Best Visual Effects

[7.0] SPOILER REVIEW: The original Blade Runner is one of the finest motion pictures ever made, so the thought of Hollywood making a sequel 35 years later made my skin crawl. But color me surprised. While it pales in comparison, the sequel is actually far better than I would ever have imagined or hoped it could be. Ryan Gosling stars as an android Blade Runner, …

[8.0] After finishing The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson tackled a remake of his favorite film, King Kong. Jackson’s remake is largely faithful to the 1933 original, while generously expanding the storyline and embellishing some of the characters. Jackson protracts the opening act more than necessary, but his interpretation of Skull Island is amazing. It’s this middle portion of the movie that delivers the …

[7.0] Ron Howard (Splash, A Beautiful Mind) directs this sweet story about a group of nursing home residents who discover a ‘fountain of youth’ in a nearby pool. Turns out, though, that the pool’s power is extra-terrestrial. Soon the old folks become friends with aliens and an interesting proposition is made: Would you like to leave Earth and live forever on an alien planet? Wilford …

[7.5] James Cameron’s first film since Titanic is a supreme juvenile fantasy with a healthy sense of adventure and discovery. From its floating mountains to its bio-luminescent flora and fauna, the world of Pandora never stops unfolding before our eyes, and it’s a beautiful, trippy little place to visit. The core concept of Avatar — that of experiencing life through a separate host body — …

[7.0] A gaggle of Oscar-winners go topsy-turvy and fight to survive when a luxury liner capsizes at sea in the trend-setting disaster flick, The Poseidon Adventure. The film delivers on producer Irwin Allen’s desire to blow shit up (think of him as the proto-Michael Bay), but also manages to give its venerable cast plenty to chew on. The characters are engaging and no one is …

[5.0] On one hand, I like that Total Recall reminds me of an old-fashioned sci-fi yarn from the ’50s. On the other hand, it’s not quite cheesy enough for me to fully embrace that way. I don’t like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. He does the film no favors, and I can imagine dozens of other actors who might have helped the movie find …

[6.0] Just as Robert Zemeckis had to make Forrest Gump and Tim Burton had to make Big Fish, so did David Fincher have to make The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. All three directors are known for their visual and/or technical prowess, and all three felt the need to wring a tear-jerker out of their filmographies, maybe just to prove they could? Benjamin Button is …

[6.5] The Irwin Allen disaster epic is alive and well in this 1996 summer blockbuster in which evil aliens threaten to destroy Earth, leaving it up to a rag-tag team of politicians, soldiers, and scientists (plus a drunken crop-duster and a pole dancer!), to save humanity. The writing and directing team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (Stargate, Godzilla) almost strike the perfect tone for …

[6.5] Gravity is so harrowing, I’m tempted to call it crisis porn. The movie stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts stranded in orbit over Earth after debris destroys their spacecraft. Director Alfonso CuarĂ³n (Children of Men, A Little Princess) warns us from the get-go with some on-screen text that life in space is impossible, and then proceeds to throw everything you can imagine …

[8.5] Dreams are a notoriously difficult thing on which to base a movie. In dreams there are no rules, no parameters — and in movies about dreams, writers and filmmakers are often all too eager to take advantage of our suspension of disbelief — because in dreams, hey? Who the hell’s to say what could or could not happen, especially if the contrivance pushes the …

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