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)

Predator 2 (1990)

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Amidst a territorial gang war in 1997, a sophisticated alien hunter stalks the citizens of Los Angeles and the only man between him and his prey is veteran L.A.P.D. officer, Lieutenant Mike Harrigan. (IMDb)
Lots of cringe-worthy sleazy action-movie schlock (cue the boobs and blood and Busey and cartoon-ish stereotyped baddies) but it’s mostly balanced out by the solid quartet of protagonists (Glover’s renegade Mike has a great dynamic with Paxton’s goofy Jerry) driving forward the story. The third act drags on though, and because it’s an investigative plot and not a survival one, it raises a lot of questions surrounding the Predator’s motivations (the biggest being why is here in the first place?)
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

The Old Man & the Gun (2018)

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Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker and his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. (IMDb)
Over a wonderful aesthetic (warm cinematography, clever editing, and cozy jazz), light and leisurely character set-ups (Forrest and Jewel have great banter) set the stage for a fun little plot (Affleck’s weary cop is a perfect match for Redford’s relaxed con). The final act fails to wrap things up as gracefully, however, thanks to a couple plot snags (why let him leave the bathroom, and why a horse instead of the car?) and Forrest’s now irritatingly breezy attitude in the face of adversity.
7/10 (Good)

 

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

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In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a universe of greed. (IMDb)
Its quirky exterior (love that soundtrack and those earrings) fits the story on first blush (the telemarketing bosses provide lots of laughs; Cassius is a loveable existence-pondering lead) but then through the indie candy coating burst some terrifying plot points (see the final riot through the crack) and provoking and poignant thoughts on capitalism and the normalizing of evil–all of it creating this quasi-surrealist sort of tone that’s highly discomforting in how ultimately real it feels.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when their father announces he is terminally ill. (IMDb)
Enjoyably quirky narrated character set-ups lead into a melancholic family reunion drama artistically crafted (memorable costumes and an excellent soundtrack stand out) but saturated with so much deadpan dialogue that it gets a little tiresome at points. Not all of the characters connect (Raleigh is inconsequential; Eli feels out of place) but Royal is a strong lead in his flawed quest for redemption, and Chas (see his guard let down; “I’ve had a tough year”) and Richie eventually hit home too.
7/10 (Good)