Now You See Me 2 (2016)

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One year after outwitting the FBI and winning the public’s adulation with their mind-bending spectacles, the Four Horsemen resurface only to find themselves face to face with a new enemy who enlists them to pull off their most dangerous heist yet. (Letterboxd)
Whyyyeye must there be a second twist at the end again? It’s not a good thing if it’s unfounded and ruins all the fun that came before and NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE EYE THING. The first twist with the plane also isn’t great cuz you know it’s coming and they explain it to death. Also, is it just me or does Mark Ruffalo’s character NOT look like a Dylan? Lots of specific complaints here cuz it’s just more of the same, though that goes for the good stuff too (that card-throwing heist was pretty cool).
6/10 (Mediocre)

Now You See Me (2013)

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An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money. (Letterboxd)
The end sucks, not just because the twist is nonsensical (flashbacks of the person in a hoodie “there the whole time” isn’t enough explanation), but because the dumb carousal final scene leaves behind the cool Robin Hood-esque motivations of the team for some lame secret club idea–and the cocky characters already weren’t that likeable. Magic and heists are fun though, and fortunately that makes up most of the movie, making it fully watchable when the camera isn’t making you dizzy.
6/10 (Mediocre)

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Llewelyn Moss stumbles upon dead bodies, $2 million and a hoard of heroin in a Texas desert, but methodical killer Anton Chigurh comes looking for it, with local sheriff Ed Tom Bell hot on his trail. The roles of prey and predator blur as the violent pursuit of money and justice collide. (Letterboxd)
Masterfully shot and acted (TLJ’s weary and witty ETB was my fav), with captivating violence and cat-and-mouse thrills, but it’s the film’s unique dramatic framing that really makes it stands out: namely, its perfect bookends (from the reluctant “OK, I’ll be a part of this world” to dreams of warmth and light in “all that dark and all that cold”) and fascinating use of distance throughout (the slow pace, the open landscapes, the lack of interaction between main characters, the removed villain).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

2012 (2009)

A frustrated writer struggles to keep his family alive when a series of global catastrophes threatens to annihilate mankind. (IMDb)
It’s intense, no doubt, but in a discomforting, empty sort of way-feels hard to feel relief at the constant near escapes of our protagonists when 99.9% of the rest of the world is completely annihilated in massive dumps of CGI. On one hand, this numbness as a response to such widespread devastation rings partially true, but on the other, it speaks to a certain blockbuster gloss that leaves the film’s themes of human desperation and end-of-the-world values inconsistent and underdeveloped.
6/10 (Mediocre)

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

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High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. (IMDb)
Has the typical authentic charm (and cliches–see the nice guy vs. bad boy dynamic) of other good films in the Western coming-of-age genre, with Steinfeld a sterling lead. The third act flirts with greatness with hints of deeper character examinations (see Nadine at Mr. Bruner’s house; Darian’s doorstep speech; the beautiful hallway vulnerability) that could’ve gone a bit further (the ending is a bit too happy and easy considering Nadine’s stark confession of real depression the night before).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

The Highwaymen (2019)

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A pair of Texas Rangers come out of retirement to catch the infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. (IMDb)
Old-timey feeling, and in a good way (aside from being a little long..in the tooth), with aging protagonists (with great chemistry) appreciably not dressed up as action stars (see their post-chase wheezing), a gorgeous folksy soundtrack + Americana landscapes cinematic combo, and a tried and true buddy cop plot. Hints at deeper themes (criminals’ humanity–see Hamer with Clyde’s dad–and police violence: see Maney’s mesmerizing story around the card table) are unfortunately never followed up upon.
7/10 (Good)

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

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Katniss and a team of rebels from District 13 prepare for the final battle that will decide the future of Panem. (IMDb)
A perfect continuation of the devastating commentary on war from Part 1: uneasy scenes of sinister battle plans and shady propaganda politics intertwine with suspenseful ones of terrifying, exhausting, fruitless warfare (see Katniss’ response to her brief captor) to lead to a fitting anti-climax; there is no joy in victory, only lingering suspicion and pain and further violence simmering beneath the surface (slightly cheesy final scene aside). A satisfying conclusion to a dark dystopian tale.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

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Katniss Everdeen is in District 13 after she shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage. (IMDb)
Grim, ghastly, great. Could’ve capitalized on the momentum of the simple and effective good rebels vs. bad Capitol set-up of the first two flicks, but instead chose to sit in the darkness underground for a while and meditate on media manipulation and the horrors of war that exist even when you’re fighting evil: a remarkable pre-climax storytelling maneuver that sits better the more you stew on it. Well-shot, scored (Lawrence’s “The Hanging Tree” is truly haunting), and acted, as always.
8/10 (Great)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

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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)

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

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During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion. (IMDb)
A solid, if unspectacular space adventure with good action (the dangerous short-cut on the Kessel run was a highlight), interesting and likeable characters (many of the charmingly unpredictable “mostly good” variety; others pure comic relief-I loved L3: “Do you want anything?” “Equal rights?”), and an easy-to-follow plan/heist/escape plot with a couple nice twists at the end. Finally, I know this is dependent on seeing the other films, but I smiled big when Chewy climbed in the co-pilot’s seat.
7/10 (Good)