Boogie Nights (1997)

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The story of a young man’s adventures in the California pornography industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s. (IMDb)
I dunno, amidst all its characters and plot lines, in the end it lacks a certain, ahem, thrust, with no clear arc or, heh, climax to speak of (the hypnotic back-and-forth between limo and truck came close but didn’t quite land). That said, its “slice of life” structure is certainly done very well, with the majority of its many characters and scenes quite memorable and mull-worthy (Reilly’s earnest Reed and the dramatic/comedic drug deal probably top the list). Great music and camerawork too.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Air Force One (1997)

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Communist Radicals hijack Air Force One with The U.S. President and his family on board. The Vice President negotiates from Washington D.C., while the President, a Veteran, fights to rescue the hostages on board. (IMDb)
Fairly generic America-centric terrorist-thriller with a foreign villain who actually makes some good points, but they’re literally never acknowledged by the person he’s talking to (the surprisingly poignant moral self-examination of the President’s opening speech disappears from the script quite quickly). Still, the limited claustrophobic setting contributes to a number of suspenseful hide-and-seek sequences, and the action’s decent even if the visual effects are pretty cringe-worthy.
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Jurassic Park III (2001)

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A decidedly odd couple with ulterior motives convince Dr. Alan Grant to go to Isla Sorna (the second InGen dinosaur lab.), resulting in an unexpected landing…and unexpected new inhabitants on the island. (IMDb)
Surpasses the second installment largely thanks to its shorter run time, the return of Neill as the steady Indy-like wry lead Dr. Grant, and the addition of the always-good Macy. A couple of interesting new settings (see the “bird cage”) also help keep this installment of dinosaur escapes fresh and popcorn-munching fun until the end in spite of another contrived plot. It’s campy (see the dino dung digging), but it seems to know it, unlike the cheesy “bigger/more is better” sequel before it.
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

Cellular (2004)

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A young man receives an emergency phone call on his cell phone from an older woman. The catch? The woman claims to have been kidnapped; and the kidnappers have targeted her husband and child next. (IMDb)
A great popcorn thriller: There’s the exciting central premise (admittedly dated, offering a few cringe-worthy moments–the final credits in particular), the goofy secondary characters (snobby Porsche guy is fun to love to laugh at), and hilarious well-timed one-liners (“It’s a day spa, you fuck!”), with an average plot boosted by a solid threesome of protagonists (Basinger’s resourceful victim, Evans’ good guy-turned-action star, and Macy’s kind-hearted cop–see his saving of the goldfish).
7/10 (Good)

Magnolia (1999)

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An epic mosaic of interrelated characters in search of love, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley. (IMDb)
The book-ending narration is unnecessary. The frogs are a bit out-there. But the bulk of this 3-hour epic truly is a masterpiece of dramatic storytelling, as multiple poignant narratives–superbly acted–are brilliantly woven together in both stark and subtle ways, in the script and on the screen (see the swirling montages of tracking shots and an ever-building soundtrack found throughout; the character voice-overs lengthened into other scenes; the unique and moving cross-character sing-along).
9.5/10 (Breathtaking)

Thank You for Smoking (2005)

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Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco’s chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son. (IMDb)
Eckhart’s Nick is a slippery spokesman for smoking that you can’t help but root for in spite of his “flexible morals”, thanks to his charismatic quick-talking. The film follows suit, presenting with wicked wit and entertaining editing (see the film pauses and brief inner narrations) its darkly humourous characters (see the outrageous Merchants of Death and Simmons’ abrasive B.R.) and fresh subject matter. Nick’s more serious father conundrum could have been taken a step further though.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Fargo (1996)

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Jerry Lundegaard’s inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen’s bungling and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson. (IMDb)
The bleak snowy setting is perfect for this tightly spun tale of cold-blooded murder (see the red on white in the chilling wood-chipper scene). The three well-acted main players each add their own engaging element to the mix: The anxious Jerry a compelling character deterioration; the volatile Carl and his silent thug both odd-couple comedy and brutal violence; the down-to-earth cop Marge both slick smarts and small-town sweetness (“There’s more to life than a little money, you know”).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Sahara (2005)

Master explorer Dirk Pitt goes on the adventure of a lifetime of seeking out a lost Civil War battleship known as the “Ship of Death” in the deserts of West Africa while helping a WHO doctor being hounded by a ruthless dictator. (IMDb)
A rollicking adventure film, Sahara is a lesser-quality Indiana Jones–nothing more and nothing less than just a great popcorn flick, with exciting action that’s occasionally a bit ridiculous, fun music, an easy-to-follow plot, and an easy-to-root for buddy duo in McConaughey’s Dirk and Zahn’s Al, the latter of whom provides a good amount of comic relief throughout. Sahara isn’t deep or complicated or thought-provoking, and the acting isn’t mesmerizing, but it’s an enjoyable watch nonetheless.
7/10 (Good)