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: “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: “The Empty Man” (2020)

“We can’t indict the cosmos.”

A paranoid, whispered assembly of folklore and cosmic horror happenings that explores many permutations of this kind of story before vaguely settling into one collectively conjured nightmare. The CULT following it’s gaining is well deserved.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I don’t need much to enjoy a movie, just a skeleton that’s all kinds of H.R. Geiger/Alien-inspired in the first 20 minutes like this has. Come on, Hollywood!”

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: “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 “She Dies Tomorrow” (2020)

“It was a nice time. That period of time we spent together.”

A midnight meditation on death that will take me some time to parse. As of right now, mere hours from having watched this in a dark, dirt lot drive-in in New Jersey with Dolittle playing on the second screen just out of sight, part of me feels like I dreamed it.

And that’s perfect.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I know I’m probably not going to die tomorrow, but, like, well, I feel like I might now.”

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.”

Film Review: “A Wrinkle in Time” (2018)

“I missed you every second of every day.”

As with Disney’s last big, originalish non-remake live action movie Tomorrowland, the intention, message, and overall sentiment of A Wrinkle in Time helps to compensate for some structural problems and narrative messiness in some parts. As with all things, it succeeds most when things start getting dark and trippy. Overall, it’s an excellent adaptation of a book long thought to be unfilmable with an inspiring message of self-worth that everyone could stand to hear once in a while.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I said it’s like Tomorrowland, but I really enjoyed Tomorrowland.”

Film Review: “Annihilation” (2018)

“Is that what you think we’re doing out here? Committing suicide?”

It plays fast and loose with the source material, but Alex Garland and company have still crafted a challenging, remarkable piece of science fiction that digs into humanity’s sense of self and asks substantial questions.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Replicates your cells and doesn’t stop until you are something new! -Nick Perilli? Natalie Portman? Who are we? Who are any of us? What is next?”

Film Review: “Early Man” (2018)

“You haven’t eaten your primordial soup.”

Despite the American marketing team’s attempts to convince everyone otherwise, this is 100% a football/soccer sports movie about a primitive Manchester United. Even so, Early Man still has all the heart, stop motion artistry, absurdity, British tomfoolery, and general lovability of any of Aardman’s other films.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “*Various British noises*!”