Little Women (1994)

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The March sisters live and grow in post-Civil War America. (IMDb)
The completion of Jo’s romantic arc doesn’t sit quite right but that’s about the only thing that feels off (well, that and Bale’s goatee) in this cohesive and cozy (but still poignant and emotional: see the gift for Beth) family journey through life and love and the blasted patriarchy (“You should have been a lawyer, Miss March” “I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayer”). Dunst’s adorable Amy and Ryder’s moody Jo (“I just know I’ll never fit in anywhere”) are two standout turns.
7/10 (Good)

Dune (2021)

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Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. (Letterboxd)
The Messiah narrative thread with Paul and the Fremen is a bit white-saviour-y, but will hopefully be nipped in the bud in the sequel, and the plot is otherwise excellent: a twisting tapestry of planet-hopping politics, breathtaking sci-fi/action, moody mysticism, and compelling coming-of-age/family drama fare. Strongly acted (Paul and parents in particular), with incredible sound and visuals (lots of big, immersive movie moments–the nighttime assault on Arrakeen being one highlight).
8/10 (Great)

Deep Impact (1998)

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A seven-mile-wide space rock is hurtling toward Earth, threatening to obliterate the planet. Now, it’s up to the president of the United States to save the world. He appoints a tough-as-nails veteran astronaut to lead a joint American-Russian crew into space to destroy the comet before impact. Meanwhile, an enterprising reporter uses her smarts to uncover the scoop of the century. (Letterboxd)
Unfortunately, 90s cheese ages better with action fare than with drama, or else I could’ve complimented this film on going for a more character-focused approach to its apocalyptic proceedings. As it is, it’s full of cringe-worthy relationship moments (see the weird teen marriage and estranged father-daughter who had one good day on a beach when she was 5 so I guess that’s all we need to care about them hugging on a beach as the world ends??) that threaten to ruin the epic spectacle and story.
5.5/10 (Poor)

Rocky (1976)

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When world heavyweight boxing champion, Apollo Creed wants to give an unknown fighter a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, his handlers choose palooka Rocky Balboa, an uneducated collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. Rocky teams up with trainer Mickey Goldmill to make the most of this once in a lifetime break. (Letterboxd)
A great character study: Rocky is a quiet, soft soul (his refusal to let Adrian leave is cringey though) prone to passionate, long-winded rants (his one to Marie misses the mark, but see his rambling rejection of Mickey before the quiet jog out afterwards); he punches cow carcasses to train for boxing bouts before heading to the pet store to buy food for his turtles. He doesn’t care about fame or money or victory, he just wants to “go the distance” and find his love (see the excellent ending).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Bachelorette (2012)

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Three friends are asked to be bridesmaids at a wedding of a woman they used to ridicule back in high school. (Letterboxd)
Really hard to enjoy, thanks to unlikeable main characters, uninteresting hijinks, and distasteful attempts at humour. It seems to be a problem in tone management though, because underneath its sickening candy comedy shell is a rather intriguing web of dark character drama (see the eating disorder cover-up, drug addiction, and tale of a suicide attempt). The overdose to ambulance ride sequence feels like it finds the right groove but it’s overshadowed by a shallow shrug-it-off ending.
5.5/10 (Poor)

The Aviator (2004)

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Thinking he can overshadow an unknown actress in the part, an egocentric actor unknowingly gets a witch cast in an upcoming television remake of the classic show “Bewitched”. (Letterboxd)
All the right ingredients for a compelling biopic: Great turns (Leo’s a good lead but Kate, I mean Cate, is a standout support), a complex character to study, and an epic plot that flies high (the dual ambitions in film and aviation make for a riveting back-and-forth script) but also digs deep (“Howard, we’re not like everyone else. Too many acute angles”). Interesting editing adds some spice while a soaring climax and a great final line wrap things up nicely (“the way of the future…”).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Bewitched (2005)

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Thinking he can overshadow an unknown actress in the part, an egocentric actor unknowingly gets a witch cast in an upcoming television remake of the classic show “Bewitched”. (Letterboxd)
Call me bewitched but I found this really charming. It doesn’t waste any screen time (love how it introduces the “want to be normal” crisis right off the bat), and the many narrative states (on TV, in real-life, in a dream, in an alternative timeline, under a spell) put a unique twist on the typical romantic arc. Ferrell and Kidman are both engaging in their own way, and the side characters have their moments too (Nina especially: “We could electrocute him. There’s a ton of wires around here”).
7/10 (Good)

Masterminds (2016)

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A night guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes one of the biggest bank heists in American history. (Letterboxd)
The plot is just-got-robbed-poor (there’s no heist, fugitive, or character tension to be found), and only a couple of the many jokes land, so two acts in and things are looking bleaker than a corn dog at a hot dog party before the marvelous moustached Mike McKinney shows up and finds his fate to add a jolt of comedy and give the plot a needed twist. The climax lets things down again but by then the continued earnest charm of David Ghantt has at least made him somewhat of an engaging lead.
5.5/10 (Poor)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

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Follows a group of high school students growing up in southern California. (Letterboxd)
Falls prey to the gross guy’s perspective a few times (see the casual homophobia, teen boobs fantasy, the “bro code” being more important than the girl’s well-being), but not as often as I feared thanks to its loose, authentic-feeling storytelling and a few moments of surprising depth (see Brad picking up Stacy). Brad’s job woes and Spicoli ordering pizza to history class are two comedic highlights (“Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing?” “Eating some food, learning about Cuba”).
6.5/10 (Alright)

The Vault (2021)

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When an engineer learns of a mysterious, impenetrable fortress hidden under The Bank of Spain, he joins a crew of master thieves who plan to steal the legendary lost treasure locked inside while the whole country is distracted by Spain’s World Cup Final. (Letterboxd)
Bits of unneeded romance and a meh double-twist are the only hiccups (and small ones at that) in this solid, no-frills heist thriller. The planned deceptions are fun and well-crafted with just the right amount of wrenches thrown in, and the intertwining of it all with the World Cup excitement was a nice added touch. I was waiting for some more noble motivations for both Thom and the crew to make themselves plain but in the end, leaving it with the chaotic-neutral “passion” felt refreshing.
7/10 (Good)