9 (2009)

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A rag doll that awakens in a postapocalyptic future holds the key to humanity’s salvation. (IMDb)
The initial lack of story and character backgrounds is appropriate for the film’s shocking post-apocalyptic world (the “machine” is a compelling threat), as we’re dropped into the desolate setting as naive as our protagonist; the exposition to follow is mostly tasteful (save for the scientist’s heavy-handed yet still insufficient final explanation) and the characters that develop feel shallow but natural. Most significantly though, the animation and action set pieces are consistently fantastic.
7.5/10 (Really Good)
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Broken City (2013)

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In a city rife with injustice, ex-cop Billy Taggart seeks redemption and revenge after being double-crossed and then framed by its most powerful figure: Mayor Nicholas Hostetler. (IMDb)
Two things stood out to me after the completion of this film, and they were both bad: One was a camera that wouldn’t stop moving around during a simple scene of dialogue; the other was an atrocious slow-motion look-back/wave to end the film. Besides a decent investigative first act, everything else was just average and forgettable-disappointing considering the delicious corruption drama at hand. Extended tangents certainly didn’t help (see Natalie’s film and after-party; the televised debate).
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

Next (2007)

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A Las Vegas magician who can see into the future is pursued by FBI agents seeking to use his abilities to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack. (IMDb)
The main concept makes for lots of fun sequences (see Cris’ opening casino escape) but also one cheesy/creepy romantic subplot (“I’m her future”), while its dramatic potential (“Life is supposed to be a surprise, isn’t it?” “It would be nice”) is never realized. The cat-and-mouse action is entertaining when you ignore the cliche Euro villains and the fact that he’s running away from the good guys for no real reason (and he ends up helping them anyways, except not really-thanks cringe-y twist).
6/10 (Mediocre)

Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)

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Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat. (IMDb)
For a big action sci-fi, the robot vs. monster scenes are probably actually the worst part thanks to lackluster CGI and repetitive fights. Normally this would be fatal for a film of this ilk, but the plot, while not amazing, has its moments (see the effective opening world set-up, sinister Shao Corp. and twist), and I actually liked the character work this time around: Boyega’s engaging central turn makes for a likable lead and wild-eyed Newt and newbie Amara are notable supporting characters.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Jurassic World (2015)

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A new theme park, built on the original site of Jurassic Park, creates a genetically modified hybrid dinosaur, which escapes containment and goes on a killing spree. (IMDb)
I’m sure the anti-“bigger and better” thematic thread was more hypocritical than cleverly self-referential, but I appreciated it all the same (Owen has a great-and surprisingly lengthy-early back-and-forth with Hoskins: “Progress always wins” “Maybe progress should lose for once”), and so help me, despite some plot contrivances, I loved the bigger, darker dino-action (see the bird snatch) and the badass final bite. It’s decently funny too (see Lowery and his failed aftermath-kiss attempt).
7/10 (Good)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

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When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. (IMDb)
The first half contains some really great sequences; the volcano adds an exciting natural-disaster element to the dino action (see the unique sound editing of the underwater drama) and the snarky Zia and fearful Franklin are welcome additions to the cast of characters. It really starts to tire in the predictable second half though, when we’re mostly left with the two bland leads, a cliche villain, and an unexceptional big bad dino. The underlying dino-rights thread never really works either.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Ocean’s Eight (2018)

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Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala. (IMDb)
A great cast of characters led by Bullock’s brazen Debbie (“It’s what I’m good at”), Blanchett’s badass Lou (that strut!), and Hathaway’s hilarious baddie (see her necklace moans) are let down a bit by a less colourful script that too often feels like a tame retread of familiar territory. Still fun though (deflating first twist aside), with some good comedy especially in the post-heist kerfuffle carried by Corden’s earnest insurance agent (“You’ve got two of those!”). Great soundtrack too.
6.5/10 (Alright)