I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)


When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals. (IMDb)
A strong yet subtle central character study (the detailed visual storytelling is perfect-see the paralleled grocery store scenes) of the relatable Ruth (with quirky Tony) is brilliantly joined by a blackly comedic and shockingly violent crime drama (with genuinely creepy baddies) excellently edited and scored. Its intriguing underlying discussion of revenge and justice doesn’t wrap up in a satisfying manner though, as exemplified by the too-easy epilogue to the devastatingly bloody climax.
8/10 (Great)

Hell or High Water (2016)


A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas. (IMDb)
Aesthetically excellent, with its dusty, aching landscapes smoothly shot, rich soundtrack (a tense piano and strings theme alternates with melancholy folk tunes), charming small-town Texas sets, and Chris Pine with windswept hair. The story feels a little light in comparison (it would have been better to focus more on the compelling brothers and less on the at-times awkward cop duo) but it builds well and comes to a riveting climax (though the denouement leaves something to be desired).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)


Sean Anderson partners with his mom’s husband on a mission to find his grandfather, who is thought to be missing on a mythical island. (IMDb)
Better than its awful predecessor (despite a more annoying Sean–now an arrogant and angsty teen), thanks mostly to superior visuals (the slow-motion was a nice touch; see the helicopter crash), but also a script that actually builds some suspense (see the devastating cliff collapse) and hints at decent character work (see Alexander’s brief moment at the campfire) amidst its still rushed adventure plot (they get to the island very quickly) with poor dialogue and failed attempts at humour.
5/10 (Poor)

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)


On a quest to find out what happened to his missing brother, a scientist, his nephew and their mountain guide discover a fantastic and dangerous lost world in the center of the earth. (IMDb)
I got a jolt of giddiness when Trevor starting reading the cryptic notes in Verne’s novel, setting up the adventure to come, but unfortunately, the execution falls flat on its face: Besides the science being under-explained and far-fetched, the action scenes are childish and riddled with cheesy CGI, and the downtime is full of lame one-liners (“Welcome to the 21st century”), bland sentimentality (the kid-conflict is resolved after one scene), and shoddy acting (kid Hutcherson especially).
3.5/10 (Awful)

Life of Pi (2012)


A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor: a fearsome Bengal tiger. (IMDb)
The quick and charming first act featuring a pleasant after-the-fact storytelling framework feels a little foreign to the slow, arduous survival drama to follow, but in hindsight provides a nice character set-up (Sharma is strong, especially at sea) and appetizer for its wondrous ocean of thoughtful theology, beautiful nature imagery, and–tying the two together–provoking symbolism, with the epilogue purposefully but delicately and loosely wrapping up the intriguing themes of truth and meaning.
8/10 (Great)

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995)


Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, returns from a spiritual quest to investigate the disappearance of a rare white bat, the sacred animal of a tribe in Africa. (IMDb)
With a lifeless whodunit plot, no notable secondary characters, and an uncomfortable amount of African culture stereotyping (the tangential scene with the Wachootoo being the worst example), only Carrey’s rambunctious animal-lover makes this worth watching. Fortunately, he’s in every scene, and while they don’t always hit their mark (his trademark lines often feel forced), many are gems (see his confrontation with fox-fur lady), with his bombastic physical comedy impossible not to appreciate.
6.5/10 (Alright)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)


A veteran Vegas magician tries to revive his career after his longtime partner quits, he gets fired from his casino act, and an edgy new “street magician” steals his thunder. (IMDb)
Burt’s journey from innocent kid to arrogant/tragic adult and back (figuratively) is a little choppy and unfounded, but compelling, and offers decent comedy (see his hot-box antics, solo two-man trick) to go with a few sweet moments (see his magic show with Rance at the care home) and fun tricks (see the crazy climax). Buscemi’s oft-neglected Anton (see his third-wheel moment at the motel), Carrey’s hardcore rival magician, and Gandolfini’s self-absorbed hotel owner are fun secondary characters.
6.5/10 (Alright)