Titanic (1997)

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101-year-old Rose DeWitt Bukater tells the story of her life aboard the Titanic, 84 years later. (Letterboxd)
SPOILERS AHEAD
A treasure-hunting team recruits an old woman to help them find a necklace in the ocean. They fly her over and she proceeds to move her entire life’s possessions on board before telling them a very long story that does not help them at all. Then we find out she had the necklace the whole time but she doesn’t tell them this and instead drops it in the ocean. Hilariously baffling narrative framework aside, the titular story in the middle is a good one: grandly romantic, exciting, and well-filmed.
7/10 (Good)

The Dressmaker (2015)

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In 1950s Australia, beautiful, talented dressmaker Tilly returns to her tiny hometown to right wrongs from her past. As she tries to reconcile with her mother, she starts to fall in love while transforming the fashion of the town. (Letterboxd)
The typical shoot-em-up climaxes of revenge thrillers can’t hold a candle to the excellent ending here, as the just desserts are served in fabulous fashion with ingredients like hash brownies, red carpets, costumes, Kate Winslet, pools of blood, and towns on fire. The rest of the story is great too (save for a bit of sag in the second act romance) with its darkly comedic small-town-whodunnit vibe and memorable characters (love that the sargeant with a secret is given a meaningful arc).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

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)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with. (IMDb)
With Winslet and Carrey’s top-notch turns, the authentic dialogue, the beautiful soundtrack, and the exquisitely intimate camerawork, this would already be an amazing romance film even before the sci-fi twist (which perhaps has a hole or two) injects it not only with juicy story subversions (see Patrick’s role; the deja vu post-erasure) and dramatic intrigue (see Mary’s side-plot) but also heart-wrenching tragedy and oddball comedy. Brilliant editing through Joel’s memories ties it all together.
9.5/10 (Breathtaking)

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)

Insurgent (2015)

Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side. (IMDb)
The second installment looks even better than the first with some really cool scenes from the “sims” in particular. Woodley is solid again and her character’s personal plight remains captivating, while Teller is fantastic as a bad guy/good guy/jerk and Winslet is again a great villain. All of that said, the film’s overload of easy and implausible plot movements throughout distracts from the great characters and prevents it from reaching the same level as its predecessor.
7/10 (Good)

 

Divergent (2014)

In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late. (IMDb)
The dystopian rebellion premise is definitely familiar, but Divergent pulls it off well, effortlessly immersing you in its world and engaging you in its interesting societal issues. On occasion the plot’s plausibility comes into question but the film’s cool slick look and exciting storyline make you dismiss any issues. Woodley is a great protagonist, tainted only by Jones’ eye-roller of a romantic interest, and the supporting cast is also solid in this enjoyable sci-fi thriller.
7.5/10 (Really Good)