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Film Reviews

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.

100 WORD FILM REVIEW / Bad Times at the El Royale

After giving us the genre-bending Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard takes a stab at the neo-noir with Bad Times at the El Royale. Although elaborate in its narrative setup, the film falters from time to time. While acting is mostly solid across the board—especially by Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo—pacing drags considerably and emotional moments do not always click in this story about strangers who convenes upon a rundown hotel for different nefarious motives. Despite these detractors, the film is freshly original, full of tension and dark humor. It is an enjoyable reprieve from mainstream dribble that constitutes studiofare.

100 WORD FILM REVIEW / The Old Man & the Gun

The Old Man & the Gun is a good ol’ yarn, the type your grandfather would tell. This laidback, romantic affair about an aging bank robber possesses a myth-like quality. While the narrative’s pacing may be slow for some people, the cast’s charms make up for it. Magic especially shines between veterans Redford and Spacek. By not taking the material too seriously, director David Lowery explores topics such as aging and love with a dose of fun. When a film keeps a smile on your face the whole running time, it’s bound to stay with you long after the credits roll.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS/ A Star is Born

The best portions of A Star is Born play out more or less like the film’s well-edited trailer: fast-paced, gorgeously photographed scenes set against emotional tunes. But once past the moment in which Gaga gets her big break (a scene which is a contender for the very best of 2018) the movie settles into rote Behind the Music cliché. Cooper is better than he’s ever been, and shows great promise as a director. Gaga is, as ever, playing for the back row in every scene, whether she’s singing or acting. I’ll leave you to work out if that’s a compliment.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger contains everything that should result in an intelligent gothic chiller: atmosphere, methodical pacing, and a character-driven drama that hints at something grander beneath its surface horrors. Through its luscious cinematography, dense script, and acting strengths—Will Poulter is particularly excellent as a burned and shell-shocked war veteran—the film does an extraordinary job examining gender and 1947’s English class structure. Yet, the film is nearly derailed by its perplexing central conceit—is it a ghost or something else? By removing the horror elements, the film may have been a more effective standalone period piece about class relations and mental illness.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
Halloween (2018)

You don't have to be a fan of the original Halloween series in order to enjoy the new sequel; you really only have to like the first one, because everything after that is disregarded. Even a couple missteps and a strange bowl of party pudding (I mean what?!) don't detract from what is a pretty solid addition to the franchise, with plenty of gory nonsense to get you excited for the spookiest season of all. Jamie Lee Curtis is a treasure. We don't have to protect her, though; she's got it under control.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
Searching

There are no shortage of films addressing the way we gather information in the age of social media, but what makes Searching more than just a gimmick (the film is told entirely through computer and phone screens) is the fine editing work and the multi-layered performance of John Cho as the missing girl’s father. Cho never goes big, and because we believe him we go along with some fairly hoary plot devices (the moment where we switch devices to follow along a car on Google Maps is unintentionally hilarious) to deliver a shockingly resonant narrative and emotional payoff. 

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS
The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders is Meet the Feebles-lite, and while it's obvious scenes have been scrapped for whatever reason (I'm guessing time), it's still a worthwhile movie to watch if you're not in the mood to think too much while having a few guilty laughs. Melissa McCarthy delivers as Edwards and Bill Barretta once again shows his puppetry mastery as Phil, her curmudgeonly ex-partner. Come for the murder mystery, stay for the copious amounts of puppet ejaculate.