Mamma Mia! (2008)

A wild, campy mix of sitcom-esque green screens and goofy comedy, Greek island-breeze(d) through ridiculous plot points, and frequent brazen musical numbers. Plus a weird amount of sweeping cinematic camera movement. Any doubt on whether I liked all this was washed away with the perfect Pied Piper-esque rendition of “Dancing Queen” and the adorable three-dad date on a boat that followed. It drags a bit pre-wedding with two long, sappy songs, but gets back on track with the ceremony drama.
5

Julie & Julia (2009)

A very pleasant picture serving two distinct dishes made from the delicate but delicious-if-done-right recipe of relationships, ambition, and personal passion. The cast is excellent (though Streep is the clear star with her hilarious and effortlessly charming Julia) and the multi-faceted writing is well-balanced (the letter/blog voiceovers add a wonderful warm butter-like flavour to savour throughout), with Eric’s sudden departure and the “Julia hates me” thread left hanging the only missteps.
7

Don’t Look Up (2021)

Some of its satire is cringe-y (see post-credits), but the loud, busy edit is info age-appropriate and at its core is a poignant picture of how we face the inevitability of our end: some ignore it, cut to commercial, or dream of utopia; others turn to hashtag activism at concerts or nihilist stickers on skateboards. But when death actually arrives at the door, our fear is made plain and all we can do is hold hands and pray and talk about all the small things that made up the “everything” we had.
7

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

lemony_snickets_a_series_of_unfortunate_events_ver3_xxlg

When a massive fire kills their parents, three children are delivered to the custody of cousin and stage actor Count Olaf, who is secretly plotting to steal their parents’ vast fortune. (IMDb)
The best scene is the letter-reading and the epilogue that follows (“what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may, in fact, be the first steps of a journey”) but the emotional release is not what it could’ve been thanks to a slapdash (a word which here means way too fucking rushed) script that never sits with any of the suffering, and it’s unfortunately never sharp or coherent enough to work as a quick and quirky dark comedy either. Some performances and CGI are a tad iffy yet too.
5.5/10 (Poor)

 

Little Women (2019)

little_women_ver10_xxlg

Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on their own terms. (IMDb)
The timeline hopping is cleverly and masterfully executed (see the warm vs. cold tones, mirrored shots) and adds remarkable emotional depth (see Jo walking down the stairs x2) to what is an already extremely well-written (and acted) web of characters (to the big emotional moments are added many brilliant little overlapping quips and quibbles). Often hilarious (“I’m making a mould of my foot for Laurie to remind him I have nice feet!”) and always heartfelt, with a delightfully cheeky ending.
9.5/10 (Breathtaking)

 

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

kramer-vs.-kramer_poster_goldposter_com_8

Ted Kramer’s wife leaves him, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between Ted and his son, Billy. But a heated custody battle ensues over the divorced couple’s son, deepening the wounds left by the separation. (IMDb)
On the one hand Joanna is a fascinating character–an enigma, full of pain and repressed desires. Yet at the same time I can’t help but wonder if the film, by leaving her to the bookends, reduced her to the mere emotional and irrational woman trope, saved at the end by the easily redeemed (it is admittedly a poignant journey through parenthood) formerly absent husband and father. This issue aside, it’s certainly clear at least that each and every individual scene is written and acted marvelously.
8/10 (Great)

 

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

DF Int One Sheet

An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation. (IMDb)
Every scene is a delectably detailed diorama, brought to life by endlessly creative animation, perfect voice acting, and marvelous music (a fun soundtrack plus tear-jerking classical crescendos-see Rat’s redemption), while a tight script (the wolf encounter is a real cherry on top) showcases remarkable characterization (see the angsty Ash), thoughtful drama (see Mr. and Mrs. Fox’s standoff), and a fascinating anthropomorphic vs. wild animal thematic thread alongside its heaps of quirky humour.
9.5/10 (Breathtaking)

Adaptation. (2002)

A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean for the screen. (IMDb)
A film about its own screenwriter (Kaufman, played by Cage) trying to write its own screenplay: It’s head-spinning-ly brilliant and fascinating to watch, and is propelled forward by a wonderful double-turn by Cage (his self-deprecating internal monologues are priceless), along with solid support from Cooper and Streep. The action-packed final few scenes seem a bit out of place in what is mostly a mellow film, but they do offer a fittingly odd climax to the twisted character interplay throughout.
8/10 (Great)