Easy Rider (1969)


Two counterculture bikers travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America. (IMDb)
I read afterwards that Fonda and Hopper were drunk and high most of the time when filming this (writing it as they went) and you can tell, for better or for worse: In its camerawork and writing, it certainly carries with it a refreshing air of authenticity and spontaneity (the campfire discussions are both provoking–“They see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em”–and unexpected: “We blew it”), but it also often comes off as just plain lazy and pretentious (see the requisite drug trip scene).
6.5/10 (Alright)


The Bucket List (2007)


Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. (IMDb)
With the bucket list plot failing to stand out (cue the typical tourist spots–Western Europe, the pyramids, etc.–and old people skydiving), all you’re left with is predictable growing-friendship fodder made up of trite sentimental dialogue that fails to ever really catch your interest. However, a moving finale (with a nice little twist at the top of the mountain) proves that there was some good character work done throughout the formulaic script, helped along by solid turns from the two leads.
6/10 (Mediocre)

The Departed (2006)

The double-deception plot is almost too perfect, given all the suspense and intrigue it generates, and with DiCaprio’s violent Billy and Damon’s more subtly unscrupulous Colin, offers a nuanced take on good guy and bad guy archetypes that’s further complicated by a smoky love triangle sub-plot and capped off by a bloody, twist-filled final act (the last shot was admittedly a bit much). Colourful dialogue and great gritty music and cinematography round out this impeccably acted crime drama.

About Schmidt (2002)


A man upon retirement embarks on a journey to his estranged daughter’s wedding only to discover more about himself and life than he ever expected. (IMDb)
Appreciably and appropriately slow-paced; the film patiently and thoughtfully plods along in the spirit of its similarly unhurried and melancholic lead, played with admirable tactfulness by Nicholson. The plot is refreshingly uncontrived, the drama down-to-earth, and the humour dry. It’s an enjoyable character study with compelling themes of aging, grief, and finding meaning, set within an endearing letter-writing voiceover framework that comes to the forefront in its touching final minutes.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

The Shining (1980)

Wooden scenes of banal dialogue and trivialities start up an innocent plot that gets increasingly spotted with surrealist imagery both macabre and bizarre as more concrete cabin fever character tension slowly builds. The impending horror infuses the most vapid of scenes (riding a tricycle, throwing a ball, preparing dinner) with a thrilling uneasiness, amplified by the screeching soundtrack. It’s a masterfully crafted film perfected by superb acting and stunning cinematography.

Batman (1989)

The Dark Knight of Gotham City begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being the clownishly homicidal Joker. (IMDb)
This take on Batman is less than mediocre, with a thin plot (barely boosted by a couple funny lines) and uninspired main characters (Keaton’s Batman is dry and Nicholson’s Joker feels more silly and contrived than evil) thrown into a childish, ill-paced, and painfully awkward script (see the awful scene with Wayne and the Joker). The quasi-campy vibe just doesn’t work here–it’s not written and directed seriously enough to be compelling, and it’s not intentionally goofy enough to be funny.
5.5/10 (Poor)