Quick-Thoughts: Edgar Wright’s The Sparks Brothers

Before hearing about the existence of Edgar Wright’s upcoming music documentary, I was only familiar with two Sparks songs: their big hit “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” and “Those Mysteries” — which, by the way, are both absolute bangers! I did additionally listen to Kimono My House (1974) in its entirety right before seeing the movie, and I had fun with it! But, that’s about the extent of my ear knowledge on the band’s discography; I just wanted to preference this before diving into my review, as certain factors such as this may have ultimately skewed my opinion on the film as opposed to huge fans of the band who are more likely to fall in love with Wright’s effort than I did. 

This documentary is basically a 135-minute circle jerk for Sparks. What begins as initially enjoyable becomes progressively more and more repetitive once you realize that this entire movie is mainly a-list artists (who I admittedly geeked out at from time to time) trying to find as many synonyms as possible for “different” to describe the band’s next release, rarely deep-diving into the specifics that truly make the group’s work worth writing home about as something legendary like the film excessively amps them up to be when compared to their more popular contemporaries. Edgar Wright does occasionally keep things visually mesmeric with his b-roll combos of cinematic inserts or original animations, but that’s sadly — especially considering his rank — the few elements that set the movie’s execution apart from being anything beyond a serviceable scroll through the Sparks 25-album career.

Verdict: C+

2021 Ranked, Edgar Wright Ranked

The Sparks Brothers” is now playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Pixar’s Luca

Get yourselves a mom that will punt-kick other children for you. 

Personally, I’ve never been that big of a fish guy. Yeah yeah, I know it’s a hearty source of calcium, phosphorus and what have you, but until the accuser is proven wrong, I say fish is a mid to bottom-tier protein in terms of taste. Whether it’s tuna, cod, halibut, etc., I usually can’t stand them. I’m not even a fish and chips guy; the beer-batter is icky! However, I never minded the classic soy sauce-coated baked Salmon with the crispy silver skin left on, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s always going to be an essential pick for me, I do think there’s a psychosomatic science behind my exclusive liking for it which goes beyond the unusually high amounts of fatty material that it contains when compared to the average fish. I always thought some of the 99 Ranch fish selections were bomb as well — folks of culture who know what this market chain is, I applaud you — especially this ordinary-looking whitefish that was nonetheless so golden-flavored and gently seasoned with a penetrating crumb gesture that at times I was almost convinced this was just healthier-tasting fried chicken in disguise. Suffice it to say, Pixar’s latest has drifted me astray in this rich train of thought due to its powerful profession in the acclaimed and universal delicacy. Luca seems to scrutinize this construct on the importance of fish, whether that be from how we train them as pawns in a farming ecosystem only then to turn our backs on them by sacrificing the lot for self-needs, or maybe from how we give them second chances as long as they are essentially humans and not just helpless species. Fish really are friends, but they‘re also food too. 

S**tposting aside…

Minimalistic storytelling Pixar is honestly kind of a vibe, but they’re going to have to surpass “coming-of-age” and “culture shock 101” before they can get me moderately wrapped up in this (sorta new?) transition in the studio’s career. Also, I could’ve sworn they already made Brave (2012), yet here we are, except they’re shape of watering instead of revenant-ing it this time. Grr. 

Verdict: C-

2021 Ranked, Pixar Ranked

“Luca” is now available to stream on Disney+.

Quick-Thoughts, Again: Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together (1997)

Screened at The Frida Cinema 2nd Viewing

I appreciate movies that give into the concept that we need conflict in order to feel alive because I genuinely think it’s one of the truest statements one could accept; in hindsight, we’re all just pretentious assholes who ignorantly stir s**t up to create connection with others, therefore insinuating purpose, no matter how toxic the actions to get there may come to be. Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together is trying to dig at this concept with an emphasis on how we need this conflict to furthermore “love”, or better yet, prove love. It’s kind of like that hypothetical “cheating” scenario where enervating couples decide to sleep with someone besides their spouse in order to test if they‘re still truly in love with one another by seeing if the results end along the lines of heart-aching guilt/regret and an unshakable yearn to return. It seems as if people are willing to go through the months or years of hell after the magical feelings of a relationship’s inception, only then to break from it for awhile just so that it can rewind once again in the future, as those short moments of revival seem to count even more than the longer moments of endurance within the affairs of mismatched romance. 

People live to command and to be commanded, especially in any sort of two-way relationship. Foreign territory may be our dream, but most places familiar are just far too comforting and psychologically chained to us due to their clearer establishments of this dynamic interactive order. How then are we supposed to arrive at new sectors like we wish to, hand in hand? 

Verdict: B+

Wong Kar-wai Ranked

“Happy Together” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

All Light, Everywhere: An Intuitive Analysis on the Ways We’ve Discerned Worlds From Past to Present

I just got glasses for the first time ever during the beginning of this year, and this documentary has only made my vision feel even more feeble than before. Thanks, Theo. 

Technology is the new world, the new perspective, the new “see”.  All Light, Everywhere suggests we aren’t just recapturing our world with cameras, but creating a new one in doing so. These new perspectives only then propose new answers yet unfortunately new questions; it can easily lie to us like the eye does but in distinct ways for each that contrast the two, making them additional pieces of distorted yet telling evidential observations that can either aid or quarrel with our desire to understand what can visually be seen. 

It’s true that new graphics are only changing the manner in which humans will act, but that is the price of further knowledge. Of course it’s important to still cater to the human eye’s limited power, but nonetheless, corporations and scientists pursue opportunities to reach that closer “story” of objective information, even if there endeavors end up just proposing familiar flaws that may very well lead us back to square one in the lenses own finite ability. There’s no doubt that we seem hesitant to transition into this heavily surveillanced society we‘re suddenly approaching. Seeing beyond the eye truly is frightening, there’s no doubt about it, but we will have to accept its progression for better or worse; it’s unstoppable at this point.

Kind of similar to 1984, huh? 

Anyways, it appears as if we must remember that each new perspective is but a desperate attempt on our part to put the worlds together, and even to predict and control the future if possible. Yet, that’s the beauty, curse, and purpose of humanity’s yearn for technological experimentation: as we become more aware of our limitations to understand what we live in, we then become more doubtful of our actions, fostering ourselves to do something about it whether or not it services our experience of moral justice or perhaps simply over-bloats it — we try hard to be like God as the film even implies! Director Theo Anthony has taken us from rich, variant points in history to very present human curiosities in order to reinforce his respectably neutral-minded investigation on the matter, honored by his execution’s appropriate and even occasionally anesthetic b-roll footage that either foreshadows or frustrates history’s trials and failures of discovery primarily through narrated scientific observations or by delving into modern police technology for which we find ourselves controversially dealing with today. 

Shoutout to this movie being edited on Premiere Pro, by the way. Adobe gang, where you at? 

Verdict: B+

2021 Ranked

“All Light, Everywhere” is now playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: The Conjuring 3

Regardless, I still want a water-bed.

This may be the best Conjuring film in terms of lighting/coloring (as long as it isn’t a daytime shot) and Michael Chaves can mime James Wan’s style all he wants while even surprisingly adding to it with a few instances of mild creativity, but it’s not enough to save the biggest snooze-fest of 2021 thus far. The biggest offense that I can claim when it comes to The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is that it completely eradicates a potential-driven premise that smartly sets itself up from being a redundancy within the confines of its previous two entries only for it to seemingly do everything in its path to not evolve this premise into something remotely engaging, transfiguring into exactly what it initially sought out to not become. Mark Kermode delivered one of my new favorite reviewer quotes not long ago when he went over Zack Snyder’s Justice League, calling it “competently boring”, and that description very much applies to how I felt about this third Conjuring installment. It’s not too convoluted, but more importantly, however, it’s just dead air, a walking corpse — excuse my cheesy wording, but that sort of vocabulary is in spirit of the run-of-the-mill movie we have under speculation here! There’s just not a whole lot to say about it that hasn’t already been said about countless other horror stinkers alike!

And yeah, the twist this time around is goofy as hell, and the movie going full Interstellar (2014) “love conquers all” with that tiresome mind-control cliché certainly ended up being the killing points that ruined the climax for me. I swear though, circumstances such as this really get me thinking about how these r-rated Conjuring movies are slowly becoming more and more like Scooby-Doo episodes. But… now that I mention it, if they had compacted this storyline into a tight 70-minutes, toned its carnage down a little bit, ultimately making it into some kind of cartoon special for that iconic children’s franchise, it probably would’ve ended up being a better experience. Awe shucks! Why didn’t that happen instead???

Verdict: D+

2021 Ranked

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is now playing in theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead • 2nd Viewing

The most shocking thing though is that The Conjuring 2 really is an improvement upon its predecessor… and then that finale happens. 

I forgot how bitchin’ the opening of this film is, with Lorraine mimicking a possessed father-killer through her Professor-X superpowers; can’t forget about the whole one-take conversation between Ed and Bill Wilkins too; they’re probably the two highlight scenes of the film for me! Anyways, all of Wan’s usual camera-tricks as mentioned in my review of the first Conjuring have very much been applied to this sequel, so a big 👍s-up to that, but what I truly believe is the real strong-point of this second installment actually has to do with something for which was my biggest drawback of the original: the thematic relevancy. Not only is the Hodgson family fleshed-out to quite the substantial rate in The Conjuring 2 in greater comparison to the Perron family, but there’s a substantial amount of emotional gravity to how they go about the situation that lacked in the original. 

I appreciate how this sequel delves into the concept of how pivotal it is to be positive during moments of crisis, or how demanding it is to psychologically condition ourselves into throwing fears under the bus by understanding their childish intentions, therefore, not letting them become effective in definition, and while this characteristic of the second Conjuring may have been executed a bit rudimentarily, it’s undoubtedly competent enough to be persuasive given the heftier number of times the film treats us with scenes to really hammer it in. 

However, I do somewhat dislike how the writers attempted to weave Ed and Lorraine into these themes, especially when we depart into the third act. There’s something so damn exhausting about the whole pre-vision to a destined tragedy cliché (Revenge of the Sith (2005) moment) that gets on my nerves when it’s clearly there just to upset the main characters with confrontational affections of love for which you think they would’ve felt beforehand naturally (without the ridiculous Nun visions) after so many years of ghostbusting and after LITERALLY the events of the first Conjuring. Pathos ain’t easy to write, man, and the climax of The Conjuring 2 abuses it to an absolute bloody pulp — shoutout to those ridiculous closing doors. Don’t even get me started on how the film decides to furthermore go down the kids’-movie-familiar “togetherness is key” route by its ending; a big yikes to whoever wrote that in! 

But holy unholy, can we talk about how the issue to this entire story gets resolved? The dropped, concurring video tapes thing is one thing, and I won’t even get into Wilkin’s last-minute necessity of knowledge, but are you telling me that the Nun’s one weakness (which ends up lazily being not only a weakness, but the conclusive defeat of it) is calling her by her name? So why in the hell would the Nun tell you her name in the first place, for which she does to Lorraine who she’s trying to traumatize and win control over? Granted, I guess the Nun possibly could’ve not known this information herself — then again though, how would Wilkin’s know it if not from the Nun? — but don’t you think it’s a tad convenient too that the Nun happened to make Lorraine write her name in the Bible that she then also happened to carry all the way to England (a decimated Bible too…) just to later on find out about its crucial piece of information? Also, we’re only into the second entry of this franchise (not counting the spin-offs) and I already loathe how almost every scare is starting to present death as an open option, but always ends up just being the demon simply dicking around long enough for someone to save them, ultimately draining the intensity out from me every time it happens; it kind of makes me appreciate the original more, where death never felt entirely viable until the later possession of the mother and the disclosure of the information on the dead family’s past. Well, unless you were a dog. 

I’ll end off on a peachier note, however, by speaking on behalf of another theme that I thought separated itself from its predecessor in an admirable manner. The Conjuring 2 seems quite interested in how people deduced unusual real-life stories during this era through the coexisting balance of religious belief and scientific rationality, and how even the supposedly more intellectual people who were opposed to superstition were just as desperate to believe themselves as were the ones who were convinced of being haunted or possessed whether it was all in their heads or in their houses. The film even suggests that a place of faith (the church) needs evidence, as well, in order to believe in modern incidents; it’s just the evolved human behavior of today. The film kind of uses stereotypical characters to stir these clashes into play, sure, but I’m at least glad it’s there? But, in truth, it does put us into that mindset of a time frame during Amityville and countless debunked hoaxes that made headlines where even the paranormal hunters/believers themselves had to contemplate whether a possible faker was worth their time — there’s more ghostbusting out there to be ghostbusted! — or if maybe their effort was still warranted regardless just in case there really was something supernatural in the presence of even little signs; myth, until proven completely guilty, cannot and should not be denied to the fullest.

In all honesty, Wan’s follow-up feels more like a straight-shooting drama than a straight-shooting horror flick, which encourages some great debate as to if The Conjuring 1 or 2 is the superior entry. Personally, I think this sequel genuinely had the potential to outdo what came before it, but the overstuffed writing ideas, with some meaty and others corny, essentially led to my choosing of side. This sequel could’ve been a From Russia With Love (1964) or an Empire Strikes Back (1980) ordeal given some of the material it’s working with, seriously.

The Crooked Man design was sublime though. So unnatural! 👌

Verdict: C+

“The Conjuring 2” is now available to stream on HBO Max and Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013)

2nd Viewing

Will need to conjure up the need to sleep tonight.

Gotta hand it to a horror director who isn’t afraid to shift visual perspective from time to time, whether that be in his standard frame collaging, smooth tracking shots, intimately close handheld camerawork (centered or panned), timid point-of-views, old-fashioned slow zoom-ins, or classic spin tricks. I’ve always really admired the first half of the film more than anything, given that the scares aren’t immediate, but rather teased, and that only makes the film more engaging as it goes along and progressively closes in on those blow-out frights. Could one argue, however, that at the end of the day what Wan has done here is simply reintroduce one cliché horror trope after the other ranging from troll-y doors to suicidal birds, but done with a more careful precision we don’t see too frequently? Absolutely, but maybe that’s just the goal of The Conjuring: to reattempt the classic Haunted House story with almost all its trademarks combined, yet redone to a decent effect as opposed to the genre’s majority. 

Nonetheless, this has been a pet peeve of mine when it comes to The Conjuring for quite some time, but I wish Wan would’ve showed the spirits/demons from afar more often, because when they’re only barely in plain view they look so anomalously upsetting, but up-close, the makeup is kind of hilariously obvious that it takes me completely out? The emotional aspect of this film is usually quite deadbeat for me, as well; the emphasis on motherhood and fear of loss could’ve been expanded on beyond Wan’s one-note, checkmark lifetime-drama lines. The plot writing gets a bit janky towards the climax too, depending on an excessive amount of timely abruptness and some arc circumstances that were only lightly touched on previously in the film.

Anyways though, The Conjuring still holds up to how I initially thought of it either way. Thank you too James Wan for using mostly jump scares that aren’t followed by an unnatural score sound, well, at least in the first half of your movie. Ya got me nearly every time with them. 

Verdict: B-

“The Conjuring” is now available to stream on HBO Max and Netflix.

Cruella: A Fashionable Yet Predictable Experience

Superman’s disguise just got demoted.

I imagine “Craig Gillespie” is what happens when you base your entire directorial aesthetic off of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) — the spacious, long-take panning/dollying and the dad-fueled, gen-x classic rock soundtrack; it’s all down to the bone! — and while that doesn’t necessarily insinuate as a negative for me if I, Tonya (2017) proved to us anything, there usually needs to be some diverting bite in the story to compliment such an attractive style. But therein lies the major difference between Gillespie’s compelling Harding drama and his prequel to Disney’s infamous puppy-slayer: Cruella accentuates one of the most shamelessly stereotype-driven stories I’ve seen in a VERY LONG time, which for me corresponds to a beyond offensive and tiring experience. 

If the 134-minute runtime wasn’t enough to make this heinously unoriginal sap-opera feel any longer than it warrants to be, the initiating 40 minutes of it that deliberately exposes every formulaic twist-and-turn to come with pronounced hints certainly won’t make it feel any quicker. Completely obsessed too with lineage being an integral explanation of character and unconvincing, overnight transformations in arc revelations like the modern Disney template absolutely gobbles in, I genuinely wanted this movie to end the more and more it went on so I could avoid the next cringy, predictable reveal that this film thought its audience could possibly fall for. Oh, and if you’re looking for a prequel that connects the dots between this and the 101 Dalmatians (1961) timeline when it comes to Cruella de Vil’s complexion, this film will only further contradict your understanding of her character in replacement for the trendy new “villain-turned-sympathetic-anti-hero” hogwash. Hollywood is progressively losing their way thinking that we need to be emotionally manipulated in order to simply understand where an antagonist is coming from or to simply be engaged with their backstory. 

The dress game here was absolutely on point though; I f**king L-O-V-E-D whenever this movie just decided to be a momentary fashion show! Seems to me that the costume and set designers of Cruella deserve to have their talents put into a much better narrative! 

Verdict: D+

2021 Ranked

“Cruella” is now playing in theaters and available to purchase on Disney+.

Quick-Thoughts: 101 Dalmatians (1961)

101 (minus 90) thoughts I had after watching this movie:

  • Growing up on a ton of classic Disney animal crap, I’m surprised I was never raised on 101 Dalmatians, but here I am, experiencing a piece of my childhood that could’ve been.
  • Aweee, Patch and Rolly remind me of two of my own little babies. 🐶🐶
  • So these people are supposedly in crippling financial debt, yet they can still afford their maid? I don’t know man, seems like we have an imposter among us. 
  • Okay, but are the dogs bilingual in this universe? Like, they clearly communicate with one another through barking, and one of them even translates it into English for another dog, but then they also speak just direct English to each other too? Is barking just like a way to speak English from a farther distance or something? Hmm… bloody “show-offs” is all I’m getting from this. 
  • Is it just me or is 🎶 Cruella De Vil, CRUella De Vil, if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will! 🎶 the inception of all Tim Burton characters to come? 
  • I have no idea what Roger was doing to that puppy to get him to come back to life — s**t wasn’t CPR that’s for sure — but whatever it was, I have a gut feeling that I shouldn’t be okay with it. 
  • Shoutout to IKEA by the way for building Cruella’s entire house. 
  • Also, I don’t know about you fellas, but Prissy definitely ain’t a dog. Bitch looks like she just came strutting straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. 
  • Fury Road’s got nothin’ on this film’s finale; gonna be real. 
  • I don’t know fellas, black and white coats do be looking kinda fire to me sometimes. JK? 
  • As a hopeless artist too though, where can I get a wingman dog like Pongo and ASAP?

Verdict: B-

“101 Dalmatians” is now available to stream on Disney+.

Quick-Thoughts: Wes Craven’s Scream 4 (2011)

I never thought I would say this in my entire f**king life, but Halloween: Resurrection did it first.

Honestly, Scream 4 has the most commendable twist out of all the sequels. There’s at least something worthwhile in Wes Craven’s attempt to speak on behalf of both the media and the entertainment industry’s modern obsession with wanting to relive the past success (whether misunderstood or not) of others, therefore influencing the younger generation in burdening ways.

Howbeit, I’m a little disheartened though that this ended up being Wes Craven’s final movie. If you’re familiar with the Scream franchise up until this point, you may know about how it tends to stumble into hypocrisies at times, considering each one strives to be a self-aware take on its genre yet can’t help but fall into the formula it passive-aggressively demeans and celebrates.

Well, the final one takes it to a whole other level… for worse.

I imagine this fourth installment could be considered Craven’s “Michael Haneke” moment where he takes us through over an hour of almost unbearably boring retread just to make a statement on the dull experience that we had by its conclusion. This entire movie basically works as one quirky experiment, one where the movie is mostly the pointless, highly inferior remake-sequel hybrid for which many will hate until *suddenly* it reveals its true colors during a marginal moment of exposition. Yet, that risky elongation of meta to me is not enough to justify the lack of entertainment the build-up of this sequel has especially when in comparison to its flamboyant predecessors, not to also mention the idealistic predictability that ensues after the big twist is revealed. Scream 4 is essentially saying that it’s allowed to be the typical, gore-crazy and visually over-saturated modern reboot because it features once again its self-aware trademark schematics to excuse the bulls**t. However, these genre tricks seem to have reached a dead end for me, as I’ve become far too traditionalized and desensitized from them after watching 3 previous films that committed similar to still care for.

Plus, this one doesn’t give me Raja Gosnell Scooby-Doo vibes so it’s automatically bottom-tier of the franchise for me. 

Verdict: D+

Wes Craven Ranked

“Scream 4” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.