Film Reviews


Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka “Daniels”), the directorial duo behind 2016’s Swiss Army Man, have scored a massive critical hit and tremendous box-office (relative) smash with their new film Everything Everywhere All at Once. Marginally, it’s about a late-teen lesbian who struggles to gain her old-fashioned mother’s acceptance. Cosplay, highly choreographed kung-fu scenes, multiverse mumbo-jumbo, all of it (almost literally) thrown in. 

Despite some impressive editing flourishes and other smart visual craftwork, EEAAO is a film patently for one specific audience-type. The type that feels the phrase “So random!” is high praise meaning “hilarious.” As a critic friend opined, the movie is “unapologetically silly.” He’s right, and that aspect of it left me partly disengaged 15 minutes into the Daniels throwing “everything” at the wall (and never bothering to look and see what stuck). In this context, it seems the title might even be self-deprecating. Sure, but the possibility that the filmmakers knew that their approach was, at best, haphazard doesn’t make me feel any better about the experience of watching it. Okay, I did laugh—twice, both times during those first 15 minutes. 

EEAAO is sophomoric to the same degree as notoriously immature films like Fight Club (1999), The Matrix (1999), and Pig (2021), and it’s difficult to ignore the similarities among these. Pig took cues from, and ladled homage upon, Fight Club. In its copiousness of brawls and half-baked sci-fi theories, EEAAO feels deeply inspired by Fight Club and The Matrix. And it’s not only the quantities of these elements, but the depths to which they go; into the dark moral core of the Daniels’ movie. Over and over, alongside their sprinkled-in, success-poster-style “positive” platitudes, they insist that “Nothing matters.” Ostensibly because of the existence of so many parallel universes. 

Pedestrian, silly, sophomoric, and offering the razor-thin plot of a television after-school special, this is the most overrated film in recent memory. If it were called Everything Everywhere All at Once… Nihilist and Zany! the title would say it all. 

the international CRITIQUE rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Featured Article News

Dear Streaming Services: It’s About Your Menu “Design”

Yes, I am about to complain about the menus on streaming sites, and I won’t apologize. Because: America. I even let HBO Max know that I’m fed up (details below).

There’s little danger that anyone would mistake what the streaming services do as curation—they’re dumps. One need only look at the “Recently Added” tray. Something like 20 movies, new and old, no rhyme or reason, dumped onto the menu. Do the services think we get a thrill from that, because we don’t.

Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and the others probably look proudly upon their pages, beaming about the plethora of choices. On every page! Under every category! Note: The industry word for the horizontal sections/categories/genres you see on screen is “trays.”

On Prime Video, the thumbnail (for each movie) is approximately 4.5 x 7 inches, or 0.22 sq. ft. on a 48-inch television screen. That means you can fit a little more than 34 streaming-service thumbnails on a standard movie poster. If your screen is smaller, you can fit many more. And, just for the record, any given screen view on Prime Video boasts 18 movie thumbnails.

It’s all too much too look at. Worse, it diminishes the grandeur and importance of cinema. How can the streaming services make their menus better? I don’t know, it’s definitely above my pay grade. But, would making the thumbnails bigger hurt? I don’t think so, and personally, I don’t need to see 18 choices on every view—of any type of menu, honestly.

I asked WarnerMedia Entertainment’s (HBO Max’s parent company) Communications VP Chris Willard about all this on December 30th, and he told me he’d “get back to [me] after the holidays.” When he did, as promised, Mr. Willard was actually quite helpful, if unmistakably being a good PR man for his company. He relayed that a whopping two-thirds of the time, viewers look for something specific they had in mind before even signing on. “They’re going back to something they were already watching or they’re seeking something in particular,” Willard said. As for the other third, he insisted they’re in the good hands of… HBOMax “curators.” I stand corrected!

Film Reviews Movie Reviews

Wordless Film Review: Arkansas

by Andres Solar

Film Reviews Movie Reviews News

Quick Look: What Love Looks Like

L.A.-soaked romantic comedy sees prolific director take on challenge of large ensemble cast—with a few quality laughs along the way.
by Andres Solar

The latest rom-com feature from trailblazing indie filmmaker Alex Magaña gives us more (and less) of what we’ve come to expect from the young Angelino. What Love Looks Like, available on Amazon Prime, offers a good-looking, likable ensemble cast (including the pleasant screen presence of Kate Durocher, Josh Gilmer, Margo Graff, Tay McVeigh, Calvin Peters, Tevy Poe, Connor Wilkins, and Kylee Wofford) and some big laughs in the form of clever one-liners from sometimes purposely awkward characters. Missing are the sweet, unexpected twists in the love stories like the one Magaña wrote into the third act of 29 to Life (2018).

In that year, the writer-director released a whopping three feature films (Narco Valley and Slapped! The Movie were the other two). Clearly Magaña doesn’t shy away from hard work, and it shows. The other side of that coin is that he often also shoots and cuts his own movies, and that work ethic might be too much of a good thing.

As his talents continue to expand, he might do well to recruit other hands for writing and editing, especially since his strengths appear to be in cinematography and working with actors. Thinking about What Love Looks Like’s incorporating an imaginative and touching relationship between a young man and his deceased ex-girlfriend, Magaña might even consider co-writing a future screenplay, thus gaining help with the screenwriting task while still including his proclivity for imaginative characters.

What it really comes down to in this latest from his ACM production company—and the rest of his oeuvre—is the wonderful heart the filmmaker reveals to varying degrees. Along with his apparent drive to continually challenge himself and the impressive work ethic, it is that heart which will before long turn out a work that commands international accolades.

The Film Critique rating: ★★★☆☆