Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

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Famed archaeologist/adventurer Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones is called back into action when he becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls. (IMDb)
A classic straightaway action sequence is followed by a great plot set-up that introduces an enjoyable new sidekick (LaBeouf’s greaser) while offering some rambunctious initial fun (see the bar escape; motorcycle chase; Ford’s library one-liner) in a glossed-up 50s Americana setting. The adventure only gets amped up from there, but obvious CGI often brings it down (see the jungle sequence), and the increasingly ridiculous sci-fi plot certainly doesn’t help matters. Still an entertaining watch.
7/10 (Good)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

A meek hobbit of the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring and the dark lord Sauron. (IMDb)

The mix of breathtaking bird’s eye pans and intense facial close-ups here showcase a layered tale that’s as much of a heartfelt character drama as a grand fantasy epic, with as many internal battles as external ones, and pleasant bits of humour from the homey hobbits sprinkled amongst the haughty and thick war talk that keep the narrative from melodramatic cliches. Excellent acting, music, and time-tested special effects ensure that this wonderful story’s film adaptation won’t soon be forgotten.

9.0/10

#9 on my Complete Film Rankings list

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son. (IMDb)

Visually, a delight (clashing underwater animation aside), with its meticulously crafted sets, distinct costumes, and cheeky screenplay (lots of incidental eating) captured by beautifully-framed shots. This marvelous aesthetic is complimented nicely by a mellow soundtrack (Jorge is great) and excellent deadpan humour. The dry script delivery doesn’t work as well with the drama–it mostly fails to engage, despite great turns from Murray and Blanchett–but a moving climax helps to entrench it a bit.

7.6/10