A musician helps a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral. (IMDb)
The songs are great, but the “star is born” plot is so cheesy it feels like it was written by a 12-year old (“so he heard me sing my song and then invited me on his private jet and i toured with him and got a record deal and won a grammy…”)–and same with the cliche “controlling manager” thread that isn’t even committed to. Jackson’s arc comes to a poignant end and is compelling when taken on its own, but not so much when the film keeps misogynistically glossing over it in favour of romance.
A tough Russian policeman is forced to partner up with a cocky Chicago police detective when he is sent to Chicago to apprehend a Georgian drug lord who killed his partner and fled the country. (IMDb)
Surprisingly serious in tone, for the better–the odd couple buddy cop comedy (see Danko after the interrogation: “Soviet method is more economical”) is merely sprinkled tastefully throughout what is an actually quite solid and well-paced crime thriller set in the gritty streets of Chicago. Nothing crazy (you know, aside from the climactic bus chase), just solid scenes of detective work and bad guy chases. And there’s some subtle character development too (see the humorous final gift exchange).
Communist Radicals hijack Air Force One with The U.S. President and his family on board. The Vice President negotiates from Washington D.C., while the President, a Veteran, fights to rescue the hostages on board. (IMDb)
Fairly generic America-centric terrorist-thriller with a foreign villain who actually makes some good points, but they’re literally never acknowledged by the person he’s talking to (the surprisingly poignant moral self-examination of the President’s opening speech disappears from the script quite quickly). Still, the limited claustrophobic setting contributes to a number of suspenseful hide-and-seek sequences, and the action’s decent even if the visual effects are pretty cringe-worthy.
In the 1950s, a music director falls in love with a singer and tries to persuade her to flee communist Poland for France. (IMDb)
A masterpiece in visual storytelling–not a shot nor a line of dialogue feels wasted, and remarkably the film is able to span 10+ years and multiple countries in 90 minutes without feeling rushed or choppy. The characters and the romance plot do lack a bit of substance, but somehow the stunning cinematography and strong, subtle turns from the two leads together are able to convey an intangible sort of depth hidden in the passionate looks of the couple and the probing, poignant eye of the camera.
In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. (IMDb)
Despite great turns from the three leads, it initially comes off feeling a little long, cold, and empty (though the style is fabulous-see the elaborate costumes and sets contrasted with the curt, crass dialogue; the marvelous cinematography and editing-love those fish-eye shots and slow cross-fades). Upon further rumination though the chilling arc for Stone’s Abigail comes into focus, as does the intriguing commentary on the volatile mix of political power games with romance and relationships.
7.5/10 (Really Good)
A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life. (IMDb)
“Workaholic dad realizes family is most important.” This main arc is as generic as they come and the ending as happy as can be, but when it’s plodding Pooh (of little brain but much wizened patience and childlike heart) and the rest of the heartmelting-ly silly and sweet forest gang (adorably animated) guiding it along it’s nearly completely forgiven. A magical score ensures the tears flow as Pooh and co. with red balloon in tow conquer stress and selfishness with peace, love, and honey.
7.5/10 (Really Good)
Johnny English goes up against international assassins hunting down the Chinese premier. (IMDb)
Has a few good sequences (see the clever spoof of the classic rooftop chase, pointless helicopter hijack, awkwardly delayed bathroom confrontation) but also some cringe-worthy ones (see the opening Tibet training montage, life-saving kiss). Most of the rest is in between–a mediocre spy plot (who was this murderous lady who kept showing up?) slathered with slight-chuckle-worthy slapstick and dramatic irony along the lines of the first film, just with a little less luster this time around.