‘You Won’t Be Alone’ slides silently through theaters, one of year’s best

Am I the devil? Images courtesy Focus Features.

9/10 You Won’t Be Alone made a little more than a quarter million in theaters, but what’s the point of writing about movies all the time if I’m not going to make time for one of the year’s best pictures. This is a breathtaking masterpiece of humanity, folklore and personal history.

Macedonia, 19th Century- A shape-shifting witch referred to as a “wolf-eatress” called Old Maid Maria (Anamaria Marinca) comes for a newborn baby, but her desperate mother promises to give the child over to the witch a 16-year-old virgin so that Maria won’t be alone in her old age in exchange for being allowed to raise her for that time. Maria marks the baby, breaking her mouth and leaving her apparently mute for the rest of her life.

The mother tries her best to go back on their deal, raising Nevena in a hidden cave that she seems to think is holy ground, but 16 years later, Maria kills her and takes her daughter. Maria transforms Nevena into a witch, something she says she can only do once, but is immediately disappointed in the naïve, uneducated and non-verbal teenager and leaves her to fend for herself. Nevena (Sara Klimoska, Noomi Rapace, Carloto Cotta and Alice Englert) uses her new shapeshifting powers to sample lives across the preindustrial land, a blank slate thrust into the world already sexually mature, learning how to be human.

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‘Everything Everywhere’ closer to one thing in one place

Images courtesy A24.

5/10 They say the two things you can’t avoid are death and taxes. Even in a movie about jumping through the multiverse, one that built an advertising campaign around introducing the concept to audiences, the characters can’t find their way out of the IRS office.

San Fernando, California- Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh, who also produces executively) is dealing with everything at once. Her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), is leaving her, her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is gay and her failing self-service laundry is under audit by the IRS for fraudulent business expenses, charges she hopes she can get out of by playing dumb but also seems to genuinely not understand. At the IRS office, Waymond Wang suddenly becomes a different version of himself from a parallel universe and urgently tells Evelyn that she is the key to saving the multiverse from the Jobu Tupaki, a nihilistic gay multiverse demon who’s destroying everything for reasons unknown.

Everything Everywhere All at Once would be more appropriately titled Martial Arts in a drabbier-than-you’d-expect IRS Office for about 20 minutes too long. The movie advertised on its expansive, multiversal settings is uncomfortably cramped, and several choices draw a lot of attention to how cramped it is. The movie was made for an audience that may not know what a multiverse is, so the movie dedicates a lot of time to fleshing out its version of the concept and impressing what an expansive idea this is, but then it spends the rest of its time presenting a multiverse that feels extremely small.

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An ‘X’ -rated time capsule

8/10 X is a period piece from behind the camera, a celebration of long-expired tastes to tell a story contrasting the generation that popularized them, the passive changes time brings and the active reactions to those changes.

Texas, 1979, the year John Carpenter’s Halloween changed cinema forever- A sexy young crew, led by producer Wayne Gilroy (Martin Henderson) and his girlfriend Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), travels across the Texas coast to an old Confederate barracks where they shoot a porno unbeknownst to the property’s elderly owner, Howard (Stephen Ure) and his wife, Pearl (also Goth in heavy prosthetics). Production wraps in a day, but at night, Pearl and Howard begin to murder the crew. Rather than the MPAA’s “X” rating, X seems to be titled after the “X-factor” that Minx and Pearl are both described as having.

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‘Compartment No. 6’ not a movie for 2022 or the 21st Century

Maybe some found footage would have spiced things up. Images courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.

4/10 On Feb. 8, Compartment No. 6, a slice-of-life train ride across the Russian countryside and the Finnish-language submission to the Academy for the Best International Film of 2021 and one of 15 shortlisted so that voters might actually watch it, was cast out as one of the bottom 10 to not receive a nomination. Russia used the same Soviet rail system to invade Ukraine weeks later.

Compartment No. 6 of the sleeper train from Moscow to Murmansk, Russia, sometime in the mid-‘00s based on the technology, certainly before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to make this story impossible- Laura (Seidi Haarla), a Finnish doctoral student, has been sent by her professor and lover to the far reaches of Siberia to research the Kanozero Pteroglyphs as a pretense to break up with her. Laura chooses compartment no. 6 wanting to be alone, but she is saddled with a crass, sexist Russian oiler Lyokha (Yuri Borisov) as a bunkmate.

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Pixar ‘turns red’ for sexy streaming generation

Turning Red is a fun movie about happy, energetic people, one of whom turns into a giant red panda. You love to see it. Images courtesy Walt Disney Pictures Pixar Animation Studios.

8/10 In 1995, Pixar’s Toy Story wrenched animation into the 21st century early, bringing action the type of action figures that were already growing outdated as playthings to life in a way that simply wouldn’t have been possible in another medium, and millennials have grown up with most of our cultural imagery computer-generated to one degree or another. Now it’s almost 30 years later, and members of the same age group are now digital natives, the most plugged-in, well-informed generation of young people in history, and the same studio is making movies for them.

Toronto, 2002- Mei-Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a Chinese-Canadian girl who is sexually eager if not quite mature, has been doing her own thing since she turned 13, but just a month before her and her friends’ favorite band comes to Toronto, puberty hits like a ton of bricks, transforming her into a giant red panda whenever she becomes emotional per a family curse her mother, Ming (Sandra Oh), hadn’t told her about.

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