Half Baked (1998)

Three lovable party buds try to bail their friend out of jail. But just when the guys have mastered a plan, everything comes dangerously close to going up in smoke. (Letterboxd)
A half-baked story, a fully-baked storyteller, and Old James (no wait, he wasn’t there, I don’t even know nobody named Old James) lend the film a certain smoggy air of awkward, stilted, fairy tale-like charm (Mary [Jane] Poppins-esque green-screen flying and all) but the good bits (e.g. guy on the couch, “janitor” and “scientist”) are outnumbered by the bad ones: namely, a gross jail caricature (rape, always hilarious), eye-rolling scantily-clad henchwomen, and a romance that’s hard to root for.
6/10 (Mediocre)

Con Air (1997)

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Newly paroled ex-con and former U.S. Ranger Cameron Poe finds himself trapped in a prisoner transport plane when the passengers seize control. (IMDb)
A solid action-thriller with some excellent hair, I mean flair, like a sweaty, golden-maned Nic Cage in a southern drawl delivering lines like “Don’t treat women like that” and “I’m going to show you God does exist”, plus weirdly sappy bookending scenes. Not without flaws (the final chase was overkill) or truly WTF-moments though (the horrible treatment of the Indigenous prisoner, the baffling redemption arc for an inconsequential mass murderer side character, the TV sitcom-esque end credits).
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

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Two business rivals who despise each other in real life unwittingly fall in love over the Internet. (IMDb)
The dated email motif fortunately stays in the background, so the first two acts end up being quite engaging, with the leads exuding charm and chemistry in a dramatic irony plot that’s fleshed out really nicely in the clever cinematography, thoughtful voiceovers, and online vs. offline character development. The third act adds emotion (“Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself?”) but also discomfort with the halved irony and weird end to the big box vs. small shop sub-plot.
7/10 (Good)

 

A Star Is Born (2018)

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A musician helps a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral. (IMDb)
The songs are great, but the “star is born” plot is so cheesy it feels like it was written by a 12-year old (“so he heard me sing my song and then invited me on his private jet and i toured with him and got a record deal and won a grammy…”)–and same with the cliche “controlling manager” thread that isn’t even committed to. Jackson’s arc comes to a poignant end and is compelling when taken on its own, but not so much when the film keeps misogynistically glossing over it in favour of romance.
6/10 (Mediocre)