The Beguiled (2017)

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The unexpected arrival of a wounded Union soldier at a girls school in Virginia during the American Civil War leads to jealousy and betrayal. (IMDb)
The slow first two acts are a fairly bland main course (colourless cinematography and a lack of music don’t help) but in hindsight they do well in setting up the thrilling third act dessert with its deliciously sinister climax and brilliant cherry-on-top final shot (with ominous score icing): the women played with the polite man until his destructive patriarchal power emerged and threatened, and now the understanding of the titular character(s) is subverted. Kidman’s turn is a chilling standout.
7/10 (Good)

 

Widows (2018)

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Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms. (IMDb)
Great cast, cool flourishes (see the car-convo tracking shot), but never gets into a good groove (maybe for a few minutes during its heist prep montage). There’s a grief-themed character study, a women-empowerment thread, a shady politics sub-plot, and a heist movie all thrown in there-all with potential, but focusing on just two of the four would’ve made for a more impactful film. As it is, it feels disjointed (the attempt at a plot-tying twist only raises more questions) and is hard to get into.
6.5/10 (Alright)

The Lobster (2015)

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In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. (IMDb)
The deadpan delivery of this disturbing dystopia is darkly witty and effectively creepy but starts to wear a little thin near the middle–but then in a brilliant move, the madness reaches its blood-on-the-bathroom-floor pinnacle, someone breaks (emotionally and literally, making a break for it), the pendulum swings, and the weird world is expanded. Strikingly shot and scored, this film raises fascinating questions on relationships and identity. Could’ve done without most of the narration though.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

Horrible Bosses (2011)

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Three friends conspire to murder their awful bosses when they realize they are standing in the way of their happiness. (IMDb)
Seven great characters deliver brashly hilarious material following from an outrageous premise to create an overall solid comedy: Bateman, Sudekis (the straight guys), and Day (the maniacal third wheel) share great chemistry (their frantic dialogue is gold) that only gets better as the plot gets crazier; the three antagonists are each wildly funny and terrible in their own right; and Foxx’ underwhelming bad-ass is a total riot (“I need $5000.” “No.” “Alright, look, just pay for my drinks.”)
7/10 (Good)

Minority Report (2002)

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In a future where a special police unit is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes, an officer from that unit is himself accused of a future murder. (IMDb)
The futuristic setting gets a little cheesy at points (see the magic glove and the weirdly bad quality hologram-video) and its dull colouring stale, but the future-predicting police premise is undoubtedly cool, and it produces a terrific twisting pseudo-murder mystery plot (with good turns from Farrell and Cruise) and some intriguing discussion on predestination vs. free will and the ethics of “pre-crime” (although the morality of keeping captive the three fortune-tellers is left unaddressed).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen. (IMDb)
A wonderfully crafted screenplay carries this touching character-driven drama:The present-time tale of rude and uptight P.L. Travers as she struggles with her book’s film adaptation is broken up by beautifully-shot scenes of her tragic childhood that gradually seep into and enlighten the current story as the complexity of her character is unraveled. Standard bits of sentimentality and humour shine bright amidst this deep script and round out a well-acted and thoughtfully written film.
8/10 (Great)