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327 reviews in total 
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13 Hours (2016)
2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Review: Bay Can Direct and Direct He Does, 29 May 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.7/5 stars

"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" is Director Micahel Bay's most mature effort hitherto, and almost makes you forget his cinematic abominations in the past few years; almost, ranking with his best efforts like "The Rock" and "Armageddon". Film schools will hardly declare it as a shining example of brilliant filmmaking, but all the tough SOBs in the Navy Seals, Delta Forces, and Marines - the ones whose opinions actually matter here because they're the ones who go through such harrowing experiences to keep us protected - will, in all probability, give "13 Hours" two thumbs up.

The story of the by now well-known attack on the CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 generally sticks to what is thought to have happened, and provides some tense action scenes while paying due reverence to the sensitivity of its subject matter. But, then again, Bay's expertise in staging elaborate and exciting fight scenarios was never in doubt, it's been his handling of other directorial aspects that have made many of his efforts almost intolerable. Thankfully, this time we get the Bay of "The Rock" rather than the man behind the misfires that were "The Transformers" movies and his other mind-numbing crapfests.

"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers" of Benghazi is a gut-wrenching, tense, action-packed, yet emotionally draining war movie, and Bay can still direct if he sets his mind to it. Why doesn't he do it more often?

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An Interesting Concept, 15 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.2/5 stars

Gautham (Mahesh) is a rockstar suffering from a mental disorder due to which he loses grip over reality. But he's convinced his parents were murdered by three men and his only goal is revenge.

Gautham is introduced as he awakens from a nightmare from his childhood where he's on the run, dodging bullets from goons. It is followed by a prophetic rock number that goes: "Who are you?"... giving you a hint of the central theme of the film. The song ends in a spectacular chase sequence after which Gautam surrenders to the police, confessing to killing three people who murdered his parents. It is revealed, our man is suffering from a brain disorder resulting from a 25% shortfall in gray matter in his brain. As a result, he can't differentiate reality from imagination - the doctor explains after proving that Gautam doesn't remember how his parents looked.

Did he really have parents? Did they get killed? Is it all just a creation of his warped brain? The rest of the film is designed to answer these questions in a rather complex way, which is backed up by the hint of sophistication in the way the screenplay plays out. The movie is a simple yet multi-layered tale of revenge, where style becomes an indispensable part of the narrative. Director, Sukumar has garbed the film with dark yet chic visuals rather than the candy floss that Telugu cinema loves. The cinematography is slick and creates an intense mood with dull color pallets. Director of photography, R. Rathnavelu, lends a master-stroke - the visuals of the film actually outdo the story. This isn't about frames filled with beautiful pictures - which we usually revere as great cinematography - but about mood and texture, beveled angles, and all those elements that impinge us at an almost subconscious level. Editors, Karthika Srinivas and Shiva Saravanan, complement these astounding with some fine cutaways and freeze frames. Devi Sri Prasad's music adds soul to the film. His background score, too, is top-notch and even the theme music has been used effectively.

Mahesh Babu is pretty intense throughout and he's brooding, confused, and truly vengeful as a disoriented man out on a mission to prove his point and seek redemption. Mahesh has always been very effective as the kind of man so battered by life that he only sees the ugliness inside him. The way he pulled off the role with mental escapades is quite commendable. He does go overboard with the brooding act in a few places - he wears a permanent frown right through the movie without as much as half a grin even when he professes his love. He also seems to have worked on his dancing, which should cheer his die-hard fans big time. His dance moves in the song, "You're My Love", are to die for. Kriti Sanon looks pretty and is apt in her role. Kelly Dorji overacts as usual, and makes us cringe with his typical mannerisms and dialogue delivery. Nasser plays an important role and delivers the goods. The rest of the supporting cast is passable.

The writing is sharp right through albeit not completely coherent. Sukumar has an engaging plot but his handling of the narrative falters intermittently, primarily because of the huge influence that Telegu cinematic idiosyncrasies have had on his craft. There are few staples that are typical of a Telugu film, and some of them are so garish that you scratch your head in disbelief. Though the story- line is engrossing, the ends result suffices to only blur the demarcations between staple commercial potboilers and stylishly artistic, cohesive fare. At times the emotional upheaval is so outlandish that you'll end up totally gobsmacked - and not in a conducive way. Some of the action scenes are breathtaking, but others fall well short and end up looking cheesy.

While "1 - Nenokkadine" dishes out a fair dose of thrilling elements, it doesn't live up to its initial promise. Still credit must be given to the Director, writers, and especially its star, Mahesh Babu, for taking a risk and delivering something fresh to mainstream Telegu cinema. The Director keeps his cards close to the chest for a larger part of the film, and keeps the audience guessing till the climax. However, this experience gets hampered, at places, by an overtly long narrative, some unnecessary twists, and a few staple Telegu cinema clichés. "1 - Nenokkadine" is still one of the better Telegu films in recent years, with total commitment from superstar, Mahesh Babu.

3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Everything to Love about a Buddy-Cop, Action-Cmedy, 18 August 2014

Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Hilarious scenes, rib-tickling dialogues, high-octane action, and crackling chemistry between Hill and Tatum. In short, it retains all the elements, which made its predecessor such a delight. While the first film came as a jolting surprise out of nowhere and surpassed all expectations, this one had to meet the lofty standards etched by the first "Jump Street", and it does so with aplomb and an irresistible swagger throughout its proceedings.

The plot, initially, may seem a rehash of the first movie, but as the narrative unfolds, it's clear that ace Director duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller smartly recreate the magic of the first film through some carefully revamped scenes intertwined with hilariously new material, all the while upping the tempo to churn out that rare sequel that's even better than an already great original. "22 Jump Street" along with its predecessor will ultimately go down in the pantheon of action-comedy, buddy-cop films as a bonafide classic of the genre.

3 Days in Bizarro Land, 9 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 2/5 stars

"3 Days to Kill" is an extraordinarily compelling film; unfortunately, in all the wrong ways. Several times over its strung- out two hours you end up staring at the screen, mouth agape, wondering what the hell is going on. Directed by McG and co-written by Luc Besson, this is alternately a bombastic spy actioner, a morose drama about retirement, a jaunty comedy about a father and his rambunctious teenage daughter, and a comic-book thriller. Basically, the film sets out to be an action-comedy with few emotional bits thrown in, but ends up tackling too many subject and appears totally confused and unsure about what it wants to say in the end.

Kevin Costner stars as Ethan Renner, a CIA hit-man who is "retired" after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a few months to live. Ethan returns to his estranged wife and daughter, hoping to spend his remaining time making up with them, but a smoldering hot woman - who says she's CIA and Costner, a seasoned spy, just takes her word for it - comes calling with one final job. Further suspension of disbelief is demanded when the plot goes into more bizarre territories where Ethan is offered a life-prolonging experimental drug by the out-of-the-blue, maybe-maybe not CIA agent, if and only if he agrees to kill some more nuclear-weapon-dealing bad guys, who have nicknames like The Albino and The Wolf, which, well, obviously proves they need killing - no other explanation or evidence is provided in the plot. The rest of the flick alternates between crackling humorous scenes, funny dialogues, well executed action set pieces, and sadly, plenty of horrendously scripted drama with plot-holes the size of craters on the moon.

The blend of wry domesticity and a secret life of violence is a particular trademark of Besson's, and in his best works such as "Leon: The Professional", "The Fifth Element", "District B13" or "Taken", the tonal shifts are smooth and satisfying. Unfortunately "3 Days to Kill" plays more like most of Besson's recent endeavors, which are a sad reflection of his once glory days. McG is a competent but undistinguished director and on a scene to scene level manages some effective work; it's when the feature is taken as a whole it comes across as an absolute mess.

Costner does a terrific good job as a gruff, staunch assassin father. While the role isn't the game changing revelation it wants to be, Costner does well to remind us he is a real movie star and keeps the picture from entirely falling apart at the seams. To whatever degree the film works, it's because Costner plays his role with effortless charm and unassuming conviction, without ever going overboard. Amber Heard as an insane caricature of a CIA handler and Hailee Steinfeld as Costner's rebellious, wavering teenage daughter deserve special mentions. The rest of the cast are given grossly under-written and weakly defined characters, but manage to put in their best efforts with whatever they have to work with.

"3 Days to Kill" is a frequently bizarre, never boring mish-mash that doesn't come together, yet perfectly encapsulates everything both good and bad about Luc Besson's recent, erratic output.

99 Homes (2014)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Compelling, Emotional, Brutally Honest, and Topical, 3 January 2016

Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 4.2/5 stars

Fueled by powerful acting and a taut, patiently constructed narrative, "99 Homes" is a modern economic parable whose righteous fury is matched by its intelligence and compassion. It's a searing morality story pleading for justice for the vulnerable middle-class workers who lose their homes to power-hungry bankers, conglomerates, and real estate sharks. The film is a timely topical drama that packs real punch the deeper it goes into the rabbit hole of capitalization and gentrification through deception and wanton manipulation of the law, resulting in the destruction of families and their hard-earned livelihoods.

But it's also a breathless dramatic thriller about predatory capitalism that cuts deep into the nation's economic backbone, with expert camera-work and a poignant background score, complete with moments of conflict that are pitched at a very high level. Emotions are high, lives are at stake, and the palpable sense of something is very, very wrong is pervasive. The rackets and scams the movie exposes are all real, and the result of extensive research. It's gripping storyline highlights how everyone's a victim here, good guys or bad guys, including chief antagonist Rick Carver, which is a testament of Ramin Bahrani's {Man Push Cart (2005), Chop Shop (2007), Goodbye Solo (2008)} pitch-perfect direction.

If not for anything, "99 Homes" should be watched for the acting on display, especially the two powerful lead performances that make for strong recommendations on their own in this tough, emotional film. This is easily Andrew Garfield's best performance hitherto, and the ever-reliable Michael Shannon should be an automatic lock for the best supporting actor category at the upcoming Oscars.

"99 Homes" is perhaps the most compelling film yet made about the global economic downturn and the everyday people whose lives it tore apart. It's smartly narrated with a flair for capturing moments of heightened emotions regularly involving people we meet only once or twice, and it also reminds us how one person attaining his/her dream in today's cutthroat world usually comes at the expense of someone else's.

Aashiqui 2 (2013)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
For Anyone who Believes in Love - Do not Miss 'Aashiqui 2", 12 May 2013

A romantic film done right after eons. In fact, along with "Silver Linings Playbook", this is the best romantic film in a long, long time. Beautiful music, a great script, well directed and produced, plus good performances from the ensemble cast. Aditya Roy Kapoor is decent, but its Sharaddha Kapoor who really steals the show here. Great to see that she has inherited her dad's acting genes. Hope she hasn't inherited his other not so favorable qualities. Any which ways, this is one actress to keep a look out for in the future.

"Aashiqi 2" boldly does what few other films have seldom attempted to do. It explores the pain, angst, and sacrifice of love - the not so rosy part of a romance. Love is not always bright and exhilarating in real life, it can be bleak and tasking at times also. This film not only highlights these aspects, but does it successfully and without any melodrama, that could have so easily crept in. Moreover, it has its heart in the right place and keeps its moral fiber intact, by echoing a resounding moral lesson right through the second half - that true love needs you to help your companion through the most demanding of times and never let go. Something a lot of young couple can learn a thing or two from.

The initial few scenes do have some minor flaws in detailing, research, and representation (especially some factual errors in representing Goa), but all can be forgiven for such an innocently beautiful film. The first half does tender to meander in certain places, but the narrative really becomes fluid and coherent in the second half and packs a punch right till the gut-wrenching climax.

I generally do not like romantic films, in fact never been a huge fan of them. But I do have a heart and I do belevie in love. So, for anyone who's ever been in love, who's in love, who's gone through a shattering heartbreak, or who just believes in love - do your selves a favor and don't miss 'Aashiqui 2".

Airlift (2016)
Spirits Lifted in a High-Quality Entertainer, 27 January 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 4.8/5 stars

"Airlift" is Akshay Kumar's best movie since "Khakee" (yes, it's even better than "Baby") and his best performance bar none. Period! Gut-wrenching scenes, high-intensity shots, crackerjack dialogues, realistic tension, and patriotic without ever skirting jingoistic shores – the movie has all this, and then some. Based on the world's largest civilian evacuation, director Raja Krishna Menon takes on the challenge of turning a story known to all into a compelling watch and pens a nail-biting screenplay along with cowriters Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair, and Rahul Nangia, which will keep you fearful, hopeful and yet, unsure and uncomfortable.

Set in 1990, the film introduces us to a Kuwait-based business tycoon Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar), an expat who has embraced his migrant country's ways and pointedly disassociates himself with anything Indian. When Iraqi forces commanded by Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait, the entire country is torn by war. As battle-tanks bomb the city, the progressive escalation of war finds millions displaced. A significant number of them happen to be migrant Indians. Katyal being one of the more privileged ones, instinctively plans his own exit along with wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) and daughter Siya (Adiba Hussain). A sudden change of heart has Katyal taking charge of the safety of his distraught employees and anyone who reaches out to him. With the country's airports sealed by the invaders, options of exiting or entering the country are eliminated. The various escape plans that Katyal devises, makes up the rest of the film. There's hardly any suspense about how this film folds up, but the events that lead up to the inevitable denouement pack in enough punches to keep you at the edge of your seat.

Films like "Khakee", "Aankhen", "Baby", and "Special 26" offered ample proof of how far Akshay Kumar has come from his "Aflatoon" days, but here he knocks it out of the park with a firm, sharp, and restrained yet emotional performance. Prudently, the filmmakers provide Nimrat Kaur with quite a meaty role to essay, and she supports Akshay exceptionally well – those acquainted with her acting prowess are well-versed with ability of essaying a range of emotions, and she executed the entire gamut here with effortless ease and conviction. All the other supporting players – particularly Inaamulhaq as a scheming, callous Iraqi Major, Prakash Belawadi as a perennially bickering refugee, and Kumud Mishra as the External Affairs bureaucrat who makes the operation possible – too, pull their weight in well-written roles.

Cinematographer Priya Seth deserves a special mention for strategically framing scenes to amplify the tension. Be it the shot taken through a car's smashed windshield or the aerial ones of tanks sliding down the desert, she manages to wordlessly convey terror and compel you to imagine the devastation.

I'll unequivocally declare that personally, I haven't enjoyed nor taken away so much from a Bollywood movie since "Detective Byomkesh Bakshi" released some ten months ago. You are filled with immense pride as the narrative arc of these everyday characters with indomitable spirits unfold, and a sea of emotions well up within you without ever spilling into melodramatic territory. A few brave souls saved the lives of 170,000 Indians at great personal risk, and it's time more Indian directors started telling stories like these that highlight heroic deeds of our countrymen amid both global and national scenarios. "Airlift" is just a brilliant movie overall, and no amount of accolades would suffice in bestowing praise on it. What a time to release it as well, coinciding with India's Republic Day. If you are in the mood to be entertained, watch "Airlift". If you are in the mood to be educated, watch "Airlift". If you are in a patriotic mood, watch "Airlift". You know what? Just watch "Airlift".

0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A Triumph in Every Department, 16 January 2014

Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK) Rating: 4.2/5 stars

A movie that merits the word "best" in multiple departments and facets, in order to do right by the sheer spellbinding effect it has on you. One of the best movies of the year and certainly among the most accomplished con movies yet. It boasts of one of the most enthralling original scripts written and some of the subtlest and sublimest intertwining of comic undertones witnessed on screen. The editing and cinematography are top-notch from first scene to last and copiously serve in elevating the aura of the film.

Another factor that weighs heavily in "American Hustle's" favor is its all-star cast that's right up there with the greatest star casts ever assembled on screen. What's even better is the fact that each and every member of this all-star cast are also brilliant performers in their own right. And just when you think you've seen it all, the movie unleashes one of the most unexpected twists and jolting climaxes seen in a con film. This is undoubtedly David O. Russell's best film hitherto. His thoroughbred masterpiece.

Coming to the performances, Christian Bale delivers his best act since "The Fighter". It's also Bradley Cooper's best act that equals the heights he scaled with "Silver Linings Playbook". Plus, we are treated to another stellar performance from Amy Adams (why hasn't this fine actress won an Oscar yet beats me). Jeremy Renner holds his own in a slightly underwritten role and against his more seasoned costars. Jennifer Lawrence just keeps getting better with each passing film. We are fortunate to witness her best performance ever and that's saying a lot as she manages to even outshine her grand turnovers in "Winter's Bone" and "Silver Linings Playbook". Finally, there's a nice, little tidbit for us midway through the film, in the form of one of the most marvelous cameos showcased on screen, enacted by Robert De Niro and played out as a tribute to the legendary actor's venerable career.

39 out of 78 people found the following review useful:
A Great War Film that Beautifully Merges Heart, Courage, Patriotism, Duty, Passion, Family, Reality, and the Horrors of War, 7 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 4.3/5 stars

Powered by Clint Eastwood's sure-handed direction and a gripping central performance from Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper" delivers a tense, vivid tribute to its real-life subject. Director Clint Eastwood has crafted his best film in nearly a decade, as he fully captures the horrors of war and the brave men who put their lives on the line to defend our country. What's truly amazing about Eastwood's direction is that without resorting to any form of hagiography – something that could have easily crept and possibly been forgiven in a subject and theme like this – he triumphs with a measured, morally complex, and utterly gripping snapshot of what war can do to the men who fight it. Our old-horse auteur is less concerned with action heroism than the consequences of deadly action, and how it chips away at the fabric of the living. Still, whenever they transpire – and that's more than a few times – the action sequences are edge-of-your-seat stuff – Eastwood, a veteran exponent of action, especially gunfights, since his acting days, once again teams with his long-time collaborators to deliver some of the best-edited (in terms of both video and sound), masterfully handed combat scenes assembled in a war film.

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was nothing more than a Texan man who wanted to become a cowboy, but in his thirties he found out that maybe his life needed something different, something where he could express his real talent, something that could help America in its fight against terrorism. So he joins the Navy SEALs to become a sniper, and ends up being heralded as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. But there was much more to this true American hero than his skill with a rifle. Soon after marrying his sweetheart Taya (Sienna Miller), Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield, and as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname "Legend". However, his reputation also grows behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head,and making him a prime target of insurgents. Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, becoming emblematic of the SEAL creed to "leave no man behind." But upon returning home, Chris finds that it is the war he can't leave behind.

Irrespective of whether you're American or not, any self-respecting national can feel for their soldiers through Cooper's evocative, nuanced performance, and Eastwood's assured hand while dealing with a topic of such sensitivity and complexity. We literally get to feel Kyle's detachment and disorientation, as Cooper – in his finest performance yet – fully embodies Kyle and the PSTD he deals with, and we quietly cheer as he gradually tries to overcome it in his own uniquely patriotic way – one where he finally manages to strike a balance between his family and the inherent, overwhelming desire to perpetually serve his country and fellow soldiers.

Bradley Cooper is slowly but surely amassing an enviable, versatile filmography slate, garnished with star turnovers in wholesomely- entertaining blockbusters, and memorable performances in universally-loved and widely-applauded films of award-worthy stature. Three Oscar nominations in as many years, and a string of hits – from the first "Hangover" movie (I thought the third one was quite good too, though the sophomore entry just passed muster) to the underrate thriller "Limitless" to one of the most brilliantly constructed cinematic heists to his voice-over in one of the most exalted superhero films of all time to his most recent effort (even his serious dramas like "Silver Linings Playbook" and this one make money) – are all the proof you need of his perennially rising status as one of Hollywood's most revered actors and box-office draws. Yet, Bradley Cooper isn't the first actor you'd consider for such a macho role, making the impact of this portrayal more remarkable. The word "transformative" is tossed at Steve Carell's role in "Foxcatcher", which is largely latex makeup. Cooper's is a more complete transformation, with convincing Texas swagger and twang, packing an extra 40 pounds of muscle, and plumbing new dramatic depths. His performance is precision personified – from the mannerisms to the accent to the gradations of Kyle's character, personality, and trauma. If this isn't exactly the man Chris Kyle was, it sure as hell is one indelible movie character.

Eastwood reprises that Old West melancholy in "American Sniper" with New West warfare in Iraq, extending the killing to enemy women and children, if necessary. Eastwood's sympathy for Chris Kyle (and his increasingly frightened and frustrated wife, brilliantly played by a career-best act from Sienna Miller) is palpable. Kyle is justifiably portrayed as a true American hero with an overriding almost desperate need to "serve his country" over everything else in his life. At a famous concert in 1969, country music figurehead, Johnny Cash, called himself a "dove with claws" when it came to his stance on The Vietnam War – basically claiming to be an anti-war proponent without giving over to all of the gushy, hugging, New Age palaver that's supposed to come with it. It's an evocative term that could also – on the evidence of his new film – be applied to director, Clint Eastwood. In this bold, in-your-face, true-life drama, he bristles unhesitatingly at the horrors of war, but is metaphorically in the trenches with its soldiers, passing them ammo and lighting their cigarettes.

The tragic irony of Chris Kyle' death – shot by a disturbed, fellow soldier he was trying to help once back home – suits his legacy at a profound level; that death came from thin air, when least expected. It's a hell of a thing.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
This Dope Needed More Kick, 19 December 2015

Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

"American Ultra" has a good concept and some interesting scenes, but like its stoned protagonist, it's too easily distracted to live up to its true potential. There are patches where the film stalls and crumbles under too much explanation. That's a shame, because the movie does have bite and entertaining moments. But you shouldn't have to be stoned to appreciate the whole product.

The idea is sound – stoners turn out to be super-agents and wackiness ensues – but the execution is so slack that it feels like everyone involved wanted to be somewhere else. Still, there's enough knockabout carnage and strong supporting players to keep it rolling, and Eisenberg is pleasing and easy on the eye yet again. The less said about the eternally bland Stewart, the better; we're all too familiar with her drab schtick by now to award it any further mention.

Eventually, "American Ultra" will go down as a movie that got lost in its own mashup of genres. It alternates laughs, love, explosions, and Steven Seagal-esque killings – only it's not as good as all that sounds.

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