all. It’s just a few inches behind Knives. But that’s complaining about a dish you don’t like on a magnificent tasting menu. It’s not as good as the best tasting menu, but just enjoy the great movie, dude.

This is still really, really good and impossibly fun. I imagine it’ll get better on a repeat viewing, just like Knives did. Johnson’s films always do that for you, except for Brick. That one is just a masterpiece out of the gate.

Where to Watch: Netflix on Dec. 23

She Said 

It’s at its best when you really dig into the women and their stories, the little moments for the reporters that show the vulnerable side of being a woman and reporting on such an intimidating story. The interview scenes are pretty remarkable, particularly the Samantha Morton one. That one is etched permanently in my memory. It’s stellar filmmaking and Morton and Zoe Kazan are fabulous.

On occasion, the film slips into something a little staged, moments where the lead actors talk about what’s happening with the story when you really could’ve gleaned from the quieter moments. I wish the script didn’t feel like it had to spell some things out when the filmmaking was already doing that.

It’s a very solid journalism movie, and should be a must for anyone who does this for a living. The little details are fantastic.

Where to Watch: Theaters 

Bones and All

A new spin on “doomed lovers on the run” Americana, of course gathering a lot of moss on the hill from which Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands rolled down. The cannibalism never fully engulfs the love story, while the love story can’t escape the gore and fear.

That’s where you really make tragedy work. The tone is just so uneasy and fearsome for a film that tries to not overwhelm the audience on the blood and guts. It’s more a movie where you’re always looking over your shoulder, always moving from town to town trying to survive a dreadful curse. The 80s/Reagan-ness of it always wafts in and out, creating a frame for the “other” in an America that’s didn’t care for anyone outside of the norm. It’s just such a sad film, emboldened by violent bursts of unforgiving horror.

Whole cast is great; Russell and Chalamet do a great job of making you feel sympathy while never feeling safe in their company. Stuhlbarg has one great scene where he’s a total dirtbag. Rylance steals it, though. He sulks in and out as a Cajun “eater” you quickly realize is up to no good. He’s terrifying in the role, the big bad wolf wearing grandma’s clothes after eating her. The movie can’t function without him as the looming external danger, and he’s ridiculously good at being such a disarming carnivore.

I can’t say this was the best movie to watch on Thanksgiving, and I might have a salad for lunch tomorrow. But, for a doomed romance between two reluctant, wayward monsters, this will certainly do. A really affecting picture, bones and all. If you can’t find home, the film posits, you  can only run for so long before the world eats you alive. What a sobering reminder of the ones we’ve lost along the cruel American highway of yesterday.

Where to Watch: Theaters 

Women Talking 

It’s this year’s Mass, but infused with a bit more breathing room to help pace out the most devastating parts of the story. I appreciate Sarah Polley’s ability to both forcefully and gently tell a very, very delicate story of generational abuse and trauma, and of power and faith. It’s a very humane film, one that tries to make the women here people and not just themes.

Sure, you could say the script occasionally goes a little too heavy on the theme when the actors were doing plenty to fill in the gaps. Everyone here is good, but the four that just stuck to me like glue were Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Rooney Mara and Judith Ivey. But there’s not a bad performance in the bunch. Easily a standout ensemble for 2022.

It walks softly and carries a big stick. It may have worked better on the stage, but Polley’s direction and the cast is more than enough to make it really stick the landing. It’s just an incredibly sad film, but also tinged with a lot of wisdom and hope. The scenes with the women comforting each other with hymns, the ones they know far, far, far better than the men who abuse their faiths to force terror on their wives, sisters, daughters, mothers and neighbors … those really made an impact. The fissure between loving God and using “God” for your own gain can’t be more evident then in those moments.

I think this one will grow on me over time. It’s a rather beautiful work, even if it’s definitely founded on something terrible. The script has its dips, but they’re not worth complaining about when the film really digs in deep.

Triangle of Sadness

I really wish I liked this more than I did. It’s overstuffed and not nearly as smart as I think it’s trying to be. It’s got some inspired moments, but it all feels so proud of itself while not accomplishing too much. I think the understated tone doesn’t help at all, where in The Square that was part of the appeal.

The big puke/poop scene has nothing in the Terry Notary scene in The Square.

I guess what I’m saying is this wasn’t as good as The Square. I’m not even really sure it’s good period.

They wasted Woody Harrelson, too.

It’s fine, I guess. I don’t know. It’s a raft that thinks it’s a cruise ship. It floats, but it doesn’t hold nearly as much as it thinks it does.

Where to Watch: Theaters 

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed 

I’m the wrong person to unpack the layers to this, but I will say it’s damn great and deserving of your time. Nan Goldin really changed the world. She’s a hero. Hope she gets the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Hope this wins the doc Oscar.

Where to Watch: Theaters 

Jerry and Marge Go Large 

One of the most surprising performances of the year: Bryan Cranston channeling the actual spirit of Capra Jimmy Stewart in Jerry and Marge Go Large.

If you hate this movie, you might be a bad person.

For all of those Dan in Real Life memes, one of the things I miss most is going to see a breezy, low-key, friendly adult dramedy like this at the movies on a brisk October Saturday night. The Touchstone special.

Where to Watch: Paramount+

Bullet Train

A super sugary Tarantino/Rodriguez riff with so many great actors just having the time of their lives in the stylized, bloody nonsense. Snakes on a Train. If Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is wagyu steak, this is a juicy dive burger.

Where to Watch: PVOD

Good Night Oppy

Kids are going to try to sleep without getting caught during Good Night Oppy in 6th grade science class for generations to come.

It’s nice! Oppy is a nice robot. It’ll make you feel occasionally fuzzy. It’s like one of those overpriced DVDs that they sell at the space center in the gift shop. Informative. Not really sure how this is the Best Documentary frontrunner. If it is, there are many science documentary DVDs for sale at the Huntsville Space Center that would like a word.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

God’s Country

Newton is damn good in this, but I feel like it’s trying to be too many movies at once. You can tell there are sparks of something more focused starting to come together, but the script keeps bobbing and weaving around too many plot threads. I really appreciate what the film is trying to say, but I think it get a bit muddled by the time we get to the explosive finale. Alas!

Where to Watch: PVOD

Civil: Ben Crump

This actually works a lot better than most “meet this person and see what they do” documentaries because of how humanizing it is. There’s an easy way to look at someone like Ben Crump and just see the cable news interviews. You get so much more in a study like this, to see how tirelessly this guy works to make the world a better place and help people in need. It’s an incredibly commendable piece of documentary profile.

Black Adam 

For all the big fights, glowing CGI and mean mugging the Rock can do, this film is startlingly lifeless for having been in the works for so long.

It feels like it has to just introduce the Rock and get him to the other DC movies. Like we really don’t get to know anyone in this movie, or have any idea why anything is happening or why we could care. It’s just a scoop of cold grits with no butter, but you pour a little salt on it to just give it something. It doesn’t really add much, and that’s “this DC guy … kills the bad guys!” Have y’all seen the Michael Keaton Batman movies? That dude has a higher body count than Thanos.

The perfunctory moments of levity don’t mesh with the self-seriousness of the plot you never fully understand or care to. I love The Rock when he’s in the right role, and I’m sure someone will come along and do more with this character. This just wasn’t it. It felt like a long, bland commercial for movies that won’t happen for a while. Swing and a miss for future President “The Rock” Johnson.

I miss the era where muscle men just did dumb, bloody R-rated action movies and the occasional fantastic sci-fi and/or comedy movie. A helping of 80s/90s nostalgia we could actually use.

Where to Watch: Theaters, PVOD

The Wonder 


Florence Pugh can do no wrong. A timely parable about the dangers of unchecked fundamentalism. A “get your kids the damn vaccine” period piece, basically. Very intentional. Not really sure what the framing structure was about, but still, a quite good Pugh vehicle.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Fire of Love

Having gone inside a volcano in Iceland this year and stayed near one in Costa Rica, I can safely say this movie absolutely nails the mixed emotions you get while being near (or inside) one. It’s a pretty special story that ends tragically, but Miranda July’s narration and Sara Dosa’s direction really help the beauty show through, even when you know it’s not going to end well.
Volcanoes are amazing and terrifying. This doc shows that, and the special kind of love it takes to make this your life’s passion with someone else.

Where to Watch: Disney+

A Christmas Story Christmas 

It’s cute. It’s not nearly as shameless as you’d maybe expect something like this to be, but it’s also the exact kind of nostalgia play a sequel to A Christmas Story made in 2022 would be.

You know what you’re getting here. Peter Billingsley still looks a lot like he did when he was a kid, especially with the glasses. I’ll give him credit for absolutely nailing his facial expressions. Those felt traced over from the original. He did his homework!

It’s way more saccharine than the original, which has lasted all these years precisely because it wasn’t really sentimental at all about the holidays. It was much more scuzzy and fatalistic for how Christmas usually goes, but the heart burned brighter because it felt real. This is kind of just clamoring for your memories of the first to pay them off, and most of it is pretty forced. But, I dunno, it means well, and it’s pleasant enough to justify watching if the original means a lot to you.

It’s aite! Harmless. It’s the perfect kind of IP streaming piffle you can put on while you’re working or your kids are playing with their Christmas morning gifts.

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Is That Black Enough For You?!? 

Can we have more Elvis Mitchell cinema history essays? Please and thank you.

Where to Watch: Netflix

The Lost King

A modest, tender story about how, when wayward British people seek community via conspiracy, they try to find where a king is buried rather than embrace QAnon and storm the Capitol. So, yeah, God save the Queen.

It’s no Philomena, but Frears is always good for a homely adult drama about people just trying to figure stuff out. They say this one might veer a little too hard to separate fact and fiction, which, y’know, I’m not the expert on that. I just watch the movie and move on with my life.

It’s another lovely showcase for Sally Hawkins, though. Y’know, it’s solid. At the Brits still know how to make a moderate-stakes movie like this about people just living their lives in a big moment. They do falling into conspiracy *and* mid-range adult drama better than we do.

Where to Watch: Film Festivals, Theaters 

Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm 


A delightful trip down memory lane, the memories I made sneaking around watching Adult Swim on Sunday nights way back in elementary school when it first came on air and being so, so confused as to what exactly ATHF was. It was so strange, so occasionally uncomfortable, but always pretty damn funny.

This has much more on its mind than much of anything that’s come before, with actually scathing commentary on the Musks and Bezoses and how they ransack their workforces and communities and defend their actions with galaxy brain emotional and physical detachment from reality. This is what I’m saying about the new Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. How? How is this such a good, funny satire while also scratching the itch of idiotic delirium the original show shoveled in droves? This is obviously as stupid as it wants to be because being stupid is the point of a talking meatball that shapeshifts into an igloo and a hot dog, but good heavens, this is also kind of pertinent! It’s as good a movie as the first one, and just as funny. Miss these Aqua Teens.

Where to Watch: Home Video 

My Father’s Dragon

Cartoon Saloon just never misses, and this is a very sweet, beautifully rendered storybook film with, of course, heart to spare. It skews a bit younger than something like Wolfwalkers, but it’s still rich in theme about how you learn to trust people around you when things aren’t great and not put the burden on yourself to fix all of the problems that lie ahead. That’s hella deep for a movie with a talking marmoset.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Selena Gomez: Me and My Mind

Good on Selena Gomez for being so willing to show such the raw truth of such a difficult situation with so much grace and class. I wouldn’t be famous if you paid me 100 million dollars, but the fact that she’s making the most of hers for such profound good and seems to now be working in a much healthier creative space is heartening.

Where to Watch: AppleTV+

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special 

Dave Bautista playing Drax is just too good of a time in any of the Guardians things. This is kind of the streaming trifle you’d expect, but forgive me, every time he gleefully smashes something and laughs while he does it, I do, too. Well, the laughing, not the smashing.

I also enjoyed when the astronaut dog brings the great Sean Gunn (always Kirk from Gilmore Girls) a dead animal with a bow on it as a Christmas gift. James Gunn always gets a few gags like that in his stuff. He’s one of the few people I fully trust to do these superhero things.

Guardians: the only MCU franchise besides Black Panther I actively look forward to.

Where to Watch: Disney+

Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights

I think there was a period of time in my life where this might’ve been my favorite comedy.

I was a huge Sandler head when I was a kid (still am), and the combination of the Sandman, the crass humor, it being a PG-13 animated movie and the decently warm story just bowled me over. The scene where the mayor tells the terrible joke at the Annual All-Star Banquet and the entire crowd and surrounding deer lose their everlasting minds is still near and dear to my heart. It’s one of the hardest I’ve ever laughed at a movie. That was my Caddyshack when I was 11 or 12 or whatever. Still have no idea why my mom let me rent it, but bless her for the Movie Gallery approval.

I still remember a good number of the songs (I still think of the “Technical Foul” number when I think of Sandler, or just in general. It’s catchy!). I know this is not a great movie, but damn it, I still have a very fond place in my heart for this one.

It’s very stupid, but it wears its heart on its sleeve down the stretch more than any Sandler pic not named 50 First Dates. The juvenile nastiness can be pretty darn funny when it clicks, but the fact that you actually feel for any of these characters is a testament to the attempt to tell a meaningful story. Sure, certain jokes (and one very obvious character) of this have aged like old milk. When it’s on, though, I still remain thoroughly charmed. I wish so badly some of the cringey aspects of this weren’t here because I still love this one when it’s actually hitting its shots.

Whitey Goodman is probably dead now, so RIP Whitey. I’m glad you got that patch.

Where to Watch: YouTube, Showtime