The Aviator (2004)

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Thinking he can overshadow an unknown actress in the part, an egocentric actor unknowingly gets a witch cast in an upcoming television remake of the classic show “Bewitched”. (Letterboxd)
All the right ingredients for a compelling biopic: Great turns (Leo’s a good lead but Kate, I mean Cate, is a standout support), a complex character to study, and an epic plot that flies high (the dual ambitions in film and aviation make for a riveting back-and-forth script) but also digs deep (“Howard, we’re not like everyone else. Too many acute angles”). Interesting editing adds some spice while a soaring climax and a great final line wrap things up nicely (“the way of the future…”).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)

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The animals try to fly back to New York City, but crash-land on an African wildlife refuge, where Alex is reunited with his parents. (IMDb)
Starts off a little rough with a cheesy flashback, yet another rendition of “Move It” (enough already), and a contrived four-fold character-growth set-up in a far-fetched multi-animal tribe, but the penguins keep you engaged (I’ll never tire of their hijinx) and the adventure plot sparked by a touching Alex-Marty moment picks things up with a number of memorable scenes both hilarious (see Julian’s sacrifice bit; the Penguins’ union negotiations) and moving (see the father-son dance diversion).
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

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Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong. (IMDb)
“So where are we going?” “So what’s the plan?” I feel like these exact phrases have been used so many times in every M:I flick but call me Pavlov’s pup cuz the way they’re continually followed by second-to-none, high-octane action, I’ll continue to salivate at their delivery. Gorgeous scenery accompanies the action here (that helicopter chase was just amazing), as does some engaging, twisty-turny espionage (the additions of Cavill’s moody Walker and Kirby’s enigmatic White Widow help here).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

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Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF. (IMDb)
A ridiculous, fantastic opening sequence with Cruise’s all-in-all-the-time Hunt (“I’m not in the plane, I’m ON the plane!”) sets the stage for another wonderful batch of thrilling action that is just so insane and entertaining and well-made that you often forget what the plot is in the midst of it-and this time around the plot has its moments of deeper intrigue and character nuance (Ilsa’s a nice addition here, sans those gratuitous bod shots) like M:I 1, so it’s not like that’s not saying much.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

The Departed (2006)

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An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston. (IMDb)

The double-deception plot is almost too perfect, given all the suspense and intrigue it generates, and with DiCaprio’s violent Billy and Damon’s more subtly unscrupulous Colin, offers a nuanced take on good guy and bad guy archetypes that’s further complicated by a smoky love triangle sub-plot and capped off by a bloody, twist-filled final act (the final shot was admittedly a bit much). Colourful dialogue and great gritty music and cinematography round out this impeccably acted crime drama.

8.5/10 (Amazing)

Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)

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When an affluent couple lose all their money following a series of blunders, they turn to a life of crime to make ends meet. (IMDb)
The story is quite unrealistic, but considering its themes (the suburban and corporate aspects of the American Dream), its extreme highs and lows make it feel more like an appreciably goofy satire than a desperate low-grade comedy. With a good amount of rambunctious plot-based humour (see Dick’s illegal immigration and lawn stealing) and a fun go-for-broke premise, this is a decent film, even though it lacks any real character development or narrative depth.
6.5/10 (Alright)

The Good Shepherd (2006)

The slow and brooding nature of the movie is in itself attractive, but it drags down the film when paired with a plot that is consistently difficult to latch onto. Damon is excellent, and his character’s uncomfortable family drama provides some engaging moments, but the central CIA birth-story fails to connect on a character level (despite a good cast) or a story level (despite an intriguing premise), making the film a chore to get through, especially considering its lengthy run time.
6/10 (Mediocre)