A great first two acts (on that note, the acting is excellent–Cheadle is hilarious) with its outrageously funny satire of academia (see the swirling professor duel), quirky family drama (the overlapping dialogue is edited to perfection), and oddball apocalyptic comedy all mashed together and drenched with existential dread. The third act is no less full of things to dissect but the characters make weird choices and it kinda loses the plot, literally, and thus any sort of momentum it had too.
Nothing amasing (the central premise is pretty flimsy–what exactly is the competition?) but it’s hard to go wrong with a colourful cast of celebrity animals, each with their own storyline of easily engaging, moderate turmoil, breaking out of their oppressive environment (see gruff dad but also jail when gruff dad learns to love his son and will stop at nothing to tell him) while also breaking out in (catchy pop) song (each one hits the right notes at the end). Good humour too (see the car wash).
Women talking. Men listening. Polley does an excellent job of centering the women’s stories while also, graciously, giving us a glimpse of an ally. The writing and performances brim with nuance and power; the soundtrack is sublime. The women’s circular, gradual journey towards a decision is mesmerizing. No political bullshit, no power-hungry posturing, no patriarchal red tape. Just raw, unfiltered dialogue, with hands on shoulders, songs in the air, and everyone from young to old with a voice.
The engaging ragtag team formula is executed with nary a hitch here; everyone is charming, from the pine-worthy leading man, appreciably humbled (“What is it, exactly, that you bring to this?”) to the badass leading woman, given a touching dramatic arc (“Don’t tell me you wasted it on me”), who together form a unique family bond, solidified with the surprising emotional nuance of Edgin’s final realization. Fun fantasy action, colourful world building, and near-perfect humour round things out.
Works well as a hostage thriller (weird and unnecessary introductions of the eventual overseas characters aside): Foster’s a good director and Roberts is too; Clooney is less dialed in and the cop angle is generic but O’Connell is excellent and provides a great beating-heart emotion to the proceedings. Not all of the commentary on Wall Street economics or the plot and character development in the third act hits home (Lee’s hero arc feels too easy) but the film’s overall structure is solid.
A perfectly paced procedural (the suffocating length of the case is captured really well–see the provoking time titles) with a horror aura, as striking cinematography sweeps across bleak and poisoned corporate and natural landscapes and with each new shocking discovery and small success we see more of the central monster. Hathaway’s Sarah veers occasionally into generic wife character territory but is fortunately given a few notable dialogues that flesh her out a bit. Well scored and acted.
Another fun helping of adventure: the locales are varied and exciting and the action set pieces are expectedly wild (see the mandrills on the swinging bridges). The comedy’s a mixed bag; slow-talking Hart is hilarious (“Who is Jumanji?” “Is that Barbara’s boy?”), but no one seems to be able to do a Danny DeVito impression. The drama doesn’t really work (Spencer’s arc was a nice thought but it resolves too easily; the Milo-Eddie tension comes out of nowhere and feels like an unecessary aside).
A quirky short film-like premise gets expertly expanded under vast Irish sky, casually meandering like a stroll down to the shore and back up to the pub into the territories of pure drama and absurdist dark comedy, respectively. What is a friendship? What is a life well-lived? “How’s the despair?” These questions are bandied about in a snappy, smart script (Dominic’s tragic arc felt disconnected though), perfectly acted out. Siobahn’s a perfect third character (“You’re *all* fucking boring!”).
Tonally more of a bleak war movie more than a high-energy superhero one; the added weight and maturity in the script is refreshing, though the interesting dramatic dynamic of two oppressed nations on edge deserved a more nuanced climax and resolve than a generic and uncomfortable green-screen battle that ends abruptly. Fantastic turns by Wright, Bassett, and Huerta in particular accentuate some great character work though, especially for the grief-stricken Shuri. Great visuals and music.
A little convoluted (really odd how Mr. Sulky Hoodie was over it so quickly at the end there), with an unnecessary thread or two (the mom grief was a one and done scene) but I guess that’s the tricky web of teenage romance and self-discovery for ya. You can see the ending coming 4 times around the track away but you’re still rooting for leading lady Lara Jean the whole time. Fun edits (fantasy and reality are mashed together in amusing ways) and cinematography (lots of whip pans) top things off.