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The Best Thing In Entertainment 2022 Edition - Looper Staff Picks

2022 has been a pretty long year. To put that statement in context, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars this past March. There's been a lot going on, so we, the magnanimous staff over at Looper, would forgive you if your finger wasn't as tightly glued to the cultural pulse as our, uh, collective fingers were. You see, it's our job to track everything that's going on at any given time, and trust us, that's a lot at any given moment — whether an entire studio is completely misreading the room over on Twitter or a movie's press tour descends into outright madness.

In case you had other stuff going on in 2022 that required your attention, we've put together just a few of this year's best moments in entertainment, from movie star tantrums to an over-the-top action movie unexpectedly taking the world by storm. Here, for your reading pleasure, are the best things that happened in pop culture in 2022.

Caitlin Albers - Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam meltdown

It's not something I like to do. It's not something I do often. Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever done it. And that is admitting that Tyrese Gibson was right. No, not about that Scorsese-Morbius thing, but about Dwayne Johnson. He tried to tell us guys; he tried. In 2017 Tyrese was smack dab in the middle of a social media meltdown, and in the midst of that, he told us that DJ was selfish and only looked out for his own self-interest.

Thankfully, we're now in what appears to be the DJ flop era, and it's about damn time. He did it to himself. The Rock could have continued to put out crappy movie after crappy movie, and his fans would have kept showing up. But he made a mistake. He got his feelings hurt when several outlets reported that "Black Adam" had lost tens of millions of dollars. Johnson's ego couldn't handle the negative press, so he got on Twitter to tell everyone how wrong they were. After checking with his "financiers," DJ said "Black Adam" would end up profiting somewhere between $52 and $72 million. Imagine our surprise when Deadline reported just a day later that "Black Adam" was indeed on track to profit. 

But Dwayne didn't plan on someone spilling the beans that he leaked false information to the outlet. I certainly didn't see this meltdown coming, but his "Black Adam" box office shenanigans were one of the funniest things to happen in 2022.

I'd be remiss not to mention that Johnson also pointed out that "Captain America: The First Avenger" only made $370 million worldwide, comparing it to the $389 million "Black Adam" made. But here's the thing, Dwanta — Chris Evans didn't promise us for four years that "The First Avenger" was going to change everything at Marvel Studios. He didn't repeat the same catchphrase every day, five times a day, while forcing crappy tequila and gas station energy drinks down our throats. I see you, buddy.

Nina Starner - The Don't Worry Darling press tour

"Don't Worry Darling" — the actual movie, I mean — was pretty unremarkable when all was said and done. The same certainly can't be said of its incredibly chaotic press tour. To invoke Stefon, this press tour had everything: a potential loogie, slow strolls with Aperol spritzes, an on-set romance, and Harry Styles explaining what movies are. Truly, we do not deserve the gifts given to us by the "Don't Worry Darling" press tour.

An important note before we begin: Shia LaBeouf exited the project before filming even started, with director Olivia Wilde claiming she axed him over bad behavior. (We will circle back to that, I promise.) As the press tour really gets going, Wilde gets a tiny bit weird in some interviews — she wildly praises her own movie for its depiction of "female pleasure" and tells a fellow director she has a "no a**hole policy" on set, which, okay! — followed by reports that her star, Florence Pugh, was irritated by Wilde and Styles (now a public couple) disappearing together during filming. Then Wilde was served custody papers from her ex Jason Sudeikis on stage at CinemaCon, because apparently some process server was messy and living for drama, and that turned into a whole thing involving, uh, salad dressing (just Google it).

That's all well and good, but the goldmine was yet to come: the Venice Film Festival. Pugh, who wasn't originally set to attend, showed up late, heralding her arrival with a social media post of her parading around in a purple Valentino getup and a knowing smirk, with an Aperol Spritz in hand and not a care in the world. LaBeouf produced video proof that Wilde begged him to stay on the project and saying "Miss Flo" basically needed to buck up and deal. Styles and Wilde appear to be strategically separated during press photos, and Pugh's entire team started sporting cheeky "Miss Flo" apparel. 

And finally, the two major set pieces: Harry Styles maybe spat on Chris Pine, leading to #spitgate, and if you haven't watched that video of Styles explaining how "Don't Worry Darling" felt like a "movie" while Pine quietly heads to the Sunken Place sitting next to the pop star, you haven't lived. This press tour was perfect. No notes. 10/10.

Pauli Poisuo - Henry Cavill loses two dream roles in one year

Imagine Henry Cavill sitting by the window, staring at the rain outside. His chiseled features are calm and stoic, but the slight blemishes on the Warhammer mini he's painting reveal the turmoil within.

For some time now, the world has been stuck in a slow-motion "Nooooo!" scream as we've watched Cavill walk through the career equivalent of slamming a door shut, then realizing he's standing in an airlock just as the door in front of him starts to open. In October, he unexpectedly left "The Witcher," a dream project he could only really walk away from for one thing. In December, he lost that thing, too, when James Gunn and Peter Safran deemed him too old for Supermanning in their DCEU.

Everyone involved has been extremely nice about the events, but there's no denying that Cavill has taken two massive L's in short succession. However, I'm not here to dunk on the guy. I picked his layer cake of misfortune as my Big 2022 Entertainment Thing because Cavill has walked out of this all with his reputation unscathed, and is now facing the widest and most open road of his entire career.

What we've witnessed is basically an origin story. One of the most popular A-listers of our era has been cut loose from two roles that were both great fits, but that would've kept him busy for years and years. Cavill's now free to roam wherever he wants, and with heaps of fan goodwill on his side, he's going to be The Man regardless of what he does next.

Will he become the next James Bond? Is he going to lock himself into a seven-movie MCU or "Warhammer" deal? Will he pull a Robert Pattinson, and disappear into a series of increasingly deranged indie films and character roles before eventually returning to a franchise spotlight? Who knows! 2022 has let Henry Cavill loose upon the unsuspecting world, and there's no way of knowing which major project he'll soon grace with his presence. Enjoy this precious moment of uncertainty, because it's not going to last.

Aahil Dayani - The world falling in love with RRR

While it would be callous to call the Telugu-language film "RRR" a cinematic underdog — its creative team and actors are all superstars in India — it's surprising to see how much admiration the epic has received from all corners of the world. Directed by the uncompromising S. S. Rajamouli, "RRR" is a three hour saga about the friendship and friction between two Indian revolutionaries who share the same goal: driving out oppressive British Raj in early 20th century India. For those on the outside looking in, "RRR" is a grandiose epic filled with physics-defying action sequences, bombastic song-and-dance routines that fill the heart and ears with glee, and a tight, evocative premise about friendship and love persisting over hatred. For us South Asians, it's a source of pride that captures why we go to the movies.

How did "RRR" become a cultural phenomenon, especially within a culture that often ridicules and disregards Indian cinema?

Some have likened it to a "superhero" film. I say that the world is finally ready for the insanity and beauty Indian cinema has quietly been delivering for over a hundred years. Referred to as a "masala" film (a project that mixes various genres like a spice blend), "RRR" abandons the conventional rules of a Western blockbuster and is unabashed in how it portrays its spectacle. Audiences want everything "RRR" has: soul, passion, and a lack of cynicism.

Perhaps the best part about the world falling in love with "RRR" is that India's vast and rich cinematic back catalog is finally getting love from cinephiles. Those who want more should be compelled to watch 2022's other cinematic gems: the sex-worker drama "Gangubai Kathiawadi" (which happens to be my favorite movie of the year) and the historical epic "PS1."

Tom Meisfjord - Doctor Who becomes a very expensive nostalgia ouroboros

Enjoying "Doctor Who," or "Doctor Whom" in the UK, is a 60-year exercise in loving unconditionally. Perhaps more than any other sci-fi franchise, even during its strong seasons, it asks that its fans put up with the bad weeks.

Then came the Chris Chibnall era, a years-long string of bad weeks which, look, it was rough enough that it almost feels like bullying to even bring it up at this point. Despite a killer cast led by the never-not-charming Jodie Whittaker, the storytelling somehow managed to be uneven enough that it alienated a fan base built to withstand "Queen Victoria met a werewolf" as an episode's jumping-off point. Shredding the meniscus of the show's lore with Timeless Children aside, the show just sort of lost its way. The Doctor beat the Master by sending Nazis after him for having dark skin.

If that says "let's take a step back" to you, then you're not alone. The BBC, apparently keen on getting back to the good old days, got back to the good old days. They hired the showrunner who first revitalized the series close to 20 years ago. They brought back the fan-favorite Tenth Doctor. It's analogous to Charlie Kelly trying to win his friends back by reminding them of the butt dance that he did a while ago, but it's probably going to cost a billion dollars. It's the BBC's wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, billion-dollar butt dance.

Russell Murray - Morbius bombs at the box office... twice

Like many of you, I have not seen "Morbius." I saw the first trailer, said "not for me, thanks," and went on with my life. So when I saw that Dr. Michael Morbius had become the subject of popular online conversation through memes, editorials, and gleefully scathing reviews, I was stunned. "Perhaps I missed something," I thought. "Maybe there's something here people think is worth watching." I share this story because I imagine Sony executives went through the same thought process just before deciding to release "Morbius" a second time, presumably attempting to ride their own bad press to a profit. Instead, it became the first film to bomb twice at the box office.

After the initial release grossed a laughable $167 million, the rerelease grossed just $200,000 — that's less than $300 per theater. It's hard not to see the saga as a sad instance of someone not realizing the crowd is laughing at them instead of with them. Then again, I also like to imagine the whole fiasco as an extravagant show of power, in the same way one might flaunt their wealth by picking up the tab at a flashy restaurant or saddling themselves with $44 billion worth of debt just to ruin Twitter.

Imagine it: There's Sony — one Statue of Liberty away from making $2 billion on "Spider-Man: No Way Home" post-pandemic — and the public deigns to think they care about a little $75 million vampire movie? "Ha!" they laugh, slurping Wagyu beef off a DVD copy of "Open Season." "You think 'Morbius' bombing will stop us from making low-effort movies about esoteric D-List "Spider-Man" characters? We'll release 'Morbius' twice! Because we own Spider-Man! Not Feige, not Raimi — US. And what are WE gonna do with him? F*** all! In fact, we're going to announce 'El Muerto' in the same month 'Morbius' eats s*** at the box office! We could make TEN 'Morbiuses' before we have to touch Peter Parker again! We impulse-bought the whole Spider-verse catalog of characters and we're going to USE them, damn it!"

Or, y'know, something like that. Really looking forward to "Kraven the Hunter," though...

Kim Bell - Liam Hemsworth taking over The Witcher

Listen, I too think Henry Cavill is the best Geralt we're ever gonna get, in large part thanks to his passion for and knowledge of the character. But I recently re-visited the books and series (as I do frequently, in case I'm ever in a situation where I have to answer "Witcher" trivia in order to like, save Henry Cavill from falling off a cliff, or something), and I've decided that our favorite Romanti-hero's decision to leave after Season 3 was the right call.

Reddit be damned, the most incredible aspect of Season 1 — aside from its performances — was Lauren Schmidt-Hissrich's use of dual timelines. Nothing is ever what it seems on The Continent, least of all our characters' understanding of the past, and Season 1 foregrounds this reality while simultaneously squeezing a whole lot of world building and backstory into eight episodes. Sadly, that was all too much for the mob to bear, and in Season 2, Schmidt-Hissrich was forced to take a more straightforward approach. That approach is working currently, but if the series maintains its present book-to-season ratio, Season 4 will bring us two of Andrzej Sapkowski's most meandering installments. "Baptism of Fire" and "The Tower of Swallows" work well on paper (as books are wont to do), but unless the series strays wildly from its source, it's going to have one hell of a time imbuing anything after Season 3 with the amount of suspense and surprise an eight-episode narrative requires.

Is that really what we want for Henry Cavill's Geralt?

Surely we've learned by now that "sometimes ... the best thing [a flower] can do for us, is to die." Since we know "The Witcher" won't be dying off anytime soon, better to let Liam Hemsworth be that flower — and sacrifice himself on the alter of the Netflix machine — than to watch Cavill's Geralt suffer a "The Walking Dead"-esque death, suffocated slowly under a pile of plodding storylines and unending spin-offs. To be clear, I have nothing against Liam Hemsworth. But if he and Henry Cavill are hanging off a cliff, and I can only save one...

Kieran Fisher - Top Gun: Maverick's practical flying sequences

Tom Cruise isn't the type of actor who makes life easy for himself. Whenever he makes an action movie, you can rely on him to go above and beyond to ensure that the action sequences are as authentic as they possibly can be. CGI is kept to a minimum in favor of practical methods that are often death-defying and extremely dangerous. In the past, he's jumped from unspeakable heights, dangled from skyscrapers, and broken his ankle hopping between rooftops. So, going into "Top Gun: Maverick," no one doubted that Mr. Cruise would take to the skies.

"Top Gun: Maverick" features some of the most realistic aerial action sequences in the history of motion pictures. The cast and crew collaborated with a team of real-life pilots to capture the film's enthralling in-flight combat sequences, and the actors were given intense pilot training — learning barrel roles until they felt physically sick — to ensure that they got in on the action. Whenever the performers weren't physically flying the fighter jets themselves, they sat in the back of the jet while the more experienced pilots handled the more complex aerial maneuvers.

The film is loaded with entertaining aerial dogfights and sky-based action. However, while the combat scenes are undeniably exciting, "Top Gun: Maverick" would still be great if it featured zero shootouts and only showed us pilots soaring over scenic mountains and deserts. The legacy sequel thrusts the viewer straight into the cockpit, and every moment is truly exhilarating as a result. "Top Gun: Maverick" has raised the bar for Hollywood blockbusters, though I suspect Cruise's next "Mission: Impossible" movie will surpass it.

Nick Staniforth - The termite scene in The Boys Season 3

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a giant prosthetic set of private parts blown up like some urological Cave of Wonders from Aladdin begging to be explored by a "supe" — also blown up — on more cocaine than a certain soon-to-be-famous bear

Fair enough — Dwayne Johnson having his hierarchy of power taken away by a man with a Gunn and Harry Styles spitting on Captain Kirk might be highlights of the year for some, but for me, the biggest shock came from the brains behind "The Boys." They planned it. They actually thought up an R-rated Ant-Man-like scene and followed through to the bitter, bloody end. To quote a Hawaiian shirt-wearing antihero, it was (all together now) "faah-in dye-aboh-lickle."

Even for fans of Amazon's Emmy-nominated show, who had already seen a cavalcade of offensive and unrelenting examples of grimdark superhero antics, the Termite's (Brett Geddes) activities behind closed doors feel like the bar has been raised — or lowered — depending on how you look at it. 

Like so many great gross-out moments over the years, some might catch on sooner than others as to what the punchline is before it arrives, but when it blows up, it just gets worse. From Frenchie (Tomer Capone) frantically going through his pants to Billy finally taking our hero down with a 'bump,' it encapsulates everything that made this show the out-there and offensive masterpiece it continues to be. Marvel and DC movies can continue battling for box-office supremacy. "The Boys" stands in a distressing, unhinged league of its own. I bloody love 'em.