The Terminal (2004)

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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 Adventures of Tintin (2011)

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Intrepid reporter Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship commanded by Haddock’s ancestor. (IMDb)
An incredibly fun film: the treasure-hunt adventure plot is well-crafted without being too complicated, the action is excellent (see the wild goose-I mean falcon chase through Bagghar), the animation makes full use of its creative power (see the delightful transitions and Haddock’s recollection), and there’s just the right amount of great comedy (see Thompson and Thomson of course, but Haddock is hilarious too: “I lit a wee fire” “In a boat?!”) added to the suspense (see the ship escape).
8/10 (Great)

 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

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Roy Neary, an electric lineman, watches how his quiet and ordinary daily life turns upside down after a close encounter with a UFO. (IMDb)
“This means something. This is important.” There’s this incredibly compelling sense of mystery and discovery, yearning and wonder throughout the film; it’s got the nuts and bolts scenes of typical sci-fi investigation but there’s a wholly human element here too, as evidenced by Roy’s tragic arc (it was just tragic–a gross negligence, really–that the film ultimately didn’t paint it as such; that certainly would’ve added some fascinating nuance to the triumphant final scene). Wonderful camerawork.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

JWM SPOOKATHON 2018: Monster House (2006)

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Three teens discover that their neighbor’s house is really a living, breathing, scary monster. (IMDb)
Love the spooky fun premise and the classic Stand By Me-esque kids-solving-mystery trope but the execution underwhelms: cop duo aside, the humour is lacking (a lot to do with the often awkwardly stilted dialogue and animation I think) and the payoff for the haunted house intrigue is a bit of a downer that clashes with the film’s comedy-horror tone. The first two acts are still decent enough though due to the strength of its concept and a few good elements (Buscemi’s voice is on point).
6/10 (Mediocre)
CREEPY QUOTE: Bones: “Everybody knows what he did to his wife.” Zee: “Why? What? What did he do to her?” Bones: “He ate her!”
SPOOKY STILL:
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Ready Player One (2018)

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When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. (IMDb)
The OASIS is fun (maybe more for others, but I’m glad to say I thoroughly enjoyed The Shining visitation), but it’s the back-and-forth dynamic between it and reality that’s really well done and makes for lots of entertaining action hi-jinks (see the fooling of Sorrento). In the end though, it wastes the potential of its characters (there should be a whole movie made about the tragic Halliday) as well as the deeper reality vs. entertainment theme underlying the sadly neglected dystopian setting.
7/10 (Good)

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

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The story of Frank Abagnale Jr., before his 19th birthday, successfully forged millions of dollars’ worth of checks while posing as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and legal prosecutor as a seasoned and dedicated FBI agent pursues him. (IMDb)
Yes, it’s a supremely fun (and perfectly directed) cat-and-mouse crime caper (Frank’s slick cons–see especially his original confrontation with Carl–are complimented by his less-than-perfect attempts–“The dog was dead”–and Hanks’ charmingly no-nonsense FBI agent–“Go fuck yourself”), but two excellent character dynamics wonderfully acted (see lonely Jr. trying to please the stubbornly proud Sr.; Carl with a soft spot for Frank–see after his arrest: “Don’t worry, Frank!” ) make it so much more.
9/10 (Amazing)

 

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

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A research team is sent to the Jurassic Park Site B island to study the dinosaurs there while another team approaches with another agenda. (IMDb)
There’s a couple classic Goldblum quotes early on (“Where you’re going is the only place in the world where the geese chase you!”) but he doesn’t suit a lead role, though he doesn’t really end up getting it anyways as we’re treated instead to a thin spread of characters we don’t really care for who are just running around in a weakly premised sequel-plot (how convenient, another island with dinos) that ends in a King Kong rip-off sequence. Suspenseful at points, but ultimately flat and generic.
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

Jurassic Park (1993)

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During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok. (IMDb)
Half build-up, half dino-action: Both acts are well done, with minor flaws: Goldblum’s slick scientist provides both prophetic moral commentary (“What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world”) and comic relief (“That is one big pile of shit”) for the first, but Nedry’s side-plot feels unnecessary; the excitement of the second is second-to-none (the camerawork is impeccable; see the first T-Rex scene) but without many breaks from the action it feels much too long and tires a tad.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

War of the Worlds (2005)

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As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival. (IMDb)
There are some great set pieces and special effects here that combine with consistently tense action and adventure–spiked with just the right amount of chilling horror–to keep you entertained despite a script that continually raises questions (why didn’t Ray immediately go back to his children when things started happening? Why was Robbie so insistent upon fighting the aliens–and how did he get back?) and disappoints (the neglectful Dad sub-plot doesn’t come to any kind of climax or resolve).
6.5/10 (Alright)

An American Tail (1986)

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While emigrating to the United States, a young Russian mouse gets separated from his family and must relocate them while trying to survive in a new country. (IMDb)
Moves much too quickly throughout (Fievel and Tiger’s friendship duet seems a little premature), which makes it difficult to appreciate any of the secondary characters in particular, but each scene, however brief, communicates effectively an aspect of the surprisingly serious immigration (see Fievel’s separation) turned searching for family (see the moments of dramatic irony in New York) plot. Nice animation and a few fun songs (“There’s No Cats in America” is a highlight) round out the film.
6.5/10 (Alright)