Good Time (2017)

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After a heist goes awry, a bank robber spends a night trying to free his mentally handicapped brother from being sent to Riker’s Island prison. (IMDb)
Claustrophobic, anxiety-provoking, and just generally discomforting: All negative descriptors, but in this case they’re just a testament to the gripping atmosphere created by the well-crafted gritty thriller script (Ray’s tangential story was the one hiccup), memorable turns and score, and bold camerawork (see the glut of shaky close-ups, birds-eye car shots). All of this is brilliantly bookended by two tear-jerking scenes of innocence that stand in sharp contrast to the grime in the middle.

9/10 (Amazing)

– #6 on my Top 10 Most Underrated Films list

 

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Airplane! (1980)

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A man afraid to fly must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick. (IMDb)
A comedy film in the truest sense of the term: Literally not a scene goes by without a joke or two or three, and I wish I could mention them all: The one-off ones are certainly hilarious (see Kramer talking to no one), as are the random background visual gags (see doing the laundry at the control tower), but it’s the repeated ones that really take the cake (see Striker’s unfortunate seatmates), especially the ones that don’t even start out funny (“Looks like I picked the wrong week…”).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Stripes (1981)

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Two friends who are dissatisfied with their jobs decide to join the army for a bit of fun. (IMDb)
Thanks largely to its tried and true “ragtag team of misfits” trope (gotta love Candy), this has its moments (see the platoon’s unimpressive obstacle course run, unconventional graduation drill routine, conflict with uptight captain), but leads Ramis and Murray’s cocky slacker schtick is annoying more often than funny, and their tangential exploits are the same (their flirtations–not to mention the unbearable mud wrestling scene–reek of misogyny, and the trip to Czechoslovakia was just silly).
5.5/10 (Poor)

 

Mudbound (2017)

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Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war. (IMDb)
There’s a billion different plot threads here over a years-long time span but the potent mixture of blood (see Jamie and Ronsel’s harrowing experiences abroad and at home), sweat (see the farm work scenes throughout), tears (see Laura’s breakdown), and mud (see the gritty landscapes) adeptly sticks them all together to form a powerful meditation (literally–see the multi-perspective narration throughout) on the poverty and racism of rural 40s Mississippi. Strongly acted, shot, and directed.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

The Shape of Water (2017)

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At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity. (IMDb)
Any shallowness or slight weirdness of the central romance is swept away by the film’s superbly engaging storybook feel. Tasteful bits of narration (the ending poem is lovely) bookend a satisfyingly spun (and lovingly scored and shot) fairy tale of charming outsiders (Elisa’s the perfect “strong and silent” protagonist-see her “FU” to Strickland) and menacing monsters (the prejudice of the 50s setting adds an effective dramatic element). Whimsical humour and poignant recurring motifs top it off.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

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The story of Frank Abagnale Jr., before his 19th birthday, successfully forged millions of dollars’ worth of checks while posing as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and legal prosecutor as a seasoned and dedicated FBI agent pursues him. (IMDb)
Yes, it’s a supremely fun (and perfectly directed) cat-and-mouse crime caper (Frank’s slick cons–see especially his original confrontation with Carl–are complimented by his less-than-perfect attempts–“The dog was dead”–and Hanks’ charmingly no-nonsense FBI agent–“Go fuck yourself”), but two excellent character dynamics wonderfully acted (see lonely Jr. trying to please the stubbornly proud Sr.; Carl with a soft spot for Frank–see after his arrest: “Don’t worry, Frank!” ) make it so much more.
9/10 (Amazing)

 

Mean Girls (2004)

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Cady Heron is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George. (IMDb)
The plot is conventional and a little unsatisfying and unrealistic near the end (see Cady taking all the blame, then making everything okay with one speech) but a lively script populated by plenty of memorable one-liners (“Is butter a carb?”), quirky side characters (see weary Mr. Duvall, gangsta math geek Kevin), and funny unconventional asides (see the teens like animals bits) entertains, and the epilogue is touching (“All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you”).
7/10 (Good)