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Do It Once, It's A Fluke. Do It Twice, And It's Something Else.
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.
Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
What Would Fred Rogers Do?
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.
Triple Threat (2019)
So Much Wasted Potential
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.
Minding the Gap (2018)
An Honest, Intimate, Heartfelt, Poignant & Self-Reflexive Essay
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.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Strong Hero. Weak Film.
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.
Triple Frontier (2019)
Ambitious Story. Uneven Execution. Terrible Characterisation.
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.
Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)
Powerful. Provocative. Hilarious.
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.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
More Speculative Than Fact-Based But Highly Entertaining Nonetheless
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.
Free Solo (2018)
One Of The Most Intense, Gripping, Thrilling & Entertaining Documentaries You'll See
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.
Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)
An Unscripted Adventure Back To The RMS Titanic
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.
Another Middling Entry In A Middling Cinematic Universe
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.
A Masterwork of Social-Realism
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.
Kinder des Kalifats (2017)
An Unshakeable, Unflinching & Unbiased Observation Of Salafi Jihadism
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.
Manbiki kazoku (2018)
What Makes A Family Family?
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.
Creed II (2018)
A Rousing Sequel That's 33 Years In The Making
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.
Ridiculous. Ludicrous. Preposterous.
It is always difficult to give a damn about characters who sideline basic common sense for impulsive & mind-numbingly stupid action, and then find themselves in all sorts of trouble for which they are solely responsible. The premise of zombies in World War II setting may sound outlandish but it was also feasible, that is until the writers decided to fill the story with characters as brainless as the undead.
The story of Overlord follows a small group of American soldiers behind enemy lines whose mission is to destroy a radio tower in order to ensure the success of Allied invasion the next day. But their mission turns into a horrifying nightmare when they learn about the secret human experiments that the Nazis have been carrying out on the town's residents, and must act before the pandemic spreads.
Directed by Julius Avery, the film isn't subtle at all in telling the viewers where the inspiration for numerous moments come from, and is an unabashedly silly, pulpy & gleeful gorefest that may delight B-movie fanatics. Not one character is penned down properly, the rookie protagonist being the worst scripted of them all, and so we are never invested in them and keep a safe distance from the horror they later find themselves in.
And with terrible characters come terrible performances. Wyatt Russell's character is the only one with any presence of mind but even he discards it later so as to not feel being left out. The incompetent rookie keeps making moronic choices for the entirety of the story, and his idiocy rubs off on everyone around him. The crimson violence, gore & bloodshed is present in good amount yet the film never goes full tilt with it the way zombie films tend to.
Maybe every single complaint I have regarding Overlord is a deliberate choice by the filmmakers. Maybe it's supposed to be this absurd, outrageous & preposterous war horror parody filled with witless characters that just throws everything at the wall, hoping that audience will find some of it interesting & amusing. Either way, I have low tolerance for these shtick treatments, and even more so when within the laughable premise lies a potentially intense, gripping & solid horror flick.
Den skyldige (2018)
One Of The Best Films Of 2018
Making the most of its minimal setting & limited resources to deliver a tense, taut & thrilling delight that definitely ranks amongst last year's finest films, The Guilty is an increasingly unnerving, consistently engaging & downright sophisticated thriller from Denmark that's expertly crafted, tightly plotted & neatly executed. It may look simple in structure but beneath its surface lies a finely layered tale of emotional baggage & moral conflict that imparts an additional weight to its drama while slowly elevating the tension to never-wracking levels.
Ahlat Agaci (2018)
A Tad Too Drawn Out & Preachy
From the writer-director of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia & Winter Sleep, The Wild Pear Tree provides an interesting glimpse into life in modern Turkey, and makes for a fascinating character sketch of a young man who finds himself being dragged towards a destiny he cannot embrace. Though not as rewarding as his finest directorial efforts, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest is still more than capable of standing on its own, and is definitely a must-see for the fans of the renowned Turkish auteur.
The Hate U Give (2018)
Powerful, provocative & pertinent in its depiction of the current sociopolitical climate in the United States, The Hate U Give is a sincerely crafted crime drama that's told with restless aggression, overflowing with charged emotions, urgent in dealing with topical themes, unsparing in its portrait of injustice & corruption within the American law enforcement system, resonates strongly on emotional level, and is championed by an absolutely smashing performance from its young lead. One of the best films of 2018.
Mirai no Mirai (2018)
Funny, Heartfelt & Magical Adventure About The Ties That Bring Families Together
Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the upcoming Academy Awards, Mirai is a delightfully nostalgic, warm-hearted & wonderfully evocative tale of childhood & parenting that explores coming-of-age elements through the eyes of a little kid who finds a portal that enables him to travel through time into his family's past & future.
The story follows a young boy who struggles to cope with the arrival of his new-born sister into the household and creates a ruckus to get his parents' attention. But his perspective begins to change when the garden in his backyard becomes a gateway that allows him to go back n forth in time to meet family relatives from different eras.
Written & directed by Mamoru Hosoda (known for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), the film is precise in portraying the neglect, jealousy & frustration felt by older siblings when they aren't their parents' centre of attention anymore, plus Hosoda's decision to allow these little, simple & whimsical moments to play out entirely gives his story an added emotional weight.
Its simplistic animation, lighthearted approach & witty treatment are in tune with Hosoda's narrative style. The time-travel segments begin & end abruptly but each brings a certain value that adds up in the final outcome. Its 98 minuets runtime is a tad stretched, for the film feels longer. Voice cast bring their animated figures to life with flair, while the musical touches are often well-timed.
On an overall scale, Mirai is a funny, heartfelt & magical adventure fantasy about the ties that bring families together, and is one amongst the better films of 2018. Crafted with affection, told with sincerity & exhibiting a childlike simplicity in its presentation, Mamoru Hosoda's latest is another fascinating addition to his canon and is well-deserving of a broader viewership. Definitely recommended.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
A Melancholic Comedy With Enough Quirks & Charm
Asking us to root for a failed writer with drinking problems who likes cats better than people, lives in an awful smelling apartment with a feline that's been around her for so long that it looks dead from inside, and who later decides to commit felony to make ends meet, it's suffice to say that there isn't much to like about our protagonist but there's a heart & understanding to this story that at least allows us to sympathise, if not care.
Based on the memoir of the same name, Can You Ever Forgive Me tells the story of Lee Israel, who finds herself in financial troubles after her career heads downhill and in a state of desperation begins to forge & sell letters from deceased writers & playwrights. Turning her art form to deception does bring her easy bucks but when suspicions are raised regarding the authenticity of her letters, she enlists a friend to abet her in the crime.
Directed by Marielle Heller, the film takes a lighthearted approach to all the events that unfold yet themes of loneliness, desperation, deception & companionship are appropriately addressed in many of those moments. It's in Israel's relationship with others that we get a true picture of her personality and the way it slowly takes over her unfriendly exterior forms the core of this biopic. And on top of that, there are couple performances that make the ride smoother.
Melissa McCarthy plays Lee Israel and though utterly annoying during the opening act, her fine showcase does manage to steer the not so positive first impression to a more favourable outcome by the time the story nears its completion. Richard E. Grant is excellent as well, lightning up the ambience with just his mere presence in the role of her friend who later becomes an accomplice in her criminal enterprise. The two also share a wonderful chemistry that only works out in the film's favour.
On an overall scale, Can You Ever Forgive Me travels a rather conventional route, providing few chuckles along the way, and is made better by brilliant performances from McCarthy & Grant who simply take their respective roles and just run with it. A melancholic comedy with enough quirks & charms to keep the viewers interested, if not invested, Can You Ever Forgive Me allows us to peek through the scenario that drove Lee Israel to script a new, (in)famous legacy after the old one stopped paying her bills. Worth a shot.
The Most Interesting Film About The Most Interesting Conspiracy Theory
Of all the conspiracy theories circulating out there, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is arguably the most interesting one, stemming from the subsequent lack of a clear, satisfying & irrefutable explanation for how the machinations of assassinating the United States President was carried out, and what exactly was the motive behind it.
JFK is a 3-hour long political thriller that takes all the theories surrounding the case into consideration, looks for the inconsistencies in the Warren Commission, and then concocts a cleverly structured & masterly edited account that steadily grabs hold of the viewers' attention, only gets more gripping as plot progresses, and finally concludes by implanting a reasonable doubt in their minds.
An Esoteric, Elusive & Equivocal Psychological Mystery
Slow, meandering & a tad overlong, Burning takes its time to set up its premise and can be a chore to sit through if one isn't invested in the characters' journey but it also rewards the viewers' patience with a twisting finale that's ambiguous enough to keep them pondering about it long after the credits have rolled. An esoteric, elusive & equivocal psychological drama mystery that audience may benefit from multiple viewings, Burning is a South Korean thriller unlike most South Korean thrillers.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Heartwarming & Heartbreaking In Equal Doses
A sumptuously shot, delicately layered & beautifully composed symphony of love, hope, tragedy, sacrifice & communal bonding, If Beale Street Could Talk is a pure, poetic & passionate piece of work from Barry Jenkins that presents the filmmaker making terrific use of his skillset to deliver yet another emotionally resonant fable.
The story follows a young African-American woman whose life takes a tragic turn after her fiancé is wrongfully arrested for a crime he didn't commit. With the couple expecting their first child, she races against time to prove his innocence and seeks support from her family who help her throughout her pregnancy and with the case.
Fresh from his Academy Award-winning Moonlight, writer-director Barry Jenkins translates James Baldwin's novel on the film canvas with honesty & authenticity, thus making sure the story's essence remains in tact. Each scene is crafted with care & compassion, and the resulting imagery from that is rich in both colours & emotions.
From a technical standpoint, If Beale Street Could Talk is sophisticated filmmaking throughout. The images aren't just gorgeously rendered but are more than capable of narrating the entire story without any verbal exposition. The unhurried pacing is deliberate yet may not appease all while Nicholas Britell's stirring score is as fitting as it is emotionally evocative.
Coming to the performances, the film packs a reliable cast in Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry & Ed Skrein, and none of them falter in their respective roles. Layne & James play the young couple and share a heartfelt chemistry on screen. Skrein is easily detestable as the racist cop. And King leaves her own mark with a solid input.
On an overall scale, If Beale Street Could Talk is an amalgamation of polished direction, sincere writing, arresting photography, mesmerising score & committed performances that manages to be heartwarming & heartbreaking in equal doses, and finds Barry Jenkins channeling his creative energy to give expression to his African-American legacy through the eyes of a young couple, their families & their lives.
A Private War (2018)
A Substandard Biopic Led By Rosamund Pike's Commanding Performance
Narrating the life story of one of the most fearless & celebrated war correspondents of our time, A Private War attempts to capture the emotional & psychological toll the trauma of covering warfare can have on journalists on the front lines but it is just as confused in its presentation as it is conventional in its approach. Failing to bring the viewers into the conflict, there is nothing about this biopic that separates it from the norm except for Rosamund Pike's strong lead show that makes the ride adequately engaging & serviceable.