Nightmare Alley (2021)

The full-circle final scene of this moody morality tale doesn’t fully repair the separation between the first act and the rest, and there are other script stumbles too (see the Carlisle-carny tension that goes nowhere), but every piece compels in spite of the whole; the cinematography and design is showstopping, the cast’s got panache a-plenty, and the violence and deception is shut-eye(s) thrilling (“When a man believes his own lies… people get hurt… And when the lies end, there it is”).
7

Elf (2003)

After discovering he is a human, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole decides to travel to New York City to locate his real father. (IMDb)
Light on plot (feels like the climax in Central Park was the first major event), and the “Christmas spirit” motif feels a little shoehorned in on top of the family/redemption arc, but Ferrell’s goofy and (syrupy) sweet fish-out-of-water schtick is infectious (answering the phone: “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favourite colour?”) and is complemented by a good smattering of other delights (see Newhart’s matter-of-fact Papa Elf and the rest of the solid supporting cast; stop-motion North Pole).
6.5/10 (Alright)

Step Brothers (2008)

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Two aimless middle-aged losers still living at home are forced against their will to become roommates when their parents marry. (IMDb)
Way over-the-top? Yes. But the adult-child antics of Ferrell and Reilly are never anything less than laugh-out-loud hilarious (and the final act in which they suppress then re-capture their spunk for life brings it down to earth in moving fashion), whether they’re having meltdowns at the dinner table or naively starting international corporations. A great supporting cast of characters (sympathetic mom, short-fused dad, douche-y and successful brother) rounds out the story and the humour nicely.
8/10 (Great)

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

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Enjoying a peaceable existence in 1885, Doctor Emmet Brown is about to be killed by Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen. Marty McFly travels back in time to save his friend. (IMDb)
The clever little recurring elements from the first film (clock tower, “Hey McFly!”, mom wake-up, etc.) and the continued fixing-the-future plot are extra enjoyable here as they’re repeated again in the different and fun Wild West setting. There’s some character growth too–Doc falls in love and Marty backs down (kind of)–and another great climax; only a lame crowd-pleasing ending that squashes the film’s previous discussion on the dangers of time travel taints this solid end to the trilogy.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Parenthood (1989)

*If you noticed my absence, I’m flattered and surprised, and apologies for the lack of posts! I’ve been preoccupied with more important matters lately, like taking care of my wife and my newborn first child, Gemma! I’m a very proud papa, to say the least. And this next movie review (which had already been qued up before my wife went into labour) couldn’t be more appropriate:

The Buckman family is a midwestern family all dealing with their lives: estranged relatives, raising children, pressures of the job, and learning to be a good parent and spouse. (IMDb)
The script here is well-developed, and its multiple narrative strands are expertly pieced together; you get a really good feel for each of the characters (thanks also to a great cast), and the film never feels disjointed. The stories contain a nice blend of comedy and drama, never becoming too outrageous in either aspect, favouring realism over shock value, and they are capped off by a touching silent final scene as the family comes together to welcome yet another generation.
8/10 (Great)