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100 Word Film Reviews

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.

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.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Pet Sematary

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Pet Sematary

Fans of the original Pet Sematary bawl at any and all changes to their beloved 1989 horror classic, but believe me when I say the major change only strengthens the plot of this bleak Stephen King adaptation. While some of the pacing doesn't sit well with me (Rachel's telling of her relationship with her sister, Zelda, seems hurried in particular), the acting-- particularly from Jeté Laurence, is great. The major horror at the heart of this reimagining is grief, and this movie is steeped in it. It's worth your time and your dollars.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Us

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Us

Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out is a film we all don’t know we need to see until we actually see it. Us is by no means perfect. Peele juggles too many ideas but they don’t all coalesce. But that doesn’t make it a bad movie. While there are instances where Peele’s narrative has us struggling to tether subliminal clues—before attempting to explain the conceit with clunky exposition—there are moments of pure cinematic inspiration. Its humor is pitch-perfect, its cinematography claustrophobic, and its central family comprised of sympathetic protagonists with which we as an audience can become fully invested in.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Captain Marvel

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Captain Marvel

The Marvel franchise always veers in quality, but rarely has an installment shifted as jarringly in tone as Captain Marvel, a film as confused as its amnesiac lead character. In the rush to make Carol Danvers Tony Stark, the writers forgot that Downey’s vulnerability sells his one liners. A few moments toward the end showcase Larson’s natural strengths, but the push to make Carol 90’s cool just makes her feel like warmed-over Starlord. If you’re looking for a version of Captain Marvel who’s cocky but compassionate you’ll need to pick up a comic book, because she’s not on screen.

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 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.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Glass

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Glass

Unbreakable was phenomenal; Split was clever (and that "twist"!), and now we have Glass, the third installment of a trilogy spanning 20 years. Yes, Sarah Paulson is tiresome, and yes, there seems to be a few things that don't quite stick, but forget what you've read: Glass is a worthwhile use of two of your precious hours. I was delighted to see Spencer Treat Clark reprise his role as Dunn's faithful and proud son, and Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlayne Woodard are always amazing. Don't wait for that Shyamalan twist: just enjoy the conclusion of a story of three people who are extraordinary.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Bumblebee

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Bumblebee

The unseen villain in Bumblebee (which for the sake of our collective sanity we can call the only installment in the Transformers franchise) is Michael Bay who, in 1987, when the film takes place, was working his way up the Hollywood ladder. With Bay still fetching coffee for Spielberg, director Travis Knight and star Hailee Steinfeld are free to have as much fun as possible with this admittedly silly concept, a concept that works considerably better when you can tell what's happening on screen. After all, a little fun was all 80’s kids ever wanted out  of these movies.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Aquaman

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Aquaman

Aquaman drowns a bit under the weight of its own spectacle, and there were moments when I found myself needing sonar to find one character amidst a screen of CGI fish. But if you’ve always wanted to see Patrick Wilson riding a battle shark, hop in – the water’s fine. The Atlantis mythology is dense, and partly magical, partly silly. But it’s an agreeable silliness, to which Jason Momoa and Amber Heard bring a boatload of earnestness and charm, especially in their lower key scenes together. Plus there’s Nicole Kidman eating a pet goldfish right out of its tank.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Welcome to Marwen

Buried beneath one of the most shockingly bad Hollywood movies in years is one of Steve Carell’s best performances. Welcome to Marwen has a lot of good people behind it. Co-screenwriter Caroline Thompson has a track record which includes The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, and the 1993 version of Secret Garden. Robert Zemeckis, who co-wrote and directed the movie, is justifiably considered a legend. Yet somehow, despite the odds, Welcome to Marwen is one of the most depressingly bad movies in recent memory. It’s ineptitude on virtually every level is almost surreal. This thought is made all the worse by the realization that it’s one of the dullest movies in recent memory, as well.

100 WORD FILM REVIEW / First Man

If The Revenant qualifies for “nature porn,” then First Man is the logical extension of Blade Runner 2049: “Ryan Gosling Porn—in Space!” When the camera isn’t focused on Gosling’s helmeted face, it’s on CGI constructions that suck the life out of this zero-gravity biopic. This occasionally engaging special effects extravaganza is pretty to look at, but mostly absent of the soul-stirring emotion that fueled Apollo 13 and Hidden Figures. Whereas director Damien Chazelle showed promise with his debut Whiplash, his latest feature fits into a pattern of dressed up homages to Hollywood’s past and doesn’t even qualify as revisionist history.