Old School (2003)


Three friends attempt to recapture their glory days by opening up a fraternity near their alma mater. (IMDb)
Call me a party-pooper, but it felt more enraging than funny watching Frank throw away his wife to live like a just-hit-puberty frat boy and Beanie pretty much do the same in spirit. Thank God for more level-headed Mitch (see his rant to Beanie), though in the end he isn’t quite enough to make the movie’s portrayal of stupidity (which does bring some decent laughs) anything more than a distasteful celebration of it. The third act with the misfits vs. uptight dean plot is slightly redeeming.
6/10 (Mediocre)

Legally Blonde (2001)


Elle Woods, a fashionable sorority queen is dumped by her boyfriend. She decides to follow him to law school, while she is there she figures out that there is more to her than just looks. (IMDb)
Plays up a lot of stereotypes–ditzy blonde only being one of them–but at least to the central one it offers a unique “both/and” response too: You can be both boy-crazy and a Harvard student; you can wear pink and be a serious lawyer (see Elle’s return to the courtroom); you can be smart and silly (see Elle’s mature grad speech ending with a squealed “We did it!”). Witherspoon, Wilson, and Coolidge with her side-romance with the handsome postman are all charming in this fluffy but pleasant flick.
6.5/10 (Alright)

The Squid and the Whale (2005)


Follows two young boys dealing with their parents’ divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s. (IMDb)
The anti-climactic ending feels inconsequential and insubstantial, which is frustrating because the bulk of the film is anything but: Literally every scene is loaded with subtle meaning as a fantastic script teases out all the interesting nooks and crannies of the tragic and often disturbing dynamics of the broken family under study. Superbly acted, with a great stop-and-go soundtrack that adds distinct flavours throughout the sharply edited (any longer and it would have been too painful) drama.
8/10 (Great)

Land of the Lost (2009)


On his latest expedition, Dr. Rick Marshall is sucked into a space-time vortex alongside his research assistant and a redneck survivalist. In this alternate universe, the trio make friends with a primate named Chaka, their only ally in a world full of dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures. (IMDb)
I think it was when Rick, Will, and their ancient primate friend Chaka are chilling in a motel pool in the middle of a dinosaur-populated desert getting high off a weird jungle fruit that I realized this movie was actually kind of good, with its zany mix of campy 50s-esque sci-fi (see the actors in alien suits) and raunchy comedy (Ferrell’s pee-drinking scene had me in stitches), not to mention a few instances of surprisingly appealing visuals (the “cosmic lost and found” scenes especially).
6.5/10 (Alright)

Kicking & Screaming (2005)


Family man Phil Weston, a lifelong victim of his father’s competitive nature, takes on the coaching duties of a kids’ soccer team, and soon finds that he’s also taking on his father’s dysfunctional way of relating… (IMDb)
A wholly uninspired underdog rag-tag kids sports story (somehow Byong Sun’s ridiculous goal still hit me in the feels though) is matched in poor quality only by the predictable yet poorly executed central character development (Phil gets real crazy real fast, and repents even faster), hit-and-miss humour (more misses, obviously; the final “balls” commercial got a laugh out of me though), and Mike Ditka’s acting skills–so yeah, I guess pretty much everything else. 0-0 tie game.
4.5/10 (Bad)

House on Haunted Hill (1959)


A millionaire offers $10,000 to five people who agree to be locked in a large, spooky, rented house overnight with him and his wife. (IMDb)
After the unnerving opening sequence, it’s mostly just an awkwardly staged melodrama with cheesy dialogue and scares and confusing characters (Vincent’s villain vacillating between sinister and clueless being the worst of them), until an excellent couple of climactic twists (marred only by one ridiculously incompetent damsel in distress) tie things together in a surprisingly satisfying manner that even the rational Dr. Trent would approve of… if he survives the night, that is! Mwahaha.
6.5/10 (Alright)

An American Tail (1986)


While emigrating to the United States, a young Russian mouse gets separated from his family and must relocate them while trying to survive in a new country. (IMDb)
Moves much too quickly throughout (Fievel and Tiger’s friendship duet seems a little premature), which makes it difficult to appreciate any of the secondary characters in particular, but each scene, however brief, communicates effectively an aspect of the surprisingly serious immigration (see Fievel’s separation) turned searching for family (see the moments of dramatic irony in New York) plot. Nice animation and a few fun songs (“There’s No Cats in America” is a highlight) round out the film.
6.5/10 (Alright)