Finding Nemo (2003)

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After his son is captured in the Great Barrier Reef and taken to Sydney, a timid clownfish sets out on a journey to bring him home. (IMDb)
A simple yet heartfelt adventure story is packed full of intense action (the final net sequence post-ending felt unnecessary though) and memorable (often hilarious) side characters whilst overflowing with overwhelming emotional depth, from the heartwarming main premise (the “Did you hear?” montage is a tearjerker) to the heartbreaking opening scene, to the nuanced dynamic between Dory and Marlin throughout (I don’t want to forget!” “I do.”). Beautifully animated and stunningly scored to boot.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

Tropic Thunder (2008)

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Through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying. (IMDb)
Occasionally slips into lackluster-ly standard low-brow humour (dancing aside, Grossman is a bit much, and so was Kirk and Tugg’s convo about Simple Jack), but the satirical meta-movie framework that pervades the film offers loads of laughs, from the uproarious opening trailers, news clips, and initial action sequence (the first act was definitely the best) to the ongoing naivety of Stiller’s action star and stubbornness of RDJ’s method actor as contrasted with Baruchel’s earnest Kevin.
7/10 (Good)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

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An old Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur in the American South have a relationship that grows and improves over the years. (IMDb)
With good acting, charming dialogue, and cute Americana sets over a cozy 20 year span, the film has a mature subtlety to it that makes for pleasant viewing, whether it’s the early crotchety-old-lady comedy or the feel-good fodder later on (see the graveyard scene). Yet as many potential points of conflict come and go without ever really developing you’re left wanting and waiting for some dramatic weight that never comes: The final scene was cute, then, but could’ve been a lot more meaningful.
7/10 (Good)

Sideways (2004)

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Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment embark on a week-long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle. (IMDb)
The constant wine talk, hazy California landscapes, smooth montages, and always-lingering chill jazz soundtrack certainly help, but ultimately its the subtle comedy and natural drama of the script that makes this film go down so easy and leave you wanting more by the end. Given the strength of the interplay between Miles and Jack it would have been nice to see more growth out of the latter (his breakdown in the hotel rang a little hollow) but Miles’ ending left a great taste in the mouth.
8/10 (Great)

War of the Worlds (2005)

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As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival. (IMDb)
There are some great set pieces and special effects here that combine with consistently tense action and adventure–spiked with just the right amount of chilling horror–to keep you entertained despite a script that continually raises questions (why didn’t Ray immediately go back to his children when things started happening? Why was Robbie so insistent upon fighting the aliens–and how did he get back?) and disappoints (the neglectful Dad sub-plot doesn’t come to any kind of climax or resolve).
6.5/10 (Alright)

13 Going on 30 (2004)

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A girl makes a wish on her thirteenth birthday, and wakes up the next day as a thirty-year-old woman. (IMDb)
Garner and Ruffalo are both pretty adorable and genuine in their roles, which is in the end what keeps you engaged in what is only a so-so story: There are a few fun moments (see the Thriller dance) but any of the significant and/or meaningful plot points (see Matt’s speech on his wedding day; Jenna coming home to her parents) are kind of butchered by the dues ex machina–which still could have salvaged what had been built up if it hadn’t promptly and unrealistically jumped 17 years ahead again.
6/10 (Mediocre)

Lost in Translation (2003)

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A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. (IMDb)
Just a hug would have been better, but aside from that and a few other missteps in the final act (the singer sleepover came out of nowhere), it’s the ultimate in soothing cinema, thanks to its down-to-earth script that manages to capture all the beauty (and often humour) found in the mundane things of hotel/tourist life and friendship (see the falling asleep while talking scene). Solidly acted and remarkably edited and scored, it’s a marvel of refreshing authenticity (see the first night out).
8/10 (Great)