Film Review: “The Mitchells vs. The Machines”

“Who would have thought a tech company didn’t have our best interests at heart?”

The animation techniques honed in Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse are let loose and used to tell the frantic, heartfelt story of a chaotic cartoon family against the machinations of a Mark Zuckerberg stand-in. In terms of energy, it feels like the next evolution or step up from the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies, which are both classics in my book of modern movies that most people don’t think (and probably aren’t, actually) classics but I like quite a bit.

This, however, feels destined to be an actual classic whose legacy may only be hampered by the relatively tame marketing push and it just being dropped on Netflix instead of having a meaningful theatrical run. Having to watch a film with blink-and-you-miss-it visual flourishes on a TV really made me long for the big screen and the togetherness theater experience and all that. But that’s hardly the movie’s fault! The film is a kinetic, hilarious techno journey into a sugar-addled Asimovian not-too-distant-future with the requisite (and fairly progressive) family component to bring the emotion.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “There is a particular scene in this that has been making the rounds on the interweb involving a deadly Furby colossus spouting eldritch phrases, which is why it is my favorite film of the year. If I say something else is my favorite film of the year in December 2021 or something, don’t listen to Future Nick. That asshole doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he’s an old person who’s out of touch with everything. His time is over and he doesn’t even realize it yet. I, on the other hand, am young. I am important.”

Film Review: “Psycho Goreman” (2020)

“So this TV won’t stop bleeding.”

A bloody, creative cosmic horror festival that’s fit for the archduke of nightmares. The utterly inspired Power Rangers style practical creations, characters, and deaths they’ve come up with is reason enough to watch it, the fact that it’s hilarious is a glorious bonus.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Spirits of the Electroverse, I’m going to be saying ‘Spirits of the Electroverse’ any time I talk to my TV which is quite a lot, actually. It’s one of my best friends.”

Film Review: “The Kid Detective” (2020)

“Maybe there’s more nobility in giving up.”

A fun detective story entry into the millennial ennui (millennui) genre that uses its ‘Encyclopedia Brown but older and sad” premise to great and sometimes surprising effect, allowing the movie to break away from any Veronica Mars and Brick comparisons. It also hits all the noir beats it needs to with classic moody shots and a soundtrack that’s heavy on the smooth noir sax.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Has anyone coined the term ‘millennui’ for the genre that shows like Search Party and movies like this belong to yet? I’m not even going to Google it because I want the little bit of serotonin that comes with thinking I’ve come up with something original. That’s the stuff!”

Film Review: “Promising Young Woman” (2020)

“Your novel sounds terrible, by the way.”

A revenge comedy(ish) using the style and the idea of revenge as a bleak and inevitable, all-consuming force from those 70s revenge movies like Death Wish to make a clear and necessary modern statement. It sure goes places and an incredible Carey Mulligan leads us there.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Using ‘nice guy’ actors like McLovin, Schmidt, Seth Cohen, and Piz to play these wurst guys is excellent typecasting that’s also, like, casting against type.” 

Film Review: “Soul” (2020)

“I don’t think you’re supposed to go that way.”

Soul (2020)

Definitely up there with Pixar’s standalone best, giving out some serious Coco and Inside Out vibes just pulled to a stylish metaphysical extreme. The “It’s a Wonderful Life” style themes dealing with the joys of life are front and center, but so too is the drive of creatives to create and what ‘success’ means after chasing it for so long (which absolutely resonated with me as a writer person).

The soundtrack is also outstanding and, of course, it’s another good step forward for the company in terms of diverse characters and leads in their films (but not so much for major representation behind the camera).

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Joe reminds me of my childhood trumpet teacher, and I wonder if he also dealt with the self-doubts and setbacks that Joe did in his life that eventually led him to teaching music as a career (a career I would love to have). I probably should have practiced more to make his job easier. My bad, Roger.”

Film Review: “Bill & Ted Face the Music” (2020)

“You want some Bill & Ted, punk?”

This is like The Return of the King of Bill & Ted movies. As much a celebration of the first two as it is an examination of the way our past selves inform our future selves and our past failures (and successes) color our opinions of our younger counterparts or something. Heartwarming, well-written, and totally non-bogus. It’s a Bill & Ted movie (without the three or so dated instances of homophobic language from the first two (“yikes!” I said during a rewatch of them last week))!

My VHS cover pull-quote: “The actor who plays Ted’s dad, Hal Landon Jr., played Scrooge onstage for 40 years in California, is still alive, and is quite spry for a 79 year old. Excellent!”

Film Review: “The Rental” (2020)

“I’m not saying we’re not going to get away with it, I’m saying I don’t want to get away with it.”

A matter-of-fact unraveling of multiple relationships that takes the long, chill road towards becoming the entry in a hallowed horror genre it ultimately wants to be.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “The main characters are like the high school kids who somehow all successfully escaped one horror movie, grew into their late 20s and 30s, then found themselves caught unawares in another horror movie.”

Film Review: “Birds of Prey” (2020)

“And that is why you should never partake in paying federal income taxes.”

An anarchic, fringe, Gotham Grungy team-up feature that has some of the finest practical (and practical-looking) fight choreography I’ve seen since whatever John Wick we’re on now and can just have fun and say “fuck” whenever it wants.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I just wanted more of absolutely everything—especially the teaming up. Everyone is a kick-ass, leg breaking delight with great chemistry. I also want an egg sandwich.”

Film Review: “The Climb” (2019)

“Do you remember the Blizzard of ’96?”

A buddy comedy exploring a common, toxic relationship between two guys that pulls in some Apatovian and mumblecore elements, adds a bit of genuine cinematic craft, and produces something that feels like an evolution of the genre.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “We saw this at a special Sundance premiere event in Philly, but they gave us a legit Sundance poster so in a few years I’m just going to go ahead and say we went to Sundance in 2020 and watch the jealousy roll in.”