Batman Returns (1992)

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Batman returns to the big screen when a deformed man calling himself the Penguin wreaks havoc across Gotham with the help of a cruel businessman. (IMDb)
The recurring secret vs. public identity dynamic for all four of the main players makes for some intriguing tension and drama (see Bruce and Salina’s battles and flirts; Shreck and Oswald’s campaign). Batman’s fall from grace is another compelling, if brief, plot thread. Unfortunately there’s still lots of cheesiness here too (see the penguin suicide bombers, penguin pallbearers, penguin duck boats?). The one-liners are hit (“life’s a bitch and now so am I”) or miss (anything by gross Penguin).
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

L.A. Confidential (1997)

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As corruption grows in 1950s LA, three policemen – one strait-laced, one brutal, and one sleazy – investigate a series of murders with their own brand of justice. (IMDb)
A classy 1950s-set crime drama with a focus on the cops instead of the criminals-or are they the same thing? Corruption abounds in this intricately written neo-noir that showcases the shady schemes found on both sides of the law. The three-pronged set of policemen protagonists and their distinct character arcs give the narrative a uniquely varied and diverse perspective, although the emotional impact that can be garnered from a single character focus is lacking, despite the hints at backstories.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Matilda (1996)

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Story of a wonderful little girl, who happens to be a genius, and her wonderful teacher vs. the worst parents ever and the worst school principal imaginable. (IMDb)
The narrative here is pure, kid-minded, free-spirited fun: A cute children vs. adults motif (“I’m big, you’re small”) is filled out by a few hilariously exaggerated antagonists (see DeVito [puzzlingly also the amiable narrator] as the brash book-hating dad, Ferris as the child-throwing principal), an adorable protagonist with great gifts of genius and magic to live vicariously through, and many satisfying moments of child rebellion (see the ridiculous but tear-jerking chocolate cake triumph).
7/10 (Good)