Worth (2020)

Kenneth Feinberg, a powerful D.C. lawyer appointed Special Master of the 9/11 Fund, fights off the cynicism, bureaucracy, and politics associated with administering government funds and, in doing so, discovers what life is worth. (Letterboxd)
A smooth and well-balanced mix of compelling legal procedural and emotive drama that ends nicely with the climax of Ken’s character arc (“You’re nothing like him”). Some of the script is a bit on the nose, some supporting performances slip up, and the dead screen-space for some of the dialogue scenes is strange, but it’s made up for by some moments of cinematic excellence (see the gradual realization on the train), great performances by the main trio, and some cool camerawork in other places.
7/10 (Good)

Margin Call (2011)

margin_call_ver3_xlg

A thriller that revolves around the key people at an investment bank over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the financial crisis. (Letterboxd)
For a good while it’s able to coast on its well-crafted rising tension (you know shit’s going down even if you don’t understand all the corporate jargon) but once the stakes are made clear it starts to feel as bloated as everyone’s wallets: half the characters are pointless, the others are rich white men we don’t care about (Bettany’s great though), and the vague melodramatic dialogue hits the wall hard: “Are you sure it’s the only or right thing to do?” “For who?” “I’m not sure” “Neither am I”.
7/10 (Good)

The Terminal (2004)

terminal_xxlg

An Eastern European tourist unexpectedly finds himself stranded in JFK airport, and must take up temporary residence there. (IMDb)
Product placement and kinda cringe-y “foreign person in America” schtick aside, this could’ve been a good film if it cut a half hour of its runtime and just stuck with the “happy-go-lucky guy living in an airport” narrative. Alas, as it is we get on top of it not one but two baffling romances (one ending in a wedding after literally no relationship, one weirdly melodramatic: “Just stay away from me, Viktor”) and an out-of-nowhere climactic plot point that’s only introduced with 20 minutes left.
6/10 (Mediocre)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

hunger_games_catching_fire_xxlg

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem. (IMDb)
The first act is superb as rebellion brews and Katniss and Peeta deal with the complex aftermath to the previous Games. I wish it lingered here longer instead of rushing to the next Games though; the plan to taint Katniss’ image was dropped rather quickly, for example. Still, emotional scenes abound in the familiar plot structure of the next two acts (see Katniss and Peta’s powerful presentations to the sponsors; Katniss’ dress reveal), and the bounty of new supporting characters are memorable.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

The Hunger Games (2012)

hunger_games_xxlg

Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games: a televised competition in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to the death. (IMDb)
Captivating from the get-go thanks to the intimate, hand-held camerawork, bittersweet landscapes of poverty and natural beauty, and ethereal, haunting soundtrack. As the last two acts dive into the deep end of the disturbing dystopia while keeping these elements it becomes even more so; social commentary on class disparity, reality entertainment, and desensitization to violence intertwine to make numerous powerful scenes and a poignant lingering sense of despair and rebellion amidst victory.
8/10 (Great)

 

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

transformers_the_last_knight_ver2_xxlg

Autobots and Decepticons are at war, with humans on the sidelines. Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. (IMDb)
The plotting is either incomprehensible or downright cheesy (or both–see the climax at Stonehenge with the staff of Merlin), character movements are difficult to make sense of (see Duhamel’s Colonel and co. chase, then join forces with their target; the Earl suddenly ditching), and besides that, it just goes on too long. The action’s good though, and some surprising and genuinely funny moments of levity (see Merlin’s opening plea; Cogman’s organ playing; Agent Simmons in Cuba) help break it up.
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

age-of-extinction

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)

Spotlight (2015)

spotlight-poster

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.
8/10 (Great)

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.
8/10 (Great)

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.
6.5/10 (Alright)