Film Mini-Reviews

In 2016, I began writing mini-reviews of every feature film I watched and, in 2018, I decided I’d post them here.  These reviews are all short, sweet, and spoiler-free.  I only write mini-reviews for films that I am seeing for the first time, so every film on this list is one that I first saw in 2016 or later.  As a film student, I obviously watched loads of films before 2016, which explains why a lot of classics like Citizen Kane, King Kong, and The Godfather are absent from here.

I also have a rule that I won’t write a review for any film unless I watch all of it, so sometimes I’ve forced myself to persevere to the end just so I could comment on how bad I thought a film was.  Check back and scroll through titles often because new reviews will be added all the time.  I’m currently uploading over 200 reviews that I’ve written over the last 2 years and then will also continue adding new ones as I watch more films.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Nothing really worthwhile here.  Yeah, it manages to be pretty tense at times, but the ending was stupid and I have no idea what it has to do with Cloverfield.  John Goodman really brought his A-game with that performance though; good for him.

(2 / 5)

Anomalisa (2015)

I’d say it was great if the whole movie had been more like the first half.  The second half just started getting too weird for me and I feel like the message got lost.  On a technical level though, it’s truly remarkable.  I’d consider it worth checking out, especially if you like stop-motion animation.

(3.5 / 5)

Blue Hawaii (1961)

It’s an Elvis movie, so I expected a small scale and light-hearted film that isn’t exactly a cinematic masterwork but still has a genuine charm to it because… ya know, it’s Elvis.  Well, that’s pretty much exactly what I got.  It had the added benefit of being set in Hawaii, so the scenery and culture showcased in the film made it all the more pleasant to watch.

(3.5 / 5)

Crash (1996)

Promising concept, but it didn’t really feel like it had a point.  There wasn’t much of a plot, just kind of a collection of erotic scenes involving cars.  David Cronenberg has made some great movies for sure, but this isn’t one of them.

(3 / 5)

Criminal Activities (2015)

It really took a while to get going.  There was certainly some good dialogue and a few awesome scenes.  The film could have benefited from a more clearly defined individual protagonist.  The big twist at the end came completely out of nowhere; it wasn’t even really foreshadowed so it didn’t feel all that satisfying.

(3 / 5)

The Descent (2005)

A genuinely scary and claustrophobic horror movie.  This one found a good work-around for the whole “cell phones ruin horror movies” thing and it stays tense throughout.  A bloody good time.

(4 / 5)

The Discovery (2017)

A great idea that turned into an okay movie.  There’s nothing all that wrong with it per se, it just feels like almost every aspect of it (story-wise) could have been done better.  I think the script could have used just one more draft.  The philosophical questions posed particularly in the ending redeemed the film a bit, but only enough for me to consider it “worth watching.”

(3 / 5)

Doctor Strange (2016)

It was alright.  The spiritual/mystic elements were a welcome addition to the MCU and the visual effects were well done (albeit excessive at times) which made the film a real visual feast.  The story itself was sort of confusing and pretty banal.

(3 / 5)

Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996)

This movie was actually much funnier than I expected and it did a great job at using a very visual and cinematic approach to comedy that’s lacking in so many films today.  It’s worth checking out if you’re into the types of movies it’s spoofing and in the mood for a good laugh.

(3.5 / 5)

Elvis and Nixon (2016)

Surprisingly funny; great awkward comedy. Took a long time to get going though. Kevin Spacey was incredible as Nixon. Michael Shannon… I don’t know. He’s a great actor, I’m just not sure he was the right choice for Elvis.

(3 / 5)

Fallen Angels (1995)

Eh.  I really liked the camerawork and visual style.  I wish more movies were shot this way with such a wide angle lens right in the middle of the action.  The things going on in the film weren’t very interesting to me and didn’t make much sense.  The characters and their relationships to each other also weren’t well established.  This movie was originally intended as a third story in Chungking Express and I think it shows.

(2 / 5)

Hellraiser (1987)

Eh… not so much.  The practical effects and makeup are great, but the problem is it isn’t scary and the story is really boring up until the third act.

(2 / 5)

Hostel (2005)

It was ok.  Over the top, yet believable and with a slow buildup.  The practical effects were well done.

(3 / 5)

The Invitation (2015)

A pretty good horror film with a constant unsettling feel to it.  Despite most of the movie being just people in a room talking, it’s tense as hell.  It’s the kind of film that really keeps you guessing all the way through.

(4 / 5)

It Happened At The World’s Fair (1963)

It’s an Elvis movie, so I expected a small scale and light-hearted film that isn’t exactly a cinematic masterwork but still has a genuine charm to it because… ya know, it’s Elvis.  Well, that’s pretty much exactly what I got.  It had the added benefit of being set in Seattle, so that gave it an angle that I personally enjoyed more.  It’s very pleasant to watch, but ultimately it’s nothing more than a standard rom-com.

(3 / 5)

Jagged Edge (1985)

Glenn Close gave an amazing performance and the film definitely kept me interested throughout.  But I really didn’t like the ending, and not the infamous unintentional ambiguity of it either.  It’s like it primed me for a twist, but then didn’t deliver one which just felt massively disappointing.

(3 / 5)

Jailhouse Rock (1957)

It’s an Elvis movie, so I expected a small scale and light-hearted film that isn’t exactly a cinematic masterwork but still has a genuine charm to it because… ya know, it’s Elvis.  Well, that’s pretty much exactly what I got.  This is actually the first Elvis movie I’ve watched and it definitely made me want to see more.

(3 / 5)

Lion (2016)

Pretty good overall!  The performances were incredible, especially the kid.  I feel like certain things could have been presented with a bit more clarity, like for example how he goes about his search.  The emotional payoff at the end is incredibly touching.

(4 / 5)

Missing in Action (1984)

This is one of the most all around “okay” action movies I’ve seen.  Nothing particularly bad about it, nothing particularly good.  I didn’t realize the degree to which Chuck Norris really has no charisma until now.  I don’t know why this guy got to make so many movies.

(3 / 5)

Moon (2009)

Predictable, even to me.  Not as smart as it thinks it is.  Meh.

(2.5 / 5)

The Neon Demon (2016)

Overall I enjoyed it.  If you like Nicolas Winding Refn as a director, you’ll like it too.  The visuals are truly stunning, maybe even more so than in Only God Forgives.  I feel like the final scene was a bit too “out there” for its own good, so I left the film with a somewhat bad taste in my mouth.

(4 / 5)

Notting Hill (1999)

If I hadn’t already seen so many late 90s/early 00s rom-coms, this one might have impressed me.  But alas, that is not the case, so it fell into the same pit of predictability and cliche that so many others do.  It’s not a bad movie at all, just nothing particularly special.

(3 / 5)

Psycho II (1983)

It really isn’t as bad as people say.  If you compare it to the original, of course it’s dead in the water.  However, if you compare it to the other slasher films of its day, it’s actually decent.  I didn’t like how they opened with the shower scene from the original though, it’s kinda just asking for trouble.  The twists weren’t bad, but there may have been one too many of them.

(3 / 5)

Raw (2016)

It was a very gross movie to watch, involving a lot of animal stuff; makes sense though considering it’s set in a veterinary school.  It was a decent movie, despite being very “french.”  What I mean by that is, there was some stuff thrown in that felt too artsy and completely out of place, but it didn’t ruin the movie.  There were a couple moments that were genuinely shocking and one good scare.  This film does a good job at making you genuinely care about the characters.

(3.5 / 5)

Rounders (1998)

An all-around pretty okay movie.  If you’re in the mood for a film about poker, you can’t go wrong here.  Despite Malkovich’s accent being a bit over the top, I wished he was in it more.  Also, the Edward Norton character caused a bit too much conflict to be believable, at least to me.

(3.5 / 5)

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Very good.  I liked how real and imperfect the characters were and Travolta specifically really gave an excellent performance.  This is one of the better examples of a slice of life or character driven film.

(4.5 / 5)


Scarlet Street (1945)

Unlike the other Fritz Lang films I like (Metropolis, M), this one actually feels like an old movie.  I think that’s because, with its lingo and sensibilities, it tried to be very current, which of course causes it to get dated rather quickly.  It does have enough twists and turns to keep it interesting though and Edward G. Robinson is certainly good in it.

(3.5 / 5)

Shin Godzilla (2016)

Pretty good overall.  Despite all the red tape and bureaucracy the movie focused on, it remained quite engaging throughout.  The special effects varied a bit in quality, but the destruction was always on point and damn did this version of Godzilla look menacing and genuinely scary.  Even the 1st form gave me the creeps.

(4 / 5)

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

I liked what they were going for here, but it just felt like one of those adventure movies with too much going on.  The two leads didn’t have much chemistry and the best character by far was the Angelina Jolie one.  It was more fun to watch in black and white because it actually felt kinda like watching an old movie.

(2.5 / 5)

Splice (2010)

It sucks.  Despite being scientists, the main characters behave incredibly unscientifically.  The plot isn’t believable, consistent, or even all that interesting.

(1.5 / 5)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Impressively disappointing. Somehow this one film managed to undo almost everything great that The Force Awakens started. The plot went nowhere worth going, the humor was painfully off, the characters went through virtually no development, Luke was fundamentally ruined… I still can’t even believe Disney allowed this movie to hit the theaters. All the questions we had after TFA were either given mind-numbingly underwhelming answers or rendered completely irrelevant. And the worst part of it all was how the film dangled so many good ideas in front of the audience, only to yank them away just as we were getting our hopes up. Carrie Fisher deserved a better send off than this, and we all deserved a much better film. Ultimately though, it’s not “holiday special” bad as some people suggest, but rather just “prequel” bad. The franchise has been through tougher times than this.

(2 / 5)

The Vanishing (1988)

Wow, this movie was actually quite engaging.  It’s very easy to screw up the payoff on these kinds of films, but this one really delivered.  This is an excellent, albeit slow paced, thriller.

(5 / 5)

The Warriors (1979)

Pretty great! I like how straight forward it is; it really doesn’t bullshit around. This is one of those movies where there really isn’t a single dull moment. It’s poignant where it needs to be, campy where it wants to be, and downright awesome the rest of the time. A new favorite of mine for sure.

(5 / 5)

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Pretty decent actually and with a unique premise for the time period; this film was kind of a spiritual predecessor to the meta self-awareness of Scream.  It was a slow burn though as the horror was more subtle and psychological, so I could see how, as a “Freddy” movie, it would have been disappointing to some.

(3.5 / 5)

The Witch (2015)

The costumes, cinematography, production design, and acting were all exceedingly good.  It felt like all the effort in writing the screenplay was funneled directly into making the dialogue sound authentically 1600s-ish because the story itself really could have used some work.  There was clearly a lot of effort put into building atmosphere and tension, but I don’t feel like it ever delivered on it.  Save for one or two genuinely creepy moments, the film wasn’t even scary.

(3 / 5)

Wonder Woman (2017)

It was pretty ok.  It feels like just another average run of the mill superhero movie, but with an added kick.  The film had some good moments like the No Man’s Land scene, but it also had kind of a dumb third act.  The best film in the DCEU so far, although that isn’t saying much I suppose.  Also, Wonder Woman has one of the best and most memorable theme songs of any cinematic superhero in recent memory.

(3 / 5)

The Wraith (1986) 

Basically, it’s The Crow, but with street racing, over-the-top Tromaesque villains, a scifi aesthetic, and an atmosphere and soundtrack that reeks of the 80s.  The plot is kinda dumb and doesn’t make much sense, but the campiness keeps it entertaining.  This overlooked gem is a great flick to watch late at night with a bunch of friends and a tub of popcorn.

(3.5 / 5)