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Film

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Lighthouse

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Lighthouse

A salty tale of nautical madness and folklore with overarching themes of identity that mirror those of Bergman’s Persona. The premise of The Lighthouse is that of two men, brilliantly acted by both Dafoe and Pattinson, manning a dilapidated lighthouse on an isolated rock. Dafoe’s character is domineering and psychologically manipulative, while Pattinson’s character is that of a simple working man with aspirations of settling down. Isolation begins to wear down on our protagonists and thus begins a downward spiral into depravity and madness. Brilliantly shot in black and white, it reflects the psychological state of Pattinson. A must see.

FILM / Key Life Lessons from the Best Movie of the 90s, Practical Magic / Jeanne Obbard

Witches do not decorate in Danish Modern. Some witchy design ideas to consider are: antique furniture, New Englandy houses, overstuffed kitchens, a truly insane number of candles, and an entire greenhouse full of plants. Once you have all these items in place, compound them by several orders of magnitude. There will be no Konmari-ing of anything.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Parasite

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Parasite

It’s best to go into Parasite, the latest piece of mind-fuckery from Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, knowing as little as possible about the plot, a hilariously escalating series of con-jobs. The film excels as black comedy, and dares to say something darker and more personal about class than either Snowpiercer or Okja. That is to say that the themes are more complicated in this film, but that, as often happens when extra layers are introduced to an argument, those themes become more opaque. What we are left with, once the veneer of the film is torn off, is impotent rage.

FILM / Finding the Sacred Among the Profane: The Shawshank Redemption / Sean Woodard

FILM / Finding the Sacred Among the Profane: The Shawshank Redemption / Sean Woodard

In this month’s “Finding the Sacred Among the Profane” column, Film Editor Sean Woodard explores the themes of hope and spiritual righteousness in Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the Stephen King classic, The Shawshank Redemption.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

When Breaking Bad ended in 2013, one mystery viewers were left with was the fate of Jesse Pinkman, the beaten and bruised sidekick of Walter White, meth kingpin and all around dickhead. Well, BB fans, wonder no more: El Camino is here to wrap up that loose end in a satisfying bow. Wonder at Jesse's resilience! Marvel at Badger and Skinny Pete's quips! Worry about Jesse's freedom, always in peril! El Camino serves as a satisfying coda to one of the most competent shows of the past 20 years. (Huell fans: sorry, there's no closure there. Maybe next time?)

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.

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.

FILM / Drew Barrymore Was Everything, and Then She Was Stabbed Three Times and Hanged from a Tree / Erica Hoffmeister

We wore eyeliner, after all. And when we got home, the sun set behind those ever-brown hills, the heat still dripping in big swaths between our thighs, so we took off the stupid fishnets and held them in our hands like nylon balls, with tight-gripped fists before we’d need to use them, and we covered ourselves in the long night.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Hustlers

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Hustlers

Of all of the recent deluge of “Scorsese-as-genre” films in the past few years (a genre that is even sub-linked to the comic book genre now, with the upcoming Joker), Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers stands above the crowd not only by offering a gender-twist on the Goodfellas formula, but in using those now well-worn techniques as ways of linking us not just to the flashy subculture of her characters, but to their interior lives, in a resonant way that not even Scorsese managed. Jennifer Lopez is at a career best, and having more fun than any actor on screen in 2019.