The Squid and the Whale (2005)

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Follows two young boys dealing with their parents’ divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s. (IMDb)
The anti-climactic ending feels inconsequential and insubstantial, which is frustrating because the bulk of the film is anything but: Literally every scene is loaded with subtle meaning as a fantastic script teases out all the interesting nooks and crannies of the tragic and often disturbing dynamics of the broken family under study. Superbly acted, with a great stop-and-go soundtrack that adds distinct flavours throughout the sharply edited (any longer and it would have been too painful) drama.
8/10 (Great)

Allegiant (2016)

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After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago, to finally discover the shocking truth of the world around them. (IMDb)
A great soundtrack makes things sound epic right from the tense first scene; unfortunately, it never gets substantiated by a story riddled with predictable (and sometimes confounding–see their premature celebration on top of the wall; letting Peter go at the end) characters (you knew David had a bad side), far-fetched revelations (see the genetic experiment) and technology (see the seemingly unlimited surveillance system), and contrived exposition (see the dialogue; Bureau entrance video).
5.5/10 (Poor)

Steve Jobs (2015)

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Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac. (IMDb)
Artfully filmed, the pre-product launch setting blends nicely the personal and vocational aspects of Jobs’ life (though it does start to feel a little contrived the third time around), adds a thrilling sense of urgency to the proceedings (highlighted by a barrage of whip-cracking dialogue), and makes for a uniquely and appreciably focused biopic that aims to capture his character instead of his whole life story (it certainly hits its mark, but its focus is compromised a bit with the flashbacks).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

The Martian (2015)

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An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. (IMDb)

A skimming over of emotions and the consequences of time (particularly with the crew’s decision to go back) are the only standout flaws in this exhilarating thriller featuring a fast-paced back-and-forth between satisfying survival science-ing on Mars (Damon’s Mark adds a wry wit to the proceedings) and tense rescue-planning on Earth (a refreshingly diverse cast shines here). Any lack of suspense in the quickly solved conflicts of the first half is made up for in the nail-biting climax.

8.5/10

Dumb and Dumber To (2014)

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Twenty years since their first adventure, Lloyd and Harry go on a road trip to find Harry’s newly discovered daughter, who was given up for adoption. (IMDb)

The writing here couldn’t be more contrived; cringe-worthy joke set-ups (rarely laugh-inducing) dominate the film’s comedy landscape that’s filled out by obviously desperate attempts at recreating the original’s outrageous visual/situational humour, while the plot’s movements are painfully stiff. There are good moments (the final twists are great) and the then/now slideshow in the end credits is remarkably redeeming, but up until then the film mostly fails to hit its mark.

5.6/10

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

The cross-country adventures of two good-hearted but incredibly stupid friends. (IMDb)

Carrey’s now-famous facial elastics and exaggerated actions are only one of many sources of laughs here: Daniels is no slouch, pulling off slapstick and one-liners with ease; the dumbness of the two is revealed in contrived but always hilarious scenes (“the town is THAT way!”), and the “bumbling idiots obliviously outwit the bad guys” situational humour is predictable but ever-funny. The plot didn’t take much thinking but it ends on a fittingly humble note. A classic road trip comedy.

6.9/10