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)

Boogie Nights (1997)

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The story of a young man’s adventures in the California pornography industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s. (IMDb)
I dunno, amidst all its characters and plot lines, in the end it lacks a certain, ahem, thrust, with no clear arc or, heh, climax to speak of (the hypnotic back-and-forth between limo and truck came close but didn’t quite land). That said, its “slice of life” structure is certainly done very well, with the majority of its many characters and scenes quite memorable and mull-worthy (Reilly’s earnest Reed and the dramatic/comedic drug deal probably top the list). Great music and camerawork too.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

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After the Vietnam war, a team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden. (IMDb)
Nails that classic adventure movie-feel with its anticipation-building, crew-collecting first act, the dual-jungle trip suspense of the second, and awesome monster action that culminates in a wild third act. The cool aesthetic with its clever scene cuts, slow motion, and classic rock soundtrack only ups the fun factor. The characters are one-note but they’re all you need for this kind of romp (though the surprisingly touching end credits with Reilly’s hilarious Marlow adds a nice bonus arc).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

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Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph,” Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure. (IMDb)
The first half is mediocre; the initial plot feels contrived–as is the case with most post-happy-ending sequels–and the internet-related humour, aside from a few clever bits, generally feels gimmicky. The second half is much stronger: There’s an amazing unexpected musical number, an awesome appearance from the Disney princesses, and an authentic and touching character dynamic that emerges between the two leads as they figure out how to maintain their friendship amidst their differences.
7/10 (Good)

 

9 (2009)

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A rag doll that awakens in a postapocalyptic future holds the key to humanity’s salvation. (IMDb)
The initial lack of story and character backgrounds is appropriate for the film’s shocking post-apocalyptic world (the “machine” is a compelling threat), as we’re dropped into the desolate setting as naive as our protagonist; the exposition to follow is mostly tasteful (save for the scientist’s heavy-handed yet still insufficient final explanation) and the characters that develop feel shallow but natural. Most significantly though, the animation and action set pieces are consistently fantastic.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

The Lobster (2015)

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In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. (IMDb)
The deadpan delivery of this disturbing dystopia is darkly witty and effectively creepy but starts to wear a little thin near the middle–but then in a brilliant move, the madness reaches its blood-on-the-bathroom-floor pinnacle, someone breaks (emotionally and literally, making a break for it), the pendulum swings, and the weird world is expanded. Strikingly shot and scored, this film raises fascinating questions on relationships and identity. Could’ve done without most of the narration though.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

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#1 NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby stays atop the heap thanks to a pact with his best friend and teammate, Cal Naughton, Jr. But when a French Formula One driver, makes his way up the ladder, Ricky Bobby’s talent and devotion are put to the test. (IMDb)
Your standard sports redemption story, only the long kiss at the end was between a gay Frenchman and southern male American borderline-homophobic up until then. This over-the-top humour is spread throughout the film in ridiculous dialogue (see the crepe conversation) and outrageous situations (see the cougar in the car; Cal’s taking over) and slapstick. Not all of it lands, though, and when it doesn’t there’s not much else to appreciate (e.g. Ricky could’ve shown more growth in the final race).
6.5/10 (Alright)

Step Brothers (2008)

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Two aimless middle-aged losers still living at home are forced against their will to become roommates when their parents marry. (IMDb)
Way over-the-top? Yes. But the adult-child antics of Ferrell and Reilly are never anything less than laugh-out-loud hilarious (and the final act in which they suppress then re-capture their spunk for life brings it down to earth in moving fashion), whether they’re having meltdowns at the dinner table or naively starting international corporations. A great supporting cast of characters (sympathetic mom, short-fused dad, douche-y and successful brother) rounds out the story and the humour nicely.
8/10 (Great)

Magnolia (1999)

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An epic mosaic of interrelated characters in search of love, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley. (IMDb)
The book-ending narration is unnecessary. The frogs are a bit out-there. But the bulk of this 3-hour epic truly is a masterpiece of dramatic storytelling, as multiple poignant narratives–superbly acted–are brilliantly woven together in both stark and subtle ways, in the script and on the screen (see the swirling montages of tracking shots and an ever-building soundtrack found throughout; the character voice-overs lengthened into other scenes; the unique and moving cross-character sing-along).
9.5/10 (Breathtaking)