Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years. (IMDb)
If I was rating individual scenes, this would have a bunch of 10/10s, no question, thanks to some incredible visuals, sounds, turns, and Villeneuve’s impeccable sense of tension and atmosphere (see the opening search, the horse discovery, Joshi vs. Luv, K and dreammaker Dr. Ana, the stunning final fight). Unfortunately, Leto’s cliche villain and Deckard’s return make for a less compelling and more tangential-feeling third act, at least plot and character-wise, keeping the film from perfection.
8/10 (Great)

 

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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)

La La Land (2016)

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A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. (IMDb)
Fresh right from the unabashedly joyous opening song to its road rage at first sight (such humour is tastefully dotted throughout). Their ever-after isn’t what it could have been either, but the plot’s interplay between love and individual aspiration (each are marvelously portrayed by Gosling and Stone) shows it isn’t necessarily a bad thing–a nuance that adds depth to the film’s cute romance and gorgeous aesthetic of dream-like colours and camerawork, scrumptious sets, and magical music.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

The Big Short (2015)

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Four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed. (IMDb)

The financial jargon and drama is thick and constant, but phenomenally and entertainingly packaged: The editing sizzles with both comedic and dramatic potency (lots of abrupt scene cuts and charming pop culture potpourri), the script is both serious and snicker-worthy (4th-wall breaks and snarky narration lie alongside tense moral exploration), and the big three put their acting chops on full display through some fantastic characters (the eccentric Michael, fiery Mark, and douche-y Jared).

8.4/10

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.

8.9/10

#4 on my Top 10 Most Underrated Films list