The Italian Job (2003)

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After being betrayed and left for dead in Italy, Charlie Croker and his team plan an elaborate gold heist against their former ally. (IMDb)
The first two acts hit all the right beats for a fun heist plot, including a couple well-timed “wrench-in-the-plan” twists, keeping it engaging through some less-than-stellar humour and characterization (Theron’s Stella is tragically reduced to nothing more than a “got girl” by movie’s end in a vomit-inducing end credits scene). The great car-chase action of the third act, meanwhile, leads to a less than satisfying deus-ex-machina ending courtesy of some unnecessary side characters.
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

Ad Astra (2019)

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Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe. (IMDb)
The at times brooding, at times exciting, but always compelling premise of space/self-exploration, combined with the appreciably contemplative pace, breathtaking atmosphere/visuals (heh), and solid central performance could’ve made this a mesmerizing experience if it wasn’t for the ultimately underwhelming and sometimes cliche voice-over ruminations, climactic encounter, and main character arc (the initially reserved and enigmatic Roy feels more like the typical generic leading man by the end).
7/10 (Good)

 

Animal House (1978)

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At a 1962 college, Dean Vernon Wormer is determined to expel the entire Delta Tau Chi Fraternity, but those troublemakers have other plans for him. (IMDb)
Ha ha! Look at the silly boy under the bleachers violate a woman’s privacy! Ha ha! Look at the silly virgin consider raping a passed out girl and then get called “homo” when he chooses not to! Ha ha! Look at the silly friends run away screaming from the scary black people! Ha ha! What a bunch of goofballs! Get the fuck outta here, Animal House. Dumb and mischievous protagonists are funny (see the cafeteria load-up, courtroom contrast), ones with a disturbing disregard for others are not.
3/10 (Awful)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

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Katniss and a team of rebels from District 13 prepare for the final battle that will decide the future of Panem. (IMDb)
A perfect continuation of the devastating commentary on war from Part 1: uneasy scenes of sinister battle plans and shady propaganda politics intertwine with suspenseful ones of terrifying, exhausting, fruitless warfare (see Katniss’ response to her brief captor) to lead to a fitting anti-climax; there is no joy in victory, only lingering suspicion and pain and further violence simmering beneath the surface (slightly cheesy final scene aside). A satisfying conclusion to a dark dystopian tale.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

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Katniss Everdeen is in District 13 after she shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage. (IMDb)
Grim, ghastly, great. Could’ve capitalized on the momentum of the simple and effective good rebels vs. bad Capitol set-up of the first two flicks, but instead chose to sit in the darkness underground for a while and meditate on media manipulation and the horrors of war that exist even when you’re fighting evil: a remarkable pre-climax storytelling maneuver that sits better the more you stew on it. Well-shot, scored (Lawrence’s “The Hanging Tree” is truly haunting), and acted, as always.
8/10 (Great)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

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Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem. (IMDb)
The first act is superb as rebellion brews and Katniss and Peeta deal with the complex aftermath to the previous Games. I wish it lingered here longer instead of rushing to the next Games though; the plan to taint Katniss’ image was dropped rather quickly, for example. Still, emotional scenes abound in the familiar plot structure of the next two acts (see Katniss and Peta’s powerful presentations to the sponsors; Katniss’ dress reveal), and the bounty of new supporting characters are memorable.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

The Great Train Robbery (1978)

In Victorian England, a master criminal makes elaborate plans to steal a shipment of gold from a moving train. (IMDb)
A thoroughly enjoyable heist movie, with naught a wasted scene in its entirety. The con jobs, building up to and including the big heist are wonderfully detailed and have a charm that only the technologically-simple Victorian era in which the movie is set can provide, while the cinematography, with its glossy sort of glow, gives the set a warm, nostalgic feel. Add a delightful soundtrack and engaging performances from Connery and Sutherland to this set-up and you have a really fun film.
7.5/10 (Really Good)