Welcome to the first edition of 100 Word Reviews. Seeing as how I’ve seen more movies than I’ve posted reviews for on this website, I’ve decided to bulk review a ton of movies that I’ve seen so far this year. Some of these are newer and some of these are older so we have a massive set of movies to go over. Each review will be 100 words and I’m going to be reviewing 10 movies in this post. So without further ado, 1000 words begins… NOW!
Dead Man Down
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev
Written by: J. H. Wyman
Starring: Colin Ferrel, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard
Colin Ferrel and Noomi Rapace stare at each other for long periods of time in this action/drama/romance film that fails to find an identity. At first it doesn’t know if Noomi is a strong female character or a damsel in distress, it doesn’t know if it wants Colin Ferrel to make a heroic sacrifice or have an amazing gunfight. It only has 3 real action scenes and every single one of them are low brow trashy action that violate the otherwise relatable vulnerability of the main characters.
Oz: The Great and Powerful
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Mitchell Kapner
Starring: James Franco, Zach Braff, Mila Kunis, Rachael Weisz, Michelle Williams
A film that pays all of its homage to the 1939 Oz, it tells its own tale of the witches and the wizards origins. While it appears to be attempting to tell a moral tale, it unfortunately fails to cast its misguided and self-absorbed Wizard as the bad guy at any point, instead rewarding his philanthropy by the end of the film. It also skates the line between being new age epic fantasy (think Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia) and retro fantasy, without completely catering to either. Disappointing morally.
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Written by: Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Evil Dead was a fantastic eighties cult horror so this movie had a lot to live up to. While the original film had domestic violence in its background forcing its childlike hero to eventually “man up” to survive the horror of menstrual cycles (subtextually), this film uses the idea of a recovering drug addiction to wonderful effect. While the creepiness of giggling demons is lost in this version we get it replaced by a new ending that fits the frame better, and a visual representation of the ultimate demon inside of us all. It clearly learned a lesson from Cabin the Woods.
Written and Directed by: Joseph Kusinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough
Sci-Fi action always seems more entertaining than normal action. This film desperately struggles with its PG-13 rating early on while Andrea Riseborough constantly takes off her clothes. The film operates on a series of twists and just when you believe that its going to go full dark, it takes the carpet out from underneath you and its own story. I hate twists like this. On the plus side, Andrea Riseborough is a fantastic actress, and this film’s story managed to engage me more than most other action movies this summer.
Directed by: Chris Wedge
Written by: William Joyce, James V. Hart, and Chris Wedge
Starring: Aziz Ansari, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Beyonce Knowles, Amanda Seyfried, and others
Epic sets out right, it creates a sympathetic bad guy, it kills off an important character setting up the conflict, it has comic relief, and it is about life and death. Unfortunately, although this film features visually some of the best animated cinematography I’ve seen, its story fails to become about something. Rather than exploring further the themes its set up about war, death, reincarnation, grief, and relationships, it focuses primarily on its title, attempting, rather than fully executing, being Epic.
Now You See Me
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo as Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Mark Ruffalo
Now You See Me joins the basket of Side Effects as a faux intellecual film. It sets up a premise that seems incredibly exciting, introducing us to the exciting and charismatic Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher, and the fourth guy, as a team of high class magicians tasked with a mysterious objective. They work so well with so much chemistry that the film seems to ask, “Wouldn’t you love to see a movie about these four running from Mark Ruffalo?” And after you say Hell Yeah! It says, “Here’s Mark Ruffalo being mad for two hours.” Disdain.
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: Will Smith
Starring: Will Smith and Jaden Smith
After Earth appears to be Will Smith buying/sellingtotheonlybuyer an acting vehicle for his son Jaden Smith in order to somehow impress upon us that Jaden Smith can act. While the sequence of being hunted by a big bad alien monster is fun and distinctly Shyamalayan, every moment of drama falls because Will Smith is literally underacting for the sake of allowing his son to have the spotlight. Emotionless, with crappy CGI, an undercurrent of off the mark environmentalism only hurts this film further. Why in the world would you hire Shyamalan, Smith? Haven’t you seen his recent films??
Written and Directed by: James DeManaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Heady, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Rhys Wakefield
That I believe The Purge is turning out to be one of the most realized films of the year is something I wasn’t expecting. The universe of the purge is established easily, for one night a year, all crimes are legal. The changes this causes in American society is a right-winger’s wet dream, where the poverty rate is astoundingly low, and the “weak” are picked off and cleansed by the rich and the white. It further’s this by turning into a home defense fantasy before bringing the real message. The film questions, who benefits from slaughter?
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Written by: Vince Vaughn
Starring: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson
This comedy manages to be funny, nerdy, inspiring, and introduce new comedy actors to boot all while being a less fantastic Wedding Crashers. Par for the course in comedies, Wilson and Vaughn’s chemistry still works wonders on the screen, but the reliance on normal comedy tropes feels out of place fourteen years after American Pie. Aren’t we done making this movie over and over? Why do the nerds NEED the liberating night out to be truly creative?
This is the End
Directed by: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Written by: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, and Jason Stone
Starring: EVERY COMEDY ACTOR EVER
When Michael Cera blew coke in McLovin’s face I knew I was going to love this movie. A biblical apocalypse begins to take place as comedy actors playing themselves attempt to survive the world’s destruction around them. Wonderful as a comedy, a survival film, a parody of survival films, a biblical apocalypse, and a real life playground for hilarious cameos, that This is the End inspired equal feelings that it was completely ridiculous and entirely heartfelt was an odd mixture that easily makes this one of the best films of the year.
And that, is that. Unfortunately, I still have 10 more movies, so let’s reconvene next week, eh?