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100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Alita: Battle Angel

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Alita: Battle Angel

Appropriately for an action flick about a cyborg, Alita feels cobbled together from spare parts of blockbusters past, but what the film lacks in originality it makes up for in heart - like, seriously, this girl’s heart is a fairly major plot point. Alita’s facial effects may reside in the uncanny valley, but the action is fast and elegantly choreographed (if choreographed is the right word for something this CGI-heavy). Director Robert Rodriguez may or may not get the franchise he’s pushing, but he has at least delivered what might be the most purely entertaining film of his career.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot

Sam Elliott gives his all as aging WWII veteran Calvin Barr. Barr’s secret assassinations of Hitler and Bigfoot serve as mere bookends to this quiet and moving character study about how his duty to country resulted in loss and regret. While the film has less in common with its Nazi- and Sasquatch-ploitation roots than its title makes out, there is plenty of action. The film boasts luscious cinematography and a stellar supporting cast to dress up writer-director Robert D. Krzykowski’s pulpy script. Leave your expectations at the door and have fun. It’s the most outrageously entertaining genre offering since Mandy.

100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS / Seducing the Asparagus Queen by Amorak Huey

100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS / Seducing the Asparagus Queen by Amorak Huey

The best poems in Seducing the Asparagus Queen are focussed, almost incantatory. But Amorak Huey’s larger project here is about aging, about American history as an indistinct shadow behind our parents, and how we are to wrestle meaning from the disappointments of the average life. There is something almost pastoral about the book, and a lot of references to manual labor and beer-drinking. Well, every poet has certain shorthands they fall back on. Ultimately Huey gets it, and hands it to us in a straightforward, distinctly American language – “how beauty does not need us / though shame does.”

100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS / Pulling Words by Nicholas Trandahl

100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS / Pulling Words by Nicholas Trandahl

Nicholas Trandahl’s writes in the caring voice or a father, husband, and patriot. From the backyard of rural Virginia to the thunder of war in the Middle East, Pulling Words is a moving work of exploration and discovery. Trandahl has certainly seen his share of suffering and conflict, not only contained in the messy and harsh theater of war, but within himself, fighting demons that only a combat veteran can understand. But through it all he smiles, laughs, and loves, inspired by the terrific beauty of the Black Hills where he lives and writes with the devoted support of a beautiful wife and children.  Purchase a copy. You’ll be glad you did.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Cold War

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Cold War

Draped in gorgeous cinematography and masterful mise-en-scène, Cold War marches through the long, frigid years of post-war Europe, following the intertwined lives of two Polish musicians who fall in love and struggle to keep a hold of one another in the face of Eastern Bloc politics, jealousy, ennui, and insatiable desire. Galvanized by a stunning soundtrack, Cold Wars ends with a hammer blow sacrifice, proving love is a prison we make for ourselves, and though we may fight to break out, in the end we are our own wardens. What’s more, some sentences are for life, and beyond.

FICTION / Harry's Bird / Sky O’Brien

Later, in bed, I think of Harry and the bird on the bluffs. The big creature rises out of its paint job and flies next to the river, casting its red eyes and deer horns over the earth. It follows me and Mitch and Harry and Jess like an officer, its uniform a skin of thick brown scales. A bird like that could swallow our car. It could swoop down and lift us with its talons and take us deep into its world.

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR / February 2019 / Kolleen Carney Hoepfner

Now we’re into February, the most romantic (and, if you’re in a snowy region, the bleakest) of months. Our Writer of the Month series continues with one of the most amazing, passionate poets I have the privilege of knowing: Ingrid Calderon-Collins. Additionally, we have work from Sarah Frances Moran, Aaron Como, Jill Jacobs… look, it’s just worth the read, so go for it!

ESSAY / Freezer Peanuts / Liyou Mesfin Libsekal

Of course, I brought it up to my mother, who was freezing milk and probably making the morning oatmeal with it. The confrontation led to the Great Freezer Fight of 2010, after which I refused to eat oatmeal, and my mother’s lasagna, on account of the frozen mozzarella. This fight would be repeated each time I needed something for a recipe and found that everything was frozen.

FICTION / Old Dogs / Mike Sutton

The conversation carries on while Sue slips headphones over her ears and resumes typing Jim’s endless dictation. As crazy as Jim drives her, she’s half partial to him. Truth is, if Sue left, Jim would retire. She knows it. He does too, but won’t admit it. The man’s just shy of helpless. He’s a fine trial lawyer. Tried over a hundred cases in his time, but the world is changing, and old dogs don’t always follow smoothly.