Quick Review: The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

2021-05-07 - Reading time: 2 minutes

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The Mitchells vs. The Machines just might be my new favorite animated film.

Or at least it slots into my Top 3 with ease. This is possibly the funniest and most creative film I've seen in a long time.

The characters take almost no time to get to know and love. There's an insane energy to the film. 

It's almost like... ugh, this is a VERY strained analogy that I'm not entirely comfortable with, but I can't get it out of my head: the happily "outsider" vibe of The Addams Family crossed with the family unity of the Belchers from Bob's Burgers. (Hell, the mom is even named 'Lin'.) Then mix in a dash of Gravity Falls, and lots of energy drinks.

And then send them all on a road trip to save the world.

The comedy is often quite hyperkinetic but there isn't a dud in the batch. For a lesser film a fast pace of "random" and pop culture might be a negative, but The Mitchells own it and thread that needle with ease. It never becomes obnoxious.

Honestly, I can't praise it enough. I LOVED this flick and I'm kind of clawing the desk to throw it on again.

I sincerely hope they consider follow-ups in the style of a "The Mitchells vs...." series, keeping the same writers. Because they've REALLY got something special here.

5/5

https://letterboxd.com/drfortyseven/film/the-mitchells-vs-the-machines/


Quick Review: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

2021-04-24 - Reading time: 6 minutes
Loved everything with Sam and Bucky. Especially Sam's journey, and the stuff with Isaiah Bradley.
 
Walker was amazing, too. And not that I don't think he was beyond redemption, but it was rushed. I mean, he teams up easily with the guys who BROKE HIS ARM and took the Cap mantle from him the last episode (though I get some time has passed).
These two storylines seemed to be the most important parts of the show, and received the most attention.
They were almost perfect.
 
But everything with Sharon and the Flag Smashers (hey, band name!) felt mediocre. At best, shoehorned in. The best guess I'm hearing going around is that the Flag Smasher narrative possibly centered around a pandemic, and well... given the COVID situation, they had to hastily butcher it up into something... incoherent.
 
But regardless, it was weak. And unfortunately the entire series wrapped it's overall narrative on that brittle skeleton.
 
The real MVP, though? The Baron. Give him his own series, please. Just all Zemo all the time. He was the most fun I had with the show. Unfortunately it felt like he was there just to setup a go at the Thunderbolts later, because he had almost no real impact on the story (his butler's hilarious moment in the finale aside).
 
That said, looking forward to a second season, if they do it. The title characters made it worth watching, and I'd happily give it another shot with a new, hopefully better constructed story. One that doesn't get butchered up in editing like this one appears to have been.

Bring on Loki!

3/5


Quick Review: Snyder's Justice League (Spoiler-free)

2021-03-19 - Reading time: 3 minutes

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Reposted from Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/drfortyseven/film/zack-snyders-justice-league/

I've been very much critical of the whole "Release the Snyder Cut" movement. It's supporters were, more often than not, entitled, angry, vocal assholes.

Imagine my dread when the studio decided to capitalize on that movement and make it happen to bolster HBO Max.

Much to my surprise, this actually takes a mediocre movie and makes numerous improvements. Dare I say this is a much better film than Whedon's attempt with Justice League in 2017. It's by no means free of flaws, but the narrative flows better. The new content does a lot of fleshing out, too. 

And even though I'm, by far, not a fan of Snyder's visual style -- I heard someone refer to it as a "motorcycle grease" aesthetic. Visually this film fits better with the previous entries. (I do miss Whedon's saturation, at least.)

Was it worth the $70 million fucking dollars to fix the film? Absolutely not. Good lord! 

temp.jpg But the deed is done. No use complaining about THAT at this point.

The only real black mark on this take: it's FOUR hours long, with no real justification for that length other than to let you soak in the film's grease for long stretches as music fills the void. 

The length is going to make future viewings prohibitive. It'll keep this from making it the de facto version of Justice League, I think. And that's a shame, because it really is a "patch" that fixes a lot.

Finally, against all odds, I can actually say: I'd like to see Snyder do a sequel film. I dislike his style, but I'm finding myself unexpectedly invested now. He's turned me around on how I feel about this film in general.

That's nothing short of a personal miracle.

4/5


Quick Review: Vivarium (2019)

2020-12-21 - Reading time: 2 minutes

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This should have been a home run. Decent cast. And an interesting foundation of an idea.

A young couple looking to buy a new home become trapped, alone in community of identical homes. After repeated attempts to escape, always, inexplicably circling back to building #9, a box appears with a newborn baby inside: raise the child, and be released, print on the box promises.

For a while there it felt like a compelling, bizarre supernatural mystery in the best tradition of Twilight Zone's creepiest.

And then... just as it gives you a taste of where this might finally be going... nothing.

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It yanks the rug out, and practically waves a scolding finger in your face for wanting more from the film. It punishes you for it with a an eye-roll of an ending that's nowhere near as clever as it probably thinks it is.

There's some creepy atmosphere, decent acting, but it literally goes nowhere at all. Just enjoy the trailer and imagine your own, more interesting film.

2/5

(Vivariam is currently included with Prime Now.)


Mini Review: DLC Quest

2013-03-21 - Reading time: 3 minutes


DLC Quest is a humorous jab at the game industry from the perspective of a retro platform game that requires the purchase of downloadable expansions to perform even the most basic functions. 

The game begins with no sound and no animation.  In fact, you aren't even able to jump or move left!  These features aren't included out of the box, of course. Instead, you are granted the privilege of purchasing these advanced gameplay features from an in-game vendor.  All of the gags you would expect to see are here, including the infamous expensive horse armor.  Thankfully, as the game reassures us early on, no ACTUAL real-life currency is involved. All transactions are conducted using coins collected inside the game.

Unfortunately, there isn't much of a "game" here.  Unlocking DLC is required in order to progress the purposely generic, but ultimately uninspired "story".  Once you get going, it's pretty much a straight path to the finish line: Collect enough coins to unlock  the next DLC pack, rinse, repeat until the credits roll.  There is no death.  In fact, there is no way to fail. In that respect, DLC Quest is, in a sense, closer to old Lucasarts adventure games.  Enemies function merely as passive roadblocks that only additional downloaded content can alleviate.

Ultimately the only real replay value is in doing speed runs, collecting coins, unlocking the DLC as fast as possible, and comparing your times against a leaderboard.  Currently the top 10 is filled with people who finished the game in 12 minutes.  I believe I spent just over twice that amount of time playing.  The recent addition of a second quest ("Live Freemium or Die") helps extend the value, but this is still a short game.

DLC Quest is a genuinely funny commentary on the state of micro-transactions and downloadable content in gaming.  It may run the joke into the ground by the end, but at roughly $3 in most digital stores, it's worth a look.  Just don't expect any sort of serious challenge.

Rating: 3/5 (Good)
Platforms: Steam ($2.99), Desura ($2.99),  XBL (80 MS points per quest), Mac App Store ($2.99)
Developer: Going Loud Studios