Saturday, December 31, 2022

Stubs - Repeat Performance

Repeat Performance
(1947) Starring: Louis Hayward, Joan Leslie, Virginia Field, Tom Conway Directed by Alfred Werker. Screenplay by Walter Bullock. Based on the novel Repeat Performance by William O'Farrell (New York, 1942). Produced by Aubrey Schenck. U.S. Black and White. Run time: 92 minutes. Drama. Fantasy. Film Noir. Holidays.

As we all know, genres can be mixed like ingredients in a cocktail, but I don’t think I’ve seen film noir mixing holiday and fantasy before seeing Repeat Performance. Set around New Year’s Eve, the film plays like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone, down to an opening narration that promises to give the protagonist what they want, the ability to relive an entire year hoping for a different outcome.

2022 - The Highlights (EHeroFlareNeos)

After nearly three years of the global COVID-19 pandemic, of which we have yet to see the other side, film studios have felt more comfortable releasing their films back into theaters, some also shrinking the timeframe between theatrical and streaming. Although we’ve gotten more comfortable with going back to the theater ourselves this year, we’ve still been selective in the interest of safety and picked up some of the slack through streaming. As with previous years, this list is based entirely on what we were able to watch or play for ourselves.

Top Movies of 2022

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Coming off the success of the first Sonic the Hedgehog film, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 successfully continues its momentum. Its humorous and well-written story keeps Sonic fans and general audiences alike fully engaged while the animation and acting, including a restrained Jim Carrey, feel like an upgrade. This sequel also brings increased confidence from the filmmakers in including more elements directly based on the games, including plot-relevant lore and smaller easter eggs, all while keeping it accessible in a good way. With the mid-credits scene teasing what’s to come in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, one can only hope that this series can continue setting the standard for what a good video game adaptation can look like.

The Bad Guys

Where Disney and Pixar have started stagnating in advancing the animation medium, their competition has picked up the slack. DreamWorks’ The Bad Guys, based on an Australian children’s book series, not only has a strong story with a lot of heart, but also a very unique art style that allows for very dynamic and energetic animation. It’s also hard not to draw parallels with Lupin III, which in this case is a compliment. Even if you’ve never read the books, this is a must-watch for animation fans.

Bullet Train

Even in a year with not that many notable releases, some otherwise great movies can still unfortunately fall through the cracks. Case in point, Bullet Train, an overlooked film adaptation of a Japanese novel with a lot to love. Diverse and memorable characters, creative action, clever writing and a healthy dose of dark humor all make Bullet Train a very fun time and a ride we’d love to take again.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Of the few notable releases from this year, Everything Everywhere All at Once deserves its praise. The film touches on complex family issues and does a great job at exploring the implications of the multiverse (especially when compared with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) while including a good amount of well-timed humor without undercutting the otherwise serious tone. On top of that, the visual effects are very impressive, even more so with the knowledge that the VFX artists had little prior experience. Definitely worth the watch, though keep in mind that due to the “R” rating, certain scenes are not appropriate for children.

Top Game of 2022

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Due to various circumstances, I only really played one full game this year, but fortunately that game was of very high quality. Though I don’t have much experience with the Kirby franchise, Mouthful Mode is a fun extension of the series’ traditional mechanics and, much like Super Mario Odyssey, the gameplay strikes a near-perfect balance of simple and difficult, both in the combat and puzzles. Unlocking upgraded Forms feels very satisfying and the environment does a great job at nonverbally communicating different concepts to the player. Similarly, the story is well-written and easy to follow, also incorporating a surprise horror element towards the end. A great addition to any Switch library.

Top Disappointments of 2022


In spite of the premise serving as a creative way of continuing the Toy Story franchise, Lightyear really falls flat on its face. It fails as a vehicle for selling the audience on a Buzz Lightyear toy and even more so as a movie that Andy would have watched as a child. On top of that, the movie’s main twist ruins the mystique behind the main villain, Zurg. You’re better off trying to watch Buzz Lightyear of Star Command instead.

Thor: Love and Thunder

Ever since the ending of Phase 3, the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to have stagnated, continuing on aimlessly with no real end goal in sight. No film so far has encapsulated this more than Thor: Love and Thunder, a sequel that tries and fails at recapturing the fun, if flawed, magic of Thor: Ragnarok. Any potential for Thor joining the Guardians of the Galaxy is swiftly squandered within the first act, moments that should be more serious are instead a farce and some jokes rely on stale and outdated internet memes. That’s not to mention the overexaggerated relationship themes, obnoxious abundance of Guns N’ Roses references and amazingly bad CGI in certain sequences. If you’re looking for fun in Phase 4, you won’t find it here. The worst part, however, is that roughly the first thirty minutes are unfortunately necessary for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Pinocchio (2022 Disney)

It’s no secret that Disney’s live-action remakes pale in comparison to their original animated counterparts, but Pinocchio may be one of the worst yet. Questionable plot changes, subpar CGI and inconsistent performances all make for a miserable viewing experience that will do nothing but waste your time. On top of it, the new renditions of songs don’t have nearly the same charm and Pleasure Island’s themes of vice are muddied in translation. Just watch the original instead.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe

The last time I played The Stanley Parable, I considered it one of the best walking simulators on the market for making a point while also having tight gameplay. Unfortunately, the updated Unity port, Ultra Deluxe, falls short of the highs of the original. Though it looks much nicer than the original release, the amount of new content doesn’t really justify the higher price tag, not to mention it feels inconsistent, both in story and presentation. If you’ve never played The Stanley Parable, wait for a sale or buy the original.

2022 – The Highlights (Tetris_King)

Continuing the momentum from last year, and after a rough adjustment period, the ongoing pandemic hasn't stopped companies from putting out a steady stream of content that caught our interest. Although we've finally started going back into a theater, we have become far more selective about which movies are worth experiencing this way in order to avoid possible infection. While I liked a lot of the movies I saw this year, not too many of them stood out to me enough to make it onto this list, however playing a greater number of new games this year that I enjoyed led to some more difficult choices.

Each list is presented in no particular order, with links to reviews where applicable.

Top Movies of 2022

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The last movie I was able to see in a theater before the world shut down was Sonic the Hedgehog, and though theaters had opened back up in the intervening years, I hesitated to go back for the longest time, deciding to ease myself back in with Sonic the Hedgehog 2. This turned out to be the perfect way to bookend this experience, as I had a lot of fun watching it and seeing how much more confident the writers seemed in bringing the film closer to its video game origins. It’s not perfect, but it’s worth it for Sonic fans and the post-credits scene has me hyped for a Sonic the Hedgehog 3.

The Bad Guys

The success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse opened up a lot of possibilities for CG animation, and it seems as though DreamWorks Animation is one of few studios to recognize this potential, as demonstrated with their adaptation of The Bad Guys. Not only is the animation truly spectacular to watch, the story is a great adaptation of the books that inspired it, taking liberties without sacrificing its identity. Even for those who haven’t read the books, this movie is a fun and emotional ride that will leave you wanting more.

Bullet Train

On seeing ads for Bullet Train, I was a little skeptical, but after taking a chance with cheaper tickets, it turned out to be far more enjoyable than I initially expected. While there are multiple subplots, everything comes together in a satisfying way, plus the character interactions throughout can be very engaging on their own, with a lot of well-paced humor that doesn’t feel overbearing. If you’re looking for something different in the action space than the overwhelming amount of superhero content, Bullet Train is well worth your time.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Though the success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse led to an increase and overabundance of media centering on the multiverse and crossovers, this movie takes a very unique approach to the multiverse idea that helps it stand out from the crowd. This is especially true when compared with fellow contemporary Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which had a far higher budget yet didn’t show quite the same ambition in regards to displaying alternate universes. The main plot and its themes also justify the usage of the multiverse in an interesting way, making it well worth watching at least once.


Top Games of 2022

Moss: Book II

After eagerly anticipating the follow-up to the VR game Moss for years, Moss: Book II proved to be well worth the wait thanks to its more ambitious scope and increased visual fidelity that somehow manages to run smoothly in PlayStation VR. The story is also far more ambitious, resolving the plot threads set up in the first episode in an emotional and satisfying manner. With the announcement of a PS VR2 port on the horizon, I would definitely consider experiencing the entire duology again on that platform if possible.

Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series

As someone who wanted to play the Klonoa series but was priced out of it, this collection is a much-needed reissue of the first two games, updated for modern systems. The stories remain intact while the visuals and gameplay have been greatly improved, including a new optional Easy difficulty for both games, making them an ideal jumping-on point for newer players. As Klonoa media has become very sparse, the main hope is that good-enough sales can justify a reissue of other games or even a new entry.


One of the more interesting-looking games from the PS5 announcement was Stray, in which you play as a wild cat exploring a futuristic city populated by robots. While this was enough to motivate me to play it, the actual game turned out to be a lot more, with some interesting gameplay that takes full advantage of the player character being a cat as well as a setting that becomes more intriguing the further you progress. If you’ve always wanted to play as a cat, the game is well worth the purchase, and it would be interesting to see what the developer does next.

Top Disappointments of 2022

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe

Having played the original The Stanley Parable when it came out and liked it, the Ultra Deluxe re-release proved to be a disappointment not because of the new content, but rather the lack thereof. The commentary on reviews, while clever, comes off as more bitter than witty and most of the new endings come down to whether or not you happen to be holding a bucket at the time you do so. Getting a discount at launch for owning the original lessens the sting, but not by much, since I had missed the refund window on Steam by the time I realized what I had bought. If you’ve never played the original game before, this is a pretty solid package, otherwise I would tell you to really think about it or wait for a deeper discount if you are already a fan.


While the Toy Story franchise has generally had consistently good output, Lightyear is not one of them, as it presents a gross mishandling of its own premise. Despite presenting itself as the film that Andy would have seen as a child in the ‘90s that made him want a Buzz Lightyear toy, it certainly doesn’t feel like it, having none of the fun or wit of the unrelated Buzz Lightyear of Star Command TV series from the year 2000. If you can, I would say to watch that show and/or its premiere TV film, The Adventure Begins, instead, as this new take is a wholly skippable adventure in the Buzz Lightyear saga.

Thor: Love and Thunder

While Thor: Ragnarok felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the two Thor films before it, Thor: Love and Thunder feels more like carbon dioxide. Whatever serious plot there may have been is buried under layers upon layers of overbearing jokes and an overabundance of Guns N’ Roses references, not to mention some questionable effects and two screaming goats that overstay their welcome. It’s hard to recommend this one to those who aren’t die-hard MCU fans that stuck with it past Avengers: Endgame, otherwise the only reason to watch it is if you’re one still keeping up with the Guardians of the Galaxy series.

Pinocchio (2022 Disney)

There are many ways to approach a remake and this is not one of them. All of the original heart and charm from the 1940 film has been lost in the translaton to live-action, introducing a number of questionable plot changes and dodgy special effects along the way. Keegan-Michael Key’s take on Honest John is pretty much the only real highlight of the film, and even that’s not enough to save it from its numerous flaws. Watch Disney’s original animated classic, or even Guillermo del Toro’s own animated Pinocchio film from this year, instead of this.

2022 - The Highlights (lionsroar)

Despite the idea that COVID was behind us, it still lingers like a cat waiting to pounce. As such, the reviewers here at Trophy Unlocked went to the theaters sparingly during the year. The films we decided to see in a theater were ones that we really wanted to see, at least at the time. Several were seen on steaming services or through digital platforms to avoid the risk. This is a smaller than usual sample size but here goes:

Best films of 2022:

Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have made a film that is bigger than it's budget. This is a time/space continuum adventure that takes mother/daughter relationships to a new dimension against the backdrop of immigrants trying to make their American Dream come true. The acting is as good as the special effects with Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu both deserving praise. The supporting cast, which includes Ke Huy Quan ("Shortround" from Indiana Jones), James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis is also very good. This is one movie that puts it all on the screen.

Bullet Train

I've been a fan of Brad Pitt's since his supporting role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and was curious to see what he did in this adaptation of Kōtarō Isaka's novel Maria Beetle. There are so many colorful characters which only add to the enjoyment of the film. This was not a great cinematic triumph, but it was a lot of fun.

Top Gun: Maverick

I was not a big fan of the original film and wasn't necessarily looking forward to a sequel 36 years later. However, I did enjoy this film. Some of the hype is way over the top. Cool the jets, this is not the greatest film ever made, but this is a good summer film and I had a better time than I expected.

See How They Run

See How They Run is probably not going to make it on anyone's best lists for 2022, but this is a well-done comedy murder mystery with some very fine acting from the likes of Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, and Adrien Brody. Made in the spirit of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, this was a fun film to watch.

Downton Abbey: A New Era

As a fan of the original series, I really enjoyed a return visit with the Downton Abbey household. Now we've moved to the late 20's and the brink of sound films in British films, as well as the exploration of the past life of family matriarch Violet Crowley. It's still up in the air if there will be a return visit, so you have to enjoy it while you can.

The biggest disappointments from 2022

Pinocchio remakes

I'm not a fan of remakes, especially when the original film has such resonance with audiences. Disney, which seems to own everyone's childhood memories, wants to remake every animated classic and finally got around to Pinocchio (1940). The result was the lackluster remake on Disney+ called Pinocchio, starring Tom Hanks, who is making his first appearance on my disappointment list.

Guillermo del Toro's take, also out this year, and also made for a streaming service, Netflix, didn't really change my mind about remakes. While better overall than the Disney+ remake, del Toro's take somehow brings Mussolini's fascist regime into the mix. Since the book, The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) by Italian writer Carlo Collodi, predates Mussolini's black shirts rise to power by about 50 years, the director seems to be trying to make a political point in what's supposed to be a children's story.


I don't mean to be picking on Disney, but... While the idea of making the 1990's movie that would have inspired Andy from the original Toy Story to want the toy was intriguing, the execution was not. Perhaps in a slap at the poor quality of toys capturing character likenesses, this Buzz doesn't come close to looking like the toy Andy, and so many of us have since, wanted.

The story, rather than being a ripping adventure tale, seems to get caught up in celebrating modern diversity and, this is the tricky part, managing to contradict backstories set up in the Toy Story franchise at the same time. It's almost as if the creative team behind this never watched the original Toy Story or watched a film that kids would like.


Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, was a pivotal figure in bringing what had been considered Black music to whites in this country and around the world. And perhaps, therefore, deserves a film that is more based in reality than the musical fantasy Baz Luhrman created. While one hopes that the film would bring Elvis' music to a new audience I'm not sure it accomplishes that, concentrating so much on the time after Elvis's rise, which is probably the most interesting part of his career and made him the King. The film is not helped by Tom Hanks' uneven portrayal as the evil Col. Tom Parker.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Adult Swim Yule Log

If you celebrate Christmas during the holiday season, there’s a chance that you’ve had a “Yule Log” video running in the background while opening presents. Sometimes a major or paid network will provide one of their own, such as the defunct Hub Network once broadcasting a short “Yule Log” of their own with appearances from then-current animated Hasbro characters. This year, [adult swim] threw their hat into the ring with a 90-minute special simply titled Adult Swim Yule Log. Considering the block’s history of broadcasting subversive content, it’s natural to expect some sort of twist on the holiday tradition. If that’s the case for you, rest assured that your suspicions are correct.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Stubs - Star in the Night

Star in the Night (1945) Starring: J. Carrol Naish, Donald Woods, Rosina Galli, Dick Erdman, Lynn Baggett, Johnny Miles, Tony Caruso Directed by Don Siegel. Screenplay by Saul Elkins. Produced by Gordon Hollingshead Run Time: 22 minutes. Black and White. USA Christmas, Drama, Short.

There’s an old saying or a song lyric that goes “from small things big things one day come” and that could be used to describe the directorial career of Don Siegel, best known for such films as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and Dirty Harry (1971).

In 1932, at the age of 20, after meeting producer Hal Wallis, Siegel got a job as a film librarian. Siegel described this job as a lost loafer’s paradise, easy and responsibility-free, to the point that he and his supervisor could just drink and dick around on the clock.

But success still came his way. He rose to head of the Montage Department, where he directed thousands of montages, including the opening montage for Casablanca (1942). But his directorial debut wouldn’t come until 1945 and the short Star in the Night, a retelling of the birth of Christ.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Little Inferno: Ho Ho Holiday (DLC)

When Little Inferno first came out in 2012, I had a fun time, and on another playthrough 10 years later, I thought it still held up pretty well. Around the time of my second playthrough, a 10-year anniversary celebration was held by developer Tomorrow Corporation, which among other things included a brand new DLC campaign, Ho Ho Holiday, although I admit I did not realize the DLC existed until about a few weeks later. After playing $5 for said DLC, I found the price of admission to be worth it, though only really for fans of the original game.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (PS3)

While IO Interactive (IOI) is best known for their long running Hitman franchise, they have developed a handful of other titles. One of these was Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, which garnered a mixed reception from critics and indirectly led to the creation of gaming outlet Giant Bomb after GameSpot fired editor Jeff Gertsman for his 6/10 review score for the game. Despite the reception, IOI announced a sequel, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, which Square Enix would publish in 2010. Upon release, Dog Days received a mixed reception from critics, with criticism aimed at its short length, story and experimental visual style.

Despite all the negativity that surrounded the game when it came out, I actually always had an interest in playing Dog Days, largely due to the unique and gritty presentation that resembled footage from a cheap handheld camera. Sometime after release, I ended up ignoring the game until I was made aware that the game had developed a cult following over the years for the exact reason it caught my attention (and convinced that I didn’t need to play Dead Men beforehand). Although you can easily buy the game cheap secondhand for about $10-15, I bought a brand-new sealed PS3 copy off the Square Enix store (normally $20 now), largely because I could and partly so I could have the freshest experience in honor of this blog’s 12th anniversary.

As it turns out, while there is plenty that one could criticize about Dog Days, largely when it comes to its gameplay, there truly is something about its presentation, and to an extent its story, that keeps the experience engaging and worth (re-)visiting.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Home Alone

Note: This review contains spoilers for Home Alone.

If there’s one film series that could be considered a staple of ‘90s pop culture, it’s Home Alone. The original 1990 film came out a couple years before I was born, however I vaguely recall watching it, as well as its first two sequels, at least once on home video when I was younger, at a time where I didn’t have much of an attention span. With the idea floating around that it’s a Christmas movie on the grounds that it’s set around Christmastime, as well as Disney+ releasing a sixth installment, I decided to revisit this movie to see what the fuss was about. While flawed, it’s not hard to see why some consider this a holiday classic.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Stubs - Big Business

Big Business
(1929) Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Tiny Sandford, Lyle Tayo. Directed by James W. Horne, Leo McCarey. Screenplay by H.M. Walker (titles). Produced by Hal Roach. Run time: 19 minutes. USA Black and White. Silent. Comedy. Christmas, Short.

Laurel and Hardy’s place as one of the great comedic teams in Hollywood history is already well-established. And while The Music Box (1932) may be their best-known short, which is their best short is somewhat up for debate. One possible entry is Big Business, one of their last silent shorts before making their successful move to sound films with Unaccustomed As We Are (1929). Big Business would be the first of the duo’s films added to the National Film Registry in 1992.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

I’m not the first to admit to losing interest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) following the ending of Phase 3, thanks to the seeming lack of an obvious end goal and the overwhelming amount of content Marvel Studios expects fans to keep up with. As a result, I’ve ended up being very selective with what I watch going forward, no longer caring as much about continuity, though I haven’t really enjoyed whatever I chose to watch from Phase 4 aside from Spider-Man: No Way Home. As a fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy sub-series, I did have an interest in two projects that were announced for the MCU, those being the recently-released The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (Holiday Special) and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the former being billed as the conclusion to Phase 4. Although I wasn’t able to watch the former right away when it released on Disney+, due to being away on a Thanksgiving trip at the time, I did watch it as soon as I got back and overall found it to be one of the few things actually worth watching from Phase 4.