Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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Autobots must escape sight from a bounty hunter who has taken control of the human serendipity: Unexpectedly, Optimus Prime and his remaining gang turn to a mechanic, his daughter, and her back street racing boyfriend for help. (IMDb)
Excepting the increased amount of shameless product placements and flat one-liners, this is the most mature of the series thus far: Wahlberg is a steady lead, the father-daughter central relationship is refreshing, Tucci’s villain gives us an actual dynamic character, and the plot is easier to follow, even if it ends in yet another bloated (but still impressive) final action sequence featuring Transformer dinosaurs of all things (though KSI’s far-fetched tech almost tops them in ridiculousness).
6.5/10 (Alright)
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Spotlight (2015)

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The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core. (IMDb)

The dense dialogue doesn’t dumb anything down, to the film’s initial detriment (it’s tough to latch on), but ultimately giving it a welcome mature feel as the Spotlight team continues to determinedly dig their way to the disturbing truth. A no-frills story, solidly acted (Ruffalo’s passionate Mike and Schreiber’s calm and calculated Marty are two standouts) maintains this tone, dispensing with unnecessary character explorations and pushy pathos on the way to its subtly sentimental final scene.

8.2/10

The Company You Keep (2012)

A former Weather Underground activist goes on the run from a journalist who has discovered his identity. (IMDb)

A stacked cast does not disappoint here; LaBeouf is particularly electric as the savvy journalist uncovering for us a fascinating web of former radicals still on the lamb. The past-present element is compelling and produces a refreshingly old and textured cast of characters, while the cat-and-mouse game is exciting without resorting to cheap action. The underlying themes of truth and justice aren’t given quite enough oomph but the movie remains an engaging thriller that looks great to boot.

8.2/10

#2 on my Top 10 Most Underrated Films list

The Pelican Brief (1993)

A law student uncovers a conspiracy, putting herself and others in danger. (IMDb)

This is a well-filmed legal thriller with a solid pair of protagonists (Washington and Roberts are in good form) and a decent amount of suspense and intrigue, but ultimately the dense political/legal talk that saturates the story makes it much too difficult to follow for it to be an enjoyable watch all the way through–and the drawn-out ending does little to redeem it.

6.3/10

The Lovely Bones (2009)

A mixed-bag of a film: The plot leading up Suzy’s murder is full of wonderfully uncomfortable edge-of-your-seat suspense, and the emotion and drama that follow her death in dealing with the loss and looking for the killer is just as captivating, and is captured by excellent camerawork and great performances all around. The mystical afterlife scenes, however, feel fluffy and boring in comparison with the gritty suspense of the scenes on earth. Overall, a good movie that could have been great.

7.1/10