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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. Related image 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. Solo: A star wars story review 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? Solo: A star wars story review 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. Solo: A star wars story review 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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