digitalinfowave


Premalu:

A lighthearted and well-made romcom that’s in equal parts funny and Gen Z relatable. It is a medley of anecdotes—the office environment, the pleasant girl, the colleagues, the after-work parties, the hunt for a decent job and accommodation in a metropolitan all but serve as the background for the simple love story.

The characters don’t intend to chew scenery through long and overwritten dialogue so the actors can practise their acting chops. Situations are far from contrived, never overblown for dramatic effect, and flow organically, and we’re left wondering whether much of the writing that happened, specially with the dialogues, was improvised.

Naslen is spot-on as the clueless yet likeable protagonist Sachin, a hopelessly-in-love young man who falls for a woman he meets at a wedding. Mamita Baiju as Reenu is an effortlessly charming actress who delivers her lines were aplomb, as if the character was written for her. The protagonist’s friend, Amal David, played by a fantastic Sangeeth Pratap, is the loyal and brutal friend we’ve all known, who keeps us grounded by constantly dropping truth bombs, whether we like it or not. And the maximum laughs are derived out of Shyam Mohan playing Aadhi and his interactions with Sachin. He is the (kind of) antagonist that serves as the major roadblock for Sachin in professing his love for Reenu.

A film like Premalu reinforces the importance of building characters and situations by being in touch with the real world, that how important it is to tell relatable stories when your target audience are a younger lot who aren’t swayed as much by fancy sets and big stars as one would expect them to. I love this generation of Malayalam writers and filmmakers: writing strong characters and putting them in situations that ring a bell, and then casting age-appropriate actors suitable for the part to play them. When the film becomes a journey that the viewer and the characters face together, it’s half the job done.

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Aavesham—outstanding fun at the movies!
Just when I thought I had already had my share of good films for the first half of 2024, with Chamkila still fresh in mind, in barges Aavesham — an absolute banger of a film!

The fun begins with the entry of Fahadh Faasil, a sociopathic cum funny-as-hell don that enjoys his violence as much as he lets his henchmen explain his exploits. From there on, it’s an absolute riot right till the last scene. It grabs you by the neck and treats you to one fun moment to the next.
Won’t share many details, as there’s a lot to like. The comedy is spot on, the action scenes are straight out of a masala lover’s wet dream, and there are not enough words to describe FaFa’s showstealer act.
Missing this on the big screen would be an absolute travesty! Do that at your own risk.

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Netflix’s Ripley is a solidly crafted and very well-written character study of a cold-blooded criminal devoid of empathy, who manipulates people around him to his advantage. Even when things get tough for him and we feel his mask about to give away any moment in front of a detective aching to solve a murder, the character secretly plans his next move underneath the facade of indifference, without letting anything come in his way of living his dream life.

To make such a calculative psychopath come to life wouldn’t have been possible without the chilling portrayal of an understated Andrew Scott as Thomas Ripley. His dialogue is kept minimal, but he manages to constantly evoke a feeling of dread. One look at his face and you know there’s something off about this guy that you can’t place, his mysterious mind constantly cooking something up, his dead, unfeeling eyes boring into your soul. That he’s finding a way to outsmart, outmanoeuvre, or altogether demolish you just in case you’re about to do something that doesn’t spell good news for him.

I always found the premise of The Talented Mr Ripley promising, but I was kind of let down by how it squandered its potential and abandoned character development and narrative progression in the final hour in favour of capturing the film through the lens of the exotic European land. That somewhat worked in its favour, as underneath the facade of a beautiful culture lay a stranger place gobbling up a foreigner even as the city continued in zest with night-long celebrations and high-society rendezvous, where someone’s worth was judged by how much money they came from. And where an outsider to this group was, at once, regarded with hostility and suspicion. This TV series, however, builds upon the story idea and possibly does more justice to the original novel by Patricia Highsmith than the 1999 Matt Damon movie did.

Although it unfolds at a leisurely pace and there are long stretches of silence, Ripley is a rare Netflix series that is engrossing and evenly paced with a good pay-off. Would highly recommend this to fans of psychological thrillers and crime fiction. I’m generally an impatient OTT viewer, but binge-watched this one. And that says something.
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Finally caught Dunki on Netflix. If there’s one word to describe it, it’s inconsistent. Terribly inconsistent. It goes on quite a few highs and then dips to shockingly mediocre levels. The rip-roaring comedy that is Hirani’s forte is missing in the first half except a few well-written scenes highlighting the principal characters’ struggle with convincing the visa agent of their English speaking skills. The emotional scenes work sparingly, but it’s clear that the film was written at a time when immigration was looked at with a different political view. At a time when the world is becoming xenophobic, sometimes justifiably so, the theme of Dunki might not be relevant and relatable to a substantial lot.

The best part of the film starts just after the interval when the Dunki process begins and ends with the ridiculous church scene. SRK’s character, though presented as a strong and resilient man brimming with idealism, reeks of hypocrisy at the same time. He’s willing to risk his and others lives by engaging in an unscrupulous activity, but shies away from lying in court even if that means finally succeeding at what he spent the past several months planning for. It is also an inconsistent performance. Even when he is in form with no dips in his energy levels, that overdone Punjabi accent serves as a roadblock and it becomes difficult to take many dramatic moments seriously.

The film flips from one tangent to another and finally brings home the idea that it’s not worth leaving your motherland to live a life of less dignity and constant struggle to make ends meet. The old-school filmmaking style of Hirani is there in many scenes, minus the magic of the Munnabhai series or 3 Idiots that made them mass favourites.

Dunki can be called decent at best despite all its flaws, but I can’t imagine how disappointed the fans must have felt when they finally caught it in theatre after months and years of hype, expecting no less than a masterpiece from two of hindi cinema’s legends.

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The Fabelmans:

A film that works better as a poignant family drama than one that chronicles the early years of one of the most celebrated movie directors of all time. The internet and Spielberg himself call it ‘semi-autobiographical’, but it has less to do with the protagonist’s tryst with movie-making and more with the emotional struggles of being in a family with the mother wanting to move on and being picked on at the new school, where being the only Jewish kid draws attention and bullies …

The best and the most exciting portions of the film were the first fifteen minutes, where a young Sammy Fabelman, initially skeptical of walking in a dark theatre to watch his first movie, has his life turned upside down as he sits wonder-eyed and mesmerised at the spectacular action of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’, unable to get it out of his mind days afterward. And then begins his obsession with the movie camera …

While Spielberg doesn’t miss a note in extracting great performances (a fabulous Michelle Williams as a free-spirited and guilt-ridden woman) and directing each scene with aplomb, considering the auteur he is, I had a slightly different set of expectations, with the ‘film trivia’ fan in me getting a rush of excitement only in scenes where Sammy discovers and slowly perfects the craft of movie-making. This doesn’t play like a typical an underdog tale. There aren’t any villains or any major conflicts; it is the less-than-perfect family life of a man who discovers the extremely gifted and skilled artist in him at the onset, and who doesn’t stop pursuing his passion for anything.

The final ten minutes are a hoot, as the budding director, about to embark on his movie-making journey professionally, ends up in the same room as the celebrated and eccentric director John Ford (played by another celebrated director with a cult following), and receives a rather valuable advice on shot selection.

Charming!

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madgaon Express:

pedestrian humour that falls flat for much of the first half. The second half is better and the film salvages itself somewhat later as the story develops and you begin to care for the characters. the film enters the lock, stock and two smoking barrels/delhi belly mode.

its a hit and miss comedy that is timepass at best. The reviews have been largely misleading and they made it sound as if it were a modern day masterpiece comedy.
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At the onset, Bramayugam sets the expectations—a horror, or a psychological horror, set in the 17th century. Two travellers who have just escaped the brutal clutches of slavery, wish to cross the tumultuous river to a life of freedom and betterment. One unfortunately falls prey to a yakshi, while the other, still unable to cross the river, ends up at the dilapidated ruins of a manor and at the mercy of its lord, played by Mamootty.

The film plays like a red herring, subverting expectations at every step. The manor and its surroundings form the central part of the narrative—a jigsaw puzzle, a wormhole from there seems to be no escape.

The cinematography is at once stunning and suffocating and unwelcoming, and much like its characters, cold and formidable. There’s never a moment of respite. As a viewer, you watch everything from the protagonist’s perspective, which makes the terror genuine and several moments spine chilling, in spite of no jump scares. But the film at its heart and under the facade of folklore horror is essentially a strong statement against the the evils of casteism and absolute power, which corrupts and demolishes.

The folklore and the story at the heart is at once reminiscent of Tumbbad and Manichitrathazhu and this might hold its own against the greatness of those epics. Mamoothy is great as the terrifying landlord whose grin and gait hint towards a quite a few skeletons in his closet, but the other two actors hold their own against the legend with their natural acting.
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Fighter:

A decent film that mostly stays away from tried-and-tested tropes of desi crowd pleasing entertainment. Pretty good acting from everyone. It’s uniformly good, but doesn’t really hit the highs one may expect in a film of this genre.

possibly the most understated Siddharth Anand film

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Merry Christmas:

Raghavan comes up with yet another memorable thriller with his unhurried signature style of not being in a great hurry to come to the point. The buildup to the scene where things actually pick up is probably the longest among all his films. But it serves a purpose: to deepen the relationship between the two principal characters. One with a dark past behind him, and the other with an estranged husband story. Once, however, the ‘twist’ arrives, the mystery deepens, and then deepens some more.

This doesn’t carry the race-against-time hurriedness of a Johny Gaddaar or the join-the-dots mystery of Andhadhun. But this is still a riveting mystery where Raghavan allows the viewer to soak in the story that has enough meat in it. Still Raghavan can’t off his love for noir references through popular soundtracks and treatment. One could have expected him to become more ambitious after the stupendous success and widespread acclaim of Andhadhun, but his craft and love for all things cinema is intact and unblemished.

Katrina hits a home run as the mysterious seductress and Vijay as the unsuspecting and smitten average Joe (must say, the casting is spot-on) is pretty darn good too.

Definitely the first recommendation of the new year, Merry Christmas is everything good cinema should be and aspire to be.
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Three of Us:

A meditative look into the yesteryears of a middle aged woman at the onset of dementia wanting to visit her village where she made friends during childhood.

Never really takes off and a bit underwhelming considering the great things I heard about it. Still something works about it: the quaintness and unhurriedness of small town India, the little things that makes life’s pains worth it, and convincing, lifelike performances from Shefali, Jaideep, and Swanand Kirkire.

No villains and no conflicts. A decent OTT watch.

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Barbie:

Many eye-popping colours ensure you don’t look away from the screen — full marks to the set designers for visually bringing to life the world of Barbie. It’s a perpetual sugar rush from scene one to last, if only the idea was focused and the film was not all over the place and non-stop. Tried too hard to make a point, I felt.

Gosling is hands-down awesome, though. His performance oscillates between cartoonish and goofy and self-aware and downright hilarious. Easily the best part about it

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Finished watching all seven episodes of The Fall of the House of Usher.

Mike Flanagan doesn’t disappoint with another horror feature. This time he draws inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe’s works (curious to read the story; started with it but did not finish yet. Available in print and online) and comes up with a modern day story of how a pharmaceutical empire and its patriarch, aided by his practical, cold sister playing by the rules of the ruthless corporate world, come to be.

The Usher family comprises of children from his first wife and those who fathered too, all staking a claim. But they all begin to perish final destination style, and it all has to do with a mysterious woman who just ‘happens’ to be there.

The series does not disappoint and has all the elements expected from the Flanagan feature: well-rounded characters with defined backgrounds, his stubborn refusal to stick to conventional standards of horror, and making films and shows that instead have horror elements serving as plot points in a larger political narrative. Even as The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor were brilliant works (the former, moreso), I consider Midnight Mass to be his best one yet. Where everything just fits in well together and it also ends up making a very strong point about how blind faith can trounce common sense even in downright terrible situations.

With The Fall of the House of Usher, Flanagan brings crony capitalism to the fore and how people in power ‘get away’ even when the charges against them are grave and the drugs produced by the company in question have caused the deaths of millions across the globe.
I wouldn’t call it his best work, but this is still very watchable with terrific moments.
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A brutal insight into another dark chapter of the dark past of American history: a true story that chronicles countless planned murders at the hands of William Hale, a hynotic and seemingly righteous human being who hides in plain daylight under a veil of the man of the law. Manipulates his nephew, the family he and his brothers marry into, and everyone who works for him even as he plans to snatch away the wealth of the richest Indian family residing in Osage County.

The background and a skimming over the contents of the novel made me aware of the characters. The film is focused primarily on the events and doesn’t make sweeping generalisations about the politics of it, but it is a terrific (and terrible) insight into the worst a human being can reduce themselves to when consumed by greed. When more is never enough, when one murder is not too many. Scorsese keeps things meditative and moody and being in solid control. Still got it in him to make riveting crime dramas drven by motives and conflicts in his sleep. Gets another stunning performance from DiCaprio, who gets to disply his acting chops in every mood possible: he’s awkward, ranting, struggling to put up a front, guilty, miserable, pathetic, and a self serving creep at once.
But the film belongs to DeNiro as the diabolical and scheming psychopath who calls the shots and can never ever, for the life of him, let his mask slip away. Even to the viewer. He digs into the role with relish after ages and plays it just like a legend would. Chews up the scenery and everyone else in it even when Leo besides him is giving it everything he could.

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Rocky aur Rani ki Prem kahani review:

Karan Johar can’t stay without indulgences. Here it’s an unending medley of old and very popular songs that become cringey in several places. How Rocky and Rani meet in the first half is cringe and their interactions lame and eye rolling. But the film is overall good and entertaining and Johar is in his best form in many, many years. The zany fun and fresh appeal of KKHH is missing, but that’s a tall order to replicate.

The film thrives on progressive ideas shown in melodramatic and Bollywoodish way, and I wasn’t complaining. The performances were also a mainstay and uniformly good from just about everyone. Read a lot of reviews praising Ranveer to the skies, and he didn’t disappoint. He seemed to be having a lot of fun, and that translated well.

The other splendid act came from Aamir Bashir as the misogynist husband and father of the Randhawa household. He hit the right note in every scene he was in. Glad to see this very fine actor getting a good role and him making the most of it.

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Charlie Chopra and the Mystery of the Solang Valley

Sittaford and Exampton become Solang and Manali in this well-renditioned version of Agatha Christie’s murder story, with some additional character arcs and subplots.

The cinematography does apt justice to the setting of the novel, and the story moves ahead at a brisk pace. Bhardwaj exercises a strong control over the narrative and one can say he is in better form than some of his directorial features lately. I think this man is in the best of form when he’s working on adaptations rather than original stories penned by him. Matru ki bijlee etc was IMO an interesting attempt at a stoner black comedy and satire but that was a major misfire.

IMO the best decision he took was to make this into a series format instead of a film version, which allows the plot to breathe and characters and setting to take shape. The result is a satisfying, if not flawless, attempt. The Teesri Manzil references were golden (one instance where Prem Nath is confused for Prem Chopra) to drive an important point is a writing triumph.

Better than Branagh’s efforts for sure. Looking forward to more Bhardwaj adaptations of Christie’s classics

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Watched Bhediya. Overall well made and the idea is well executed,. Not just a werewolf movie but has a strong message of environment conservation. The issue is I didn’t find it consistently engaging and the buildup and the payoff is missing that was there in Stree.

It’s also far more ambitious than that film, and thats where I felt it did a hit and miss job. Some parts work well, like Dhawan’s transformation (good work on the effects despite the modest budget), but it never really reaches a high.

A decent film overall
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Just back from Oppenheimer

Nolan has hit it out of the park again by giving it a juicy, satisfying blow right from the middle of his bat. Every minute, every moment of this masterpiece is sheer joy to watch. This is pure movie magic that is not just one of the best films of recent films but will remain a crowning glory of Nolan’s career.

Stunning performances from every cast member

Added to my list of favourites.

The only condition: one needs to have a basic high school knowledge of US and Russian politics and the key players involved in Operation Trinity/Manhattan project.
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Everything Everywhere All at Once:

The inanity, insanity, and all-round madness erupts within minutes of this film: a multiverse concept that takes new cinematic plunges. Some sequences are downright brilliant, some test your patience. A few sequences are hyper-paced while some are drawn out. It’s moody and chaotic and unleashed, and if the phrase ‘bipolar’ had to be attributed to something, it has to be this. Pretty daring in the way it disregards standard filmmaking templates and audience expectations. Deserves a watch. Unlike anything you’ll ever see. All in all — this is what cinema is supposed to be.

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Iratta:

I find myself picking another Malayalam film for casual viewing after Netflix recommended me this based on my viewing habits. I knew the detailing would be spot on as expected from many a film from this language n industry, bit I didn’t brace myself for a stunning performance from Joju George in a dual role: that of a unruly cop and his twin brother — both in the force.

The distinction he makes between two characters purely on basis of body language and dialogue delivery without any physical transformation is itself worth one’s undivided attention. One look at one of these characters and it would be easy to identify which one’s which. It’s minimal but astonishingly real.

But besides being a very sharply written and finely police procedural with multiple viewpoints and little backstories of a whole bunch of characters, it manages to touch upon themes of morality, redemption, guilt, and ultimate penance. All within 100 odd minutes of running time without being cluttered and screenplay jostling for space.

On surface it’s a simple, been there done that storyline. A man is shot multiple times in a busy space, but no one sees the crime taking place. Except that the man is a police officer and the scene of crime is a police station. Every major character has had a run-in with the ‘victim’ and has a clear motive for bumping him off.

The best part, however, is reserved for the climax. Making your jaw drop and hitting you right in the gut.
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Watched Pathaan. It is a fine film and a solid entertainer. One can find it a below par film if one starts finding issues, but having kept my expectations low and already keeping into account the multiple flaws that the reviews had already pointed out, I really enjoyed it.

It was well acted, well directed and well shot. Yes, some ‘ambitious’ action scenes such as the helicopter shots, the bike chase scene, and the jet scene in the climax were a little overdone but I found the hand-to-hand combat scenes really fun to watch. But it’s so fast paced and shuffles so quickly between the scenes that as a viewer you hardly care or dwell over the issues you had with what you watched minutes earlier. The climax hits the right note and the film ultimately ends well, creating the right and positive impression upon you.

I don’t know why the critics were expecting a lot in terms of the story: it was obvious from the trailer this would be a film strictly meant for popcorn entertainment. It reaches a high during the Salman cameo and the second half has quite a few tense and dramatic moments that makes it worth it.

John gives his career best performance with his no-nonsense, ruthless portrayal of Jim. His character is pure evil and has a solid backstory that makes the conflict interesting. Deepika is pretty good and hits all the right notes with her performance. SRK’s swag and sarcastic punches combined with ‘emoting through his eyes’ are the highlight. But is it me or this guy was trying too hard to look young and cool? He looks good in some scenes but I felt his physicality was not exactly suited to Pathaan. I felt a more neat and suave look would have made him a lot more cooler and Robert Downey Junior like.
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Avatar 2 is an extraordinary film that is best witnessed on the big parda. I thought watching it on IMAX will enhance my viewing experience, but at places I felt the movie was too good even for the best screens in India and that too in 3D.

Despite the huge leap Cameron has taken in VFX, he hasn’t compromised on storytelling. After a lacklustre first hour that struggles to hold the viewer’s interest, it grows on you with solid storytelling in the second half with a poignant last hour. Where it scores IMO is a very strong emotional connect and portraying strong familial relationship. And that’s where it scores above the Marvel movies.

Cameron is a master who succeeds at yet another big screen extravaganza. Any doubts over his filmmaking abilities will be put to rest with this

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Random scribblings on Brahmastra. Ignore the typos and grammar:

The more I’ve studied and followed Karan Johar’s filmography, including the films he has produced, the more convinced I am of his lack of basic storytelling skills. He is unconvincing even on his home turf, that is, stories of people falling in and out of love, with over the top glossy frames and cringe stories. But what made the producer and the director Ayan (clearly, a novice) insert that unnecessary, ridiculous and unconvincing love story here is anyone’s guess. Absolutely nothing in the screenplay is convincing.

This might have still sounded okay on paper but the way the scenes are conceptualised on screen will leave you amazed at how 80% of these were finalised. Unless the big bosses were calling the shots and had the final say. With overexcited ADs as the yes men. Highly probable.
The first half has a half baked story about Ranbir getting his powers. But every time you want to invest in it, Alia Bhatt walks in and the hero gets distracted. Plenty of facepalm moments, where two strangers who know nothing about each other at all seemed to have developed everlasting love for each other. Your mind is still stuck in 90s Bollywood, Johar. The world has changed.
The film is a poor imagination of someone who hasn’t stepped out of his comfort zone or seen the world but saw some hindi films of a particular genre, decided to become a director. He had too much money at his disposal and well researched data on what the audience is watching these days. Got the stars on board and wrote the script along the way. Knowing Johar, I’m positive they didn’t have a hardbound scrreenplay at the time the film was announced.
The weakest point: the lead actors. Ranbir Kapoor is still in the boy next door Wake Up Sid avatar who refuses to grow up and doesn’t rid of his laundiyabaazi even when the world is coming to an end. A total misfit. And so is Alia. I don’t know if it was just me or she is just not cut out to play a commercial hindi film heroine. She is ill at ease mouthing lines that a polished yesteryear actress would have uttered with deep conviction and ends up embarrassing herself. The millenial vibe just doesn’t leave her. Ranbir and Alia seemed to be Gen Z live in couple holidaying in the middle of a nuclear war but couldn’t seem to avoid coochey cooing.
Amitabh, SRK, and Mouni Roy got it right. The villain is the best part about it, who seamlessly fit into the world. Wish there was more of SRK. Bachchan was dependable as always but even he grew sick of the chutiyapanti between the leads.
I’m still wondering what Alia’s character contributed to the proceedings, except being a total PITA every time she appeared.
Visuals are fine, but what good they would be if you no longer care for whatever happens at the end.
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Last Night in Soho:

A story of a budding fashion designer with an unpleasant past who leaves her home to study in London. After renting a place let out by an old spinster, she begins to have visions after going to bed where she is transported to the 60s, an era she has always been fascinated with, and starts following the life of a young budding singer. These visions soon become nightmarish and begins to have severe psychological implications on her.

This is intriguing horror movie with a good deal of suspense and stunning cinematography, which employs colourful frames for aesthetic purpose as well as to instill terror. It is psychedelic and trippy, and seems like an unending bad dream.

Edgar Wright has made his name as one of the most promising directors working today, who can make anything from spoof zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead to action packed thrillers like Baby Driver to now horror. Difficult to club him into a particular genre like most of the other filmmakers.

Despite a few unanswered questions, this was worth the time. Good to see some really good and effective horror cinema that is a welcome departure from the rather mediocre Conjuring/Annabelle/Insidious sequels.

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Just came back from watching Nope:

Nope is styled and treated like a good old-fashioned Hollywood blockbuster even while it retains some of Jordan Peele’s trademark flourishes: long stretches of silence and terror striking out of nowhere.

Never expected a ‘spaceship’ to be this scary. There are moments of grandeur and it reminds us what it was once like to be wowed by the power of larger-than-life cinema. However, those expecting it to be deliciously twisted like Get Out would be disappointed. It’s not perfect and it’s better to keep your expectations low while watching it, but this is still a lot of fun.

One word to describe it: Spielbergesque (of the Jaws/Jurassic Park fame). It certainly doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of those classics, but this is still a commercial film that is pretty enjoyable and finally one that is not a remake/sequel or a comic book adaptation.

Strongly recommended.

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Just back from Laal Singh Chadha:

Gosh, what a disappointment! Some scenes do stand out, but much of it is a meandering, pointless remake that is messy, maudlin, and overlong. It’s not the pacing that is an issue (I do love stories working like slow poison and take their own sweet time to grow on you), but someone said it right: the film, keeping in mind Indian cinematic sensibilities, neither reaches a conclusion nor does it intend to.

The events in Forrest Gump served some purpose: a naive simpleton who unsuspectingly sets things in motion that impact American history through decades. All told with irony and humour. The makers of LSC maybe decided to adapt the film first without being sure about what to do with the important India events once they are laid out. Events such as the Blue Star operation, the 83 world cup, the rath yatra, the Mandal commission, the Anna Hazare andolan occur, but except the anti-Sikh riots, they neither bear any impact on the life of any of the film’s characters nor are affected by any of them. The only fascinating and funny story told is that of Rupa undergarments, and the only segment where the film truly shines.

This is a grand misfire for Aamir the producer, and this is the first time I have seen him fail so spectacularly on his home turf: character-driven, slice-of-life cinema. And an epic disaster as the actor. This makes his Dhoom 3 act look like an award-winning performance. After witnessing his downright terrific acting for years, this for me is a completely different person who seems to have forgotten even the basics.

For his and his fans’ sake, I hope he comes back with a bang, but considering the unnecessary hate he has garnered through social media, it’s going to be an uphill task.
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Malayankunju
Add to this FaFa’s incredible filmography where he gets to practise his acting chops some more. There’s not to write about him on that front, not because he’s anything less than effective, but possibly because he can do such roles in his sleep.

Fair enough to call it a gritty survival thriller, but what separates it from the rest in the genre is it is only partly so, and the central plot kicks in only in the third act of the film (Helen also comes to mind.) But not to say the film drags for the first hour. It utilises the time to build up the character of a sulking, bitter man who has grudges against just about everyone around him. Reason: a terrible family tragedy that has made him thus. It takes nature’s calamity to make him learn the hard way that hating on, holding grudges against, and using your scathing tongue on someone neither help assuage your worst fears nor bring you peace. The calamity was a testing time for Anil, who, beside putting his skills to escape death, also gets a chance at redemption by saving the life of someone whose voice irritated him no end. It is a clever bit of writing where the same voice helps him find his way out and locate the ‘source’ at the end.

The natural performances, brilliance in the detailing, and superb cinematography in the final forty minutes warrant a watch, but this time a Malayalam film also has another ace up its sleeve: soundtrack by the genius Rahman who marks his return to this industry after 30 years.
Too early to say how much I liked the album, but this song has already made its special place in the heart. It is also a key song to the proceedings where much of the film’s soul lies.


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The Skin I live in
Quite a weird but extremely fascinating Spanish film where discussing anything about its moral choices and dilemmas would be discussing its spoilers, but it makes a hell of a statement. Was quite a shocker when it came out, and some scenes are (intentionally) disturbing.

A very unique experience, and Pedro Almodovar is no doubt a rather original voice among contemporary directors.
Still confused about what I feel about its theme, but the man behind a camera is a true artist that truly understands the essence of cinema: a visceral, invigorating medium that has the power to make you introspect and ponder.


Midsommar
A vibrant and colourful horror film that takes place in broad daylight in the midsummer of Sweden, where the sun hardly sets. A good departure from the other horror films where we perceive our characters to be safe during daytime. Here, well, there’s no escape.

Like Hereditary, the director keeps it slow at first, focusing on setting the mood before snatching the rug from under the feet with a shocker. It’s the jump from the cliff here as against the incident in the car in Hereditary. It’s a punch in the gut and extremely unsettling. Things build up and become tiresome and frustrating. During the last 30 minutes, it becomes extremely uneasy, pathetic, and an assault on the senses. You’d wish to slap your head.

I wouldn’t recommend it because it seems to be made with the purpose of eliciting a reaction. The cult that was shown was itself a mystery, but not something you’d be intrigued by. One needs to have a bizarre taste in films to find this interesting. Some things to like here, but I wouldn’t want to revisit it.
And yes, Hereditary was better structured than this.

People who wish to explore, travel, and meet people from all walks of life and around the world would find this extremely off-putting. Maybe an anti-travellers film!
Stay home, stay safe.

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Hustle:

Loved watching it. Not a basketball fan; I doubt if I have ever seen a game properly. I stay away from watching sports biopics of sports I am not interested in, but this one sprang a surprise, more so for Adam Sandler’s terrific performance as a talent scout who pushes his latest discovery for the NBA draft.

The games and dribbling are rather fun to watch, but the film also builds the character of Bo Cruz, the supremely talented but hot headed player, well.
It’s pretty straightforward and predictable, yet unmissable.

I must also say it would be a treat for basketball lovers here, especially because it features many real-life basketball players playing themselves. The ending credits scene is a highlight.

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Vivarium:

A creepy thriller about a couple who are unable to escape from a suburb of identical houses after shown around from a weird real estate agent, and keep returning to their “number 9” house. They are made to look after a kid who is delivered to them, and desperately attempt to leave the place every day, even as the kid grows unnaturally fast.

It can be checked out because I suppose this was released during the lockdown and not many people might have heard of it. It’s originally and keeps you invested. Kind of gets repetitive, but considering the plot is pretty much basic, it manages to do justice to the running time. I just wished the payoff was more interesting and the movie did not end on such a bleak note with predictable horror movie epilogue tropes (the events set in motion again).
Available on Amazon Prime
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Watched House of Gucci A decent film about the fall of the Gucci family brought about by internal family politics. Elevated by strong acting performances, especially of Lady Gaga as the neurotic, desperate, and narcissistic Patrizia desperate for the Gucci name.

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RRR:

A good effort overall with a few great scenes (Ram Charan’s opening scene, NTR’s chase with the tiger, the dance sequence, and the interval point). Never gets boring but doesn’t feel convincing either. The hard work shows. Wishes the second half was better as had high expectations from it. The masala is done right but nowhere near Bahubali.

Gangubai Kathiawadi:

The dialogues have a campy quality, and Alia mouths them with relish. The film has her in every scene, and she makes the most of it in a been there, done that film. This is a more subtle version of Nagesh Kukunoor’s Lakshmi and Love Sonia in terms of content, and doesn’t quite capture the horrors of flesh trade like those did. But this is the story of women who come to terms with their profession who want to lead a dignified life, earn respect, and build a better future for their children.

Seema Pahwa does well as the scheming diabolical madam, but as the film progresses, the supporting characters move in and out of the frame at will. The buildup to Vijay Raaz’s Raziabai promises the world, but playing a caricature, he’s out of the film after a couple of scenes. Well, that’s what Gangubai essentially is: a film of caricatures with not many surprises in store.
But can’t quite blame Bhansali because he’s unabashedly Bollywood and can beautify everything through gorgeous frames in his sleep. He knows at the onset what he’s attempting, and succeeds in making it the way he wants. One of the few filmmakers with clarity in vision. Maybe that also explains his success and why he’s been thriving for 20+ years now as a top director.

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Capernaum:

Quite an astonishing but deeply tragic film about a boy born into a destitute family. Innocence is lost at a young age, where his family’s financial conditions force him and his sisters to often fend for themselves. His sister is married off by the time she is 11, and he leaves home in retaliation.
The imagery and treatment is raw, and it’s a reminder how life can be miserable and unfair for those who didn’t ask for it. I absolutely loved the film and it’s nearly perfect for me (the second film from the Middle East I can vouch for after A Separation, though I’m sure I’m yet to catch up on many other gifted directors’ works). However, this is a film that is hard to recommend, because it hardly offers any respite or moments of relief.
Zain Al Rafeea, offering the first person perspective, is tremendous and gifted. And so is Yordanos Shiferaw as the Illegal immigrant.

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The Medium (Thai horror)

All South East Asian films seem to follow the same template of horror and revenge/action while making films. They’re brutal and don’t hold themselves back while filming scenes that might be unsettling for even the most daring Hollywood or Indian directors (Anurag/Tarantino?).
About a family of ‘believers’ in an ancestral God who chooses their medium. Things go wrong, worse, and terrible when a non-believer is chosen, and possessed. It starts of as benevolent, non threatening, and a charming foray into the believes and practices of the villagers of countryside Thailand. By the end you’ve watched plenty of gruesome scenes. Those looking for exciting horror films might have a good time watching this. Many hair-raising sequences.
The girl playing Mink, the central character who is possessed, does a rather good job. Very convincing in her physical performance, where her simple gestures can be very creepy.

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Watched Encamto:

I thought it held great promise as the creativity and the awesome choice for a subject made me sit up and I thought I was going to watch another Disney classic. But it fizzles out by the final hour. The story goes nowhere and I lost interest by the climax. Not a bad film by any means, and there’s a lot to appreciate in the colourful characters and the visuals (that’s a given). But certainly not among their best.
But the music. Wow. Sheer delight

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Don’t Look Up:

A wake up call for governments, citizens, and organisations. It targets everyone from journalists, bureaucrats, and businessmen to presidents, politicians, and scientists. Shows how sane voices often get lost in a conundrum of stupidity and blind government partisans who would be in denial of crystal clear facts and the truth.
Is it a satire on Corona and current measures taken by the governments? Where even an impending disaster is seen as an opportunity to mint money? It’s a great possibility.

Recommended for great uniform acting and hilarious scenes that are scary at the same time.

Atrangi Re

Didn’t mind it. It’s flawed and unconvincing in many portions and Dhanush’s and Sara’s love story isn’t explored well, neither in initial portions, nor during the portions where they start develop feelings for one another. But once you’ve got that out of the way, it’s a nice watch. Thanks primarily to the different treatment, an unconventional storyline, and Rahman’s fabulous music wherein he seems to have returned to form.
Keep your expectations low and this can be enjoyed.

No Time to Die

At the risk of offending some who liked the movie, I’d call it a borefest. What’s with the dark tinge to frames and darker themes that every other filmmaker wants to attempt, even for movies that were originally meant to be fun? Was it Nolan who started the trend with Batman Begins?

All I wanted was to have a good time at a Bond movie, to watch car chases and jaw dropping stunts and action scenes. Am I being too sensitive and expecting too much from something that is meant to guarantee exactly that? I don’t go to a Bond movie for backstories and traumatising pasts for every character worth their salt.

Daniel Craig seems disinterested and tired and Rami Malek and Waltz are boring to watch on screen. Their acting talent deserves appreciation but on another day, in a non-Bond movie.
Such a disservice

Jai Bhim:

Okay as a social issue and important film against police brutality. From a technical perspective, its loud and redundant in many portions. It stretches beyond necessary and the arguments in the courtroom get tedious beyond a point. I’m sure it delivered the intended, Hammerstrong impact, but it was forced down my throat over and over again. I really wanted to appreciate it, were it not for the headache I had post viewing.

Free Guy:

A fun, harmless film about a background character in a game who suddenly wants to break free from his mundane routine of going to the bank, witness a shoot-out, chatting up with his best friend, and coming back home. It’s a good and sincere film with a lot of funny moments helmed by with the very charming Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer in a likeable, humane character (good departure from Killing Eve). The references are spot on and the concept fresh and wonderfully translated on screen. But we’ve had video game characters personified before too, haven’t we?

That still doesn’t take away from the achievement of this very likeable film. On Hotstar

Bhoot police:

A fun film for the most part. Surprising to see the improvement in Arjun Kapoor’s acting. There’s a marked improvement and he underplay his character well, knowing his limitations. Saif pulls off his part really well. It was the more difficult role to portray but his comic timing is brilliant.

All in all a fun film for the most part, but the overstretched final act kind of ruined it. The makers felt the need to overcompensate and provide a solution to just about everything, probably to please the Indian audience who always need some kind of closure in every film of every genre. The film suffers.

Can be watched over a weekend. It’s good timepass

Mimi:

Surrogacy isn’t a new concept for Bollywood. They had the resources, an ensemble of good actors, and the backdrop of a small town to churn out a good film. This isn’t bad. It’s a decent one time watch but it overstays its welcome with unnecessary conflicts. It all becomes tiresome to watch after a while because of the predictability of the characters and situations. Like a certain Nawaz in Anurag Kashyap productions, Pankaj Tripathi is becoming predictable with his desi wise man antics. He can still pull off roles effortlessly, but when you have a film that relies too much on the actors to hide its flaws and mouth uninspiring dialogues, how much room would they get to exercise their talent?

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House of Secrets:

Didn’t follow the case of the Burari murders when the news came out and media followed the case for days (sensationalising it, as usual), but this turns out to be unexpectedly gripping,. Despite the furore it was making once it got released, this surpassed my expectations. This was genuinely unsettling and the last two episodes were rather chilling. One of the best crime docu dramas I’ve seen

Midnight Mass (Netflix horror series) :

Mike Hanagan is proving himself an important name in the horror genre precisely because his characters are so well etched and the subjects so layered. After Haunting of Hill House (loss and grief) and Haunting of Bly Manor (memory traps), his latest offering is a meditative look on faith and superstition, which is at once ironic as the subject itself deals with supernatural elements.

The final episode is unnecessarily drawn out, the subject takes too long to come to the point, with unnecessary stress on subjects of death and sacrifice even when the point is made convincingly on more than a few occasions, but this is still a well-made offering. The biggest takeaway though is the questioning of faith, and one cannot imagine such a series being made in India on the Hindu religion in times of today. At the end of the day, all religious practices deserve open discussion and critical evaluation, if not flak, when it’s a question of rationality and faith in things we can’t see.

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Squid Game

The latest sensation from Netflix after probably Money Heist. Social media accounts and fan pages are filled with memes with spoilers galore.
It no doubt may be a crazily entertaining series for many but also provides food for thought: have our tastes deteriorated wherever the fun element comes from watching people (known by numbers) perish by the hundreds? Many films such as the Battle Royale series and Hunger Games have been made on the subject, but this theme, albeit intentional, makes for a sick, demented premise. Is the joke on the viewer finding voyeuristic pleasure in themes such as these, fooling him into believing he’s enlightened by some disruptive masterpiece? Ha!

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Chehre:

Kind of engrossing for the most of its duration, but an hour into it, and you already know it’s going to be a damp squib. The problem here is it pretends to be a smart thriller, but there are no surprises or revelations, even motivations that are properly explained of the behaviour of the elderly and now-retired men.

Good job done for the production values and the atmospherics a la The Hateful Eight, but the result is shallow and dumb. This wannabe Agatha Christie is a lazily written film and a waste of the enormous acting talent that was at their disposal.

THE GUILTY:

A fantastic film that is elevated to a whole different level by the ever-fabulous Jake Gyllenhaal. Like few other actors, he is so dependable and such a show stealer that the conviction in his performance lends gravitas to the story and direction too.
On surface, this is a regular edge of the seat one-room, one-night Hollywood thriller. But this runs in real time, daring you to bat an eyelash. By the end of it, it becomes the centre point of a lot of other stuff: remorse, guilt, the limitations and discrepancies of the law, and a finely written central character. We see the world collapse and hope rebuild through his eyes, and as always, the actor breathes life into the role.

Must watch for thriller buffs, and also for those looking for some great dramatic and emotional impact.

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Hungama2

We were used to watching a crop of fine character actors (Paresh Rawal, Tiku Talsania, and Rajpal yadav) screaming at the top of their voices back in Priyadarshan’s comedies back in the day. In that respect, Hungama 2 is nostalgic at a time when comedy in Hindi cinema has set the bar pretty low. But the positives end there. A few laugh-out loud moments and that’s it.

Malik


Ray
Weird, quirky tales. Even when the effort didn’t pay off, the result was captivating and a great attempt. Good performances all around.
My favourite was the Bajpayee-Gajraj Rao one, followed by Behrupiya (Kay Kay Menon) and Forget Me Not (Ali Fazal). Even the Harshvardhan story was interesting.

Don’t quite understand its criticism. We’ve become so used to watching regular tropes that we have a tendency to disregard anything that goes against the status quo. Even when we accept ‘different’ stuff, it needs to follow a conventional narrative to be accepted.
Reminds me a bit of Ghost Stories and Darna Mana Hai, other anthologies I loved while many others hated. Ever story had a unique voice and something interesting to offer.

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Tu Hai Mera Sunday
Finally watched a Hindi film that doesn’t try to make a point, but simply lets its characters breathe with slice-of-life anecdotes. Its beauty lies in the simplest of joys, where well-fleshed characters fight, love, live, and look for opportunities to socialise in a city struggling for space.

An overlooked gem.

Run:
Aneesh Chaganty’s second feature after Searching is disappointing, even if intriguing in portions. This feels like a run-of-the-mill campy Hollywood thriller that they come up with by the dozen every year. Hardly any surprises in store, but cannot blame him if the purpose was to go unambitious because of the pandemic.
Well acted, though.
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Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar
Some deft touches from the master Banerjee, and he brings more detailing to the table than what most youth filmmakers can only dream of with their loud, obnoxious small town characters.
It’s fascinating to see the gender reversal (right with the names of titular characters) with Parineeti despite her much leaner frame calling the shots and single handedly fixing problems at hand with her intellect and common sense. Arjun Kapoor appears a moral support and his broad, muscular frame has been put to great use. Both the lead actors are in their element and put up convincing acts, but Parineeti shines through much more than her oft-recurring co-star. This is hands down her best performance till date, where we see different shades of amher personality : vulnerable, exposed, yet strong and resilient.

Not sure where I’d place it in Dibakar’s filmography yet, but he remains a criminally underrated filmmaker who makes the best use of his resources. Like Bharadwaj, the pacing is still a bit of a problem in his films. But a word for the final scene: loved the way he shatters the typical toxic North Indian male persona and brings the house down.


Nayattu
Another solid Malayalam film that is extremely telling of the political nexus of India and how the police department is a mere pawn in the larger scheme of things. The lives are gambled with, and even deaths are ‘used’ to gain a political upper hand. A clichéd statement this might be, but its relevance in the India of today, with a blind public (what an astonishing final frame!) that can be so finicky based on its own bias and caste preferences while casting their vote, and a media acting jury and executioner, show how deep we have landed in a muck of social chaos.

A film that might be your classic on-the-run-from-the law on the surface. But quite well adjusted in the Indian social and political milieu. With a different background, it could be one of those enjoyable road films But despite some astonishing visuals and cinematography aiding the lush landscapes of Munnar, it is a rather bleak film, nihilistic in its approach, but a punch in the gut that needs viewing.
Also continues the tradition of some brilliant craft by the writers who don’t seem to be short of ideas in every genre possible. The Kerala film industry is producing one gem one after the other, aided by natural performers who do not care about hogging the limelight or showcasing their ‘versatility’. The approach is no nonsense, trusting of the viewer and respect their intelligence. Reminds me of Fahad Faasil’s interview. “The Malayalam audience is ready for anything, all kinds of cinema.” Yes, it reflects.

Finished with THEM

A series that is very uneasy to watch. A first hand account of racism that delves into the mind of the oppressed. Need to google and research the history of movement of Blacks in suburban America (north California, in particular) in the 1950s to see what it was like. This is unrelenting and shows human nature in its pure ugliness. Goes a bit too far and some scenes are genuinely stomach churning, but this might still be essential viewing.

On more than a few occasions I found myself leaving it midway, and it was just not because of the violence (it is unsettling yes) but more because of the mental trauma.
Please stay away if you are sensitive to the issues of racism and class divide.
Every performance is flat-out brilliant, though
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The Great Indian Kitchen

Falling in love with the understated brilliance of Malayalam cinema and the minimalist, show don’t tell format of its storytelling. The first hour and even some of its portions may seem repetitive in the first hour, unless you think of the purpose of a woman’s life serves in a patriarchal Indian family. A few of the hateful characters are established so amazingly well through everyday actions and routine that you feel spite for them throughout even when they are sweet, smiling and polite. For this reason alone, the writer and director deserve a thunderous applause. And despite the so-called repetitive scenes, every frame serves a purpose, adding up to the frustration of its leading character, enacted by a fantastic Nimisha Sajayan.

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Pagglait:

I don’t know, I liked the setting that feels real (so many of such films lately that I’ve lost count) and the bit about greed consuming even the most unassuming and well-meaning people, but this felt like a damp squib. The performances shine though, with Ashutosh Rana’s grief-stricken face affecting the most. Glad to see him outshine everyone else in a cast comprising of solid veterans, even as Sanya Malhotra comes close and underplays her character well.

Behind Her Eyes (Netflix series):

Okay this one needs patience to sit through the initial three episodes (out of six). But once the mood is set, it suddenly catapults into a whole new dimension. Up until then it’s a regular extramarital affair drama that might be a tad too slow if you’re an impatient viewer. By the 5th episode, you’re seriously drawn into what’s happening, with the show getting creepier every minute. By the finale, it hits it out of the park with the mother-of-all twists.

Definitely worth it, even if it might be a tad too unbelievable in theory. But watch it as genre fiction, and there are quite a few startling moments and great writing to enjoy.
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Indoo ki Jawani:

A cute Kiaran Advani in a muddled film that could’ve been better had they focused on her sexual exploits alone. Instead it packs in more than they can handle: Indo-Pak tensions, terrorism, patriotism. A few funny moments but that’s about it.


I care a lot:

I’m not sure how convincing the shift of genres was in the film. The first hour or so is all about the harsh reality behind the optimum-healthcare-for-its-citizens facade of the States and how someone can take advantage of the loopholes in the system. But then it becomes embroiled in a cat-and-mouse chase that just goes on and on and then reaches a not-so-convincing climax.

Still, Rosamund Pike is terrific to the point of getting stereotyped as a cold-blooded psychopath. Seems she can sleepwalk through such roles.

osamund Pike is terrific to the point of getting stereotyped as a cold-blooded psychopath in I Care a Lot . . .

Seems she can sleepwalk through such roles.

Thank you, David Fincher, for showing the world her strength as an actor.

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EEB ALLAY OOO:

A film with a rather interesting concept of the issue of monkey menace in the capital, but it serves as a mere background to highlight the bigger issue of class pathos. It is a difficult film to shoot, the detailing is spot on, the background score is solid, and it is difficult to find faults with the acting. Yet there is something still missing.

The journey and desperation of a character dissatisfied with a thankless job yet making constant efforts to better himself at it is so relatable you feel like reaching out. And the state’s incapability of dealing with a situation when the bickering citizens are themselves uncooperative but fault-finding hits home hard. The onus of everybody’s mistakes falls on the shoulders of the ‘oppressed individual’, and the film makes a solid statement with this very idea.
A good film that could have scaled greater heights had it made a bigger effort in rising above the subject. It has some fascinating, flesh-and-blood characters, and the milieu of a touristy central Delhi comes alive, yet it maintains a flat arc throughout and nothing much happens except routine challenges.

Would still recommend it as an experimental film and how it creates the mood, regarding its protagonist with half-pity and half-indifference.

Drishyam 2 is a fine sequel. Well acted and directed and the twist doesn’t disappoint.

Drishyam was a masterstroke, not just because of the thriller element and the twists (there may be a few flaws w.r.t the investigation and Georgekutty’s/Vijay’s ‘plan’) but the way it plays with the viewer’s expectations, only to turn them around on their head. As a viewer, you relate to Georgekutty’s dilemma, and empathise with the terrrible situation they are in. But as the film proceeds and reaches the final reel, you are amazed at how little you knew of the protagonist and the games he had been playing all this while. It did great at subverting the expectations of the viewer.

Drishyam 2, while a very well made thriller on its own, lacks the punch of the first part simply because if this reason. By now, we are already aware of the mind of Georgekutty and know what its capable of. So despite the solid twist at the end, you knew something like that was coming. It’s the film’s greatest strength and yet a narrative weakness (albeit unintentional).
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Hereditary:

A very, very unsettling horror film for the most part that succeeds in giving chills without applying many of the regular horror tropes. This despite a classic setting of a house in the middle of nowhere, and the family having harrowing secrets.

One particular death is so shocking it is difficult to explain how terrifying it really is. Not for the squeamish, and not just for the violent nature of it but also because of the emotional trauma it causes for the viewer as well as the people involved.
If only the makers could have done something about the last couple of minutes of the film, it might have entered the list of greats. The conclusion is something that just doesn’t go along with the ‘nature’ of the film.

Much of the impact could be attributed to Toni Collette’s bloody brilliant act as the matriarch of a dysfunctional family that is yet to come to terms with the tragedy.

An intriguing watch for psychological horror enthusiasts


Rang Birangi:
A nice, timepass comedy with some good dialogues. Deven Verma was so effortless and having a great time just ‘enjoying himself’, he was the pick of the lot for me. Not taking away any credit from the others who life it several nocthes: the gorgeous Parveen Babi, the natural Amol Palekar and the genuinely likeable Deepti Naval and Faaroq Sheikh. Utpal Dutt in his small role was hilarious.


Maara is fabulous. Madhavan is a delight and I wonder why he didn’t achieve the success he so deserved in the Hindi film industry despite such honest performances. Too good for it, maybe?
And if Tamil cinema is taking good care of its veterans, why should he devote time to anything else?
Srinath’s striking good looks often distract you from astonshing, well-captured frames. The woman has a majestic screen presence. So real and untampered.
Perhaps this is how you make films that are so magically detailed yet so entertaining, a feature that has been missing in many contemporary Hindi films off late, which fail to strike a chord between mainstream and ‘critic friendly’
I rant. Best to check this out. On an HD smart screen if possible to get a full blown experience. Quite a few beautiful moments.

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SOUL:

Glad I watched it.
Seriously, how do they do it? I’ve been watching Pixar movies for closer to a decade, and they have no intentions of slowing down even after two decades of fantastic moviemaking. While Disney films were already very popular much before (The Lion King being a mega success and still enjoying an enviable classic status), Pixar introduced revolutionary technology in animation that was a delight to the senses. But will they ever compromise on making universally appealing films for all ages? Consider Soul as another superb addition to the list.

The story rings true for the classic Pixar formula: an outsider stuck in a world from which escape is near impossible, yet it serves a life changing experience which also gives a bittersweet experience to the viewer, while the animation does the rest of the job in appealing to the senses (Saying that the visuals are extraordinary would be a regular understatement for the typical Pixar movie, as that’s always a given when you have Pete Docter calling the shots). The start is slow as always for every other film from their stable, but the film grows as your emotions for the lead character does. And it does a much better job at appealing to your emotions about existence, dreams and life in general that many pretentious films do. In fact, this IMO would have still worked rather well without any of its animation.

The imagination is as always pretty darn solid, and it’s hard not to be swept away from each and every frame. This would have been a marvel experiencing it on the big scree, even though my smart screen provided a rather solid viewing.

Watching this with one’s family can be the best ‘gift’ you can present your loved ones. Make sure you involve your kids. A couple of solid life lessons to be had here.
Even after all these years, Pixar’s repertoire of great films keeps getting fatter.


Coolie No. 1:

Pukeworthy. Now I know many so-called cinema lovers, trade experts and Twitter users (some of them even belong here) call such films escapist fare and entertainment for the masses, but seriously, how much of such garbage would we have to endure before calling them truly terrible?

People like David need to know where to draw the line. Because even when you watch it after leaving your brains at home, there are high chances you will be left wondering how such cinema continues to be made, forget accepted in today’s day n age.

Sara Ali Khan: Good grief, now I have seen some terrible acting from non actors over the years, but she seems to have no clue what she is supposed to do in front of the camera.

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C U Soon:

Comparisons with the brilliant Searching are inevitable, although not sure if it can also be compared to the much-less-serious and much-more-fun Modern Family. The novelty had probably worn off by the time C U Soon arrived, but there’s no less challenge when you’re attempting something of this kind, the biggest of it being capturing the interest of your viewers. This film does that rather well, and when you have actors like Farhad Faasil (chameleon-like versatility), the journey is no less than fascinating.

This is also a story about a missing girl (just like in Searching), but that’s where the similarities end. Involves a serious and pertinent issue (revealing it would be a spoiler), and the makers have done a good job with some beautiful writing to back it up. Many works of Malayalam cinema have succeeded with their rootedness while Hindi cinema is trailing behind, even with some of their finer works.

American Gangster:

Crowe and Denzel Washington are show-stealers, and it’s a treat to watch them in full form in the confrontation scene towards the end, but maybe I saw it at a time gangster cinema as a genre has nothing new to end except the age-old rise and fall of empries, ultimate arrest and retribution. Wolf of Wall Street has done it afterward, so have Irishman and Gangster Squad. Still well made and entertaining.
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Watched Silence on Netflix. Some observations:

A very provocative film, and Christians may find a lot if scenes pretty uncomfortable to watch. Some of these might be stomach churning and bring a lump to the throat even for those who don’t practice a particular faith. Not because of the graphic violence but for the emotional torture they entail.

The film speaks of two priests who visit Japan in the 17th century in search of another priest who has been captured and held in the country for missionary work and the harrowing events that follow. The film raises a lot of pertinent questions about faith, humanity, belief, and worship.

Not sure if this had caused a controversy, but still, the sensitive topic of religion has been handled rather well from the master himself. Even when he is not directing crime epics, Scorsese showcases his mastery over films like Silence, Last Temptation of the Christ, and Hugo, genres far removed from his regular fares.

The acting is particularly strong, and Garfield does rather well as a priest whose faith is questioned over and over again in the most difficult and adverse of times. I’d recommend this one strongly. Probably not one of Scorsese’s popular films to a global audience (was a box office bomb), but a great watch, nevertheless.
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True Grit:

I loved this film, and would rate it a tad better than No Country for Old men. Learnt this was based on a book that had a 1969 adaptation too. This has a leisurely pace with the classic Coens stamp (guess they’re also one of the modern generation filmmakers with an equal fascination for the westerns like QT) and the regulars Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges : two actors I sometimes have a hard time differentiating. Plenty of scope for the actors to dig in. Bridges was fantastic and so was Damon, but the girl took my breath away with a rather convincing and confident act.

Also a rather satisfying revenge story in a ride full of potholes and loopholes. But some great cinematic moments interspersed : such a technically accomplished film and the badlands as well as vast stretches of prairies captured with flair. Full marks for the cinematography. And wistful, melancholic quality about it. The brothers are certainly in no rush or race to convince us about their POV. Well, at least this one had a better and a more emotional finale that fills you with a sense of despair at the very end, and how you wish the characters could have met after not seeing one another for decades. Unlike say, the NCFOM ending that left you frustrated and dry.
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Borat Subsequent Moviefilm:

One of the highlights in the Borat movies are the catchy titles: already setting you in the mood for some irreverent fun. Like a certain South Park and Monty Python, you’re in for a treat if you know what you’re getting into and if your sense of humour is as twisted as the lead character. There is no shock value this time around, though, for you’ve grown used to Sacha Baron Cohen playing a range of ignorant chatacters and embarrassing people across political divides and races. It’s all become predictable, and the fun goes missing.

Where it scores, however, is in creating a poignant relationship between a highly regressive father and his daughter who’s happy going along with whatever he says. Moments of sentimentality between these two shows how pure love can exist even in cultures far removed and unrelatable for our sensibilities.

Hence, it is the ‘heart’ of the film that overshadows its mockunentary nature. But you’ve got to give it to Sacha Baron, to continue being gutsy and forcing us to introspect through his deranged antics what is exactly wrong with the world, even at a time it’s in the hands of the intolerant and morally bankrupt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borat_Subsequent_Moviefilm
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Rebecca (2020)

This was a fine watch, with the elements of gothic horror/thriller intact. The major credit for the atmospherics, effects, and visuals goes to Daphne Du Maurier for bringing to life those immortal characters and the hypnotic place called Manderley. Rebecca still speaks to us through her silences, her legend, and the impact she left on people around.

To not show the titular character on screen lends adds to the mystery and the enigma, but I still wish they had done something about the ending. The film (and even the book) runs in a post-climactic phase for a good period of time. The actual motivations of Rebecca make her a rather interesting person, and for this reason alone the film should have delved more into that aspect of her personality instead of merely having two lines about what ‘drove’ her actions. Instead, it becomes all about Maxim and his new wife and their tryst with the law by the end. Even the iconic character of Mrs. Danvers, the chilling old spinster of the house, doesn’t come across as convincing or someone whose actions are relatable in any sense.

The positives: The cinematography and setup, for even if this is not the world Du Maurier may have conjured, it comes pretty close. The expanses, the lawns, the beautiful old frames and library, the shore, the cottage on the beach . . .
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A revisit: Ek Hasina Thi

What a film. Seriously, what a film! I don’t remember when I watched it last, and remember liking it a lot. But discovering the finer aspects of it, I realised this had some of the most well-edited fight sequences of its time. It also moves at a brazen pace, with a no-nonsense approach. This isn’t the most original of scripts but if anything, it reminds us of Raghavan’s fascination with the typical, revenge-seeking Sidney Sheldon heroine after she ends up on the other side of the law.

I think time has been kinder to the film, and it wouldn’t have been so without the scintillating performance of Saif and zurmila. The former, especially, understands the basic grammar of a thriller film pretty film. He uses on screen dashing persona to great effect, and is so totally at ease with playing the antagonist that his performance gels with the film, in fact, complements it rather well.

Also a reminder how most factory products (RGV’s) had such rocking BGM. This and Ab Tak Chappan come to mind as they were two of the best ‘indie’ films of their times. Both Shimit Amin and Raghavan moved on to make some very good films. This was the kick-start they needed to their careers. Wonder what would have happened to such fine talents had they not been discovered by RGV.

Bohot Hua Sammaan: The second half comes on its own, after a meandering first half that cashes on the small town humour and mentality. The comic book, pop culture-like format is interesting to watch, but gets tepid after a while. All, in all, it’s a fine film that entertains you by the end. Sanjay Mishra is as solid as ever, and Ram Kapoor’s vile and unpredictable turn as a ex-commando sociopath is rather delicious.

Giny Weds Sunny: Another film that ‘celebrates’ Punjabiness and the Delhi culture, but the stereotypes are becoming irritating and frustrating to watch. Good to watch Vikrant Massey, a fine actor otherwise more suited to realistic and experimental cinema, shaking a leg here. He is a fine dancer. Yami Gautam looks gorgeous and acts well but that’s where the positives end. The film is charming enough in it’s initial hour but it just goes nowhere in the second half (a very, very basic plot that offers nothing new). Boring!

American Murder: The surprise of the week for me. Yes, murder, crime and conspiracies are the favourite topics to delve into, but it still shocked me. A very, very disturbing crime, and what was most unsettling about this was the remorselessness of the killer, even when they admitted to doing the ghastly act.



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