Lost in Translation (2003)

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A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. (IMDb)
Just a hug would have been better, but aside from that and a few other missteps in the final act (the singer sleepover came out of nowhere), it’s the ultimate in soothing cinema, thanks to its down-to-earth script that manages to capture all the beauty (and often humour) found in the mundane things of hotel/tourist life and friendship (see the falling asleep while talking scene). Solidly acted and remarkably edited and scored, it’s a marvel of refreshing authenticity (see the first night out).
8/10 (Great)

The Prestige (2006)

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Two stage magicians engage in competitive one-upmanship in an attempt to create the ultimate stage illusion. (IMDb)
From an initial point of drama comes both the pre- and post-conflict timelines, which together expertly unravel in a most satisfying way a bevy of exciting secrets that reveal the stunning story behind the beginning intrigue. Driving forward this intricate plot is a tense dual-character study (both Jackman and Bale excel) set within the dark and unnerving world of professional magicians conveying the drastic–even deadly–effects of ambition and rivalry. A masterfully layered yet cohesive film.
9/10 (Amazing)

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man. (IMDb)
Great action? Sure. But the civil war premise behind half of it is terribly constructed. The initial point of tension was decent but certainly didn’t warrant an all-out brawl (the banter in the airport showdown just proved how dumb it was) and it developed into a misunderstanding that could’ve been resolved just with a good conversation instead of a near to-the-death fight (you were friends, right?). Like, the bad guy just said he wanted you to fight each other. Truly a stupid superhero movie.
6.5/10 (Alright)

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

The Avengers (2012)

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Earth’s mightiest heroes must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity. (IMDb)

After a scattered first act, the film picks up as the Avengers gather; clashing egos (along with the welcome addition of Ruffalo’s mellow Banner) and growing feelings of distrust keep the dream-team motif grounded (though the Thor-Iron Man fight with Loki watching was dumb) while a jaw-dropping final action sequence (deftly managing to give each hero their shining moments) brings it to its apex of feel-good entertainment. A tantalizing epilogue and perfect after-credits scene end things well.

8.0/10

Iron Man 2 (2010)

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With the world now aware of his identity as Iron Man, Tony Stark must contend with both his declining health and a vengeful mad man with ties to his father’s legacy. (IMDb)

The good outweighs the bad in this sequel: The “new” Rhodey is meh, but the rough and reserved Vanko and the annoying Hammer are each uniquely entertaining villains. A messy script fumbles its multiple plot threads (the requisite Avengers teasers don’t help), but Stark’s increasing ego and decreasing health, along with his government clashes and sinister copycats remain intriguing, if neglected. Finally, the robot-loaded climax feels weak, but the racetrack action mid-way through is great.

7.0/10