Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

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Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty. (IMDb)
It’s a little hard to keep up with Holmes’ fast-track mind that takes us through the mystery, but the journey is nothing short of breathtaking–thrilling action sequences (see the wild train ride) matched only by RDJ and Law’s brilliant banter are bolstered by a wonderful score (see the fiddle-backed bar fight) and slick cinematography (see the stop-go slow-motion in the forest run)–and a well-crafted climax (Harris is a solid adversary) capably fills us in while still amping up the tension.
9/10 (Amazing)

Aliens (1986)

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The moon from Alien (1979) has been colonized, but contact is lost. This time, the rescue team has impressive firepower, but will it be enough? (IMDb)
More people, aliens, and guns make this sequel more of an action-thriller than its slow-horror predecessor, replacing the latter’s subtle suspense and relatability with more straight-forward shoot-em-up fodder, but that’s not to say it’s always a bad thing (more aliens makes for a stronger sense of hopelessness; Ripley and the alien Mom’s unexpected final showdown is awesome) or that it doesn’t still have good character work (sniveling Burke is the perfect complement to strong-willed Ripley).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Alien (1979)

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After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious life-form, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun. (IMDb)
Only a few instances of distractingly dated SFX (see the puppet-like movement of the worm; big explosion) mar this claustrophobic and intimate sci-fi thriller: Natural dialogue and pacing, along with an excellent use of long tracking shots, shaky handheld movement, and facial close-ups capture perfectly the unsettling dread, shocking horror, and relatable characters trying to cope in a uniquely nightmarish plot (the initial terror from the gross alien is boosted by the robot twist later on).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

Shrek Forever After (2010)

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Rumpelstiltskin tricks a mid-life crisis burdened Shrek into allowing himself to be erased from existence and cast in a dark alternate timeline where Rumpel rules supreme. (IMDb)
Props for finding yet another way to twist some conflict out of the happy ending from the first one with a cool Back to the Future-esque alternative timeline premise, though it ultimately did Shrek’s intriguing initial inner struggles a disservice. Besides a decent story, however, there’s little to appreciate: The new characters fail to charm (Rumpel is just annoying) and aside from a few more one-liners from Donkey (“I go down smooth, but I come out fighting!”) there isn’t much to laugh at.
6/10 (Mediocre)

Shrek the Third (2007)

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When his new father-in-law, King Harold falls ill, Shrek is looked at as the heir to the land of Far, Far Away. Not one to give up his beloved swamp, Shrek recruits his friends Donkey and Puss in Boots to install the rebellious Artie as the new king. Princess Fiona, however, rallies a band of royal girlfriends to fend off a coup d’etat by the jilted Prince Charming.  (IMDb)
With a lazily conceived and executed and generally suspense-less plot, the onus is all on the comedy here, and while it’s not always on point (the potty humour and baby schtick don’t stick) there’s enough goofy slapstick (I couldn’t help but lol at the Shrek as mascot bit) and creative meta-humour (see Marlin’s forced sentimentality) to keep it watchable. A subversive play on the damsel in distress trope and a surprising and funny (if over-simplified) reconciliatory ending are other positives.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Drive (2011)

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A mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic moonlights as a getaway driver and finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor. (IMDb)
Smoothly moves without leaving a character behind or strings untied from a subtly spun protagonist set-up (the quiet Driver is ever intriguing) with budding romance to a bloody crime/revenge drama spiked with shocking violence. Add to that an equally cohesive aesthetic of a moody city setting slickly portrayed (see the crossfade transitions, scrumptious slow motion shots under a gorgeous synth soundtrack) and unique scene edits (see the final confrontation) and the film packs quite the punch.
9/10 (Amazing)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

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Famed archaeologist/adventurer Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones is called back into action when he becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls. (IMDb)
A classic straightaway action sequence is followed by a great plot set-up that introduces an enjoyable new sidekick (LaBeouf’s greaser) while offering some rambunctious initial fun (see the bar escape; motorcycle chase; Ford’s library one-liner) in a glossed-up 50s Americana setting. The adventure only gets amped up from there, but obvious CGI often brings it down (see the jungle sequence), and the increasingly ridiculous sci-fi plot certainly doesn’t help matters. Still an entertaining watch.
7/10 (Good)