Runaway Bride (1999)

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A reporter is assigned to write a story about a woman who has left a string of fiances at the altar. (IMDb)
A startlingly beautiful U2-backed opening scene is one of many unexpected elements in this fairly fresh rom-com fare: Gere’s mischievous Ike and the small town supporting cast bring a good amount of quirk to the dialogue and plot, Roberts’ “runaway bride” character is set up with surprising amount of intrigue and study (the reporter bit helps), even if it doesn’t fully live up to it in the end, and although you can see the conclusion coming a mile away, it doesn’t come when you think it will.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Erin Brockovich (2000)

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An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply. (IMDb)
A satisfying (the glass of water scene!) and inspirational underdog legal tale smartly built upon an endearing protagonist set-up to begin the film, and blended with just the right amount of continuing tumultuous character/family drama to keep it grounded throughout. Roberts’ sharp-tongued and self-sufficient Erin and Finney’s weary and wary Ed have great chemistry and add just the right amount of charming humour (“They’re called boobs, Ed”) on top of the engaging investigation plot line.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Mystic Pizza (1988)

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Three teenage girls come of age while working at a pizza parlor in the Connecticut town of Mystic. (IMDb)
There’s something about the charming seaside small town setting that makes the rather fluffy and one-dimensional plot lines sit well in the end, creating a pleasant, down-to-earth vibe that’s sprinkled with enough boy-drama (married man and virgin; rich kid and waitress; marriage-ready man and free spirit girl) and sweetness (Ferrell and the mild restaurant storyline are a nice touch) to keep you engaged, if not captivated. Nothing too deep or unique here, but nothing offensive.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson’s covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects. (IMDb)
If it wasn’t for Hoffman’s delightfully abrasive Gust there wouldn’t be much to really latch onto in this scattered political drama/comedy: The offbeat bureaucratic humour is good and works fine with the jumpy direction and quick run-time, but when more serious war themes are inserted into the mix the film starts to feel a little messy and rushed–with the abrupt switch from the provoking “Zen master” final thought to the cliche and sappy string-laced conclusion being the worst example of this.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Daniel Ocean recruits one more team member so he can pull off three major European heists in this sequel to Ocean’s 11. (IMDb)
The great style from the first film is still present here in the artsy titles, delicious dialogue, and rambunctious soundtrack, but the substance is different: There’s more comedy and humbling mishaps (the Julia Roberts scene is great), but there are also more characters (an overload), and a disappointing lack of actual heists considering the wealth of other plot material that’s jammed in. It’s a bit of a messy story, with a weak climax to boot, but the film still doesn’t fail to entertain.
7/10 (Good)

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Danny Ocean and his eleven accomplices plan to rob three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously. (IMDb)
This film would be entertaining enough with just a neat, elaborate heist (which it has), but it takes it up a notch with a steady stream of quick and witty dialogue, smoothly delivered by the effortlessly charismatic Clooney and Pitt, matching the brilliance of their cool schemes punch for punch. The editing is just as slick, with retro slide scene transitions and a chill Vegas-flavoured soundtrack. The “got the girl” ending is the only thing that’s a bit distasteful in this great caper flick.
8/10 (Great)

Flatliners (1990)

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Four Medical students experiment on “near death” experiences that involve past tragedies until the dark consequences begin to jeopardize their lives. (IMDb)
The main cast is excellent here as five ambitious medical students attempting to experience life after death. Tense medical drama blends with nightmarish scenes of memories and hallucinations as side effects are revealed, creating a powerful sense of discomfort aided by gloomy cinematography, while the emotional quests for resolve that follow add yet another dimension to the film. Puzzlingly, Joe’s story is left hanging, but the film remains a great, unsettling thriller with a cohesive feel.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

The Mexican (2001)

A man tries to transport an ancient gun called The Mexican, believed to carry a curse, back across the border, while his girlfriend pressures him to give up his criminal ways. (IMDb)
A thoroughly enjoyable quirky crime-comedy, calling to mind 2008’s Burn After Reading: Each have an eclectic cast of characters (two of whom are played by Pitt and Simmons, the former playing an inept yet brash character in both), and a chaotic plot full of twists and mishaps that revolves around a single object desired by many. In The Mexican, touches of surprising romance and emotional drama (see the great Winston-Samantha duo) are added to the comedy to make it a truly entertaining watch.
7/10 (Good)

Stepmom (1998)

A terminally ill mother has to settle on the new woman in her former husband’s life who will be their stepmother. (IMDb)
The script here naturally picks up steam as it goes along, with its refreshingly realistic storyline that discards the typical rising conflict to happy ending type of thread for an up and down one that resolves conflicts only to bring new ones in after. Roberts and Sarandon are both excellent in their roles, and the kids are enjoyable as well in this heartfelt divorce/step-parent drama that manages to avoid getting sappy or melodramatic, thanks to its authentic storytelling.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

The Pelican Brief (1993)

A law student uncovers a conspiracy, putting herself and others in danger. (IMDb)
This is a well-filmed legal thriller with a solid pair of protagonists (Washington and Roberts are in good form) and a decent amount of suspense and intrigue, but ultimately the dense political/legal talk that saturates the story makes it much too difficult to follow for it to be an enjoyable watch all the way through–and the drawn-out ending does little to redeem it.
6.5/10 (Alright)