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High Road to China (1983)
Good old-fashioned chemistry
Brian G. Hutton's "High Road To China" is a classic example of good old fashioned chemistry. Lost-generation flapper hires boozy WW-I flying ace to help find her father, lost somewhere in China, to avoid losing her inheritance. You just know that they will eventually get together, and plenty of facial expressions and body language promise an ending that eventually delivers. Some great scenery and flying scenes, and burly he-manning from Brian Blessed, keep you in stitches. If this had been filmed in black and white in the 40s, it would have been up there with Casablanca, et al. Lots of low-expectation fun.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
soulless action flick
Simon West's "Tomb Raider" (Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight) is a particularly soulless action flick with practically no characters, feelings, humor, or interest, just high-tech special effects. It's like one of those videos they use in high-end stereo stores to show off the resolution of their HDTV sets. The story, such as it is, involves a zillionaire heiress seeking trinkets around the globe to prevent a secret society from taking over the world. An excellent example of how, if you don't care about the characters or their problems, the movie isn't worth much. However, credit where it's due: Angelina has about the poutiest lips ever filmed, bordering on obscene!
thinking man's movie
Christopher Nolan's "Memento" (Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss, Stephen Tobolowsky) is definitely a thinking man's movie. A guy with no short-term memory is trying to solve his wife's murder. But how does he remember the clues he uncovers? By taking copious notes and photos, and tattooing the really important stuff onto his body. In order for the audience to share in his feeling of never knowing what just happened in the recent past, the story is told in reverse; that is, short, five-minute or so chunks of normal time are told in backward order so you only know what IS going on, not what just DID go on a few minutes ago. The gimmick works well and the movie is a lot of fun in an intellectual sort of way. You can search for deeper meanings if you want to (i.e., don't we all just live in the present?) but it's fun if you do or not. Some good unexpected humor, too.
The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
let's not forget the magnificent Jennifer Tilly
Yes, i have to concur with the rest of the reviews here, particularly about the immaculately perfect screenplay and heart tugging soundtrack, along with stylish cinematography and slice-of-life drama that doesn't quit. But let's not forget to mention the poignant counter-points provided by the magnificent Jennifer Tilly, which balances everything else and makes it whole.