2012 (2009)

A frustrated writer struggles to keep his family alive when a series of global catastrophes threatens to annihilate mankind. (IMDb)
It’s intense, no doubt, but in a discomforting, empty sort of way-feels hard to feel relief at the constant near escapes of our protagonists when 99.9% of the rest of the world is completely annihilated in massive dumps of CGI. On one hand, this numbness as a response to such widespread devastation rings partially true, but on the other, it speaks to a certain blockbuster gloss that leaves the film’s themes of human desperation and end-of-the-world values inconsistent and underdeveloped.
6/10 (Mediocre)

Con Air (1997)

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Newly paroled ex-con and former U.S. Ranger Cameron Poe finds himself trapped in a prisoner transport plane when the passengers seize control. (IMDb)
A solid action-thriller with some excellent hair, I mean flair, like a sweaty, golden-maned Nic Cage in a southern drawl delivering lines like “Don’t treat women like that” and “I’m going to show you God does exist”, plus weirdly sappy bookending scenes. Not without flaws (the final chase was overkill) or truly WTF-moments though (the horrible treatment of the Indigenous prisoner, the baffling redemption arc for an inconsequential mass murderer side character, the TV sitcom-esque end credits).
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Say Anything… (1989)

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A noble underachiever and a beautiful valedictorian fall in love the summer before she goes off to college. (IMDb)
While at times making it feel a little tangential and light, ultimately the broad multi-perspective narrative approach to telling this love story gives it an organic vibe while putting fresh spins on typical romance plot points (the pre-ending break-up had a unique cause) and throwing in new ones too (see Diane’s dad twist). Memorable dialogue with a flair for the poetic (see Lloyd’s monologue in the car, the final airplane scene), and artful edits (see Lloyd with the boys) give it extra juice.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Love & Mercy (2014)

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In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy. (IMDb)
Maybe it’s just the two different actors, but the past and future narratives just never really feel like they share the same protagonist, which is a shame, because each story is still strongly engaging in its own right: One showcasing Wilson’s quirky brilliance and burgeoning internal struggles, the other his road to recovery and love from under the thumb of a manipulative psychiatrist, each featuring solid performances, good music, and intentionally artful editing that keeps things interesting.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

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A malfunctioning time machine at a ski resort takes a man back to 1986 with his two friends and nephew, where they must relive a fateful night and not change anything to make sure the nephew is born. (IMDb)
Despite having the always fun time-travel trope, the plot feels pretty lame (it’s mostly just dumb party schtick with girls and booze), and a generally comedically flat lead foursome doesn’t help the entertainment value. There are a few good jokes (Glover’s recurring missing arm gag is great; the completely unexplained “Great White Buffalo” is a delightful bit of nonsense) and the usually annoying Lou’s manipulation of the past at the end is fun, but it’s a mostly mediocre movie otherwise.
5.5/10 (Poor)