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Holiday Movie Review 2022

Our movie critic is here to help you choose what movie to see this year with his annual holiday season recap.

Going to the movies is a big tradition and extremely popular activity over the holiday season - and audiences are more ready to enjoy some well-earned leisure time with their loved ones. But with so many choices, how do you pick what to see?

After two winter holiday seasons of movie-going curtailed by the pandemic, the winter 2022 holidays can at last be enjoyed in all its popcorn-stuffed glory. Better still, school (and some work) holidays this year extend an extra week into early January!

To that end, Oakville News (along with the tireless work of our humble resident film critic) is pleased to present our seventh annual review of holiday movies to help you choose what to see.

Which new movies are worth your time and money? Which ones are in theatres and which ones are streaming - or both? These are confusing questions, especially with so many films all coming out at once. But everything in this list has been released over the last month, with many of them releasing in the last week.

Each film is organized chronologically and listed with our rating, description and a guide to how you can watch them at home. There’s also a paragraph or two highlighting our thoughts on each, along with a trailer.

Hopefully this can be your guide map to movies over the 2022 holidays and into the early new year. Happy watching!

Empire of Light

6 out of 10

Written and Directed by Sam Mendes.

14A, 1hr 53mins. Drama.

Starring Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Toby Jones and Colin Firth.

Released December 9th. Now Playing at Cineplex Winston Churchill & VIP.

Sam Mendes' last film, the war epic 1917, was one of the last major blockbusters before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down cinemas for months on end. His newest film is an original romance about an interracial couple who meet as co-workers at a 1980s cinema house.

The setting is dreary and the best moments all come within the first half of the film - but Oscar winner Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward make for a handsome central couple. Their chemistry and earnestness are better than than the plot that runs out of steam, but there are more admirable parts than not in this sparse drama.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

8 out of 10

Directed by Joel Crawford.

G, 1hr 42mins. Animated Fantasy Adventure.

Starring Antonio 

Released December 21st. Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill & VIP and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

This is the best family film of the holiday season, and probably the best animated film in theatres since Dreamworks' own The Bad Guys back in April this year. It's been 11 years since the first Puss in Boots movie, but this spinoff of the popular Shrek franchise is the best in decades.

It's action-packed with effectively staged chases and fights, has voice acting filled with depth and vulnerability from the entire cast, and it's gut-bustingly funny like Shrek movies used to be. The Last Wish is best suited for older kids and young teens (as mortality and life's purpose are the main themes.)

Best of all, the animation is truly pioneering in its use of colour, scope and frame rate to make it look like a storybook come to life - the last movie to truly revolutionize the medium was 2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Glass Onion (A Knives Out Mystery)

9 out of 10

Written and Directed by Rian Johnson.

PG, 2hrs 19mins. Comedy Mystery.

Starring Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Jessica Henwick and Dave Bautista.

Released December 23rd. Now streaming on Netflix for subscribers. (Following a limited theatrical release.)

Rian Johnson returns with another hilarious whodunit filled with ludicrous and ludicrously genius plot twists. A spinoff of his 2019 smash-hit Knives Out, detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) finds himself on the private luxury Grecian island of billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) and his invited guests for a weekend party with - surprise! A mystery to solve.

This is a rare sequel that improves on its predecessor - it's funnier, less predictable, and full of show-stopping scenes that reveal multiple clever surprises. Like Johnson's first Benoit Blanc mystery, the genius of the character is that it shows you its obvious answers early as a Brechtian technique to make you think about the story's moral rather than focusing on the answer. This is the most fun you'll have at the movies this year.


5 out of 10

Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle.

18A, 3hrs 8mins. Drama Epic.

Starring Diego Calva, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Jean Smart, Li Jun Li, Jovan Adepo and Tobey Maguire.

Released December 23rd. Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill & VIP and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

Academy Award winner Damien Chazelle (best known for 2016's La La Land) was given full reign to make another Hollywood-set ensemble epic, but this time its set at the end of the roaring 1920s. The final edit is filled with the most raucous footage possible, which is mostly great cinema with several needlessly gross (and physically disgusting scenes) interspersed.

Take my word for it: the party scenes make an R rating look gentle, meaning those with weak stomachs should stay far away. The three hour run time (which is easily an hour too long) and its wild behaviour make watching the movie overwhelming for the senses. But brave viewers will still be rewarded with a rich ensemble drama and two fo the year's best scenes in any movie...especially the long first take on the new sound stage.

I Wanna Dance with Somebody

3 out of 10

Directed by Kasi Lemmons.

PG, 2hrs 26mins. Musical Biography.

Starring Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci, Tamara Tunie, Nafessa Williams, Ashton Sanders and Clarke Peters.

Released December 23rd. Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill & VIP and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

Pop legend Whitney Houston's life story, including her record-setting seven #1 hits, should be a great subject for a musical biopic, especially one such a talented creative team. But the film is endlessly depressing and overlong. There's no balance of her life's joys, hard work or successes - just a victimization of her abuse as a teenager from that of her husband and father.

For a musical film, there's also a shocking shortage of songs and musical recreations. The whole thing feels like a C-level Hallmark channel rehash performed by actors doing their best with a bloated, sad screenplay.

Matilda the Musical

7 out of 10

Directed by Matthew Warchus.

PG, 1hr 57mins. Comedy Drama Fantasy Musical.

Starring Alisha Weir, Lashana Lynch, Emma Thompson, Andrea Riseborough, Sindhu Vee and Stephen Graham.

Released December 25th. Now streaming on Netflix for subscribers.

Based on the popular Roald Dahl's famous book and its 2011 musical stage adaptation, Matilda follows the plot of a young girl who loves to read and must contend with the bullying from the adults in her life. The best part is the cast of children - all terrific singers, actors, dancers and comedians. The kids will really have you saying "Wow!"

While this is technically a family film, the heavily English sensibilities of its language and humour style will make it tough for young kids to find it funny - or even enjoy it very much. On film, the surreality on stage is gone, giving the well-written story a darker tone.

Matilda's bleaker staging on screen is less effective on film than it is on stage, or even in the source book. But the production value is still brilliant: the choreography, sets and editing are sharp and executed well. Thompson gives the wildest performance as school headmistress Miss Trunchbull: she plays it fully serious without any respite, but her commitment is still magnificently funny.

In addition to the above, there have been some other terrific movies released in the month of December (or late November), all playing in theatres now. We wholeheartedly recommend these other titles Oakville News has reviewed in the past few weeks:

You can read more reviews and entertainment news with @MrTyCollins on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy New Year, and happy movie-going!