Posted January 28, 2024

Remember three years ago when the COVID pandemic shuttered cinemas across the globe and pundits were fearing that this would be the final nail in the coffin for the larger industry as a whole?  How could cinemas possibly survive all of this and the omnipresent threat of home streaming? 

Well, 2023 unequivocally proved otherwise...and thankfully showed that the cinematic experience was far from dead and buried. 

We can largely thank two films in particular in the year that was - BARBIE and OPPENHEIMER, collectively referred to on social media as BARBENHEIMER - for rescuing the business.  Combined, both Greta Gerwig's and Christopher Nolan's respective films earned two and a half billion (yes...billion) dollars at the worldwide box office, which single-handedly confirmed that people were still showing up en masse to the multiplexes to see event films.  Perhaps more impressive was Nolan's feat: He made a $100 million budgeted, R-rated and three-hour historical drama that went on to earn a billion dollars.  That was as unfathomable as it was unprecedented in the industry, which has a lot to say about the filmmaker perhaps being the biggest star of his own productions and how pushing the boundaries of film presentation got butts back into cinema chairs in big ways.  There were some unexpected casualties, yes, as a result of this, stemming from the fact that people didn't seem as excited to see the next large scale MCU fare that has dominated box office charts for decades.  Is superhero fatigue settling in?  Perhaps.  Overall, though, the U.S. box office achieved his highest gains since before the pandemic.  It's clear that people wanted to get out of their homes and return to cinemas.

On a qualitative level, I personally think that 2023 was easily the finest year for film since the pandemic hit in 2020.  That may not entirely be saying much considering how COVID devastatingly impacted the larger industry as a whole then, but 2023 was an unqualified banger.  I saw nearly all the films (with the exception of streaming exclusives) that occupy my list below in a cinema last year, something that - when I look back on 2020 - I felt I'd never go back to.  My overall output took a hit this year with just 102 films screened and reviewed (I normally hit 130-140 at my peak), but I allocated more 4-star ratings to films in 2023 than I have in any previous recent year.  Was I feeling more charitable or was 2023 just that good for film?  I'd argue the latter.  As I do with every BEST-OF list every year, I must emphasize that these lists are for me and me alone - they're my picks.  Secondly, I always aim for variety.  On my list you'll find two historical dramas, two character-driven dramas, two coming-of-age dramas (also, coincidentally enough, period films), two sports-driven pictures, a high-concept piece of sci-fi, and a film about one of the most famous monsters in all of fiction.  And because I just can never bring myself to produce an obligatory list of only ten great films, I've also opted for a greater TOP 25 compilation to give honorable mentions to other works that didn't make the cut of the TOP 10 (spoiler alert - Hi, BARBIE...sorry, BARBIE), but were worthy of acclaim nonetheless.  

One last note: I have yet to see a few noteworthy 2023 releases as of the posting date of this article (like PRISCILLA and POOR THINGS, for instance).  Once I screen them and feel they deserve worthy placement here then I'll amend my rankings below.  

So, here we go!  I'll start with my number one film of 2023 followed by 24 other highly worthy candidates:  

 

 

 
 

1.   KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

 

 

Perhaps more so than in any other previous year that I've been a critic, I tormented myself as to which film would make the cut as 2023's best.  My number one and two picks were so resoundingly strong and standing tall over just about everything else that came out that I nearly wanted to declare a tie for first place.  I just couldn't bring myself to do so.  

Ultimately, I went with Martin Scorsese's epic and harrowing drama KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON as the number one reason to enter a cinema last year, mostly because of the more intimate manner that it personally spoke to me about a real historical evil.  

Produced by Apple on a lavish $200 million budget (all of it on screen), Scorsese and screenwriter Eric Roth focused on the true story of a series of murders that occurred in the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s, which were committed by monstrously greedy and prominent white men that wanted what the Osage had - oil rights on their tribal land.  They did so by infiltrating the Osage through romancing and later marrying their women and then engaging in a ghastly plot to assassinate these people one at a time (making it look like an accident) so they could legally claim oil rights.

If one looks at the totality of the 81-year-old Scorsese's career, he has made one film after another that has vile characters in pursuit of wealth and power and how that, in turn, robs them of their souls and humanity.  He has also told stories about families with many irreparably damaged components, with some of them being dangerously violent.  KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON felt like a natural extension of all of that while telling a harrowingly bleak portrait of an unspeakable historical tragedy that most viewers going in may not have any knowledge of.  This was one of 2023's longest films, but the rich complexity that Scorsese brought to this unfolding nightmare of a story deserved such a length.  KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON not only opened viewers' eyes to a nauseating series of events that shed new light on America's past crimes committed against indigenous people, but it was also a stunning reminder of the prowess of its maker.

 

2.  OPPENHEIMER

Christopher Nolan's OPPENHEIMER was one of the best filmgoing experiences that I've ever had.  Period.  

If anything, the acclaimed director knows how to embrace technology (which is not widely used) and sell it to the masses as a reason to seek his films out on as big of screens as possible.  I was fortunate enough to screen OPPENHEIMER in one of the world's very few (under thirty) cinemas that's capable of properly projecting true 70mm IMAX celluloid, and the end results were awe-inspiring, to say the least.  OPPENHEIMER's boldness can't be understated.  How many filmmakers today with the clout (and nerve) of Nolan are granted the the resources and talents to make an avant-garde and three hour color and B&W historical drama about scientists creating and unleashing one of the biggest horrors that the world has ever experienced and release it during the peak of the summer film season, a time when mindless blockbusters on autopilot dominate multiplexes?  

Not many.  

Beyond the film's unparalleled technical merits, OPPENHEIMER boasted one of 2023's most thankless performances by Cillian Murphy as the titular American theoretical physicist that went on to become the polarizing "Father of the Atomic Bomb." As portrayed in the film, Robert J. Oppenheimer was a scientist that contributed to the construction of the most devastating weapon in human history, but he was also shown as a conflicted, flawed and troubled man that was anything from perfect during his time on the Manhattan Project.  Astoundingly, OPPENHEIMER emerged as neither a simplistic piece of one-note patriotic hero worshipping of American ingenuity during World War II nor was it a hostile indictment of Oppenheimer's participation in the creation of the atomic bomb.  Nolan never lazily sermonized to his audience and instead crafted the type of event film that's not in abundance at all anymore: A big budget, lavishly produced, star studded, and character/dialogue-driven historical drama that psychologically digs deep into the main players and themes.  

Nolan has made one stupendous film after another that has seen him conquer every genre he has focused on, but OPPENHEIMER might be his crown jewel achievement.

 

3.  PAST LIVES

I sometimes find myself gravitating towards smaller and less flashy films as I have matured as a filmgoer and critic.  Calm, patient, and understated dramas can often resonate with viewers so much more powerfully.  That's precisely what I felt while watching South Korean-Canadian writer/director Celine Song's extraordinary debut feature PAST LIVES, which explored a friendship between a boy and girl that eventually ended and then - two decades later - was rekindled when they're adults, leading to all sorts of thorny and complicated dilemmas. 

The premise and hook of this film was endlessly intriguing, but what made Song's work strike such a chord with me was the universality of its storytelling and themes.  PAST LIVES dealt with Korean characters and presented their problems through their unique prerogatives, but their story spoke volumes about the fragility of the human condition.  More crucially, Song's semi-autobiographical tale - despite its modest scale and low-key execution - had so much simmering beneath its surface in examining longing, re-connecting, fate, the immigrant experience, and the endless possibilities of what if?  The two main characters in this film - being forced to deal with a whirlwind of unrequited love feelings after being separated as children and coming face-to-face as mature adults - have to go through the emotional ringer here, but Song displayed great respect for the dignity of these lost and reconnected souls.  PAST LIVES was gracefully and economically told and easily one of the most potently moving dramas of 2023.  

 

4.  MASTER GARDENER

Writer/director Paul Schrader has been on a roll for the last few years.  His 2018 religious drama FIRST REFORMED made my list of the ten best films of its year.  Ditto for his equally powerful take on career gambling in 2021's THE CARD COUNTER

He released MASTER GARDENER in 2023, which was a film that was mostly forgotten by audiences and many critics.  Rounding off his self-contained "Man in a Room" trilogy of films dealing with characters desperately searching for salvation that feels hopelessly out of reach, Schrader's latest (much like his last two aforementioned films) presents one kind of story that we think we're familiar with, only to then radically alter gears and making something wholly different that defies genre expectations.  FIRST REFORMED was not just about a priest's life and THE CARD COUNTER wasn't exclusively about a professional gambler.  And, yes, MASTER GARDENER was not just about an expert horticulturalist.  Beyond that, Schrader once again revealed himself to be a veteran tactician when it comes to casting and getting the best out of his stars, with the Australian-born Joel Edgerton given one of the most measured and contained performances of the year as his layered titular character and Sigourney Weaver showing us hidden depths in a deeply unnerving role that she's rarely allowed to play in her career.  

Very few filmmakers thrust viewers into their stories and worlds and all while completely subverting stale storytelling status quos the way that Schrader has done in his last three films.  MASTER GARDENER further propped up the RAGING BULL and TAXI DRIVER screenwriter as a masterful filmmaking voice.

 

 

 

 

 

5.  THE HOLDOVERS

 

No one plays loveable SOBs as well as Paul Giamatti, which was one reason - among so many - why watching Alexander Payne's THE HOLDOVERS was such a routinely entertaining delight through and through.  This period dramedy represented their first cinematic partnership since 2004's SIDEWAYS (which featured Giamatti playing a wondrously gruff and uppity wine connoisseur).  THE HOLDOVERS emerged as not only an equal to that cherished work, but it also represented Payne's fine return to high form after his misguided 2017 sci-fi social satire DOWNSIZING.  

On paper, Payne's latest - with a razor sharp script by David Hemingson - seems superficially ripped from so many other past Christmas-themed pictures involving a misfit odd couple coming together, learning to value their respective company, and in the process becoming better people as a result.  That's the core of THE HOLDOVERS' story arc, to be sure, but the manner that Payne provides a seething level of disapproval for his warped oddball characters while showing equal levels of empathy for them helped elevate the film well above genre formulas.  The film's overall retro look and feel is immediate right from the opening credits (it's set in the 1970s, and aesthetically it looked like it could have been made during that era), but combined with that too was a keenly perceptive commentary on racial and class struggles in relation to its boarding school setting that never felt too aggressively heavy-handed.  Best of all, THE HOLDOVERS delivered Giamatti in pure beast mode playing a brutal misanthrope (in this case, a deliciously hard-edged and annoyingly abrasive prep school classics teacher), which was the gift that just kept on giving the longer the film progressed.  Payne's best films on his resume (from ELECTION to THE DESCENDANTS to NEBRASKA) have all mixed eccentric personalities with uproarious laughs and heart-rending sentiment in virtuoso equal measure, and THE HOLDOVERS was no exception.

Welcome back, Mr. Payne.  

 

6.  AIR

 

Far too many seem to forget that Ben Affleck has become a singular directorial force in American cinema, and his body of work behind the camera speaks for itself (from his marvelous rookie effort in GONE BABY GONE to his gritty crime drama THE TOWN to his Oscar-winning historical thriller ARGO, this man doesn't have a bad film on his resume). 

The simply titled AIR represented Affleck's first return as director since his decent, but flawed LIVE BY NIGHT in 2016.  He re-teamed yet again with his lifelong pal and frequent collaborator in Matt Damon (both appear on-screen here) for this splendid historical sports drama that took its name from the famous brand of Nike basketball shoes that were produced for the then rookie Michael Jordan to endorse back in his pre-NBA days in 1984.  The film chronicled how Nike's once prominent empire was crumbling into near bankruptcy and obscurity...that was until an ambitious-minded company man pitched a once thought unheard of ad campaign to make a shoe around one basketball player (and one who hadn't even laced up shoes to be on a professional court yet). 

History proved that Nike's risky gamble paid off (the shoe made them and Jordan millions in sales and established the brand as one to reckon with in the industry), but Affleck's AIR wasn't enthralling because it contained rousing "big game" sports sequences and other telltale conventions of the genre.  The film was captivating and thanklessly entertaining because it took the underdog sports drama and flipped it upside down on its head.  Instead of honing in on superstar athletes, AIR opted to look at the power players behind closed doors, which ended up defining one basketball player's shoes as one of the most iconic pieces of apparel of the last four decades.  AIR was a massive cross-court buzzer beater throw as far as purely entertaining films went in 2023, but made the shot with nothing but net.

 

7.  ARE YOU THERE, GOD?  IT'S ME, MARGARET

I remember something that the late Roger Ebert once said in relation to describing the power of cinema.  He said that movies are great empathy machines.  They're capable of letting viewers walk in the shoes of characters for two hours and experience the world through their eyes and perception.  

I thought about that all through writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig's ARE YOU THERE GOD?  IT'S ME, MARGARET, her follow-up film to the extraordinary THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, one of the most perceptive movies about modern teenage life and youth culture in recent memory.  For this film, she took inspiration from Judy Blume's seminal 1970 novel of the same name, which chronicled the ebbs and flows of a young girl in the early 70s acclimating to a stressful move from New York to New Jersey and adjusting to the cavalcade of pressures of new social circles and puberty.  Like THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET examined the growing pains of young women, albeit with even younger characters and a time setting fifty years removed.  What I admired most about Craig's sophomore film is just how much care, patience, and understanding she displayed with her main adolescent protagonist (played in a star-making performance by Abby Ryder Fortson), but she also gets into the psychological headspace of her mother too (played by Rachel McAdams in her finest work yet).  Unlike so many teen dramedies coasting on autopilot, ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET is very democratic in handling its young and old characters on a level footing. 

I couldn't begin to understand what growing up as a girl in early 70s America was like.  My time as a child/teen in the 80s/early 90s had different challenges for me.  But Craig's film was a great empathy machine: I understood and appreciated the fragility and concerns of Blume's main character as she was trying hard to mature into an adult and experiencing that journey's many hardships.  ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET isn't the type of showy film that Oscar voters droll over, but it's made with supreme confidence and modest execution; it's so much richer and deeper as a coming-of-age film than most other similar genre efforts out there.  

 

8.  GODZILLA MINUS ONE

 

Simply put, GODZILLA MINUS ONE was not only one of the best films of 2023, but it also emerged as the finest Godzilla film ever made. 

No question. 

How is this even possible at this stage in the game?  What kind of newfangled freshness could any new Godzilla-centric film bring after decade upon decade of entries?  

Just thinking about all the films built around this atomic infused monster (since his glory day introduction back in the 1954 Toho-produced original) is daunting in its own right.  I think the key to Takashi Yamazaki's GODZILLA MINUS ONE is that it respected the creature's cinematic history while utilizing some much-needed outside of the box creative thinking and some thanklessly perceptive scripting.  This outing set itself just after World War II and dealt with ordinary Japanese citizens dealing with its aftermath.  And the characters themselves - so emotionally and physically ravaged by war - are giving unprecedented development here to the point where we really feel for them as flesh and blood people.  Best of all, GODZILLA MINUS ONE - as all great sci-fi does - used its fantastical premise to comment on weighty real world matters (in its case, showcasing a post-surrender Japan that's reeling for the sins of war and the fears of nuclear proliferation).  

Yamazaki wholeheartedly delivered the type of large-scale spectacle that GODZILLA fans always expect (and on an improbably low budget, this is easily the best looking cheap film I've seen in a long time), but the manner that it tapped into the wounded humanity of its story and dexterously balanced horrifying scope, well-developed characters worthy of rooting interest, surprisingly potent heart-wrenching drama, and sobering reminders of the incalculable toil of war on humanity is to its credit.  

 

9.  THE CREATOR

 

THE CREATOR was not writer/director Gareth Edwards' first foray into the sci-fi genre.  He made a gargantuan splash with his micro-budgeted and guerrilla-produced MONSTERS back in 2010 and then followed that up with larger scale fare like 2014's GODZILLA reboot and 2016's ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (which remains the best of the Disney era produced films set in a galaxy far, far away). 

But, yeah, THE CREATOR was something entirely more visionary, thoughtful, timely, and emotionally potent from the British-born filmmaker.  His latest dealt with a post-apocalyptic future war between humanity and AI robotic beings, which - to be fair - seems like the stuff of so many other previous sci-fi thrillers (see THE TERMINATOR, THE MATRIX, BLADE RUNNER, and EX MACHINA, just to name a few).  The ideas and themes presented here have seen the light of day time and time again, but THE CREATOR did such a brilliant job of compellingly re-packaging them that made it feel so refreshingly innovative and unique.  Best of all, Edwards' film was not assembled from the same obligatory genre ingredients that seem to be the rule of the day for modern tentpole films (ones that sacrifice characters and story for visuals, action, and overall mayhem).  THE CREATOR looked astounding on the cheap and contained some of the best VFX work of 2023 (Edwards made the film for a relatively scant $80 million, but it looks like it cost twice as much), but its real coup de grâce move was imparting its story with a genuine heart and soul involving a topic that has become more relevant by the day.  Instead of becoming a dire warning about the perils of adopting and trusting AI, THE CREATOR was more intoxicating as a parable about discrimination, acceptance, and mankind's sometimes unquenchable thirst to wage war on enemies not fully understood.  

And when sci-fi is this good, then it demands a placement on a list like this.  

 

10.  THE IRON CLAW

 

Sean Durkin's THE IRON CLAW was one of the most gut-wrenchingly sad films that I saw last year.  It delved into a fact-inspired story of the Von Erich pro-wrestling family dynasty that became arguably as big as The Beatles in their respective operational territory in the late 70s and 80s.  Tragedy struck this family in horrendously frequent ways, with nearly every one of the brothers ending up dead and well before their 30th birthdays.  Three died by suicide alone.  Only one - the commendably vigilant Kevin Von Erich - is still alive and healthy to this very day. 

It would be easy to describe THE IRON CLAW as a "wrestling drama," but even that sounds too simplistic considering the real world stakes involved.  Durkin's film was less about pro-wrestling than it was about the unspeakable hardships that this family had to experience while entertaining fans in the American heartland. The film chronicles this family's meteoric rise in the squared circle in Texas during the era in question, but it also served as a cautionary tale about the pratfalls of quick success, the trials and tribulations of brotherly love, and the unhealthy influence of a horribly demanding father figure that placed a difficult to carry weight of unreasonable expectations on his kids' shoulders.  Outside of Durkin's passionate and laser-sharp focused direction (you can sense his inner drive with this material all through the film), the one truly leading the charge here was a borderline unrecognizable Zac Efron, who completely retooled his physique to plausibly look the part of a hulking wrestling behemoth while tapping into this wounded man's vulnerability and sorrow.  

I don't think that you have to be a wrestling fan at all to be deeply moved by THE IRON CLAW; it was a penetratingly  haunting drama that will stick with me for a long time.  

 

  ...and now to round off my TEN BEST FILMS OF 2023 with my selections from 11-25:  
 

11. BARBIE Hi, Barbie!  You deserved all the praise you got.      

12. john wick: chapter 4: It pained me to not put this on my greater TOP 10, and even though this third sequel was the least of the JOHN WICK series, it nevertheless delivered on its intended promises by providing some of the greatest action set-pieces committed to the screen.     

13. SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE This was easily the most daringly bold animated films of 2023 and perhaps one of the finest Spidey centric films (live action or not) ever produced.  

14. FAIR PLAY: Writer/director Chloe Domont's romance picture was cross morphed with an erotic thriller that was further wrapped up in the world of high pressure corporate finance; it made for a uniquely creative achievement.

15. SALTBURN: Barry Keoghan was in quietly sinister form in this unforgettably depraved psychological thriller from the director of PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

16. Flora and Son From the writer/director of SING STREET came another solid dramedy about the healing and cleansing power of music.  

17. SisUIf it wasn't for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 then this micro-budgeted historical revenge thriller would have achieved the moniker of the best action picture of 2023.  

18. THE LASt Voyage of the Demeter::It was a scandalous shame that virtually no one showed up in cinemas last summer to see this devilishly clever take on Dracula mythology.    

19. BlackBerryDirected with great cinéma vérité flair and a darkly humorous edge by Matt Johnson, this fact-based account of the spectacular rise and meteoric fall of a pioneering tech device was an endlessly enthralling watch.  

20. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie: This documentary chronicling the career, life and times of the former FAMILY TIES and BACK TO THE FUTURE star was both an enlightening and challenging watch.   

21. A Haunting in VeniceThis third Inspector Hercule Poirot outing for both writer/director/star Kenneth Branagh was easily the best of the bunch so far.  

22. Leave the World Behind A Netflix produced apocalyptic thriller that was refreshingly more insular and character driven than what we usually get from this genre.  

23. No One Will Save You An alien invasion thriller that proved - like the recent STARFISH and THE VAST OF NIGHT - you can still find audacious ways to buck genre troupes.  

24. THE Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes:  This HUNGER GAMES franchise prequel was bolstered by stupendous production design, finely layered performances, and solid writing; it emerged as the best in the series since CATCHING FIRE.  

25. Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-BelieveErnie Combs was an iconic fixture on Canadian children's television for decades, and this documentary of his life was a joyous celebration of a man that brought so much happiness to multiple generations of viewers.  

 
  Beyond my TOP 25, here's a further selection of films that are definitely worth seeing, but just not quite great enough to make the final cut:  

A Good PersonZach Braff's return to the director's chair was a thoroughly involving treatise on tragedy, abuse, addiction, finding ways to triumph over grief and anger.  

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem:  There have been so many cinematic permutations of these heroes in a half-shell over the years, but this Seth Rogen produced animated effort was delightfully engaging, gorgeously and stylishly animated, and appealingly voice acted.  

Guy Ritchie's The Covenant:  Yeah, the British director has definitely been hit or miss lately, but this surprisingly understated war-themed action picture showed how good he can be when he reigns in his more flamboyant stylistic flourishes.  

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning: Part OneThis is not the equal to the last few stellar installments, but this sixth sequel once again proved that MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE just might be the finest movie franchise in history and star Tom Cruise is easily the most committed showman working today.

RenfieldThis year's other wholly inspired Dracula take focused more on his titular assistant, and it amalgamated farcical laughs and artery spewing violence in highly entertaining ways.  

SharperThis consummately well oiled con artist thriller told a labyrinthine tale of a group of tightly connected people in The Big Apple royally screwing each other over.

PlaneThis Gerard Butler action thriller starring vehicle was like a preposterous hybrid of disaster efforts like AIRPORT and the hardcore jungle-infused action of RAMBO...and it somehow worked really well.  

You Hurt My Feelings A sometimes painful to watch cringe comedy that was also a razor sharp and perceptive examination of marital strife. 

Knock at the CabinHoly hell!  After decades of producing one inanely awful film after another, director M. Night Shyamalan finally - finally! - got his groove back with this religious themed end-of-days picture.   

Creed IIIMichael B. Jordan - like Stallone before - went behind the camera for this third CREED outing, and even though this sequel was a bit too conventionally by the book for my tastes, his skills as a director impressed me.  

MarloweA grizzled Liam Neeson shined as Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled detective Phillip Marlowe in director Neil Jordan's inspired take on well worn material.    

Shazam!  Fury of the GodsAlthough not as welcoming and enjoyable as the first DCEU course correcting entry, this long awaited sequel still understood the core appeal of this BIG meets SUPERMAN premise.  

Tetris 2:  Taron Egerton was great in this Apple film that relayed how one of the biggest selling video games in history had modest beginnings, ascended way up in the gaming world, and later became embroiled in a litany of legal conflicts surrounding the rights.  

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among ThievesThis second major Hollywood produced adaptation of the famous role playing game took big rolls of the dice and scored massive qualitative hit point damage.    

Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3After a so-so first sequel, writer/director James Gunn proved here that the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was no fluke; this was arguably the best entry in an otherwise middling MCU wave.   

Extraction 2The further adventures of the once thought dead Tyler Rake (that name!); it had mundane scripting, but its action sequences were pure rock 'n roll.  

THE Flash:  Although this long delayed DCEU entry had vast ambitions that it never fully capitalized on, I rarely felt that this was a super hero solo film on lazy autopilot.    

the pope's Exorcist: A scenery chewing performance by the well cast Russell Crowe helped make this spiritual horror thriller go down more smoothly. 

the beanie Bubble Remember the Beanie Baby craze?  This Apple produced fact-based dramedy did a relatively solid job of chronicling its origins and featured solid performances. 

Gran TurismoBased on the insanely popular Playstation video game series, this Neill Blomkamp directed affair overcame its underdog sports film conventions with some stylish creativity and some staggeringly good racing sequences.  

No Hard FeelingsJennifer Lawrence tossed her movie star vanity away (in more ways than one) in this raunchy romcom that definitely had its mind in the absolute gutter, but still had its heart in the right place.   

THE BURIAL:  A quite decent and involving Amazon produced legal drama that featured a fine return to performance form for star Jamie Foxx.  

NyadAnnette Bening and Jodie Foster brought their A-game to this biographical sports drama for Netflix.   

THE KILLERDirector David Fincher gave this assassin thriller a wonderful sense of style and harnessed star Michael Fassbender to maximum effect.    

Dumb MoneyA somewhat confusing, but fairly entertaining take on the very recent and very real GameStop short squeeze of 2021.  

May DecemberTodd Haynes' Netflix film contained icky subject matter that proved hard for many to navigate through, but it also had three of the best performances of any film from 2023.  

Chicken Run: Dawn of the NuggetComing a very long 23 years after the first Dreamworks animated film, this cheeky and enjoyable sequel reminded viewers why the stop motion wizardry from Aardman is on a whole other level.

 

 
 

 

 
 
 

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