Sicario (2015)

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An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. (IMDb)
The incredible technical aspects (consistently unique and beautiful camerawork with some stunning bird’s eye views, a marvelous use of sound, and two particularly gut-wrenching themes–one dark, one mournful–all impeccably edited–see the captivating convoy journey into Mexico) and solid, subtle acting only make the poorly written script (details are left out and questions arise at every plot turn) all the more frustrating. It’s hard to get engaged when the stakes are constantly unclear.
7/10 (Good)

Hot Pursuit (2015)

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An uptight and by-the-book cop tries to protect the outgoing widow of a drug boss as they race through Texas pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen. (IMDb)
Like most buddy cop/odd couple comedies, this one has a forgettable plot and shallow characters, but unfortunately, it’s never really funny enough to make up for it. Aside from a few good gags (see the increasing age/decreasing height of the ongoing news reports; the chatty Cooper on cocaine; the wild tourist bus ride), the humour is mostly just mediocre slapstick and Witherspoon and Vergara hamming up their tiresome and stereotypical caricatures (sexy, loud Latina; uptight, insecure cop).
5.5/10 (Poor)

The Visit (2015)

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Two siblings become increasingly frightened by their grandparents’ disturbing behavior while visiting them on vacation. (IMDb)

A charming adolescent amateur-doc delivery gives this flick a relatable spooky-fun sort of feel in its kid-investigation first two acts featuring an enjoyable smattering of random creepy events (see especially Grandma’s nighttime escapades). Its believability comes into question post-(great)twist as the action picks up, but it makes it no less chilling. The family drama vacillates between feeling like an enriching and an irrelevant sub-plot but is consistently well-acted (Hahn especially).

7/10 (Good)

Vacation (2015)

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Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a road trip to “Walley World” in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons. (IMDb)
No, it’s not a particularly clever comedy (the “what could go wrong?” formula provides most of the jokes–usually telegraphed and juvenile) and the family bonding/marital drama sub-scenes are bland (family vs. family brawl and roller-coaster sing-along–regrettably cut off–aside), but so help me, I still laughed quite a bit (a few highlights: Day’s self-destructive rafting guide, Rusty as a terrible wing-man for his son, classic Clark fumbling a guitar, hot springs mix-up, police stand-off).
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Ant-Man (2015)

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Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. (IMDb)

The estranged father-daughter duo is a little too brooding at times; thankfully, Rudd’s likeably lighthearted Scott and his buds (Pena’s excitable yet dim Luis steals every scene he’s in) provide enough ant-ics to break up the predictable melodrama, not to mention keep the standard superhero plot (cue the power-hungry villain) in check. The shrinking premise, meanwhile, adds a cool element to the action and even briefly probes questions of time and space (see Scott’s sub-nuclear fall).

7/10 (Good)

The Martian (2015)

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An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. (IMDb)
A skimming over of emotions and the consequences of time (particularly with the crew’s decision to go back) are the only standout flaws in this exhilarating thriller featuring a fast-paced back-and-forth between satisfying survival science-ing on Mars (Damon’s Mark adds a wry wit to the proceedings) and tense rescue-planning on Earth (a refreshingly diverse cast shines here). Any lack of suspense in the quickly solved conflicts of the first half is made up for in the nail-biting climax.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

The Intern (2015)

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70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin. (IMDb)
With his easygoing disposition, old-school work habits (“can’t leave til the boss leaves”), and wisdom overflowing, De Niro’s Ben is beyond adorable, heading a generation comparison that focuses on more than just easy cultural contrasts (still good; see his attache case), crafting dynamic relationships that bridge the age gap in hilarious (see the Ocean’s heist adventure) and moving ways (see the hotel scene with an excellent Hathaway). Matt’s cliche apology was an out-of-place climax though.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Goosebumps (2015)

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A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware. (IMDb)
An uninteresting new kid in town narrative doesn’t get much of a boost from the main sci-fi plot: It’s one-note (get rid of the monsters!), poorly founded (“one day they became real!”), and doesn’t fulfill the potential of its meta aspects (Stine’s backstory was left to a couple lines). Meanwhile, Minnette is fine and Black has his moments, but Rush (love interest) is forgettable and Lee (quirky friend) is just plain bad and unfunny. Only the inept cops of two scenes manage to generate laughs.
5/10 (Poor)

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

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High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer. (IMDb)
Beautiful and uniquely shot cinematography (with good music) and an engaging narrated story set-up (with its fair share of quirky characters–see Offerman’s oddball dad) set a nice tone for this indie flick that does falter slightly in its storytelling (see Greg’s weakly justified narration lie, him and Earl’s unfounded fallout, the slightly dragged out ending), but some poignant time-passing montages and climactic scenes (the hospital film viewing, Greg exploring Rachel’s room) do wonders.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Spy (2015)

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A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster. (IMDb)
A forgettable plot is saved by its fresh and funny characters that subvert the spy genre’s typical line-up by poking fun at the alpha male (Statham’s satire is gold–see his hilarious boat farewell) and putting the females at the forefront, with Byrne as the ridiculous villain and McCarthy (still with her usual arsenal of great vulgar one-liners) as the unassuming desk worker who’s actually super smart and bad-ass. Surprisingly awesome action is also notable (see Susan’s kitchen fight with Lia).
7/10 (Good)