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)

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)

Wine Country (2019)

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A group of friends head to the land of oaky Chardonnays and big, bold Cabernet Sauvignons for one member of the squad’s 50th birthday party. (Letterboxd)
The cask, I mean, cast, has chreat gemistry (shout-out to the great supporting characters too) and just like how the wine prevailed (see the final scene) when Abby’s schedule failed, it’s whenever they’re allowed to just talk and play off each other that it all works really well–the drama is natural, the comedy on point–and it’s when it tries to shoehorn in a message (see the cringe-y art show bit) or create more of a structured plot (the beats are all pretty generic) that it falls apart.
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

I Heart Huckabees (2004)

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A husband-and-wife team play detective, but not in the traditional sense. Instead, the happy duo helps others solve their existential issues, the kind that keep you up at night, wondering what it all means. (IMDb)
A few odd (literally) instances aside (see the mud sex), it maintains a perfect balance between quirky existential comedy (the philosophy also nicely rejects the extremes) and relatable drama, as wildly memorable dialogue-packed scenes (see dinner at Steve’s) craft numerous brilliant character arcs (Dawn’s epiphany is hilarious; Schwartzman’s on the lawn poignant), boosted by outstanding turns (see Law’s face listening to the joke recordings; Wahlberg’s petroleum rants). Nice soundtrack, too.
8/10 (Great)

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

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A year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other. (IMDb)
The estranged brother dynamic is well-written in the dryly humourous first act as keener Francis initiates their adventure, secrets are leaked, and the backstory is patiently exposited. The rest of the film loses some momentum (despite great music, slow-mo, and tracking shots) thanks to too many vaguely significant but unsubstantiated scenes (see the unearned melodrama of Jack’s farewell to Rita), though the dramatic tragedy of the second act (“He’s all bloody!”) certainly isn’t one of them.
7/10 (Good)

 

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

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An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation. (IMDb)
Every scene is a delectably detailed diorama, brought to life by endlessly creative animation, perfect voice acting, and marvelous music (a fun soundtrack plus tear-jerking classical crescendos-see Rat’s redemption), while a tight script (the wolf encounter is a real cherry on top) showcases remarkable characterization (see the angsty Ash), thoughtful drama (see Mr. and Mrs. Fox’s standoff), and a fascinating anthropomorphic vs. wild animal thematic thread alongside its heaps of quirky humour.
9.5/10 (Breathtaking)

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)

 

Rushmore (1998)

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The extracurricular king of Rushmore preparatory school is put on academic probation. (IMDb)
Anderson’s expertly artful direction (beautiful framing, distinct and thoughtful camerawork, and yummy set/character details) and oft-oddball script (“I’ll take Punctuality”; “I’ll take the tuna fish”) here is filled out nicely by a set of complex characters (led by the ambitious adult-teen hybrid Max) and nuanced (if not super deep) relationships within a solid dramedy script, providing the viewer with nearly as many emotional moments of satisfaction (“That’s my Max!”) as pure cinematic ones.
8/10 (Great)

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen. (IMDb)
A wonderfully crafted screenplay carries this touching character-driven drama:The present-time tale of rude and uptight P.L. Travers as she struggles with her book’s film adaptation is broken up by beautifully-shot scenes of her tragic childhood that gradually seep into and enlighten the current story as the complexity of her character is unraveled. Standard bits of sentimentality and humour shine bright amidst this deep script and round out a well-acted and thoughtfully written film.
8/10 (Great)