Category Archives: Films

My Thoughts on: The Deer King (2022)

*note: This review was originally published on Patreon

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been a fan of anime for years and will take almost any opportunity I can to see it in theaters when the chance arrives. Having not seen an anime movie in theaters since Belle (way back at the beginning of this year), I leaped at the chance to see The Deer King when my local theater announced it was holding a screening. 

The Deer King is adapted from the Japanese fantasy series of the same name by Nahoko Uehashi and takes place in a fictional realm dominated by the Kingdom of Aquafa and the Empire of Zol, the latter having recently taken over the former. As tensions simmer between the two nations, the dreaded Black Wolf Fever breaks out, killing hundreds and threatening to kill many more if the mystery behind it isn’t solved. One of these mysteries revolves around how Van, a near-legendary fighter who once defended Aquafa, was infected by the fever and didn’t die. Neither did Yuna, a young girl who becomes like a daughter to Van. The answers to these mysteries will change many things for both nations.

Let’s start with the good things about The Deer King. First of all, the film is beautifully animated. The character design and backgrounds are all gorgeous. The Deer King was directed by Masashi Ando who previously worked on such films as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Your Name and the Studio Ghibli influence definitely shows throughout the film. Yuna in particular looks like she leapt straight out of a Miyazaki film (and I mean that in a good way). 

The story of The Deer King is….good, but that’s also where we run into one of the film’s big problems. I couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me at first, but as the story progressed toward the end I felt more and more like we were missing a big chunk of the story. One of the film’s primary antagonists barely gets any screen time, and when he DOES appear it’s built up like this big moment and yet the audience has very little reason to care about this character, not to mention they know next to nothing about him or his motivations. Actually there’s several characters and plot points that this flaw applies to. It’s almost like when they wrote the adaptation of the fantasy series, they left out too much when putting the screenplay together. Put simply: vital exposition is missing and I’m sure a director’s cut with said exposition put back in would improve things greatly.

Also, one other thing that bothered me about The Deer King, as much as I enjoyed it, is that I feel like this film doesn’t quite know what it is. The Black Wolf Fever I mentioned earlier is referred to as both a spiritual curse and a real disease in almost the same breath at times, which was pretty confusing to me. Like, most of the time The Deer King feels like a battle against supernatural forces but then at other times it feels like a medical mystery drama. Both are enjoyable, but the way the movie kept flipping back and forth did it no favors.

However, while the story is flawed in its presentation, I did ultimately enjoy it. There are several good morals in The Deer King about letting go of the past, enjoying found family, and sacrificing for those you love. Basically, I’m willing to overlook the flaws and enjoy the overall whole. If The Deer King is playing near you, I recommend going to check it out, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Let me know what you think about The Deer King in the comments below and have a great day!

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Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Crimes of the Future (2022)

Note: this review was originally published on Patreon

From the moment I heard about Crimes of the Future, I knew this was a movie I needed to see. Consider the following if you will: this is a film by David Cronenberg (he who gave us The Fly), it stars Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, AND it’s in the body horror genre. Put all of that together and I couldn’t possibly stay away from this movie.

And what a movie. David Cronenberg has crafted an amazing story that ultimately led me to question everything I thought I knew about what it means to be human. Although, it does take some time for that picture to become clear. Cronenberg tells the story through several threads that don’t weave together into a single picture until midway through the film. And even then, the ending of the story is still left deliberately ambiguous (though I can take a guess as to what it means, I won’t due to wanting to avoid spoilers).

Let me start at the beginning: Crimes of the Future takes place in what is implied to be the near future, in a time when most humans have ceased to feel any level of pain due to what is implied to be an ongoing evolution in humanity. As a result of no one really feeling pain anymore, increasingly elaborate plastic surgeries have become a fashion trend, and it becomes clear throughout the film that people are going to increasingly greater extremes in order to feel something, anything at all. In the middle of this bizarre and yet frighteningly understandable world is “performance artist” Saul Tenser (Mortensen), whose act consists of having the bizarre organs his body randomly generates cut out by his assistant for an audience.

Woven in with this story is the tragic and seemingly unrelated fate of another character (I’m being deliberately vague because, again, spoilers). But as the story goes on, it becomes clear that it’s all connected, and the implications about where the human species is going is mind-bending. Were I not so much in love with the film as it is, I would almost beg Cronenberg for a follow up on the concept because I want to see more of where he’s going with this.

What really interests me apart from the story itself is the setting. When I read a description of this film and it said it was in the “near future”, I envisioned a world that was slightly sleek and shiny. But instead, Crimes of the Future takes place in a world that literally appears to be falling apart. Analog technology is everywhere, there’s no smart phones that I could see, and everything is dirty and decaying. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost say this story is set in a post-apocalyptic world. The only hint that this is in fact the future is the advanced technology used to perform most of Saul’s “performances.” 

Mortensen is amazing as Saul Tenser and I love the chemistry he has with Léa Seydoux, who plays his fellow performance artist. Watching those two interact is one of my favorite parts of the film. The one thing that did disappoint me though was Kristen Stewart, in that I wanted to see more of her in the film. The way the trailer was set up, I thought we were going to see a lot more of her, though I did enjoy the performance she gave.

Despite minor issues, I thoroughly loved Crimes of the Future. It’s a film that will definitely make you think about what it means to be human and where we as a species are going in the future. Is that future good or bad? I feel like Cronenberg definitely leaves the answer to that question up to us viewers. This was the kind of the film where it’s okay to have a less-than-definite ending. 

That’s all I’ve got for Crimes of the Future (I could say more but I don’t want to spoil the entire plot).

Have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Music Room (1958)

Yesterday, for the first time in a while, I sat down and watched a movie from my collection. I’ve actually seen The Music Room before, but I hadn’t blogged about it, so today I decided to change that.

If you’ve never seen Indian cinema, then The Music Room (Jalsaghar) is a pretty good place to start. The film was directed by the legendary Satyajit Ray and was released in 1958. I believe the story is set sometime after India achieved its independence from the British Empire in the late 1940s, a time of great change for millions of people. But for Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas), the main character of the story, all of these things don’t concern him in the least. He’s a zamindar (landlord) from a noble family and he happily spends his days throwing parties and music recitals instead of managing his lands or his dwindling finances.

Biswambhar Roy’s financial difficulties, and indeed his decline throughout the story are set in direct contrast to the rise, well, the attempted rise, of Mahim Ganguli (Gangapada Bose), the son of a moneylender, who works and invests his way into great wealth by the end of the story. It is made painfully obvious that Mahim is attempting to buy his way into the polite society that Biswambhar Roy belongs to, thinking that money alone is all he needs to get in. But what Mahim fails to understand is that, in this society at least, money is not what makes one noble, but rather one’s background. That’s why, despite eventually being left with no money, Biswambhar Roy still receives more respect from the locals than Mahim can ever dream of getting.

However, don’t think that this is only a story about Mahim Ganguli rising where Biswambhar Roy falls. While that is a significant side plot, the crux of the story is with Roy and the end of life as he knows it. As I said at the beginning, Biswambhar Roy is obsessed with giving music recitals, indeed he’s obsessed with music in general (even his wife comments on it). And it’s this obsession that leads to the downfall of the family. Even though Biswambhar Roy is cautioned that the money is running out, the zamindar is determined to prove that he can still provide the entertainments traditionally expected of men of his status, especially if it shows up upstarts like Mahim Ganguli. This he does….but with tragic consequences that bring Roy’s world crashing down upon him in a scene of pure heartbreak.

Speaking of music, part of what makes The Music Room so notable is that the film highlights Indian music and Indian dance and incorporates both into the story. We are treated to several vocal performances from some of India’s greatest musicians of the time (I particularly highlight Begum Akhtar’s performance as the singer in the film’s first music sequence). The Music Room was the first film to do this and I feel it captures a perfect snapshot of Indian music and dance from that era. Indeed, if I ever found myself teaching a music class again, when the time came to discuss world music I would have my students watch this film because it highlights so much of Indian music so well.

Ultimately, The Music Room is a tragedy of the highest order. No matter how much Biswambhar Roy wishes it, the glory days of his family will never return and watching this man lose everything is a heartbreaking experience that will stick with you long after the credits roll.

Let me know what you think about The Music Room in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Men (2022)

*Note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon in May

*minor spoilers below*

Well, it was bound to happen sometime. After seeing over ten movies in theaters (so far) this year, I’ve finally seen a movie that completely disappointed me and that is Alex Garland’s Men

What really hurts about this is I was genuinely excited, if slightly nervous, about seeing this movie. I’ve been a fan of Garland’s directorial work since his debut with Ex Machina. I also saw Annihilation in theaters and I liked that film quite a bit (though Ex Machina remains his best work). Based on that history, it seemed reasonable to assume that I would enjoy Men to some degree as well.

Well….that didn’t happen.

The biggest issue is, I sat through the entire movie and I still can’t tell you what Men is supposed to be about. This didn’t bother me for most of the runtime, because I figured a last act twist was coming that would explain everything. Well, there were some last act twists all right, but they did absolutely nothing to explain what the BLEEP was going on in that movie. I don’t mind when movies don’t completely spell everything out for you (Garland’s first film Ex Machina is a prime example) but Men doesn’t come close to explaining what is happening or why.

An equally grievous fault is that Men is trying way too hard to be clever about its subject matter (whatever that is). It’s almost like Garland thought that by filling the movie with lewd, disgusting men who are *minor spoiler alert* ultimately defeated by a woman, that he would find a receptive audience. But, if anything, the male characters in this film were a complete turnoff for me. Perhaps if Garland had done a better job explaining what was going on in the story, it might have been more palatable. But as it is, we were subjected to a litany of offensive comments that at times had the audience commenting out loud about how offensive they were (especially when the priest character tried to justify the spousal abuse that the main character suffered). That moment disgusted me and in hindsight I probably should’ve walked out at that point.

For a time, it almost seemed like the film had an interesting premise going. It seemed to me that our heroine was encountering the manifestation of an ancient pagan god (depicted on an ancient basin used as a baptismal font in the village church) who was interested in acquiring a mate because, well, that’s what fertility gods do. But then, as I alluded to earlier, there was a last act twist that not only blew that theory to ribbons, it also completely confused me because it seemed to come completely out of left field.

I will say this much for the film: Rory Kinnear puts on the performance of a lifetime in this movie. I lost count of all the characters he played, but there’s such a wide variety it’s stunning to think that he pulled them all off himself. I also enjoyed Jesse Buckley’s performance as Harper, especially in the latter half of the film when the action starts ramping up.

The only other detail of this film that I thoroughly enjoyed was the music. As with Garland’s previous films, the music was composed by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow and it is superbly done. Indeed, had the music been not so good I don’t think I could’ve made it through the film.

I can’t in good conscience recommend going to see Men. It was overall a complete disappointment for me and it is far from Alex Garland’s best work.

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My Thoughts on: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

*warning: minor spoilers for the movie can be found below, highly recommend watching the movie before reading this review

After the hype-fest that was Avengers Infinity War and Avengers Endgame, I admit to being slightly burnt out on Marvel movies for some time afterward (the pandemic didn’t help matters). Regardless of the reasons, the only Marvel movie I’d seen recently was Black Widow and I almost passed on seeing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as I’ve still yet to see the first Doctor Strange movie.

And then the trailer came out.

To put it bluntly: I was hooked from the start. I’m quite familiar with the work of director Sam Raimi and the thought of seeing him tackle a Marvel film sent chills down my spine (in the best way possible). And the tease of seeing so many iconic characters finally appearing in the MCU, well….I couldn’t pass that up either. Being a longtime fan of the X-Men movies, I simply had to see Patrick Stewart reprise his role as Charles Xavier (I’ll speak more on the cameos later on). 

Finally, the day came, and I got to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (while dodging almost all spoilers). And….to be honest, I’m still processing exactly what I saw. Because you better believe there’s a LOT happening in this movie.

Let me start at the beginning and see if I can make sense of what happens. The crux of the story revolves around young America Chavez, a girl who literally tumbles into Doctor Strange’s world with a unique power: she can travel the multiverse. This power makes her very desirable to many people, well, to one in particular.

I debated long and hard about whether or not I would directly mention this plot detail in my review, but I have so many thoughts on it, I’ve decided it’s worth it. So here is one final SPOILER WARNING before I continue:

Still here? Okay, you were warned….

The revelation that the Scarlet Witch is the big villain of the story hit me like a punch in the gut. I know Wanda has been through a LOT of trauma over the course of the MCU, but it still struck me as a surprise that she would go to this extreme in order to be reunited with the children she created in the first place. It just goes to show that love, real or imagined, can drive a person to do terrible things all in the name of keeping that love. There’s a frightening parallel between Wanda’s actions in this film and the evil Doctor Strange in the What If? episode “What if Doctor Strange lost his heart instead of his hands?” Like that Doctor Strange, Wanda is so focused on her goal, i.e. being reunited with her children no matter the cost, that she becomes almost completely blind to what her quest is costing her until the emotional climax of the film. And the moment it DOES hit her, it had me almost in tears, the depth of pain Wanda was feeling. 

Here’s the thing, while Wanda is set up as the villain, she’s clearly a tragic villain, one forced into this position because of what’s happened to her. Everything has built up to this outcome and Wanda simply couldn’t take it anymore. In hindsight, it’s almost not a surprise that this happened, because if you lost everything in one universe and suddenly discovered someone had the power to take you to another world where you had NOT lost everything…wouldn’t you be tempted to try and use it?

The one part I disagree with in Scarlet Witch’s story is the ending. I have waited for so many movies for the Scarlet Witch to be fully introduced, and I hate the idea that she was killed off just as we got her. Now, that being said, I don’t THINK that Wanda is actually dead. We’re meant to think she is, obviously, but there was no body seen, so you know there’s every chance she was just sucked into an alternate dimension. I refuse to believe that we lose the Scarlet Witch just as she fully develops.

Then there’s America Chavez. I really like this character, especially the way she interacts with Doctor Strange throughout the story. Based on her interactions with an alternate version of the sorcerer, it takes quite a while for America to develop a connection with “our” Doctor Strange, but once it does develop, it’s very touching. I’m hoping that we see these two pair up in future films, there’s definitely potential for this relationship to be expanded upon.

Now, on to the juicy parts, most notably THAT scene with the Illuminati. This is by far one of the best scenes I’ve seen since Avengers Endgame. The sheer number of cameos and information dropped in that scene had me enthralled, not least because we finally, FINALLY, had an onscreen appearance from a member of the Fantastic Four, something I have been longing to see ever since Marvel re-acquired the rights to that group of superheroes. I don’t know what connection, if any, this appearance will have with the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, but for now this cameo was more than enough. The only thing that could’ve made this better would’ve been an appearance from some of the X-men (besides Xavier) but I’m confident we’ll be getting that eventually. It was also thrilling to see Captain Carter putting in an appearance, she’s one of my favorite parts of the What If? series and this appearance only strengthens my desire to see a full-fledged Captain Carter movie.

If I have one complaint about this movie, it’s that we didn’t visit more dimensions in the multiverse. Watching the trailers, it seemed like we’d be visiting a lot more worlds than we ultimately did. That doesn’t mean that what we got wasn’t enjoyable, I just was left feeling like we could’ve gotten more.

Oh, and before I forget, I really want to talk for a minute about the horror element in this film. If anyone could pull this off it’s Sam Raimi and he did so beautifully. I honestly wasn’t sure if horror could work in the MCU but this movie proved it is indeed possible to combine horror and the MCU (which means we definitely need a Marvel Zombies movie now). I know horror isn’t for everyone, but if you give it a chance, you’ll see that this is really the only way this kind of story could go. 

I’m sure as time goes on that I’ll find details about this movie that I didn’t like, but after thinking it over and over, I have to say that I found Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to be a very enjoyable movie. I like the direction the MCU is headed in and I’m curious to see where the story goes next.

And that’s all I’ve really got to say about the movie. There’s more I could talk about, but I don’t want to spoil the entire movie for you. 

Let me know what you thought about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Jurassic World Dominion (2022)

After Jurassic World fell flat with me, I swore I would stay far away from the franchise, a decision that felt justified when Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom didn’t do all that great. And when Jurassic World: Dominion was announced, I didn’t feel particularly inclined to check the film out. But then I saw the news that Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern were reprising their roles as Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ian Malcolm and Dr. Ellie Sattler and I realized I couldn’t stay away this time.

Even though I hadn’t seen Fallen Kingdom, I simply had to see what happened when the heroes of the original Jurassic Park met up with the protagonists of Jurassic World. The result was completely and utterly glorious. I’m not sure what people are so upset about, I had a complete ball watching this movie.

Jurassic World: Dominion is set several years after the events of Fallen Kingdom and sees Owen and Claire raising Maisie off the grid, having formed a loving, if dysfunctional, family unit. At the same time, the world is trying to come to grips with the reality of humans living side by side with dinosaurs. Their lives are upended when Maisie, as well as Blue’s baby are both kidnapped, forcing our heroes to go on a continent hopping journey to get them both back. Meanwhile, Dr. Ellie Sattler is pursuing her own investigation, one that will eventually lead her to cross paths not only with Ian and Dr. Grant, but also Owen and Claire.

One of my favorite things about this movie is the sheer volume of Easter eggs scattered throughout the film. If you’ve seen all of the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World movies, then you will see call-backs and references everywhere, some bigger than others. There’s even, to my surprise, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to The Lost World that I didn’t even realize I’d seen until I checked the trivia for the movie. I like all of these callbacks though because it really made this movie feel like the grand conclusion to an epic, if occasionally flawed, saga. Honestly, if they made no more Jurassic World movies, I’d be happy with this being the final entry.

The one criticism of this movie I do agree with has to do with the film’s ultimate antagonist. And the reason I agree with this criticism is because it’s not the dinosaurs that are the big problem, which is what all the trailers led us to believe. No, it turns out the problem is something ELSE that humans created. Now, while I thoroughly believed this other thing was a viable threat, the fact is, if you watch a Jurassic World movie, you’re watching for the dinosaurs, bugs just aren’t going to cut it. I’m also really not a fan of when trailers make it seem that Thing A will be the big threat, only to introduce Thing B out of nowhere once you actually go to see the movie.

Back to what I loved about this movie: another thing I loved was the film’s frequent, and I mean FREQUENT citing of Jurassic Park’s iconic theme as created by John Williams. Just like the “Superman March” has a way of turning up in any story about Superman (excluding Man of Steel), it feels like an absolute requirement for the Jurassic Park theme to show up at some point and Michael Giacchino quotes this theme to great effect throughout the story.

I also, minor spoiler alert here, like how the action is more global in this film. Usually the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World films are largely confined to one specific area outside of the prologue or epilogue. This film though, moves through the United States, Malta, and Italy and it was a really nice change of pace for the story.

I also want to say that I really enjoyed how the various dinosaurs are realized throughout the film. They’ve come a long way since the original Jurassic Park. In line with how our understanding of dinosaurs has changed, we see many feathered dinosaurs throughout the story, though thankfully Rexy (the T-Rex from the original movie, yes she’s in this movie too) retains her original appearance. What I really liked is how not all of the dinosaurs are CGI, there are clearly animatronics being used in several places, though I don’t mean that as a criticism as they’re very well done. I just mean that it’s nice to see the movie used practical effects at times instead of digitally creating everything.

All of this is to say that I really enjoyed Jurassic World: Dominion, which was quite a pleasant experience for me as I really didn’t think I was going to when I went to the movie theater. This was a great way to tie the entire story together and I think if you give this film a chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Let me know what you think about Jurassic World: Dominion in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Bad Guys (2022)

*note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon

If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time than you know I am a sucker for most animated films (with minor exceptions). Therefore, when I saw the trailer for The Bad Guys, I knew I had to check it out because it looked really cute.

And you know what? It is!!

The Bad Guys is one of my most favorite types of films to see in theaters: a cute family-friendly film that doesn’t require too much thought to understand and enjoy. The story is relatively simple: The Bad Guys are a criminal gang made up of a bunch of stereotypically “evil” animals: Mr. Snake, Ms. Tarantula (“Webs”), Mr. Shark, Mr. Pirahna and their leader the Big Bad Wolf. They pull heists all around the city with ease and seem to have it made….until Mr. Wolf decides to pull one last job that changes everything. Consequently, Mr. Wolf realizes that maybe he doesn’t want to be a “bad guy” for the rest of his life.

Despite being made for kids, there’s a great lesson to be learned in this movie. It’s a fairly obvious lesson: the movie practically screams “Don’t judge by outward appearances” for almost the entire length of the story but it’s a good lesson so I don’t really mind.

Actually, what really impresses me about this movie is the twist it manages to pull off. Fairly early in the story it’s obvious that a twist is coming. After all, since the Bad Guys are shown to be…well, not that bad, it made sense that someone or something else was going to be the big villain of the story. I *thought* I had the twist pegged. but boy was I proven wrong. What’s more, the actual villain of the story is kinda scary once they reveal themselves. Okay, maybe not really scary but….certainly demented.

Of all the members of The Bad Guys gang, I think I liked Ms. Tarantula, also referred to as Webs the best (and not just because she’s the only female member of the gang). She’s a really cool character (she’s a computer hacker) and I just really like her.

There’s not too much more to say about The Bad Guys. The animation is solid, the twists were only somewhat predictable, and there was actually a decent sized opening for a sequel that I wouldn’t mind seeing. 

If you get a chance to see The Bad Guys, I highly recommend it. It’s a fun little movie and a great way to relax for a little while.

That’s all I’ve got about The Bad Guys. Have you seen the film? Did you like it? Let me know what you thought in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Northman (2022)

*note: there may be minor spoilers for The Northman below

*note: this review was originally published on Patreon for subscribers in April

There are a number of movies I’ve been excited for already this year and The Northman has been one of them for quite some time. I almost ignored this film until I saw the trailer and realized “Oh, this is the story of Hamlet, but with Vikings.” And it’s true! I read about this film and found out that The Northman is based on an old saga that did in fact eventually inspire the story of Hamlet centuries later.

In case you’re not familiar with Hamlet though, I’ll summarize what the film is about: The Northman is set in the 10th century and follows a Viking prince named Amleth who is spurred on to revenge after his uncle kills his father and seizes the throne, forcing him to flee for his life.  After being trained as a berserker by another group of Vikings, Amleth eventually discovers he is unable to avoid his fate and must pursue vengeance, no matter the cost.

One thing that will hit you straight away about The Northman is how beautiful it all is. The cinematography is exquisite throughout and all of the colors really pop on the screen. I was also struck by all the attention to detail scattered throughout this film: Eggers and his crew really did their homework when they put this story together. All of the details: the jewelry, the clothing, the artwork, and yes even the weapons, it all feels authentic, like something that would really have been found in that era. 

The acting is spot on too. Alexander Skarsgård absolutely nails the role of Amleth and Anya Taylor-Joy is delightful to watch as Olga. I particularly enjoyed the raw ferocity Alexander Skarsgård portrayed on the screen (the fight scenes he’s in are all amazing). Mix all of this in with the amazing musical score and The Northman is easily one of the best films to come out in the first half of 2022.

I also have to give a brief shout-out to all the locations explored in this movie, particularly Iceland where a big chunk of the movie is set. You might expect such barren locales not to be particularly interesting looking but it’s quite the opposite actually. The way Eggers frames each scene, particularly in Iceland, there’s a beauty to be found everywhere that I appreciated as the story went on.

I also have to say I enjoyed the role magic played in the story. And make no mistake, it’s made quite clear that there is magic at work. While certain story elements are attributed to spirits or gods when we (the audience) know it’s actually humans at work, there are other details that make it plain that something not of this Earth is getting involved. We’re never told exactly who or what this is. It could be straight up the Norse gods at work, or it could be pure spiritual power in general. But something otherworldly is moving in this story and the way it is presented is spine-tingling.

If there is one nitpick to make about this movie, it’s that your enjoyment of certain parts of the story may very depending on how well you know Norse mythology. There are multiple references made to Odin and Valhalla, and if you don’t know how those stories are put together (and the role Valkyries play in the mythology) then certain scenes in this movie won’t make much sense to you. However, I should emphasize that you don’t really have to fully understand the Norse mythology to get the movie as a whole, it just helps with some of the finer details if you do.

I can’t emphasize enough that The Northman is worth checking out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of period dramas or not, this is a story about something everyone can understand: a son seeking vengeance. One thing is for sure, this is a movie you won’t forget any time soon and I’m so glad I went to see it.

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My Thoughts on: Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

*note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon

Oh good lord, where to even start with this movie. I’ve had the better part of a week to think about my reaction to this movie and honestly I’m still struggling to put it into words. So if this review seems a bit more rambling than usual, I apologize for that. It’s just…Everything Everywhere All at Once isn’t your usual movie. It’s…different.

Really different.

Let’s start at the beginning and see if I can make sense of things from there. The plot of Everything Everywhere All at Once, in a nutshell, focuses on a woman named Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), whose laundromat is being audited by the IRS. But when she goes to the IRS office to have the audit done, a series of weird events start happening. Suddenly her husband isn’t her husband, he’s a different version of her husband from another universe. In fact, we find out there are a lot of parallel realities out there in the multiverse. It’s one of the things that makes this movie so dizzying at times, but in the best way possible. 

And why is Evelyn being contacted by an alternate reality? Well, I’ll keep it simple to avoid spoilers, but the gist is that an overwhelming evil is taking over reality one universe at a time and this particular version of Evelyn is the only one who can stop it. To do so, Evelyn will have to harness the power of the multiverse, unlocking abilities that her counterparts in other realities know how to do.

That summary above sounds like it might be pretty complete, but I promise you this is just scratching the surface of what the movie is about. The big thing to understand is that watching Everything Everywhere All at Once will seriously shift the way you think about reality, at least it did for me. There are some deep messages in this film about the ultimate meaning of life and what we can/should/choose to do with our time in this universe. 

On a more shallow level, there’s also a very touching story to be found between Evelyn and her father (played to perfection by James Hong) and between Evelyn and her daughter (Stephanie Hsu). The latter especially gives the performance of a lifetime and next to Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn is one of my favorite parts of the movie. Seriously, the acting performances that are put on in this film….to represent so many versions of the same person across multiple realities….that can’t possibly be easy to do and yet it’s made to look so easy! 

Everything Everywhere All at Once is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and in the past few years if I’m honest. I’m certain new details will jump out to me in future rewatches and I highly encourage everyone to go watch this film if you get the chance.

I know this isn’t as long as reviews I usually do, but I feel like if I go too far into this film than I’ll spoil all of it, and really this is a film that can’t be explained, it must be experienced.

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My Thoughts on: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)

*note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon

*warning: minor spoilers below for Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Of all the surprises of 2020 (the pleasant ones at least), Sonic the Hedgehog was the most unexpected. I went into that movie with very low expectations and was completely blown away. Consequently, with a larger universe being hinted at, I didn’t hesitate to go see Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in theaters.

Picking up sometime after the events of the first film, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 sees the speedy blue hedgehog struggling to make a life in Green Hills with his adoptive family the Wachowskis. Sonic wants to be a hero, but Tom reassures him that the moment his powers are needed will find him eventually. The moment comes when Dr. Robotnik finds his way back to Earth….along with Knuckles the echidna, who has a long-standing grudge of his own against Sonic.

For the most part I enjoyed Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (though I viewed the film in less than ideal conditions, i.e. a noisy theater). As with the first film, Jim Carrey’s performance as Dr. Robotnik remained one of the best parts, though I think I liked his performance in the first film slightly more than this one. You really get a feel for how power hungry the mad doctor really is as the film goes on. It’s kind of frightening actually, especially when the film reaches the climax. On a related note, I absolutely loved how Stone went right back to fawning over Dr. Robotnik the instant he returned. Stone is that rare example of a henchman whose loyalty never waivers, even when it’s clear the villain does not care about them.

Idris Elba as Knuckles is my next favorite part of the movie. Knuckles is my new favorite character, even more than Sonic and Tails. Knuckles initially seems poised to be just as much as villain as Dr. Robotnik, but it turns out the echidna is far more complex than he first appears. I’m very excited to see what the spin-off series with Knuckles looks like. One thing is for sure, Idris Elba was the perfect casting choice for Knuckles, his voice fits the character perfectly.

Now, all that being said, this movie does have some significant flaws, ones that I could not ignore. While the main story with Sonic trying to beat Robotnik to the Master Emerald is pretty good, the side plot of the Wachowskis attending a wedding is just…well, it’s kinda dumb and it doesn’t really fit all that well with the rest of the story. But, for that matter….parts of Sonic’s story aren’t that good either. The pace of the story is very uneven and the side plot in Siberia….ugh. I feel like this story could’ve been better fleshed out, or more refined. 

At any rate, at least these bad moments don’t overwhelm the good parts of the film. One other good thing I can say about this film is that the animators have definitely nailed the ability to bring the video game characters to life. The animation on Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails all looks fantastic. And having Colleen O’Shaughnessey reprise her role as Tails in the films, well that’s just cool!

The last thing I want to mention is that the mid-credits scene is definitely worth waiting around for. While I didn’t think it was possible for the story of Sonic to grow any larger once Tails and Knuckles were introduced, this scene definitely proved me wrong. It absolutely sets up a plot for the third film, one that I’ll likely end up seeing in theaters too. All I’ll say is, if you know anything about the plots of the Sonic the Hedgehog games, then this mid-credits scene will make you scream!

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is far from the perfect movie, but I did enjoy it. This series has continued to surprise me and I’m looking forward to rewatching this one.

See also:

My Thoughts on: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

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