Moneyball (2011)

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Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players. (IMDb)
It’s got the surface stuff for dramatic greatness–an intriguing premise, a solid cast, entertaining dialogue (see Billy’s flurry of calls at the trade deadline), and slick editing that smoothly incorporates lots of flashbacks and archival footage–but the story holds it back in a couple ways: Billy’s personal life often feels like an unnecessary inclusion, and the intellectualism of the sports narrative seems to get replaced in the third act with a more typical underdog/pep-talk type feel.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

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Come Sunday (2018)

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Evangelist Carlton Pearson is ostracized by his church for preaching that there is no Hell. (IMDb)
The Christian jargon often comes off as a little wooden; maybe it’s because a lot of it feels like it would’ve had to be indoctrinated (Carl’s reasoning at the heresy trial spoke well to this), but the more progressive theology is a bit ham-fisted too. Ejiofor is excellent though, as an imperfect man wrestling with tradition, conviction, and consequences, and along with beautiful cinematography and a solid score this makes for a number of powerful scenes that overshadow most kinks in the script.
7/10 (Good)

 

Isle of Dogs (2018)

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Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog. (IMDb)
Awe-inspiring animation, as expected, with an amazing attention to detail (petals on noses, fur blowing in the wind), breathtaking landscapes (see the journey montages), a variety of unique shots (see the shadowy discussion in the bottle cave), creative storytelling devices (see the split-screens), and fun flourishes (see the sushi-making). A welcome surprise is the engaging hard-boiled political drama added to Anderson’s typically quirky comedy (the gossiping goofy alpha dog pack is great).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

The Mask (1994)

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Bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss is transformed into a manic superhero when he wears a mysterious mask. (IMDb)
Carrey’s wonderfully wacky physical comedy and over-the-top mannerisms find their perfect match in the literally cartoon-y (see the bomb-swallowing, bazooka-in-pocket) character of The Mask, making for a first two acts with memorably fun scenes too numerous to mention, with a thoughtful underlying theme of identity to boot. A lame, vaguely written villain (why did he want to blow up the club again?) really tarnishes the third act though (having someone else wear the mask kinda ruined it for me).
7/10 (Good)

 

Groundhog Day (1993)

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A weatherman finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again. (IMDb)
Starts off as a funny (thanks to Murray’s signature dry wit) but standard comedy as the characters are introduced (Larry is a classic comic sidekick) and the premise is milked for the easy surface-y/hedonistic humour. But as the day continues to repeat itself (the repeated settings alternate nicely) it takes on surprising dramatic weight as Phil moves through different stages of dealing with his (smartly unexplained) predicament (see his climactic interaction with the homeless man).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)

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In the 1970s and ’80s, National Lampoon’s success and influence creates a new media empire overseen in part by the brilliant and troubled Doug Kenney. (IMDb)
I guess it was just his personality, but the modern-Doug narrative device (his words, to the film’s credit) unfortunately tends to laugh off some of the more disturbing elements of his rise to fame (namely death, drugs, and sexism). Still, it’s one of a few fun bits that add some freshness to what is mostly a formulaic (though funny) biopic. Forte and Gleeson are great (with a shout-out to McHale’s on-point Chevy) and an effectively emotional final scene is a testament to their character work.
7/10 (Good)

 

Easy Rider (1969)

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Two counterculture bikers travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America. (IMDb)
I read afterwards that Fonda and Hopper were drunk and high most of the time when filming this (writing it as they went) and you can tell, for better or for worse: In its camerawork and writing, it certainly carries with it a refreshing air of authenticity and spontaneity (the campfire discussions are both provoking–“They see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em”–and unexpected: “We blew it”), but it also often comes off as just plain lazy and pretentious (see the requisite drug trip scene).
6.5/10 (Alright)