Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord. (IMDb)
It’s a little messy and all-over-the-place but so are hyenas and heartbreak and Harley herself, so it all kinda works. The film does well to present its protagonist with all her charming quirks and real imperfections, and the only non-gore related cringe comes from the supersonic scream (a weird moment in what is otherwise more a wacky crime flick than a superhero one). Always engaging, with great action and a colourful cast of characters (The Huntress was a definite comedic highlight).
7/10 (Good)

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

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Ten years after initially meeting, Anakin Skywalker shares a forbidden romance with Padmé Amidala, while Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates an assassination attempt on the senator and discovers a secret clone army crafted for the Jedi. (IMDb)
Dare I say it starts off with almost cool neo-noir vibes? It ain’t no Blade Runner but the mystery plot, dark city setting, and moody Anakin make for a compelling first act (dated SFX aside, that city chase was great–and the Jedi duo generate surprising humour). The rest is solid as it sticks with a straight forward dual-narrative following Obi’s investigation and angsty Annie’s relational drama. Gets cheesy as it goes on (and on–it’s too long) but it’s fun (see C3P0’s head gag).
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

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Two Jedi escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to claim their old glory. (IMDb)
The core here is solid: one part engaging political power-games plot, one part planet-hopping adventure (loved the journey underwater: “There’s always a bigger fish”) with some moments of intrigue on the side (see the princess twist, Jedi council debate on the kid, the mysterious menace). Its often distasteful decoration (sorry Jar-Jar, you’re just a bit much; annoying Anakin isn’t helped by the script: “I’ll try spinning, that’s a good trick!”) weakens it but overall it’s still enjoyable.
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Christopher Robin (2018)

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A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life. (IMDb)
“Workaholic dad realizes family is most important.” This main arc is as generic as they come and the ending as happy as can be, but when it’s plodding Pooh (of little brain but much wizened patience and childlike heart) and the rest of the heartmelting-ly silly and sweet forest gang (adorably animated) guiding it along it’s nearly completely forgiven. A magical score ensures the tears flow as Pooh and co. with red balloon in tow conquer stress and selfishness with peace, love, and honey.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Angels & Demons (2009)

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Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon works with a nuclear physicist to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican during one of the significant events within the church. (IMDb)
I thought this film was going to be terrible after it began with yet another enormous pile of pretentious exposition (this time about anti-matter and the Illuminati of all things) but it actually turns into a pretty decent crime thriller after the eye-rolling set-up finishes. Gruesome violence, a quick pace, and interesting underlying political intrigue in the Vatican make the stakes feel high and keep you interested in spite of relatively unengaging characters. Not sure about that twist though.
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Trainspotting (1996)

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Renton, deeply immersed in the Edinburgh drug scene, tries to clean up and get out, despite the allure of the drugs and influence of friends. (IMDb)

Daring and dynamic: Death and drugs are depicted with mercilessly horrible bluntness (see the neglected baby) and potent editing (see the anxiety-filled withdrawal scene in Renton’s bedroom), capturing well the tragedy and pain of addiction, while sub-plots with tamer bits of hedonism (see the outrageous aftermath of the three sex-capades) add unexpected comedy. Excellent existential ramblings a la Radiohead’s “Fitter Happier” frame the story and add a mischievous ambiguity to its conclusion.

8/10 (Great)

I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

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A cop turns con man once he comes out of the closet. Once imprisoned, he meets the second love of his life, whom he’ll stop at nothing to be with. (IMDb)
Pops of crass sexual humour and childish gay stereotyping throughout mar what is otherwise a heartfelt romance set within a compelling biographical framework. Carrey shines as the complex Steven: On one hand, a passionate lover, protector, and provider for his timid Philip (McGregor is excellent); on the other, a con-man with slippery skills (the cons are fun and feature a great recurring instrumental) that consistently disrupt his relationship but always manage to get it back together.
7/10 (Good)