Brooklyn (John Crowley – 2015) B+

A story of an immigrant in the US, an Irish immigrant after the war. It’s got good performances and an engaging story. What really works is how true it reflects being in two places at once. The new world with the new possibilities and opportunities versus the old world with its history and connections. It’s where the heart is, where family lives and all of a sudden it does not look so bad anymore…

The Infiltrator (Brad Furman – 2016) D

The synopsis for this sounds very good, a fact-based story about a US Customs official who brought down a huge Escobar-connected Colombian drug ring in the US by going deep undercover. The execution unfortunately is not so good. It is messy and a bit confusing. It really fails at making us care for the supposed connection our undercover agent forged with his drug trafficking buddies. We care even less about the paper thin characters. The direction is really shaky and it shows even in the performance of these, otherwise fine, actors like Bryan Cranston.

T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle – 2017) A

I had no idea this was even being made. I did not think it is a needed sequel, but am I glad we got it! It’s not a sequel that picks up where the first one left off. It picks up 20 years later as we check in on the cast of characters from Trainspotting. Everyone is 20 years older and it’s time to see how life has treated them since Renton ran off with the money. Obviously Boyle is older now and it shows in the more mature direction and the subtle ways he draws on the original. Honestly it is tough to pinpoint why T2 works. It’s the characters, the self-aware nostalgia. The perfectly delivered and setup scenes. The changing world and changing city. The way it captures friendship, loss and relationships. It’s the reckoning and that every action can be a turning point in life. That really worked on my middle-age self now the same way the first one worked when I was a college student.

Trainspotting (Danny Boyle – 1996) A+

In preparation for T2 I re-visited this bad boy and it is as awesome as I remember. Full of anarchy, life, death, wicked humor and the stupid recklessness of youth. The music throbs and the camera is all over the place with everyone delivering awesome performances. It’s a classic for a reason, it’s a keeper.

10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg – 2016) A-

I really loved this tight, well-made flick. Michelle gets in a car wreck and wakes up in a bunker she of course freaks out! Howard tells her it’s for her own good, the world outside has sort of ended…the air is toxic. He’s a survivalist and he was prepared. Sure he seems like a creep but maybe he is right. It’s a locked room drama with only three characters and it could’ve been very conventional and predictable but this one is much smarter than that. Michelle is smart, Howard, played brilliantly by John Goodman, is terrifying but weirdly paternal at times. The twists and turns work very well and -with one small exception- the ending is just brilliant.

Night Train to Lisbon (Bille August – 2013) B-

A lonely professor in Geneva. A suicidal girl in a red jacket whom he stops from jumping. When she ups and disappears he sets off on her trail to figure out who she was and where she went. Lisbon, as the name of the film indicates, is where she came from and we follow him as he digs deeper into the life of a Dr. and revolutionary who died a while back and fought against the dictator Salazar. As he learns more and digs deeper we follow him along through various flashbacks and interviews. It’s a decent movie with good performances, a lovely setting and interesting plot.

Logan (James Mangold – 2017) A-

This film is one of the best treatments of a comic book character since Dark Knight. It’s a solid movie about loss, love, friendship, family and lots of sharp long Adamantium claws slicing through people. Logan is set in 2029 and seems a far cry from the Marvel universe. It’s a movie that stands very well on its own and shows us Wolverine who is aged, hulking and tired. He is not saving the world or travelling through time. He is just trying to take care the the very old Charles Xavier. The X-Men are all gone and really there is no mission here. He is not going to spring back into action and start hero work again. He’s winding down…The plot centers on a little girl named Laura who possibly might be a mutant. She is basically thrown at him and he has no real choice but to try an get her to a meeting spot near the Canadian border. There are a lot of excellent action scenes here and the performances by everyone, especially the young actress who plays Laura and Patrick Stewart as Professor X are perfect. What really makes it work though is how human and character-focused it is. Mangold did not make a superhero movie, he made a movie about a character we like and showed us how great he can be when there is no formula to follow.