Batman Returns (1992)

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Batman returns to the big screen when a deformed man calling himself the Penguin wreaks havoc across Gotham with the help of a cruel businessman. (IMDb)
The recurring secret vs. public identity dynamic for all four of the main players makes for some intriguing tension and drama (see Bruce and Salina’s battles and flirts; Shreck and Oswald’s campaign). Batman’s fall from grace is another compelling, if brief, plot thread. Unfortunately there’s still lots of cheesiness here too (see the penguin suicide bombers, penguin pallbearers, penguin duck boats?). The one-liners are hit (“life’s a bitch and now so am I”) or miss (anything by gross Penguin).
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

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As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past. (IMDb)
The plot leaves a few things to be desired (namely, less of the increasingly convenient and far-fetched tech and its accompanying untethered babble; also, resolving things with the Ghost could’ve been done a lot earlier), but everything around it is quite satisfying: the characters are likeable, the jokes are frequent and funny (see the truth serum bit), and the size-changing action is lots of fun (the visual effects here are excellent and quite clever-see the final reveal at the drive-in).
7/10 (Good)

White Oleander (2002)

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A teenager journeys through a series of foster homes after her mother goes to prison for committing a crime of passion. (IMDb)
Stellar acting and an ample serving of interesting characters sets this film up for success, with Pfieffer’s terrifyingly headstrong Ingrid and her wandering adolescent daughter Astrid (Lohman) at the forefront. Intense dialogue, poetic voiceover narration, and artistic visual montages showcase Astrid’s tragic journeys to and from three foster homes and visiting her mother in jail. You’re left wanting more from each compelling but brief chapter, but the drama remains delicious if not filling.
8/10 (Great)

 

The Age of Innocence (1993)

A tale of nineteenth-century New York high society in which a young lawyer falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman’s cousin. (IMDb)
A beautifully composed film, with its exquisitely detailed sets and costumes, that, along with a swirling orchestral score, gracefully sweep you up into 1870s New York. Striking visual edits complete this cinematic package that brings life to what is a very introspective story heavy on narration and light on outward conflict. It’s a unique combination that sits nicely in the end but feels a tad too mild and insubstantial at times throughout, despite strong performances from the three leads.
7.5/10 (Really Good)