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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
One of the MOST INSANE action films I've ever seen!
George Miller's Mad Max franchise is one of the most well known action franchises. I haven't seen the first three Mad Max films so I cannot comment on them but Mad Max: Fury Road is easily one of the best action films I've seen in my life.
Mad Max: Fury Road takes place in a post-apocolyptic wasteland where a woman named Imperator Furiosa rebels against a tyrant named Immortan Joe by taking his five wives with her in order to search for her homeland with the aid of Max Rockatansky.
It's very rare for the fourth installment of a franchise to be this good but George Miller managed to do it. What Miller has achieved with Mad Max: Fury Road is nothing short of astounding. What really caught my eye were the visuals and the world Miller created with this film. The scale of the set and the use of oranges, blues and reds make this one of the most visually striking films to ever exist. The costumes and makeup were also some of best I've ever seen. There were so creative and communicated so much about the characters and the world they live in. Seeing a man on a vehicle play a guitar that shoots flames out the top j conveyed to me how ridiculous this film and its fantasy world was. The main appeal of an action film is the action itself and Fury Road set a new bar in terms of that. The film is essentially a 2 hour chase sequence with some of the most jaw-dropping stunts ever filmed. I was completely floored by the crazy vehicle designs and insane stunts. Miller's choice of using practical effects made the action look all the more real and combining that with the visuals made Fury Road a one of a kind experience. One of my biggest regrets is not seeing this in the cinema.
In the middle of all the stunning visuals and entertaining action sequences, Miller does give us time to get to know the characters especially Furiosa. She is the heart and soul of the film and as it goes on, Miller peels back the toughness of her character and helps us learn her emotional backstory. She is really the main character of the film and Charlize Theron does a fantastic job playing her. I cannot compare Tom Hardy's portrayal with Mel Gibson's but I think Hardy was a great choice to play Max and he gave a great performance.
All in all, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action films made. It's everything an action lover would want in an action film and more. For me, it's up there with the John Wick franchise and The Raid films. Hats off to George Miller and the rest of the team for creating something truly special that will be remembered for a long time.
The White Tiger (2021)
Highlights many of the problems present in India
I was very excited to see The White Tiger. From the teaser trailer and the superb cast, I had a feeling this film will deliver and it did.
The White Tiger follows Balram, a poor driver who uses his wit and guile to free himself from servitude to his masters and make his way to the top.
Based on a book by Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger takes a close inspection at all the problems India possesses. The film uses a first person narrative as a tool to convey Balram's entire journey which is a technique used in films like Goodfellas or The Wolf of Wall Street. I thought this storytelling method was a great choice as we got a complete idea of what our protagonist is like and what his views are. Long after the film, I was still thinking about it. Like Parasite, the main theme of The White Tiger is the division between classes. We see the luxurious lifestyle led by the rich whilst the poor have to stay in the darkness and sleep in areas infested with cockroaches. Director Ramin Bahrani takes a direct approach and tells you exactly what the film is trying to say. At times it may feel heavy-handed but Bahrani infuses a lot of clever dialogue with interesting metaphors that are sure to stick with you.
The cinematography by Paolo Carnera is brilliant. The dim lighting and desaturated look brings to light the issues the film is presenting. As Balram refers to the poor as 'the darkness', there is a sense of that looming over the entire film once again adding to the idea of classism. As mentioned before, Bahrani's screenplay is striking by taking us into the mind of Balram and seeing the world through his eyes. Along with classism, Bahrani sheds light on other relevant issues that are currently present in India today whether it's casteism, the corruption or the way the rich abuse their power, there's a lot to take away from The White Tiger.
At the heart of the film we have Adarsh Gourav who is mesmerising as Balram. This film belongs to him and he's shines at every moment. There's a particular scene where he's told to take the blame for something he didn't do and Gourav's eyes and facial expressions convey so much about what he's thinking. I really hope he gains more recognition after this film. Priyanka Chopra Jonas also does a very good job and is believable in the role. Rajkummar Rao, who's usually the best part of his films, is one of the film's weak points. His American accent isn't consistent and so his dialogue delivery does feel clumsy at times. Mahesh Manjrekar and Vijay Maurya are also great in their roles.
The White Tiger is a well made drama filled with social commentary that's sure to make you think about the issues India are dealing with. Adarsh Gourav turns in a magnificent performance that should be watched and I'm intrigued to see what Ramin Bahrani will make next.
The most trippy and bizarre film I've seen in a while!
I've heard so much about this film and was very eager to watch it. I absolutely loved 12 Monkeys, another Terry Gilliam film, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas surprised me in ways I didn't expect.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas follows Raoul Duke, a journalist, and Dr. Gonzo, his lawyer, who embark on a psychedelic journey to Las Vegas with a suitcase full of drugs.
The film is based on the famous book of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson, who went through a similar experience, and after seeing this film I really want to read his novel. There have been films recently like Midsommar and Climax that capture the feeling of being on psychedelics really well but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas takes it to another level. What really caught my eye was Terry Gilliam's impressive direction. This is such a departure from 12 Monkeys and I always love it when directors try something new with each film they make. Gilliam uses the camera and the environments to his advantage by adding a distirted feeling to them. The camerawork is crazy, frentic and placed in very strange and uncomfortable angles that elevate the disorientated look of the film which makes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas one of the trippiest experiences I've ever been through. The neon lighting helps contribute to that trippy feeling as well and make you feel like you're under the influence of drugs.
Raoul Duke, essentially Hunter S. Thompson, is played marvellously by Johnny Depp. He captures the slurred style of speaking and dazed look of Duke perfectly. Another outstanding performer is Benicio Del Tero as Dr. Gonzo. The way both these actors portrayed the feeling of being on drugs is praiseworthy and made so many scenes throughout the film even more memorable than they already were. The screenplay written by Terry Gilliam, Alex Cox, Tony Grisoni and Tod Davies is another excellent factor. The dialogues are very entertaining and thought-provoking and Depp as a narrator makes it even more fun to listen to.
I heard the negative response this film got and how there isn't any character to it which I completely understand. However, I do think there are a lot of underlying themes to it. I see the film as an examination of the rampant drug culture during the 1960s in America. The opening quote sums this film up and shows how people would drown their sorrows in an overload of drugs and alcohol. The entire journey is pointless but at the same time that's also the point.
I would honestly love to watch this film again. It provides such a unique and bizarre experience that not many films give. With two extraordinary performances by Depp and Del Toro and Gilliam's offbeat direction, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of a kind.
The Queen's Gambit (2020)
I never thought chess would be so fascinating
I honestly did not expect this series to blow up so much. From the trailer, I thought it was going to be an ordinary series that won't be that special but I'm so happy I was proven wrong.
The Queen's Gambit follows Beth Harmon, an orphan who learns and masters the game of chess during the 1960s but she slowly spirals into drug addiction and excessive drinking that harms her talent.
I've never been a fan of chess or even understood how to play it but regardless of my lack of interest in the game, I really enjoyed watching The Queen's Gambit. I loved how much the show revolved around the game itself. There weren't many subplots that hindered the pacing or made me lose interest which I felt was a great decision as it focused on what was necessary for the story and character. I'm amazed at what creator and director Scott Frank pulled off with this series. The writing was really good as I got a clear understanding of what Beth Harmon was like and made me root for her every step of the way. The side characters were also well developed and explored just enough to the point where we see what kind of people they are. The addiction aspect of Beth was handled in a subdued manner which I appreciated. The show could have taken a more over-the-top approach but Frank keeps everything realistic allowing it to feel more believable. The episodes are edited superbly. The series moves relatively quick and made me want to play the next episode as soon as the previous one ended.
All the acting in the show is fantastic. I've followed Anya Taylor-Joy ever since her debut in The Witch and I'm so happy she's gaining more recognition. She is absolutely amazing as Beth Harmon and is easily one of her best performances of her career. She truly embodies this character and conveys all her feelings brilliantly. The supporting cast such as Marielle Heller, Harry Melling, Bill Camp, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Moses Ingram and the rest all do a fabulous job with their roles.
I'm really surprised by how much I enjoyed The Queen's Gambit. I do admit the story is predictable and it's told in a way we've seen multiple times but I cannot deny how well made and acted it is. I'm more interested in chess now than I ever will be and I have The Queen's Gambit to thank for that.
One Night in Miami (2020)
A confident debut from Regina King
Oscar winning actress Regina King makes her directorial debut with this film and I have to say, I'm impressed.
Based on a play of the same name, One Night in Miami shows us a fictional meeting between Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown as they discuss the Civil Rights movement and cultural upheaval during the 60s.
It's an interesting premise and for her feature film debut, Regina King does a great job directing. Majority of the film takes place in a hotel room and so the film really relies on the dialogue and performances which I believe are both strong. Kemp Powers, who also made the play, writes fantastic dialogue that brings to attention the issues during that time, some of which are still relevant to this day. The first act does its job of introducing each icon but the film gets really interesting when they all talk about the Civil Rights movement and their role within it. The way their discussions get more and more heated make for some powerful moments and top-notch acting. Eli Goree and Aldis Hodge do a brilliant job portraying Cassius Clay and Jim Brown but it's Kingsley Ben-Adir and Leslie Odom Jr. that stand out in particular. There are a few great monologues delivered by these two especially Odom Jr. and they both have a chance at winning a couple awards for their work here.
Regina King's direction is solid. She understands the script well and is able to get amazing performances out of the four main actors. I'm hoping she continues to direct more projects in the near future. The main problem I have with the film is that it feels more like a play than a film. I had the same issue with Ma Rainey's Black Bottom but it doesn't take away from how great the dialogue and performances are.
As a whole, One Night in Miami is a confident debut from Regina King. All the actors don a fine job and the film explores these people and their stance on the movement in an engaging way.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Ledger and Gyllenhaal shine in this tragic love story.
Ang Lee is a director who has a very mixed filmography. From great films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life of Pi to terrible movies like Hulk and Gemini Man, Ang Lee is hit or miss but thankfully Brokeback Mountain falls into the former category.
Brokeback Mountain follows Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two cowboys that develop an intimate relationship with each other and the struggle they face due to the times they live in.
This film really shows Ang Lee's talent as a director and how amazing Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are as actors. This is a deeply saddening film about a tragic love story and the film manages to pull on your heartstrings till the very end. The film takes place over a 20 year period as we see the constant battles both Ennis and Jack are facing. Amongst the gorgeous scenery, Lee handles a subject matter like this with immense care and leaves each scene with tons of emotion whether it's happy or sad. I also really loved the score which helped communicate the way characters were feeling but it wasn't overused to the point where it was telling you how to feel during a certain scene. The screenplay from Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana examines the time period the characters lived in and communicated the range of emotions they were feeling brilliantly.
Heath Ledger delivers a monumental performance as Ennis Del Mar. There are so many layers and nuance to the character and Ledger pours his heart and soul into the role. It's sad that a talent like him had to pass away so soon. Jake Gyllenhaal has always taken risks as an actor and has played many different characters but Jack Twist is one of his best. I really felt the frustration he was feeling and the desire he had to make this relationship work. It's yet another phenomenal performance by him. The supporting actors are also really good especially Michelle Williams.
Brokeback Mountain is a heartbreaking love story filled with Oscarworthy performances from Ledger and Gyllenhaal. It's a great examination of the loneliness and struggle of being in a relationship that was forbidden at the time that ends in a way that's sure to leave tears streaming down your face.
Pieces of a Woman (2020)
I heard about this film when Vanessa Kirby bagged a Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival and so I was curious to see how good she will be. I believe this is her best performance yet.
Pieces of a Woman follows Martha, a woman about to give birth to a child. Unfortunately the home birth ends in tragedy, leaving her with immense grief as she distances herself from her partner Sean and her family.
This is one of those movies that leave you heartbroken all the way through and Pieces of a Woman did a great job making me feel the pain that Martha was going through over the course of the film. The film has an extremely strong opening with a one take scene that lasts around 25 minutes. It's intense throughout, handled in a very meticulous manner and the performances make it feel all the more real. Vanessa Kirby gives her best performance to date with this film and the amount of work she put in for that opening alone proved to me how great of an actress she is. I think she should get an Oscar nomination for her work here.
The opening sets a high bar for the film and the rest of the film doesn't reach that exact level but I still found it to be incredibly upsetting. Seeing Martha slowly push away the people she loved was sad to watch and I liked the slow burn aspect since it allowed me get inside the mindset of each character and feel the same emotion they were feeling. Kornél Mundruczó's direction is solid. There are some fantastic long takes where the actors were given opportunities to shine which made up for some very emotional and memorable scenes. Shia LaBeouf gives one of his best here and Ellen Burstyn is also fantastic. There is one particular moment where she gives it her all and I wouldn't be surprised if she also got an Oscar nomination alongside Kirby.
The music was pretty good and used sparingly but there were some scenes which I felt could have been better had they not played the music during them. Despite that, I found Pieces of a Woman to be a very depressing journey with excellent performances and I found its slow pacing to be effective in maintaining the grief and misery.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
A poignant character study during the 1960s folk scene
Despite hearing about how great the Coen brothers are, I've barely seen any of their films apart from The Big Lebowski. After seeing Inside Llewyn Davis, I really want to check out more of their stuff.
Inside Llewyn Davis takes us through a week in the life of a young folk singer named Llewyn Davis in 1961.
I love character studies and Inside Llewyn Davis is practically that. We really learn more and more about the protagonist, Llewyn Davis, and it's one of those character studies that left me thinking well after it ended. It's such a poignant film that doesn't follow any clichés or typical Hollywood tropes and the film could have taken that route but I'm glad it didn't. Not much really happens but each scene feels so purposeful towards Llewyn's journey and struggle. As the film goes on it made me realise what a flawed person Llewyn really is but at the same time I couldn't help but feel sympathy for him. I don't listen to folk music at all but all the songs were wonderful. Not only was Oscar Isaac's singing great but the Coen brothers did a great job instilling meaning into each of the songs especially the ones sung by Llewyn Davis. By learning more about him and the way he's constantly being beaten down by the world around him, the meaning behind the lyrics of his songs became more powerful to me and helped me understand his mindset better.
I also loved the visual look of the film. The lighting and lack of bright colours made the movie feel incredibly gloomy and depressing which perfectly matched the overall tone and story. The film is definitely a depressing one but the Coens sprinkle humour here and there which allowed for some lighthearted moments. This is my favourite performance given by Oscar Isaac. I learnt he is a great singer and he absolutely nails the character. Carey Mulligan was also very good and Justin Timberlake also did gave a great performance. John Goodman is fantastic here and gives us some of the best scenes in the film.
I'm seriously impressed with what the Coen brothers did with Inside Llewyn Davis. It's a film that takes its time but doesn't waste it. It won't be to everybody's liking but if you're a fan of folk music and character based films then I would highly recommend watching Inside Llewyn Davis.
Hillbilly Elegy (2020)
A bland and forgettable Oscar bait film
After seeing the trailer this film seemed like it was made to just be an Oscar contender but with a talented cast and director, I had some hope for Hillbilly Elegy. The film did get a really bad reception from critics and whilst I don't think it's a terrible film, it's one that I don't think is very good either.
Hillbilly Elegy follows J.D. Vance, a Yale law student, who returns to his hometown after receiving an urgent phone call where he reflects on his Appalachian family and future.
Ron Howard has made movies in the past that I have enjoyed and seeing two amazing actresses like Glenn Close and Amy Adams in a movie like this made me believe they were finally gonna get their overdue Oscars but sadly that might not happen. Glenn Close still may have a chance since she did a great job in the film itself and it's surprising to see how closely she resembled J.D. Vance's real grandmother. I've always loved Amy Adams and she also does a decent job in this film even though there were times where I thought she was a bit overdramatic.
The real problem I have was the way the story was handled. There is a lot that happens over the course of the film but it didn't make me feel much. The story had so much potential to flesh out the characters and create some very powerful moments that would've made me emotional but that wasn't the case. The screenplay by Vanessa Taylor is pretty weak and doesn't feel honest. I understood J.D. Vance's perspective but the character seemed quite bland to me. Gabriel Basso was fine but there wasn't much to him. Young J.D. Vance played by Owen Asztalos had more to work with compared to Basso but the screenplay and editing hindered me from fully connecting with him. Taylor's treatment of the other characters appeared one dimensional to me. I felt there was so much more to Bev and the troubles she dealt with but the film doesn't explore it to a greater extent. The film does have a few scenes that are meant to evoke emotion but the editing doesn't allow that emotion to flow. The use of slow motion and choice of cuts did ruin the emotional feeling I was meant to feel during the more dramatic scenes.
Overall, Hillbilly Elegy is just another forgettable Oscar bait movie. The acting from Close and Adams keep it afloat but the treatment of the story doesn't work in the film's favour.
The Midnight Sky (2020)
The visuals are great but the same cannot be said about the story
It's been a long time since we've seen a new George Clooney movie and now we finally have one with him directing and starring in it but unfortunately it is a misfire.
The Midnight Sky takes place during the year 2049 where the world has gone through a global catastrophe. Augustine, a lonely scientist in the Arctic, races to contact a group of astronauts to tell them not to come back to Earth.
It's great to see George Clooney in a new movie after four years and sure enough he gives a very strong yet poignant performance as Augustine but the entire movie overall is pretty boring. Starting off with the positives, The Midnight Sky is a very gorgeous looking movie. The visual effects are very well done and it's evident a lot of work went into space scenes and the icy world of Earth. Apart from the visual effects, there isn't much else that makes this film that memorable. There have been superior sci-fi films in the past that have done what The Midnight Sky tries to do better. The film starts off well but the story fizzled out quick due to the very slow pacing and lack of events. The writing is pretty poor as Clooney's story and the astronauts' story don't gel well together. Clooney's story is the most interesting out of the two but sadly so much focus is put on the astronauts that I began to lose interest. The space crew storyline is so familiar to other sci-fi movies and the lack of character development made it quite dull. It's also disappointing considering how the crew had great cast members like David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler and Felicity Jones.
As mentioned before, George Clooney is great and easily the most interesting part of the film. Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir and Tiffany Boone all do a decent job despite the lack of material for their characters. In her debut performance, Caoilinn Springall does a pretty good job and her scenes with Clooney are the most engaging.
Overall, The Midnight Sky is a disappointment. The film looks great and I won't be surprised if it wins Best Visual Effects at the Oscars but the story and its characters are pretty lacklustre.
Schindler's List (1993)
Devastating, honest and authentic throughout...
Steven Spielberg has made a huge impact on cinema as we know it. Movies like Jaws and Saving Private Ryan just show how great of a director he is. Schindler's List is another example of Spielberg's talent as a director.
Schindler's List follows Oskar Schindler, a German businessman and a member of the Nazi party, who decides to save the lives of his Jewish workforce after being exposed to the horrific treatment they receive from other Nazis.
What can I say about Schindler's List that hasn't already been said. It's such a disheartening experience that shows the worst of humanity. Through this 3 hour 15 minute film, Schindler's List conveys the brutal and horrific ways Jews were treated by Nazis and Spielberg presents this with as much authenticity as possible. The film's lack of colour captures the bleakness and terror of the Holocaust brilliantly. The black and white created this depressing feeling that loomed throughout the entire film making each scene as gut-wrenching as possible. The film is very long but it felt purposeful as Spielberg explores the barbaric nature of the Nazis and the immense torment Jews had to go through to the fullest. There are still some scenes that are etched in my memory by how realistic and well executed they are. Like the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg doesn't hold back here as there are many graphic images but it's those scenes that carry the most emotions and paint a realistic picture of the Holocaust.
The performances in this film are absolutely spectacular. Liam Neeson is fantastic as Oskar Schindler. His expressions along with the graphic imagery make up for some really powerful moments that I won't forget. Ben Kingsley as Itztak Stern is incredible. The ending involving him and Neeson is one of the most heartbreaking scenes ever and Ralph Fiennes is truly outstanding as Amon Goeth. Goeth is shown to be as evil and ghastly as possible and Fiennes captures that perfectly whilst remaining grounded at all times. Who can also forget John Williams's devastating score that evokes of sadness every time it plays. It's used during all the right moments and elevates the distressing nature of what's taking place.
Along with The Pianist, Schindler's List is one of the best Holocaust films to ever be made. It's one of the most honest and personal depictions of the Holocaust I've ever seen and for that I have to applaud Spielberg and the rest of his crew for the amount of work they put into it. Schindler's List is a film that remains close to many people's hearts and won't be forgotten anytime soon.
Home Alone (1990)
30 years later, it still remains a Christmas classic
I honestly cannot believe it has been 30 years since Home Alone came out and still to this day I love watching it.
Home Alone follow Kevin McCallister, an 8 year old kid, who accidentally gets left home alone by his family as they go on a trip to Paris. Whilst being home alone, Kevin has to protect his home from a pair of burglars named Harry and Marv.
This is a very special film to me and most likely to a lot of people. I remember watching this in school and at home all the time as a child. It's one of those films that I could watch on loop without ever getting bored and it's one of my favourites to watch during the Christmas season.
The script by John Hughes is as hilarious as it is heartwarming. There is so much fun to be had with a concept like this and, sure enough, it's hilarious but Hughes balances out the humour with scenes that warm your heart as we see Kevin's character develop when he begins to understand the importance of family. To be fair, you do have to suspend your disbelief with the cartoonish violence and corny nature of the film but those aspects don't really bother me because of the amount of fun I have watching Home Alone.
It's not an easy job to carry a film especially for a child but Macaulay Culkin manages it with ease. He makes Kevin so likeable and we root for him the entire time. It's a great child performance. The best part of the film are the burglars played exceptionally well by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. These two make this film a laugh riot and their chemistry with one another is simply magical. Pesci and Stern are so entertaining to watch that there's no way I'll ever forget their characters.
I don't think I'll ever forget Home Alone. It had such a big impact on my childhood and it's one of those feel-good movies that puts a smile on my face each time I watch it. It's perfect for Christmas and one which the whole family can enjoy.
AK vs AK (2020)
Motwane's meta experiment works in spite of its flaws.
I always look forward to a Vikramaditya Motwane film. He always tries to do something new and there's no guessing what he's gonna come up with next. AK vs AK is another experimental but fun film to watch.
After a public feud with Anil Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap decides to take revenge by kidnapping his daughter and films Kapoor's search for her in real time.
I was curious to see how a film like this would play out as it's something Bollywood doesn't normally do. I love the idea of a film being meta and there have been some great ones in the past like Adaptation. AK vs AK had a very interesting concept and whilst it's execution isn't completely perfect, I was still pleasantly surprised by how well it worked.
Whilst Kapoor and Kashyap play heightened versions of themselves, it was fun to see the amount of insults hurled at one another with some jokes made about the Bollywood industry. Despite knowing this is a work of fiction, Vikramaditya Motwane and Avinash Sampath sprinkle enough truths to make it seem authentic enough. The experimental reality show style filled with long takes really demands the acting chops of Kapoor and Kashyap. There are some great scenes such as a certain chase sequence and one taking place at a police station which asks a lot from Anil Kapoor who gives it his all. I have to admire the amount of work and effort he put into this role since there was so much he had to do. I haven't seen Anurag Kashyap act before but he did a pretty decent job with his evil smirk.
AK vs AK has its handful of inside jokes but Motwane doesn't stop there as he also examines the effect of being famous and the relationship stars have with fans. During his search, Kapoor is constantly asked by the public for selfies and autographs and also has to perform for them before he gets the answers he needs to find Sonam Kapoor. It further shows how the public have the power. Despite enjoying the film, here were some flaws present. By the third act the film eventually loses steam and the end twist did not work for me.
For what it was, I think AK vs AK is a film worth your time. It's rare to come across movies like this in Bollywood and whilst it's one of Motwane's weaker films, I would still like people to give it a try and support inventive and experimental content like this.
Its silence speaks volumes
I've been wanting to see this for a while but just didn't get the chance. I finally managed to see it and I'm so glad I did because this is easily one of the best films of the year.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always follows Autumn, a teenage girl who travels to New York City from Pennsylvania with her cousin, Skylar, in order to receive medical help after an unwanted pregnancy.
There have been movies in the past that deal with a subject matter like this but Eliza Hittman makes this film stand out. This is the first time I've seen a film of hers and I can already tell she is a filmmaker to look out for. What impressed me was Hittman's ability to tell a story with a dark subject like teenage pregnancy and abortion with so much nuance. Despite its minimal dialogue, I felt so much for the main character and the situation she was put in. The brilliant score and excellent performances by Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder convey the emotions and thoughts going through their characters' heads. The dark and murky cinematography fit extremely well with what the film had to say and Hittman's ability to keep the film grounded at all times made it all the more emotional.
As mentioned before, Sidney Flanigan is amazing and it surprised me when I found out this was her first ever film. I could tell all the emotions and pain she was going through just by her expressions alone. There is one outstanding scene where you understand the meaning behind the title and it's a very long shot just focusing on her face as she is answering certain questions. There is some dialogue which reveals more about her character but its her silence whilst answering some of the questions that have the most impact. I won't reveal any more detaila but that scene alone showed me how talented of an actor Sidney Flanigan is and how great of a director Eliza Hittman is. Talia Ryder, who also hasn't acted much, is extremely convincing in her role.
So far, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is my second favourite film of the year. Its raw and realistic depiction of such a harsh subject matter is done incredibly well and managed to move me with its heartfelt scenes. The film is very quiet but it spoke volumes to me and it's one I urge people to check out.
Mean Streets (1973)
Important for Scorsese's career and growth
It's no question that Martin Scorsese is one of the best filmmakers to ever live. I've loved all the films I've seen of his and whilst Mean Streets is my least favourite out of the ones I've seen, I consider to be a very important film for Scorsese.
Mean Streets takes place in New York and follows Charlie, a gangster, who tries to keep peace amongst his friend Johnny Boy and the people he owes money to.
Watching this film now there are sure to be comparisons to Scorsese's other gangster films which may make it less appreciated but if you look at this film through the perspective of when it was made and how this was his third film then Mean Streets is pretty great. I consider this to be an important step in terms of Scorsese's career and growth as a director. Out of all Scorsese's gangster films, this is least action heavy and is more of a slice of life film. The atmosphere of New York City is brilliantly captured and there is a certain level of rawness and realism brought to the world of Mean Streets that made me feel like I was real people interacting with each other. Some of the scenes were shot pretty well and I liked the overall look of the film.
The acting was pretty good. This film is also special considering it is the first of many collaborations between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. De Niro does a great job as the out of control Johnny Boy. I found his character the most entertaining to watch and he did a good job portraying it. At the forefront of the movie was Harvey Keitel and he was great also. The film is dialogue heavy but I wish more was taking place. After a certain point, I started to lose interest and the characters weren't that memorable overall.
Overall, I did enjoy Mean Streets but I wanted more out of it. It's nice to see the beginnings of a legendary filmmaker like Scorsese and how he has grown and perfected his style from this point but I don't see myself revisiting this film that often.
A modern day masterpiece
Damien Chazelle has proven himself to be one of the best directors right now. La La Land is one of the best musicals made but I discovered him through Whiplash which I consider to be a modern day masterpiece.
Whiplash follows Andrew Neiman, a young drummer who enrolls in a class at a music conservatory led by the frightening and abusive Fletcher who stops at nothing to make sure his students are the best they can be.
I remember how amazed I was after watching this film the first time and after multiple viewings Whiplash became one of my favourite films of all time. It's such a simple story but at the same time there are many layers to it. After each watch I discovered details I had missed that brought so much development to the characters whether it was something shown through the visuals or subtlety in some dialogues, it shows how great of a storyteller Damien Chazelle is.
I didn't think much of Miles Teller before I saw this film but he shows how great of an actor he. I really felt the passion and drive he had to become one of the greatest drummers and the emotional range he gives Neiman is brilliant. However, the main attraction is J.K. Simmons in his best performance to date. I didn't believe for one second I was watching J.K. Simmons play Fletcher. He fully transformed himself into Fletcher and conveyed the angry, abusive and unforgiving nature of Fletcher perfectly allowing each scene to be as intense as possible. He fully deserves the Oscar for this movie. Chazelle's script is excellent. It's bursting with fiery dialogues and creative insults that J.K. Simmons elevates with his striking performance whilst also fleshing these characters out and helping us get inside their mind and understand what they're going through and why they're doing what they're doing.
With a runtime of 1 hour 40 minutes, Whiplash wastes no time. The intensity is consistent throughout leaving us with barely any room to breathe and that's also thanks to the crisp editing by Tom Cross. Chazelle directs each scene with utmost confidence and ends the film with one of the most tense and entertaining finales to ever exist.
Everything about Whiplash is incredible. The captivating story, the marvellous acting, the immaculate editing and confident directing all combine to make one of the greatest films of the 21st Century.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020)
Boseman and Davis are sensational!
I was completely speechless when I found out about Chadwick Boseman's death. It was so unexpected and so I couldn't wait to see him one last time in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Having seen it now, I think this might be Boseman's finest performance.
Based on August Wilson's play of the same name, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom takes place during one recording session where tension begins to mount between Ma Rainey and her band.
I was very excited to this. Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman are two very talented actors that have shown their capabilities time and time again. The acting in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is definitely the highlight. Once again, Viola Davis proves herself as a brilliant actor. She isn't in the film as much as I thought she would be but I was totally captivated by her stellar performance as Ma Rainey. However, the star of the show is Chadwick Boseman who is absolutely extraordinary. With Ruben Santiago-Hudson's powerful dialogues, Boseman embodies the confidence, emotional range and elegance of Levee that truly elevates the film. These two actors have to get Oscar nominations for their work here. Alongside them are Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman and Michael Potts who are also extremely good here. If there is one reason to see Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, it's the performances.
Despite being primarily set in two locations, the production design is very strong and the costumes to go with it make it feel like the 1920s. Ruben Santiago Hudson's screenplay is very dialogue heavy and reveals a lot about each character, especially Levee, as the film goes on. The main problem with the film is that it does feel more like a play than an actual movie. Some plays do not fully translate onto the big screen and this story feels like it belongs more towards the theatre than a cinema.
Despite that issue, I really enjoyed watching Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Viola Davis and especially Chadwick Boseman deserve awards for their electrifying performances. Sadly this is Boseman's final performance but it's also one of, if not, his greatest.
It can get lonely in space...
Sam Rockwell is an actor who I really admire. His performances in The Green Mile and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri are nothing short of astounding and Moon further showcased his talent.
Moon follows Sam Bell, an astronaut who is nearing the end of his three year job on the moon. Towards the end of his contract, he encounters someone special.
That's all I'm going to reveal about the film's story as I was fairly surprised by this film by not knowing much and I want other people to have the exact same feeling whilst watching Moon. Sci-fi films tend to have a lot of action and chaos but this film takes on a more sombre approach to the genre. With Moon, director Duncan Jones uses the limited resources to his advantage and makes a sci-fi that explores the human psyche whilst being far away from the world you live in. Much like the recent Ad Astra, Moon tackles the idea of loneliness and does it in a subtle and unique way.
The man who conveys this loneliness in a magnificent performance is Sam Rockwell. He is really the only character you're following during the entire film and he completely owns the role. The quiet atmosphere and lack of characters helped push the theme of loneliness. As the film went on, I really identified with the character of Sam Bell and felt the isolation he was feeling as well.
It also impressed me how well made the movie was. Despite its very low budget, some of the shots of space looked absolutely beautiful and the sets and environments looked great. However, there were some moments of CGI which clearly didn't age well and at times I felt the pacing was way too slow for my liking but thankfully these issues didn't detract from my overall viewing experience of the film.
Moon was a very interesting sci-fi experience. It's something that you wouldn't normally see in this genre and it goes to show how, regardless of your budget, you can still create great films. Sam Rockwell delivers one of the best performances here and I would like people to give Moon a watch.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
An immersive sexual odyssey
Stanley Kubrick will forever remain a master. So much of his work is respected and The Shining is my favourite horror film of all time. Whilst I didn't love Eyes Wide Shut to that extent, it was still a phenomenal experience.
Eyes Wide Shut follows Bill Harford, a New York doctor who embarks on a sexual odyssey during one night when his wife reveals an unpleasant secret to him.
Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick's final film and one I've been hearing about for a long time. The reveption is very split with some hailing it as a masterpiece whilst others think it's terrible. By the end of it, I honestly didn't know what to think of it. It's quite a challenging film and I've been thinking about it ever since. The film is very long and has a slow pace but it's very atmospheric at the same time. There were some parts where the film dragged due to the slow pacing but it also helped me get immersed into the world of the film. The use of colours and the way Kubrick presented the night life transcended me into this dream-like and lust filled world. I also cannot forget how amazing the score was. It brought a creepy and strange feeling to the film that matched perfectly to the bizarre nature of some scenes. The performances were stellar. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman did an excellent job playing a couple that are struggling with all these sexual feelings and the supporting cast also do a fine job.
Eyes Wide Shut is a very strange film. There is so much mystery and ambiguity in it that I haven't been able to take my mind off it. It's a film that deals with themes like jealously, sex, infidelity and so much more but I feel I haven't even scratched the surface of the film's deeper meanings. It's sad how this ended up being Kubrick's final film but it's undeniable how talented of a filmmaker and storyteller he is. I'm definitely gonna watch this film a couple more times and I hope people give it a try because it is a fascinating experience.
Mank's attention to detail is extraordinary.
I love David Fincher's films. I haven't seen all of this but from the ones I've seen, I can tell he is a very talented director. Mank is yet another brilliant film by him but it is certainly not one of his best.
Mank shows 1930s Hollywood through the eyes of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he writes the script of Citizen Kane.
This was easily in my top 5 most anticipated movies of 2020. It's been six years since Fincher's last film and for Mank to be starring Gary Oldman and revolving around Citizen Kane and old Hollywood made me extremely excited. With Mank finally releasing on Netflix, I can say he did it again but it's one of his more divisive films.
Mank is a very different Fincher film and I appreciate him for trying out something beyond his comfort zone. Its subject matter and content won't interest a lot of people and so this film is mainly targeted towards cinephiles. Like The Social Network, Mank is a very talky film. It is mainly dialogue driven and moves at a leisurely pace which may put some people off. I wasn't ever bored during the film but I wish the pacing would speed up at certain points. I should also mention how most of the film doesn't even focus on the battle between Welles and Mankiewicz over Citizen Kane. The film rather puts its attention on Hollywood and its relation with politics at that time which made the film more interesting to me but some people may not enjoy it.
What I absolutely loved about Mank was its presentation. There is so much detail and care put into the overall look. The black and white felt very suitable, the costume design was great and I loved how the sound quality was adjusted to sound like how it would during the 1930-40s. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was so different from what they normally do but I thought they did a great job and it matched perfectly with the time period. It truly impressed me how much effort was put into making the film feel like it was from that period of time. I also liked how the structure of the story was reminiscent of Citizen Kane.
The acting was solid throughout. Gary Oldman did a great job and may possibly get a Best Actor nomination. I thought Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins and Tuppence Middleton were fantastic in their roles. Charles Dance was also extremely good here as William Randolph Hearst. Tom Pelphery and Arliss Howard were equally amazing and the rest of the cast did a fine job with each of their roles.
All in all, I really enjoyed Mank. The attention to detail in recreating the 1930-40s style of film was extraordinary and Jack Fincher's screenplay was pretty solid. This film is definitely going to be a frontrunner in the Oscars and I cannot wait to see it again.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Citizen Kane was ahead of its time!
For Mank, I thought to myself what better way to prepare for it by watching what is considered by many critics and many people THE BEST MOVIE EVER MADE: Citizen Kane.
Citizen Kane examines the legacy and life of the famous publishing tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, whilst reporters try to figure out the meaning behind his final word: Rosebud.
Released in 1941, Citizen Kane took the film industry by storm. It's one of the most talked about and critically acclaimed movies of all time. This film has such a profound impact on films as a whole that it's impossible to ignore. I've heard so much about Citizen Kane and was incredibly curious to find out what was so great about it and having seen it now, I completely understand why it's considered so great and why some people may feel underwhelmed by the end.
The experience of watching Citizen Kane can be very scary. For a film being put up so high on a pedestal, people tend to have a huge amount of expectations and by the end of it you may think it's simply good and not understand why there is so much hype surrounding it. The story isn't anything special but what makes this film so important is the technical aspects. The production was very controversial as Orson Welles had complete control over this movie, something that was unheard of for its time and what Welles brought to this film made it a huge phenomenon. The story structure, storytelling methods, cinematography and score were all ahead of its time. Looking at Citizen Kane from a 1940s perspective, it's incredible to see how ahead of his time Orson Welles was. The camera movements, editing tricks and more make it feel like a film that could've been made today instead of the 1940s aside from the black and white and sound quality.
Do I think Citizen Kane is the best movie ever made? No, but it's probably the most important. I cannot ignore how much impact and influence this film has on cinema and film as a whole. The way Welles helmed this film and its filmmaking techniques is nothing short of historic.
A one-man show
I'm a huge fan of Tom Hardy. He's an actor that is really able to transform himself into the characters he's playing and Ivan Locke is one of them.
Locke follows Ivan Locke, a successful construction manager, who receives a phone call on his drive from work which lead to a series of events that threaten his peaceful livelihood.
The way Locke is executed is very interesting. It takes place over the course of one car journey with Tom Hardy receiving and answering calls as he drives. There have been other films like this which take place in one location and Locke is an example of a great one. Despite its limited scale, I found this film gripping throughout its 85 minute runtime. It's not easy to be interested in watching a man talk to people over the phone whilst driving for 85 minutes but the script by Steven Knight is very well written. This film shows a man slowly losing the perfect life he had and Knight builds this tension and chaos extremely carefully.
With the rest of the cast like Tom Holland and Olivia Colman having voice roles, Tom Hardy is the only person we see during the film. Carrying an entire film by yourself isn't easy but Hardy pulls it off effortlessly. This is easily one of his best performances. It's great to see Hardy play an average guy and his reactions to every phone call was done really well. This is truly a one-man show.
I thought Locke was brilliant. The way Steven Knight created each situation and built upon it to create more tension whilst keeping it grounded in reality is fantastic. Once again Tom Hardy proves himself to be a talented actor and his ability to carry a film by himself is remarkable.
127 Hours (2010)
Intense, stylish and personal
Danny Boyle has been consistently giving us amazing films like Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire and Steve Jobs. Once again, Boyle succeeds with 127 Hours.
127 Hours is the true story of a man named Aron Ralston who gets trapped under a boulder whilst canyoneering near Utah.
Danny Boyle once again makes a fantastic film that managed to keep me on edge the entire time. What I really loved about 127 Hours was how personal it felt. We're with Ralston for the whole movie and so I felt a connection with him as he went on this expedition. The cinematography was absolutely gorgeous. The shakyness and close ups whilst Ralston was under the boulder created a claustrophobic and intense feeling that left me on edge till the end. Boyle is a stylish director and brought a lot of style to the film with some of the shots and the use of flashbacks and hallucinations. I wish Boyle held back a bit with his style as it would have made the film feel more raw and gritty but at the same time it actually brought me closer into the mind of Aron Ralston. It helped create a personal connection between him and the audience as we got an understanding of his perspective of the situation.
James Franco is truly outstanding here. This film is a one man show and so there is a lot of weight he has to carry but he does really well. I wholeheartedly believed the pain and struggle he was going through especially during the climax which is certainly not for the faint hearted. The editing was sharp, clocking in at 95 minutes, but some of the techniques like the split screen got a bit repetitive after a while.
Despite that, 127 Hours is another triumph for Danny Boyle. The film was engaging and tense throughout and James Franco delivered a knockout performance.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Genuinely creeped me out
I'm a huge fan of horror films and I've always been fascinated with found footage movies even though the ones I saw were pretty bad. The Blair Witch Project, on the other hand, is one of the best found footage films I've seen.
The Blair Witch Project tells the story of three teenagers who disappear in the woods whilst making a documentary on the urban legend known as the Blair Witch.
I really wish I saw this film when it came out. It was such a huge deal in 1999 and so many people believed everything that happened in the film was real and I can see why. Unlike a lot of modern found footage flicks, The Blair Witch Project stand out to me by how much thought and care went into its presentation to make it seem as authentic as possible. The low quality footage from the camera, casting non actors and the overall low budget of the film made it incredibly convincing that these three teens actually went missing. The three actors in the movie were fantastic especially considering this was their first film. Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard were very believable in their roles and most of their conversations being improvised helped sell the fact what I was watching was real.
A major complaint about this film was how it wasn't scary at all or nothing really happened which I totally understand but personally, I felt this growing tension building as the film went on. I loved the way everything started to slowly spiral and the actors got more and more agitated with one another. Despite nothing much happening, all the strange stuff that does happen kept me feeling tense and worried for the characters and, with every night, things got progressively creepier which led to an unsettling climax that genuinely freaked me out due to the brilliant camerawork and performances.
I have to give praise to Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. They came up with such a simple idea that required a really low budget and managed to inspire and popularise the found footage genre. Each element was carefully thought out to make it seem as real as possible and, in my eyes, I believe they succeeded.
The collaboration between Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao is a force to be reckoned with. They've given us great films like Shahid, Aligarh, Citylights and Omerta. Their fifth collaboration, Chhalaang is not up to the mark.
Chhalaang follows Montu, a PT teacher who is very lazy with his job. One day a senior PT teacher arrives and both clash with each other, leading to a sports competition between them to decide who gets to keep their job.
I really like Mehta and Rao's previous works together but this time they decided to do something more mainstream and accessible. The end product is Chhalaang, which is one of the most ordinary and unoriginal films pf the year. The film isn't terribly bad per se but it's nothing special or memorable like their previous films. This doesn't feel like a Hansal Mehta film as all his other movies feel grounded in reality but some of the events that take place in this film don't feel realistic at all. The sports competition is something I've seen countless times and is riddled with all the clichés you can expect. Nothing about it is very exciting or new. It's too predictable. What the film does do well is the authenticity of Haryana. The accents and location help in making the state feel real.
The acting is pretty good. Rajkummar Rao is great as usual. There is a great scene with him and Satish Kaushik drinking during the night and the way he delivers dialogue is really well done. Nushrat Bharucha does well but it felt strange seeing her character wear high heels throughout the movie. Saurabh Shukla and Jatin Sarna provide a couple of laughs and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub is pretty good as well.
Overall, Chhalaang is very predictable and forgettable. Nothing new or creative is done with this kind of story and nothing stands out in particular. Unfortunately it's just another basic sports drama...