Film Review: “The Northman” (2022)

“At the Gates of Hel, I will meet you.”

A traditional, brutal tale of revenge crafted with care and threaded with beautiful Eggers weirdness throughout. Alexander Skarsgard is an Adonis of an authentic Viking man-wolf who screams and howls at the audience and we love him for it.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “A worthy werewolf movie… A howling good time!”

Film Review: “Ambulance” (2022)

“People still rob banks?”

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

A sweat-drenched old school action movie that doubles as a delicious self-parody by auteur Michael Bay. I really just want to talk about the sweat, though. Starting in the second third of the film, buckets of sweat pour out of the screen onto the audience. From Gyllenhaal, from Abdul-Mateen II, from the city of Los Angeles itself. There is no stopping it, there is no escaping it. If you see this movie, you will be sweated upon. I asked a theater employee and they told me it’s a fundamental part of the glistening experience. Five stars.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Who gave Michael Bay drones and why didn’t they give them to him sooner?”

Film Review: “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (2022)

“I can’t die like this. It’s so derivative.”

A thorough examination of pop culture icon Sonic the Hedgehog as a Christ figure, featuring Idris Elba as Knuckles!

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I brought my old Sonic the Hedgehog 2 game cartridge to the showing and it enjoyed itself thoroughly.”

Film Review: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022)

“Sucked into a bagel.”

An endlessly creative multiversal experience as delivered by the Daniels of Swiss Army Man fame and a bunch of actors, led by legend Michelle Yeoh, going all in on everything they’re given. The continuous supply of glorious and philosophical all-caps WEIRD is evenly matched with the heart of the story, ultimately combining to address the melancholia and entropy of our current universe and beyond.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Ke Huy Quan is back with a beautiful and layered performance, y’all! The Quannassance is now!”

Film Review: “Belle” (2022)

“Another reality. Another you.”

A hyper-modern masterpiece of animation and a soft retelling of Beauty and the Beast that achieves emotional highs by exploring an unexpected variation to the story and combining it with the idea of what connecting really means in a world like ours (or one that’s a half sci-fi step or two ahead of ours, to be exact). Also, because this is anime, a touch of highschool drama.

Both the CG and hand-drawn animation styles are equally impressive, especially on a large screen where you can bask in the warm glow of the real world’s earthy techniques and then can get breathlessly lost in the intimate yet magnificent scope of the digital world.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “When an actual metaverse like the one in this movie forms, I’m afraid that you’ll find me there most of the time, as an autogenerated avatar that looks like a cart of books and wires that you’d find in the back room of your local library.”

Film Review: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)

“I promise I will never become a supervillain and try to kill you.”

Spider-Man: No Way Home is the realization of a fever dream/premonition I had the night before seeing the first Spider-Man movie in theaters all those years ago.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I want to sit down and explain this movie to 11 year old me, watch the brains drip out of their nose and ears, then cease to exist.”

Film Review(s): Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy

“I believe there’s a hero in all of us.”

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy successfully brought comic book pages, in all their glorious tone, goofy dialogue, and mustache twirling villains, to the screen. From beginning to end, none of these movies feel like they’re in service to anything other than telling an entertaining, comic book spider-story. Not a wider universe, not box office receipts, and not a need to retain rights or something. These are the clearest, untarnished, wide-eyed Spider-Man movies that I think we’re ever going to see.

Even Spider-Man 3, which I saw in 2007, in a sketchy boardwalk movie theater in Wildwood, New Jersey during a senior year band trip in high school, accurately captures the ways in which comics can falter when they become bloated. Still, a strong humanity shines through these movies even in their corniest and worst moments (I will defend emo Peter on my death bed). Raimi, Maguire, Dunst, Franco (yikes), and the top tier talent jumping in as villains, never let that humanity collapse under the weight of the effects and superheroics. Obviously the prime example of this is Spider-Man 2 and its handling of Dr. Octopus, but at every level of these movies the intention seems to be story and humanity. Some of the effects, dialogue, and MJ’s chronic status as the captured damsel haven’t aged well, but for early 2000s movies I think they acquit themselves pretty nicely.

Also, the subjectivity and insurmountable power of nostalgia is always at play when talking about these flicks. So, they’re just so dang wistful for that reason.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I am jealous of future college students majoring in Classic Meme Studies because they will be assigned to watch this trilogy for homework, parse out the memes, and listen to Nickelback’s “Hero” for 30% of their grade.”

Film Review: “Ghostbusters Afterlife” (2021)

“Let me give you some advice: don’t go chasing ghosts.”

It’s an initially slow, nostalgic re-entry into the Ghostbusters world (universe?), but once it starts reaching for the original’s energy and marrying it to the coming of age/Egon family drama/Goonies vibe it’s going for, it becomes a pleasant mixture of the old and the new. Definitely not enough ghosts, but the much-hyped use of the Stay-Puft Marshmallows veering into Gremlins territory almost makes up for it (almost).

One of my my favorite aspects of Ghostbusters movies is the substantial and slightly sinister ghost lore they’ve set up for themselves, the human sacrifices and cultist happenings always a bit at odds with the comedy. Without a Venkman character to go “lol who gives a fuck?” for most of the runtime, Afterlife actually leans a bit harder into the Sumerian cult business of it all, which I actually dug.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Is there enough of the OG Ghostbusters team? Yes. Is there enough Slimer and Rick Moranis? No. Will I ever recover from the amount of Ecto Cooler I drank as a child? Doctors are still deliberating.”

Film Review: “Eternals” (2021)

“You have a very angry family.”

A dense, beautiful film that feels like a new beginning for the MCU more so than any other entry after, well, Iron Man. It doesn’t break the MCU mold so much as it reshapes what a movie in this series can look like by pressing against the sides. What Black Panther and Shang Chi did for the modern superhero character, Eternals does for the allowed style and substance of these movies. There is absolutely room in these things for Zhao’s practical filmmaking, weighty conversations about immortality, Bollywood numbers, and slight Watchmen-adjacent interrogations of the superhero genre and the pedestals on which we place these characters.

It seems like the movie is divisive because it’s either too much of a Chloe Zhao movie and not enough of an MCU one or vice versa. For me, it’s kind of a perfect mix that takes some critical steps forward in it’s representation of humanity. Either way, change is good. Change is necessary.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “The Eternals are kind of the immortal, dysfunctional Power Rangers and I’m into it.”

Film Review: “Dune” (2021)

“Fear is the mind-killer.”

A sumptuous adaptation of half the influential novel that captures the weirdness, introspection, and pre-Star Wars design of 1960s sci-fi (and tries to address some of the dated elements). Plus, sandworms!

My VHS cover pull-quote: “It is weird that these sci-fi guys have names like Paul and Duncan. We should just replace the first letter of their names with X. Xaul. Xuncan. Lady Xessica. There we go.”