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)

 

Isle of Dogs (2018)

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Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog. (IMDb)
Awe-inspiring animation, as expected, with an amazing attention to detail (petals on noses, fur blowing in the wind), breathtaking landscapes (see the journey montages), a variety of unique shots (see the shadowy discussion in the bottle cave), creative storytelling devices (see the split-screens), and fun flourishes (see the sushi-making). A welcome surprise is the engaging hard-boiled political drama added to Anderson’s typically quirky comedy (the gossiping goofy alpha dog pack is great).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out to find them. (IMDb)
The beautiful forested island scenery dotted with hip 60s aesthetic (hello, portable turntable) paired with Anderson’s impeccable visual flair and love for detail is a match made in movie heaven. Sam and Suzy, meanwhile, lead an elope plot that is as captivating (the flood side-story adds a great sense of impending doom to the forbidden love; Desplat’s mournful score is wonderful) and tragic (the leads’ parent issues add great depth) as it is cute (see the book-reading; culminating beach shot).
9/10 (Amazing)

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. (IMDb)
The visuals are so remarkably entrancing and vibrantly varied here (hotels, prisons, mansions, and mountaintops) that you find yourself as excited to see what the next scene looks like as much as what happens in it–and that’s not to say the writing is sub-par: Within a cute 4-tiered narrative, a wild and wacky plot of murder, money, and escape takes place with plenty of quirky characters (Fiennes is fantastic) and well-placed bits of goofiness and expletives that break up the dazzling dialogue.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Rounders (1998)

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A young man is a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks. (IMDb)
The many poker scenes throughout here are certainly entertaining, with Damon’s soft voiceovers filling you in on all the fascinating features of the game, but they aren’t enough to make up for a plot that feels more like a poker player’s pipe dream than a legitimate drama: It’s too easy and cliche and fumbles the potential of its two interesting lead characters (Norton’s Worm especially begged for more study). All told, it’s a good flick–just needed more focus on the story and less on the poker.
6.5/10 (Alright)

American History X (1998)

A former neo-nazi skinhead tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did. (IMDb)
Whether it’s in his slow-motion close-ups, long-winded rants, or intense emotional breakdowns, Norton is a definite standout here. Derek’s development is compelling-made more so by the film’s excellent use of greyscale and a non-linear story dynamic-and while his brother’s transformation is more sudden and unbelievable, he remains interesting as well. Spellbinding lengthy scenes unflinchingly deal with ugly and tragic racism through this fascinating family framework in this engrossing film.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Bruce Banner, a scientist on the run from the U.S. Government must find a cure for the monster he emerges whenever he loses his temper. However, Banner then must fight a soldier whom unleashes himself as a threat stronger than he. (IMDb)
A uniquely internally-focused superhero movie (following the superhero seeking to get rid of his destructive power) up until the standard and eye-rolling ending in which he embraces his power in a mediocre fight/destruction scene. It’s an abrupt and disappointing switch, and nearly crushes Norton’s captivating and mature performance that was already struggling amidst weak supporting characters to hold the weight of the film’s premise by itself. Good potential is only partially realized here.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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Keaton, Norton, and Stone all put forth amazing performances that scream for their close-up shots, while the continuous-style cinematography is mesmerizing and creates an incredible and unique pace for the film, pulling you along like a fish on a line, right with the characters. The ending’s a little cheesy, but the film still stands as a wonderful work of art about artistic integrity and ego that’s only occasionally tainted by a couple of side plots that feel a little unnecessary.
8.5/10 (Amazing)