Brendan’s Big Screen: Winter Season Recap


Credit: Alyssa Ao

Guest writer Brendan Hines breaks down the biggest movies from this winter.

Brendan Hines

Awards season is upon us! Of course, you know what that means: many Oscar-bait films, which most general audiences won’t watch. That said, there were still a lot of movies that came out over the past couple of months. Here are my rankings on the more popular movies that were released, the movies few saw, and a trio of films that have gone relatively unmentioned.

AVATAR: The Way of Water – 8.5/10: Even without the masterful effects, this is one of the year’s best movies. James Cameron was given 13 years to cook in this world, and he delivered epically. Everything is an improvement over the already solid first film: the music, the story, the emotions and the villain. The only real gripe I have is the 3+ hour runtime, which will get a bit strenuous for those with weak bladders during the middle chunk. But if you can hold out for the finale, you’re in for one of the best sequels of the year, which is saying a lot. If you didn’t see it in IMAX 3D, my heart goes out to you, as it was among the best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.

The Whale – 8/10: Brendan Frasier is giving his performance 110%, and the tight script doesn’t shy away from showing the grim depths that his character goes through. It’s not entirely without levity. Some side characters-notably Sadie Sink of fame- bring some charm and flesh the story out. The film uses really great setups at the beginning, which all come together and pay off in the gut-punch of an ending. If you’re up for it, it’s worth your time.

Strange World – 5.5/10: Forgettable. It does what it sets out to do well enough, but what it sets out to do, frankly, wasn’t enough to leave any impact on me. The story is basic (although the ending twist is pretty clever), and the vibe is constantly flipping between 50s-pulp to generic, modern sci-fi. The only consistently good things are the animation, which continues to improve yearly and the voice acting. If you are a  Taylor Swift fan, Jake Gyllenhaal’s lead performance will ruin the already weak movie.

Violent Night – 7/10: Nothing gave me more Christmas spirit than watching that one kid get punched in the face. David Harbour makes an excellent Santa, and the simple story is a great setup for the intense violence and vulgar quips thrown around during the entire movie. It goes for emotional moments, and those fall flat pretty often, but if you go in looking for a ridiculous, Christmas-themed reskin of John Wick, you’ll enjoy yourself.

Puss In Boots: The Last Wish – 9/10: This movie ruins the Shrek continuity. Mamma Bear is somehow alive and working with her family, despite the fact that in the very first Shrek movie, we see her made into a throw rug for Lord Farquaad. Awful. Everything else about it goes harder than it has any right to. The animation is better than anything else this year. It has the villain of the year- the Wolf is so cool for no reason- I love it. Why they decided to put this much effort into a Puss In Boots sequel 11 years after the original? I have no idea, but it’s a marvel to watch, and I’m so glad it exists.

M3GAN – 6/10: M3gan- you fastidious queen, you. Scary? Absolutely not. Funny? Without a doubt. Given the weak protagonist and tired-out killer A.I. doll plot, it’s nothing that’s going to change your life. Some would say it’s probably an easy skip. That being said, if you can find a strange, sick enjoyment in the newly-iconic character of M3GAN singing and dancing as she murders people, it will be worth a quick watch.

Glass Onion – 7.5/10: While it’s a step down from Benoit Blanc’s sophomore outing, it is still entertaining and well-written. The cast is fun to spend time with, and the Greek location is beautifully over-the-top. However, the Massachusetts setting in the previous movie is better. The mystery has high stakes, the finale is big and bombastic, and the actors are playing characters more so than acting like real people. A good time, but it’s on a different level than the first film.

Babylon – 8/10: Too long, too much, and that’s entirely the point. Damien Chazelle has yet to make a bad movie, and this is no different. The music is fantastic, the visuals are stunning, and the cast is impeccable. The film’s individual scenes go on for a while, but it works in the movie’s favor as it’s trying to give you a sense of the chaos and drug-fuelled insanity of 1920s Hollywood. One of the better movies of the year, for sure.

The Hobbit Trilogy – 7/10: I watched these movies on pain medication after getting my wisdom teeth pulled, so I may be giving them too much credit. Then again, I thought they were only okay. Martin Freeman is an excellent Bilbo Baggins, and I love the stuff they pull from the book (such as the Gollum scene or everything with Smaug). However, they’re far too long, and they come up with stuff to bloat the runtime, which can be really exhausting. It could have easily been done in one or two movies, but stretching it out to an entire trilogy only bogs down the final product. On their own, I can have some fun with them, and it’s cool to spend more time in Middle-Earth with these characters, but it’s almost impossible not to look at them next to the near-perfect trilogy. And if you do that well, it’s not the most favorable comparison.

Bones and All – 8.5/10: Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russel lead a rom-com about cannibals. It sounds absurd, and it is but in the best possible way. The emotions are there, the gore you’d expect from a cannibal movie is there, and by god, the beauty of their story is touching. I don’t have much to say about this one without giving things away, but I highly recommend you give this a shot if you have the stomach for it.

There was much to cover, so unfortunately, some films were left out. My opinions aren’t facts. They’re just how I feel. Enjoy what you want to enjoy, and don’t take it too seriously. 2023 is shaping up to be a great year for movies, with tons of big names on the horizon, so be on the lookout for anything that may pique your interest!