A grumpy Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) plots to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville. (IMDb)
The decently enjoyable lightheartedness of the first two acts (pleasant animation and voicework provide some chuckle-worthy gags and fun sequences) grows by three sizes in the third as the Grinch’s redemption arc is completed with a refreshing and poignant childlike straight-forwardness (“It was me. I stole your Christmas. I stole it because I thought it would fix something from the past. But it didn’t”). Doesn’t break any new ground but it sure broke my tear ducts wide open in the end.
A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts. (IMDb)
Falls prey to a few tiresome cliches (an unremarkable villain played by Mads Mikkelsen; our hero finishing training just in time for a world catastrophe) but subverts others (see the brains over brawn climax). Thoughtful discourse on violence and “the greater good”, loads of ambitious and interesting visuals, a unique blend of ancient-exotic and modern America settings with the dashes of lightheartedness and unique situations that result (see The Ancient One in the hospital) are more pros.
The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. (IMDb)
Depp puts in a good turn as the menacing lead (the “I thought it was a family secret” moment is excellent), but while Bulger’s biography is well-paced and structured, there’s nothing unique or spectacular to separate it from other similar gangster movies; it covers all the bases but never soars high or digs deep. Instead, it’s Edgerton’s slimy FBI agent that steals the show, particularly in the final act as he starts to flounder in his falsities. A better “cop” flick than a “robber” one.
In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. (IMDb)
The significance of the mid-narrative opening scene still isn’t clear as it’s returned to later on, but it’s the only thing that doesn’t connect in this affecting and well-acted (Fassbender is a highlight) period piece. McQueen’s direction is laudably and fittingly unrelenting and inaccessible, with achingly long takes (see Solomon’s tiptoe hanging) and unflinching scenes of violence (see Patsy’s whipping). Bursts of tense music also add emotional nuance to the typical sentimental soundtrack.