Marie Antoinette (2006)

Very stylish, with great cinematography and a pop soundtrack that perfectly peppers the lavish period-piece setting. Story-wise, the slow opening act intrigues as quiet Marie is made pawn in a publicized political chess match, but the unfocused next two acts fail to generate any momentum. They sit better in out-the-carriage-window hindsight (the forced reign of a teen queen is bound to be messy) but more consistency and depth in the one of the character or plot threads would have been nice.

Insidious (2010)

A spooky ghost story that eventually possesses the body of a more straight forward (though still supernatural) investigative thriller, with a third act that explains the scares and establishes a clear action-plan-plot leading to the climax. It’s a unique approach that works well, following up a solid first two acts filled with excellent jump scares and well-crafted atmosphere (the startling soundtrack and second act move are dreadfully effective, though the drab cinematography is less so).

Peter Rabbit (2018)


Feature adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic tale of a rebellious rabbit trying to sneak into a farmer’s vegetable garden. (IMDb)
I mean, Peter and co. are just kind of obnoxious (the incessant peppy pop-song soundtrack underneath all their escapades doesn’t help). I was legitimately a little concerned for a while there that Peter’s escalating actions would go unchecked and even praised by the film. It didn’t happen, fortunately, but I still would’ve preferred a film focused on the ultimately tragic McGregor and his interesting relationship with Bea instead of the mostly annoying lead rabbit (only a few of his jokes land).
5/10 (Poor)

Knowing (2009)


M.I.T. professor John Koestler links a mysterious list of numbers from a time capsule to past and future disasters and sets out to prevent the ultimate catastrophe. (IMDb)
Cheesy acting and bland dialogue throughout are overcome by a story that-while scattered-is stocked full of so many interesting ideas (on death and the future, with strong religious undertones), genre shifts (from chilling horror-cue silent stalkers, creaky houses, kids who hear voices-to disaster thriller-the set pieces are excellent-to apocalyptic drama-see the drive through New York-to even alien sci-fi), and bold twists (see the third act death and departure) that it refuses to be ignored.
7/10 (Good)


Bridesmaids (2011)


Competition between the maid of honor and a bridesmaid, over who is the bride’s best friend, threatens to upend the life of an out-of-work pastry chef. (IMDb)
The actual bridesmaids scenes are outrageously funny (see the shit-storm in the bridal boutique) thanks to some crazy characters (McCarthy’s Megan is a riot) and excellent cast chemistry (Wiig and Byrne’s rival friends especially; see their competing speeches) but it’s the surprising character work on the goofy yet melancholy Annie (Wiig is perfect; see her cop drive-bys) that elevates this comedy to another level, injecting some nice bits of drama and romance (O’Dowd is adorable) into the mix.
8/10 (Great)

Spy (2015)


A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster. (IMDb)
A forgettable plot is saved by its fresh and funny characters that subvert the spy genre’s typical line-up by poking fun at the alpha male (Statham’s satire is gold–see his hilarious boat farewell) and putting the females at the forefront, with Byrne as the ridiculous villain and McCarthy (still with her usual arsenal of great vulgar one-liners) as the unassuming desk worker who’s actually super smart and bad-ass. Surprisingly awesome action is also notable (see Susan’s kitchen fight with Lia).
7/10 (Good)

Neighbors (2014)

After they are forced to live next to a fraternity house, a couple with a newborn baby do whatever they can to take them down. (IMDb)
Rogen and Byrne’s bumbling young parents shtick here is usually funny and there are a few memorably raunchy gags, but the chaotic party montages get a bit tiresome and do little to cover up what feels like a very thin plot (some self-aware jabs at screenplay cliches excuse its weak movements, but don’t add the needed substance). The half-hearted attempt at serious character development for Teddy is regrettably too little, too late, and the movie isn’t consistently funny enough to make up for it.
6/10 (Mediocre)

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

A motorcycle stunt rider turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective. (IMDb)
A gripping three-part crime drama that deftly follows a multi-generational set of characters through their respective lives as they connect in startling and moving ways. Morality, family, and revenge are just a few of the complex themes expertly explored in the rich script that’s phenomenally acted out by a stacked cast. Add in a wonderfully-crafted soundtrack and beautiful cinematography and you have an amazing and epic film that gives the cops and robbers premise astonishing emotional depth.
9/10 (Amazing)