2012 (2009)

A frustrated writer struggles to keep his family alive when a series of global catastrophes threatens to annihilate mankind. (IMDb)
It’s intense, no doubt, but in a discomforting, empty sort of way-feels hard to feel relief at the constant near escapes of our protagonists when 99.9% of the rest of the world is completely annihilated in massive dumps of CGI. On one hand, this numbness as a response to such widespread devastation rings partially true, but on the other, it speaks to a certain blockbuster gloss that leaves the film’s themes of human desperation and end-of-the-world values inconsistent and underdeveloped.
6/10 (Mediocre)

The Old Guard (2020)

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A covert team of immortal mercenaries are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered. (IMDb)
Gets a (barely) passing grade for its diverse cast and millennia-worth of potential (gimme more of the emotion found in Joe’s boyfriend speech and those witch-trial flashbacks). The plotting is a mess and the central thread just doesn’t click–we’re supposed to root for this superhero team against the people trying to control them but we never actually see them being superheroes, just murdering the people trying to control them. Terrible dialogue and bland cinematography don’t help matters.
5/10 (Poor)

 

Come Sunday (2018)

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Evangelist Carlton Pearson is ostracized by his church for preaching that there is no Hell. (IMDb)
The Christian jargon often comes off as a little wooden; maybe it’s because a lot of it feels like it would’ve had to be indoctrinated (Carl’s reasoning at the heresy trial spoke well to this), but the more progressive theology is a bit ham-fisted too. Ejiofor is excellent though, as an imperfect man wrestling with tradition, conviction, and consequences, and along with beautiful cinematography and a solid score this makes for a number of powerful scenes that overshadow most kinks in the script.
7/10 (Good)

 

Doctor Strange (2016)

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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.
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)

12 Years a Slave (2013)

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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.
8/10 (Great)