The Polka King (2017)

Local Pennsylvania polka legend Jan Lewan develops a plan to get rich that shocks his fans and lands him in jail. (IMDb)
Main man Jan Lewan is a compelling lead–optimistic and ambitious, a criminal who is misguided but without malice, one who in the end welcomes his karma and consequences. The script here never digs deep into any of the crime or character-related intrigue though (instead of a suspenseful cat-and-mouse plot we get 2 maybe 3 scenes with the investigator), and the stuff on the surface never has quite enough zip (pizzazz?) to carry the film in its place. Nothing terribly wrong here, just needed more.
6.5/10 (Alright)

The Holiday (2006)

Two women troubled with guy-problems swap homes in each other’s countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love. (IMDb)
Diaz is the clear weak link of the cast and her romantic arc is the lesser of the two too, as none of the interesting possible complications (kids, long distance, surprising mutual acquaintance) are leaned into in the slightest and it has a cringe-worthy climax (see the marathon run back). Iris’ story is more engaging (the romance is spiced with more honest character growth) but has a similar cheesy sheen. All told, it’s earnest and sweet but insubstantial in its story and mediocre in its craft.
6/10 (Mediocre)

King Kong (2005)

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A greedy film producer assembles a team of moviemakers and sets out for the infamous Skull Island, where they find more than just cannibalistic natives. (IMDb)
“It was beauty killed the beast”: A stupid line that botches the promising thematic arc. This character was the one who dragged Kong from home to hellhole for a life of humiliation all for his own gain but sure, let him end the film with this bullshit poetic proclamation that places blame on the fucking sunset and the woman who literally just tried to save Kong’s life. It’s a great film otherwise: the action-adventure is truly breathtaking in spite of dated CGI and cringe-y native portrayals.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

The Cable Guy (1996)

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A lonely and mentally disturbed cable guy raised on television just wants a new friend, but his target, a designer, rejects him, with bad consequences. (IMDb)
Provides a good offering of ridiculous comedy–see the hilarious intensity at the basketball game–and stalker creepiness (sometimes at the same time), thanks to Carrey’s great turn as The Cable Guy. He’s a great character but the direction goes back and forth between playing him up for laughs and thrills and digging into the more sympathetic and compelling side of his character, even veering into odd-couple dramedy at points. This throws off the whole of the film despite plenty of good moments.
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

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Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game. (IMDb)
The in-video game premise is clever and fun (see the NPCs) but the stakes feel low, despite the limited lives and creepy (crawly) baddie, and the emotional arc is pretty weak too. More importantly though, the adventure-action is good, and the comedy is great (even if it slows down the pace a little too much at points); the four leads excel in their high-school personality roles and bring lots of laughs (Black as the stereotypical popular girl is a highlight, but they all have their moments).
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

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Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to home. (IMDb)
As colourful and creatively animated as always (see the unique multi-panel training montage, trippy climactic trip to the spirit world) but with heightened humour (“Even Master Chicken’s going in, and he’s a chicken!”) and emotion (the two-dad arc is a touching one: “Dads!”) this time around, often taking place within the same wonderful moment (see the two-dad fighting combo; chi circle: “You taught us to be who we were meant to be. A dad” “A friend” Granny panda: “A lethal fighting machine”).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

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Po and his friends fight to stop a peacock villain from conquering China with a deadly new weapon, but first the Dragon Warrior must come to terms with his past. (IMDb)
Like the first, the fat jokes fail (do we really need a “boing” sound every time something hits his tummy?) but the wild action sequences are heaps of fun (see Po’s cart ride with the wolf through town) and the animation delights (see the lovely 2D bits). Elsewhere, the villain’s good, the “who am I?” pathos is unremarkable, and the non-fat-joke humour lands (see the snarky old Soothsayer); ultimately, the colourful, lively anthropomorphic animal world carries this through any inconsistencies.
7/10 (Good)

 

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018)

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On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life. (IMDb)
Combines the accessible emotional punch of a mainstream drama (without getting sappy) with the unconventionality and boldness of an indie; the wonderfully edited timeline-jumping of the first half creates a uniquely compelling character set-up while the longer dialogues to follow solidify and bring to a tear-jerking climax the powerful yet nuanced redemption arc (see the return to those adorable skate kids). Phoenix is expectedly great, but it’s Hill who’s simply magnetic in a supporting role.
9/10 (Amazing)

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

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The Dragon Warrior has to clash against the savage Tai Lung as China’s fate hangs in the balance: However, the Dragon Warrior mantle is supposedly mistaken to be bestowed upon an obese panda who is a tyro in martial arts. (IMDb)
Unless you’re a fan of fat jokes, the humour doesn’t do much to spice up what is very much a predictable, seen-before “unlikely hero” story, just in a different context. Fortunately, said context is beautifully animated and said story is broken up by numerous large sequences of stunningly rendered and superbly creative kung-fu action. Boosted by Hoffman’s strong voice work, Shifu’s touching arc (see his farewell to Oogway by the tree) also adds a compelling secondary character element.
7/10 (Good)

 

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006)

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To become the greatest band of all time, two slacker, wannabe-rockers set out on a quest to steal a legendary guitar pick that gives its holders incredible guitar skills, from a maximum security Rock and Roll museum. (IMDb)
There are some moments of good comedy (the subversive take on the “inside all of us/inside your hearts” speech had me in stitches) to go with the entertaining soundtrack (the opening flashback number and the boardwalk jam are highlights), but not enough to distract me from the terrible script that can’t even do the generic underdog story right (where was their triumphant open mic performance?). It’s not boring (fun cameos help), but not every bit lands, and it misses the mark on a grander scale.
6/10 (Mediocre)