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7/10
A Strong Film About Love & Being Who You Are!
11 December 2017
'Call Me by Your Name' is a film about LOVE. Its also a film about being who you are. And Writer James Ivory & Director Luca Guadagnino bring us a tale on young romance & living life, with honesty & the emotional impact akin to a sledgehammer. And Timothée Chalamet is the find of the year.

'Call Me by Your Name' Synopsis: In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet), begins a relationship with visiting Oliver (Armie Hammer) , his father's research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.

We've seen love-stories before on Gay people, but not all leave the impact like 'Call Me by Your Name' does. This is an honest love-story about a boy and a man, who can't help but fall in love with each other, despite never coming to the world of their sexuality. And the way Director Luca Guadagnino has shot its leading lovers, is something to watch. There is genuine heartache in its characters & also undeniable love. This is a love-story, that's sad but also heartfelt at times. James Ivory's Screenplay is expertly written, offering a story on love & longing, without ever indulging into melodrama. Luca Guadagnino's Direction is simplistic, but extremely effective. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom's Cinematography captures the passion of its leading lovers, with gusto. Walter Fasano's Editing is mostly crisp. Art & Costume Design merit a special mention. Sufjan Stevens's Score is superb.

Performance-Wise: Timothée Chalamet is truly the find of the year. The youngster delivers a searingly beautiful performance of a young man who comes to realize his sexuality to a much older man. Chalamet brings nuance & innocence to the part & stands out from start to finish. He's truly one actor who deserves strong Oscar buzz for his excellent work here. Armie Hammer also does his best work here. He and Chalamet share a infectious on- screen chemistry, that appears real & affecting. The Wonderful Michael Stuhlbarg is masterful as Chalamet's dad, who understands his son beyond his silences. Watch him in the penultimate moments & you'll know his caliber as a performer. Amira Casar as Chalamet's mom, also is lovely. Esther Garrel as Chalamet's girl, with whom he experiences sexual episodes, is fantastic.

On the whole, 'Call Me by Your Name' leaves a strong impression. Make time for it.
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I, Tonya (2017)
6/10
Allison Janney Steals The Show In This Wild Biopic!
11 December 2017
Before I give my thoughts on 'I, Tonya', let me just say two words: Allison Janney. The Multiple Time Emmy-Winning Actress delivers one of the STRONGEST Performances of the year, in her portrayal of LaVona Fay Golden, Tonya Harding's Mother from hell. Janney is pure Oscar-GOLD.

And now coming to the film...

'I, Tonya' like any other sports Biopic, shows us a woman from being a bullied nobody to becoming a somebody in the world of sports. Over-here, we explore Tonya Harding's hardened journey, that is at times powerful & at times exhausting.

'I, Tonya' Synopsis: Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie, in great form) rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband (Sebastian Stan, very good) intervenes.

'I, Tonya' is about Tonya's violent journey, that started from an impossible, no-holds-barred mother to a violent, brutal husband, who eventually ruined her career. But, Tonya is not a victim of her circumstances. Here is a woman, who despite being thrown into a world of ice-skating & rigorous competition, left a strong mark. She may have not done the right things to get to the position she got, but she was a talented personality who had the power to mesmerize & inspire.

Steven Rogers' Screenplay begins superbly & the personal interviews of its characters throughout the film, give it that extra edge. The first-hour is solid & gets into Tonya's world & the people involved with a wicked sense of humor. The second-hour is a little disappointing & overlong, and the sub-plot involving the 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan, Harding's rival and Olympic teammate, offers less impact. The Writing isn't always compelling & takes away some glory from the film, overall. The Dialogue, however, are crackling & foul to the core.

Craig Gillespie's Direction captures all the madness & ambition, with skill. The Director is in good form this time around. Nicolas Karakatsanis's Cinematography & Tatiana S. Riegel's Editing are strongly done. Art & Costume Design, as well as Make-Up, deserve a special mention.

Performance-Wise: Janney is outstanding & is sure to pick up many awards for her portrayal here. I wouldn't be surprised if she takes the Oscar home, next year! Margot Robbie, also is in very form, delivering a credible turn as Tonya. Sebastian Stan is entirely convincing as the violent husband. And Paul Walter Hauser is terrific as Shawn, one of Stan's friends, who leads Tonya & Stan, into much trouble.

On the whole, 'I, Tonya' is an imperfect biopic about an imperfect woman. Do watch it though, especially for Janney's sterling performance.
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6/10
Sally Hawkins engrosses in del Toro's Ambitious yet Predictable Fantasy Drama!
11 December 2017
Guillermo del Toro's 'The Shape of Water' is visually dazzling & impeccably acted by Sally Hawkins. And sadly enough, its also predictable. While there is much to admire here, especially its technical aspects, its also a bit underwhelming how one can predict the entire film ahead. But del Toro is in form here and that enough makes up for its flaws.

'The Shape of Water' synopsis: In a 1960s research facility, a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) forms a relationship with an aquatic creature (Doug Jones).

'The Shape of Water' is del Toro's love letter to cinema, as he said, so there is a beautiful Broadway dance here, along-with a love-story that tugs your heartstrings. There is genuine romance here between the mute woman & the aquatic creature. del Toro makes sure he keeps the narrative like a fantasy & the beauty remains intact in its characters & in the water.

On the downside, is a tiresomely one-note villain, played by Michael Shannon, the wicked Colonel who tortures the Creature, even after he gets two of his fingers ripped apart. The antagonist is predictably a racist & misogynist, who only lives by orders & has no heart to speak of. del Toro tries to make Shannon's bad-guy human, but he barely remains anything but a regular villain in a film where you're suppose to be on the creature's side. And it doesn't help that Shannon, an otherwise brilliant actor, goes over-the-top.

Another minus in this beautiful looking motion-picture, is the predictable story-line. You know where this is headed right from the word GO. And while some of it is genuinely interesting & offers heart, there is no denying its clichéd form. And the strong violence puts you off after a point.

And despite the minuses that cannot be overlooked, the pluses still remain unmistakably powerful. del Toro's Direction is dreamlike & takes us into its world of picturesque beauty & gruesome violence. del Toro is in his element here & proves once again that he's among the most passionate filmmakers of our times, despite none of his films being perfect.

Dan Laustse's Magnificent Cinematography, Alexandre Desplat's enchanting Score, Sidney Wolinsky's nicely done Editing, along-with extraordinary work on the Art & Costume Design, only add to the narrative's merits.

Performance-Wise: Sally Hawkins is engrossing in her portrayal of the mute protagonist, who falls in love with a creature. Hawkins is pure heart & soul, fleshed out in a sublime performance. Hawkins leads 'The Shape of Water' with her astounding performance. Expect strong Oscar chase! Of the rest of the cast, Doug Jones does a splendid job as the creature. Richard Jenkins as Hawkins' neighbor, as always, is perfect. Octavia Spencer raises the best laughs as Hawkins' co-worker & friend, while Michael Stuhlbarg excels as a doctor who believes in freeing the creature from the sadists around him.

On the whole, 'The Shape of Water' isn't perfect, but there's no denying its beauty or its strong leading woman.
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9/10
A Knockout!
8 December 2017
Written, Produced & Directed by Martin McDonagh, 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri', is a film so dark & timely, that it makes you laugh till it hurts. This riveting tale on anger & grief, is told with command & power. And the Performances are Incredible!

'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Synopsis: A mother (A Firebrand Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' is the kind of film, that uses anger as its energy & rage as its heart. Watching McDormand, the grieving & raging protagonist, challenge the local authorities & await the culprit behind her daughter's brutal death, is a mix of delicious dark humor & racial violence.

So while you have McDormand as the bad-ass, there is also a strong supporting role, played by a wild Sam Rockwell. As the hillbilly cop, Rockwell is tempered, foul-mouthed, violent & unforgiving. He's the cop you wouldn't want to come across if you ever happen to be in Missouri. And that's exactly what makes 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' such a delightful mix of contrasting rage. Its the same emotion that the characters go through here, with the only difference being how they go about it. While the cop uses his hands and legs to break bones, the protagonist adds toughness to herself by putting up Billboards. As I mentioned earlier before, here's a film that uses anger as its energy & rage as its beating heart!

McDonagh's Screenplay is top-notch. Its no-holds-barred & a depiction of an America, we don't usually explore in movies. Its power-packed stuff, with some delicious, unexpected twists & turns. McDonagh's Direction is brilliant, too. McDonagh has handled this dark-comedy/crime-drama with precision. Oscar Glory, seems possible! Cinematography, Editing & Art Design, merit a special mention. Carter Burwell's Score is soothing, as always. Costume Design & Make-Up are well-done, as well.

And now to the performances! Frances McDormand is simply superb! As the grieving & raging protagonist, McDormand expresses rage, helplessness & courage, with magnificence. Its a sheer pleasure to watch McDormand take on the local tough boys & scream her rage with the Billboards. This is her finest performances in years.

Also in terrific form is Woody Harrelson, as the cop who McDormand throws her righteous rage at. Harrelson's sheriff is a soft man, who understands the wrath of a grieving mother as well as accept his inability to catch the culprit. He also has a nice sub-plot with his family, with whom he shares his emotional connect. Harrelson delivers a restrained, controlled performance, proving us once again that he's versatile performer.

Sam Rockwell plays it crazy & has a blast! His turn as the racially aggressive cop is hard to beat. Rockwell attacks the role full throttle. As Rockwell's outrageous mother, Sandy Martin is a hoot. Her performance comes close to stealing the entire film. Please give her some attention this awards season!

Of the rest of the cast, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage & Lucas Hedges stand out with impressive supporting turns.

On the whole, 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' is a knockout! This is one of the best American films of the year! Don't Miss It.
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9/10
James Franco SOARS as Tommy Wiseau in this Hilarious & Affecting Comedy!
5 December 2017
Tommy Wiseau's 2003 cult film 'The Room' is widely considered to be the worst film of all-time by too many, although I accept I haven't dared to watch the film yet. I did see the trailer though in anticipation for 'The Disaster Artist'. And oh boy, the trailer itself made it clear to me how big a dud it is.

But Director-Producer-Actor James Franco takes inspiration from that super-dud movie & turns it into a behind-the-scenes look at 'The Room', and delivers his best film to date. Franco goes all-out in his portrayal of Wiseau, pitching in one of the year's best performances, that redefines comedic idiocracy to an all new level. Franco is a force of nature & portrays a terrible actor, with terrific timing. 'The Disaster Artist' is all kinds of amusing & ridiculous, but its never out of heart or genuine feeling. I LOVED IT!

'The Disaster Artist' Synopsis: When Greg Sestero (Dave Franco, in good from), an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.

'The Disaster Artist', above all, is a story about dreams & ambition. Wiseau may never become the artist he thought he'd become, but he did make a movie & gained a cult-following, even if it was for all the wrong reasons. 'The Disaster Artist' explores Wiseau's unrealistically abysmal vision & what went behind the making of his dream project 'The Room', and turns it into an unexpected story on living your dream. Franco keeps the proceedings hilariously over-the-top & captures Wiseau's absurdity with the perfect blend of madness & ambition. With several laugh-out-loud moments & a few really affecting ones, Franco churns out 'The Disaster Artist' with astonishing success.

Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber's Screenplay, which is based on the non-fiction book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell, is splendid. The humorous tone is fabulously maintained & the sequences that follow one after the other, deliver big laughs, but its the relationship between Wiseau & Sestero, that is the emotional core of the film. Watching two men, one way crazier than the other, chase their dreams & believing in each other despite facing repeated rejection, is heartfelt & relatable. Franco's Direction is excellent. He's handled this comedy proficiently. Cinematography, Editing, Art & Costume Design deserve a special mention. Make-Up, also, is very well-done.

Performance-Wise: Franco's turn as Wiseau, is a Tour-De-Force. Right from his accent (which Wiseau proclaims to be from New Orleans, but sounds nothing like it), to the restlessness in his body-language, to delivering the worst performance as "Johnny" in 'The Room', Franco SOARS. This is his finest performance to date, that truly deserves Oscar-Attention. Go, get it Franco! Of the rest of the cast, Dave Franco does a good job as Sestero. Alison Brie is extremely charming as Sestero's girlfriend. Seth Rogen as the script supervisor is first-rate. Josh Hutcherson, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron & June Diane Raphael, all who appear as actors in 'The Room', are hilarious to watch. Sharon Stone & Melanie Griffith appear in fun cameos.

On the whole, 'The Disaster Artist' is anything but a disaster. This Comedy based on the Worst Film, is actually among 2017's best films! Don't Miss It.

And...Oh, Haai, Mark!
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3/10
Injustice.
18 November 2017
'Justice League' is the kind of a disappointment that hurts your gut. No jokes here, but this much-hyped Superhero Spectale lacks fizz. What's surprising is that this is an even weaker film to DC's very own & forgettable Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

'Justice League' Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater threat.

The fundamental problem with 'Justice League' is it's poorly written Screenplay. While the first-hour is all about forming the league, with their back stories, the second-hour is an action mayhem. And very sadly enough, none of it really works. Barring a few funny one-liners & a set of spirited actors, there is nothing that stands out here. And Steppenwolf has to be THE weakest DC villain in a long time! So it's the Writing, that's clearly the culprit here!

Zack Synder's Direction underwhelms. Cinematography is of standard quality. Editing lacks sharpness. Art & Costime Design are brilliantly done. Action-Sequences are decent. Graphics are surprisingly tacky. The Score is alright.

Performance-Wise: Ben Affleck continues to be a tough Batman & impresses, but it's sad that his version of Batman is so underwritten. Gal Gadot is a firecracker as Wonder Woman. She looks absolutely ravishing too! Ezra Miller shines as The Flash, delivering a sporty performance. Jason Momoa too makes a mark as Aquaman. Ray Fisher as Cyborg is alright. Others lend ordinary support.

On the whole, 'Justice League' is a poor show. A major disappointment!
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7/10
A Pleasant Surprise!
12 November 2017
Tanuja Chandra returns to fine form with 'Qarib Qarib Singlle', her latest directorial effort. A charming & delightful Romantic-Comedy, that works on the idea of "opposites attract". Made with honesty & humor, the film also benefits from its leading-actors, of whom both, deliver wonderfully.

'Qarib Qarib Singlle' Synopsis: Yogi and Parvathy (Irrfan & Parvathy), who have polar opposite personalities and sensibilities, meet via a online dating app. This encounter turns into much more and the both end up going on a journey around India, where Yogi decides to reconnect with his ex-girlfriends.

'Qarib Qarib Singlle' is about exploring the person you like, whom you hope to end up in love with. Tanuja Chandra brings in much humor in the romance, with Irrfan's Yogi being a complete hoot. Parvarthy, on the other-hand, a widow, is subdued & restrained, a complete contrast to the easy-going, food-loving Yogi. The contrasting personalities of its leading-characters is what makes 'Qarib Qarib Singlle' work so well. Their conversations are never on the same page, their lifestyles are different & so is their approach to life, and yet they connect. Offering heart & soul, Yogi & Parvathy's journey turns out to be memorable.

Tanuja Chandra is in form this time, no doubts on that! She has handled this film with ease. The Screenplay, though not perfect, is well-done, offering some great humorous moments almost throughout as well as offering soul. Cinematography captures the picturesque beauty of India to perfection. Editing is crisp. Art & Costume Design are perfect. Music by Various Artists is good.

Performance-Wise: Irrfan & Parvarthy are a joy to watch. The ever-terrific Irrfan pitches in a comedic, relaxed performance, portraying Yogi to great effect. Parvarthy exudes genuine charm & warmth as Jaya. Also, Irrfan & Parvarthy share an excellent on-screen chemistry from start to end. Of the supporting cast, the Underrated Neha Dhupia & the Magnificent Brijendra Kala leave a mark.

On the whole, 'Qarib Qarib Singlle' is a fun watch. Go and enjoy!
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Geu-hu (2017)
5/10
MAMI Film Fest Review. The Day After.
25 October 2017
'The Day After' (Hangul: 그 후; RR: Geu-hu), is a partly interesting spaghetti of infidelity & romance. Written, Produced & Directed by Hong Sang-soo, 'The Day After' has some really arresting moments & a first-rate cast, but unfortunately, there isn't much in the film stands out.

'The Day After' Synopsis: The married Bongwan leaves home in the dark morning and sets off to work. The memories of the woman who left weigh down on him. That day Bongwan's wife finds a love note, bursts into the office, and mistakes Areum for the woman who left.

'The Day After' has amusing characters who cross paths, some by coincidence & some by circumstances. And some of the banter between the characters is fun & some really long scenes (done in a single take) hold your attention. But, overall. the film doesn't really leave an impression and thats mainly because the film doesn't leave you with anything. Its pretty decent till you watch it, but nothing about it really stands out. Its at best a watchable film, with some enjoyable moments.

Hong Sang-soo's Screenplay raises some genuine laughs & has some crackling dialogue too, but isn't strong enough to be called memorable. Hong Sang-soo's Direction is mature. He's handled a couple of sequences well. Cinematography & Editing are finely done.

Performance-Wise: Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-hee, Kim Sae-byeok & Jo Yoon-hee, all are top-notch.

On the whole, 'The Day After' is a passable fare.
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6/10
Rajkummar Rao Steals The Show In This Sweet But Predictable Rom-Com!
25 October 2017
'Bareilly Ki Barfi', a recent box-office hit, is a predictable yet ultimately sweet film. With an interesting premise, that only takes off after 45-minutes, the film is nevertheless thoroughly watchable & Rajkummar Rao proves to a complete showstopper, yet again!

'Bareilly Ki Barfi' Synopsis: , Bitti (Kirti Sanon) is a free- spirited young girl who lives life on her own terms and refuses to be pressured into getting married. Her life takes a shift when stumbles upon a book which she believes is based upon her & meets Chirag Dubey (Aayushmann Khurrana) and Pritam Vidrohi (A Scene-Stealing Rajkummar Rao), both having a strong hand in the book that got Bitti's attention.

'Bareilly Ki Barfi' has a flat start & the building relationship of Bitti & Chirag, has nothing new to offer. Luckily enough, the entry of Pritam Vidrohi drastically changes the momentum to a high & takes the story ahead with interesting twists & turns. The different dynamics of its 3 main characters is interesting & their diverse nature works for the film. And even though the film is a tad predictable, it still has a sweetness to it (just like a Barfi does), to sail it through.

Nitesh Tiwari, Shreyas Jain & Rajat Nonia's Screenplay begins on a dull note, but has enough moments in store later, to cover up for its initial flaws. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari's Direction is simplistic, but effective. Cinematography is good. Editing could've been crisper. Art & Costume Design are finely done. Music by Various Artists is melodious.

Performance-Wise: There's no stopping Rajkummar Rao, is there! His transformation from a tepid bullied guy to thug-talking fellow, who eventually stands up for himself, is the film's strongest point. Rao is a riot & shows his range as a performer, yet again. He steals the show & walks away with the film's best moments. And its a pity that nor Aayushmann or Kirti can match up-to Rao at any time. Although Aayushmann has a meaty role, his performance is routine, its like watching Aayushmann replicate an older act of his & repeating it here. Sanon looks lovely & gets a role to flex her acting talent, but she registers an impact only in parts. Of the supporting cast, Pankaj Tripathi & Seema Pahwa are endearing as Bitti's parents. Swati Semwal, too, leaves a mark as Bitti's best friend. Javed Akhtar's voice-over/narration, which goes on for a large chunk of the film, is overstuffed.

On the whole, 'Bareilly Ki Barfi' offers a good time, despite some flaws. A good Sunday afternoon watch.
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Club 60 (2013)
6/10
Excellent Performances Lead This Affecting Drama!
25 October 2017
'Club 60' is an honest & affecting drama, about grief & the battles life puts us all in. Sanjay Tripathy directs this underrated film earnestly & gets a top-notch cast, who deliver strongly.

'Club 60' Synopsis: After the untimely death of their only son Iqbal, Neurosurgeon, Dr Tariq Sheikh (Farooq Sheikh) and his wife Dr Saira (Sarika) are unable to put the pieces of their broken life together. Tariq suffers from depression, while Saira struggles to cope with her husband's suicidal tendencies. In an attempt to make a fresh start in life and to get rid of the nothingness' that haunts them, they shift to Mumbai from Pune. More than the city's distractions, it's their loud neighbor Manubhai (Raghubir Yadav), who manages to kill the deafening silence that plagues them with his somewhat annoying yet adorable antics. Manubhai introduces Tariq to the jovial members of Club 60 - where live begins at 60.

'Club 60' mirrors life with honesty. Its a sad story, yet it never forgets to be uplifting by the time the film ends. Its an affecting story about people dealing with the circumstances of life & how sometimes grief can never leave you alone. This isn't a perfect film by any shot, but it at least it tells its story with heart & soul. The Screenplay is Written with heart, although its sluggish in parts. Sanjay Tripathy's Direction is commendable.

Performance-Wise: The joy of watching The Late/Great Farooq Sheikh is immeasurable. The legendary actor delivers a fabulous performance from start to end, without missing a single beat. Sarika supports Sheikh wonderfully. Raghubir Yadav is bit too loud, but that's the demand of his character. Sharat Saxena, Satish Shah & Tinnu Anand are fantastic, as always. Vineet Kumar is decent. Suhasini Mulay is in fine form, as usual. Others lend good support.

On the whole, 'Club 60' deserves a watch. Its an honest film with first-rate performances.
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