Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

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John McClane and a Harlem store owner are targeted by German terrorist Simon Gruber in New York City, where he plans to rob the Federal Reserve Building. (IMDb)
Darker than ever, thanks to some super high stakes (see the school bomb) and what feels like the biggest and bloodiest bad guy body count yet. The former offers some great moments of drama (see the “fire drill” at the school) but the latter makes it a little harder to swallow the triumphant “let him burn” and “yippie-kai-yay” at the end. For the most part though, Willis’ dry wit (“attention! Nils is dead!”) and action heroics continue to entertain, and Jackson proves to be an enjoyable sidekick.
7/10 (Good)
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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans. (IMDb)

Another healthy dose of enormous and entertaining action make this a fun film to watch in spite of its mostly lazy writing (see Wanda and Pietro’s weak antagonist motivations–and Ultron’s, for that matter–and correspondingly cheap turn; the half-baked Hawkeye development; the far-fetched and only vaguely explained bad guy antics), with the aid of one well-timed bit of self-awareness: “The city’s flying, we’re fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”

6.7/10

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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As Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Black Widow, to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier. (IMDb)

Certainly more ambitious than the original, though not perfect: The titular character is given hints of nuance (“What makes you happy?” “I don’t know”), as is the mysterious Fury (finally) but both remain underdeveloped; The Winter Soldier is a formidable opponent and the SHIELD internal drama adds some complexity to the antagonism, but both the villain reveal and the Hydra twist feel far-fetched and a little dumb. Above criticism though, is the fantastic action choreography found throughout.

7.1/10

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

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Steve Rogers, a rejected military soldier transforms into Captain America after taking a dose of a “Super-Soldier serum”. But being Captain America comes at a price as he attempts to take down a war monger and a terrorist organization. (IMDb)

The small (literally) beginnings of our hero (even post-serum, with his initial stint as a propaganda star) are uniquely compelling, and along with its gritty WWII setting, help create a welcome down-to-earth vibe for the first act. What follows is more of a mixed bag, with the villain throwing in some cheesy sci-fi, and the fantastic action sequences starting to ring a little hollow after he is never allowed any victory. A completely unexplained deus ex machina doesn’t end things well.

6.8/10

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

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An FBI agent takes on a plane full of deadly and venomous snakes, deliberately released to kill a witness being flown from Honolulu to Los Angeles to testify against a mob boss. (IMDb)

Unsurprisingly campy, especially during the first wave of attacks that walks the line between hilariously ridiculous and distastefully stupid, as the victims conveniently get bit in all the grossest places (nipple, penis, tongue, eyeball). It’s more of a straight-forward horror thriller from then on–still preposterous, and still poorly made (neither the snakes nor the plane look that great), but with enough action, goofy caricatures, and memorable one-liners that it remains mostly enjoyable.

6.2/10

Pulp Fiction (1994)

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The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption. (IMDb)

It’s dark and bloody yet ridiculous and hilarious, and subtly clever too, as drugs, guns, and endless expletives are laced with the randomly mundane-the toaster strudels, the cheeseburgers, the radio-friendly soundtrack-and a melodramatic short-term plot takes intriguing deja vu turns. With plenty of outrageous dialogue (Jackson and Travolta are gold), black comedy (see the Wolf’s cover-up), and off-kilter characters (Willis is another gem), Pulp Fiction has no trouble living up to its name.

8.5/10

The Other Guys (2010)

Two mismatched New York City detectives seize an opportunity to step up like the city’s top cops whom they idolize — only things don’t quite go as planned. (IMDb)

The pairing of Wahlberg’s hilariously angry and ultra-serious Terry with Ferrell’s calm and nerdy Allen here makes for numerous laugh-out-loud moments throughout; they have great dialogue in between the outrageous action scenes, and are supported by a consistently funny secondary cast. The great humour here makes the plot incidental, but it ends up being given serious thought (see the end credits) which feels unnecessary and try-hard in what is otherwise just a simple buddy-cop comedy.

6.8/10