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Udta Punjab (2016)
Absolute brilliance!! A story everybody must watch
This is by far one of the best movies made in Bollywood till date and definitely the best of 2016. No, it's not just about drugs and abusive language. No, it doesn't show Punjab in bad light. No, it's not a politically motivated movie. When we go beyond words, Udta Punjab talks about how, inherently, addicts are born out of circumstances and not always by choice.
Story: At a larger level, the story talks about the police-politics syndicate on narcotics which has gripped the state of Punjab and is destroying its youth.It has the story of four individuals with completely different background, having one common struggle - drug menace in Punjab. While two (Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor) are on the receiving end of it, the other two (Diljit Dosanjh and Kareena Kapoor) are fighting against it. The story highlights the circumstances that creates addicts and their frantic attempts to get out of it. Full marks to the writer Sudip Sharma for extremely strong character sketches of Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor which hasn't been lately seen in Bollywood movies. The peculiar element of the movie is humor which has been so efficiently interwoven into the story.
Acting: This is one movie that demanded very high standards of acting and the actors have risen to the occasion. Shahid Kapoor is perhaps one of the most underrated actors of our generation. I would rate this as his second best performance after Haider, playing a drug addicted pop icon. Alia Bhatt just doesn't stop surprising the audience with her acting capabilities. Playing a Bihari girl, driven into Punjab and pulled into drug by circumstances, she showed extraordinary command over the language and the pronunciations. Although, thanks to the director, it takes almost one and half hours to realize that she has a bloody important role in the movie. Kareena Kapoor effortlessly plays a determined doctor fighting against the drug addiction and rehabilitating the addicts. Diljit Dosanjh impresses in his debut.
Direction: The direction is amazing with a definite Vishal Bhardwaj effect. First half was well paced and even though there were four lead characters to deal with, each were given enough justice and screen time. The story is a bit of drag in the second half as the movie could have been 10-15mins shorter. However, excellent job by the director.
Overall: Overall, Udta Punjab will go into the archive as one of the best, Bollywood came up with till date. Definitely a watch.
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Marginally better than the predecessor but really good and presents some real good quality horror.
Sequels often carry a burden of expectations/benchmark set by their earlier movies. The Conjuring was executed amazingly well even with the standard scary stuff and The Conjuring 2 stuck to the story flow approach of its predecessor but yet bringing in the novelty in terms of brand new location and a sub-plot. This franchisee is definitely beating Insidious hands down.
Story (8/10): Based on a real life incident in late 70s - a family of single- mother and four kids in North London is terrorized to hell by a supposed ghost, often possessing one of the daughters. Warrens are called all the way from US to take a look at that and report back to the church. Their search encounters series of events that eventually discover the genesis of the Hodgson family's nightmare. The climax is particularly well written with enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seats.
Horror (6/10): I found the horror element comparatively less in this one compared to The Conjuring. Partly also because some of the scenes were too predictive as we not just seen them in the first movie but other horror movies as well. However, it doesn't seem to be a mistake as much as it seems a deliberate attempt to stick to what worked in the first part and focus more on the story telling. It is the same dilemma that super hero movies face - whether they want to focus on out-of-the-world action sequences or focus on a compelling story.
Acting (9/10): Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have given stellar performances here. Particularly, Patrick has made himself more noticeable in this one. Frances O'Connor (as the single mother) and Madison Wolfe (her daughter) had the most challenging roles which they executed very well. The expressions of agony, fear, anger, disgust have been nailed to perfection and is particularly remarkable.
Direction (8/10): James Wan has stuck pretty much to what worked in the first movie. The direction is good overall. The scenes have been conceptualized well. Especially, the climax has been directed extremely well with some unpredictable sequences. The movie could have been a bit shorter as the first half of the movie is a bit of a drag.
Overall (8/10): The Conjuring 2 did just marginally well compared to its predecessor. However, it would be a bit unfair to keep comparing it with the first part. Independently, the movie is really good and presents some real good quality horror.
Mother's Day (2016)
A very promising story which was ruined by utterly poor execution
Mother's Day had a very promising story which was ruined by utterly poor execution and a complete waste of acting talent which was loaded due to the casting of the movie.
Story (7/10): Well, nothing was so much wrong with the story. Four different lives, four different challenges and at some point of time, they cross the paths - and all of it is centered around the hullabaloo of Mother's Day. They all have their own theories and ideas for the big day but they end up doing almost nothing that they originally thought of - and that's where teeny tiny bit of the fun lies in the movie. A well conceptualized story though.
Acting (5/10): Acting is where this entire movie falls apart in spite of big names like Julia Roberts and Jennifer Anniston. Anniston still seems to be in that "Friends" zone with her dialog delivery. The expressions are off and doesn't seem to be in the character really, except for last few minutes in the climax. Julia Roberts holds pretty much a flat face throughout the movie. Jason Sudeiki was probably the only saving grace. The rest of the cast makes a decent attempt but aren't able to lift up the movie.
Direction (4/10): The direction of the movie is awful. Close to half of the movie misses the flow and the scenes look like stitched together as the director struggles to smoothly transition from one story to another. The screenplay is pathetic and isn't able to hold the audience more than few seconds. It is only at the end that things come together when the four characters converge. However, the overall execution of the movie "executes" the story. It just looks like the director suddenly realized that Mother's Day is arriving and he has to release a movie before that.
Overall (5/10): Poorly executed. Should give it a pass.
A very refreshing movie which brings in something brand new from Disney
Zootopia promises to entertain you right from the beginning till the end. This is probably one of those rare times when Disney has taken a shot on suspense and it has done brilliantly well on it.
Story (10/10): Full marks to the story which is probably the most profound story I have seen after Inside Out. Zootopia talks about the struggles of the only bunny cop - Judy Hopps - town has, and the challenges she faces while performing her duties due to various stereotypes. It is very hard to stay put against the disgust and bullying of everyone, which is beautifully depicted through Judy Hopps characterization. The writer has created a complete contrast character, Nick Wilde, a fox, who gives up against those same stereotypes. He, ironically, helps her in solving the case involving mysterious turn of events in the city. The story has very interesting twists and turns almost every now and then which keeps you wondering what will happen next. The other characters like Chief Bogo, Bellweather, Bonnie and Stu Hopps are very well conceptualized where they all are bound by their preconceived notions, ambitions and greed that pretty much is a microcosm of what Zootopia town has been.
Animation (8/10): The level of animation has been good. The creativity that went behind projecting the city and its various facets is outstanding. Although Hollywood has moved slightly ahead but Zootopia stay puts.
Direction (9/10): The trio of Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush have done a great job in keeping the story moving and bringing in twists and turns all the time which keeps the audience glued to their seats. Bringing in Shakira for the song, "Try Everything" and the novelty in the end credits is simply brilliant.
Overall (9/10): Overall, it is a very refreshing movie which brings in something brand new from Disney. A must watch for everyone.
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
This one can easily make way to the all time Hollywood classics collection
It's an old movie of 2006 (10 years!!) that I am reviewing but thought it would be worth it. Thank You For Smoking is one movie I feel everyone should watch. And no, it won't turn you into a smoker.
Story (9/10): TYFS throws a satirical light on one of the less heard perspectives of the tobacco industry in the whole anti-smoking debate. However, the writer carefully keeps the main plot as a struggle of a father who works for the tobacco industry but still holds his ground in front of his son in spite of a very hostile environment. The conversations between Nick, the protagonist father, and Joey, his son, are profound as well as humorous. As rightly said, if you can defend tobacco, you can do anything. The part on the art of argumentation is inspiring, to say. Particularly impressive about the story is that all the characters are well defined and have a strong appeal, except may be that of Nick's wife. However, a strong character sketch of Nick Naylor as a handsome, smart, articulate, unapologetic and persuasive lobbyist lifts the whole story to the next level. The MOD trio just scales the topic of the movie to other similar territories.
Acting (8/10): Aaron Eckhart has probably given one of his best acting performances in the movie. Though I always imagined De Caprio could have done more justice to this kind of a character. However, Aaron doesn't disappoint at all. The supporting cast, particularly Camaron Bright, the MOD squad, Holmes, Lowe and Macy do an amazing work.
Direction (9/10): If the story and the topic makes the movie all so serious - Jason Reitman's direction and screenplay brings in the much required punch of humor (or we may say, satire) to the movie to make it enjoyable. And he saves the best for the last when Nick Naylor brings to the table what is actually needed for the society in the whole anti- smoking debate. Black comedy can be difficult but Reitman nails it beautifully.
Overall (9/10): All in all, the movie is a must watch for everyone. One of the best Hollywood movies that you can keep in your collection.
Chhello Divas (2015)
Finally, our own Dil Chahta Hai.... MUST MUST WATCH!!
It looks like finally Gujarati movie fans have got Dil Chahta Hai in their language. The movie, from the word go, connects with the audience, and surely commands repeat audience. With three movies doing great in 2015, Gujarati cinema has surely came long way and is set to go, perhaps, international as well.
Story (9/10): While the plot doesn't have any novelty in it, but the intricacies of the story has been woven very nicely and presented well. All in all, it is a story of eight college friends and their budding relationships, experiences, mischief and creation of innumerable memories during the college time. It doesn't feel boring at any time due to multiple sub plots and story juggling between them.
Acting (10/10): While all of them have played their part well, one person that stands out from the entire lot is Malhar Thakkar. Starting off with less than a minute and unnoticed cameo in Kevi Rite Jaish, this guy made sure he is all over the place in Chello Divas. With brilliant comic timing and wicked expressions, he brings amazing energy to the movie. Yash Soni and Janki Bodiwala are a kind of unlikely on-screen couple but share a good chemistry. They are the ones to watch out for in future and would like to see more of them. All other supporting cast has made their presence felt during the movie, and some of them even after the movie. The level of authenticity that the cast has brought to the movie through their dialog delivery and accent, elevated the movie to the next level.
Direction (10/10): With very less novelty in the plot, it all comes to perfect execution and Krishnadev has nailed it brilliantly. The nuances of Gujarat college life, pranks, jargons etc have been captured very well. The speech in the climax by Janki Bodiwala is very nostalgic and can be played again and again. It just touches your heart.
Overall (10/10): I might have some biased view for the movie since I would review it more emotionally than objectively. Someone who has not lived a college life in Gujarat might not be able to relate, but for the rest, it just strikes the right chords. The movie is a must watch if you want to relive your college life.
A good watch - Got the right content but didn't focus on a typical Bond movies' strengths
There were two reasons the expectations from Spectre were high and perhaps that's why it kind of doesn't live up to the expectations - Skyfall had set the bar high for this movie (given the same director, it was expected) and secondly, a little less significant, given that it was a departing movie for Daniel Craig, it had to have a brilliant end. To round up the entire series of DC, only Casino Royale and Skyfall stands out as my favorite, followed by Spectre and QOS at the end.
Story (8/10): Spectre story knits up all the earlier DC movies - CR, QOS and Skyfall - together to explain who controlled all the antagonists and in an epic twist, its connection with Bond. What better could have ended the DC journey than to tie up all its four movies together. The story is well paced, except for, may be a slightly stretched climax. They have stuck to the classical Bond movies formula - car chases, hand to hand combats, pure lust and a cunning villain. The only exception in Spectre is the gadgetry work which has been minimal. So, don't really expect much there. However, the story unfolds step by step to give a full picture at the end. It may not match up to Skyfall but surely does enough to live up to the reputation.
Action (6/10): This is one place where I found Spectre kind of loses the plot. While the movie does have some good action sequences, the overall content has been lowered down if I compare the earlier movies. When you go to watch James Bond, you don't want to listen to words beyond a point. Somewhere mid-way the movie ends up projecting a lot of talk and less of action. Some of the sequences like the one of helicopter in the beginning and the plane in the middle of the movie are indeed thrilling but the kind of elevation is missing compared to the standards set by earlier bond movies.
Acting (7/10): Comparing Daniel Craig to his earlier movies, one doesn't see much improvement, although he has done well already enough. He has built an image of a more rugged spy, when we compare with Pierce Brosnan who comes out more sophisticated. Léa Seydoux comes out strong enough with some good chemistry with DC and projecting a role of a grieving daughter but a tough women at the same time. However, an unfortunate surprise was the teeny tiny amount of screen time given to Christopher Waltz who could have taken the movie to another level. Just reminds me of the mistake FF7 made with Jason Statham. Ben Whishaw, playing Q, and Ralph Fiennes as M (or the new M, if I may say) comes out to bring in a lot of variety in terms of character sketches.
Direction (7/10): Sam Mendes does a commendable job in ensuring a good execution of the story he was entrusted with. I loved the way the entire story was executed. Some of the sequences have been very well shot and you see a lot of good direction work that went into making this movie. However, I see two major flaws in the movie - the length of the movie which could have been 10-15mins shorter and not making the most of an academy award winner in your cast. So, next time, may be focus more on the typical Bond movie strengths - gadgets, car chases and of course, villains!!
Overall, Spectre is a movie you should not miss if you follow Bond movies or are a Bond fan. It is a good farewell to DC as well (unless the rumors about Bond 25 turns out to be true). But it surely doesn't live up to the bar set by Skyfall and Casino Royale.
Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 (2015)
Watch It For Brilliant Humor And Comic Timing
Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 is a story about three flatmates/friends whose lives are going perfectly going fine till they fall in love with three girls and since then everything they never ever dreamed of, starts happening. It is a sequel to the movie with the same title released in 2011. The plot is exactly the same as the one in the prequel but the movie doesn't disappoint at all with brilliant dialogs, perfect comic timing.
Story and Screenplay (8/10): For some, the story might be shouting out loud - misogynist - and may well be exaggerating the male dilemmas of the relationship. However, there wouldn't be any humor in the movie without that. When the plot and the story doesn't leave much room for creativity, the only thing directors need is an excellent screenplay. And that's what the movie boasts off. While there are some dull patches in between but overall, Luv Ranjan, Rahul Mody and Tarun Jain does a great job with some brilliant punches throughout the movie that the audience will remember after walking out of the cinema hall. The amount of thought and detailing that has gone into the seven minute monologue of Kartik Aaryan is beyond imagination!
Acting (7/10): PKP2 doesn't boast of any brilliant acting performances. However, all the newbies do well enough to the demand of their roles and thanks to their good comic timing that covers up for expression flaws. However, if there is one person you will miss in the entire movie, it would be Liquid (Divyendu Sharma) who had created a good fan falling after the first movie. While Omkar Kapoor looks sophisticated enough for the character he plays in the movie, he looks too cool (or may be expressionless) to be frustrated, happy, sad or angry with anything. Sunny Singh Nijjar makes a good attempt to replicate Liquid's level of frustration but misses it by miles. Kartik Aaryan shows some promise in the movie and steals the show with his epic seven minute monologue that tops up his earlier performance. The girls have been given largely similar roles and they respond with largely similar performances.
Direction (8/10): Luv Ranjan has impressed with his direction in both the movies. Especially, given the challenge with PKP2, he does well in terms of execution of an already told story. The movie relied heavily on the screenplay, humor quotient and the dialogs and that's where Luv Ranjan directed all his efforts. Climax could have been shorter. For twice or thrice, you feel like its going to get over but it doesn't. With only four songs, he even saved about 15-20 minutes he had wasted in his earlier movie.
Overall (8/10): Overall, PKP2 is a great entertainer if you are fine with some adult comedy. The point of view is exaggerated but that's where the fun is.
Gujjubhai the Great (2015)
Amazing Entertainer that will make your jaws pain at the end!!
Gujjubhai - The Great is an end-to-end Gujarati comedy entertainer starring Siddharth Randeria in the lead and directed by his son, Ishan Randeria. Siddharth Randeria is a big name in Gujarati plays and his "Gujjubhai" series of plays have been enacted hundreds of times in India as well as abroad. Him taking a plunge in Gujarati movies was just a matter of time.
Story and Screenplay (9/10): It's a story about a father trying to make his daughter fall in love with the groom of his choice, thereby creating situations that will bring laugh riot in the theater. While the plot is not so new, the screenplay is brilliant enough to keep the audience engaged. The USP of the movie is dialogs. Punches are strong and perfect comic timing of Siddharth Randeria and Jimit Trivedi just keeps you laughing long after the dialog is gone. A lot of everyday Gujarati words like "methi maarvi", "buch vaagi jashe" cannot be translated to any other language and are very much proprietary of Gujarati language which brings the authenticity to the entire set up.
Acting (8/10): The movie is almost entirely shouldered by Sidhharth Randeria and Jimit Trivedi, when it comes to acting. The movie doesn't boast of any other big names, except for a cameo by Dharmesh Vyas at the end. SIddharth Randeria has already proved his mettle through his plays, so movies is a piece of cake for him. Bhool Bhulaiyaa fame Jimit Trivedi is the ace of spade for Siddharth Randeria who impresses with his dialog delivery, accent and comic timing. The supporting cast is not so much supporting as they struggle with expressions and dialog delivery.
Direction (8/10): Ishaan Randeria impresses well in his directorial debut. With a plot that is not so innovative, creating a situational comedy that makes audience go hysterical is a very tough task. '
Overall (9/10): Overall, Gujjubhai The Great is an amazing entertainer and a must watch for Gujarati audience looking for some light comedy to enjoy their weekend. It will definitely make your jaws pain at the end of the movie.
The Intern (2015)
A perfect mood setter, feel good movie!!
The Intern brings you to the life of a 70 year old who doesn't want to live an average retired old man routine because he still feels he has music (metaphorically) left in him. So he takes up a senior intern job at an online fashion site with a completely different environment and people than what he has worked all his life. He meets the founder and while working with her, becomes her confidant and mentor.
Story (8/10): The story is simple and very well knit. It beautifully portrays how a Baby Boomer generation old school veteran brings peace and stability to a Millennial generation woman entrepreneur lost in the crazy and excruciatingly demanding business world. The characters have been well conceptualized and sketched. What is interesting to see is how a rapid fire, anxious, no non-sense, always on top of everything boss (Anne Hathaway) works with a composed, experienced, twice aged intern (Robert De Niro). Some of the scenes really touch your heart, especially the conversations between Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. I won't reveal it to spill the beans over here. At the end, it leaves you with some food for thought.
Acting (9/10): With stalwarts like Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, one doesn't really need to worry much about the acting. The simplicity of the story didn't demand high levels of acting either. However, Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro does a great job at projecting the aspirations, principles, beliefs and challenges of both the generations on one plate, not just in terms of dialog delivery but also expressions. The supporting cast does a commendable job too with the available screen time.
Direction(9/10): Nancy Meyers had struggled a little in her earlier movies but have learnt lessons on romantic comedy well and has got it right this time. The Intern is, however, more of a comedy rather than romance. While the plot was quite average, her execution skills elevated the movie to a different level. I like the way she focused on projecting the synergies of two different generations working together rather than the friction which we normally see. This gave the entire movie a very feel good factor. She could have got away with some of the characters which would have kept the movie a little focused but overall a brilliant effort.
Overall (9/10): I watched this movie on a Saturday morning show and couldn't have asked for a better and positive start to the weekend. This movie is a mood setter and yes, it does it amazingly well. A definite watch for everyone.