The Holiday (2006)

Two women troubled with guy-problems swap homes in each other’s countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love. (IMDb)
Diaz is the clear weak link of the cast and her romantic arc is the lesser of the two too, as none of the interesting possible complications (kids, long distance, surprising mutual acquaintance) are leaned into in the slightest and it has a cringe-worthy climax (see the marathon run back). Iris’ story is more engaging (the romance is spiced with more honest character growth) but has a similar cheesy sheen. All told, it’s earnest and sweet but insubstantial in its story and mediocre in its craft.
6/10 (Mediocre)

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

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When a massive fire kills their parents, three children are delivered to the custody of cousin and stage actor Count Olaf, who is secretly plotting to steal their parents’ vast fortune. (IMDb)
The best scene is the letter-reading and the epilogue that follows (“what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may, in fact, be the first steps of a journey”) but the emotional release is not what it could’ve been thanks to a slapdash (a word which here means way too fucking rushed) script that never sits with any of the suffering, and it’s unfortunately never sharp or coherent enough to work as a quick and quirky dark comedy either. Some performances and CGI are a tad iffy yet too.
5.5/10 (Poor)

 

Captain Marvel (2019)

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Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. (IMDb)
Its CGI is just okay and it’s a little awkwardly scripted at times but its great humour, story, and lead sweep these concerns to the side. A truly surprising perspective shift along with a few Marvel-ous moments of self-actualization (see the tear-jerking “get back up” montage; “you guys have just been holding me back!”) are the highlights of a layered, emotional journey of discovery through past and present (with hints of the MCU future of course) with Carol and her enjoyably dry wit.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

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Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty. (IMDb)
It’s a little hard to keep up with Holmes’ fast-track mind that takes us through the mystery, but the journey is nothing short of breathtaking–thrilling action sequences (see the wild train ride) matched only by RDJ and Law’s brilliant banter are bolstered by a wonderful score (see the fiddle-backed bar fight) and slick cinematography (see the stop-go slow-motion in the forest run)–and a well-crafted climax (Harris is a solid adversary) capably fills us in while still amping up the tension.
9/10 (Amazing)

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)

Spy (2015)

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A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster. (IMDb)
A forgettable plot is saved by its fresh and funny characters that subvert the spy genre’s typical line-up by poking fun at the alpha male (Statham’s satire is gold–see his hilarious boat farewell) and putting the females at the forefront, with Byrne as the ridiculous villain and McCarthy (still with her usual arsenal of great vulgar one-liners) as the unassuming desk worker who’s actually super smart and bad-ass. Surprisingly awesome action is also notable (see Susan’s kitchen fight with Lia).
7/10 (Good)

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)

 

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Detective Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England. (IMDb)
Striking cinematography immerses you in the gritty browns and greys of late 19th century London: It’s the perfect setting for what is an exciting, rough-and-tumble tale with as much fisticuffs as displays of Holmes’ skillful deduction, as Downey adds a cool swagger to his quirky Holmes, and Law’s reasonable Watson matches him punch for punch. With its busy and brisk script some deeper character development and tantalizing back stories are neglected, but perhaps that’s what sequels are for.
8/10 (Great)