Margin Call (2011)

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A thriller that revolves around the key people at an investment bank over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the financial crisis. (Letterboxd)
For a good while it’s able to coast on its well-crafted rising tension (you know shit’s going down even if you don’t understand all the corporate jargon) but once the stakes are made clear it starts to feel as bloated as everyone’s wallets: half the characters are pointless, the others are rich white men we don’t care about (Bettany’s great though), and the vague melodramatic dialogue hits the wall hard: “Are you sure it’s the only or right thing to do?” “For who?” “I’m not sure” “Neither am I”.
7/10 (Good)

A Bug’s Life (1998)

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On behalf of “oppressed bugs everywhere,” an inventive ant named Flik hires a troupe of warrior bugs to defend his bustling colony from a horde of freeloading grasshoppers led by the evil-minded Hopper. (Letterboxd)
Some of the extra computer-y 90s PC game animation bugs me a bit (couldn’t resist) but that’s the only real flaw of this excellant offering of clever world-building (see the bug bar–where everyone can get a good buzz), great humour, and an engaging protagonist in the creative but hard-luck Flik. The surprisingly dark antagonist climax (“Let this be a lesson…Ideas are very dangerous things!”) and the inspiring hero moment after (“You’re wrong, Hopper”) highlight some compelling themes as well.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

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Dave is deaf, and Wally is blind. They witness a murder, but it was Dave who was looking at her, and Wally who was listening. (IMDb)
The premise is one that could be completely butchered if handled the wrong way, but fortunately, Pryor and Wilder have good comedic timing and chemistry together and even add some welcome sensitivity and humanity to their respective characters (see their bench convos). Unfortunately, not every scene lands, and the dud gags get more frequent as time goes on (gotta love that casual sexism..). The plot is pretty poorly written too, especially in the gong show of a final showdown and resolve.
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

L.A. Confidential (1997)

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As corruption grows in 1950s LA, three policemen – one strait-laced, one brutal, and one sleazy – investigate a series of murders with their own brand of justice. (IMDb)
A classy 1950s-set crime drama with a focus on the cops instead of the criminals-or are they the same thing? Corruption abounds in this intricately written neo-noir that showcases the shady schemes found on both sides of the law. The three-pronged set of policemen protagonists and their distinct character arcs give the narrative a uniquely varied and diverse perspective, although the emotional impact that can be garnered from a single character focus is lacking, despite the hints at backstories.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Horrible Bosses (2011)

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Three friends conspire to murder their awful bosses when they realize they are standing in the way of their happiness. (IMDb)
Seven great characters deliver brashly hilarious material following from an outrageous premise to create an overall solid comedy: Bateman, Sudekis (the straight guys), and Day (the maniacal third wheel) share great chemistry (their frantic dialogue is gold) that only gets better as the plot gets crazier; the three antagonists are each wildly funny and terrible in their own right; and Foxx’ underwhelming bad-ass is a total riot (“I need $5000.” “No.” “Alright, look, just pay for my drinks.”)
7/10 (Good)

Se7en (1995)

Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi. (IMDb)
Starts off a bit slow and muddy (a second viewing might help) but gradually registers and increases in tension and intrigue as it goes on. The spine-tingling mystery plot is complimented by the film’s dark and rainy atmosphere captured by some really cool camerawork throughout, while the grizzled vet/rash rookie dynamic is played off well by Freeman and Pitt, adding some darkly humourous banter to the mix. Spacey, meanwhile, is a chilling villain who hypnotizes in the stunning drawn-out finale.
8/10 (Great)