Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

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Two Jedi escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to claim their old glory. (IMDb)
The core here is solid: one part engaging political power-games plot, one part planet-hopping adventure (loved the journey underwater: “There’s always a bigger fish”) with some moments of intrigue on the side (see the princess twist, Jedi council debate on the kid, the mysterious menace). Its often distasteful decoration (sorry Jar-Jar, you’re just a bit much; annoying Anakin isn’t helped by the script: “I’ll try spinning, that’s a good trick!”) weakens it but overall it’s still enjoyable.
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Get Smart (2008)

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Maxwell Smart, a highly intellectual but bumbling spy working for the CONTROL agency, is tasked with preventing a terrorist attack from rival spy agency KAOS. (IMDb)
A few standout funny bits (I nearly cried laughing at that perfect in-tree cameo), a few standout not-funny bits (the fat jokes and xenophobia didn’t sit well), but mostly just a breezy and easily-consumable action comedy with a unique lead (Carrell’s dry delivery really works well with a character that’s sometimes the butt of the jokes, and sometimes making the jokes), good central odd-couple chemistry, and solid action sequences. Bonus points for the pacifist conflict resolve on the rooftop.
7/10 (Good)

 

Yes Man (2008)

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A guy challenges himself to say “yes” to everything for an entire year. (IMDb)
The central motif is well developed, as Carrey’s charming Carl moves from melancholy conservatism to inspiring free-spirited-ness before a well-placed stick in the spokes adds nuance to the message (see the “no” in his ex’s apartment). The romance narrative isn’t as impressive; it’s formulaic, with a predictable fall out (the FBI twist that instigates it also seems far fetched), though Carrey and Deschanel have decent chemistry. Darby’s hilariously nerdy Norman is a notable supporting character.
6.5/10 (Alright)

The Art of the Steal (2013)

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Crunch Calhoun, a semi-reformed art thief, agrees to get his old gang back together to pull off one last heist. (IMDb)
There’s good humour here, but the editing feels like a cheap Ocean’s knock-off, the cast’s charisma and chemistry is inconsistent (Dillon is good and Baruchel does his job as comic relief, but Welsh is annoying, “Lola” inconsequential, and Russell overacts), the heists, while fun, are too brief, and the final twist has unconvincing build-up, is revealed much too quickly to revel in, and is anti-climatic to boot. There’s enough here to keep a caper film fan interested, but not enough to satisfy.
6/10 (Mediocre)