Paddington (2014)


A young Peruvian bear travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he meets the kindly Brown family, who offer him a temporary haven. (IMDb)
I knew this was going to be a delight right from the opening “archival footage” when the narrating explorer mentions bringing along a “modest timepiece” and it’s a grandfather clock being lugged through the jungle. This wonderful British silliness is found everywhere in the film, from the exaggerated villain to the outrageous slapstick to the quirky scene asides (see the orphanage bit). Beautifully animated and colourfully shot, with a predictable story that’s heartwarming nonetheless.
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)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)


It’s Harry’s third year at Hogwarts; not only does he have a new “Defense Against the Dark Arts” teacher, but there is also trouble brewing. Convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards’ Prison and is coming after Harry. (IMDb)
The script still has some of the same skimmed-over feel as its predecessors (the terrific time-travel final act aside), but its direction is decidedly better: The cinematography is pleasingly mature with a buttery tone and beautiful wide-angle nature shots; the editing is smooth, featuring charming Whomping Willow scene transitions; and the dialogue flows more naturally (keep an ear out for the background conversations). Also notable is the fresh vigor with which Gambon portrays his Dumbledore.
8/10 (Great)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)


With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son. (IMDb)
Visually, a delight (clashing underwater animation aside), with its meticulously crafted sets, distinct costumes, and cheeky screenplay (lots of incidental eating) captured by beautifully-framed shots. This marvelous aesthetic is complimented nicely by a mellow soundtrack (Jorge is great) and excellent deadpan humour. The dry script delivery doesn’t work as well with the drama–it mostly fails to engage, despite great turns from Murray and Blanchett–but a moving climax helps to entrench it a bit.
7.5/10 (Really Good)


The Good Shepherd (2006)

The slow and brooding nature of the movie is in itself attractive, but it drags down the film when paired with a plot that is consistently difficult to latch onto. Damon is excellent, and his character’s uncomfortable family drama provides some engaging moments, but the central CIA birth-story fails to connect on a character level (despite a good cast) or a story level (despite an intriguing premise), making the film a chore to get through, especially considering its lengthy run time.
6/10 (Mediocre)