By Jose Anguiano – Cinematic Bandicoot
January 9th, 2023
With 2022 in the past, it’s time to lookback at the best media that didn’t get a proper review.
Since reviewers need to constantly churn out reviews some of the best offerings can slip through the cracks, especially when franchises dominate the box-office over original ideas like “The Fabelmans” and “The Whale”.
Before we begin, I want to clarify that I did not get to watch or play everything that came out this year. So, if something doesn’t show up that received critical acclaim from all corners of the internet, it’s because I didn’t have time to experience what they had to offer.
Also, there will be spoilers for some of these entries if you have not watched or played them.
This is the best unreviewed media of 2022.
Domee Shi’s theatrical debut about a teenager going through puberty is one of the best coming of age films in animation.
The story subverts the hiding the animal cliche for a different direction that proves fresh and unpredictable.
The red panda is adorable and gets some of the best moments as Mei becomes more comfortable with her own identity.
Her change from an ideal daughter to perceived rebellion works for both Mei’s inner perfection and her mother’s over controlling nature.
Even side characters like the father get some underappreciated bonding moments when he tries to alleviate the tension.
The animation is top notch with more than its fair share of anime references like “Sailor Moon” and “Spirited Away”.
People have thrown shade at the “CalArts style”, but it has its place in this generation with speed, fluidity and timing.
This is evident in scenes where Mei tries to keep a straight face in front of her parents only for one second of a different expression to give away everything.
There is more to animation than just trying to copy real life.
“Turning Red” is another hit for the new generation of animators at Pixar, and it’s sad that this did not get a theatrical release even with the benefits of streaming services.
The Bad Guys
Dreamwork Animation’s take on Aaron Blabey’s book series about a group of animals wreaking havoc in the big city is artistry in motion.
The personalities of each creature cement their history as a team whether on the job or eating cake, especially Wolf and Snake.
Each heist is a masterclass of precision that not even Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt can hold a candle to.
The way it plays with stereotypes and villains is lightyears ahead of Disney’s 2010 twist villain line up, even if the big reveal is predictable.
The action builds upon the standards set by “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” through swift car chases that make “The Fast and Furious” look like slow motion.
Some of the humor can get really dark for a PG rating, which more animated films should take inspiration from.
The animation perfectly captures the bleak atmosphere of Los Angeles – the overcrowding cars, the blazing sun, and the popular parties – while the book’s visuals are given a hybrid makeover to stand out from the Dreamworks catalog.
Disney may be known for adapting classic stories, but Dreamworks proves they can tweak modern stories into something equally entertaining for a different audience.
Wendell and Wild
Henry Selick’s return to stop motion with producer Jordan Peele brings the otherworldly frights from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Coraline”.
The story of a girl dealing with the death of her parents doesn’t go for the typical “Mean Girls” tropes, and instead dives into the effects a childhood tragedy can bring to people years later.
Key and Peele bring their natural chemistry as the two brothers who want to build an amusement park while James Hong’s teacher gets caught up in the back stabbings of both the living and the dead.
Admittedly, it gets unsubtly political with one of the villains being another dime a dozen parody of then President Donald Trump, but the quantity of strange visuals outweighs the overcrowded characters as the main lead Kat comes to terms with grief.
Character designs like Wendell and Wild look like cardboard cutouts brought to life, moving with the believability of 3D animation.
Everyone int he world of the living has a unique anatomy that makes them stand out from each other, which is saying a lot given the gigantic cast.
Some of the best moments involve a roller coaster chase with Spark plug as the two worlds clash into a chaotic finale.
“Wendell and Wild” spent a lot of time in its own development hell due to Selick’s cancelled “Shadow King” movie, but this reassures stop-motion fans that the master still knows how to craft an experience like no other.
My Father’s Dragon
Based on the books by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Ruth Chrisman Gannet, this adaptation does not shy away from the real-world problems of a boy and his single mother moving to a new city.
Though it gets less focus than the island of animals, the moments between parent and child are heartbreaking as they try to hold on to the one goal that keeps them sane through all their financial troubles.
When the Island comes into play, it contains some of the best creature designs as Elmer and Boris grow close over their desire to better themselves.
Ian McShane as the Gorilla is both intimidating yet calming as he tries to keep the island residents form drowning on the sinking island.
The resolution at the end is heartfelt and relieving when everyone realizes their mistakes.
There are apparently more books in this series, and if this is what Cartoon Saloon can accomplish with one feature, it would be fascinating to see more of this universe set to animation.
Shaun the Sheep: Twas the Flight Before Christmas
Aardman’s flagship series about a group of mischievous sheep brings the holiday cheer with fun and laugher as the group tries to save Timmy from becoming a toy under a family’s tree.
The situation alone leads to many visual and verbal jokes from both the animals and humans.
The farmer doesn’t have enough screentime, and yet he gets the best moments dressed as Santa trying to sell his homemade drinks.
Shaun and the group improvising as the situation continues leads to the best visual storytelling as the clock ticks closer to Christmas.
There’s even a hilariously cruel stab at one of the greatest holiday stories of all time.
Despite everything going on, there’s a good message about spending time with family and not letting technology takeover parenting.
The animation keeps the Aardman tradition of being authentically British yet still accessible to Americans.
All the stunts the animals pull off put live action to shame for not having as much imagination in the slapstick.
With “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” due on Netflix in 2023, this serves as a tasty holiday appetizer before the main course.
An inverted take on the “Predator” series, this succeeds where 2018’s “The Predator” failed in bringing a new spin to this long running series.
Focusing on a tribe in the past works for both the story and representation, even if some of the dialogue is too modern for the era.
The main character is flawed enough to be relatable yet ambitious enough to root for when she tries to become a hunter.
Add a group of fur traders into the mix after the predator makes his first kill, and this turns into an all-out war that ends with the main lead being put to the ultimate test.
If Disney live-action remakes took notes from this, there would be more character dynamics that would put them on par with their animated counterparts.
When there’s a kill on screen, it feels earned whether from the tribe, the fur traders or the dominant threat.
“Prey” is the quintessential example of how to bring a new twist in this franchise dominated landscape without sacrificing the spirit of the original.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
This Marvel Cinematic Universe entry had big shoes to fill following the death of its lead actor Chadwick Boseman, and thankfully it delivered.
The authentic grief from the cast adds to the drama as Wakanda struggles to maintain its place in the world.
This also holds true for T’Challa’s sister who struggles with moving on when she feels responsible for not saving her brother.
While the villain is not as relatable as Kilmonger, he still brings a menace with his war against the surface world.
The effects are improved as we get a tour of the hidden city and the ongoing conflict with countries that want to mine Wakanda’s vibranium for their own agendas.
The final battle is gigantic, yet character driven as the new Black Panther cements herself before letting her inner turmoil out by the end.
As the closing chapter of Phase Four, “Wakanda Forever” adds the needed drama and brevity missing from these Disney+ shows and movies.
Hopefully phase five will bring new developments as a new cast of superheroes takeover for the ones retiring in this post-Endgame era
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Ryan Johnson’s continuation of his sleeper hit mystery series knows how to still subvert expectations.
Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc is one of the best detectives as he goes through another intriguing case that takes more turns with each new scene.
Everyone surrounding him fit their rich stereotypes as the layers peel back showing their true feelings towards their “friend”.
Actors like Dave Bautista and Kate Hudson steal the show as a self-absorbed Twitch streamer and former supermodel with their own plans.
The final resolution feels earned as all the pieces come together to paint a different picture than what is presented at the beginning.
It also serves as a fitting finale for the legendary Angela Lansbury, who goes out playing “Among Us” of all things.
With a third film now in development, Johnson has to potential to reinvigorate the mystery genre for movies like Agetha Christine did for books.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
What do you get when you combine James Gun, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Christmas? You get one of the best modern holiday specials that follows Drax and Mantis kidnapping Kevin Bacon for Peter Quill.
Part of the fun is seeing everyone misinterpret what Christmas is supposed to be about, whether through songs or childhood flashbacks.
The other part is seeing two oblivious characters commit criminal acts during the holiday – breaking and entering, kidnapping and property damage.
Through it all, Drax and Mantis prove a funny team as they get lost on Earth trying to locate the actor, only for their cheery attitudes to change when they realize that he is not a superhero.
The final resolution is heartfelt despite the awkward situation Bacon finds himself in, and it will bring a tear to many families who decorating their trees in the coming years.
Top Gun Maverick
Another victim of the pandemic, this 30-year sequel soars above the clouds and through the ravines as Tom Cruise preps younger pilots for a dangerous mission.
Seeing Cruise deal with the responsibility of teaching and dealing with the guilt of Goose’s son looming over his shoulder leads to some of the best dramatic acting in his career.
Despite a few character setbacks in the beginning, this evolves both everything to modern times with past wisdom and a new generation of challenges.
The action sequences are tense as the pilots improvise with unforeseen circumstances, and the G force tension is felt inside the cockpit.
The directing takes advantage of today’s filmmaking tools by showcasing authentic arial stunts.
By going the extra mile with shots inside the jets, it immerses the viewer into the experience whether on the base or in enemy territory.
As someone who was not nostalgic for the original, this is superior in technology, storytelling, and emotional pay-off which honors the late Tony Scott by catering to fans while moving forward.
And the best unreviewed movie of 2022 is…
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
In a year where we’ve gotten three adaptations of Carlo Collodi’s book, this gives us the authentic take that has been out of reach for so long.
The intro brilliantly sets up an emotional backstory for Geppetto that immediately clashes with Pinocchio’s obliviously carefree personality.
While the characters can get angry, they remain relatable in how they deal with life’s worst moments before and during the war.
Unlike the Robert Zemeckis Disney remake, the lessons don’t backfire and serve a bigger purpose by sticking with the morale and not sugar coating the real world.
There’s even a grim easter egg involving Sebastian the Cricket getting repeatedly squashed as an obvious homage to the character’s fate in the novel.
It also addresses the downsides of immortality that the book never brought up, especially in the end when one thinks everything will be tied up in a bow.
The animation is some of the best crafted in 2022. The movements are fluid while working in harmony with computer generated imagery to give everything an otherworldly look.
The designs feel straight out of a Brothers Grimm novel with Gris Grimly’s Pinocchio design contrasting with the realistic humans.
The entire cast fit their roles perfectly like David Bradley as the grieving Geppetto, Ewan McGregor as the introverted cricket, and Christoph Waltz as the abusive stage manager Volpe.
Del Toro may have toiled for over a decade to get funding, but his adaptation of “Pinocchio” will stand next to Walt Disney’s take in the 1940s.
Here’s hoping that it wins the best animated feature Oscar for going above and beyond the call of duty in making the impossible a reality.
With that out of the way let’s move on to television, which has had some heavy hitters over the year thanks to streaming platforms.
Ms. Marvel (Season 1)
This Disney+ show about a Muslim-American high school student starts out with a unique art style that slowly transitions it to a down to earth commentary about finding one’s place in the world.
While it’s debatable if the culture is americanized for the audience, the notion of being too ethnic for Americans yet too American to be ethnic is incredibly fascinating.
Iman Vellani shines as Kamala Khan with her imagination as she struggles to fit in and prepare for the future.
The supporting cast are also great in bouncing off her in ways that only family can during the good and bad times.
Though the effects are a latent dysfunction of the behind the scenes crunch culture, they still show her powers in unique ways.
Some claim it is not authentic to the comics but given that Mr. Fantastic cameoed in “The Multiverse of Madness”, it makes sense to diversify the powers.
While the villains aren’t that memorable, Kamala’s journey into her own identity leads to great comedy, action and suspense.
Hopefully she will bring more personality to her upcoming collaboration with Captain Marvel.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (Season 1)
Yes, this show has some flaws that keeps it from rising above other Phase Four content, but it nonetheless makes Jenifer Walters a compelling lead compared to Captain Marvel.
Part of that stems from her shunning the superhero spotlight and trying to live a normal life after completing law school.
Seeing her juggle both her professional field and her personal life gives her a better identity than just being a strong female character like 2020’s Mulan.
It’s also funny seeing the toxic discourse surrounding the show turned into a joke, especially when “Marvel fans” don’t realize that this is not a random gender swap of the Incredible Hulk.
Her chemistry with Bruce brings a refreshing banter throughout the season as her job leads her down unforeseen circumstances.
When things go her way, it’s a happy moment to savor. When her personal life gets caught up in the crossfire, it’s relatable and sad.
Bringing Tim Roth back as the Abomination is a clever way to bridge the first Hulk movie with the current actor, and Wong still gets some of the best moments in this season.
Even Daredevil’s redesign and character tweaking leaves the door open to so many possibilities by the end.
While it does suffer from some tonal whiplash after some poignant moments, “She Hulk: Attorney at Law” is one of the better experiments in Phase Four.
The Cuphead Show (Seasons 1B and 1C)
Contrary to popular belief, seasons two and three of “The Cuphead Show” are part of a one season deal with Netflix following the #NewDeal4Animation movement on social media.
That being said, the rest of the season adds more wackiness that elevates it to one of the platform’s best binge sessions.
The Fleischer inspired animation is in full effect as Cuphead, Mugman, and Ms. Chalice navigate more dangers on the Inkwell Isles – a high security prison, the candy-coated Baroness Von Bon Bon, the German rat Werner Werman and Cala Maria, who is the Lady Dimitrescu of this universe.
All the expressions and quickly timed gags add more comedy to these situations, and there’s always something creative around each corner. One of them is Cuphead’s obsession with fireworks when Mugman and Elder Kettle are collecting firewood for the winter.
Every episode with the devil is a homerun, especially a Christmas special where he turns into Santa.
The show is currently on hiatus until further notice, but for what we got in the first season it does the game justice and sets up too many possibilities to not be renewed for another season.
Primal (Season 2)
Genndy Tartakovsky’s series about a caveman-dinosaur duo pushed the boundaries of visual story telling as the world expanded with new history and upped everything amazing aspect in the previous episodes.
Having Spear go after Mira leads to even more conflicts that end in bigger dilemmas.
Every new threat is a challenge that ups the action where blood is never absent.
The already lush art direction makes the scenery either beautiful or threatening with unique creature designs chasing our two leads.
In between the chaos are moments where everyone comes together as a family, both with familiar faces and with new arrivals.
The final episode takes a surprising turn, even for a series as violent as this.
While Spear’s story ends here, it will be interesting to witness the series unfold as an anthology jumping from character to character.
Samurai Jack’s ending proved controversial to fans, but “Primal” keeps the action going with guts and glory.
And the best unreviewed television series of 2022 is…
The Sandman (Season 1)
After years of trying to adapt Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels into a movie, Netflix formatted the story for television with perfection.
Reading up on the first two volumes beforehand, it’s amazing how well this translates to a different medium.
Both the human world and the underworld are filled with imaginative creatures that complement one another as these characters deal extraordinary circumstances.
While the source’s structure remains intact, the creative liberties improve the narrative like adding backstories to side characters like Gary Oldman’s Dr. Dee.
Several scenes that stick out are at the diner where he uses a ruby to bring down the walls of society and an animated short film centered around cats ruling the world.
Tom Sturridge is perfectly cast as the sandman changing from a meek hostage to a powerful entity cleaning up the messes in both the world of the living and the dead.
Patton Oswalt is also hilarious yet down to earth as his Raven sidekick Matthew.
With a second season now in development, reading the graphic novels will be necessary to see how it builds upon the foundation set in season one.
And to those complaining about the “wokeness” that was also present in the novels:
Let’s wrap up this best of the year recount with video games, which saw many heavy hitters since January!
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
This 3D debut of a 2D series pulls out all the stops as Kirby is whisked away to a post-apocalyptic world, and the result is a natural evolution to this simplistic premise.
The gameplay perfectly transitions to the third dimension without losing what made the series a fun platformer as the puffball inhales objects that tower over him.
All the powerups return along with secret collectibles, which adds more variety to the gameplay while creatures try to eat you like a snack.
The graphics reflect the cheerful tone on the surface, but the best Kirby games have a twisted underbelly when delving deeper into the world.
Whether alone or cooperating with a buddy, “Kirby and the Forgotten Land” is another grand slam for the character, and hopefully we’ll see more 3D adventures in the near future.
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course
An extension to the already amazing indie game, this downloadable content adds more memorable bosses, more unique powerups, more fluid animation, and more secrets to discover after the credits.
Though the platforming levels are absent, the bosses make-up for it with challenging maneuvers and wacky personalities.
The new powerups are a welcome addition as the brothers try to save Ms. Chalice from a terrible fate at the hands of Chef Saltbaker, who is worthy ally turned final boss when he literally dishes out a three-course army.
While a genuine sequel is still out of reach, this side quest gives players more of what they loved in one of the biggest indie hits of the last decade.
Horizon Forbidden West
The sequel to the amazing “Horizon Zero Dawn” pulls out all the stops in giving the player more of what made the first game a modern classic.
The story is more fleshed out with a bigger world, and the gameplay expansion is not overbearing when encountering new creatures.
The graphics are improved whether you play on a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5, with more realistic proportions for both humans and technology.
The mini games are a fun distraction in between the battles and the expanded hunting mechanics maintain the illusion of being a one-person army.
With the upcoming “Burning Shores” DLC on the Horizon, pun intended, this series is solidifying its place against other great franchises that define the PlayStation experience, whether on a console or PC.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection
A compilation of the side-scrolling Ninja Turtle games this is one of the best collections on the market, and not just because it contains rare ports of arcade classics like “Turtles in Time”.
In an era when game preservation is under attack and some collections suffer a rocky development to make a quick buck, this puts in the effort to preserve the best of the beat-em-up genre starring multiple versions of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s creation for a new generation.
Whether alone or with friends, the gameplay tests anyone’s button mashing skills against the foot clan, Bebop and Rocksteady, Krang, and Shredder as they pull off multiple schemes to take over Earth.
The graphics are given many filters for older and younger gamers without losing the colorful charm of the cartoon.
The special features more than justify the price, unlike the “Super Mario 3D Allstars Collection” which did not have the curtesy of adding behind the scenes material for a full priced game.
With Nintendo cracking down on ROM sites, more companies need to create these collections so everyone can mutually benefit from bringing retro games to current gen consoles
This indie game about a cat traversing a dystopian society justifiably scooped up many awards.
The idea alone is enough to win over the internet, but the execution is a neon world of wonder as this furball travels from one location to another.
The various NPCs have unique personalities that make the strange world feel homely despite the melancholy undertones.
The cat itself is one of the cutest characters that controls smoothly when running or jumping from platform to platform.
Add some intense chase sequences that display the dangers of the poverty stricken underground, and this becomes a small-scale epic that leaves a big impression.
Whether this gets a sequel or not, “Stray” crawled its way into the hearts of many and purred loud enough to get some well-deserved adoration.
And the best unreviewed video game of 2022 is…
God of War Ragnarök
As someone who didn’t love the 2018 requel, this was everything I wanted to see in a Norse mythology entry – more creatures, more conflicts, more challenging themes, more refined graphics, and more world building.
As Atreus becomes his own person, his relationship with Kratos goes through tough changes that lead to difficult conversations.
Scenes like this are much more engaging than the stoic and secretive recluse Kratos started out as in 2018:
The conversations between Faye and Kratos fill the void in the original with a backstory of her lowering the Spartan’s guard, making him more human and relatable:
The variety of Norse creatures overshadow the repetitive trolls and rock bosses from the original as the world expands with more side missions tying into the main story.
Additionally, Odin is an incredible villain who uses diplomatic communication until he doesn’t get what he wants.
It’s insane how he uses everyone, including his family, for his own gain.
Meanwhile, Thor proves a worthy opponent yet a sympathetic character once he sees his life disintegrate around him.
Even side characters like Freya and her brother get more development as the realms unite against Odin’s tyranny.
Meanwhile, the gameplay refines the few flaws that kept the first adventure from being a masterpiece.
The camera is finally pulled back making combat more manageable when enemies surround you.
The upgrading system is more manageable with branching ways to strengthen both Kratos and Atreus, and the additional weapons are more balanced with the enemy variety.
The trade off in gameplay between Kratos and Atreus is clever as the narrative eases you in different directions and gives you more time to get used to their different play styles.
Sure, there are unanswered questions like Sindri’s grief over his brother’s death, but hopefully this will be answered in future downloadable content tying up any loose ends.
While I didn’t get the hype behind the 2018 game, even if it was the best direction for the series, “God of War Ragnarok” is a perfect storm of improvement that solidified its place in the new console generation.
With the direction the ending steers towards, one wonders if Kratos will find his way to the Egyptian era.
Maybe he’ll meet Sly Cooper there.
GDT’s Pinocchio was very good! Glad we had one good Pinocchio movie this year!
I personally absolutely hated Turning Red and I know that’s not the popular opinion, lol!
Stray is on my list of games to play!