2022 Movie & TV Reviews: Everything Everywhere All at Once / Memoria / Severance

Everything Everywhere All at Once

It feels almost dumb to be reviewing this now as word of mouth is already so strong for the Daniels‘ follow-up to their Harry Potter farting corpse movie that I think everyone is going to see it anyway. However, I want to articulate what I loved so much about this movie and why I think it works so well where other multiverse movies, mainly Marvel shit, have all been all right but not great. First and foremost, it doesn’t think it can skate by on spectacle and interesting visual ideas alone. It gives us well rounded, three-dimensional human beings in its five principle characters and in so doing also gives us a heartfelt but never schmaltzy story about a middle-aged Chinese-American woman simultaneously trying to save her laundry business and her relationship with her openly gay college-aged daughter. This could make for a compelling indie drama on its own but in the context of Everything Everywhere All at Once, it makes for a solid and deeply human base layer or reference point for when all the insane, non-linear science fiction elements begin, probably thirty or so minutes into the film. The difference is stakes and with stakes you not only care what happens to these people but actually understand their motivations. On top of a solid foundation, the fight choreography and action is extremely well executed, the visual gags range from poignant to deeply irreverent, yet laugh out loud hilarious, and the performances all sing. Michelle Yeoh gives what is maybe her best performance, revealing layers of herself as an actor that I didn’t know existed. Stephanie Hsu is equally as compelling as her daughter and Jamie Lee Curtis is fucking hilarious as a deeply pathetic and pitiful IRS auditor.The biggest surprise is Goonies and Temple of Doom child actor Ke Huy Quan (or Jonathan Ke Quan), now all grown up, delivering beautiful and quite nuanced supporting work as Yeoh‘s exhausted husband. I think the last major movie he did was 1992’s dreadful Encino Man which is totally bananas. It’s bizarre that a movie involving people with hot dogs for fingers and talking rocks can also strike such strong and resonant emotional chords with the human drama, but it does. The only nit picks I had was there were sequences in the middle that could have been condensed a tad for pacing’s sake, but the payoffs of all those sequences were so good I quickly forgave it. Everything Everywhere All At Once thrills you, moves you and makes you laugh in equal measure because it has the courage to be flat-out weird, which in turn is deeply human – we’re fucking weird, ya’ll! It’s also refreshing that nothing about this movie is designed to make you crave a brand new Lexus or some bullshit sandwich from Burger King. Amen. Grade: A- (In Theaters)

Memoria

The word out of the festival circuit was that the new artsy-fartsy movie (and I love a good artsy-fartsy movie) by Apicatong Weerasethkul, known affectionately by US audiences as Joe, was a bizarre but brilliant meditative thriller that was just dripping with existential meaning and the nuanciest of nuances and blah blah blah blah. This review might make me sound like an uncultured, Pepsi Blue-chugging, navel-picking, Ford Truck-driving dipshit with a mouthful of chewing tobacco spilling out on his Carl’s Jr. order, but my base requirement of a movie is to have a goddamn point. If it’s not going to be entertaining or stupidly fun and it’s going to straight up torture me with its glacial pace and awkwardly drawn and straight up inaccessible characters, it at least needs to say something. Take Austrian sadist Michael Haneke for example, his movies are about as enjoyable as hooking your genitals up to fishing wire, but at least he’s usually driving at a direct point which feels like the pain was worth it. Memoria just prattles on for two hours and sixteen minutes to seemingly no point. I mean, I guess it’s commenting on, lol, what it means to be human, but doesn’t every movie ever made? Like every movie EVER made? What makes Memoria so frustrating is the obvious talent that went into it. Most of the shots are beautifully constructed and in some cases, the feelings they provoke are thought-provoking and emotionally haunting. But when you hang on this shot for seven or so minutes and fill the audio with loud thumps and/or obtuse dialogue that merely chases its own tail, you begin to not really how care how beautiful it is or the craft and skill behind it. If you were to adapt this movie into a coffee table book, the ideal application of this whole “story” IMO, I’d buy the shit out of it. But once you start trying to contextualize all these gorgeous images into a moving picture story that stretches past the two hour mark, it wears out its welcome pretty quick. I haven’t even mentioned Tilda Swinton who plays the least “human” human ever (which many will argue was the point but like ehhh, fuck you?). She does her best but actually making this movie take off would require her to essentially break the laws of physics. Now, she’s arguably the best actor on the planet but even she can’t walk on water. This film seems wildly disinterested in exploring the human condition and that’s pretty disheartening. It’s like watching a drunk philosophy professor get lost in the point they’re making. It seems like it’s not even attempting to say anything about anything. The only thing filmmaker Apicatpong Weerasethakul seems to be probing is his own bum. Grade: C– (Streaming Soon? Skip it and buy the coffee table book)

Severance (Season 1)

Way more interested in the human condition than that bullshit Memoria, is Dan Erickson and Ben Stiller‘s workplace drama (with darkly comedic elements) Severance, the best new show of the year. It takes place in a world not so different than our own, where a company that more or less runs the entire universe, Lumon, is severing employees despite human rights concerns. Basically this is a controversial medical procedure that separates employees’ consciousnesses in two – the work consciousness or “innie” exists without any knowledge of their personal time consciousness or “outie”. This creates a desire in the innies to discover who they really are and what life is like outside of an office that looks like the set of an Enzyte commercial. Adam Scott, Britt Lower, Zach Cherry and the incomparable John Turturro star as the severed workers while the always great Patricia Arquette and brilliant newcomer Tramell Tillman star as Mrs. Cobol and Mr. Milchik, respectively, star as their shitty bosses. Christopher Walken also appears as a co-worker in another department. This is a strange but ultimately very accessible show that doesn’t spoon feed you anything but never makes it a point to be obscure for obscurity’s sake (looking at you, Westworld). It teases you just the right amount and like any great dystopian future show it hints more than it confirms. With this, Ted Lasso and Pachinko, not to mention the recent Oscar win by CODA, AppleTV+ is becoming a force in the streaming world. Grade: A- (AppleTV+)

OTHER TV & FILM REVIEWS:

The Batman (HBOMax April 18th)

The Gilded Age Season 1 (HBOMax)

Euphoria Season 2 (HBOMax)

The Righteous Gemstones Season 2 (HBOMax)

Somebody Somewhere Season 1 (HBOMax)

Bad Vegan (Netflix)

Worst Roommate Ever (Netflix)

Tall Girl 2 (Netflix)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Netflix)

The Tinder Swindler (Netflix)

X (In Theaters)

Freddy’s Nightmares (Screambox)

Jackass Forever (Paramount+)

Scream 5 (Hulu)

Pig (Hulu)

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