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100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Godzilla: King of the Monsters

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers on the action with plenty of kaiju fighting. Godzilla going thermonuclear and Mothra are worth the price of admission. However, its human element becomes lost due to a nonsensical plot and cardboard-thin characters. It is truly a shame how the film wastes the potentials of Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe, who reprise their roles from Legendary Pictures’ 2014 reboot. Similarly, it cribs elements from other Godzilla films and inserts them without context. Check your brain in at the door for this orange-teal-gray color-timed CGI slugfest. Let’s hope next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong fares better.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Rocketman

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Rocketman

Elton John’s music defines my life. When Rocketman was announced, I was equally excited and skeptical. Thankfully, the film is whimsical fun with its inspired musical numbers, thanks to Lee Hall’s (Billy Elliot) script. But Rocketman is also emotionally honest about Elton’s struggles with love, fame, and addiction. While I can forgive the film for not being entirely accurate, pacing is an issue; many important events feel rushed. At its best, it reminds us why his music holds a special place in our hearts. I hope the Academy is listening; Taron Egerton deserves an Oscar for portraying my musical hero.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

John Wick really knows how to kill people. He can use anything as a weapon: katanas, guns, knives, horses, belts, his bare hands, the immortalized pencil. But that’s only half the battle. The latest entry in the series goes deeper and reminds us that honor and integrity are not synonymous with morality and friendship. John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum delivers on the action, expands the mythology of the criminal underworld’s High Table, and introduces a character you’ll despise, the Adjudicator. Sorry, George Miller. John Wick unequivocally ousts Mad Max as the most consistent franchise in control of its original creators.

FILM / The Tale: What Fox’s Narrative Structure Can Teach Us About Writing True Stories / Laura Valeri

In one of the most brilliant and revealing moments in this exquisite use of the technique, the 13-year-old Jennifer tries to persuade her 48 years-old self that she was in control of that relationship the entire time. The 13-year old claims that breaking up with Billy, who continued to write her for years afterwards, proves that she was not a victim. She casts herself as master of her own fate.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

While Zac Efron makes an impressive Ted Bundy, it doesn’t save the film. While this incredibly long-titled flick does a good job re-enacting Bundy footage, it doesn’t have a strong perspective. We are forced to view the Bundy murders like the fangirls who sit behind him in court. We see his charm and charisma, but are only shown a snippet of Bundy kidnapping and attacking one, unnamed victim. Instead, it focused on a non-murdered victim (his girlfriend), while it nearly ignores the 28 women who lost their lives.

It does get one point across: he was one smooth-talking SOB.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Avengers: Endgame

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame represents the culmination of an unprecedented era of success for Marvel, so you can forgive them the indulgence of a victory lap, which is what the final hour of this film is. All the big moments are there, including some payoffs you’d forgotten you even wanted. Even a story as jam packed as this one doesn’t quite justify a three-hour running time (the middle hour sags with self-satisfaction); but the capper, a battle of unprecedented scale, reminds you of the magnitude of the achievement and delivers beautifully on a promise eleven years in the making.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Wind

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Wind

If The Wind is any indication of the storytelling potential that can be mined from melding the western and horror genres, then we should expect great things to come. Caitlin Gerard (American Crime) stars as a headstrong frontierswoman who fears an entity is terrorizing her and her husband after a newlywed couple settle on a nearby homestead. Ben Lovett’s score is particularly effective at provoking dread in this claustrophobic chiller. While the film loses wind in its third act, viewers who prefer slow burns may appreciate what screenwriter Teresa Sutherland and director Emma Tammi have achieved on a small budget.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Unicorn Store

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Unicorn Store

Unicorn Store is Peter Pan for Millennials who were obsessed with Lisa Frank. It’s a colorful, mystical film, where real life clashes with the Millennial-American dream of never having to grow up.

Kit (Brie Larson), toggles between making real friends, getting a real job, or sticking with what she knew as a child - playing games with an imaginary unicorn.

What this movie does well is makes the viewer question Kit’s (and their own) sanity. Do we believe that Kit is going to get a unicorn? Or is this another movie about mental health? It depends on when you grew up.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Shazam!

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Shazam!

Arguably, every superhero is a kid’s movie, or, at least, adolescent wish-fulfillment. But Shazam!, the latest film from DC, is the first superhero movie done specifically as a children's movie. The colors are bright, the plot is breezy, and the entire enterprise is focused on the gee-shucks fun of having superpowers. This also means the film feels less capital “I” important than the latest offerings from either Marvel or DC—and for that, at least, we can be thankful. Zachary Levi’s enthusiasm wore thin for me, but it won’t for eight-year-olds, and that’s all that matters.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Piercing

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Piercing

Piercing follows married man Reed (Christopher Abbott) who decides to kill a prostitute (Mia Wasikowska) to find the tables turned on him. Adapting a Ryu Murakami (Audition) story, director Nicholas Pesce (Eyes of my Mother) employs graphic horror and dark humor—including a laugh-out-loud sequence of Reed pantomiming his planned murder in slapstick fashion—to good effect, but everything else feels like pastiche: Miniature building sets, split screen camerawork a la Brian De Palma, Goblin soundtrack themes from the giallo classics Deep Red and Tenebre. However, Abbott and Wasikowska’s beguiling on-screen relationship is worth the trip down this rabbit hole of homage.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Climax

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Climax

What is supposed to be Gasper Noe’s most accessible film for someone like myself who hadn’t seen any of his films before, turned out to be a buzzkill for me. While Climax is visually impressive with a free-roaming camera set to a killer soundtrack, the hallucinatory imagery was nauseatingly unpleasant. I did, however, appreciate Noe’s references to Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession. But two scenes—one where a woman who is allegedly pregnant gets repeatedly kicked in the stomach and another where a young kid is locked in an electrical closet—made me mentally check out. I guess I know my limits now.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Field Guide to Evil

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Field Guide to Evil

An array of folktales serve as the bases for this horror anthology. Featuring international directors such as Calvin Reeder (The Rambler), Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy), and Agnieszka Smoczynska (The Lure), each short is visually impressive and atmospheric. For example, one involving goblins in Greece contains vibrant colors reminiscent of The Red Shoes, while another set in India features claustrophobic black and white cinematography. While some get under your skin, they don’t stay in your mind long after. Since most are low-key affairs, they don’t carry much of a pulse. Still, indie-horror fans may relish these intriguing tales.