Film Review: “Petite Maman” (2022)

“You always ask questions at bedtime.”

Coraline (2009)

A grounded, gorgeous contemporary fantasy about the connections between parent and child, of inner child and outer adult, of mother and daughter. I won’t pretend to be the best person to speak with any authority on the themes of motherhood at play here, but what I will say is that Céline Sciamma once again elevates a simple premise with substantial emotion and tight storytelling.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “If I met my mother’s younger self, I would probably have just talked to her about my Pokemon cards.”

Film Review: “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” (2022)

“Yeah, Nic Cage smooches good!”

A wild, fittingly over the top and touching entry into the same self-aware genre that Being John Malkovich and JCVD exist in, with the added benefit of Nicolas Cage’s branded energy and a beautiful chemistry between him and Pedro Pascal.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I pretty much said it in 2017 and I’ll say it now: Paddington 2 is a perfect film. Croods 2 is also pretty good.”

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: “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: “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: “Titane” (2021)

“It’s titanium.”

A movie that dares people to call it a ‘wild ride’ and put it in quotes at the top of the poster or home video case, then just ratchets up the wild and weird and body horror until it becomes something wonderfully uncontrollable and keenly unknowable.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “It does have a lot in common with the Fast and Furious movies, though, and I won’t be elaborating.”

Film Review: “Scream 5” (2022)

“Well now you’re just quoting the original!”

As meta and almost as intelligent as any of the other four entries in the franchise, with the twists of the plot knife and blood to match. The “requel” concept is clever and interesting enough to warrant its existence, as are the new cast of characters who rhyme in substantial, interesting and surprising ways with the old.

Also, the most important aspect of any Scream movie isn’t meta commentary or effective scares, it’s Ghostface getting the shit kicked out of them and thrown down stairs or hit with candle sticks a bunch, which they still nail here.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “There’s a lot of Scream 3 hate popping up again, and I just want to use this space to defend it as not only a curious full shift for the franchise into horror comedy but also an early (if soft) modern commentary on predatory Hollywood, which is rich considering the Weinstein connection to the franchise, but still interesting.”

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.”

Film Review: “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (2021)

“I have done the deed.”

A concise, sparse production of the play that makes use of the film medium’s varied perspectives to craft something that feels less like a stage play and more like a dream, moving ceaselessly through curtains towards its conclusion in the theater of the mind.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Someone in the audience called it ‘Macbeth’ before it started so Denzel died at the end. Wish I could have seen how it really ends.”

Film Review: “Nightmare Alley” (2021)

“People are desperate to tell you who they are.”

A dark parable that casts viewers as adjudicator and soothsayer, signalling the ending and waiting for the main character to catch up to his destiny. The supernatural elements Del Toro is most famous for are relegated here to set dressing and production value, building the world and genre encroaching upon the troubled soul we follow, from carnival trappings to brutalist art deco noir and back again.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Why is the call of the carnival still so strong even though they’re barely a thing anymore? Every time I’m overwhelmed, I hear Willem Dafoe’s voice ushering me towards a field somewhere. That’s normal, right?”