The Top 10 Films We Reviewed in 2023

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In their “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema.  Over the course of the past year we’ve watched and reviewed roughly 75 films and we hope that we could help you steer clear of some stinkers, find some gems for your watchlist, and maybe build up a little trust with you that we’re always going to be honest in our opinions.  We realize there’s tons of other sites and individuals that review the same movies we do, so it means a lot to us when you visit and see what we’ve got to say.  We don’t do it for clicks or ad impressions, and we certainly don’t make any money from this - we both just love movies (good AND bad ones).
That all said, here’s our Top 10 films that we reviewed in 2023 with our final verdicts for each one which should - without any extra commentary - explain why it landed where it did on the list.
On with the show!

Directed By: Gabriele Mainetti
Written By: Gabriele Mainetti, Nicola Guaglianone
Starring:  Claudio Santamaria, Aurora Giovinazzo, Pietro Castellitto, Giancarlo Martini
Run Time: 2h 21m
Rating:  NR
Release Date: April 28, 2023

Joseph: Calling all aficionados of superheroes, underdog stories, watching Nazis getting their rear ends kicked, beautiful looking films with a big heart and vivid imagination behind them, and just plain good motion pictures: Watch this movie!

Mike:  Freaks vs. The Reich, while a bit long, is a fun and engaging ride.  The foursome are all likable and they come across as if they truly are dedicated to one another, even when circumstances force them to split up. The villain, while endowed with a pretty cool super power of his own, doesn’t really present himself as a serious threat, only managing to do much because of his brother who is a Nazi officer. 
Blending super-heroes (of a sort) with World War II, while quite popular in comics books of that time, isn’t very well-trodden cinematic ground so there’s plenty of things that make Freaks vs. The Reich original and definitely worth a watch. 

Directed By: Nathan Blackwell
Written By: Nathan Blackwell
Starring: Adam Rini, Megan Rini, Craig Curtis
Run Time: 1h 35m
Rating: NR
Release Date: March 24, 2023 (United States)

Joseph: The Last Movie Ever Made is a valentine to independent, microbudget movie-making and the people behind those efforts. It may get a bit sappy at times, but it is meant to be ultimately feel-good, and it does what it sets out to do. Recommended for anyone who has ever tried making a movie from school years to the professional level, anyone who has ever dreamed about making one, and anyone who has ever had fun watching one.

Mike: If Seeking a Friend for the End of the World were made by The Little Rascals who were played by the kids from the movie Super 8, it might look a little like this - and I mean that in the most insanely positive way possible.  While the lead character, Marshall, is hard to truly like, everything else manages to press all the right buttons as we get a tale of love lost, love found, friendship and - ultimately - redemption.  Anyone who has ever made their own movies will feel a kinship with the folks within the story and it’s really hard to not root for them thanks to the earnest and believable performances that everyone turns in.

Directed By: Kurando Mitsutake
Written By: Kurando Mitsutake
Starring: Derek Mears, Tori Griffith, Damian TooFeek Raven, David Sakurai
Run Time: 2h 1m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2023

Joseph: The costumes! The action! The demon make-up! The camaraderie between the protagonists! The all-in performances — Tori Griffith rules this one in the titular role, by the way! The total commitment to baring flesh, and to laying waste to the victimized and the villainous! I can’t see genre-film fans at any level not having at least some fun with Lion-Girl. Recommended!  

Mike:  Lion-Girl is a crazy conglomeration of genres and ideas that somehow manages to all click into place.  There are some scenes that run too long and drag things down that can be distracting from the story at hand, but some of the action scenes and all of the nudity will more than compensate for it.  You’re not going to see much memorable acting here but, honestly, you’re not turning a movie like this on to see nuanced performances by award-winning thespians.  What you ARE going to get is some good, alt-superhero escapist fun that blends a few genres and features a plethora of both male and female full frontal nudity, then you’re certainly in the right place.  Bring on the sequel!

Directed By: Micheal Bafaro
Written By: Micheal Bafaro, Michael Mitton
Starring: Kelly Bastard, Michael Mitton, Colm Hill
Run Time: 1h 21m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2023

Joseph: Infused with dread and eeriness throughout, Don't Look Away is a supernatural chiller with a strong, smart protagonist character and loads of great set pieces. The Michaels keep things rather simple while simultaneously giving the proceedings a constant air of mystery. I had a blast with this film, which takes what sounds like a silly premise and delivers a mesmerizing, entertaining work. Don't Look Away is a contender for my list of 10 favorite horror movies of 2023, and if it doesn’t quite make it in December, it will be a highly placed honorable mention.

Mike: A half hour or so in and I’m wondering if Pabst Blue Ribbon shot these guys some cash for product placement. I haven’t seen that much PBR in one place aside from my uncle Tony’s garage refrigerator.  But I digress… 
Despite its flaws, Don't Look Away does have some good scares and a creepy atmosphere. Frankie is a relatable and sympathetic character, and you’ll find yourself rooting for her to figure out all this mannequin nonsense. This plot sure would have made for a better sequel to the Andrew McCarthy/Kim Cattrall film than Mannequin 2 did.
All in all this isn’t a bad film - in fact it's pretty good - it’s just not as good as I think it could have been. 

Directed By: Andrew Legge
Written By: Andrew Legge & Angeli Macfarlane
Starring:  Stefanie Martini, Emma Appleton, Rory Fleck Byrne, Aaron Monaghan
Run Time: 1h 19m
Rating:  NR
Release Date: August 4th, 2023

Joseph: Thought-provoking and highly relevant to the present day, Lola is speculative fiction of the highest order. With top-notch direction, performances, cinematography, special effects, and editing, it is truly a marvel to watch unfold. I’m not always drawn into time-warping science fiction, especially when it becomes convoluted, but LOLA avoids overly complicated trappings and delivers a fine science fiction tale with impressive sibling drama and romance elements.

Mike: Time travel movies can be tricky, and while LOLA isn’t a time travel movie per se, it is still bound by some of the “rules” you’d find in one. The fact that LOLA can only intercept television broadcasts from the future obviously narrows it down and it’s this one aspect that really allows director Andrew Legge to avoid too many of the head-scratching anomalies that arise from traveling backwards and stepping on the metaphorical butterfly that unspools everything. However, there is still the moral quandary that arises from changing events and this makes the viewer question their own beliefs.  Is it okay to sacrifice someone’s tomorrow if it means saving dozens of others?  Is it okay to erase a future if that future then never happens?  It’s certainly far different than erasing someone’s yesterday since they’ve already lived and experienced it - or is it?
I highly recommend this exceptionally well done film to all fans of revisionist history and sci-fi/time travel stories. 

Directed By: Mathieu Turi
Written By: Mathieu Turi
Starring: Samuel Le Bihan, Amir El Kacem, Thomas Solivérès
Run Time: 1h 43m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2023

Joe: With a goodly supply of patented French nihilism and super gore effects, The Deep Dark is must-see cinema for creature-feature buffs and Lovecraft aficionados. It’s certain to make some top 10 lists for best 2023 horror films — it’s definitely a candidate for mine — and honorable mentions in others.

Directed By: Quentin Dupieux
Written By: Quentin Dupieux (screenplay)
Starring: Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Lacoste, Anaïs Demoustier
Run Time:  1h 20m
Rating: NR
Release Date: March 31, 2023 (US)

Mike: I strongly recommend Smoking Causes Coughing if absurd, deadpan humor is your cup of tea as it is for me. If you’re expecting a lot of tokusatsu action with suitmation monsters causing trouble, you will be disappointed as there is not much of that aspect going on here.  Also, the anthology feel may turn a few people off, but honestly it doesn’t FEEL like an anthology, so that aspect could go either way.

Directed By: Joe Lynch
Written By: H.P. Lovecraft, Dennis Paoli
Starring:  Heather Graham, Judah Lewis, Bruce Davison, Barbara Crampton
Run Time: 1h 40m
Rating: NR
Release Date: October 27, 2023

Joseph: If you are in the mood for some zaniness in the Gordon/Paoli camp — and for some of the film, I do mean camp — Suitable Flesh doesn’t disappoint. Crampton and Graham are a blast, the special effects don’t quite reach the level of Gordon’s Lovecraftian adaptations but are impressive on their own merit, and the schmaltz feels a tad too deliberate at times, but this is a fun movie that most fear-fare fans should find amusing.

Mike:  Suitable Flesh was a fun, if not downright crazy, experience.  Body swap films always have their hooks and feature plenty of “character experiencing something new” moments, and this doesn’t cut any of that short.  Barbara Crampton and Heather Graham - heck, everyone involved - offer up some great performances with a few people being forced to stop and turn on a dime with their facial expressions, body language, and delivery.  Aside from a bit of inconsistency on behalf of the villain’s attitude and approach to things, there’s not a lot here to kvetch about.  There’s a wild and clever use of a car’s backup camera, and plenty of blood to make gore enthusiasts happy.
While you don’t need to be a rabid H.P. Lovecraft devotee to enjoy this, fans will probably find a little extra to take away from the proceedings.  The rest of us can relish in the whole Jason Goes to Hell/Freaky Friday thing going on.

Directed By: Stewart Sparke
Written By: Paul Butler and Stewart Sparke
Starring: Lyndsey Craine, Arron Dennis, Fenfen Huang
Run Time: 1h 35m
Rating: NR
Release Date: October 26th, 2023

Joseph: How to Kill Monsters is a horror comedy focused much more on the latter than serious tones for the former, and the cast members all seem to be having a grand time. Sparke is a proven quality with the subgenre, and shows he knows how to get the most out of a limited budget. With several members of the cast and crew having previously worked with Sparke, that experience is on fine display. The film boasts some nice surprises and is crafted and acted with infectious verve. Horror comedy aficionados should consider this film a “can’t miss.”    

Mike: I don’t want to over-hype How to Kill Monsters to the point where it will never live up to expectations, but I also can’t let this go unseen by anyone who’d appreciate it.  Many genre indie movies try way too hard to make up for their shortcomings and end up ruining any goodwill they’ve built in other areas which is a problem this does NOT suffer from.  It’s smart, funny, well acted, and chock full of monsters that is, in my opinion, only blemished by a couple of unneeded (and poorly rendered) CGI effects.  And of course there are those first few minutes that was enough to sell me on the whole deal.
Highly recommended for fans of practical creature effects, horror/comedies, and clever scripts.

Directed By: Francis Galluppi
Written By: Francis Galluppi
Starring: Jim Cummings, Jocelin Donahue, Richard Brake, Nicholas Logan
Run Time: 1h 30m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2023

Joseph: The Last Stop in Yuma County gets my highest recommendation, and it is a strong candidate for my top 10 favorite films list of 2023 — heck, make that top 5. Genre-film fans are going to dig this one. There’s no way you can’t love that cast! Galluppi has done an outstanding job, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. 

Mike: Frequent visitors to our site will have seen we review a lot of horror and horror-adjacent films, so this one may seem a bit out of place but don’t let that fool you - The Last Stop in Yuma County is an amazing film that needs to be seen.  A great cast (hello, Barbara Crampton!), a smart script, and camera work that shows both isolation and intimacy all results in one of the best films we’ve had the pleasure of screening in our short existence as a review duo.  If we could, I am sure Joseph would join me in giving everyone involved a standing ovation.
Highly recommended!