Film Review: “Vengeance” (2022)

“We don’t write anything. All we do is translate.”

A confident, profound and dark modern comedy with slick, sometimes uncomfortable ideas and an absolutely stellar performance from Ashton Kutcher.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Novak doesn’t try to both sides too many glaring issues along political lines, instead focusing on stuff like how good chili in a bag of Fritos is, which is objectively true.”

Skeleton count: 0

Film Review: “3000 Years of Longing” (2022)

“I’m a literary scholar. We don’t know much.”

A visually arresting story about the stories we tell. A film that aptly feels like a short piece of fiction perpetually on submission at my favorite lit mags. George Miller’s romantic love letter to Idris Elba.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “My three wishes that go horribly wrong would be 1.) Immortality, 2.) Mortality when I have to watch all my loved ones die, and 3.) Free popcorn for life.”

Skeleton count: 1 juicy skeleton

Film Review: “Top Gun Maverick” (2022)

“No wife. No kids. No one to mourn you when you burn in.”

A film about my dad made for my dad and yours. For the Robert Perilli Sr. in all of us. Tom Cruise’s recognition of the passage of time. A perfect legacyquel that retains the spirit and sexy Tony Scott style shots of people giving thumbs ups and signals while planes go whirrr of the original and adds a counterpoint to the macho, dated bravado  of the 1980s.

And planes go zoom!

My VHS cover pull-quote: “What would your call sign be? Rooster? Hangman? Maverick? Mine would be Rubberneck cause I’d always be looking around screaming ‘I don’t know how to fly a plane!’ I just want to design a neat helmet.”

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: “The Worst Person in the World”

“All I do is watch my favorite movies over and over again.”

A melancholic, romantic character study told in a prologue, 12 chapters, and an epilogue. A true reflection of modern love and how the search for it is intertwined with the search for the modern meaning of our lives. There are moments in this that are truly arresting, pulling the movie up and far away from what you think it will be while elevating the genre with it.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “The central relationship in this is between a millennial and a gen-xer, and the film captures the divide between these generations better than any other piece of media that I’ve seen or read. Although only ten years or so apart, the punk, analog past of one partner conflicts with the other’s more ‘detached’ future resulting in a soft yet meaningful commentary on generational identities.”

Film Review: “Drive My Car” (2021)

“Those who survive never stop thinking about the dead.”

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

A gentle, human drive down a highway through loss on the way to understanding and healing. It enhances the Murakami story, while thankfully steering away from some of the writer’s worst tendencies. While Pig, my favorite movie of 2021 that was actually released in 2021, didn’t get any meaningless Oscar love, Drive My Car explores some similar themes on a search for humanity in the face of loss, so I am stoked that a film like this is getting acknowledged.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “It’s three hours, too, which means it’s a good movie. Long movies = good movies. That’s just movie math, right? (Really, though, it’s so well-paced that it barely feels like it’s 2 hours.)”

Advance Film Review: “Cyrano” (2022)

“Sometimes illusion is kind.”

A luscious staging of the off-broadway version of Cyrano de Bergerac with all that Joe Wright style and composition that we all know and maybe love. The music is gentle like the movie, so there aren’t any genuine showstoppers, but it all serves the classic story and captivating cinematography well.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I’m surprised an app called Cyrano, which connects people with lovelorn ghost letter writers doesn’t exist. Please don’t steal this idea from me.”

Film Review: “Spencer” (2021)

“Where the fuck am I?”

A dreamy, ghostly and claustrophobic horror story that explores abusive and overbearing (and royal) control the same way Larrain’s previous film Jackie explored grief. Also like Jackie, it features a singular performance from a central actor in Kristen Stewart who commands every single scene.

Above all, though, Spencer is a sympathetic portrait of Princess Diana that, while I’m sure takes liberties with some things and completely changes others, captures the feeling of an individual trapped in circumstances she couldn’t predict.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I guess we should be careful about conspiracies, but the royal family had her killed. At least in the Spencer cinematic universe.”

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: “Licorice Pizza” (2021)

“Of course I go to the movies.”

Licorice Pizza feels like a collection of scenes from different movies featuring the same shaggy characters that form an impeccable snapshot of a certain period in time at a certain place. It’s at its best when it moves away from the sketchy/lightly cringe teen fantasy movie scenes and focuses on the “loser” characters’ escapades and attempts to make something of themselves, even if they don’t know what that something is because they’re too young, too lazy, too apathetic, or any combination of the three.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “It is worth seeing for Bradley Cooper’s cameo scenes alone. His are pulled from a comedy of errors featuring these characters and he captures the coked up energy and manic drive of what I conjure in my mind palace when I think 70s producer.”