- American Underdog (A-). A truly inspiring "underdog" story of the personal and professional trials of Kurt Warner's dogged quest to play in the NFL.
- Being The Ricardos (B+). A well-executed story about the complex relationship between Lucille Ball and her husband and business partner Desi Arnaz.
- Belfast (A). Striking cinematography elevates this well crafted historical drama about growing up amidst the ethnic violence of 1969 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
- Black Widow (A). Family drama and excellent performances lift this super hero film.
- Bruised (B+). Strong performances carry this adult coming of age story of a female former MMA fighter tries to regain her identity and purpose. Halle Berry's directorial debut.
- CODA (A). A thoroughly engaging, heartfelt story of family, humility, and overcoming the fear of the unknown.
- Cry Macho (B+). A solid performance by Clint Eastwood as a washed up rodeo star is not quite enough to lift this drama about rescuing a boy from an abusive home life in Mexico.
- Cyrano (A). The quintessential tragic romance told brilliantly with a contemporary eye.
- Don't Look Up (A-). No one is spared in this parody of government decision and priority setting through entertainment driven politics. Strong performances by Hollywood's A-list. (Netflix)
- Dune (A). Visually immersive storytelling combined with Hans Zimmer's Wall of Sound artistic sensibilities lift this faithful adaptation of the Frank Herbert classic science fiction story.
- Eternals (B). Yep, another Super Hero action film. Good performances.
- Free Guy (A-). An admirably human and light-hearted take on messy tech issues.
- Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (B+). The ultimate spoof of the action genre played to ludicrously comic excess by Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, and Salma Hayek.
- House of Gucci (B-). Excellent performances by Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, and Al Pacino can't quite get this classically told story moving on screen.
- i am All Girls (B+). A dark thriller from South Africa which dives deep into the world of sex trafficking.
- In The Heights (A). Lin-Manuel Miranda's tour de force celebration of first generation Hispanic culture in New York City.
- Judas and the Black Messiah (A). Gripping performances by Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield bring this dark, disturbing real-life story of the FBI's intent to undermine Illinois's Black Panther Party in 1969 to life.
- Jungle Cruise (B). Entertaining light-hearted family fun from Disney as Dwayne Johnson and Emily blunt search for a magical flower in the Amazon during World War I while being pursuing by a nasty German prince.
- Licorice Pizza (B+). A classic coming of age story about an older girl and a younger guy struggling to find what really matters in a relationship.
- Nobody (B). Ridiculous, well crafted, high-octane entertainment. Don't bother counting the bodies.
- Respect (B+). Jennifer Hudson's top flight performance keeps this biopic about Aretha Franklin on track.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (A). An epic Chinese tale drawing more from fantasy and the mysticism inspired Asian myth than science fiction.
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (A). The Spider-Man franchise is alive and well in this installment of the saga that draws on the complexities of the multiverse.
- Suicide Squad (B+). Redeemable sociopaths make the over-the-top mayhem enjoyable.
- The Beatles: Get Back (documentary). Iconic filmmaker Peter Jackson provides a long-overdue correction to the historical record on the Beatles.
- The Card Counter (B). A dark meditation on PTSD, the ethics of anti-terrorism tactics, and the boundaries of decency.
- The Courier (B+). A strong performance by Benedict Cumberbatch keeps this Cold War spy drama interesting and engaging.
- The Green Knight (A). An authentic interpretation of the classic tale of Sir Gawain's quest for meaning, courage, and honor.
- The Last Duel (A-). A gritty medieval tale of honor, betrayal, and fidelity from the different perspectives of two men and the woman they covet.
- The Mauritanian (B). A troubling story based on a true story of someone caught in the terror of the anti-terrorist crusade.
- The Matrix: The Resurrections (B-). Lots of action in this straightforward sequel in the Matrix franchise that Keanu Reeves made his own. Matrix fans will like it.
- The Power of the Dog (A-). An epic Western drama, with sweeping landscapes, and a rancher who tails to grasp the power and will of those he intimidates and bullies.
- The Protege (B+). A standard action film with enough mystery to keep audiences engaged and carried by solid performances by Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton.
- The Unforgivable (B+). A strikingly layered and well-informed narrative film about the trappings of the criminal justice system and the injustices it produces.
- Tick, Tick... BOOM! (A). An excellent, innovative drama and musical about Jonathan Larson's struggles to get his work produced on Broadway with an outstanding performance by Andrew Garfield. (Perhaps my favorite movie of 2021.)
- Venom: Let There Be Carnage (B). If you like smart-talking demons inside your body, this is Marvel movie for you. Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson keep it comically real.
- West Side Story (A). An excellent, inspired update on the classic story and film.
For movie reviews for files released,
- In 2020, click here.
- In 2019, click here.
- In 2018 reviews click here.
- For a complete movie review archive sorted by title click here.
Generally, movies I have seen and intend to review are on this list, with links to longer reviews on line.
If the movie does not not have a live link, I typically intend to review it - and have notes- but have not finalized it. If you have a question about a specific movie, feel free to email me with a question at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In general, these web pages only include movies I score as a "B" or higher. These are movies that I recommend seeing to most, if not all, audiences. "A" movies generally score very well across the board, regardless of genre. "B" movies tend to be movies that work well within certain genres but not others. "B" movies also tend to be stronger in some areas and uneven in their execution or story. "C" movies are occasionally recommended, or reviewed, because I have found a strong, redeeming element despite what I saw as flaws in execution, production, performance, or story.
Don't forget to check out my book Contemporary Film and Economics (Routledge, 2018) and see why one film producer called it "subversively educational."
Reviews for 2022 and 2021 movie releases with overall assessment on my rubric.
I have three platforms for publishing my reviews: the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, where long reviews and analysis typically run; Facebook (Movie Reviews by Sam Staley, or @themovieswithsam), and on my personal blog (blog.srstaley.com). Facebook is typically the most timely. Also, follow me on twitter @samrstaley.
Time constraints prevent me from writing full reviews for each of the movies on this list. The movies with grades, however, reflect how the movie fared after assessing it along eight criteria (assessed according to my rubric):
- production values & artistic scope,
- story composition & internal consistency,
- story plausibility & dialogue,
- story context (including genre),
- entertainment value,
- character depth & arcs,
- acting quality, and
- overall content message.
Generally, if a movie scores lower than a B, I won't write a full review. I also will not typically post the film or a grade. Given the subjective nature of movies as an expression of art, and the fact negative reviews tend to prejudice the commercial success of a film more than positive ones, I generally do not post negative reviews.
However, if you are interested in my thoughts, feel free to email me at email@example.com.