Midsommar (2019)

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A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult. (IMDb)
It’s terrifying how potent and perfect Aster’s direction is, helped of course by Pugh’s standout turn. The long pre-title sequence is brilliantly done and fucking unbearable, and this description applies throughout, as heartwrenching music, creative camerawork, and a beautiful aesthetic decorate the disgusting horrors, which regrettably get grossly self-indulgent in the second half as the intriguing story arcs (Dani’s grief, the strained relationship, the thesis drama) fade into the background.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

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Monsters, Inc. (2001)

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In order to power the city, monsters have to scare children so that they scream. However, the children are toxic to the monsters, and after a child gets through, 2 monsters realize things may not be what they think. (IMDb)
Hilarious (high-energy, wise-cracking Mike is an absolute [actual] ball–“Roz, my tender, oozing blossom”–and has great chemistry with amiable big guy Scully) and heartfelt (I felt my heart melting at that final shot; Boo was absolutely adorable), with a clever premise that serves as the vehicle for a brilliant thematic thread commenting on the (actual) power of love, laughter, and creativity in the face of division, fear-mongering politics, and resignation to an unethical system of economics.
9/10 (Amazing)

 

The Losers (2010)

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A CIA special forces team are betrayed and left for dead by their superiors, galvanizing them to mount an offensive on the CIA. (IMDb)
Swing and a miss: it doesn’t get a hit but it sure tries hard. This mostly makes it all the more painful to watch (see the spastic “look how cool this movie is” editing and busy soundtrack), but occasionally it makes some contact (see Evans’ comic relief, especially his “Don’t Stop Believin'” moment). The well-paced action-adventure plot at its core keeps it watchable, but only barely, thanks to its generally unpleasant visual style, female exploitation, terrible SFX, and awful cheesy villain.
5.5/10 (Poor)

 

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

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The quiet life of a terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes. (IMDb)
It’s probably good I let this sink in a bit before rating it; it’s one of those films that as a whole is just okay (the plot’s a mash of storylines and undercooked themes and the characters either don’t develop or do so rapidly) but has lots of great moments–mostly comedic (see the sausage factory trip, Hart’s hilarious Snowball: “Ricky!”) or musical-including a good feel-good final montage set to some scrumptious throwback R&B. Desplat’s excellent jazzy score elevates a lot of other scenes.
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

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Ten years after initially meeting, Anakin Skywalker shares a forbidden romance with Padmé Amidala, while Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates an assassination attempt on the senator and discovers a secret clone army crafted for the Jedi. (IMDb)
Dare I say it starts off with almost cool neo-noir vibes? It ain’t no Blade Runner but the mystery plot, dark city setting, and moody Anakin make for a compelling first act (dated SFX aside, that city chase was great–and the Jedi duo generate surprising humour). The rest is solid as it sticks with a straight forward dual-narrative following Obi’s investigation and angsty Annie’s relational drama. Gets cheesy as it goes on (and on–it’s too long) but it’s fun (see C3P0’s head gag).
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Body of Lies (2008)

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A CIA agent on the ground in Jordan hunts down a powerful terrorist leader while being caught between the unclear intentions of his American supervisors and Jordan Intelligence. (IMDb)
An eye-rolling America-centric terrorist thriller at first blush thanks to Hoffman’s disturbing opening monologue, but in actuality, it’s more mature, with decently nuanced political drama that’s expertly intertwined with espionage action. The contrast of Crowe’s detached CIA boss (his suburban activities during tense phone calls are a great touch) with DiCaprio’s emotional on-the-ground agent makes for an excellent central character dynamic (see the memorable final exchange). Very well acted.
8/10 (Great)

 

Toy Story 4 (2019)

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When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy. (IMDb)
It’s not unnecessary, with its expanded universe, deeper themes, and bevy of fun new (or just newly developed–badass Han Solo-esque Bo is great) characters, but it does feel a little detached from its three predecessors with no strong central plot thread or thematic thrust and the usual gang sadly neglected (which makes the emotional climax a little underwhelming). Slightly unmet expectations aside, it’s still very fun (the action set pieces are great), very funny, and very well-animated.
7.5/10 (Really Good)