Angels & Demons (2009)


Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon works with a nuclear physicist to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican during one of the significant events within the church. (IMDb)
I thought this film was going to be terrible after it began with yet another enormous pile of pretentious exposition (this time about anti-matter and the Illuminati of all things) but it actually turns into a pretty decent crime thriller after the eye-rolling set-up finishes. Gruesome violence, a quick pace, and interesting underlying political intrigue in the Vatican make the stakes feel high and keep you interested in spite of relatively unengaging characters. Not sure about that twist though.
6.5/10 (Alright)



Annihilation (2018)


A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply. (IMDb)
Ultimately unhelpful flash-forwards and -backs mar an otherwise immersive (viscerally more than intellectually–the ending didn’t satisfy) sci-fi experience initiated by the haunting homecoming scene early on: solid turns, an intense score, and monumental visuals carry the film from spooky (see the first wake-up) to grisly (see the bear attack; stomach cut) to weird (see the trippy cave scene), with just an unforgettable sense of “WTF is going on!?” (both in awe and terror) pervading it all.
7.5/10 (Really Good)


Deepwater Horizon (2016)


A dramatization of the disaster in April 2010, when the offshore drilling rig called the Deepwater Horizon exploded, resulting in the worst oil spill in American history. (IMDb)
The build-up is perfect, right from the chilling opening “spoiler” audio: Excellent foreshadows (see the coke can) and an eerie soundtrack keep you on the edge of your seat amidst the well-crafted sense of normalcy (the jargon-heavy dialogue does a great job here), with the classic tension between money and safety excellently executed (Malkovich’s Vidrine is a chilling adversary). The explosion-heavy scenes that follow start to tire, but an emotionally potent epilogue is suitably cathartic.
8/10 (Great)


Super Troopers (2001)


Five Vermont state troopers, avid pranksters with a knack for screwing up, try to save their jobs and out-do the local police department by solving a crime. (IMDb)
A standard comedy in a lot of ways, with its male-dominated cast, mediocre plot, and juvenile sexual humour that accounts for most of the dud gags (see the German couple, bear sex). That said, there’s more laugh-out-loud scenes than not (see Farva at the burger joint–“don’t spit in that cop’s burger”), and the lovably corrupt (“but our shenanigans are cheeky and fun!”) crew of cops (sorry, I mean troopers) have excellent comedic chemistry and thus rarely fail to entertain throughout.
7/10 (Good)


The Lobster (2015)


In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. (IMDb)
The deadpan delivery of this disturbing dystopia is darkly witty and effectively creepy but starts to wear a little thin near the middle–but then in a brilliant move, the madness reaches its blood-on-the-bathroom-floor pinnacle, someone breaks (emotionally and literally, making a break for it), the pendulum swings, and the weird world is expanded. Strikingly shot and scored, this film raises fascinating questions on relationships and identity. Could’ve done without most of the narration though.
8.5/10 (Amazing)


Mean Streets (1973)


A small-time hood aspires to work his way up the ranks of a local mob. (IMDb)
Aesthetically, the rawness (complimented by a rocking soundtrack) is refreshing and captivating (aside from the jarringly rough-around-the-edges sound editing), as dynamic, intimate, and largely handheld camerawork follows our characters around and lends the whole thing an air of stark realism. It doesn’t work as well with the script; occasional moments of brilliance (see Johnny Boy’s initial string of excuses) are overshadowed by an amateurish story filled with inconsequential scenes.
7/10 (Good)


Lady Bird (2017)


In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California. (IMDb)
By and large just a nicely-shot and scored roller-coaster ride of short snippets of authentic, angsty teen life, marvelously written and acted, with as much laugh-out-loud humour (too-cool Kyle is a one-liner gold mine: “I’m trying to live by bartering alone”) as feisty drama (mother-daughter are the headline here; see their opening exchange in the car) and feel-good moments (see the girls at prom). The slower scenes (see post-sex) feel a little awkward in comparison, but maybe that’s the point.
8/10 (Great)