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100 Word Film Reviews

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.

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. 

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Once Upon A Time . . . In Hollywood

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Once Upon A Time . . . In Hollywood

This film is an eloquent love letter to the golden age of Hollywood while shying away from the romanticized aspects of the time. Though it may confuse true crime fans who are deeply invested in the Manson family story, it’s a wonderful bromance between two of America’s greatest actors. For those unfamiliar with the time (and the Manson family), do your homework—Tarantino doesn’t give much background. One minute you’re watching the characters be themselves, and the next, you’re watching them film an entire TV pilot in front of your eyes. Finally, the final 20 minutes torch your understanding of history.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Crawl

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Crawl

High Tension director Alexandre Aja’s latest film is an efficient, lean thriller. Following a father and daughter (Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario) who are trapped in a house by alligators during a Florida hurricane, Crawl melds well-placed scares and pathos. Backstory informing their strained relationship allows the audience to care for them, a necessity in genre pictures of this variety. Surprisingly, some characters miraculously retain limbs despite great injury. Although pacing and tone issues exist, the film serves as a textbook example on how to effectively build and release tension. Most importantly, Crawl reawakens our fear of being eaten alive.

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Farewell

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / The Farewell

The Farewell is based on events from Lulu Wang’s own life; and, as real life does, the film stands outside of genre. The film mines uncomfortable humor from its central premise (a family decides not to tell an aging grandmother about a terminal diagnosis), but it’s not interested in shock, which makes Awkwafina an unexpectedly perfect center for the film. She’s not the boisterous showstopper of Crazy Rich Asians, but neither is she maudlin or mopey. She, like every other moment of this film, is real.

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.

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.