Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Wish it had stuck with the opening credits’ simple cheesy fun formula of 80s music and jets flying around at sunset because other stuff like the dialogue (that opening bar scene introducing the aviators is excruciatingly long) and the romance (just, who cares?) is not done very well and interrupts any good flow garnered by the training sequences. That said, the emotion- and action-packed third act (“What were you thinking?” “You told me *not* to think!”) is pretty perfect with a Porsche on top.

Allegiant (2016)


After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago, to finally discover the shocking truth of the world around them. (IMDb)
A great soundtrack makes things sound epic right from the tense first scene; unfortunately, it never gets substantiated by a story riddled with predictable (and sometimes confounding–see their premature celebration on top of the wall; letting Peter go at the end) characters (you knew David had a bad side), far-fetched revelations (see the genetic experiment) and technology (see the seemingly unlimited surveillance system), and contrived exposition (see the dialogue; Bureau entrance video).
5.5/10 (Poor)

The Spectacular Now (2013)

A hard-partying high school senior’s philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical “nice girl.” (IMDb)
Buttery cinematography, crisp editing, and intoxicatingly good turns from Woodley, Teller, and Chandler here present an incredibly realistic, nuanced, and heart-wrenching tale of young love and life. The characters are truly human: complex and dynamic, their language (spoken and unspoken) stuttering, imperfect. The story similarly aches with the subtleties and drama of authentic teen life, building to a fittingly unresolved ending. Sad and endearing, sweet and torturous, this film is a must-see.
9/10 (Amazing)

Whiplash (2014)

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential. (IMDb)
Simmons as the terrifying and unpredictable Fletcher has you on the edge of your seat every time he makes an appearance, and Teller as the ambitious Andrew matches him punch for punch to complete a unforgettably passionate on-screen relationship that raises fascinating questions about the nature of art and the moral issues regarding human ability and drive. The film is intense, disturbing, and without a wasted scene: only after its brilliant and mesmerizing finale can you finally take a breath.
9.5/10 (Breathtaking)

Insurgent (2015)

Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side. (IMDb)
The second installment looks even better than the first with some really cool scenes from the “sims” in particular. Woodley is solid again and her character’s personal plight remains captivating, while Teller is fantastic as a bad guy/good guy/jerk and Winslet is again a great villain. All of that said, the film’s overload of easy and implausible plot movements throughout distracts from the great characters and prevents it from reaching the same level as its predecessor.
7/10 (Good)