On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night. (IMDb)
Feels a little contrived as it sets itself up but the payoff is well worth it: the oddball central duo have great chemistry (see their mutual flattering outside the party) and the rest of the diverse character ensemble all have their moments and even arcs (see Jared’s tear-jerking vulnerability). Good writing is made even better by stellar direction: Wilde’s theatrical flair (see the ceremony entrance) and excellent use of music perfectly capture the extreme drama and emotion of teen life.
The intertwined stories of four generations of Coopers unfold right before the annual family reunion on Christmas Eve. (IMDb)
A cliche multiple-narrative dysfunctional family script is made nearly unbearable by the omniscient narration (by the family dog, somehow, and for some reason) spoon-feeding you what the acting and visuals should just be showing you (though some things are still left unclear-like Ruby and Bucky’s relationship). Some interesting editing choices (see the quick flashbacks) and asides (see the great Santa montage) get points for trying to do something different, even if they come off as contrived.
After being banished from their tribe, two hunter-gatherers encounter Biblical characters and eventually wind up in the city of Sodom. (IMDb)
There are some laughs to be had from Black’s signature crazy schtick (I confess, it was his shit-tasting that got the biggest guffaw out of me) and Cera’s awkward one (“She’s really making that banana last”), and the irreverent trip through biblical history is occasionally funny, but it’s mostly just another crude and immature comedy overloaded with sex jokes, with a dumb plot slapped on top (Zed’s transformation was completely undercooked; it’s better to not even try with these type of films).
A veteran Vegas magician tries to revive his career after his longtime partner quits, he gets fired from his casino act, and an edgy new “street magician” steals his thunder. (IMDb)
Burt’s journey from innocent kid to arrogant/tragic adult and back (figuratively) is a little choppy and unfounded, but compelling, and offers decent comedy (see his hot-box antics, solo two-man trick) to go with a few sweet moments (see his magic show with Rance at the care home) and fun tricks (see the crazy climax). Buscemi’s oft-neglected Anton (see his third-wheel moment at the motel), Carrey’s hardcore rival magician, and Gandolfini’s self-absorbed hotel owner are fun secondary characters.
A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need. (IMDb)
Jonze’s poignantly prophetic near-future world is thoughtfully crafted, as the story subtly showcases its cultural milieu (see the letter writing job, voice-activated tech) and gorgeous, washed-out cinematography captures its streamlined urban isolation. The tenderness and tragedy of the central relationship (Phoenix and Johansson excel), meanwhile, offers more technological intrigue (Samantha’s development is fascinating-almost terrifying) while delicately examining the constructs of love.