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)
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13 Going on 30 (2004)

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A girl makes a wish on her thirteenth birthday, and wakes up the next day as a thirty-year-old woman. (IMDb)
Garner and Ruffalo are both pretty adorable and genuine in their roles, which is in the end what keeps you engaged in what is only a so-so story: There are a few fun moments (see the Thriller dance) but any of the significant and/or meaningful plot points (see Matt’s speech on his wedding day; Jenna coming home to her parents) are kind of butchered by the dues ex machina–which still could have salvaged what had been built up if it hadn’t promptly and unrealistically jumped 17 years ahead again.
6/10 (Mediocre)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans. (IMDb)

Another healthy dose of enormous and entertaining action make this a fun film to watch in spite of its mostly lazy writing (see Wanda and Pietro’s weak antagonist motivations–and Ultron’s, for that matter–and correspondingly cheap turn; the half-baked Hawkeye development; the far-fetched and only vaguely explained bad guy antics), with the aid of one well-timed bit of self-awareness: “The city’s flying, we’re fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”

6.7/10

The Avengers (2012)

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Earth’s mightiest heroes must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity. (IMDb)

After a scattered first act, the film picks up as the Avengers gather; clashing egos (along with the welcome addition of Ruffalo’s mellow Banner) and growing feelings of distrust keep the dream-team motif grounded (though the Thor-Iron Man fight with Loki watching was dumb) while a jaw-dropping final action sequence (deftly managing to give each hero their shining moments) brings it to its apex of feel-good entertainment. A tantalizing epilogue and perfect after-credits scene end things well.

8.0/10

Spotlight (2015)

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The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core. (IMDb)

The dense dialogue doesn’t dumb anything down, to the film’s initial detriment (it’s tough to latch on), but ultimately giving it a welcome mature feel as the Spotlight team continues to determinedly dig their way to the disturbing truth. A no-frills story, solidly acted (Ruffalo’s passionate Mike and Schreiber’s calm and calculated Marty are two standouts) maintains this tone, dispensing with unnecessary character explorations and pushy pathos on the way to its subtly sentimental final scene.

8.2/10

Begin Again (2013)

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A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents. (IMDb)

The slightly awkward camerawork, editing, and acting at first feel a little amateurish but quickly grow on you as the two main characters (of strikingly moving backstories) are developed (the unique flashback format is excellent), giving the film an invigorating down-to-earth, natural feel that’s perfect for its sweet streets of New York-set script about music and relationships. It gets a tad cheesy at points but mostly stays fresh, inspiring, and enjoyable–particularly for the music lover.

7.4/10

Shutter Island (2010)

A U.S Marshal investigates the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane. (IMDb)

The chilling Alcatraz-like island setting here is masterfully portrayed, thanks to stunning cinematography and a haunting score, and the three leading males are all superb in their respective roles, giving attention to every tic and syllable. The story gets more complex and intriguing with each scene; just when you think you have a handle on it, a new twist or layer is added, leading to an eventual ending that’s certainly satisfying, if not a little too easy. A suspenseful psychological mystery.

8.4/10