Film Review: “Encanto” (2021)

“Sometimes the family weirdos get a bad rap.”

An energetic and beautifully animated 60th entry into the Disney animated canon that’s about family, acceptance, and toxicity. It shares a bunch of themes with Moana, as well as the unrestrained touch of Lin Manuel Miranda’s songwriting skills. The wide ensemble of genuinely developed characters (as developed as 90 minutes allows) helps set it apart from other animated fare. More importantly, though, the main character has glasses and that makes me feel seen as someone with glasses.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Releasing The Eternals: Part II so close to the first one was risky, but it definitely pays off.”

Film Review: “Ron’s Gone Wrong” (2021)

“I am utterly pointless.”

A bit of a modern E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, where E.T. is a little sleek robot voiced by Zach Galifianakis and society is hooked on social media and instant gratification instead of… Reaganomics? I don’t know, I wasn’t alive back in 1982. I don’t think anyone was. Regardless, this movie is a perfectly emotional exploration of what real friendship looks like and a satirical takedown of Apple (an obvious stand-in for Tim Cook doesn’t care if children die, which, yeah, I can see that), Facebook, and big tech in general. The latter was done earlier this year with the more manic and dysfunctional family-oriented The Mitchells vs the Machines, so these two movies exist as a bit of a prefect double feature. Dysfunctional families, dysfunctional robots, friendship, and the negatives (and positives!) of unchecked tech.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “There is a throwaway line about killer clowns living in the woods, which is why children don’t go in there to play anymore, which makes me think this movie takes place in an entirely new branch of the timeline after Harambe was shot in 2016 where those creepy clowns popping up everywhere in the north around then really kind of took hold of the world. Ron’s Gone Wrong would be very disappointed in this Reddit-addled VHS cover pull-quote.”

Film Review: “Raya and the Last Dragon” (2021)

“Well, I’m really good at swimming.”

Definitely one of Disney’s most emotionally mature entries into their animated canon, tackling weighty themes like loss and humanity’s seemingly natural discord and distrust of one another. Heavy stuff. It’s a near perfect synthesis of what they tried to do in their underrated early 2000s actioner efforts like Atlantis and Treasure Planet (and, to a slightly lesser extent, later stuff like Big Hero 6 and Moana) and another welcome evolution of what being a ‘princess’ means and looks like.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Also features some excellent fight and action choreography, like, better than The Raid. Or just like The Raid but with a con-baby.”

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: “Onward” (2020)


“Long ago, there was wonder…”

A fantastic enough questy comedy about brothers, a van, father legs, sons, overcoming loss, and family, featuring some pretty solid D&D references throughout.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Disney and Pixar put out Cars 2 for money, certainly, but also so that when something like Onward or The Good Dinosaur comes out, which are high quality but not UP or Coco or Wall-E levels of high quality, people will say, “well, it’s not Cars 2 so that’s nice.”