A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush. (IMDb)
Uneven, mostly for better but sometimes for worse: The fast paced story hinders good character development, comes to an unsatisfying climax, and feels a little too fantastic for its setting, but generally, splashes of dark humour (“well that’s dinner sorted!”) and silliness (see the bevy of quirky secondary characters), along with the charismatic lead kid, mesh well with the energetic editing (see the dramatic still shots of Ricky’s room; the boar slaughter) and calming scenic cinematography.
7.5/10 (Really Good)
A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. (IMDb)
Fresh right from the unabashedly joyous opening song to its road rage at first sight (such humour is tastefully dotted throughout). Their ever-after isn’t what it could have been either, but the plot’s interplay between love and individual aspiration (each are marvelously portrayed by Gosling and Stone) shows it isn’t necessarily a bad thing–a nuance that adds depth to the film’s cute romance and gorgeous aesthetic of dream-like colours and camerawork, scrumptious sets, and magical music.
A sausage strives to discover the truth about his existence. (IMDb)
The puns are okay, but the creative anthropomorphic food premise is funniest in its extreme plays on humanity’s physical aspects; namely, death (see the flour shell-shock scene, kitchen massacre) and sex (see the outrageous ending orgy). It swings and misses everywhere else, moving from a promisingly hilarious opening musical number to a swear-overloaded script with nary a clever joke, and a religion-related thesis just as lacking in subtlety. The meta-ending also felt silly and unnecessary.
The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. (IMDb)
Lots to like here, with a few concessions, in the characters (the meek and kind-hearted Newt and the fun Kowalski with a nice character arc are great, but Grindewald’s motivations needed more fleshing out); the plot (a nuanced take on good vs. evil–every party has both–is hindered by too many loose threads and a dragged-out ending); the themes (those on politics and environmental care are intriguing but surface-y); and the directing (the music and sets are excellent but the CGI is a bit much).
A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications. (IMDb)
The “communication” thematic perspective is refreshingly down-to-earth (nailed it) for an alien flick, but a mid-movie voiceover somewhat mars its thoughtful slow pace, its human-human angle feels a little forced, and the rash rebel interruption is unfounded, not to mention cliche. Small flaws aside, this remains a smart and exquisite-looking sci-fi with a memorable final act, as the bits of Louise’s emotional backstory are masterfully eased into the forefront, unraveling a stunning twist.
After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack. (IMDb)
An immediate and enrapturing atmosphere of claustrophobic anxiety and unsettling suspicion (Goodman’s great turn as the odd and volatile Howard is perfectly complimented by Winstead’s tense and assertive Michelle) is heightened nicely by an initially inscrutable third party, and given a well-timed twist (see the lady outside). Given its build-up, climax, and overall feel, the extended ending–while appreciably unexpected–feels like an entirely different movie–but it’s still a good one.
7.5/10 (Really Good)
As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise. (IMDb)
The enigmatic accountant both brilliant and bad-ass is a unique protagonist and a three-perspective approach (hero, villain, cop) offers a well-rounded study (though its occasional sentimentality feels forced–see the hotel scene). It doesn’t work quite as well in the plot delivery, as the film feels a little scattered up until the third act overloaded with twists (albeit great bow-tying ones), but its ambition should be lauded (as an aside, so should its great cinematography and soundtrack).
7.5/10 (Really Good)
A hopeless man stranded on a deserted island befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home. (IMDb)
A surreal survival story, an odd-couple comedy, and an existential drama all in one: With exquisite cinematography (slow-motion shots of butts and waves are each equally stunning), superb visual effects, and an a cappella soundtrack often featuring the characters themselves, the spiritual themes of life and love are brilliantly and uniquely weaved together with the crudely bodily: masturbation, farts, etc. The final act falters but with all its weirdness you knew it was going to be hard to land.
In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy. (IMDb)
A solid buddy-cop detective tale provides a convenient basis for a thorough and engaging exploration of the vibrant Zootopia–a modern city cleverly contorted to house anthropomorphic animals of all kinds (the DMZ sloths, Mr. Big, and the nude commune were three hilarious highlights)–which, in turn, was the perfect setting for a pointed discussion (heavy-handed at times) on racial stereotyping and discrimination. An imaginative and well voiced and animated film with a good–if not nuanced–message.
7.5/10 (Really Good)
As an investment banker struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash, his increasingly confessional series of letters to a vending machine company catch the attention of a customer service rep with whom he forms an unlikely connection. (IMDb)
“Everything is a metaphor,” says our lead early on, setting a tone uniquely free of pretentious subtlety for this intriguing, well-acted study of grief ripe with satisfying symbolism (the recurring dancing and demolition are two highlights), artistically crafted with a great soundtrack and sharp editing. Davis’ meandering, deeply personal journey at the center of it all evokes both titters and tears, despite a few unnecessary tangents (his happenstance graveyard meeting comes to mind).