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+.

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.

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+.

A Quiet Place Part II Lives Up to its Predecessor (Misleading Title)

There are a couple things that make A Quiet Place Part II SLIGHTLY superior than its predecessor: the emphasis on evoking emotion is a bit more refrained (until that ending), the directing is marginally bolder, and Cillian Murphy plays the John Krasinski role better than, well, John Krasinski had. But, if you also took part in the minority crowd of A Quiet Place (2018)’s soy-boy haters like the prude writing this review, the sequel is definitely not going to win you over, as it falls into the exact same traps that made the original appear so phony. 

Whether it’s breaking the rules that it had established in Part I, concocting last minute saves to continuously remind us that our victims are glaringly plot-protected by the script, or forcing characters to commit actions that make zero sense, as if they’ve periodically become mind-controlled by head-scratching puppet masters (the writers) finding shortcut ways to stir conflict, A Quiet Place Part II fails as a tension-getter when it comes to my personal experience with it. There’s, furthermore, no bigger significance behind this movie that could possibly justify the manipulative tricks that it pulls to broadcast its desired messages for the audience. It wants to dive into themes like unity, pessimism, and fortitude in light of apocalypse, and sometimes they actually feel earned, especially in the sequences where actors are forced to use their faces rather than their expressive voices as emotional communicators, but other times they keep pushing and pushing these notions to doubtful places within the scenario-scheming for where they seriously don’t need to go to make viewers understand or admire. The conveniencing only accumulates and progressively gets worse because of this, until it punctures itself to death by the conclusion with a belabored metaphor birthed from a series of coincidences more unfathomable than actual flesh-eating monsters landing on our soil today. The symbolism once again wants to flex its immoderate guises repeatedly in sacrifice for the level of realism that the film clearly also wants to succeed in but tonally can’t compromise with.

What I’ve gathered from these past two horror attempts is that Kransisnski is genuinely a competent director, and I want to enjoy his work in the future, but I think he needs to hire himself a solo writer before that can happen.

Verdict: C-

2021 Ranked

“A Quiet Place Part II” will be released in theaters May 28.

Quick-Thoughts: Spiral

A far superior attempt at revitalizing a franchise than 2017’s puny spar of gatekeeping a legacy’s classic trademarks before they became dated after its shine and recycle process, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, however, decides to immerse itself into modern climate in wake of conscious America’s growing dislike towards police corruption, drawing eyes on a new killer targeting cop victims. With the silliness dried out and the ironically fun convolution no longer with us, this newest entry is instead a crime thriller that takes itself QUITE seriously. To our dismay though, it doesn’t seem to have the intuitive education nor depth to truly pioneer what it wants to tackle with this refined tone. 

By no means does Chris Rock’s pitch vision actually feel achieved as the powerfully subverting movie it could be in Spiral, more so succeeding on being a 93-minute long establishing unit of rudimentary police brutality rundowns (for which we’re all too familiar with) that just so happens to also be building to a larger narrative conundrum on its sidelines. Howbeit, the spin-off does now have me very interested for the future given the potential it sets forth. I guess therein lies the problem though: what it wants to do ends up being more interesting than what it did do.

I’m sure those who watched the movie already can relate to this final comment a little more, but it really ticked me off too how they basically reveal the killer’s identity halfway through by awkwardly glossing over a pretty significant event, but then the movie proceeds to act like the audience wouldn’t put two and two together from that blatant plot jump alone. Don’t worry Spiral, we definitely figured it out before the big reveal thanks to that. 

Verdict: C-

The Saw Franchise Ranked, 2021 Ranked

“Spiral: From the Book of Saw” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: The Mitchells vs. The Machines

I’ve got to hand it to Sony for pulling their smartest move yet by making the main character here someone who appeals directly to the cinephile lives of essentially every Letterboxd user…

…but what doesn’t make sense though is how a company who made the box-office and critical bomb The Emoji Movie after being fished for its misinformed/pandering perspective, decided to immerse itself once again into Gen-Z and Millennial culture with a rendition of what is almost like “The Meme Movie” with its extroverted style of hit or missing sticky-note references left and right. I mean I can let a classic “no more wifi”, human degradation, or Mark Zuckerberg joke go from time to time, but what I can’t let go is how traditionalist this movie can be with its central parent & child exploration or its wishy-washy outlook on imperfections. Michael Rianda isn’t afraid to slip in a gag about offensive stereotypes yet he paradoxically gives into so many of them within the personalities and story arcs that are poofed up; it reminds me of Edgar Wright’s comedic level of restrictive stereotyping in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World that any ordinary fool has thought up to themselves before — which is why it’s appealing to many in the first place — so if you’re a part of that movie’s crowd this may be your tea given its also avidly quirky visuals which I will admit I usually delighted over and wished for to be in a better movie (i.e. Spider-Verse). Sadly however, The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ very constant hinderance on emphasizing pathos is just too predictable and overripe for me to fall head over heels. 

But hey, who am I to hammer on a perfectly passable family bonding road trip movie? Don’t listen to this prude for whether or not you should watch this; your kids are probably not as picky as I am!

Verdict: C

2021 Ranked

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is now available to stream on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Shiva Baby (2020)

I felt obligated to go see this one in theaters… mainly so that I can have an excuse to go back to LA after more than a YEAR of absence. My home. ️

Emma Seligman’s directorial debut has the After Hours dream-state of insane coincidences, the modern family claustrophobia of Krisha, and the industrious escalation of mother!. Most importantly though, it’s a total laugh-a-thon crowd-pleaser, and the bottleneck time restriction of 78 minutes saves it from possibly reaching into pretentious or repetitive territory. I completely bought the family tight performances/characters too, if not also the absolute social dread of having to be the child failure during relative gatherings, idly attempting to prove that you’re on a path of accomplishments through white lies. Extra points for relatability! 

But seriously, so glad I decided to watch this one in theaters; the crowd was hysterical throughout! Missed this! 

Verdict: B

2021 Ranked

“Shiva Baby” is now playing in select theaters and is available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Wolfwalkers (2020)

It’s always such a treat when you get the entire theater to yourself, but also disappointing to see when it happens during a screening of a pretty decent movie. Anyways, man! It has been quite some time since I last saw a BRAND NEW hand-drawn animated movie in theaters.

This is another one of those children’s stories where I probably wouldn’t really care for if it weren’t for how beautiful its visual storytelling is. Despite Wolfwalker’s mediocrity when it comes to its deadly familiar narrative, it’s however always nice to see animation that isn’t afraid to constantly switch between style perspectives. Tom Moore and Ross Stewart’s almost comic-book/picture-book-esc presentation truly sold me on this movie especially when it was able to colorfully diversify its contained setting through daytime/nighttime changes, as well as its creative balance of human and wolf viewpoint. The movie’s themes of fear of authority, loss, and alternative perspectives are projected simply enough for kids to insightfully chew on and for adults to not completely doze away at, so I guess that’s what’s most important. Frankly, it kind of gave me Brave and Lion King vibes, and its quality lies just in between the two, with… umm… Brave being the worst and Lion King being the best, in case you didn’t catch that…

Verdict: B-

2020 Ranked

“Wolfwalkers” is now available to stream on Apple TV and watch in select theaters.