Masterminds (2016)

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A night guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes one of the biggest bank heists in American history. (Letterboxd)
The plot is just-got-robbed-poor (there’s no heist, fugitive, or character tension to be found), and only a couple of the many jokes land, so two acts in and things are looking bleaker than a corn dog at a hot dog party before the marvelous moustached Mike McKinney shows up and finds his fate to add a jolt of comedy and give the plot a needed twist. The climax lets things down again but by then the continued earnest charm of David Ghantt has at least made him somewhat of an engaging lead.
5.5/10 (Poor)

Zoolander 2 (2016)

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Derek and Hansel are lured into modeling again, in Rome, where they find themselves the target of a sinister conspiracy. (IMDb)
A convoluted and lazily written plot (see the terrible climax that renders pretty much everything previous irrelevant) is jammed onto a non-stop ride of ridiculousness that more often than not doesn’t generate laughs (the sexual innuendos are lame; Armisen’s head unnerving; the celebrity cameos mostly tiresome, straight-faced and dramatic Sutherland aside-“minus one”) but earns points for Wiig’s hilariously accented Alexanya and just for the sheer amount of insanity thrown out there by the end.
5.5/10 (Poor)

Little Fockers (2010)

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Family-patriarch Jack Byrnes wants to appoint a successor. Does his son-in-law, the male nurse Greg Focker, have what it takes? (IMDb)
A little old and tired, just like its characters, with a dumb plot pulled out of thin air (“Godfocker”? Really?) and over-the-top body/sex humour trying desperately but failing to get some laughs (see the finger-cutting; erection incident). Elsewhere, there are a few funny moments (Dern’s small part is a highlight; Wilson’s Spacey Kevin is always good), and the marriage/family drama probably would have been decent if the film didn’t try and make it funny (see the uncomfortable hospital scene).
5.5/10 (Poor)

Meet the Fockers (2004)

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All hell breaks loose when the Byrnes family meets the Focker family for the first time. (IMDb)
A most minimal of plots is saved by the excellent cast, who play off their characters’ striking contrasts (to DeNiro’s no-fun Jack and Stiller’s awkward Greg is added Hoffman’s delightfully exuberant Bernie and Streisand’s free-spirited Roz) with natural ease and to hilarious results, as the script takes the chaotic tension impressively far (even deep) before the heartwarming payoff (see Jack’s “we’re family now”). Given the film’s length though, the silly son sub-story could have been cut.
7/10 (Good)

Zoolander (2001)

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At the end of his career, a clueless fashion model is brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. (IMDb)
Stiller’s pucker-faced lead is annoying more often than funny, but he has his moments (“Mer-man!”) and fortunately, the model-world satire he’s a part of is laugh-out-loud outrageous (see the underground walk-off; wacky final runway show), his counterpart Wilson’s smooth but equally dim-witted model is a riot (see his awards intro video), and well, people being dumb is just pretty funny most of the time (case in point: the ridiculous gasoline fight; 2001 ape spoof: “They’re IN the computer!”).
7/10 (Good)

Bottle Rocket (1996)

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Three friends plan to pull off a simple robbery and go on the run. (IMDb)

An average city simply filmed is the perfect setting for the outrageously funny escapades of a few friends (among them the Wilsons’ geeky Anthony–see his tagging along with his motel maid crush–and excitable ringleader Dignan–see his 75-year plan) acting out their romanticized idea of a life of crime (“On the run from Johnny Law…”), planning heists, wearing jumpsuits, etc. The motel middle act sags slightly, but a wacky caper (the absent-minded Kumar is a highlight) climaxes the film well.

8/10 (Great)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when their father announces he is terminally ill. (IMDb)
Enjoyably quirky narrated character set-ups lead into a melancholic family reunion drama artistically crafted (memorable costumes and an excellent soundtrack stand out) but saturated with so much deadpan dialogue that it gets a little tiresome at points. Not all of the characters connect (Raleigh is inconsequential; Eli feels out of place) but Royal is a strong lead in his flawed quest for redemption, and Chas (see his guard let down; “I’ve had a tough year”) and Richie eventually hit home too.
7/10 (Good)

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

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A year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other. (IMDb)
The estranged brother dynamic is well-written in the dryly humourous first act as keener Francis initiates their adventure, secrets are leaked, and the backstory is patiently exposited. The rest of the film loses some momentum (despite great music, slow-mo, and tracking shots) thanks to too many vaguely significant but unsubstantiated scenes (see the unearned melodrama of Jack’s farewell to Rita), though the dramatic tragedy of the second act (“He’s all bloody!”) certainly isn’t one of them.
7/10 (Good)

 

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

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An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation. (IMDb)
Every scene is a delectably detailed diorama, brought to life by endlessly creative animation, perfect voice acting, and marvelous music (a fun soundtrack plus tear-jerking classical crescendos-see Rat’s redemption), while a tight script (the wolf encounter is a real cherry on top) showcases remarkable characterization (see the angsty Ash), thoughtful drama (see Mr. and Mrs. Fox’s standoff), and a fascinating anthropomorphic vs. wild animal thematic thread alongside its heaps of quirky humour.
9.5/10 (Breathtaking)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

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With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son. (IMDb)
Visually, a delight (clashing underwater animation aside), with its meticulously crafted sets, distinct costumes, and cheeky screenplay (lots of incidental eating) captured by beautifully-framed shots. This marvelous aesthetic is complimented nicely by a mellow soundtrack (Jorge is great) and excellent deadpan humour. The dry script delivery doesn’t work as well with the drama–it mostly fails to engage, despite great turns from Murray and Blanchett–but a moving climax helps to entrench it a bit.
7.5/10 (Really Good)