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‘Hubie Halloween’ Review: Netflix’s Trick or Treat?

by Kaylen Summers

One of the major releases from Netflix this Halloween is Adam Sandler’s horror-comedy, Hubie Halloween. Though the movie has met with mixed reviews, it is undoubtedly a fun flick to watch. There is everything that you expect from an Adam Sandler family comedy movie. Surprisingly this one has more to offer than the actor's usual fare. The movie revolves around the character of Hubie, who is the most bullied guy in Salem. Ever since his childhood, Hubie has appointed himself to keep his townspeople safe during the Halloween season. As a result, he becomes a laughingstock and the target of constant pranks from everyone around him. When a mysterious inmate escapes from the asylum nearby, it is up to Hubie to save the town and the holiday. Sandler has a proven track record when it comes to making feel-good movies for family audiences. Movies like Grown-ups, Anger management, and Click are some of the movies belonging to this pattern. In many ways, Hubie Halloween also feels as if he is returning to his familiar terrain for an easy win. However, the movie is different in many minute ways and perhaps those details are the key reasons why we feel charmed by the movie. https://youtu.be/kY3SuNvqQPw One of the major goals that we see throughout the movie is the callbacks to earlier Sandler movies. Of course, there is the fact that he is continuing his repeated trend of working with past collaborators like Kevin James and Rob Schneider. Other than that, there is Julie Bowen who plays a love interest role like in Happy Gilmore, and Tim Meadows from movies like Grown-Ups. This nostalgic pat on the back does give some good jokes and movie moments.  What makes this movie stand out from all the other Sandler’s feel-good movies/characters is the fact that Hugie does not need to be reminded that his life has value. There are no complex, new ideas or struggles within the plot to establish this. The movie skillfully normalizes his disabilities into his abilities, making the audience feel that the character is cool enough to root for. Add that to the wonderfully corrosive comic persona of Adam Sandler and you have a movie that is actually a treat this Halloween.

Watch The Movie:

Netflix
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Bill & Ted Face the Music Review: A Sweet Adventure And The Perfect Send-Off

by Kaylen Summers

Fans of the time-traveling, universe saving, cult classic duo Bill and Ted were awe-struck to hear that there was a third installment coming their way. Part of it was mostly for seeing everyone’s favorite Keanu Reeves reprising the role in the goofy, sci-fi comedy after almost two decades. Surely his reputation and fan following has increased over time. However, he took up the role once again to give the trilogy and character a wonderful climax.

Making a new installment for a major movie from the past era has always ended up disastrous for Hollywood. Take 2016’s Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8 (2017), and every Terminator movie after Judgement day for example. These studios sure know how to take good, successful franchises from the last decade and ruin it for the entire fans and movie-lovers. Fortunately, this time we can happily say that Bill and Ted Face The Music is a bright exception in the long streak of disappointments. https://youtu.be/1gPGeAYo3yU Bill & Ted Face The Music mainly revolves around one thing- the entire space-time continuum is about to implode in on itself and ‘The Great One’ must produce a singular piece of music that can save ‘reality as we know it’. It is the single, core concept of the movie plot. However, with some time-traveling shenanigans and slow-paced humor, the movie is elevated to look and feel like the true continuation of the franchise. To put it a single sentence- they nailed it! More than just a continuation of their out-of-the-world adventures, the movie is more of a final showdown that eventually lets the beloved characters have the farewell they deserve. Skillfully combining enough callbacks and jokes to both Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, it succeeds in bringing something fresh and new to the table. While Excellent Adventure was about time traveling and Bogus Journey was about the afterlife, Face The Music has no problem in combining parts from the two into a nicely crafted storyline. Bill and Ted are not young and adventurous. They have their families. The movie admits that and does justice to the canon by telling the story apt for our heroes at their age.  It felt as if they wanted to take the long time gap on purpose. [Spoilers ahead] The movie ends with Bill and Ted realizing that they are no longer the chosen ones. It was all meant for their two daughters. Thus giving us some home that there is a chance for some spin-offs in the future. Bill and Ted Face the Music may not be the perfect movie. Sure, it may feel scrappy at times, but the positiveness, humor, and the extreme likeness that it evokes in the viewers are worth mentioning. There is no other way better than this to say goodbye to the Wyld Stallyns.  
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‘The Devil All the Time’ Review: Tom Holland Redefines Himself As An Actor

by Kaylen Summers

Netflix’s newest entry into the thrillers catalog is powerful, yet the disturbing blend of faith, crime, and violence. Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All the Time unfolds a sprawling story that is set across generations, families, and two wars. The movie lasts for more than 2 hours and there is a large ensemble of characters that you will eventually lose track off. With such an elaborate set of events and characters, it would have been wiser for Netflix to run it as a mini-series than a movie. The slow-burning, dark thriller opens with Willard Russell’s (Bill Skarsgard) return back to his home after the traumatic War in the Pacific. Even though he tries to make a family, it becomes a failure. His wife Charlotte (Haley Bennett) dies after falling to illness and Russell eventually ends his life by committing suicide. This leaves his son Arvin (Tom Holland) to live the life of an orphan in a godless land. He is surrounded by murders, serial killers, and more awful men who believe that God is making them do it. It was in his teenage years that an opportunistic and sleazy preacher (Robert Pattinson) arrives, setting in motion some of the most gruesome tragedies of Alvin's life.  https://youtu.be/EIzazUv2gtI God, war, and the innately violent nature of humans creates the main core of the story. Even though the movie uses the novel’s texture to tell this story, it fails to capture its depths. There are many instances where it feels like the characters can engage with each other only through violence. This pretext of violence resists the depth that the movie desperately needs. Instead of focusing on how violence has impacted multiple generations of Americans, it felt more like a voyeuristic exercise on heinous crimes. The performances by actors are highly commendable. Tom Holland miles away from his Marvel appearance and proves that range is much greater than anyone would have expected. Robert Pattinson looks comfortable in his portrayal of the corrupt preacher.  Even though it fails to include noteworthy black or brown faces, like many other midwestern period pieces before it, The Devil All the Time stands strong for the brutal portrayal of violence and religion in the heart of the country. Most of the movie may turn out to be vicious and dark for many viewers, However, its truthfulness to the darkest aspects of human behavior and the brilliant, engaging performances from the actors makes this movie rewarding.
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‘Tenet’ Review: Watch It Only If You Are A Nolan Fan

by Kaylen Summers

It seems like Christopher Nolan’s obsession with the space-time continuum is not going to end any time soon. His new movie Tenet proves it again. Fortunately, even if you can’t figure out all the sci-fi concepts, the slick visual effects and strong lead performances can help you stay hooked to the movie to some extent. There is no doubt that Tenet is action-packed sci-fi eye-candy. However, the tedious complexity of how the plot has been narrated can make any normal moviegoer scratch their heads. If you have a Ph.D. in quantum physics and if you are able to remove all the constant and heavy barrage of confusing reveals, then you will find that the center plot of the movie is not as complicated as you have expected. In fact, some might even find it to be similar to the 1994 Sci-fi movie Time Cop. https://youtu.be/L3pk_TBkihU Spoilers ahead! For most of the folks who still haven’t got the faintest idea about what the movie is actually about, then let us break down the plot into a simpler form. A Russian bad guy possesses the technological ability to travel back and forth in time. In Nolan’s terminology, this is known as ‘temporal inversion’.  The Protagonist is tasked with the top-secret mission to stop them by using the same technology- reversing time. Helping him in the mission is another spy from the British Intelligence, played by Rober Pattinson. The core principle that drives the movie is the concept of time invention. In the future, humans have somehow derived the capability of sending objects back in time. This means that objects like a bullet will come back to the gun instead of going forward. Scratching your heads already?! There is more. After almost half of the movie, the protagonist is sent back in time to relive the even happened in the first half in reverse. The ending, like every other Nolan movie, can leave you confused and thinking. Nolan’s movies are always critically remarked for its inability to convey human emotions. The director finds more perfection in building dramatic structures and scientific explanations than exploring the complexities of human life. This downside is evident in Tenet as well. However, the director’s ability to pick up a genre and reinvent it is something that was always appreciated. Tenet was his take on spy movies, but it fails to stand out and instead, ends up as an elaborated show of gimmicks.
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‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ Review

by Emily Keen

Unwed teenage mothers fighting for the life of their unborn child against the impositions and pressures of the society is a narrative extensively exhausted in movies. NRSA breaks the pattern and brings us a girl who is not ready to be a mother. With no support from an adult, it is just her and her high school best friend by her side, battling the stringent laws of abortion in America. Since the state of Pennsylvania won’t let her abort the child without the consent of a parent, she travels to New York in the hope of facing fewer hindrances while going about the process. Eventually, we all know that won’t be the case. NRSA finds its title from a heart-wrenching sequence in the film where Autumn is made to answer a questionnaire about her sex life at a clinic. The questions are along the lines of – Has your partner refused to wear a condom/Has your partner made you have sex against your will? And options that follow are Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always. You can almost feel the power of her being been crushed to the ground as she answers each question. The film has limited dialogue and much of the story is expressed through the subtle cues in the actions of the characters. Like when one BFF is seen applying an eye shadow for the other or the scene where Autumn throws up in the bathroom and Skylar just knows what it means. The brilliance of the fare lies in the mastery with which Eliza Hittman overlays the themes of friendship, social indifference, political system and toxic masculinity over a largely subversive plot. The impact created by the bleak silence in the frames will stay with you even when the film is over. And there is nothing deficient about the character study of two young women who seamlessly carry the film to the end. Hélène Louvart’ s cinematography elevates the desolate mood with the coarse, gritty frames and while keeping it vibrant at the same time. That helps us feel that hope is not dead after all. Hittman plays to the pulse of her characters and draws up eloquent setpieces even with no monologue. Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder are a talent to behold. All in all the film is a poignant tale of teenage pregnancy which has its disconcerting and reassuring moments. We have to give it up to Hittman for creating a melancholic and devastating affair with minimal violence and almost no aggression. Watch the movie trailer here:  https://youtu.be/hjw_QTKr2rc
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Downhill Review: A Misguided Remake

by Kaylen Summers

Downhill is the American remake of the  2014 award-winning Swedish film, Force Majeure. The original film was brilliant with its character interplay and biting dialogue. Unfortunately, the searing drama and dark humor of the original is lost in the new movie’s Hollywood remake. For those who were expecting a bog-standard goofy chuckle fest, the movie comes with great disappointment. The movie entirely depends on marital tension and this limits the possibilities of humor. The premise of the movie is actually great and fairly similar to the original. However, the writing and execution make the movie mediocre. This is surprising, considering the great talents involved both in front and behind the camera. The screenplay co-written by Oscar-winning directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash feels average. Their pacing, script, and casting are out of place and even the ninety-minute runtime is not enough to save the movie. Downhill is about some serious themes. However, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell are better known for their comedies. This contradiction is evident in their performances. The lack of chemistry between the two actors leaves the narrative slow and dry. Both actors seem to be too subdued within the characters. Though the actors are great, it obvious to feel whether they are fit for the characters. The directors should have given them space for the actors to improvise. For many fans, this will the movie in which Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Will Ferrell are the least humorous. The best part about the movie is the character of Louis-Dreyfus’ mother. She is the heart of the movie with some sensible pathos and relatable exasperation.  The majestic beauty of the Alps adds strength to the movie. For those who haven't seen the original, Downhill will not be that much of set back. Here is the trailer for the movie: https://youtu.be/AY5SrKf_2ic
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Call of the Wild Review: A Classic Tale Ruined With CGI

by Kaylen Summers

The Call of the Wild is a mesmerizing classic novel from Jack London about a dog's journey to primal nature. The novel was a thrilling experience for readers with its brave canine protagonist and rich descriptions of the Klondike Gold Rush. However, its latest film adaptation was nothing more than an assemble of overused CGI. In a time when movies like Lion King (2019) showcased photorealistic CGI, The Call of the Wild's visual effects are cartoonish and make every critter and setting look fake. The abnormal mix of CGI  and live-action are supposed to make the adventure more immersive for the movie-goers. Unfortunately, it ends up doing the opposite. The clumsy, cartoonish CGI makes Buck look unrealistic throughout the movie. His facial expression are rendered to look more human-like and you will not feel him like a real dog even for a second of the movie. During the moments when Harrison Ford hugs or physically interact with Buck, we can clearly see him also becoming CGI. The bright lit background setting makes this even clearly visible. Many of the major action scenes of the movie are also ruined by the CGI visual effects. The scene where Perrault and François are escaping from an avalanche looks more like a video game. The main characters of the movie are played by Harrison Ford, Bradley Whitford, Omar Sy, and Cara Gee. The performances of the actors feel odd logically from time to time. It is clear that they are on set, in front of a green screen. But, onscreen the actors fail to make us feel that they in a snowstorm, freezing. This adds to the failure of the movie to generate a successful suspension of disbelief. The makers of the movie are pushing more political correctness and family friendliness into the movie than its source material. The characters are made racially diverse to appeal to a global audience. This is ironic considering the fact that Jack Landon was notoriously racist. The battles between Buck and Spitz are less deadly and the violence in many other scenes are toned down. The Call of the Wild was one of the definitive novels of American Literature. The movie, however, fails to capture the essence that the classic novel put forward.
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Sonic the Hedgehog Review: An Adventure You Don’t Want To Miss

by Kaylen Summers

We all remember the onslaught that happened when the Sonic movie dropped its first trailer. The main criticism was about how the CGI depiction of Sega's classic video game hero looked.  Surprisingly the makers of the movie took the fans' reactions seriously and reworked on the character. And we are happy to say that their efforts have paid off well. With a clever plot, stunning visuals and an amazing performance from the fabulous actor Jim Carrey, the movie is panning out to be a blockbuster at the box office. Being the first surprise hit of this year, the movie is being praised as Jim Carrey's return to his comic form. Sonic, as you all know, is a blue hedgehog with unbelievable speed abilities. As his world is being destroyed by a devastating tragedy, he escapes from his planet and reaches ours. However, the danger is still not over. In the new world too, bad guys are after him to steal his powers. Ben Schwartz voices the beloved hedgehog onscreen, with James Marsden playing the role of Tom Wachowski, the sheriff of Green Hills. Jim Carrey plays the maniacal sociopath, Dr. Ivo Robotnik. What makes Sonic the Hedgehog stand apart from most of the live-action movies is its script. The movie has a terrific script and its credit goes entirely to screenwriters Patrick Casey and Josh Miller. Rather than sticking on to the Japanese source material or completely revisioning the plot, the writers infused their creativity to give out the best of both world Sonic is established as a compelling character who is desperately lonely. He is still a boy who wants to understand more about humans, make friends and have lots of fun. This makes the character more endearing to the audience. The amazing acting by James Marsden makes the anthropomorphic, supersonic, CGI hedgehog more convincing and sells the relationship between the two characters even further. Jim Carrey's performance as the hysterical and threatening Dr. Robotnik is the main highlight of the movie. The actor has never been this funny since Dumb and Dumber. He steals the show fare and square. Anyone else as this diabolical, but the knockdown funny character would have looked foolish. But, Carrey's brilliance made the character unique and acceptable. Among so many movies with more CGI than creativity, Sonic the Hedgehog remains a well-balanced fusion of both. The movie is entertaining through out and has the right pace and runtime to keep both adults and kids enthralled.
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Crawl Review

by Kaylen Summers

It was a pretty disappointing summer for mainstream movies, as the massive, big-budget studio tentpoles kept on failing one after the other. Thankfully, the small-scale Crawl was a refreshing surprise to the summer box-office season. The movie has everything from the backing of a major studio like Paramount, to the feeling of watching those indies that people love to rave about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6MLJG0RdDE Directed by Alexandre Aja, the movie features a brilliantly simple B-movie premise. A Florida college student Haley (Kaya Scodelario) returns to her former family home to check on her divorced father, Dave (Barry Pepper). A Category 5 hurricane is underway and he has not been answering any calls. The trip eventually turns into a rescue mission when she finds him trapped in the house's crawlspace. His leg is broken and has a rather nasty looking bite mark from an alligator that found its way indoors. Things get even worse as more of the gators make way into their home, while the floodwaters rise. With fast, action-packed, white-knuckle thrills, and plenty of people-chomping toothy reptiles, the movie is successful in delivering exactly what it had promised. It also gained quite a fan base by doing so. https://twitter.com/nad_kwon88/status/1153995297963380742 https://twitter.com/kingcreacher/status/1151606725482614794 https://twitter.com/ACsa40/status/1153486508990636032 https://twitter.com/thepotofpetunia/status/1154171469816926208 Writers of the movie Michael and Shawn Rasmussen has successfully made a fool-proof plot which has no shortage of ways to put their characters in jeopardy. As the movie moves forward, the plot keeps the stakes high but refreshingly simple: don't drown, escape the house, and avoid getting eaten. The summer box-office needs more movies like Crawl. It is a relief for viewers from the intellectual burden of superhero movies and over-meddling CGI blockbusters. Though the movie is not a patch on Lewis Teague’s charming Alligator, a steady dose of more action-thrillers like this may help send comic-book carcinoma into remission.
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‘Cats’ Review: Not The ‘Pur-fect’ Musical You Were Expecting

by Kaylen Summers

There is no doubt that Cats was one of the most highly publicized movies of this holiday season. However, all came crumbling down when the movie finally got released on December 20. Opening to a poor performance both critically and commercially, the movie only made a little over $38 million worldwide. This is nothing compared to its huge production budget of $90 million and another estimated $115 million spent on prints and advertising. According to a popular online entertainment-news website, even if the movie is able to hit $100 million worldwide ($40 million domestically and $60 million internationally), there will still be a loss of about $71 million. Let's not forget that the star-studded movie also ended up giving many of its actors a career lowest performance yet. Directed by Tom Hooper, the movie is produced by Working Title Films and Amblin Entertainment. Both these studios are backed by Universal Studios. Hopper is known for his Emmy nominating works for Prime Suspect and John Adams. He also won an outstanding directing Emmy for Elizabeth I.  Cats was getting a lot of thrashing even before its release. Most members of the audience felt that the early trailer of the movie was weirdly disturbing. The actors' costumes and make-up effects are enhanced by CGI and people were not liking it. Though the makers of the movie took efforts to correct the CGI before release, it now seems like it was all in vain. The movie is at a critics score of 18% and a 54% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. It also received a C+ on Cinemascope. The narrative of the movie is quite simple and adapted from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s incredibly popular musical of the same name. The musical, however, was inspired by T.S Elliot’s poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Unfortunately, the real problem in bringing such a musical fantasy to the screen is that it requires an enormous amount of willing suspension of disbelief. This live-action movie about singing cats fails to conjure that. The CGI actors' are enhanced to look like cats and are also cat-sized. They sing and dance under the huge set of towering trash cans, tables, etc. That is really too much for the general audiences to handle. Another major flaw is how the movie lacked better transitions between the musical numbers. This is evident in the disrupted narrative flow of the movie. With that being said, if you are a fan of music and dance, you should definitely give this one a try. But, for the makers-this is one gigantic box office bomb that Universal will not be forgetting for a long time.
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‘The Aeronauts’ Review

by Kaylen Summers

Set in the 1860s, The Aeronauts is an original movie from Amazon Prime, that aims for high-flying adventure. But, its dull and predictable narrative keeps on pulling it down. Directed by Tom Hooper, the movie is scripted by Jack Thorne. Hooper is an Academy Award winner known for films like John Adams, The Danish Girl and The King's Speech. Thorne, who is a well-known playwright, made his movie debut by penning the critically acclaimed The Scouting Book for Boys. Mostly a fantasy tale, The Aeronauts is an account about the Victorian meteorologist James Glaisher and his record-breaking balloon ascent. However, there are many changes from the original story and the major one is how Glaisher's actual partner is replaced with a fictional female character. There is now nothing wrong with this gender swap. But, the problem is how they executed it. With the newly added B-plot overshadowing, the already exciting story of Glaisher appears less relevant. The Aeronauts has a top tier cast and good visual effects. Yet the makers have failed to make the characters interesting. This critically affects the movie, as the plot has nothing more to offer than just a balloon hurtling into the unknown. If the characters we more engaging, then the movie would have become much more entertaining. Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne had a remarkable performance together in The Theory of Everything. But, the same pair fails drastically onscreen this time with characters that lack substance. The audience, as a result, will find it hard to root for such boring protagonists. Even with decent production value, The Aeronauts is neither entertaining nor engaging. Here is the trailer for the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm4VnwCtQO8
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‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ Review

by Kaylen Summers

Jumanji is back with a fairly humorous sequel and some unexpected body-switches in the video game world. The plot is mostly recycled. However, the new cast members do spice up this popcorn flick to some extent. It was in 2017 that Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was first released. The movie was the third installment of the Jumanji franchise (if you consider the spin-off Zathura: A Space Adventure) and a direct sequel to Jumanji (1995). Grossing over $962 million worldwide, it went on to become the fifth-highest-grossing film of 2017. With a deluge of CGI animals and mammoth action sequences, Jumanji: The Next Level lives up to its predecessor by including all the cliche elements for a blockbuster. The only remarkable stroke of genius was the avatar switcheroo. It was hilarious to watch Dwayne Johnson's impersonation of Danny DeVito, combined with Kevin Hart imitating Danny Glover. The main problem with Jumanji: The Next Level is that it has way too much going on. The action sequences and comedy are diluted in the already busy plot. There is no patience or building up before introducing new characters and settings. The new game-character Ming Fleetfoot played by Awkwafina does add a little charm to the narrative, but leaves behind a lot of unanswered questions. It is obvious that the director/co-writer Jake Kasdan is adamant about making his sequel to be bigger in every way possible. Thankfully, there are enough avatar switches to push the plot forward. However, don't get the idea that the movie is all bad. Though the movie is FX-heavy, it has enough positive attributes to get away with it. If you are looking for an entertaining blockbuster to watch this holiday season, then definitely give this one a try. Check out the trailer for the movie: https://youtu.be/rBxcF-r9Ibs
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1917: Review

by Emily Keen

The peak of World War I sets the backdrop for 1917. Sam Mendes does an amazing job as a director upstaging the story through strong old fashioned storytelling. The film proves to be powerfully engaging. A realistic experience that grips the audience with riveting performances from the cast! The Oscar-baiting feature On April 6, 1917, Blake and Schofield are called for a highly critical mission. The general informs them about a trap set by the enemy and British colonel (Benedict Cumberbatch) is walking straight into the trap. Blake and Schofield must go across the "No Man's Land", and make it to the German-occupied regions to accomplish their task. Blake’s older brother is lieutenant on the frontline and thus this mission is highly important to him. The brave soldiers walk into imminent death. If they do not make it in time, thousands will lose their lives. Blake and Schofield’s journey seems like an endless march through trenches filled with injured, shattered souls and animal corpses. But the real trouble awaits in the regions they are yet to cover. The brilliance of this Oscar-baiting film lies in its ability to keep the audience with Blake and Schofield and make us feel what they are going through in real-time. And of course the urgency of the matter at hand! The technical mastery of the film is something that deserves special mention. But that does not in any way let the plot take a back seat. The film has no edits and is one continuous camera shot. Blake and Schofield are the mascots of courage and persuasion in times when you need to go through tough times and survive. The film phenomenally explores themes of friendship, loss, and compassion. We have to give it up for the makers for bringing the story to the silver screen with sheer honesty. The tension of the film permeates through the screen and that is largely thanks to Thomas Newman’s incredible score. The music traverses with the two characters to justify the status quo of every space they walk. Be it the darkest places they navigate or the forests. The film is completely a perspective of Blake and Schofield. Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay are perfect. This film could easily be called Sam Mendes’ magnum opus. No we are not denying the prominence and enormity of American Beauty. But he has outdone himself with 1917. The film is a Dreamworks Pictures production in collaboration with Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures as distribution partners.
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The Irishman: Review

by Emily Keen

It’s a meticulous and rare assortment of three legends onscreen directed by another legend. Martin Scorsese brings together Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci for an all-encompassing mob thriller. Don’t let “Thriller” diminish your excitement because this film is much more than just another drug lord or bounty hunter life history. But it has definitely got a lot to do with various phases of history. Frank Sheeran is introduced to us as a crumbling old man now residing in an old age home and regurgitating his deeds which he regrets and admires at the same time. The man now in his 80s takes us through his life as a war veteran and how fate introduces him to Russel Buffalino (Pesci) and then Hoffa (Al Pacino). Filling the dramatic arcs of the story is a road trip full of cigarette breaks and flashbacks of blood spattering past. The Buffalinos and Hoffas are both well-known mob families and Frank Sheeran is their trusted aide. The film takes us through the phases of the lives of these teamsters and their involvement in some of history’s important events. The rise and fall of John F. Kennedy, for instance, is a peculiarly narrated tale showcasing the participation of the nation’s most powerful union boss in it. It’s almost as it is if meant to invoke dark thoughts about political homicide. Franks’s daughter and Russel’s goddaughter Peggy is a small but significant part of the story. She hardly expresses her thoughts in front of the mobster men she grew up watching.  But her fierce gaze is a testimony to her conditioning. Anna Paquin does an incredible job as Peggy. The story of foreign hitmen who ruled suburban regions of America in a lengthy but a fabulous farewell to the stories of the mobsters. Scorsese has brilliantly utilized the iconic trio to elevate the characters. The narrative has a somber pace native to Scorsese’s style of film making. The Irishman excels in conveying the ultimate message that men who only speak the language of violence do not mean anything to anyone. Even with all the violence and bloodshed, it seems worth our time to understand the impulses that drive these mobsters. The film definitely goes down in the list as one of the greatest of Scorsese epics.
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Frozen II Review

by Emily Keen

Frozen’s sequel comes along almost six years later. The fans have evolved and so has the franchise. This is apparently the best thing about the movie. The plot seems more mature and does not have much to do with the prequel. The story follows the ancestral history of Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). There is a whole new world discovered beyond Arendelle where dwell the snowmen, huge rock trolls, and powerful nature spirits. The second installment clearly takes the animation to another level. Be it Elsa conquering the horse-shaped water spirit or the mysterious feel of the underground realm, the effect is simply captivating. The message of the film is quite in resonance to the situation that currently prevails in the real world. It is Nature versus humanity! It is a smart and mature effort to help people understand that harmony is the key to survival. While the underlying messages are intense and powerful the film does not fail to keep up with the usual arcs of friendship and love. Now that Kristoff and Anna are both young, we expect to see some heat there and we do. Our guy is repeatedly making efforts to propose to Anna but keeps missing the opportunity. Adorable little Olaf has realized that times are changing. Elsa has gained more powers and is trying to reach her full potential. She is burdened with her responsibilities of the kingdom and Anna wants to share the responsibility. A mysterious voice compels Elsa to go up North. Anna, Kristoff and Olaf and Sven accompany her but get separated on the way. And from there on begins an adventure that unravels the mysteries of the past and lay a foundation for a beautiful future. The love and support of your friends and family will get you through the toughest times- is the message that the film conveys in the most wonderful way. Songwriters  Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez bring us some touching songs with the composition of Christophe Beck. “Some things never change” featuring the voice of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, and other cast members will put you at ease. Then there is Groff again soothing our hearts with Crowd favorite Reindeers are better than people. A feel-good film for a crowd that loves vivacious and gleeful worlds, Frozen II manages to give us some amazing visuals and a meaningful story. If you are looking for something with substance and style, it’s definitely worth a watch.
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21 Bridges Review

by Emily Keen

An NYPD officer, Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is assigned the murder case of seven colleagues. The case is rather strange as the culprits who did the killing look like they themselves were set up. They arrive at a location hoping to buy 30 kilos of cocaine and find 300 kilos uncut. Just when they realize they have been framed, they panic end up shooting all the police officers at the scene. Davis particularly takes the case personally. Basically another Hollywood exhausted plotline of ‘son joins force to avenge the death of a cop father’. Senior officer Captain McKenna (J.K Simmons) feels they need someone who does not mind getting his hands dirty. And here is Davis who walks with one finger on the trigger. While at the same time harbors immense respect for his badge. Just right for the case! What follows is a high voltage chase around the city of Manhattan where Davis orders a shut down of all the transport routes connecting the city to the outer world, including the 21 Bridges. The manhunt unravels conspiracies of heinous proportions. Davis’ character is quite Sherlock Holmesy as the guy sharply works out the math of the number of shooters and their current whereabouts from the crime scene evidence. Assisting Davis on the case is narcotics expert Frankie Burns (played by Sienna Miller). She brings quite a satisfying performance with her role as a tough woman and a skilled servant of the law. What you have to look out for are the amazingly choreographed chase and shootout sequences. The Russo brothers in all their capacity have tried to make the film into a wholesome experience. Brian Kirk clearly blends the elements of drama, suspense, action and weird mindsets of criminals to create fresh screen experience. Boseman, as usual, brings an incredible style to the character. His flair and skills are always there to add weight to an otherwise ordinary script. All in all 21 Bridges is a thrilling and exciting noir.
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Doctor Sleep Review

by Kaylen Summers

There is no doubt that The Shining is one of the scariest movies to have made. From the legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, the movie has undoubtedly terrified us as a kid and still continue to do so. 'Redrum', ghostly twin girls, and the unforgettable "Here's Johnny" are all now part of cinema history and no movie has ever made such an ever-lasting impression on us like this one. Thirty-nine years after the theatrical release of The Shining, we are now finally getting a sequel. Directed by Mike Flanagan, Doctor Sleep is brilliantly crafted with a riveting story. The supernatural thriller is the film adaptation of Stephen King's 2013 novel and stands as a sequel to his previous book, The Shining. So in the traditional sense, we cannot say that the Doctor Sleep movie is a sequel to Kubrick's The Shining (since Kubrick made a lot of changes in the source material.) However, the movie does recreate the atmospheric darkness left by its predecessor. Both fans of the original film and novels will be pleased. The major portions of Doctor Sleep take place thirty years after the events at the Overlook Hotel. Danny Torrance (Roger Dale Floyd) is an adult now- but is traumatized into a broken shell of a man. He is struggling with his drinking habit and is moving from town to town. Eventually, a strange feeling brings him to New Hampshire. There, he finds out about a terrifying group of predators who hunts people with the ability to "shine." The True Knot cult is led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), and they suck the life essence out of the gifted for their immortality. Danny starts communicating telepathically with a mysterious girl (Kyliegh Curran) who Rose is obsessed with finding. Danny must now save the girl from the True Knot. The plot of the movie is intricate and is skillfully fleshed out. The narrative branches at the right pace with proper character development. Danny has a proper arc from being a despaired broken man to the hero of the story. Flashback scenes with his mother (Alex Essoe) from his childhood add an intriguing layer to the whole narrative. Doctor Sleep is not about cheap scares. It is skilfull in building on the established lore of The Shinning and taking the story forward. The lack of CGI gimmickry is a blessing. Excellent performances from the lead actors and brilliant visual style from Mike Flanagan make the movie perfect. Considering what happened with It Chapter Two, Doctor Sleep is undoubtfully worthy enough to be called a classic movie adaptation.
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Midway Review

by Kaylen Summers

Timed specifically to release on the Veteran's Day weekend, Roland Emmerich's Midway is the adaptation of the Battle of Midway. The original battle was a turning point for the United States Pacific campaign in World War II. Though the movie is intended to honor the warriors of the combat, it fails to do so on so many levels. Everything from the actor's lousy performance to a Wikipedia-like screenplay makes this movie sluggish. The narrative was saved from being a total clunker with the blockbuster visual effects. However, there is only little it can do to cover up the content and performance. The plot of the movie is much similar to the 1976 film. Yet,  Midway appears as if it is a Wikipedia history lesson with dates, times, and ships presented before the battles. Instead of keeping the audiences apprised, these elements act more like a crutch for poor storytelling. The dull dialogues and acting is evident throughout. The movie is divided into segments and it only makes it less cinematic. For any audience, it will be appearing more like a History channel dramatization of Midway. Ed Skrein seems forced into his New Jersey accent. It is obvious that the actor doesn't have the skill to perform better with the poorly written material. It remains one of the critical flaws of the film. Midway might generate some patriotic sentiments, but it will clearly just be on the subject matter. The characters in the story are made one dimensional. The soldier's wives are not given any space and there are no people of color anywhere in the narrative.  Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, or Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge are better examples of Pacific theater movies. Midway belongs with Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor. Here is the trailer for the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9laReRAYFk
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Charlie’s Angels Review

by Kaylen Summers

Set as the continuation to the 2000 reboot, Charlie's Angels is more of a era incarnation of the franchise from writer/director Elizabeth Banks. The flick is a decidedly aggressive retreading of the same old plot points from the last movie. With that being said, the new trio lacks the chemistry of their predecessors. Though there are a few fun moments from the big action scenes, the actors' uneven performances stand out really badly. The added star power didn't help at all and the movie would have been the same even without it. The plot of the new installment is pretty much the same as the previous two theatrical releases. They are a bunch of bad guys (no bad women of course) with dangerous tech, the angels pull off a complex burglary, only to realize that the real villain is someone close to them. However, Elizabeth Banks did hammer in some woman empowerment here and there. Unfortunately, it didn't affect the movie's stale formula in any way. The movie has plenty of action sequences, but nothing we haven't seen before. As expected from a franchise movie, everything is over the top. There are bullets flying, cars exploding, and hapless men getting beaten mercilessly. At times, we feel like the movie is made out of the same Fast & Furious template- for the silliness in plot and definitely the car chases. How the movie fails to see any woman character as a strong villain is a shame. It is clear that Elizabeth Banks was cashing in on the current woman empowerment trends. However, the movie was a good platform to work out something that is really empowering and not just some popular studio gimmicks. In short Charlie's Angels is not as fun as its earlier versions. It is obvious that the new cast is struggling to look charismatic in the recycled plot. The girl-power message is overboard and the film fails desperately to keep the audience in interest. What do you think about the movie?! Let us know in the comments below.
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‘Ford V Ferrari’ Review

by Kaylen Summers

With equal parts character development, burnt rubber, and historical drama, Ford V Ferrari is Hollywood's high octane tribute to auto racing legends Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby. The movie is directed by James Mangold and features a glorious tale of the true competition between two car companies to build the fastest car. Ironically, the movie runs a sluggish pace at times and struggles hard to reinforce the stakes for everyone involved.  However, this all-star movie is sure to make you laugh more than expected and even shed a few tears in between. The movie takes place in 1963. It was then that race car driver Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) decided to start a career in automotive designing and specialty manufacturing due to his health issues. Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), a marketing executive at the Ford Motor Company approaches with a stunning offer. Sales were declining at Ford and there was a general poor reaction to new Ford cars. In order to revitalize the company's image, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) decided to buy Ferrari, the bankrupt Italian sports car company. However, the owner Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) saw this as an insult and loudly shared his low opinion of Henry Ford II. This provoked the arrogant and domineering Ford CEO, and he wanted to beat Ferrari on a public forum at any price. Shelby was asked to design a Ford car that could beat Ferrari at the grueling twenty-four-hour Le Mans race in France. Previously, it was Ferrari and his racing team, who had been dominating the prestigious competition for years. Shelby takes up the challenge to design the car, but his choice of the primary driver was Ken Miles (Christian Bale). He was a supremely skilled hothead British driver who was flat broke with his devoted wife (Caitriona Balfe) and son (Noah Jupe). The film explores the characters very deeply. Christian Bale astonishes everyone again with his cockney accent and brash behavior. Matt Damon's performance appeared graceful and spot-on. But, let not forget to mention the contributions of actors like Tracy Letts and Caitriona Balfe. Their supporting roles catalyzed the story's successful conveyance. Another notable aspect of Ford V Ferarri is how the racing scenes were like a breath of fresh exhaust. For those who were flooded with CGI Fast & Furious garbage over the years, this movie is gratifying. CGI effects are obviously present in Ford v Ferrari, but it's done in a more realistic and convincing way. Apart from the uneven level of pacing, the movie is masterfully done. It is deservingly a full-throttle awards contender. Ford V Ferarri is undoubtfully one of the best films of the year, and you don't need to be a gearhead to enjoy this one.  Do check out this movie before it leaves theaters and let us know what you think about it.
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REVIEW: ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ (2019)

by Kaylen Summers

Rating:⭐⭐☆☆☆  (2/5 stars)

Actor Edward Norton's new directorial attempt, Motherless Brooklyn is painfully slow and boring. Motherless Brooklyn is the big-screen adaptation of Jonathan Lethem's period crime novel. The movie is set in 1957 New York City where a private investigator with Tourette syndrome tries to solve the murder of his mentor. Norton also stars in the film, along with Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Alec Baldwin, and Willem Dafoe. Departing from the original source material, Motherless Brooklyn takes the story further back to 1957 from the novel’s 1990s setting. Norton plays the role of Lionel Essrog, a detective with Tourette syndrome. His involuntary tics and outbursts have made him into a 'freakshow' for others. However, his 'broken brain' gives him a photographic memory and a keen ability to line up details. During one of the assignments, best friend and mentor Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) is shot. However, before he dies Frank whispers scant clues to Lionel. From there, the mystery is set up and Lionel is on the pursuit to uncover it. Though the film has some great performances from actors, it's another miss for Edward Norton as a director. It is clear that he has lost focus on the pacing and structure of the whole movie. The movie drags its audience through the two hour and twenty-four-minute runtime. Yet, the mystery doesn't provide any big reveals in its ending. This is what makes this movie fails as a detective story in the first place. Many key clues are revealed in the first act itself. Any casual moviegoer can easily solve the so-called mystery in the first 20 minutes into the film and this predictability affects the flick's ending punch severely. The movie's exploration of themes like racial subjugation and oppression feels clunky and heavy-handed at times. Rather than treating these themes with more subtlety, they are hammered into the audience scene after scene. With that being said, there are a fair amount of memorable moments that the movie does offer. One of these includes a scene where Lionel tries to light a showgirl's cigarette and fails desperately. This scene is both humorous and heartbreaking, making the audience care for the character more. Unfortunately, these minor, necessary detailings are the same factor that made the movie more sloppy altogether. Instead of spending too much time on such smaller details, Norton should have focused on its critical plot point. For a casual moviegoer, Motherless Brooklyn will be a tiresome theatre experience. However, if you a movie buff looking to see some awesome performances, then you should be giving it a shot.
  • Rating: R (for language throughout including some sexual references, brief drug use, and violence)
  • Genre: Drama
  • Directed By: Edward Norton
  • Written By: Edward Norton
  • Runtime: 144 minutes
  • Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Cast: Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Alec Baldwin, and Willem Dafoe.
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The Lighthouse Review

by Kaylen Summers

Directed and co-written by Robert Eggers, The Lighthouse is dark and not just in its overall color tone. The period psychological thriller is skillfully crafted in grainy black and white to give a unique theater experience. The movie revolves around a retired timberman Ephraim Winslow, who is on a contract job as a 'wickie' for four weeks on an isolated island with a gassy elderly man named Thomas Wake. For Winslow, Wake appears to be a strange and superstitious fellow, going up to the top of the lighthouse at night and stripping nude. As days pass by, Winslow's chores increase and he is constantly attacked by a seagull. He eventually kills the bird, even though Wake warned him that it would bring bad luck. From there, Wake becomes paranoid that a storm is destined to attack the island and this causes his psychological descent into insanity. His hallucinations and the terrors caused by it are the real spooks of the movie. The enthralling performances of Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are enough to immerse you into the disturbing environment of the narrative. Their performance deserves universal acclaim and is worthy of contending any acting award out there. However, the intensity they had build-up was wasted in a bizarre and somewhat predictable climax. The movie doesn't belong in the typical horror movie genre. Yes, there are some dark, horrifying elements present in it. But, The Lighthouse stands much closer to the reality-inversion of psychodrama character studies like Repulsion. In fact, just spending 110 minutes is enough for even us to doubt our sanity. However, the movie will undoubtfully be marked as Pattinson's complete transformation into a captivating character actor, which he had already initiated in features like High Life. In short, The Lighthouse is raw, powerful, and brilliantly cinematic. The mastery of the character's journey is truly appreciable. Robert Eggers has done a brilliant job in giving his lead actors the platform to show their remarkable talent. If you are ready to witness some true movie magic, go for this one without any hesitation. The movie may be in black and white, but the art of it is vibrantly colorful.
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Zombieland: Double Tap Review

by Kaylen Summers

After more than a decade, a sequel to the 2009 post-apocalyptic horror zombie comedy film Zombieland is finally here. The new installment, aptly named Zombieland: Double Tap, brings back the winning formula of the first with some new hilarious additions. Director Ruben Fleischer has successfully delivered a raucous adventure again which is sure to satisfy the eager fan base. It was in a time when the zombie movie genre went boring as hell that Zombieland first made its much-needed presence felt with a shot of adrenaline and creativity. With the stars of the movie becoming huge stars in the later years, a squeal with the same cast felt almost impossible. However, the original cast returned and the second installment turned out to be worth the 10 years wait. The movie picks up a decade later with the characters now becoming an irreverent family. The cast does a wonderful job of keeping the humor alive with their wonderful chemistry. The laugh riot got more amplified with the arrival of some new hysterical characters. One such performance that stands out is from the newly added character of Zoey Deutch. She nearly steals the show as the dumb blonde stereotype, Madison. The love triangle between her, Columbus, and Wichita is sure to have you rolling down in waves of laughter. Penned by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Dave Callaham, the flick gives space for each character to shine. The movie has no dull moments to offer. Though the overall plot is wafer-thin, Double Tap has a graceful, immensely entertaining pace. The narrative is mostly driven by the interaction between the characters. This constant engagement gives the movie no room for downbeats. The movie also has two old school cameo surprises and if you stick around till the end, there is another surprise after the credits. If you are looking for a great fun-filled entertainer, do see this movie in the theaters. It's worth it!
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Abominable (2019) Review: This Is NOT Your Happy-Go-Lucky Kid Flick

by Kaylen Summers

After Smallfoot and Missing Link, here is another CGI adventure about the mythical Himalayan creature. But, if you are looking for one of those fun-filled animation movies, then you are in for a somber ride. The movie does have a handful of humorous moments, but overall it trends in a pretty serious tone. Taking place in Shanghai, China, Abominable has a young girl named Yi as the central character. Voiced by Chloe Bennet, Yi is struggling to come in terms with the recent death of her father and grieves by playing her father's violin on the roof of her apartment building. It is here that she eventually meets the Yeti. Escaping from the capture of the crotchety Mr. Burnish (Eddie Izzard), the frightened Yeti (Joseph Izzo) is hiding from a famous doctor (Sarah Paulson) and an army of goons who are out to recover the beast. Slowing down considerably to establish the characters, the movie only picks up its pace as Yi decides to help the Yeti return back home to Mount Everest. From there Yi's cross country adventure with her basketball playing neighbor, Peng (Albert Tsai), and his social media addicted older cousin, Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) takes the movie into its 'feel-good' half. And eventually (like every other tale) Yi learns to accept the loss of her father and appreciate the love of others. It is appreciatable how the makers of this flick gave much attention to the depth of its story. The heroine of the story is too complex for an animated feature. The existential quest of the heroine is the core of the whole movie. Her inability to grieve is brilliantly equated to the challenge of her journey. However, any person who is buying tickets for a normal animation feature will get a little bored with the unexpected drama. Luckily, with some stunning animation and a remarkable score, the movie was saved from being a total drag. Abominable, even though an animation feature with a cute fluffy creature, is not something that your children would consider watching. The deeper, thoughtful philosophy is mostly for mature audiences than little ones. With that being said, the movie is watchable and good for recommending to someone who is down and facing challenges in their life.
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Ad Astra Review

by Kaylen Summers

To put it in a nutshell, Ad Astra is more of an Interstellar version of Apocalypse Now, with the scope of 2001: A Space Odyssey, telling the story in the tone and inner monologues of a stereotypical Terrence Malick drama. There is no doubt that James Gray is successful in presenting a visually dazzling and thematically rich outer-space action drama. But, it will not be complete without Brad Pitt’s starring performance. The movie shows Pitt as Astronaut Roy McBride, a mystery man to most who know him. He is on a covert mission to save the world by talking up the seemingly impossible task of finding his astronaut dad (Tommy Lee Jones). His dad is thought to have died 16 years ago while working on an old mission to find alien life. Realizing that his dad is still alive, now Roy must defeat space pirates, combat some space primates, and sneak onto a ship to Neptune to finally get him back. Well, like every other movie hero, he does all of this deftly without breaking much of a sweat. (James Bond in space?!) https://twitter.com/theskybandit/status/1171390325035864069 https://twitter.com/filmvsbook/status/1171516518552571904 https://twitter.com/AustinADale/status/1172259202896732160 While space-exploration themed movies like Gravity, Interstellar and Martian focus on the protagonist's struggle to return back home, Ad Astra is relief in its core plot and theme. Rather than being just a journey across the universe, the movie is a rumination on loneliness under the guise of a space mission. It is about self-discovery and of course, there is the 'save the planet from spontaneous electric storms' part. To put it in short "Ad Astra" isn't for everyone. Yes! there are many moments in the movie that are sure to set you off on an existential quest of your own. And if you're a fan of Pitt, this is definitely a must-watch performance for you from him. However, what makes the movie really beautiful is how it makes you want to reach out to loved ones that you haven't talked to in a while.
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The Kitchen (2019) Review

by Kaylen Summers

The American gangster movie genre is popular for its morally challenging convections. With its giddy whiplash through the attraction-repulsion cycle, each gangster movie gets viewers hopped up on power fantasies, adrenaline, and the rush of taboo fantasy. The Kitchen follows the same recipe that audiences have seen countless times. Adapted from the DC Vertigo graphic novel by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, the premise gives a female viewpoint to the popular, machismo infused gangster flick. However, don't expect Goodfellas from these girls, as most of the vacuous plot is utterly predictable. It is refreshing to see women as the crime bosses, but a gender swap alone cannot make a good movie. Produced by New Line Cinema and DC Films, and distributed by Warner Bros, the movie is set in the late seventies when the Irish mob ran the unions, protection, and loansharking rackets of New York City's Hell's Kitchen. After three local heavies: Jimmy (Brian d'Arcy James), Rob (Jeremy Walsh) and Kevin (James Badge Dale) are arrested for their strong-arm tactics, their wives sink into poverty and desperation. Though begged for a raise in their scant allowance they are ridiculed and rebuked. One of them even gets racially subjugated because she is the only black woman amongst the Irish. Thus, the women decide to take over their husbands' business and enlist a cold-blooded killer (Domhnall Gleeson) to back them up. The movie marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton). Telling the femme-centric story of women taking the reins, the movie is constructed around three strong actresses-Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss. However, it fails when it comes to characters and settings, as they are so overblown that they look more like caricatures. Adding that to the generic gangster plot, The Kitchen feels more trudged than visceral. Most crime dramas pay more attention to detailed character exposition. This nuance is lost somewhere in the heavy-handed and obvious plot of the movie. But, the overall empowerment theme should be celebrated, though it sometimes becomes contrived with its megaphone delivery. In short, if you are a fan of hard-R rated movies, then The Kitchen might be your cup of tea. There is plenty of onscreen violence, swearing, and adult themes. With extremely graphical headshots and chopped up bodies, the movie works better as a pulp action film with girl power.
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Itsy Bitsy (2019) Review

by Kaylen Summers

If you have a deadly fear for spiders, then Itsy Bitsy is sure to creep you out. Taking its base from folklore and spinning a web of spider induced nightmares, the movie will bound you to a good watching time. Directed by Micah Gallo, this low budget indie movie follows a young, single mother of two and her struggles with parenting and drug addiction. While she is taking up a new job as a private nurse to an antique appraiser, little did she know that her family is being stalked and terrorized by an ancient evil entity in the form of a giant, flesh-munching spider. Though it sounds a little too dark, Itsy Bitsy is actually a pleasant surprise for those who have seen giant spider movies like Eight Legged Freaks and Spiders 3D. In a traditional scene, Itsy Bitsy is definitely not an indie horror movie we have seen so far. For those who are eagerly anticipating the movie's death scenes, it will be a downside as the movie follows a Spielberg/Jaws approach and takes longer for its evil spider madness to begin. Putting its human characters to the front and center, the movie tries to focus more on drama, as the bulk of the movie's screen time is used to explore Kara's drug addiction, the obvious PTSD, and their family relationships. Though there are several creepy moments and effective jump scares, the drama isn’t quite strong enough to sustain the bulk of the runtime. Though the movie is only his debut as a director, Micah Gallo's extensive background with visual effects (Hatchet, The Innkeepers) has paid off in creating a convincing onscreen spider monster. The perfect combination of some effective practical effects, Vfx, and makeup effects have made the spider more believable than anyone would expect. The movie is well shot and looks more like a big-budgeted feature than it is. The spider effects stand out us the true star of the movie above all. The director handled the monstrous creature with terror-filled precision and gruesome effects, making it enough to instill arachnophobia in even the toughest of viewers. Though the scenes that feature the spider are fairly sparse, the movie warrants a watch for creature effects alone. The same cannot be said about the Spencer family as the emotional pull is lost somewhere in-between. The post-credit of the movie teases a potential bigger-scaled sequel looks more promising than this. Before you go and watch the movie here is the trailer for the movie. You can also find similar movies from our smart movie recommendations app  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZP8SQ4IMBg
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‘Ready or Not’-Review

by Kaylen Summers

With most of the blockbusters gone, the end of summer is a pretty awkward time for Hollywood. It is during this time that studios normally drop movies that they aren't quite sure what to do with. However, this year things got a little different with movies like Tyler Gillett's Ready or Not appearing on the big screen. This deliciously diabolical sophomore feature gives the audience a little bit of black comedy, horror movie, thriller and possibly even an action movie. But, don't underestimate it as 25% of four different genres. Ready or Not is 100% all of them at once. From wedding cake stuffed with razor blades to blowing up the chapel, the low-budget movie is packed with plenty of subversive pleasure.  Though at first, the premise might seem similar to Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, the movie is a real winner in how it is capable of achieving deep cultural critique with superficial diversion SPOILERS AHEAD!! The plot revolves around Grace (Samara Weaving) who is getting married into the wealthy Le Domas family. The family's wealth comes from making games- everything from cards, to board, to professional sports. According to the family tradition, the new member of the family should play a game on their wedding night. Well, it's obvious that it is not going to be a game of checkers or chess. It is when Grace pulled the "Hide And Seek" card from a special puzzle box that she knew that in this game the seekers are armed, and the one who is hiding ends up dead if found. Set up like a thriller, Ready or Not is keen on breaking away from the basic plot cliches with some ghoulish alterations. Even as Grace runs for her life from her crazed in-laws, the film sticks to its black humor and has some great laugh-out-loud hilarious jokes. The movie also avoids the usual plotline of the rich hunting for kicks. The Le Domas family does it because of what they fear will happen if they don’t. Such elements of such superstitions brew the possibility of the supernatural, as Grace struggles through scorching confrontations, deadly mishaps, and gleeful violence that can make any horror movie lover cheer! Any review of Ready or Not will remain incomplete without talking about Samara Weaving's performance in the movie. The Australian actress gave what can be legitimately termed as a “star-making performance". Weaving can be seen nearly in every scene and there are a fair number of them which she spends alone. However, the actress gracefully took the narrative on her shoulders and moved it forward in ease and style. The movie is 95 minutes long and is a relief considering a season full of features well over two hours in length. The script by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy is perfectly paced, with everything serving the unbroken tension built up by the plot. For a movie made at such a low-budget, Ready or Not deserves not to be missed and to be seen on the big screen.
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Bumblebee Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

A war is raging on the planet Cybertron. Optimus Prime leads the Autobot rebellion against the tyrannical Decepticons. He sends his loyal soldier and friend, B-127 (soon to be called Bumblebee, voiced by Dylan O'Brien when he has a voice) to Earth, since Decepticons have not found it yet and it can be used as an Autobot base. Soon after he arrives on Earth, Bumblebee finds himself without a voice, on the run from the military and with no memory (that last part isn't really explained). His mission: to protect the planet's inhabitants and keep its location safe till the other Autobots arrive. None of that is what the story is really about. Instead, it's about Bumblebee's friendship with highly skilled car mechanic Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), who is learning to cope with her dad's death, and it's about how each of them grows because of that friendship. Think How to Train Your Dragon, Charlie is Hiccup and Bumblebee is Toothless. That description, to me, sums up both why this movie is so good and also where it falls short of greatness. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcwmDAYt22k[/embed] What director Travis Knight of Kubo and the Two Strings acclaim gets completely right with Bumblebee is the tone. He creates a playful 80s teen movie atmosphere that is perfect for this story, even in the midst of extreme peril. There's a sweetness to the interactions between the leads, and they're both so likable that you don't question their immediate connection, you just root for them. And when the film seamlessly transitions to robot v robot action, Knight shows the same finesse with the camera that he did with Kubo, creating some kinetic, fluid (and also surprisingly violent) fight sequences. Hailee Steinfeld, who plays a character not that different from her rebel teen character in The Edge of Seventeen, is just as great here, pretty much carrying the movie herself. Her arc is not particularly well-written, and her growth can feel a little disconnected from the events in her life, but her acting is always beautiful. She never lets one emotion define her, making all the sullenness and the excitement convincing as parts of the same person. I did not, however, get that feeling that I'm watching a real person while watching John Cena as the soldier who first encounters Bumblebee. He does well with scenes of levity, especially when his character is first introduced, but stumbles in more dramatic moments. What did not necessarily work for me was Bumblebee's memory loss, and the way it was used to make him feel less like Charlie's friend and more like her pet at times. I would've been much more interested in a story where two people, thinking at the same capacity, become friends. The barrier of one of them being mute could then have made this something truly special. The memory loss plot device also hurts the narrative in that major changes in Bumblebee's character arc are based on tech instead of his friendship with Charlie. It left me feeling like I was watching two Bumblebees, a confident Autobot soldier in his speaking scenes and in the scenes with Charlie, little more than a Herbie knockoff. This feeling of familiarity is omnipresent. You know what it means when a robot has red glowing eyes instead of blue, because it's basic movie language, and that which can't predict, we aren't surprised by. The only thing new is to leave the theater with positive feelings after watching a Transformers movie. It does not take a great film to earn the title of best Transformers movie.
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Mary Poppins Returns Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Underwhelming sequels are not exactly uncommon. But when a sequel follows the route taken by two of the best sequels in recent years, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Creed, that is, taking the plot structure of the original and reusing it for a new generation, it is disappointing to see it feel so rote and unimaginative. It's great to once again enjoy the charismatic screen presence of Mary Poppins herself, and Emily Blunt in that role is practically perfect in every way. But the movie also includes a father (Ben Whishaw) who sometimes gets unreasonable cross at his kids and must learn to find the child in himself again. It includes a mother-like figure (Emily Mortimer) who is fighting for an important social cause but is sometimes laughed at for it. It has a lamplighter (Lin-Manuel Miranda), who was not only an apprentice of the chimney sweep (among other jobs) from the original, but plays exactly the same part here. And finally, it has the bank. Bank troubles fuel the initial conflict, a banker (Colin Firth) is the antagonist and a showdown at the bank acts as the climax. Just like the first one. Even the one random cameo in between (Meryl Streep) that has no bearing on the plot feels oddly reminiscent of the scene from the original where they all fly to the ceiling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3jsfXDZLIY Those are just the major instances that immediately stand out. I could take the time to detail all the little jokes here are rehashed from the first without any comment on them or any significant addition to them, but by now you get the idea. The premise is simple: 25 years after the events of the first one, the Banks children have now grown up, Jane Banks a labour activist and Michael Banks a widower artist with a job at the bank. As the movie begins, Michael learns that he must pay off a loan in a few days in order to keep his house. He, Jane and his three kids must figure out a way to find the large sum required within that time, and that's when Mary Poppins comes back into their lives to remind them what's important, and in the process, teach them some very British manners. The best children's stories entertain or educate children, and simultaneously offer adults something more to chew on. Mary Poppins Returns isn't quite complex enough for that, and the best adults could really take away from it is a pleasant sense of nostalgia for the original, but that's not to say it's not a great entertainer for kids. The technical production is fabulous, with stunning visual effects that not only make the Mary Poppins magic fit seamlessly with the live action world around her, but manage to make the live action characters not look odd when they find themselves in a 2D animated world. Moreover, the children are immediately lovable, and since their mother's death has left them responsible and wise beyond their years, they also act as great role models for the little ones watching.
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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Critics who announced their top ten lists before December 28, 2018 must be kicking themselves. If Bandersnatch is indeed a movie, it's one that's easily worthy of a spot. Directed by David Slade, whose filmography shall always remain tainted by the fact that he directed one of the Twilight movies, Bandersnatch is an experience the likes of which we've never seen in live action before. Not even those of us who have watched interactive choose-your-own-adventure style videos. There's a major debate in video gaming over how much freedom a player should have for the best experience, about whether we really want choice or just the illusion of choice. Bandersnatch doesn't just find a place for itself on this spectrum of freedom versus illusion and then use it to tell a narrative. Instead, it tells a story that is precisely about navigating the spectrum. On one level, this manifests in the dialogue and the themes of the story itself. But beyond that, you also feel it ingrained in the structure of the movie, in the sense that how much choice the game gives you at any moment directly impacts your emotional involvement in that scene. There are times when being presented with a false choice (where both options lead to the same outcome) is frustrating. But there are also times when you wish you weren't given a choice at all because both options presented are, to say the least, unpleasant, and making the choice makes you feel responsible for the consequences. And that's just one of the ways in which Bandersnatch plays with your mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM0xWpBYlNM I suppose now is when I should tell you what it's all about. It's 1984, and Stefan (Fionn Whitehead, Dunkirk) is adapting Bandersnatch, a choose your own adventure novel, into a video game. In the process, he gets to meet and interact with his idol, legendary game developer Colin Ritman, (Will Poulter, The Revenant). Early on, we learn that the process of creating an interactive novel drove the author crazy and he killed his wife. In the film, we follow Stefan's own descent into or struggle against madness and paranoia (though depending on your interpretation, his fears may actually be well founded). One can only hope that the writer of this movie, Charlie Brooker, does not turn crazy and murderous himself. Beyond what I've already said, it's not easy to discuss Bandersnatch without taking some of the fun away. Much of the surprise lies not just in the plot twists but in realising how far it'll take its gimmick. The word bandersnatch, incidentally, comes from Lewis Carroll's Wonderland books, a fact I only mention so I can say that the further you go down the rabbit hole of choices in this film, the curiouser and curiouser it gets. This is a sci-fi thriller, not a comedy, yet there are moments that make you laugh at their sheer audacity. Hours after having gone through it twice, and having watched, as far as I can tell, all possible endings, my friends and I are still trying to sort through the various questions it left us with, from abstract philosophical questions of responsibility to the kind of weird questions only great science fiction can tackle. Lest we let form take over content, I should address the quality of the clips themselves. The screenwriting here is fantastic, with efficient dialogue that skillfully uses interactions to build character. The philosophical conversations are just the right level of on-the-nose. On a technical side, Slade ably does the job of translating the material to screen without adding much. There's no flair to the cinematography or the set design. It could almost have felt like a drag if not for the terrific performances across the board. Fionn Whitehead had already shown us what he could do with very little dialogue in Dunkirk. Now we know how good he is with dialogue, and a lot of it. Will Poulter, who's always great, is unsurprisingly great here too, perfectly conveying both Colin's brilliance and his nuttiness. In addition to being an excellent movie on its own merits, Bandersnatch is also groundbreaking. On the one hand, I'm excited to see this format go mainstream. It's certainly versatile, and can be applied to genres like fantasy, romance and even superheroes. But on the other hand, Bandersnatch may have deconstructed the very notion of interactive storytelling so thoroughly that any future stories in the format run the risk of feeling contrived. Your move, Netflix.
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Shirkers Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

In 1992, 3 young adults tried to make what could have been Singapore's first indie film, a road movie called Shirkers. The 3 women were writer, assistant director and producer, and Georges Cardona, a living breathing mystery of a man, was the director. I'd rather not tell you much more about what happened, since everything in this documentary is a surprise, but suffice it to say that this documentary-about-the-troubled-production-of-a-movie is unlike any other. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3wPWCj2L6I Sandi Tan conceived of the original project and wrote the screenplay. The film would follow a teenage serial killer as she drove around the country, “collecting” hapless victims, taking them along with her on her journey. We get glimpses of the movie Shirkers in the documentary Shirkers, and from what we see, it’s remarkably thoughtful and introspective, given the writer’s age. Sandi Tan and her fellow filmmakers, Sophie and Jasmine, were young visionaries, with the kind of creativity and passion that would have served as an inspiration to other young filmmakers regardless of whether their movie turned out great or terrible, if only it had been completed. Earlier this year, I watched The Tale, an HBO movie starring Laura Dern as a fictionalised version of the director Jennifer Fox. Fox and Tan used The Tale and Shirkers respectively to tell the stories of how they, in their 40s, finally came to terms with a messed up period from their youth where they put their faith in a charismatic older man who, in completely different ways, took advantage of them. Fox is a documentary filmmaker who chose fiction to tell this story from her life, whereas Tan is a fiction filmmaker who chose documentary. They are two of the best movies so far this year. Shirkers is just as compelling in its first half, when it’s following the production of the movie, as it is in the second half when it follows these characters as adults trying to figure out exactly what happened, and exactly who this Georges Cardona was. It works because of how much of an enigma Cordona is, and also how much Tan herself isn’t. Her own personality, her flaws are laid bare in front of us, to the point that many may end up with the conclusion that she’s an inconsiderate asshole. This isn’t a documentary trying to make you like her, just to empathise.

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The other reason Shirkers works comes down to its audio-visual style. It’s punk rock, it’s jarring, it’s nothing short of captivating. At 96 minutes, it’s already brisk, but the energetic editing makes it seem even more so. When it ends, it leaves you wanting to know more. Watch it.
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Village Rockstars Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Rima Das wrote, directed, produced, shot and edited Village Rockstars. She's also the production designer. The very definition of a passion project, this snapshot of life in Das' village Chaygaon is pulsating with her love for the place and its people. Sometimes, when a storyteller loves their characters, they want the world to see the best of them, and end up creating a fantasy masquerading as reality. Das loves Chaygaon enough to want us to see it exactly as it is, and trusts that we'll fall in love with it too. She's right. The movie follows feisty preteen Dhunu (Bhanita Das), a girl who aspires for things seemingly out of her reach and works on getting them. She sees a group of boys "playing music" on thermocol instruments, and cuts out a guitar for herself to join them. She later sees an actual band perform, and starts working to save up for a real guitar. One gets the feeling she's aware of how impractical this goal is for someone barely scraping by as it is, but accepting her lot in life is a concept alien to her. It helps that she has the support of her widowed mother, a woman willing to take on the judgemental ladies of the village when it comes to her daughter's freedom to climb trees and play with boys. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTov2nVgXaU You've seen "be yourself" and "follow your dreams" movies before. This isn't Brave, this isn't Moana. While Dhunu does face opposition from the aforementioned village elders, that only forms a small part of the movie. The only real villains are poverty, floods and the patriarchy, constants in Chaypur that the characters have already more or less adapted to. The narrative isn't driven by conflict, but by striving. Dhunu isn't a rebel as much as she is a hard worker and an indomitable spirit. This positivity extends to the depiction of poverty. The camera doesn't linger on images that elicit pity, it revels in long shots of joy. Like the poverty, like the floods, the joy too isn't something elusive discovered by breaking norms, it's a part of life. It's to be found in the kids lounging on the branches of their favourite tree under the sun, and it's there in the mother teaching Dhunu how to swim, even though there's a dark story behind this lesson. The lack of conflict leads to a casual pace, but with a runtime of an hour and a half, it never gets boring. Dhunu isn't razor-focused on getting the guitar, she's wise enough to recognise when other concerns take precedence. Thus, the film isn't focused on its central premise either, and episodically goes through a lot of highs and lows in these characters' lives. But those of us who aren't intimately familiar with this lifestyle will be constantly engaged in the process of discovering it, so the plot doesn't really need to take the driver's seat.

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The miniscule budget doesn't show. Naturally lit shots of open fields look as beautiful as in any major release. The sound design adds to the immersion. The camera is mostly still, and when it is handheld, it doesn't feel amateurish. As other critics have pointed out, the low positioning of the cameras puts us with the kids and enlarges the world. And perhaps most crucially, the untrained actors are naturals, especially Basanti Das as the supportive but stern mother. It's hard to find a flaw. Rima Das has had a fantastic trajectory with this film so far, her efforts have paid off. I can't wait till I get to see her next movie Bulbul Can Sing, and I can't wait for her to get an Oscar nomination, both so the world can appreciate her talents, and so they can see a setting like Chaygaon with empathy instead of sympathy.
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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Split and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are two movies that I like, but don't love. One of my issues with Split was that it told us that James McAvoy's character has 23 personalities, but that number might as well have been ten or a hundred, since we only see four of them in the movie. Scott Pilgrim, on the other hand, was adapted from a series of six graphic novels where Scott faces off against seven antagonists, all of whom were crammed into one movie, not giving any of them enough time onscreen for any depth. Netflix's new romcom, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, is another movie I liked but didn't quite love, and my biggest issue with it is a bit of a mix of the two mentioned above. Susan Johnson's To All the Boys I've Loved Before stars Lana Condor (Jubilee of the X-Men) as Lara Jean, a high school wallflower who, when she has a crush on a boy, doesn't tell him. Instead, she writes him a love letter that she never intends to send, and keeps her letters hidden away with her feelings. When she has written five of these letters, all of them mysteriously get mailed to their (un)intended recipients, leading to chaos in her relationships. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=555oiY9RWM4 While I haven't read the Jenny Han novel this is adapted from, I imagine the crazy possibilities of this premise must have been explored thoroughly in it. But just like Scott Pilgrim would've probably worked better on screen if there were, say, five enemies for Scott to take on instead of seven, I got the feeling that To All the Boys I've Loved Before might have worked better with four love letters. At the very least, it would have reduced the disappointment when, at the end of the first act, the story reveals itself to actually be one we've seen before: for unimportant (and rather contrived) reasons, a girl and a boy decide to pretend date, but start to grow to really like each other. After that point, every twist and turn in the plot, every crest and trough of the relationship between our leads, is predictable. And yet, the movie works, at least on the level of comfort food. A big part of that comes from how natural, how lived-in the preexisting dynamics feel. Lara Jean's relationship with her dad is as sweet and real as her relationship with her sisters, as with her best (and only) friend in school. Sure, some of these characters are cookie cutter, but they create a world around Lara Jean that is positive and inviting, a world we want to inhabit for an hour and a half, perhaps because like her, we too are scared of leaving that safety net for the real world. (Ironically, the biggest but also the most easily forgiven betrayal in the story comes from within this safety net.) The other big reason the film works is Lara Jean herself. While the plot is full of annoying tropes such as concealment of information that didn't need to be concealed and the love triangle (two of them, in fact), it spends very little time on these contrived conflicts. The focus, instead, is on the inner conflicts faced by the protagonist, and that's a good thing, since in addition to being likeable, she is genuinely interesting. So what if her central arc has been done before, and better, by The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Watching someone shy leave their shell is never going to get old.

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So of course, if you're tired of romantic comedies, of their formula, this is not the movie for you. But if you're looking for something relaxing, this is it. Testament to how much I enjoyed the movie is that when it ended with a cliffhanger setting up a potential sequel (there are three books), I was happy I'd get to spend more time with these characters. It's not often one is genuinely excited for a sequel to a romcom, so that is saying something. To All the Boys I've Loved Before is available to stream on Netflix now.
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Christopher Robin Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Full disclosure: I did not grow up watching or reading about Winnie the Pooh. In fact, my only exposure to Milne's world so far has been through the 2011 Disney animated movie. Jim Cummings, who was terrific as the voice of Pooh and Tigger in that movie, reprises both roles in Marc Forster's Christopher Robin. That's about all the two movies have in common. Just like its titular character, the movie also seems to have lost something special, something childlike. As a child, Christopher Robin used to spend his playtime in the Hundred Acre Wood, with his stuffed toy pals Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and others. Pooh is a bear who cares only about honey and his friends, Piglet is scared of things, and Eeyore is depressed. Their adventures always involve the animals being silly and getting themselves into trouble, and Christopher saving them. However, as he grows up, supposedly too old to be playing with stuffed animals, he has to say goodbye to his friends. As an adult, played by Ewan McGregor, he loses sight of the things that are important in life, friends, family, fun, and devotes himself to a dull, thankless job. One day, Pooh crosses over from the Wood to the human world, and craziness ensues as the animals try to save Christopher from unhappiness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0URpDxIjZrQ The movie, while pleasant, falls short of the potential of that premise. Mark Osborne's The Little Prince is another movie that dealt with the idea that growing up should not mean we forget what it's like to be a child, and why happiness matters more than our day-to-day routine. In fact, this is a fairly common theme in children's movies. This means that in order to be anything more than just pleasant, the film must either put a new spin on it or simply cover its lack of originality up with charm and manic energy. Christopher Robin, however, is as by-the-numbers as it gets. Mark Gatiss plays the boss who just won't give Christopher a break. Hayley Atwell plays the wife who just wishes he would be around more. As talented as these actors are, they can't help their characters rise above the shallow writing, leading to characters as one-dimensional as the stuffed animals. And as adorable as Pooh is, whenever Jim Cummings uses that deep voice of his to deliver what's supposed to be a wise, philosophical observation, what comes out is trite. [caption id="attachment_1417" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Christopher Robin. (Ewan McGregor) with his long time friend Winnie the Pooh in Disney’s live-action adventure CHRISTOPHER ROBIN.[/caption] When the movie works best is when Christopher is having fun with his friends, reconnecting with his fun side. Even that aspect of the movie isn't perfect, since at times it feels like Forster is more interested in telling us that his characters are having fun than in just letting us live the moment. That said, it is always, at the very least, endearing, in large part due to Ewan McGregor's performance. He takes a tried-and-tested mold, the adult who has lost touch with his inner child, and infuses it with heart and energy. Because of this, even when Christopher is being his dull self, McGregor has an arresting screen presence, keeping us engaged in his story.

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The 2011 animated Winnie the Pooh is an exuberant celebration of childhood, and stylistically unique. It's the perfect film to get younger kids hooked on movies. Christopher Robin is a tired, somber return to that world, and while it's an entertaining ride for both kids and adults, it's not particularly memorable for either. I recommend watching it, but only if you're so invested in these characters that your enjoyment of it gets a boost from nostalgia.
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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

My opinion of 2008's Mamma Mia! is, why not just listen to an Abba album? Which is interesting, because when it comes to listening to music, I generally prefer songs from movies over those not from movies, because being engaged in a world and the characters that inhabit it enhances the experience of listening to these songs. But with Mamma Mia!, I found myself very disengaged, perhaps because the story had too much sugar and too much cheese for my taste. Very cynical of me, I know. And what's the point of listening to the movie versions of these songs, when Pierce Brosnan was doing so much of the singing? In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Brosnan has a lot less singing to do. That is how I suggest you look at this movie: it's offering the same package as the original, and its execution isn't too different, except this time there's less of the things that were annoying the first time and more of that which worked. So whether it's a good movie or not, it most certainly is a good sequel. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcSMdhfKga4[/embed] The story (if you care about that sort of thing and are not just here for the soundtrack) is split into 2 timelines. In the present day, 10 years after the events of Mamma Mia!, Donna (Meryl Streep) has been dead for about a year. Her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has rebuilt her hotel, and dedicated it to her (Hotel Bella Donna), and now wants the grand reopening to go well, while she processes the idea of moving on without Donna in her life. In the other timeline, we follow a young Donna (Lily James) as she as she first finds the building that would go on to become her hotel, and meets the 3 men who end up as Sophie's fathers. From that description, it would appear that the present day storyline has an interesting narrative drive, while the one in the past does not. After all, what could be interesting about seeing Donna go through a journey whose ending, thanks to the first movie, we already know? In execution, however, it ends up being the reverse. The present day plot presents us with challenges Sophie is facing, and then those problems get solved and the characters are happy, skipping the part in the middle where we're actually supposed to try to figure out how to solve that problem. In the past, however, since we already basically know what's coming, the focus is on living the moment with Donna and the Dynamos, which is surprisingly entertaining. The key here is the change in directors, this time, the dialogue is sharper, the musical numbers better choreographed, the characters slightly better fleshed out. From almost every perspective, this sequel ends up being a tad better than the original, even though it's basically the same movie (even some of the songs make a reappearance, including the titular Mamma Mia!). There is, however, one significant factor in favour of the original: Meryl Streep. She was almost the only actor who could make the dramatic beats feel at least a little genuine in the midst of all the ridiculousness, and her presence is sorely missed this time around. Good thing Lily James is a more than capable replacement, she's a good singer, and is so much fun to watch onscreen that for the first half hour, you really don't mind the absence of an engaging plot. New additions include Cher and Andy Garcia. At the beginning of the movie, I was just baffled by the choice of that accomplished an actor for what looked like a rather small role, but once the logic behind his casting did become clear to me, the decision only got weirder, for reasons I cannot disclose without spoiling a major reveal.

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Speaking of spoilers, I find it interesting how the promotional images of the movie spoil all the biggest reveals in the movie. It's almost as if they know the audience isn't there for the story. Deciding whether to watch Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is simple. If you liked the original, you'll like this more, if you didn't, this won't win you over. That said, even though I count myself in the latter category, I believe in angels, something good in everything I see. (Sorry.)

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Hanging off a train in 1996. Climbing a rock in 2000. Swinging from one building to another in 2006. Climbing the Burj Khalifa in 2011. Hanging off an airplane in 2015. A HALO jump and some frankly insane helicopter stunts in 2018. On the one hand, it might seem that Mission: Impossible - Fallout special is that its stunts are even crazier, even bigger than the ones in previous movies. But even though they are, our feeling while watching them isn't too different, watching the previous stunts, we still had that feeling that they're crazier and bigger than what had come before, and the question of "how will Tom Cruise top this one?" at the end. The fact is, daring stunts, while exciting to watch, can no longer make an M:I movie stand out in this franchise full of excellent action thrillers, and they are also not what makes Fallout special. What makes Fallout special is Christopher McQuarrie's direction, precise, controlled, and impactful. These three adjectives apply both to the story at large and to individual moments. Near the beginning of the film, we see a three-way fight in a bathroom with Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill taking on a fighter far more skilled than either of them, and every punch, every kick is precise, controlled and impactful. This is achieved through impeccable sound design, with no background score and clear sounds making us feel the weight behind every hit. It's achieved through smooth camerawork, which is neither shaky nor frantically edited, so that from moment to moment, we know where everyone is situated, and what they're doing to gain an advantage. It's also achieved through attention to detail in writing, so that the characters don't just have the larger goal of winning the fight, they also have specific things they're trying to achieve moment to moment, specific hurdles to cross, which further ensures we're constantly on the edge of our seats. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb49-oV0F78 While the bathroom brawl mentioned above is certainly the highlight of the movie, every action sequence is similarly excellent, beginning with Cruise and Cavill jumping off an airplane and ending with a helicopter chase. The rhythm and flow of Fallout is set by its action, so much so that the plot is almost irrelevant. Terrorists who have a problem with the current world order want to create a new world order, and of course this involves nuclear bombs. IMF agents Ethan Hunt (Cruise), Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) team up with CIA agent Walker (Cavill) to stop them, and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson in badass form) gets involved with her own mysterious motives. It's a tried and tested premise, and the only refreshing element of it is that at least this time around, the IMF hasn't disavowed Ethan. Previously, the best film in the franchise was Brad Bird's Ghost Protocol, and one of the key factors in its appeal was that without official backing, the team's equipment kept faltering, leading to some fun unpredictability throughout. Here, we see the team working at peak efficiency, going up against opponents working at their formidable best, and that is a different kind of thrilling.

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However, great action alone could not make Fallout the best of the series, since Ghost Protocol paired its action with an emotionally effective story about Ethan and his ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan), resulting in a movie even those not into the action genre could appreciate. (Sidenote: that story was elevated by Jeremy Renner's terrific performance, and unfortunately, he does not make an appearance here. Fingers crossed for M:I 7). Luckily, Fallout's story, if anything, got me even more emotional. The difference is that since this is the first movie with a returning director (McQuarrie also helmed the previous instalment, Rogue Nation), the story is constructed in such a way that how involved you are depends on how many of the previous movies you've seen. Some of the emotion comes from the respect Ethan's team has for him, some from his bond with Ilsa, and some from how Ethan sees his role in Julia's life, and to fully appreciate these narrative threads, you need to have seen the last three movies in the series (the first two might as well not exist, and can easily be skipped). I also loved how the movie demonstrated Ethan's ultimate appeal, that at his core, he's just a really good person, beautifully demonstrated in a tense moment with a Parisian cop midway through the movie. The last few years have given us what I consider some of the greatest action movies ever made, movies that have and will continue to inspire future action directors to up their game. Incredibles 2 shows us how good animated action can be, Captain America: Civil War is a showcase of what's possible with superhero action choreography, Fallout is as good as stunt-based action gets, and Mad Max: Fury Road is simply an all-around perfect action movie. It's a good time to be an action movie lover.
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Hotel Artemis Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum are enough to sell most people on watching anything, but here they're just three of nine stars crammed into one movie. Cram might seem like an odd choice of word, since having many entertaining personalities bouncing off of each other should be a good thing, but here lies the dichotomy of Drew Pearce's feature-length directorial debut, Hotel Artemis. On the one hand, the charismatic actors bring a screen presence that glues us to their every conversation, on the other, the movie tries to give each character and subplot its due, not leaving enough time to give depth to any of them. In a dystopian 2028, Los Angeles residents are engaged in a massive riot due to a water shortage. This setting is a backdrop in the film, and plays no further role thematically. Its only purpose is to make everything outside Hotel Artemis dangerous. The Hotel, run by The Nurse (Jodie Foster), is a safe haven for criminals, complete with state-of-the-art medical technology and strict rules about criminal-on-criminal violence. Remind you of John Wick? Well, if you've seen those movies, you'll have noticed that there, The Hotel Continental is shown to be a true safe haven because, while you can break the rules, the consequences are final and inescapable (except for that cheesy ending to John Wick 2, of course). Rule enforcement at the Hotel Artemis seems to lie on the shoulders of just one man, Everest (Dave Bautista). He's strong, sure, but he's still one person, so from the beginning, one never gets that sense of security in that hotel, so that when the violence inevitable goes down, it's not surprising in the least. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqfuKsoEEms Sterling K. Brown plays Waikiki, a robber with a bit of a conscience, whose idiotic brother Honolulu, played by Brian Tyree Henry (Widows, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), gets himself shot, which leads Waikiki to bring him to the Artemis for treatment. Honolulu, however, unwittingly brings with him a collection of rare diamonds that many would be willing to kill for, especially the Wolf King, played by Jeff Goldblum. There are more criminals staying at the Artemis, however, and this is only one of the many subplots in the movie, giving it a feeling of being "a day in the life of The Nurse". This is quite like the recent Coen Brothers movie Hail, Caesar, and if you enjoyed that, I recommend this to you. As long as the movie tries to just be a crime comedy, it's quite engaging, but it soon becomes clear that Pearce is really trying to get us emotionally invested in the various relationships these criminals share, which, if it wasn't already a little challenging because these are criminals, gets really difficult because of how many there are. So while Waikiki was likable enough for me to root for him, I could never care as much about his dynamic with his brother or with fellow lodger Nice (Sofia Boutella) as the film wanted me to. The one dynamic I genuinely found endearing was between The Nurse and Everest. Jodie Foster does a great job playing a woman who's smart and efficient but just too old for this shit, and Bautista convinces us that he's someone she can rely on for support. The way Everest cares for her also makes him more than a strong henchman, more than just a physical presence. One auxiliary point: in its attempt at making us not recoil from this institution for criminals, the movie makes a distinction between classes of criminal, with certain kinds not allowed in there. This includes, terrorists and murderers. Murderers, however, are completely okay. Hollywood, and pop culture in general, has a long history of treating murder as a minor inconvenience, often even a game, but while you can usually compartmentalise those feelings so that they do not affect your experience of every movie with casual murder, Hotel Artemis makes it a little too explicit, and that turned me off on the whole experience. If, however, that doesn't bother you, this is what I have to say about the movie: it's an entertaining watch, and if you've seen every other movie in theatres that interests you, this is worth a watch. Just keep your expectations low.
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Ant-Man and The Wasp Review

by Sonika Sharma

This year has been full of nail biting and heart thumping moments in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ant-Man and The Wasp is set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Everyone here is facing the consequences of the incidents in Civil War while the audience is all too aware of the looming dread. Reed's superheroes are better suited to the grand scale of Marvel now than they were in 2015's Ant-Man. But he never makes the action too over-powering though the fast paced visual changes are just as dizzying. With this movie, we are diving head-first into the quantum realm, and the rules are a little thinly drawn. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUkn-enk2RU The movie opens with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), the Ant-Man being your average Joe. He plays with his daughter, trying to keep his small security company afloat but he is on parole and hasn’t left his home in over two years. It’s all dull and obvious until Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), the Wasp abducts him while putting his freedom at risk two days before his parole was over. Hope and her father Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) are set on rescuing her mother from where she is still stuck in the quantum realm. Scott holds some key information without even realising it. But there are too many opposing forces and a tug of war ensues based on different motives. It is stretched at times but the movie manages to pull through with steady pacing and action.

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Rudd plays a superhero with a stronger emotional feel and clever jokes but Evangeline's Hope steals the show. She is skeptical and is in control enough to not give away any control to the usual superhero charm. The two of them come together for an equal partnership with a refreshing dynamic. Michael Peña, playing Luis, Scott's former cell mate and business partner, brings one of the best comic sequences with a “truth serum” gag that will remain memorable. All along, the movie is happy basking in its cleverness. Scott at one points asks if they just “put quantum in front of everything” they say and answer is pretty much a yes. I called the movie an indulgence in the beginning because it slows down in moments that hold no plot significance, just pure scientific fascination. The close up magic tricks are employed for quick laughs but the easy resizing of objects throughout the movie doesn’t feel deeper either. No one is trying hard, but it’s kind of a reprieve for the core audience who has had much trauma already. At times the movie feels like filler, giving us characters arcs, actions and humour but only to hurtle to the end point. We are going somewhere bigger. It would be difficult to stay away from that sentiment until the next Avengers. But the easy going nature of the movie, along with its emotional appeal and the usual Marvel charm, makes it a worthwhile watch.
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Isle of Dogs Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Bryan Cranston. Edward Norton. Bill Murray. Jeff Goldblum. Greta Gerwig. Frances McDormand. Scarlett Johansson. Harvey Keitel. Tilda Swinton. Ken Watanabe. Liev Schreiber. Do I really need to say more? Do you really still care whether I think Isle of Dogs is a good movie? After reading that cast list, I wouldn't. But since we're her, let's talk about what the film is about, and pretend it matters. 12 year old Atari (Koyu Rankin) flies to Trash Island to rescue his pet/bodyguard Spots. This is in a dystopian Japan where the ruling party has convinced a vast majority of the public that dogs are not good boys. All dogs are therefore exiled to Trash Island, where they have to survive in horrible conditions, fighting over garbage for food. While Atari is on the island, American foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) tries to start a revolution against the anti-dog ruling party. But the primary plot of the movie centers on dogs, and dogs are the real protagonists. A pack of dogs, each with an alpha dog name (Rex, Boss, Chief etc), if not an alpha dog personality, roam the isle. While officially, they have no leader, Rex (Edward Norton) pretty much takes charge. Four of these five dogs were pets, and thus grew up in luxury, but the fifth, Chief (Bryan Cranston), was a stray, which often leads to him having a different perspective on things than the others, and consequently feeling like an outcast. The pack finds Atari, and decides to lead him to Spots, but Chief, who's never been very good with humans, needs more time to take to the boy and get invested in their mission. When I see this as Chief's story, with a touching arc of courage, growth and self-esteem, this is a really good movie. Bryan Cranston brings gruffness, grit and experience to his performance, but layers it with heart and vulnerability. He makes us love his character without ever being particularly likable. His relationships with Atari, the pack and others grow organically, and even when we aren't very invested in the other character, we care about the relationship because we care about Chief. His performance makes the movie for me. Unfortunately, that's just one of two storylines in this movie. The other follows events back on the mainland, showing us the politics around an intense dogs vs cats divide, shining a light on the corruption and propaganda involved, which, wouldn't you know it, is an allegory. (The pro-dog opposition party is called the Science Party. Subtle.) Oddly enough, you don't need to be a dog-lover to appreciate the plot with the dogs, but whenever the movie cuts back to the subplot about people fighting over whether dogs are good, especially with Tracy's movement, unless you're a dog-lover, there's nothing interesting to be gained from it. And if you're not a dog lover, but are a cat lover, the experience might be even less engaging. But story isn't everything, and for directors like Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright and in this case, Wes Anderson, the storytelling choices often form the core of the appeal of their films, much more so than the stories they tell. Anderson's work in Isle of Dogs has already received a lot of acclaim and controversy, and while, not knowing Japanese, I can't reasonable pick a side in the appropriation debate as it applies to this film, I can back the acclaim. Everything you expect from an Anderson film is here, from the symmetrical frames to the meticulous pace. And while the emotional investment rises and falls, at least it's always funny. Ultimately, I do recommend Isle of Dogs, it's a good film. But the recommendation can't help but be weaker for those who don't hear the title and immediately think "yes! I do love dogs!" Wes Anderson completionists will be satisfied, but everyone else, consider this a "go if you have time on your hands" kind of recommendation, and not the "go! go! go!" kind.
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Sicario: Day of the Soldado Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Opening note: If you haven't watched the first instalment, Denis Villeneuve's 2015 thriller Sicario, you don't need to in order to fully appreciate this sequel, Soldado. This is a crime thriller with its own separate plot, one which is connected to the events of Sicario but is explained well enough in Soldado that you don't need to watch the predecessor to be engaged. That said, Sicario was a pretty good movie itself, so no harm in watching that first and then going to the theatre for this. The rest of this review has spoilers for the first movie Sicario, so read on only if you've seen it. Sicario: Day of the Soldado feels like two full movies and a short film packed in one, and yet also feels like just half a movie. The first movie had a relatively simple plot, using Emily Blunt's character Kate to introduce the audience to the actual protagonist of the franchise, Benicio del Toro's cold-blooded hitman (Sicario is Spanish for hitman) Alejandro as well as the brutal world of Mexican cartels that he inhabits. With the second and third chapters, writer Taylor Sheridan is trying something much more ambitious. With Alejandro as the protagonist, he's crafting a complex 2-movie epic with multiple parallel threads. Each thread highlights a different perspective on the grim situation, sometimes asking tough ethical questions of its characters and us, other times just indulging in its cynical "everything sucks" worldview. Unfortunately, this instalment feels like it gives each of its three major plot threads a setup to something interesting, but ends with us realising we'll have to wait for Sicario 3 before we get any semblance of depth or nuance from them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIMChzE_aCo The thread we start with is probably the one with most potential. It takes Matt (Josh Brolin, in the third of his four movies this summer) and Alejandro, who were fighting the drug trade across the US-Mexico border in the first movie, and has them now fighting cross-border human trafficking. After an Islamic terrorist attack in the US, the authorities suspect that the terrorists were smuggled across the border by Mexican cartels (yes, the possible xenophobia in this is addressed, without much depth). A war must be started against the cartels, for which purpose the military needs someone who has no boundaries, and as long as he's not on American soil, will go to any lengths he deems necessary to complete his missions. That someone is Matt, and he, upon deciding that they should first get the cartels fighting each other by kidnapping the daughter of one of the cartel leaders, brings in Alejandro to do the job, because Alejandro has history with said cartel leader Carlos Reyes. What I've already described here is a movie more complex than the first Sicario, and this is only one thread. This raises the question of what's acceptable in the face of horrifying evil, and would also be interesting to follow to see what obstacles our protagonists face in their mission, and how they overcome them, but we never get there as halfway through, the film switches gears to its second plot. This too raises an interesting question, that of how personal Matt and Alejandro can let their mission become for them, but as the film ends, we realise that that too is something we'll only get into in the sequel. The film sporadically cuts away to a third subplot, one that hardly even connects to the main storylines, and just when it's finally starting to go somewhere, that too is left hanging for the next movie to pick up on. And while the title Soldado (soldier, as opposed to Sicario, which means hitman) never really makes itself important thematically, I would imagine this subplot, if anything, is where it's at least somewhat relevant. In terms of filmmaking craft, this film could've been seen as highly effective, if it wasn't following Sicario. With that film, Denis Villeneuve was trying to create a work of art, while Stefano Sollima seems more interested in a thriller that does its job and not much more. So you have Hildur Guðnadóttir with a tense score, but it simply does not stand up to the music we got from the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. Dariusz Wolski gives the film a great, engrossing look, but he's no Roger Deakins. And without Emily Blunt, we no longer have a sympathetic character, and the emotional arcs Matt and Alejandro go through fail to evoke much emotion given how cold these characters are written to be. That's not to say there are no advantages to the new approach. When trying to make an art film, not every risk you take pans out, and the action sequence near the end of Sicario where it was so dark, one could hardly tell any of what was going on, really didn't work. In Soldado, none of the scenes can quite match the tension of the bridge scene from Sicario, but many are intense enough to be memorable, and none is outright bad. A word on the women in this film, and in Taylor Sheridan's other films. Isabela Moner plays Isabel Reyes, the daughter of Carlos Reyes, and while she's given a remarkable personality, that's not the same as being given much of a character, a role, and in the larger picture, she rarely serves as more than a damsel in distress. And had I only seen this one Taylor Sheridan movie, I would club that with my other complaints, expecting Isabel's depth of characterisation to show up in Sicario 3. Catherine Keener plays Matt's superior, and is often wrong when he's right about how to deal with situations at the border. Had I only seen this one Taylor Sheridan movie, I would attribute that to the common trope of bureaucrats not understanding problems as well as those in the field. But I've seen other Taylor Sheridan movies. In Hell or High Water, women barely exist, and in Sicario and Wind River, the role of the woman is to be naive and fail until she's shown the right way to do things by the men around her. It's a disturbing trend where it's starting to feel like Sheridan lives in a world where only men really get things done. On the whole, I still think Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a good movie. A tense, engaging thriller. And I recommend watching it in spite of its lack of depth in theme or character, for the simple reason that it sets up for a sequel that is shaping up to be far more interesting. I sure hope Emily Blunt shows up.
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Movies this Week: Three Comedies and a Thriller

by Sonika Sharma

Stefano Sollima's “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” is the highly anticipated sequel to the successful 2015 thriller “Sicario”. It promises the heart-racing action, drama, and artistic special effects of its predecessor but it adds emotional weight by bringing in a young girl (Isabela Moner) for Alejandro to protect. The cast is as promising as ever and the scenarios well-drawn. Sicario had handled the intense violence of its setting well, and Sicario 2 doesn’t seem lacking in that department either. What is left to be seen is if the sequel will try to recreate the popularity of the first or delve deeper into its own storytelling. With an almost completely new creative team and a story that didn’t exactly demand any further continuation, Soldado hinges on the excitement built around the excellence of Taylor Sheridan’s script. Last bets in, Soldado promises to be a fun trip even if it isn't a worthy successor to Sicario. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIMChzE_aCo This weekend, we are promised an all-you-can-laugh buffet with Jeff Tomsic's “Tag”. The story is about exactly that, a game of tag taken to a bit of an extreme by a group of friends. They will risk it all to keep the tradition going, even when it coincides with the wedding day of one of them (Jeremy Renner). Pure comedy has always been a hit or miss with me and I usually refrain from keeping high expectations from them. Tag seems to be a similar bet. The concept seems refreshing, the entire squad coming together to keep the silliness going despite the seriousness of their age and the event. But the jokes might turn out to be repetitive, loud or lack any creativity in their delivery. Either way, an afternoon passed in fun adventure and easy laughs doesn’t sound too bad. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjC1zmZo30U Charles Stone III's “Uncle Drew” is a slice right out of the beloved genre of sports comedy. The premise is nothing new- a team of underdogs coming together to win the day. The movie however brings together a talented cast with a fun narrative twist that is sure to entertain its audience. The team this time recruits saviours as old as 70 but who seem young at heart. It will be interesting to see how the cast comprising of actual NBA players is able to tickle both fans and non-fans alike. On the outset, it guarantees that we are in for a fun ride and I doubt the final outcome will be far from audience expectations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H2SSvQ8ihA Director and screenwriter Wes Anderson brings to the screen his second stop motion animation “Isle of Dogs”, the story of a young boy in search of his dog. The larger premise is victory in the face of big bad evil men. But it doesn’t seem to serve either premise in the typical antics of the genre bound adventure. There is no doubt that the story will have more to offer than I expect at the moment, set in a future where dogs are not treated much better than garbage. Is there a layered outlook that the movie is trying to provide? It remains to be seen. Are we in for a roller coaster ride of full of wit, emotions and cinematic images? I'm certain we are. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt__kig8PVU
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Sacred Games Episode 1 Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

A good cop in a bad world. A Mumbai kingpin. Seedy bars, deserted malls, and corruption at every level. There's a lot about this crime thriller that we've seen before. The more I think about Sacred Games, the clearer it is that directors Anurag Kashyap (Gangs of Wasseypur, Raman Raghav 2.0) and Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan, Bhavesh Joshi) aren't even trying to impress viewers with novelty in story or setting. Instead the purpose here seems to be to present what could, with lesser directors, be just another Mumbai gangster epic, and dazzle us with the execution. Case in point: Nawazuddin Siddiqui's performance as notorious gangster Ganesh Gaitonde. At this point, Siddiqui could play this kind of character in his sleep, but while the megalomaniacal criminal he played in Raman Raghav 2.0 felt uninspired and rote, here his performance feels fresh and riveting. His dark sense of humour is so effective that I found myself laughing not just at searing observations about the ridiculous culture he found himself in, but also at some rather juvenile humour that came from creative use of common expletives. Image result for sacred games ganesh gaitonde The story in Sacred Games follows two parallel narrative threads. The one set in present day is directed by Motwane and follows honest cop Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) who is at a particularly low point in his life, personally and professionally, when he gets a call from Gaitonde with some rather important information. But before getting to that information, the kingpin spends quite a lot of time narrating his backstory to Sartaj through flashbacks. This 'rise of a mob boss' story, set a few decades in the past, forms the second, and so far, much less interesting thread directed by Kashyap. If not for Siddiqui's dry observations and boundless energy on screen, there would be nothing interesting about the sequence of events we see here. The reverse can be said about the present day storyline, where Khan's performance as the troubled hero is passable, but is easily the least memorable aspect of the otherwise compelling plot. In addition to a subplot about police corruption, the episode sets up a high-stakes mystery that involves the pasts of both main characters. Motwane gives Mumbai and its people a distinct flavour in every frame, and is also mostly successful in ratcheting up the tension in those scenes that require it. Another player in this storyline is a RAW agent played by Radhika Apte, but her role in the premiere is minimal, so it's impossible to say much about her character or performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28j8h0RRov4 Overall, I had a blast with the episode, because even when the story wasn't particularly engaging, the style and the atmosphere (credit to the score) were, and if nothing else, Nawazuddin Siddiqui's performance alone made the experience one worth having, and one I highly recommend. I can't say with any certainty that the rest of the 8-episode season will live up to the promise of this one episode, but I'm happy to say that I'm excited to check it out. Between Sacred Games and the anthology movie Lust Stories, Netflix might just replace theatres as the place Indian moviegoers visit looking for quality entertainment.
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Ocean’s 8 Review

by Sonika Sharma

“Somewhere out there, there's an eight year old girl wanting to be a criminal. We do this for her,” says Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullocks) to the rest of her crew. It sums up what makes the change in perspective in this movie so crucial. An all female led sequel to the Ocean's trilogy (starring George Clooney as Danny Ocean), Gary Ross's “Ocean's Eight” tells a similar yet different tale. Debbie has replaced her brother Danny for a heist and the team has all the obvious members, such as a jewellery maker (Mindy Kaling) and a disgraced fashion designer (Helena Bonham Carter) because the target of the robbery is the MetGala, the biggest party of the year. The movie doesn’t have much to say but what it does have are fun and quick laughs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5LoVcVsiSQ As expected with the genre, the movie opens by showcasing Debbie's smooth skills as a thief and a con artist. She gets out of jail only to spend a night in a grand hotel suite without paying a dime. And she has a plan. She wants to steal a multi-million dollar diamond necklace during the gala, because "banks are too boring". She convinces Lou (Cate Blanchett), her partner in crime to join her and then they put together an all women team because it’s easier for a ‘her’ to be ignored and to avoid suspicion. The movie continues as they plan everything to the last detail, using tense sequences weaved in with comic relief until the party starts and they enter a glamorous world. We indulge in colourful and fashionable dresses accompanied by shiny accessories. One almost wonders if it was a creative choice or just catering to a gender related narrative. What ensues is neither new nor creative, but you get through the movie without any gaping plotholes. The movie has a stellar ensemble of actresses, many of whom have already shown great impact on screen. But somehow none of them stand out in their performance here. Aside from being all female, they are also racially diverse though not necessarily given the room to break the more rigid stereotyping of minority groups. They share as much of the screen time as others but are given few moments to shine. However, it needs to be mentioned that Anne Hathaway, playing air-headed celebrity Daphne Kluger, stole the show with a quiet smile and a surprising role reversal. As the movie progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that it was being fueled by its characters rather than its plot. The movie’s biggest letdown arrives when it introduces the ex-boyfriend trope. It’s almost as if even in a movie filled with women, the biggest motive for the heist had to have something to do with a man. It neither serves a purpose nor helps with the image the movie tries so hard to project. But it can be ignored, as we focus on a movie that moves along without any major hurdles, taking us through a familiar route with fun performance and simple, at times sly humour.
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Hereditary Review

by Sonika Sharma

The camera is the entity in Hereditary that you connect to the most, as it draws you in and pulls you away from scenes at such a deliberate pace that you wonder just how many secrets it’s hiding. Writer-director Ari Aster brings to the screen one of the best of the genre without lingering on many shadows in the corner for half of the movie. While it does play with common tropes of the genre, it lulls you into those moments rather than throwing them at your face. Ideally, you need two things before you decide to watch Hereditary- an acceptance of perplexing absurdity and a need for horror that goes beyond jump scares for a weekend distraction. The movie tackles the psyche as much as it does the senses. It doesn’t build its true horror on myths and curses, but rather its most horrifying aspects come from the fragility of familial relationships. Once a family starts to unravel, no one can save it from its own destructive forces. When Annie Graham (Toni Collette), a miniaturist artist loses her mother, she is caught between a sense of guilt for not being too saddened by it and a sense of being blamed (for what, even she doesn’t know). Annie lives with her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), their teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff), and their 13-year-old daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Shapiro does an amazing job of bringing to life a character that seems unhinged, affected more by her grandma's death by anyone and isolated from the rest as she spends hours on her makeshift toys. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6wWKNij_1M When things start to go wrong, the movie refuses to make it easy to understand them. When Joan (Ann Dowd) arrives to help Anne deal with a family that was falling apart, you wonder how sensible her advice is. The more the dynamics within the family are explained, the more you wonder if there was ever any saving them. The movie opens with the eulogy where Annie laments how her “secretive” mother was, by no means, a good parent. The rest of the movie keeps hinting at those secrets to the audience without the distraught characters picking up on them until it’s too late. For so much of her time on screen, Annie is building her models with painstaking detail, carving out details and figures that seem more scary than the plot without ever being a part of it. They are just there, much like us, to witness the family falling apart. Horror has long turned the word “mommy” into its most sinister element. This movie relishes in that embedded impact on its audience. The background score and sound design are unnerving, and even after you walk out, one particular sound will make you jump for a while. The movie remains somber and edgy but it pulls out too many nervous giggles. As the scene moves or shifts abruptly from night to day to back, you can feel your entire body tingle in anticipation. You might not get jolted out of your seats, but there is no denying the lingering impact. You can go for the drama, you can go for the scares and you can go for the amazing acting and direction. If you're a horror buff, the climatic scene will remind you just why the genre is so close to your heart.
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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Fans of the Jurassic Park/World franchise can often be heard saying that they go to these movies for the unique, quirky characters, most notably Ian Malcolm played by Jeff Goldblum. Yes, everyone wants to gawk at giant prehistoric creatures, but the first time we saw a dinosaur in the 1993 original, the sheer awe and wonder we felt were due, in part, to the awe we saw on the faces of the characters on screen, because we connected with them. A film like 2015's Jurassic World, however, doesn't make over 1.5 billion dollars with just fan support, and it's reasonable to believe that a large part of the audiences impressed by it were there primarily to see dinosaurs chasing and eating people, when not fighting each other. In that sense, it's lucky that I'm not a fan of the franchise, because it means all I was looking for heading into this was a mindlessly entertaining time, and was thus not too disappointed. The story concerns Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard's attempts to save dinosaurs from extinction when the volcano on Isla Nublar erupts. This leaves room for some fascinating ethical dilemmas concerning whether it is our moral responsibility to save them, considering the fact that we are the ones who brought them back in the first place, potentially disrupting the ecosystem. Also, they're kinda deadly. And it's not that the screenwriters here don't see that, this quandary is addressed, it's just that they're clearly far more interested in spending time on people hiding or running away from dinosaurs than in exploring this question. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn9mMeWcgoM And that's not necessarily a bad thing! Given the quality of writing we see for the rest of the movie, perhaps we should be glad they did not apply that level of *nuance* and *depth* to an issue as sensitive as animal rights. The plot unfolds with no regard for character development or even logic. Luckily, director J. A. Bayona seems to understand that, and instead of trying to make the action sequences look believable, puts all his effort into making them big and enjoyable. And for the most part, he does a good job with that. As much as I may mock "people running/hiding from dinosaurs", those really were the some of the scenes I enjoyed the most, second only to dinosaurs battling other dinosaurs. So no, this isn't the perfect sequel for loyal fans who want more fun, endearing characters to adventure with. People here exist only as dino-fodder. This is also, unsurprisingly, not a film for sci-fi enthusiasts hoping for something beyond lip-service for thought-provoking questions related to genetics. And even among action movie fans, this is only a movie for those willing to suspend the hell out of their disbelief. I would like to say that at least that last class of moviegoer has my enthusiastic recommendation, but even there I must be half-hearted, since there are stretches near the middle of the film concerning cartoonish villains and their greedy schemes that will bore just about anyone. All this is not to say that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a bad movie, it just means that I don't think it's a good movie either. This is the kind of meh that some will despise, but others justifiably crave as the kind of escapism movies are so good at. Because sometimes, real life finds a way to drive us away.
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Alex Strangelove Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Craig Johnson’s Alex Strangelove, a new gay teen romance attempts to portray the struggles of the LGBT+ community in a funny yet thought provoking manner, much like 'Love, Simon' earlier this year, but it’s far from perfect. The plot revolves around Alex Truelove, a high school kid whose plan to lose his virginity to his girlfriend Claire goes awry when he finds himself drawn to Elliott, a charming gay kid, and his struggle as he questions his sexual orientation. It’s like a raunchier but not quite as adorable sidekick to 'Love, Simon', and definitely doesn’t live up to that level of quality. We don’t get much time to discover Elliott’s character, and his relationship with our protagonist doesn’t get the screen time it deserves, leading to a lack of depth. Moreover, most of the humour in the film feels forced, which is evident through a rather odd subplot involving a psychotropic frog. Nevertheless, Daniel Doheny’s portrayal of a teen confused about his sexuality is worth a watch. Some of the other characters seem annoying and aren’t very well-crafted, especially Dell who isn't quite the comic relief he’s intended to be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-1KhZiQs3U The first half of the movie which focuses on how Alex plans on losing his virginity to Claire, feels stretched and repetitive after a while. It’s only after Elliott is introduced that the plot really starts building up. But even then, the movie doesn’t leave you wanting more. After 'Call Me By Your Name' and 'Love, Simon' this year, Alex Strangelove doesn't seem to have anything special about it. But give it a try if you are bored and want to watch something light hearted this Pride Month, just don’t expect too much from it.
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Lean on Pete Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Lean on Pete is like a walk at night. It’s surreal and relatable. The movie draws from an extremely well written ensemble of characters, with Charley (played by Charlie Plummer) at its centre. Filmmaker Andrew Haigh's (Weekend, 45 Years) coming of age story is neither bursting out the door nor rushing to a climax. It gives us a slice of Charley's life to make us reflect on concepts of care and neglect. Well into the second hour of the movie a characters explains, “I don’t have anywhere else to go.” Lean on Pete is a story embedded in that sentiment. Without being melodramatic, the movie tries to make sense of Charley's actions, actions that may seem equal parts idiotic and heroic but this 15 year old boy is just trying to survive around people who are petty and mean and sometimes brutal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzlazAyylw8 The movie opens with Charley going on a long run in his neighbourhood. He has recently moved to Portland with his father, Ray (Travis Fimmel). Ray loves his son but he isn’t the best father, careless to the point where his actions have devastating results for both of them. They live in abject poverty, but Charley is shown to be independent and self sufficient. The movie kicks in once Charley starts working for Del (Steve Buscemi), a fractious owner from the local track. Del couldn’t care less about his horses, but once Charley meets Lean on Pete, he forms an immediate bond. Their friendship is seen through silence and one sided chatter. When Del decides that he has no use for Pete anymore, Charley decides to take matters into his own hands. The moment is not built up for edgy excitement but rather draws us in to take part in it. We don’t question the boy’s decisions, we understand them. As Charlie makes his way across the desert landscape to find his mother in Wyoming, we never need centre stage monologues to understand his actions. Haigh seems to have stepped back to let Plummer discover and shape Charley as he faces hardships on this journey of pain, compassion and discovery. The script seems to carry the compassion that is otherwise missing in its characters and storyline. And amidst it all, the landscape is beautiful and the colors seem to echo the boy's feelings. In a never ending sequence of suffering, the background is a welcome reprieve, as are the interactions between Charley and Pete. It’s not a new concept, the story of a boy and his horse but Lean on Pete is not a fantasy with glimpses of freedoms and grandeur. We are given no promises, no lies, making the audience understand that the story goes on even after the credits starts rolling. The movie toes the line where its appeal is uncertain but once you're in, it makes you feel its hunger, agitation and the few moments of peace in between. Just like Charley is unable to do anything but try and save Pete, we can’t help but root for the boy with nothing but compassion and a survival instinct.
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Summer 1993 Review: A Look At The World Through The Eyes Of A Child

by Mishika Goel

Carlo Simon’s Summer 1993 (Estiu 1993) dives deep into the world of a child, exploring the character of six year old Frida (Laia Artigas), who has just lost her parents and moves to the countryside with her aunt and uncle. The narrative is simple, yet captures every emotion beautifully, making it realistic and impactful. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb1NMc-_KaU[/embed] From the opening shot to the end sequence, Carlo allows us to see the world from Frida’s perspective and appreciate the essence of childhood. It is emotionally disturbing to lose loved ones, especially at such a tender age when the child doesn’t even know how to react, when the concept of death is still a blur to them. The movie’s triumph lies in depicting every aspect of childhood with such delicacy. Adapting to a new place, new family, away from your hometown and with no hope of seeing your parents ever again is all too much for a mere six year old, because of which Frida often acts out, venting out her anger on her four year old sister Anna or behaving rudely towards her aunt. We realise that the grief for her mother’s death is buried deep inside her, and is not let out through tears. Frida, at such an innocent age, is thrown into the harsh realities of life. She is exposed to the adult world, much like Jacob Tremblay’s character Jack in Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, which was also a look at the world through the eyes of a child. Frida doesn’t understand the nature of changing relations. Her aunt and uncle are suddenly her new parents, her cousin is suddenly her sister. The quaint countryside is suddenly her new home. This suddenness of everything is what makes her irritable, unfriendly and moody. She feels that she’s unloved, even though her aunt and uncle try hard to treat her as their own daughter. Related image The movie is a sight to behold, especially the scenes involving the two girls, Anna and Frida. They bring their characters to life, whether it’s Frida getting jealous of Anna, or Anna being indifferent towards Frida even after the latter misbehaves with her. Carlo does a tremendous job in making sure that even the simplest of scenes feel real. I highly recommend you to watch Summer 1993 to experience the beauty of the different shades of childhood.
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Unsane Review: A Delusion or Reality?

by Mishika Goel

Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven) gives Claire Foy (The Crown) the perfect opportunity to showcase her intense performance as the deranged Sawyer Valentini, a victim of stalking, in his new movie Unsane, which interestingly, is shot entirely on an iPhone. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7KZrt_cHH0[/embed] Being a lover of psychological thrillers, this movie certainly lives up to the genre for me. It will keep you in a dilemma for a long time, as you wonder whether Sawyer is living in the reality or in a delusion, especially after she claims that one of the orderlies in the mental institution (where she’s being kept against her will) is David Strine (Joshua Leonard), the man who has been stalking her for the past two years. When the truth finally surfaces, you realise that things weren’t so complex as they seemed to be, that it was all so simple. The plot twist isn’t mind boggling, just unexpected. Sawyer is driven to insanity when no one believes her, and it is believed that she must be suffering from a mental disorder. But is she? The usual “is she crazy or is she telling the truth” takes a different turn this time. Soderbergh deals with some serious issues that ought to be more widely known, by presenting the disturbing truth about some mental institutions, and about gaslighting, where the world chooses to ignore the plight of a victim by labelling her as “insane” and making her doubt her own sanity. While Claire Foy shines in the movie, the other characters are just as interesting as well, especially Violet (Juno Temple) and Nate Hoffman (Jay Pharoah). Sawyer believes she is sane, but even after a fellow inmate supports her claim, it’s hard to consider a claim made by a recovering drug addict as the truth, which adds more to the mystery of “Who is the villain here?”. And with this, you are yet again asked to narrow down your choices as you wonder whether it’s the institution, the stalker, or just the “mental instability” of our protagonist. The title of the movie however, doesn’t make sense to me. Why “unsane” ? Why not “insane” for that matter? Perhaps they didn’t go for the latter because her insanity is always a doubtful question until you sit through the whole movie. Nevertheless, I urge you to watch it. At just 1 hr 38 min long, the eerie background score and murky effects along with Claire Foy’s and Joshua Leonard’s manic acting will keep you engaged and curious. Also, prepare to be blown away by the end sequence.
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The Tale Review

by Utkarsh Bansal

Jennifer Fox's The Tale stars Laura Dern as, well, Jennifer Fox. That, in a sense, is the most unsettling thing about the movie, knowing just how real this is, just how much of herself the director is baring to us. A disclaimer at the beginning cautions us that the film is certified TV-MA because it depicts rape, but we've seen rape on film before, and while it has been more shocking and more horrifying in other depictions, it has never been this unnerving, which is due in large part to the intimacy the director has built with her audience. Jenny Fox is a documentarian living in a happy relationship with her longtime boyfriend (played by Common), and spends her time going through candid footage of interviews she's taken for documentaries and teaching classes on making documentaries. One day, her mother (Ellen Burstyn) finds a story she'd written as a teenager that disturbs her, so she mails it over for Jenny to read. The story concerns her encounter one summer with two adults, Bill (Jason Ritter) and Mrs G (Elizabeth Debicki), who taught her running and horseriding respectively, and gave her an escape from her tumultuous home life. And this is where it starts to get complicated. The adult Jenny describes these events from her recollection as benign, even positive. She claims to have had a loving, consensual relationship with an older man (Bill) when she was 15. If the age difference is called into question, her simple reply is "it was the 70s!". But as she starts to read the story and dig in to
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Thoroughbreds Review: A Twisted Tale about Murderous Teenagers

by Mishika Goel

Thoroughbreds, a dark comedy gives centre stage to Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel, Ready Player One) but in a completely reversed role this time, and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split). They play Lily and Amanda, two teen sociopaths who bond over planning to kill Mark, Lily’s egocentric stepfather. Lily learns that her childhood friend Amanda is devoid of any emotions and expressions, and Amanda in turn encourages Lily to be brutally honest with her, causing her to reveal her cold side too. The protagonists are well crafted, with an air of palpable hostility around them, ironic since they find comfort in this awkward friendship. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPcV_3D3V2A[/embed] Cory Finley, the director focuses more on the characters than on the plot, which is what made the movie fall flat for me. The personalities of these characters, unfortunately, become a highlight as well as a challenge, because it does become a monotonous experience without an interesting story to back them up. I am, however, glad that it isn't stretched for too long, which makes it at least somewhat enjoyable.   It is one of the last films that the late Anton Yelchin starred in, truly stealing the spotlight in a brief yet intriguing role. A drug dealer blackmailed into murdering a man backs out at the last minute, and finally quits being a dealer. You don’t see that kind of a role being carried out with much finesse everyday now, do you? Related image The plot is fast paced with a gripping soundtrack, and had it not been for the character development, the ending would have been even more disappointing than it already is. As dark and interesting the plot may sound, it fails in its execution. Nevertheless, I can say that Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy’s performances are worth watching. Give this movie a try if you are into comedy thrillers, but don’t expect too much thrill out of it.
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Love, Simon Review: A Teen Gay Romance You Didn’t Know You Needed

by Mishika Goel

Greg Berlanti, writer and producer of the acclaimed CW series The Flash and Arrow has blessed us with Love,Simon which is the first teen gay romance to be released on such a large scale and with such mass appeal. The focus on LGBTQ community is gradually coming into light with movies like Carol, Moonlight and quite recently, Call Me By Your Name , but the problem is that these movies mostly appeal to a niche population, and aren’t celebrated as much as the movies released by a major Hollywood Studio. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykHeGtN4m94[/embed] Hence Love,Simon is a landmark in the genre, presenting the simple story of a closeted teenager, Simon (Nick Robinson), his struggle to keep his orientation a secret, and his quest to find “Blue” (a classmate who came out on the school “confessions” blog anonymously) whom he’s fallen for online. It normalizes the age old taboo, while focusing more on how Simon goes to extreme lengths to keep it a secret by messing up his friends’ lives. “It doesn’t seem fair that only gay people have to come out. Why is straight the default? “ This was one part of the movie that really struck me, followed by an imaginary sequence where some of the characters come out as “straight” to their parents. With just the right amount of comedy, it proves to be thought provoking as well. As Simon tries to unravel Blue’s identity, crossing off potential candidates, he also tries to find the courage to come out and “exhale” , as his mother rightly puts it. And this is one journey you don’t want to miss. Love,Simon doesn’t fall short of character development, which is needed for any good coming-of-age movie. It aims for a wide audience, with witty dialogue, an indie-pop soundtrack and The Perks of Being a Wallflower vibes. Related image After seeing Katherine Langford as “Hannah Baker” in Thirteen Reasons Why, it is exciting to see her take on a brighter role this time. Katherine, along with Jorge Lendeborg Jr (Spider-Man: Homecoming), Alexandra Shipp (X Men: Apocalypse), Logan Miller (The Walking Dead) and Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash) make a surprisingly fresh cast. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel, who play Simon’s supportive parents steal our hearts in every scene. Love,Simon- I really did love it, so much that I watched it thrice in two days. It’s practically impossible not to smile ear to ear or gush over the adorable characters after coming out of the theatre. It is fast paced, tickles your funny bones, is beautiful in every sense of the word, and will instantly become your summer favourite. “Everyone deserves a great love story”, says our protagonist. Well, I’d say that everyone deserves a great movie like Love,Simon.
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Cargo Review: A Fresh Addition to the Zombie-Apocalypse Genre

by Mishika Goel

Cargo, a captivating survival story starring the brilliant Martin Freeman makes some interesting choices along the way. To label it as just a typical survival story does not do it justice. The story unfolds in rural Australia, where our protagonist Andy (Freeman) and his wife Kay (Susie Porter) are surviving on a houseboat, miles away from civilization, trying to provide for their baby girl, Rosie. It doesn’t take us much time to realize that their world has been hit by a massive pandemic, and the remaining survivors are struggling to protect themselves from the zombies lurking out. The movie focuses more on the survivors’ struggles and their occasional hostility towards each other than on the usual “survivors vs. zombies” part. It also touches on the issue of unjust and cruel treatment of Aboriginal people by colonials; this is evident through the character of Vic (Anthony Hayes), who uses the indigenous people as bait to lure in zombies so he can kill them. How far would you go to protect your loved ones? The movie doesn’t fail to deliver the answer to that question, as we see Andy go to great lengths to find a safe haven for Rosie after he himself gets infected.  We can’t help but feel sorry for him as he faces adversities. Nevertheless, his courage isn’t hindered. He continues to put on a brave front, even when he knows he has just 48 hours before he joins the leagues of “the living dead”. The movie gives Freeman many scenes to shine, and he captures every one of them in the most poignant manner. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5QJW0M5pik If you are looking for a thriller, expecting huge zombie shootouts and bloodshed, Cargo isn’t for you. The plot is predictable to say the least. But the somber soundtrack underlining the mood of the movie, along with the stellar performances of Freeman and Simone Landers (who plays “Thoomi”) makes it a worthwhile watch. The emotionally resonant closing image shows just how much Andy went through to ensure that his daughter remains safe. I wouldn’t say it is a must-watch or one of those movies you’d want to watch again and again until you grow tired, because there’s nothing particularly special about the plot, and it tends to get a bit boring at times. But I’d recommend it if you want to watch Freeman take on something different from his usual John Watson/Bilbo Baggins kind of role. Cargo is streaming on Netflix now.
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Solo: A Star Wars Story Review – Fun Prequel That Answers Questions

by Sonika Sharma

  [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=jPEYpryMp2s[/embed] “If you come with us, you’re in this life for good,” a character tells Solo. The movie is here to tell us just what it was that set Han on the path that led him to join the Rebellion all those years later. Han Solo has always been one of the most interesting and intriguing characters in the Star Wars universe. While a part of me was overjoyed to learn about his past, I was mostly very neutral about the movie. Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story tells the story of a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), trying to connect the pieces and fill up stories teased in the past (or, well, the future) but we never really feel like we meet the guy we love. But that doesn’t mean the movie falls short. A worthy sidekick to its parent Star Wars franchise, the movie starts with young Han Solo trying to make an escape with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) from their home planet Corellia. The scene feels more Fast and Furious than Star Wars. Refusing to give up on their dream for a happily ever after, Han enlists into the military in a futile effort to become a pilot, until he joins a band of thieves. The aim is simple – get the money, buy a ship and rescue the girl. It doesn’t quite go that way, but then again, does it ever? As the story hurtles along, we meet many interesting characters including but not limited to Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the original owner of Millennium Falcon. The movie adheres to the rules and limitations set by previous Star Wars movies, it draws on references for what is already familiar, and exploring the galaxy remains as entertaining and dangerous as ever. As it invokes parallels to the original Star Wars trilogy, the golden dice make enough appearances to remind us just where this journey eventually takes us. But there are lulls in the movie as well, giving you too much time to think. It can be blamed on a rather predictable storyline with the major plot points spaced too far apart to make up for it. It’s captivating to see the early character arc for Solo, to see how his friendship developed with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and his acquisition of the Millennium Falcon. But the character development seems too disconnected from the story that we are being told. Maybe because the movie is too aware of the fact that its focus lies outside of that and it’s here only to give some answers. So as I walked out I was intrigued, glad to have been a journey with young Han Solo and his team. So hold on to your seats because, among all that you expect, the movie holds some interesting surprises for Star Wars fans.  
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A Fantastic Woman Review: One Woman’s Struggle with Loss and Identity

by Utkarsh Bansal

In 2013, Sebastián Lelio gave us Gloria, a movie about a free-spirited 58 year-old woman seeking romance. In 2017, A Fantastic Woman, about a trans woman grieving for her partner. In 2018, Disobedience depicts the struggle of a lesbian couple set against the backdrop of a Jewish orthodox community. His films show us perspectives on womanhood that movies are rarely interested in or comfortable with exploring. This one in particular won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Now I've only seen 2 of the 5 nominees, so I cannot say I found it deserving of the honour, but I can say it at least deserved its nomination. This is a beautiful movie, in every sense of the word. Aesthetically, it looks and sounds beautiful. Sometimes the visuals enhance some mundane, everyday sight, other times, we're presented with something surreal, visuals that escape realism and take us into pure, unfiltered emotion, whether it's suffocation or ecstasy. But beyond aesthetics, there's something beautiful about the film's depiction of life. Our protagonist is Marina, a trans woman in a loving, intimate relationship with a much older man Orlando. The plot kicks off with Orlando's death, and that's when we realise there really isn't much of a plot to this film. It plays out as a sequence of uncomfortable conversations between Marina and members of Orlando's family, or with a detective, or with just about everyone who is refusing to let her grieve in peace. This leads to a very relaxed, meandering pace that feels intimate and real. In the absence of a plot, what holds the narrative together and keeps us engaged from one scene to the next is the central character. The film is a character study, and Marina proves absolutely worthy of such a study. No one box, feisty, subdued, cynical, determined can contain all that she is. The scenes of dialogue, and even the few without any, do a skillful job of peeling back the layers of this woman's complicated mess of feelings. Even though we barely get to know Orlando, we feel Marina's love for him, and want to be left alone to grieve with her. Much of the credit for this goes to Daniela Vega, who was the inspiration for Marina even before she agreed to play her. She gives a mesmerising, memorable performance, full of heart, passion and realism, a performance that can make us admire her energy even as it conveys her exhaustion with this cruel world. It is in this feeling of being able to see inside her soul that the the movie is able to rise above defining its protagonist as a victim. Not everyone will love A Fantastic Woman, its pace, its structue, its rhythm may not appeal to all, but I do urge everyone to give this very good movie a try. Join me in celebrating just how fantastic of a woman this is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJHex4ZitgA
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Revenge Review: Familiar yet Effective Rape-and-Revenge Thriller

by Utkarsh Bansal

Revenge is a story as simple as its title. It's a rape and revenge thriller, and that should tell you just about everything there is to know about the plot. Matilda Lutz plays our vengeful hero. Her name, backstory, or really any character traits apart from sheer grit and determination are irrelevant here. She'll be hurt, she'll survive against all odds, and one by one she'll hunt them down. You expect the wide shots, the badass music, the brutal violence. We’ve seen it all before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEVxKimr1MU What I hadn’t seen before was not the story, but the telling of it. Writer-director-editor Coralie Fargeat has given this movie a distinctive voice, making it memorable not in its plot points, but its minutiae. I remember the bit apple, the blood dripping on the ant, the star-shaped earring. Cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert employs extreme close-ups, making the movie’s desert setting feel all the more gritty, visceral and real. Just like The Revenant, another revenge movie, made us feel the cold, Revenge makes us feel the heat. The sounds of the desert are loud too, completing the effect of immersion. When you not only see what the protagonist sees, but also feel what she feels, you don’t need a backstory to get invested. The editing deserves special mention. It is perhaps the biggest reason the movie is so engrossing. Now usually the kind of editing most deserving of praise is the kind that is so seamless that you forget it’s there. The editors on Revenge announce their presence with a bang, and take over the show. The sudden cuts are flashy, showy, and spectacular. If the deliberate pacing used effectively to build tension throws you off, these edits are what will keep you engaged. From a story perspective, the one thing I did find remarkable here was the symbolism. There’s a subtly effective phoenix metaphor in the way she comes back after being left for dead. Well, at least until the movie decides to get rid of the subtlety and embrace that metaphor as its emblem. And while the movie offers no deep feminist insights, it’s certainly interesting to see how the 3 antagonists of the film embody different traits associated with toxic masculinity: entitlement, apathy and a bloated, fragile ego. To me, this made their comeuppance all the more satisfying. Revenge isn’t some masterpiece of action, hell, it’s not even a masterpiece in the revenge subgenre. But it’s a good movie, and one I highly recommend to those who need an outlet for righteous feminist rage. If you don’t mind copious amounts of blood, gore and full frontal male nudity that is. Revenge is available for digital rent and download now.
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Deadpool 2 Review: A Rare Comic Reprieve

by Sonika Sharma

After heavy hitters like Black Panther and Infinity War over the past few months, Deadpool 2 was a much-needed breather for the audience. Marvel is no stranger to humour but Deadpool has the kind of humour where no one is safe from it, not even the movie itself. With too many witty remarks to choose from, the movie thrives on its lead's inability to die. It charms the plot by using this to dig the humour deeper, playing on puns, mocking the usual tropes and breaking the fourth wall to slam the audiences with sheer entertainment. Deadpool has its sombre moments but never takes itself too seriously. When it’s sombre, it takes a jab at the hero's inability to die. Deadpool’s friend Al tells him, “You can’t live if you don’t die a little.” Deadpool 2 takes the philosophy to heart. A franchise built on never-ending snark throws its superhero into emotional turmoil 5 minutes into the movie. Fiancée Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) are reunited but not for long. The story then forces a near-suicidal Deadpool into understanding his heart to save lives both in the present and the future. He is joined by a league of superheroes (or close enough) including Cable (Josh Brolin), a time travelling cybernetic mutant soldier and Domino (Zazie Beetz), a mutant whose superpower is luck. The mission is to either save or stop a 14-year-old mutant, Russell/Firefist (Julian Dennison), who wants revenge for years of torture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D86RtevtfrA Director David Leitch (John Wick and Atomic Blonde) takes up the strengths of the first one and webs them within better emotional appeal in Deadpool 2. The entire cast is diverse and refreshing but Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) especially seems to be tailor-made for his role. The movie doesn’t limit the characters within any usual tropes and the joy of his performance bears witness to that. And behind all that allure, the film's sound and music mesh perfectly with the dramatic sequences and mocking overtones. Deadpool 2 is a one-man monologue in an insufferable universe and his antics seem to spread like an infection to the rest of the members. Everything and everyone within it is in a state of constant collision. But while it plays the same old game with new rules, or rather no rules, it can be tiring underneath it all. The movie sneers at the tried and dried but it isn’t trying to be all that different. The relentless self-mockery covers for a commonplace plot and pretty ambiguous rules guiding its mechanics. At the end of the day, Deadpool 2 is a rare comic reprieve. It's gorier than ever, and more self-aware. Definitely worth the price of admission. Deadpool 2 is in theatres now.
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Pacific Rim

by Sonika Sharma

Pacific Rim Uprising is a sequel to the 2013 Action Adventure Sci-Fi movie Pacific Rim starring Cailee Spaeny, John Boyega and Scott Eastwood in lead roles. Rink Kikuchi, Charlie Day and Burn Gorman reprise their role from the previous part.

Pacific Rim Uprising is a fun movie to watch, the pacific rim trailer did a perfect job of not giving too much away, certainly not the most awaited movie, but it did the trick for those who have seen the first part and it’s been a good watch. The story is a bit straight forward and you can see things coming, but it did manage a few shocks.

The Movie is not exactly like the first one, the tone of the movie is a bit different and you can sense it between those night scenes and day fight scenesin both movies, all adding up to make it a bit better than the first one, the inclusion of some new characters has certainly brought new life to this franchise. All new actors have settled well and have performed good.

I would definitely advice watching it, but only after watching Part 1 and if you can then do watch it in 4D, it’s an amazing experience.

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Review of Avengers: Infinity War- new nerve wrecking experience in the familiar Marvel universe

by Sonika Sharma

Avengers: Infinity War is a choreographed mashup of everything that's best about the Marvel universe- big bad villains, cocky heroes, puncturing humor, flawed characters and lots of catastrophic destruction. You watch from the edge of your seat as unexpected alliances are formed on familiar and new turfs to stop the one invincible villain with a plan to save the universe by destroying half of its population.
In the middle of a literal chaos, a character shouts in warning, “It will kill you,” only to receive the reply, “Only if I die.” Sitting through the two and half hour of The Infinity War is a similar challenge. It an ambitious and colossal climax to the 10 years of Marvel Universe built-up. Avengers: Infinity War hurtles through its familiar settings at such a fast pace and with so many new trick under its sleeves that it doesn’t give its audience a moment to unclench. There is very little to complain about.
 
Infinity war opens with a scene that delivers its big bad guys, cocky heroes and a humour at par with its catastrophic disasters. It follows the events of Captain America- Civil War but despite so many different factions and stories coming together, the movie manages to make the introductions without losing on its pace and uses the clashes of their personalities to fuel the setting forward. It’s a race to find and secure the infinity stones on either side. The writers Markus and McFeely give us a standard villain but one who grows more invincible with every passing sequence of the story. Even a hoard of superheroes seem to pale in comparison. Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) has a self-serving vision of saving the universe at the cost of half of its population. On the other hand, the chaotic group of superheroes are incited by different motives to bear arms against him. In an early scene Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.) is vividly haunted by his past and wants revenge while the people of Wakanda are allied to the cause by their sense of duty and pride. But despite their differences they manage to extract the biggest cheers until the climax ends with utter silence inside the theatre.
The Russo brothers are completely familiar with the movie's strengths and know how to build up on them beyond the general expectations. They use action packed sequences, character flaws, humour and emotional tropes to overwhelm in all the right ways. But at a certain point it feels like the whirlwind of activities are a cheat trick to keep the audience away from an actual engagement with the story. It almost demands a second visit for a more steady watch.
But Infinity War has such a world smashing and heart racing execution that such a limitation could easily be given a leeway. It never sags or trips on its own enthusiasm, leaving us with more questions than answers until it returns next year. I always thought I wanted a letter from Hogwarts until today when I realised that I wanted to be ordained an Avenger by Tony Stark on a spaceship.
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Rampage

by Sonika Sharma

Let’s be honest, I walked into Rampage without many expectations and the bar wasn’t raised much by the time I walked out. The movie sticks to the genre, using the established tropes and humour through characters we are all too familiar with, down to George, the Albino Gorilla with King-Kong proportions. A scientific experiment goes wrong, impacting the genetic coding of some animals who turn gigantic and powerful overnight. The story seems unconcerned with everything but tumbling its way to the final Rampage as these creatures have a showdown with a police force that keeps aiming despite their inability to control the situation. The fate of humans rests on the strength of one man, Davis (played by Dwayne Johnson), and this man can take bullets and flying wolves to fulfil his mission. I admit I felt hope when Naomie Harris as Dr. Kate Caldwell, a discredited genetic engineer adamant to redeem her mistakes walks onto the screen, but not for long. The movie starts with a scene that neither excites the imagination nor supplements the story. Only to move onto a scene that establishes cocky humour and Davis's ability to communicate with George using sign language. The trainees who accompany Davis lose their utility as soon as the action begins. The first half of the movie is busy nurturing a soft spot for George while characters make one stupid decisions after another to propel the story forward. The second half is a sum of SMASH, SMASH, SMASH without much purpose to it, as if the monstrous creatures have an internal setting to topple down buildings for no reason but that they can. In a scene where George breaks out of containment someone on screen screams, 'not again' reflecting how the movie kept pushing into the plot that had long lost its charm and surprise. The movie refuses to invest in itself. There is no sense of awe at the humongous size of these animals. Rather clashes of male egos keep paying homage to the time-worn conflicts common for a big action packed movie. Stuck in reverse engineering of story writing, the script managed to make these rampantly growing creatures very commonplace. In another scene, a moment of grief following the plane crash with George in it has been delivered so blankly that much like the audience, the story too seems aware that such a loss was too early to be considered seriously. And then potential villains with individual personalities have been turned into the comfortable evil sibling duo setting. No one demands that Rampage answers existential questions, but rather hopes that it acts as a distraction from it. But it seems mundane even in its ability to be aggressive. It’s much easier to make it through the second half of the movie than the first, not because it comes together in some concrete way but because watching a city being destroyed has a satisfaction.
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