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A small-time reviewer on IMDb.com.
20th Century Women (2016)
A Wonder Of A Film!
Mike Mills hits a home-run with '20th Century Women'. Mills, with the help of an Astonishing Annette Bening, creates a film (based in-part on Mills' childhood) so emotionally powerful, its impossible not be moved by it.
'20th Century Women' Synopsis: Dorothea (Annette Benning) seeks the help of Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Julie (Elle Fanning) to raise her son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann).
'20th Century Women' is about relationships, primarily of a mother and son. Mills delivers a personal story with genuine feeling. I loved the other dynamics as well. The characters of Abbie & Julie are strong as well. You watch 3 women in different age groups, help a boy know a little more about life. They speak differently, their relations to the boy are vastly diverse, but they're women, who define feminism & the practicalities of life. Mills keeps the narrative heartfelt & by the time this story ends, you're with the characters & you feel for them. Mills' Screenplay, which has earned him a Very-Worthy Oscar- Nomnation, is superior. The Writing is super-strong at all times. I don't recall a single moment when the film lost me, I was with the film throughout. Mills' Direction is simple, but well-done. Cinematography & Editing are super. Roger Neill's Score is perfect.
'20th Century Women' is embellished with maddening performances. Annette Benning steals the show & how! Her portrayal of a mother trying to her raise her son without a father, is beyond marvelous. Its hard to keep eyes off the screen when Benning is up. Benning has delivered several memorable performances in her fabulous career, but in '20th Century Women', she surpasses herself. And to the Academy, what in the world made you not nominate her? If this isn't acting of the highest order, then what is?
Following Benning, are Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann and Billy Crudup. Fanning is a treasure. She delivers a restrained, believable performance from start to end. Grewig, a criminally underrated performer, is only getting better with every film. She's fabulous here & the attitude she carries to portray a women fighting a serious illness, is nerve-wracking. Zumann is natural to the core & his scenes with Benning, are the emotional core of the film. Crudup, sandwiched between 3 beautiful women & a rebelling teenager, is a delight. He gets a smaller roll compared to the others, but he leaves a solid impression.
On the whole, '20th Century Women' is A Wonder Of A Film. Two Big Thumbs Up!
Jolly LLB 2 (2017)
Let The Underdog Win!
A Sequel to the delightful Jolly LLB, 'Jolly LLB 2' is an engaging & engrossing courtroom drama, that despite having an all new leading man, works well. Writer-Director Subhash Kapoor delivers yet again & Akshay Kumar emerges a winner as Jolly.
'Jolly LLB 2' Synopsis: Jolly, a clumsy lawyer, is faced with representing the most critical court case of his career, after a helpless women commits suicide.
'Jolly LLB 2' is much-like its super-successful, national-award-winning previous installment - humorous, hard-hitting & entertaining. The Writing is tight this time too. Kapoor keeps the narrative crisp & its protagonist's journey from an underdog to a righteous lawyer, is indeed engaging. While the first-hour is a bit slow & takes time to come to its point, its the second-hour take completely arrests you. Watching Jolly defend the deceased victim & her murdered husband, is absorbing. It also helps that Kapoor keeps the goings-on light-hearted, despite some hard-hitting punches. Kapoor's Direction is truly well-done! After Jolly LLB, 'Jolly LLB 2' is a yet another winner from Kapoor!
'Jolly LLB 2' would've been a lesser film, had it not been for the correct casting. Akshay Kumar, who replaces the terrific Arshad Warsi here to portray Jolly, is in top-form! His body-language is marvelous & the way he gets into the skin of the character, is very note-worthy. But the show-stealer is Saurabh Shukla. Reprising his role as the comical judge (which earned the screen icon a National-Award for his previous portrayal), is simply stunning. Right from hIs dialogue delivery, to his love for Alia Bhatt & dancing to her hit song Gulaabo, is hilarious to the core. Shukla dominates the second-hour & takes 'Jolly LLB 2' to another level. Its a stupendous performance, that deserves to be seen. Annu Kapoor is fantastic as the opposing lawyer. The veteran doesn't miss a beat & challenges Akshay at every step. Kumud Mishra is good, as always. Huma Qureshi is decent, but she doesn't get much scope to leave a mark. Sayani Gupta is remarkable in her portrayal of a helpless woman. Manav Kaul is fair. Brijendra Kala shines. Others lend good support.
On the whole, 'Jolly LLB 2' is a winner, as it engages you almost throughout. Definitely, worth a watch!
The Founder (2016)
Michael Keaton Shines in an Entertaining, Uneven Biopic!
John Lee Hancock's 'The Founder' isn't as delicious or memorable as a McDonalds meal is for its customers, but its got a solid leading-man to sail through its bumps. And leading man Michael Keaton enjoys playing Ray Kroc, a rather unlikable man, with superb skill. This biopic too works, but only in parts.
'The Founder' is The story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman who turned two brothers' innovative fast food eatery, McDonald's, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.
'The Founder' explores Ray Kroc's journey from a traveling salesman to becoming a filthy rich businessman. His idea to turn McDonalds into a franchise & later literally taking away all the glory from its real inventors, is rather engrossing. We see a man full of ambition, skill, persistence & selfishness. Kroc is an underdog, who at the end, is the most successful scumbag you'd come across. If we have a McDonalds almost a mile away from where you may come (almost all around the world), its because Kroc, with his ruthless behavior, pushed those burgers & fries into the bloom.
And 'The Founder' works best when it sticks to Kroc's obsession to McDonalds. And it works least when you have a sub-plot involving his wife (Laura Dern in a thankless role) & how his private life was a wreck. The sub-plot is weak & the sequences between Kroc & his wife, barely offer anything to the narrative. Another problem with 'The Founder' is its uneven pacing, that acts as a minus. While the film begins sharply, the narrative dips in the middle & gathers momentum towards its culmination. The pacing needed more to be consistent, considering this is a story that's nothing less than a business monument.
Robert D. Siegel's Screenplay is decent. The Writing does have some interesting moments that definitely work & hold your interest, but as mentioned a bit earlier, the sub-plot doesn't work. A little crispness in the Writing would've done wonders. John Lee Hancock's Direction is good, yet again. Cinematography is passable. Editing needed to be better. Art & Costume Design are brilliantly done. Carter Burwell's Score is perfect.
And now, to the strongest aspect of why 'The Founder' doesn't falter - Michael Keaton. The Legend is in complete form, yet again. Keaton, who's been a roll with 2 back-to-back Best Picture Oscar-Winners 'Birdman' (which also earned him an Oscar Nod) & 'Spotlight', keeps the momentum going with his portrayal of Kroc. He's entirely convincing in the role & shines all through. Even when the pacing goes uneven, Keaton remains unnerved. And special mentions for Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, who co-star as McDonald's founders Richard and Maurice McDonald. Both the actors are excellent.
On the whole, 'The Founder' is a decent watch, that could've been better overall. But, as far as Keaton's performance is concerned, I must say, I'm lovin' it!
Saat Uchakkey (2016)
Splendid Performance Rise Above An Average Film!
'Saat Uchakkey' boasts an ensemble cast so strong, its barely surprising how splendidly they invest themselves into their respective parts. Sadly, the only strong merit of this comic caper are its performances, as the film is just an okay watch!
'Saat Uchakkey' Synopsis: A team of good-for-nothing people team up to steal treasure from an eccentric old man, but face opposition in the form of a cop.
'Saat Uchakkey' is a fine idea, but the execution is underwhelming. The first-hour, to begin with, barely leaves a mark. Its in the second-hour, when things fire up & the laughs come in. The comic touches work well in the second-hour, despite profanity, but the first-hour, is weak from every angle.
The Writing needed to be more persuasive. The Dialogue are realistic & at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Sanjeev Sharma's Direction is decent. Cinematography & Editing are standard.
Performance-Wise: The Actors are uniformly excellent! Vijay Raaz takes the lead with a terrific act. The supremely talented actor takes center stage & comes up with the film's funniest moments. Manoj Bajpayee is first-rate, as always. Kay Kay Menon shines. Aditi Sharma is fantastic & proves her potential, once again. Anupam Kher is hilarious in a cameo. Annu Kapoor is perfectly over-the-top. Aparshakti Khurrana supports very well.
On the whole, 'Saat Uchakkey' is a mixed bag.
Remarkable Performances Lead A Decent Film!
Based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose, 'Lion' tells a true-story so heartbreaking (though beautiful eventually), you'd be heartless not to be moved by it. And despite that fact, cinematically, 'Lion' is a decent film, that never becomes a triumph due to its uneven Writing. But, the Remarkable Performances lead the show!
'Lion' Synopsis: A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.
'Lion' has a heartbreaking first-hour, that arrests you & emotionally drains you. Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo, the protagonist, delivers such a realistic performance, you actually believe the kid is lost in the big bad world. Pawar adds such depth to 'Lion', its hard to keep your eyes off him, as he struggles with being lost, homeless or later smartly dodging a pimp who sells children. The first-hour works without any stops!
Its the second-hour, however, when 'Lion' results into monotony. Dev Patel is remarkably complex in his role of the older Saroo, but his journey to get back home after living 25 years with his adoptive parents in Australia, is repetitive. And by the time Saroo actually gets home, the emotions are done by. The first-hour has a addictive feel to it, but the second-hour is monotonous & drags itself for a bit too long!
Luke Davies's Adapted Screenplay is excellent in the first-hour, but slows down right after. One truly wishes if the Writing remained superior, as this is a true-story that's nothing less than a triumph. Garth Davis's Direction is well-done. Cinematography is sharp. Editing is fair. Art & Costume Design are perfect.
Performance-Wise: Sunny & Dev are obviously the winners here, but that doesn't mean the supporting players don't leave a mark. Nicole Kidman, to begin with, is masterclass as the Saroo's adoptive mother, who portrays true feeling without every over-doing it. David Wenham as Saroo's adoptive dad & Kidman's husband, is another topper. He's first-rate! Rooney Mara as Saroo's girlfriend, is precisely natural & owns the part with dignity & restraint. Priyanka Bose as Saroo's biological mother, also, is quite good. Deepti Naval is in top-form! Tannishtha Chatterjee is remarkable. And Nawazuddin Siddiqui is terrific in that one scene he appears in.
On the whole, 'Lion' is an uneven film, about a triumphant true-story.
Scorsese's Brutal & Thought-Provoking Passion Project Is A Must See!
A long-time passion project for Martin Scorsese, which he developed for over 26 years, 'Silence' has finally come alive. And to its fortune, Scorsese delivers one of the most powerful films ever based on Faith, Humanity & God Itself. This is a Brutal & Thought-Provoking Film, that questions our existence & the religious beliefs we're surrounded by.
'Silence' Synopsis: Two priests travel to Japan in an attempt to locate their mentor and propagate Catholicism. While there, they are faced by severe protest & torture.
'Silence' left me disturbed & thought provoked. Scorsese delivers such a brutal tale of people driven by faith & later being tortured for their beliefs. The Japanese torture & brutalize the Christians as they try to propagate Catholicism. To be honest, you need a very strong stomach to absorb 'Silence', its certainly not meant for the faint-hearted. The goings-on are very intense & at times, brutal.
Scorsese doesn't shy away from showing what has to be shown. This tale of faith & the violent prosecution that follows, is told with relentlessness. And by the time you reach its final-act, where a shocking twist unfolds though an character, you're bound to be shocked. 'Silence' truly questions humanity & how faith can be questioned too. And above all, it questions God with pain & sorrow.
Scorsese's Direction is remarkable. He brings his passion to life with gut-wrenching intensity. Without a shed of doubt, 'Silence' finds him at his peak! Jay Cocks & Scorsese's Screenplay, Based upon the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. is frightening, but arresting all through. Rodrigo Prieto's Cinematography is marvelous. Thelma Schoonmaker's Editing is well-done, even though the film runs for nearly 3 hours (160-minutes to be precise). Kim Allen Kluge & Kathryn Kluge's Score is perfect.
Performance-Wise: Andrew Garfield as Sebastião Rodrigues, the protagonist, takes upon the challenge Scorsese puts him in & in return, delivers a moving performance. His breakdowns when he witnesses brutality on the name of his faith, appear real & haunting. Adam Driver as Francisco Garupe, does well in a relatively smaller role. Liam Neeson as Father Cristóvão Ferreira, enters the scene pretty late, but commands the screen. He's fabulous! Issey Ogata as the inquisitor, the antagonist, is fantastic. He is a scene-stealer! Others lend great support.
On the whole, 'Silence' is a Must See! Scorsese's unrelenting approach to his passion project, dominates in every frame!
Natalie Portman is Mesmerizing in this Stunning Biopic!
If you ever doubted the credibility of Natalie Portman as a performer, watch 'Jackie' right away & dump your thoughts away. In this stunning biopic, where Portman flexes her acting muscles as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, proves to be a testament of her incredible talent. Its a film driven by a lead performance, that is anchored by sheer power.
'Jackie' Synopsis: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband's historic legacy.
Director Pablo Larraín brings a disturbing true-story on celluloid, that covers theme of love, loss & power. We watch Jackie struggle with the surroundings around her, following the assassination of her President Husband. And I must tell you, the journey has been told with gut-wrenching bleakness. The narrative is no-holds-barred & what we see throughout the film, is a women in deep pain.
Noah Oppenheim's Screenplay is top-notch. Its arresting as well as its disturbing. Pablo Larraín's Direction is fantastic. He has handled this biographical-drama with precision. Cinematography is brilliant. Editing is razor-crisp, keeping the narrative tight in its 99-minutes running-time. Art & Costume Design are perfect. Mica Levi's Score is super.
Performance-Wise: As mentioned right from my summary, Portman is Mesmerizing. Its a tour-de-force performance, that ranks amongst the best of 2016. Of the supporting cast, Peter Sarsgaard as Robert F. Kennedy & Greta Gerwig as Nancy Tuckerman, are first-rate, yet again. And John Hurt as Father Richard McSorley, is remarkable in a cameo. Others lend good support.
On the whole, 'Jackie' is definitely a must see. It finds one of the most talented actresses of our times, at her finest hour. Go watch!
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Written and Directed by Kenneth Lonergan 'Manchester by the Sea' is the Saddest Film you'll see in a long time. Its such a sad story, that at times, I felt the film subtly celebrates melancholy. But, believe me, 'Manchester by the Sea' is so much more than that.
In this Astonishing Drama, Lonergan, with the help of a superlative Casey Affleck, creates a film about life & the tragedies people go through, despite their modest lives. Its a painful story, told with bittersweet humor & at the end, with warmth. I was overwhelmed.
'Manchester by the Sea' follows an uncle (Casey Affleck) who looks after his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the boy's father dies.
'Manchester by the Sea' is a triumph, due to its realistic treatment. You're transported into this bleak world of these unfortunate people, who are surrounded by loss & pain. Affleck's Lee Chandler, the protagonist, is a main driven by guilt & loss, who's trying to seek some redemption. His journey is wondrous. Just watching him deal with situations so undeniably difficult, is something to be watched. Lonergan keeps the narrative entirely engrossing & deserves additional brownie points for adding bittersweet humor in the goings-on, despite its shattered soul as a subject. Its a film about human beings & the consequences of life.
Lonergan's Screenplay is heartbreakingly beautiful. Lonergan delivers a story about immense pain & yet leaves you warm, by the end of it. And that's no small achievement. Lonergan's Direction, too, is top-class. He has handled this dramatic story, with exuberance. Cinematography, Editing & Art Design are perfect. Lesley Barber's Score is wonderful.
Performance-Wise: Casey Affleck delivers a superlative performance from start to end. As the grieving protagonist, Affleck portrays every possible emotion with such force, you'd be a fool to ignore him or not to be moved by him. Oscar calling? VERY LIKELY! Lucas Hedges is another topper. As Affleck's conflicted nephew, Hedges is first-rate & compliments Affleck at every point. The on-screen chemistry between Affleck & Hedges, appears eerily real. Michelle Williams is extraordinary as Affleck's traumatized wife. Despite limited screen-time, Williams is a scene-stealer! Kyle Chandler as Affleck's ill-fated brother, is in form as well. And even Matthew Broderick does a terrific job in a cameo. Others lend great support.
On the whole, 'Manchester by the Sea' is Masterful! Two Big Thumbs Up!
M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016)
Sushant Singh Rajput Delivers His Finest Performance in an Okay Biopic!
Sushant Singh Rajput's talent comes full circle with 'M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story'. As the cricket legend, Sushant gives his all in a performance, that comes across as an embodiment, rather than an impersonation.
'M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story' explores the life of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, right from his journey from being a ticket collector, to a trophy collector and the world-cup-winning captain of the Indian Cricket Team.
Director Neeraj Pandey chooses a worthy true-story as his latest project, but succeeds only partially. The film is too long at 3-hours & the Writing is never remarkable. Of course, Dhoni is a man made of pure merit, who's seen tremendous struggle, before emerging into a phenomenon. But, 'The Untold Story' has an average Screenplay, that arrests in parts.
Pandey & Dilip Jha's Screenplay is alright. Despite choosing to tell the story of a real-life euphoric figure, the Writing never soars. It works in parts & works best when it sees its protagonist off the pitch. Also, the Dialogue are surprisingly weak. Definitely, a much stronger Screenplay was the need of the day! Pandey's Direction is decent. Cinematography & Editing are fair. Music by Various Artists, is melodious.
Performance-Wise: Sushant is great, no two options on that! Of the rest of the cast, Anupam Kher is remarkable as Dhoni's father, delivering a genuinely heartfelt performance from start to end. Rajesh Sharma is wonderful as Banerji, who's the first to realize Dhoni's potential. Kumud Mishra excels as well. Bhumika Chawla as Dhoni's Sister is nice & its refreshing to see her on-screen after so long. Kiara Advani as Dhoni's Wife & Disha Patani as Dhoni's Girlfriend, are strictly okay.
On the whole, 'M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story' rests on Sushant Singh Rajput's genuine talent to sail through.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Mel Gibson Returns with A Masterpiece!
Mel Gibson is BACK. Yes, the Oscar-Winning Legend makes a thumping return as a Director after a 10-year hiatus with 'Hacksaw Ridge'. Gibson looms large on celluloid & gives Andrew Garfield a chance to prove his mighty talent.
'Hacksaw Ridge' captures the inspiring & heartbreaking World War II experiences of Desmond Doss, an American Pacificist combat medic who was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, who refused to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty.
Desmond Doss was a man of conviction & relentless humanity. He chose to save lives, rather than taking any. Set in a time when humanity was at its lowest (War is never a thing of pride for any of us), Doss's journey comes across so strong & faith based, it totally blew my mind.
'Hacksaw Ridge' is fabulously directed Gibson. He's in top-form & deserves complete credit for choosing to make a film upon a real-life hero. Gibson deserves an Oscar-Nomination & hopefully Hollywood will nominate him this year. Simon Duggan's Cinematography captures Doss's courageous journey & the brutality of war, expertly. John Gilbert's Editing is perfect. Art & Costume Design are good. War-Sequences are fantastically choreographed. Rupert Gregson-Williams' Score is brilliant.
Performance-Wise: Andrew Garfield is up for vie top-honors. As Desmmond Doss, Andrew is at his most sensitive & affecting. He lives the part of a true hero, with undeniable conviction & emerges a big winner. He's sensational & is sure to get his long-due Oscar Nomination for Best Actor! Vince Vaughn is a hoot as the Sergeant. Sam Worthington is in form after a long time. Luke Bracey is first-rate. Hugo Weaving is ever-impressive. Teresa Palmer & Rachel Griffiths are good. Others great support.
On the whole, 'Hacksaw Ridge' Is A Masterpiece! It salutes Desmond Doss's unforgettable life, in a film, that is inspiring & thoroughly arresting. Don't Miss It.