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100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS
tenderling
Emily Corwin

Emily Corwin’s tenderling glows in the forest while bleeding sugary doll blood. Here, lovers wound themselves & their beloveds. Festooned with acute language, sound, & line-breaking, Corwin’s poems warn about The Dark. About Prozac & the hollows of trees. Ancient witches & modern boggarts such as mobile data both vex as Corwin sticks magic pins into dolls woven of liminal, earnest human sensibility. A complete journey, tenderling’s first word, “if”, unlocks a faerie realm of possibility. The last phrase—"dead gardens”—epitomizes a pungent, codependent marriage between bloom & rot readers witness betwixt brambles as constant, fragile light streams through. 

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
Brawl in Cell Block 99

I should’ve known from the opening sequence that I was tiptoeing around manure. Watching Vince Vaughn destroy a car with his fists was a dead giveaway. The dry conversation with Jennifer Carpenter felt like an exercise in Acting 101. But the sheer audacity to create one-note characters, flat dialogue, and laughable violence is appalling, given the fact that the movie rates so high. Whatever the critics are smoking, someone tell them I’d like a toke. Nevertheless, I chuckled my ass off for most of the 132 minute run time. So bad, so bad. If you want to laugh at something that’s not comedy, give this a shot. 

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
The Polka King

The Polka King is billed as a comedy, but tonally, it can’t decide whether it’s zany or melodramatic. In this true story about a bandleader who fleeces his elderly fans of millions in a polka-fueled ponzi scheme, we’re offered up dueling performances of tenderness and over-the-top slapstick. It’s a jarring combination that doesn’t blend well. Jack Black works hard to create a charming and sympathetic “Polka King” con man Jan Lewan, and Jacki Weaver pulls out all the stops in accentuating the zaniness of Jan Lewan’s mother-in-law Barb. Someone didn’t get the right memo, and unfortunately, I’m not sure who. 

100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS
Slut Songs
Jade Hurter

Slut Songs is a deep catalog of tribute to a complex word. The title of this mesmerizing, potentially triggering collection from Jade Hurter represents shared songs of the horrors women collectively face, and understand in near-unison. Those who already have these songs of their own will pick up on the intense, evocative language, and the rhythm of a survivor who will not be trivialized. It’s easy to read poems like “Self-Portrait, Age Nineteen” and “Red Song”, call them brave, and just stick with that. Bravery engages us. Poems that balance rage with anxious, soothing calm, which are the poems of Slut Songs, demand something more than that. They have every right to ask us for everything we have. 

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
The Post

Over the course of a nearly five-decade career in film, Steven Spielberg has utilized many tricks to help draw an audience into his stories. The problem with The Post is that it features all of those tricks at once, resulting in an atonal mish-mash. Every scene is either a tracking shot or a dramatic push-in that screams “WE’RE GETTING MERYL ANOTHER OSCAR AND THERE’S NOT A DAMN THING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT”, which renders a relevant story inert.

Also features pandering asides to the Trump era and the women’s movement that might as well be catnip to Academy voters.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
The Breadwinner

As with The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, Golden Globe-nominee The Breadwinner boasts simplistically breathtaking animation. But its true beauty lies in the heart of its story. After her father is arrested, a young girl named Parvana cuts her hair, disguising herself as a boy, to save her family from starvation. Equally moving and at times heartbreaking—a scene where Parvana’s mother is beaten for being outdoors during the day brought tears to my eyes—The Breadwinner reminds us of the importance of family and standing up for what is morally right in the face of adversity.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
Hostiles

Unconcerned with genre, Hostiles instead grapples with the enormity of Western Expansion. Scott Cooper’s methodical character study finds Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) tasked with returning a cancer-ridden Cheyenne Chief (Wes Studi) back to his people’s valley in Montana. Along the way, his escort rescues Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), whose family was massacred. Although beautifully lensed and expertly acted, Hostiles second act meanders and features a contrived final confrontation. Yet, the sum of its parts proves the Western’s heart still beats, even as it goes out in a good way as Blocker wishes for Yellow Hawk as he nears death. 

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
I, Tonya

I, Tonya is the perfect homage to a bizarre story, capitalizing on the media’s villainization of Harding. As the first figure skating film that’s not considered a romantic comedy, it does everything it should. The romance is replaced by abuse. Abuse from her mother, from her husband, and now, America.

The film falls short on its ability to characterize Harding as more than a trashy ice princess, but it shines in its ability to maintain Harding’s innocence, blaming the media and its idealized perception of the female athlete in a ‘feminine’ sport.

The film isn’t perfect, but neither is Harding.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
Devil's Gate

IFC Midnight’s Devil’s Gate earns the title of First Bad Horror Film of 2018. The film follows an FBI agent (Amanda Schull) and deputy sheriff (Shawn Ashmore) as they investigate the disappearance of a mother and son. Things get weird from there. Aside from a strong booby trap kill within the first ten minutes and passable creature effects, a weak script full of religious and extraterrestrial clichés that don’t gel, stilted acting, and God-awful color timing—seriously, skins tones look like Hellboy for half the movie—bring down this junkship of a film with no chance to phone home.