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100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Joker

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Joker

Joker is not the film you think it is. It’s not a dangerous, male fantasy antihero thriller nor is it a deep character drama that elevates the genre of comic book films. For the most part, Joker is a film with a decent script elevated by phenomenal performances, especially Joaquin Phoenix’s. He manages to paper over the holes in the script with his physical acting and his manic, haunting laugh. The film stumbles when it connects back to its comic book mythos, but it is worth it for Phoenix’s performance alone. Ignore the film’s absurd discourse: watch it for Joaquin.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Judy

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Judy

Renée Zellweger embodies the life of Judy Garland in this biopic based on the play, “End of the Rainbow.” The narrative focuses on the time surrounding her set of sold-out London shows, while dealing with a child custody battle with her ex-husband. A strong supporting cast (including Jessie Buckley, Michael Gambon, and Andy Nyman) round out this PG-13 affair in the vein of Walk the Line and Ray. While Judy barely scratches the surface at the depressing details of Garland’s life, its closing sequence brings tears to the eyes and reminds us that there is hope somewhere over the rainbow.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Villains

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Villains

Maika Monroe (It Follows) and Bill Skarsgard (IT: Chapter Two) star as two lovers on the run who find themselves captives of a couple (Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan and The Closer’s Kyra Sedgwick) after breaking into their home. Directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen imbue Villains with a dark comedic edge—from the mysterious child in the basement to the kooky personalities of the sadistic homeowners. This genre exercise relies on powerhouse acting to carry its occasionally uneven scenario to its bloody conclusion. Lastly, the “carwash” sequences between Skarsgard and Monroe are visual character-building examples of pure cinematic genius.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Ad Astra

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Ad Astra

Brad Pitt delivers a masterfully restrained performance as Roy McBride, an astronaut living in his father’s shadow. When the US government requests McBride to communicate with his father near Neptune, he learns all is not as it seems. James Gray, who directed the awe-inspiring Lost City of Z, echoes the scope of 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, this story about daddy issues feels stretched thin. Audience members expecting an action-filled adventure may be disappointed in this methodical character study. Still, Ad Astra contains the most convincing space visuals I’ve seen to date. Experience in IMAX to get your money’s worth.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Brittany Runs a Marathon

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Brittany Runs a Marathon

Based off a true story, Brittany Runs a Marathon tries to be equally inspiring and frank about self-perception. Jillian Bell carries the movie on her two feet (literally) as Brittany attempts to improve her health by jogging. But the movie gets a hamstring when trying to balance its tone. We’re initially drawn to Brittany’s comedic demeanor, but as she criticizes others about their weight, she loses some sympathy points. This is a delicate subject to address. Bell is commendable for a multifaceted performance and the filmmaker’s heart is in the right place, even if the film doesn’t fully come together.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / IT: Chapter Two

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / IT: Chapter Two

Stephen King’s epic tale comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion, despite uneven storytelling. The near three-hour running time is packed with information, but clunky pacing fails to sustain suspense—especially when the adult-versions of the Loser Club split up to find their childhood tokens to use in a ritual to defeat IT. Overall, acting is strong across the board, although the teen actors from part one possessed a more organic chemistry. Despite reducing the final confrontation’s significance to slinging verbal insults to defeat IT, the film still manages to balance childhood nostalgia without being sappy and retain its emotional heart.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Rambo: Last Blood

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Rambo: Last Blood

Sylvester Stallone goes Liam Neeson in this final(?) entry in the series. John Rambo now lives a quiet existence on his Arizona Ranch. His college-bound niece, Gabrielle, wants to confront her birth father in Mexico about why he abandoned her, but Rambo forbid her to go. She disobeys him, which leads to him trying to rescue her from a prostitution ring. While the climactic carnage on Rambo’s boobytrapped ranch will satisfy gorehounds, we sadly no longer know what our weary Vietnam vet represents anymore. An end credits montage of classic Rambo moments encourages you to revisit the previous films instead.

ONE PERFECT EPISODE / SpongeBob SquarePants: "Band Geeks” / Kyle Lundberg

Squidward is frequently cast in more of an antagonistic role, and he is often needlessly cruel to his next-door neighbors SpongeBob and Patrick. But what gets lost in the emotions is the fact that what Squidward wants is completely reasonable: a quiet Sunday afternoon with no noises or distractions. If you had a neighbor as loud and obnoxious as SpongeBob, you’d have a short fuse, too.

ESSAY / A Woman in Pain / Julie Rea

The doctors there, probably tired of me and my opiate-related shenanigans, decided I needed to quit my medications cold turkey and admitted me to the hospital to monitor my detox. My hospital roommate had a gastrointestinal ailment involving continuous puking. Across the hall, an elderly woman screamed regularly. I spent about a week there, dope sick and tripping balls.

SPECULATIVE / From OF (What Place Meant) / Kenning Jean-Paul García

Today is tiring. Ghosts chase and in this race, the finish is back at the start. Never is the heart left even as it leaps, skips, stays silent through pursuits. Steam rises from former mistakes thawed swift past water stage. Steam ejects from pipes as pistons engage – on vapors, phantoms take comfort.

FILM / Halloween (2018) and the Evolution of the Final Girl / Brian Fanelli

The Final Girl, Clover says, stares death in the face, and she is either rescued or kills the slasher herself. What made a film like Halloween especially unique was the way it disrupted traditional narrative structure. In analyzing structure and point of view, Clover references Laura Mulvey’s definition of the male gaze and cinematic narrative structure, specifically that the male drives the story’s action and the point of view is associated with him.