8 Movies Like The OctoGames (2022)

Staff & contributors

Nowadays, more people might know the cartoon character Yogi Bear or the saying “It ain’t over ‘till its over,” more than they know Yogi Berra, the larger-than-life baseball player who originated the character and the phrase. But in his prime, Berra was one of the most recognizable faces of major league baseball. He was so beloved that he appeared in countless commercials and effortlessly won the hearts of Americans. It Ain’t Over, however, makes a case about Berra being more than just a public figure and how he was one of the best players of all time. The documentary, which is equal parts stats, archival footage, and anecdotes, is convincing without ever being forceful or desperate about its arguments. Berra’s innate warmth and charm carry over in this biography, regardless of whether he’s telling the stories himself or his friends and family regale us with tales of the icon. You don’t have to know much about baseball to enjoy Berra’s life story unfold; having a basic appreciation of storytelling and kindhearted people will suffice. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Billy Crystal, Bob Costas, Derek Jeter, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Lindsay Berra, Mariano Rivera, Sandy Koufax, Vin Scully, Willie Randolph, Yogi Berra

Director: Sean Mullin

Rating: PG

A portrait of an Alabama high school wrestling team springboards from a sports documentary into an encompassing exploration of the American working class and institutional racism. The film operates on both levels as it zooms in on the lives of four students and their friendly yet overbearing coach. From the opening moments, Coach Sribner makes it clear that the State Championship is about much more than sport. A failing and underfunded school system all but ensures that a sports scholarship is one of the few chances for these youth to have access to higher education and a path out of poverty. 

This is further exacerbated by the racial dynamics at play, as we watch these mostly Black youth experience casual racism as well as institutional harassment from the police. Even their well-meaning coach is not exempt, he at once can acknowledge his white privilege but is not above baselessly accusing one of the boys of stealing his sunglasses. Herbert’s up close and personal style is immersive and passionate and builds to an exciting sports film climax while maintaining a piercing awareness of the severe economic realities that hollow out any victory on the mat.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Suzannah Herbert

In Suncoast, writer-director Laura Chinn takes the personal tragedy of losing her brother to cancer and weaves it into something meaningful. The film is a sensitive meditation on death and grief, but it isn’t all grim. It’s also a coming-of-age story, one that focuses on Doris (Nico Parker), a version of Chinn’s younger self aching for normal teen experiences. The film is at its best when it zeroes in on Doris’ interiority and examines the duality of having to deal with so much death while still wanting to live a vibrant life. The surprising friendship that blooms between her and the popular kids as she chases after this life is one of the best depictions of authentic teen dynamics in recent memory. But the film is at its weakest when it tries to be something it’s not—that is, your usual tear-jerker indie fare that’s rife with lessons from a magical stranger (in this case played genially, but unnecessarily, by Woody Harrelson) and grievances from a grief-stricken mother (played powerfully by Laura Linney). To be sure, Harrelson and Linney (especially) deliver top-notch performances, but they feel shoehorned in an otherwise pitch-perfect film about a girl finding her place in the real world.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amarr M. Wooten, Andrea Powell, Andrew Dicostanzo, Ariel Martin, Cree Kawa, Daniella Taylor, Ella Anderson, Elliott Sancrant, Jason Burkey, Karen Ceesay, Keyla Monterroso Mejia, Laura Linney, Matt Walsh, Nico Parker, Orelon Sidney, Pam Dougherty, Parker Sack, Scott MacArthur, Woody Harrelson

Director: Laura Chinn

Rating: R

For better or for worse, we have no choice in the country we’re born in, the citizenship we first attain, and sometimes we’re forced to leave that country for our own safety. My Name is Loh Kiwan depicts a North Korean defector seeking refugee status in Belgium, but while the government deliberates, it’s a hard life he has to face, one that changes when he meets a fellow Korean who may not be an immigrant, but who’s just as lost as he is. While there are some subplots that falter halfway, My Name is Loh Kiwan still manages to stick the landing of being both a moving romance and an empathetic survival drama that highlights the struggles of refugees.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Choi Sung-eun, Heo Seon-haeng, Jo Han-chul, Kang Gil-woo, Kim Sung-ryung, Lee Il-hwa, Lee Sang-hee, Seo Hyun-woo, Song Joong-ki, Waël Sersoub

Director: Kim Hee-jin

Rating: R

In depictions of organized crime, we’re used to the stone-cold crime boss, and the conflicted, unwilling crime lord, but Miss Shampoo presents a new version of the gangster– one that’s fallen head over heels in love. The film plays out in hilarious ways, with the humor expected from writer-director Giddens Ko, and Daniel Hong and Vivian Sung are able to inject some heart into their performances with surprising chemistry. That being said, the film is clearly more interested in mocking organized crime, so the film feels more skewed towards Tai rather than Fen. It’s still really entertaining, though Miss Shampoo had so much more it could have shown, had it focused equally on Fen’s perspective.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Romance

Actor: Bai Jing Yi, Bruce He, Chih-ju Lin, Chu Chung-heng, Duan Chun-hao, Duncan Lai, Honduras, Hong Yu Hong, Hsin-Ling Chung, Kai Ko, Ke-Li Miao, Kent Tsai, Mei-Man Jin, Teng-Hung Hsia, Tsai Chang-Hsien, Vivian Sung, Wei-min Ying

Director: Giddens Ko

With expired film stock, seemingly random shots, not much dialogue, and virtually no plot, there is little to recommend It is Night in America for casual viewing. It is definitely experimental, and as director, editor, and sound designer Ana Vaz presents these shots of animals and urban landscapes, it doesn’t feel like it’s meant for entertainment. But there’s a curiously poignant tone, with the blue tint darkening the cityscape, in their eyes. Night falls for these creatures, who once had a home in this city, and all they can do is survive. É Noite na América isn’t quite the eco-horror it proclaims to be, but its moody and trancelike direction is an interesting approach to the nature documentary genre.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Ana Vaz

After a strong first act that has lots of fun playing with fake identities donned by its characters (and with a particularly entertaining supporting turn from Bill Nighy), Role Play slows down significantly and only ends up spinning its wheels. In its attempt to inject some more drama into the central relationship between Anna (who goes by Emma with her family) and Dave, the film articulates itself awkwardly, overemphasizes the obvious, and loses precious time for the plot develop in interesting ways. By the third act, Role Play practically teleports itself into entirely new circumstances, where the emotional stakes are neither high enough or clear enough to begin with.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance

Actor: Angus McGruther, Bill Nighy, Connie Nielsen, Cornell Adams, David Oyelowo, Dominic Holmes, Jade-Eleena Dregorius, Jonathan Failla, Julia Schunevitsch, Kaley Cuoco, Lucia Aliu, Moritz Berg, Rudi Dharmalingam, Simon Delaney, Sonita Henry, Stacy Thunes, Steffen Jung, Stephanie Levi-John

Director: Thomas Vincent

Rating: R

After his brother's gruesome death at the infamous drug den, Trap House, Detective Grant Pierce is removed from the case to find its creator. He goes rogue and recruits a teenage drug dealer working for the Trap House with a plan to infiltrate. Whatever the film lacks in intrigue is not compensated by good writing or interesting traps/scares/twists that would befit its horror categorization. Even expectations to match its counterparts in the escape room genre are quickly lowered thanks to uninventive traps and shallow characters whose deaths weigh nothing in the grand scheme of the plot. The potential of a trap house horror/thriller to comment on addiction, race, poverty, or anything substantial outside of "crackheads are crazy" is ultimately wasted. Instead, there's stilted dialogue, caricatures of drug addicts, and a narrative that is hard to sit through, much less enjoy. 

 

Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller, TV Movie

Actor: Anthony Timpano, Benjamin Wilkinson, Bruce Crawford, Fletcher Donovan, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Jaime M. Callica, Jason Tremblay, Peter Bundic, Ryan Mah

Director: Nicholas Humphries