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Everything Is Still Awesome, Sort Of.
9 June 2019
Lacking the freshness of the original yet brimming with enough wit, charm & energy to qualify as a worthy instalment, the direct sequel to The Lego Movie doesn't break any new grounds the way its predecessor did but there are few things about it that's still awesome.

Set 5 years after the events of the first film, The Lego Movie 2 follows Emmet as he heads out on a solo mission to save his friends after they are taken captive by Lego Duplo invaders from outer space, and learns about an impending doom that awaits their universe if he fails.

Directed by Mike Mitchell, The Second Part does contain all the elements that made its predecessor such a refreshing delight but unlike the original, it doesn't have that surprise factor working in its favour. It still comes jam-packed with references, gags & a couple catchy songs yet the combination of it all isn't as seamless as before.

The animation retains the building block quality, the voice work is brilliant yet again, the live-action footage is more prevalent this time, and the message is thoughtful & addressed with care. Pacing is swift and the plot manages to keep the interest alive till the end. But the 5-year gap plus slight fatigue from spin-off chapters is somewhat evident here.

On an overall scale, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is sincere in its approach and is a perfectly well made sequel that does all the things it's supposed to do but it still lacks the original's flair & reviving quality. Nevertheless, it's got heart, it's true to its origins, and it does a pretty neat job at delivering a fun-filled ride that will please most if not all.
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Another Violent, Pulpy & Winning Effort From S. Craig Zahler
7 June 2019
From the writer-director of Bone Tomahawk & Brawl in Cell Block 99 comes yet another gritty, brutish & no-nonsense story that wields a heavy cast-iron punch but unlike his aforementioned films, it fails to leave an indelible mark of its own. Despite its daunting runtime, Dragged Across Concrete is consistently thrilling & engaging but it is still S. Craig Zahler's weakest.

The story concerns two cops who are suspended after their rough treatment of a suspect is caught on camera by the media. Off-duty, low on cash & left with little to no options, the two decide to delve into the criminal underworld to make some quick cash and get their proper compensation but stumble upon much more than what they signed up for while lurking in the shadows.

Written & directed by S. Craig Zahler, Dragged Across Concrete takes ample time to set up its premise and remains a gripping affair for the most part. It is slow but steadily paced and always on the move plus its 159 mins runtime rarely becomes an issue. However, there are a few character threads & subplots the film could've done without to trim the plot into a more tightly-knitted structure.

Zahler's direction is better than his script here and his raw treatment & no-holds-barred approach makes it an interesting sit. The foreboding tone is palpable, the violence is disturbing & the grim tone suits the plot. But the real highlight are the performances, especially from Mel Gibson & Vince Vaughn who are solid as a duo & excellent individually as well. Equally notable is Tony Kittles who chips in with a strong input of his own.

On an overall scale, Dragged Across Concrete may not be as impressive as Zahler's first two directorial efforts but it is definitely a worthy addition to his résumé that does what it set out to do. A slow-burning crime thriller that rewards the viewers' patience with an unsparing & unforgiving finale, there isn't much wrong with how the events in this film play out but a few extra trims would've helped improve the overall quality by a significant margin. Obviously recommended.
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As Loud & Epic As It Is Silly & Stupid
7 June 2019
Godzilla: King of the Monsters does deliver on the promise of taking the gloves off and not holding back when it comes to monster mayhem but the plot & characters remain as paper-thin & undercooked as before, thus resulting in moments that can only be described as facepalm-inducing. While there is no denying that this sequel is bigger than Gareth Edwards' film, whether it's better or not is one hotly debatable topic.

The tweaks in Godzilla's design is a welcome aspect, plus the new kaijus to inhabit the MonsterVerse are expertly designed, detailed & rendered but the same level of commitment is missing when it comes to human counterparts, for all of them are instantly forgettable. VFX team does all it can to give this picture the level of grandeur it aspires for but shortcomings in the storytelling department prevents it from soaring to new heights.

Michael Dougherty certainly removes the shackles and gives these larger-than-life Titans their fair share of screen time. Mothra, Rodan & Ghidorah are all impressive to look at and the three-headed monster even lives up to the hype for the most part. But no amount of fleeting imagery & CGI spectacle can make up for what it lacks in the narrative section. King of the Monsters is loud, epic & visually imposing but it is also silly, stupid & hollow from within. And it lets the viewers decide for themselves which side they are going to settle for & embrace.
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Booksmart (2019)
A Spectacular Start To Olivia Wilde's Directorial Endeavours
5 June 2019
As fun, lively & gleeful as any unsupervised house party, Olivia Wilde's directorial debut is an enjoyable, exuberant & energetic coming-of-age comedy that's crafted with passion, brims with heart, radiates nothing but joy, and effortlessly delivers a lighthearted ride that's endlessly amusing from beginning to end.

Capturing the last high of high-school life with a heartfelt dose of genuine warmth & deft touch of surprising intimacy, Booksmart is smart, funny, colourful in all the right ways and is bolstered by spot-on chemistry between its leading ladies, in addition to Wilde's excellent direction, thus commencing her filmmaking journey on a promising note.
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Jaw-Dropped! Breath-Taken! Mind-Blown!
19 May 2019
I couldn't help but be in complete awe of this masterly orchestrated dance of death that went on for 131 minutes with ruthless intensity. And though my cheeks hurt due to grinning from start to finish, I'm definitely not complaining because it was totally worth it. What Keanu Reeves & Chad Stahelski have managed to pull off for the third time in a row is a rare cinematic feat that cements the John Wick saga as the new benchmark for action filmmaking.

A vicious, violent & vengeful delight that presents Death's very emissary in full annihilation mode as he employs books, knives, guns & swords to smash, stab, shoot & slice his way through an endless horde of assassins, Parabellum is another stylishly filmed, furiously paced & relentlessly savage instalment that features some of the finest action set pieces & extraordinary stunt choreography ever committed on film to deliver yet another high-octane, full-throttled & adrenaline-fuelled action masterpiece.

A powerful, potent & polished blend of kinetic direction, meticulous production design, astounding camerawork, smart editing, stupefying action & splendid score that's spearheaded by Keanu Reeves' swashbuckling performance & is all the more uplifted by excellent support from the rest, Chapter 3 is a slick, sharp & sophisticated sequel that takes the action elements of its predecessors and kicks them up a notch to finish as one of the best offerings of its genre.
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It's Not The Size Of The Dog In The Fight, It's The Size Of The Fight In The Dog.
4 May 2019
Any movie that opens with The Rock's entrance music is worthy of my attention. The Attitude Era remains the single greatest era in WWE history. The remarkable talents the industry had on the roster back then and the no-holds-barred feuds & storylines that unfolded week after week really made those who witnessed it the blessed generation.

I started watching WWE (back then it was WWF) around 1997, when Attitude Era actually began but left after the Ruthless Aggression Era gave way to the PG one, returning to it only once a year for WrestleMania ever since. So I have no idea who Paige is, what made her stand out so much that they made a movie about her life.

On the latest roster, the only one who caught my eye is Becky Lynch, only coz her charisma, flair & in-ring theatrics transcended the arena. There is no denying that women's wrestling has improved exponentially in the past few years and it seems it all started after the arrival of Paige. But this film works just as well if you don't know enough about her, or even WWE.

Fighting with My Family chronicles the life & career of professional wrestler Paige who grew up in a wrestling fanatic family in Norwich, England that's fully devoted to sports entertainment business. The plot covers her journey from being selected for tryouts to moving to America where she trains & learns the skills of the trade, and culminates with her historic debut on Monday Night Raw.

Directed by Stephen Merchant, the film is one hilarious ride but it also packs a lot of heart. The family may seem idiosyncratic but their bonding with each other has a genuine vibe to it. Add to that, it does a neat job of depicting the rite of passage every aspiring wrestler has to go through and shows that just like any other sport, it requires nothing less than blood, toil, tears & sweat to make it to the big stage.

While the film captures how being selected for WWE can be life-changing, it also glances at the other side where the life of the rejects becomes a downward spiral, and it illustrates so by focusing on the friction between Paige & her brother after the latter is not chosen despite being more passionate about the sport. It doesn't come off as cheap, and the actors sell the animosity just as good as wrestlers sell their moves in the ring.

Florence Pugh plays the role of Saraya "Paige" Knight and delivers an outstanding performance by aptly articulating her emotions. Jack Lowden is in as her brother and shows his downward journey with a balanced input. Nick Frost & Lena Headey portray Paige's parents and appear to be thoroughly enjoying their roles. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson gets back into his old skin with ease. And Vince Vaughn chips in with solid work in the role of a WWE trainer.

On an overall scale, Fighting with My Family is a finely crafted, properly narrated & wonderfully performed sports comedy that's amusing, entertaining & moving in sufficient doses. Delivering the goods with plenty of heart, it may be nostalgic to some & inspiring to others but it is by all means a welcome & heartfelt tribute to all the wrestlers who continue to put their bodies on line week after week just for the sake of entertaining us. A time well-spent, Fighting with My Family is worth a shot.
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Nothing Wicked, Shocking, Evil Or Vile About It
4 May 2019
Contrary to the brooding title, there is nothing even remotely wicked, shocking, evil or vile about Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. While the film certainly benefits from Zac Efron's chilling yet charismatic rendition of the most notorious serial killer to have ever lived, the story as a whole is rather stale, generic & underwhelming that fails to live up to its name and is unable to dig its fangs deeper than the surface to truly engage, unnerve & alarm us.

Check out Netflix's 4-episode documentary "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes" instead.
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A Fitting Conclusion To DreamWorks Animation's Finest Saga
3 May 2019
The third & final instalment in the How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy is an impressive conclusion to the finest saga in DreamWorks Animation canon to date. A delightfully amusing & consistently engaging sequel that brims with genuine warmth & eye-popping wonder, and is surprisingly effective in emotional depth & resonance, The Hidden World may not be the best of the three but it definitely concludes the trilogy on a fitting & satisfying note.
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Glass (2019)
Much Better Than What The Critics Are Designating It To Be
2 May 2019
The third & final instalment in the most unique, unexpected & unlikely of all franchises, Glass concludes M. Night Shyamalan's Eastrail 177 Trilogy that began at the turn of the new millennium with Unbreakable and was turned into a saga by a stealth sequel back in 2017. And though there are a few shortcomings & mishaps along the road, the film as a whole is way better, gripping & more interesting than what the general consensus is designating it to be.

Shyamalan's approach here is different from the norm, for he is patient with the plotting, allows sufficient space for characters to breathe, keeps things grounded & rooted in reality as was the case in previous entries, and makes sure the whole affair stays captivating for the most part before losing his grip in the final act that nearly brings the whole picture down. Still, the film stays true to its origins while the inspired use of colour palette & committed performances from the cast help lift the narrative a bit.

Not quite the grand finale we were hoping for, Glass still does a lot many things right over the course of its runtime, not to mention that a few creative decisions that go into it do make sense in retrospect. While some of the richness of the material is lost in translation from script to screen, M. Night Shyamalan does manage to conclude his trilogy on his terms and just the way he intended. The execution may not be flawless, plus there are bits I wish he'd done differently but for what it's worth, this competently crafted finale is all set to garner a strong cult following in the coming years. So do yourself a favour and give it a shot.
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A Grand Celebration Of An Epic Journey That Concludes On A Memorable High
26 April 2019
A crescendo, a celebration, a closure & a culmination of 11 years of investment into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Endgame is everything that fans could have asked for, and then some. One of its taglines says, "Nothing can prepare you for the end". And it's true. Oh it's damn true.

A marvellously epic extravaganza that aptly concludes a decade's worth of narrative & world building with a thumping & triumphant finale that amuses, entertains, dazzles & rewards us all with an ending that isn't just fitting & fulfilling but also feels so right that it won't even matter now if the studio suddenly decides to push the stop button and stops making anymore of these.

There's enough fan service in here without suffocating the narrative and there are callbacks to previous entries in ways that are vital to its own plot, not to mention that the entire third act in itself is nothing short of an absolute marvel of blockbuster filmmaking that brings the whole journey both the viewers & these characters embarked on to full circle.

More than living up to its hype and delivering an emotional payoff that's going to be immensely satisfying for most if not all, Avengers: Endgame is the perfect grand finale to a 22-film saga and an ideal conclusion of an unprecedented cinematic universe that won't soon, if ever, find an equal. In short, Marvel Studios' magnum opus truly marks the end of an era! And what an era it was! Thank you for the roller-coaster ride!
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Us (2019)
Do It Once, It's A Fluke. Do It Twice, And It's Something Else.
5 April 2019
Now here's a filmmaker who's thinking out of the box, doing things that no one else is doing, experimenting with ideas in ways no one else is even imagining, and thus changing the genre landscape with one film at a time. Although not as seamless in its execution of all the ideas as Get Out was, Jordan Peels's sophomore feature is still noteworthy for its originality, ambition & audacity. Also, it's remarkable how every single element fits in retrospect once you start connecting the dots.
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What Would Fred Rogers Do?
3 April 2019
There is such an assured comfort in Fred Rogers' voice that despite having never seen a single episode of his TV series, I was thoroughly mesmerised by everything he had to say, the way he carried himself in life, the philosophies that guided every single one of his actions, and how caring, warm-hearted & genuinely open he was to everyone around him.

Through the life & legacy of this television pioneer, Won't You Be My Neighbor? digs into the core principles & values that make us human and showcases the beauty of being kind, compassionate & understanding to one another, to truly love & support your neighbours like your own family, and to always root for things that bring us together, not drive us apart.

And in today's time, where people are relatively quick to judge someone, are looking for excuses to cancel everyone, and seem to be offended at anything & everything, this documentary becomes all the more welcome, important & essential viewing.
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Triple Threat (2019)
So Much Wasted Potential
22 March 2019
A bunch of beefy, gun-friendly American ex-militia getting their asses kicked by a trio of small & skinny Asian martial artists who emasculate the hell out of those gringos with their bare hands? Triple Threat is the most realistic action film ever made!

Alas, it would've helped to have a gripping plot and a level of action that actually made the most of remarkable talents it had in Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais & Tiger Chen. Terrible dialogues. Paper-thin premise. Underwhelming finale. So much potential wasted. Fails to live up to the hype.
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An Honest, Intimate, Heartfelt, Poignant & Self-Reflexive Essay
20 March 2019
A fascinating insight into the lives of three friends bonded by their mutual love & passion for skateboarding, Minding the Gap is an awe-inspiring coming-of-age story, a delicately layered social commentary, and an honest, gripping & unrelenting piece of documentary filmmaking; all rolled into one amusing, stirring & emotionally resonant essay.

A passion project that's 12 years in the making, the film explores race, class, friendship, manhood & domestic trauma with its self-reflective narrative, and also marks an impressive debut for director Bing Liu who puts together vignettes of his own life & that of his friends into a poignant portrait that's crafted with genuine care, told with heartfelt intimacy & exhibits a surprising depth in its rendition.
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Strong Hero. Weak Film.
16 March 2019
The 21st instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the penultimate feature in their Phase 3 plan, and the final stop on the road to Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel welcomes another superhero into its family and applies the same formula that Marvel Studios has relied on to manufacture their episodic products but their latest is also their weakest film in years that never truly realises its full potential.

Set during the mid-1990s, the story follows Carol Danvers who has extraordinary powers at her disposal but no recollection of who she is or where she comes from. But when she crash-lands on Earth after a recent mishap, she begins tracing her step towards her origins in order to unravel her identity, is assisted by a low-level bureaucrat working for an espionage agency, and discovers a secret that unlocks her full potential.

Written & directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, the first act of Captain Marvel is a mess that tries to acquaint the viewers with its own world yet hurries through it in a way that leaves the audience confused. The story begins to take some shape once the plot moves to Earth but other than the back-n-forth banter between its primary characters, there isn't really anything that's appealing or refreshing about it.

That montage of snippets from Carol Danvers' past in which she is told by others that she can't do anything, she is no good, she is weak, she doesn't belong & she will never make it will reverberate with many, and it is a welcome element in the picture. But instead of digging deeper into this aspect, the filmmakers head for a rather simplistic approach and narrate the story with half-hearted zealousness.

The action segments are seldom impressive, storytelling is very basic, predictable & bereft of surprises, and some key moments are executed in a rather lacklustre fashion. Editing paces the plot inconsistently, fails to provide a rigid structure to it & splices together action scenes so monotonously that they are missing the sense of wonder, excitement. The score is fine but only a few incorporated songs work in its favour.

Coming to the performances, Captain Marvel packs a talented cast in Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening & Jude Law. Larson embraces the eponymous role yet it is her fine rapport with Jackson that stands out more than her individual input. But it's Mendelsohn who impresses the most, delivering a compelling performance that only keeps getting better as plot progresses.

On an overall scale, Captain Marvel is enjoyable to an extent, packs few amusing moments, and features a marvellous superheroine. Like Carol Danvers, this film had limitless potential. But unlike her, the filmmakers fail to tap into that element and possibly weren't even aware of what was up for grabs here. Generic, mundane & underwhelming, Captain Marvel isn't the film that the most powerful superhero in Marvel faction deserves, and is no match to the studio's finest efforts.
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Ambitious Story. Uneven Execution. Terrible Characterisation.
15 March 2019
A grim & gritty action heist thriller that follows the established tropes of its genre down to a tee in the first half before trying to subvert it during the remaining half, Triple Frontier does a lot many things right yet all of it is nullified by a complete lack of character depth & script refinement. However, J.C. Chandor's mindful direction does manage to instil some freshness into its clichéd & uneven narrative which, in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, would have turned into a total mess.
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Powerful. Provocative. Hilarious.
12 March 2019
From the writer-director of Fahrenheit 9/11 comes another hilarious, provocative & competently made political documentary, this time examining the current state of American politics including the 2016 presidential election, and the subsequent presidency of Donald Trump. As before, Michael Moore utilises his slick editing to deliver a smooth ride that contains both honest critique as well as sensationalism.

Fahrenheit 11/9 paints a scathing portrait of the Trump Era but that's not where Moore's skewering ends as he attacks both parties that seem to have abandoned the masses over the years, leaving them so hopeless that many of them decided not to vote in the election. The documentary also takes a disturbing look at the Flint water crisis, America's patented gun violence & the actions that are needed to undo this whole mess.

Written, directed & narrated by Michael Moore, the film opens on an amusing note as it captures Hillary Clinton in premature celebration of a win that would never come while the montages of Trump praising himself are hilarious as hell. But things soon turn serious & disturbing with the Flint water crisis, American school shootings etc before concluding on a hopeful note that calls for young Americans to start taking action now.

Although Moore includes his own political leanings into the narrative, he is more restrained here but there are still times when he gets carried away, one example being the segment covering Trump's fondness for his daughter. Then later when he sets out to make a citizen arrest, which looked remarkably stupid. These bits were unnecessary, added nothing meaningful to the documentary, and instead distracted from the real issues it was focusing on.

Fahrenheit 11/9 contends that United States got Donald Trump as president coz it required someone like him in the nation's most powerful seat for the entire nation to wake up and realise the sorry state that the American politics had fallen into. If this still doesn't necessitate changes, then maybe they do deserve Donald Trump as president for another 4 years. A finely crafted & aptly told piece of immediate relevance that presents Michael Moore in commanding form despite few hiccups, Fahrenheit 11/9 comes thoroughly recommended.
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More Speculative Than Fact-Based But Highly Entertaining Nonetheless
12 March 2019
Winner of the Palme d'Or at 2004 Cannes Film Festival and also the recipient of one of the longest standing ovations at the festival's history, the highest grossing documentary of all time generated no less amount of controversies at its time of release but there is no denying that it's a highly entertaining film that sure knows how to stir up the viewers' emotions.

Fahrenheit 9/11 offers a biting take on the presidency of George W. Bush & War on Terror and digs into the fear, paranoia, uncertainty & patriotism that was on display in the wake of September 11 attacks and which the Bush administration took advantage of to push forward their own agenda for unjust war in Iraq, and created a mess that's still ongoing in the Middle-East.

Written, directed & narrated by Michael Moore, the film takes a highly one-sided approach and is more speculative than fact-based but it also highlights rampant corruption within the United States government by showing how George Bush's administration abused the 9/11 tragedy to advance their own self-interests and wasted the public fund on a war that was totally uncalled for.

However, there are times when Moore goes overboard in presenting his critique, such as blaming Bush for continuing to read to children despite being informed about the terror attack. His voiceover narration doesn't do any good either. But there are moments when his arguments not only seem valid but also worthy of debate. It's not all gloomy though for Moore utilises humour well to simmer the emotions before flaring them up again.

The ones who benefit most from wars are the ruling party, the media & weapons manufacturers, and Moore contends that it's them who are solely responsible for the loss of so many American troops who died believing that they are doing their nation a service when in actuality their death was totally unnecessary and was all for nothing. Already amongst the most controversial documentaries in existence, Fahrenheit 9/11 is enlightening, infuriating & all things in between.
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Free Solo (2018)
One Of The Most Intense, Gripping, Thrilling & Entertaining Documentaries You'll See
11 March 2019
An exceptionally daring, dangerous & death-defying human feat captured on camera in ways that would make your palms sweat, Free Solo journeys into the community of free solo climbing to observe the philosophy that rock climbers live by while also offering an insight into the aspect of what fuels a select few of them to raise the stakes so high that it leaves no room for any error whatsoever. Crafted with ruthless honesty & told with gripping intensity, this documentary is a fascinating examination of passion, obsession & dedication that provides a first-hand account of a breath-stopping achievement of free solo ascent, and is a heartfelt ode to all those who live their lives on the edge, and are unwilling to let anyone or anything stop them from pursuing their seemingly-crazy goals.
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An Unscripted Adventure Back To The RMS Titanic
11 March 2019
Returning to the site that inspired one of the grandest spectacles in cinema history, James Cameron's 3D documentary takes the viewers on an expedition that lies at a depth of 12,500 feet in order to explore the RMS Titanic wreckage like never before but despite its praiseworthy contribution to deep-dive research, its narrative is rather stale and may only appease those who share the filmmaker's strong fascination with shipwrecks.
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Aquaman (2018)
Another Middling Entry In A Middling Cinematic Universe
8 March 2019
The 6th instalment in the DC Extended Universe, Aquaman begins DC Films' road to recovery after the vomitous Justice League with more emphasis on individual character stories rather than trying to build a shared universe. Its favourable fare with critics & over a billion dollar gross on box-office may appear as if the studio is starting to get things right but for me, DCEU's latest is as troublesome as any of their previous entries.

The story follows Arthur Curry, the human-born heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis who, after learning that his half-brother is seeking to unite the underwater kingdoms against the surface world, goes on a quest to prevent a war between the ocean & land. But the adventure he embarks on ultimately compels him to come to terms with his own identity and lead him to discover whether he's entirely worthy of fulfilling his destiny of becoming a king.

Directed by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring & Furious 7), Aquaman is gorgeous to look at but the plot & characters remain as underdeveloped as ever. Wan's direction keeps things in motion even though the narrative lacks a consistent flow and he's at his best during the thrilling Trench segment that may be the film's only highlight. The ecological themes addressed in the film is a welcome element too but this particular aspect is only glanced at, not explored.

The plot packs a predictable outline, character arcs aren't handled well enough to make us care, dialogue is plainly awful, action spectacle is ludicrously fun but also emotionally hollow, and its bloated runtime is severely felt at times. The impressive bits here are the wonderfully detailed set pieces, the lush underwater photography with its vivid camerawork & bright lighting, and the vital inputs from the VFX teams as they together bring these deep-sea kingdoms to life with all their aquatic glory.

The film packs a star-studded cast in Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren and others but all performances are mediocre at best. Momoa reprises the titular role and though he looks the part and is the right person to don the suit, he still fails to embody his character from inside-out. The swag is there but there is no charisma. Kidman, on the other hand, stands out solely due to her bewitching screen presence. And the rest provide fine support in their respective roles.

On an overall scale, Aquaman is neither a strong standalone entry nor does it bear any positive signs of a promising future for DCEU. The film provides sufficient dose of CGI effects-laden entertainment that casual filmgoers won't mind. Hell, few may even enjoy its unabashed silliness. However, those looking for substance beneath the surface are probably going to be disappointed, for this waterlogged mess is as confused in its approach as it is convoluted in its plotting. In short, Aquaman is yet another middling chapter in the middling DC Extended Universe.
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Capernaum (2018)
A Masterwork of Social-Realism
1 March 2019
A powerfully compelling, hard-hitting & thought-provoking portrait of poverty, neglect, child abuse & desperation that also ruminates on immigration crisis & refugee situation, Capernaum (also known as Capharnaüm) is an endlessly gripping, thoroughly captivating & emotionally engrossing Lebanese drama that's sincere in its approach, compassionate in its treatment & downright effective in its execution. An unforgettable & heartbreaking slice of social-realism that's bolstered by the most memorable performance of 2018, Capernaum is one of last year's finest offerings and certainly the strongest of all the films that were nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the recently concluded Academy Awards.
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An Unshakeable, Unflinching & Unbiased Observation Of Salafi Jihadism
25 February 2019
An unbiased, unprejudiced & unfiltered observation of jihadist life and how extremist ideology is passed down through generations, Of Fathers and Sons paints a brutally honest & unflinching portrait of children being brainwashed into following the path of hatred & violence by their own fathers, and it does so by capturing the everyday life of a radical Islamist family.

An undiluted portrayal of inherited Islamist fervour, the documentary achieves a rare first-hand access by thoroughly observing religious fundamentalism from up close & with an uncompromising lens. Although it focuses on jihadist fanaticism in Syria, the mechanics of it can be applied to any extremist movement out there, for the cycle of hatred, prejudice & violence always starts at home first before surfacing elsewhere.

As admirable as it is unshakeable, Of Fathers and Sons is essential viewing.
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Shoplifters (2018)
What Makes A Family Family?
20 February 2019
Winner of Palme d'Or at 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Shoplifters is a rich, delicate & bittersweet drama that's crafted with genuine care, told with heartfelt tenderness and ruminates on what constitutes a family through a humanistic eye that doesn't judge any of its characters & their deeds.

Shoplifters concerns a group of people living together who rely on shoplifting to cope with their life of poverty. Despite barely making enough to survive, they live a seemingly happy lives but the bonds that unite them is put to the test when an unforeseen incident occurs and unearths hidden secrets.

Written & directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shoplifters features a fascinating set of characters - each interesting in their own individual ways and exhibiting sufficient depth in their respective arcs - and through the little threads that unite them, he creates this semblance of a family living together under one roof.

Kore-eda's direction is calm & composed, for he allows the plot to unravel at an unhurried pace, plus the silent camerawork doesn't get in the way of the drama unfolding on screen. The first half takes us through their daily life & shoplifting sessions in a heartwarming fashion, only for the director to uproot it all later to examine what makes a family family.

While the deftly scripted characters & their dynamic with one another manage to retain a sense of intrigue throughout, there are also few stretches of slow patches that bog down the narrative, for there are moments that end up overstaying their welcome. Performances are top-notch from the entire cast, including the children who are outstanding in their given roles.

On an overall scale, Shoplifters is a touching, affecting & emotionally captivating observation of family love that chooses to focus on the brighter side rather than dwelling on its characters' hardships. Powered by poignant performances elicited under Kore-eda's controlled direction, the film may seem aimless to some but its endearing portrait of ties that can grow between unrelated people resonates for far longer than its 2 hours runtime.
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Creed II (2018)
A Rousing Sequel That's 33 Years In The Making
19 February 2019
The follow-up chapter to Creed does lack the freshness of the original but Creed II still manages to deliver an adrenaline-fuelled ride that's fun, rousing & rewarding for the most part, and features a story that's 33 years in the making as it pits two second generation boxers against one another in a match that's equally personal to both fighters.

Strongly echoing Rocky IV, the story is set three years after the events of the last film and follows Adonis Creed who has now made his way to the top of the sport, and is the new world champion. But his celebration is cut short when he is issued a challenge by Viktor Drago, the son of former Soviet boxer Ivan Drago who killed Apollo Creed inside the ring over three decades ago.

Directed by Steven Caple Jr, his treatment of the scripted material is very much by the books, for the story lacks any element of surprise and is predictable. The film addresses themes of family, legacy, loss, revenge, resurrection & redemption but the dramatic portions don't necessarily pack the same emotional punch that Ryan Coogler's film was able to land for the entirety of its runtime.

The return of Ivan Drago is a welcome choice though, and his presence still retains a formidable aura. There isn't a lot for Rocky Balboa to do here yet the film comes alive whenever he is on screen. The boxing matches are brilliantly choreographed, training montages are expertly edited, and the music accompanying these scenes brim with a pulsating energy that only adds more fuel to the mix.

Leading from the front in acting department is Michael B. Jordan who articulates Adonis Creed's journey through hellfire & brimstone with finesse, and he is terrific throughout. Sylvester Stallone dons his signature role for one last round and does well with what he's given. Dolph Lundgren returns as Ivan Drago and steals nearly every scene he's in. But it is the mentor-disciple dynamic between Balboa & Creed that gives this film its finest moments.

On an overall scale, Creed II is neither wholly impressive in filmmaking terms nor resonant enough on emotional scale when compared to its ingeniously crafted predecessor but it does what it set out to do and despite the slump in storytelling quality, the film delivers a blood-pumping, pulse-pounding & adrenaline-rushing extravaganza that's entertaining & fulfilling enough to rank amongst the better entries in the once concluded but recently revived saga. Definitely recommended.
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