This is an attempt at writing concise, snappy, yet informative reviews for those films, which I can’t dedicate the necessary time to write thorough and elaborate reviews for. It should also prove useful for folks who just like to skim through reviews and get a fair understanding of a film’s quality and what to expect from it. For those who prefer a deeper comprehension of what a movie has in store, and acclimatize themselves with all the positive and/or negative aspects of a film; I make it a point to post detailed and extensive reviews of most of the films I watch, on my home page. For others who don’t have the time to read fully detailed movie reviews because of prior commitments, just like I can’t always find the time to write such reviews because of other unavoidable commitments, this page should prove quite beneficial.
The Secret Life of Pets – 3.2/5 stars: Goofy, intermittently funny, and generally pleasing, The Secret Life of Pets overcomes its unoriginality (it’s basically a poor man’s Toy Story, with animals, and minus the indelibility) unevenness, and genre trappings, to offer a decently entertaining adventure on the back of adorably designed characters, a talented voice cast, breakneck pace (that does well to conceal a fair share of silliness), and some genuinely charming moments. Unless you’re 6-12 years old, Pets isn’t likely to leave an impression despite all its charm and fun to be had, but what it does do is cement Illumination’s (Despicable Me 1 and 2) potential as an animation studio to be reckoned with in the future.
Kabali – 1/5 stars: Almost every scene is disjointed, characters pop up randomly, do stuff even more randomly, logic is completely tossed out, things happen for no reason, reasonable things happen too late to make a difference, and you end up staring with your mouth agape and head throbbing at as one incredulity after the next unfolds. It’s like the Director-writer and Pa. Ranjith and the rest of the production unit didn’t even bother trying just because they got Rajinikanth on board, and seeing their lackadaisical attitude, the superstar responsible for their lack of effort didn’t try much to salvage something from this hotchpotch of drivel himself. Kabali is all about hero worshiping and absolutely nothing else. We just wonder if even Rajini’s most-diehard fans will find this endless exercise in hero-worship worth the wait and hype.
Central Intelligence – 3.8/5 stars: Whoever came up with the idea to cast Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Kevin Hart opposite each other in a buddy-cop action-comedy needs to be conferred with a big, shiny gold medal. Hart and Johnson make for such impeccable comic foils to each other, that their timing, crackling chemistry, and diametrically opposite but equally appealing winsome charm is enough to overcome some languid periods in the screenplay and ensure that “Central Intelligence” remains a wholly entertaining, genuinely funny, and at times rib-tickling romp. The instantly likable duo play off each other’s strengths perfectly to come up with an almost orchestra-esque symphony of brilliantly delivered one-liners and a rhythm that swings from the laidback to the hyperactive to the oddball to the ludicrous with equal gusto and charisma. Moreover, Director Rawson Marshall Thurber and his cowriters have a firm grasp of Johnson’s appeal as one of Hollywood’s biggest draws today, and exploit it to maximum effect. With plenty of good laughs, a few high-octane action scenes, and the aforementioned camaraderie between Hart and Johnson, “Central Intelligence” could signal the start of a pleasingly new buddy-cop franchise.
Warcraft – 1.7/5 stars: Between copious visual delights, a talented cast and a Director who’s capable of so much more are criminally wasted in a lethargic and ultimately tiresome adaptation of a world-famous game, which will feel completely hollow to those who’ve played it day-in-and-day-out and utterly pointless to those who’ve never been allured by the charms of these role-playing temptations. “Warcraft” is a land of magic you don’t want to visit, with spells whose only potency is either to put you to sleep or induce a desire of shredding the theater screen in disdain of what you’ve subjected yourself to.
Eddie the Eagle – 4.7/5 stars: Spurred on by a goofily amiable central performance from Taron Egerton as the eponymous Eddie Edwards (proving that “Kingsman” was no flash-in-the-pan), who imbues the titular character with an offbeat charm and almost Asperger’s-esque affability, “Eddie the Eagle” is that rare sports-drama that is satisfied in celebrating the gall of participation and spirit of competition at the highest level rather than being bothered with any sort of emphasis on victory or defeat. It’s this novelty of the plot and Director Dexter Fletcher’s ability to convert us into true believers of the importance of participation that sets the film apart from scores of other sports movie or biopics of any kind, ultimately making it shine several notches above its obvious clichés. There’s genuine emotion, elevated ecstasy, laugh-out-loud moments, unabashed tear-jerking, some manipulative sentimentality, an uber-cool Hugh Jackman, and a whole lot of inspirational and triumphant stuff going on; and you lap them all gleefully because this is just one good-ol’-fashioned, balls-out, entertaining romp of a film. “Eddie the Eagle” soars to the pinnacle of sporting cinematic classics.
The Mermaid (Mandarin) – 1.5/5 stars: One of the weirdest films ever made, Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid oscillates between being borderline unwatchable and sweetly enchanting. The problem is that it stagnates in unwatchable territory for far too long during these oscillations. The biggest atrocity that befalls the film is how absurd and downright naive the plotting gets at times, to the point where you actually cringe at yourself for sitting through it. Also, Chow’s idea of humor is way too cheesy and lame. If this is China’s highest-grossing film of all time, then God save Chinese cinema or rather the taste of the country’s movie-going audience. A way superior film better knock The Mermaid off the Chinese pole-position, and it better knock it off fast for the sake of justice and respectability.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – 3.7/5 stars: The best way describe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is by calling it what it is – a very, very, very entertaining movie, plain and simple. It’s offers adrenaline-pumping fun from start to end, with equal doses of action, humor, special effects, character interplay, and no-holds-barred excitement. Like the first part, TMNT 2 is just a plain ol’ good time at the movies. Hell, I liked it a tad more than Civil War, which, while good, I found to be messy in certain portions. Where Out of the Shadows succeeds big time is in bringing back fond childhood memories. (They even played a tweaked version of the original title song from the animated show at the end.) If I had to define the movie in one word, I’d say: “Cowabunga“!
Phobia (Hindi) – 3.1/5 stars: Director Pavan Kripalani gets a good grasp of Viki Rajani’s intricate screenplay, and moves the narrative along with the edginess and mystery it demands. He makes good on the promise he displayed in Ragini MMS and shows his skills of taking hold of your senses and scaring you when you least expect it. However, Kripalani completely loses the plot in the last 30-40 minutes, which all but derails the preceding good work. Still, if you can look past this lapse of direction (regardless how difficult it may be) leading to a wholly unsatisfying climax, then the film is still worth a watch for Radhika Apte alone, who gives the performance of a lifetime in Phobia. Her eyes convey such terror and each facial connotation expresses such fear that you’ll be overwhelmingly convinced of every affliction the Director associates her character with. With her portrayal of Mahek, Apte makes everyone from the audience to the rest of her fraternity sit up and take notice of the unexplored reserves of talent she possesses. She alone is worth the price of admission for Phobia.
Gods of Egypt – 3.5/5 stars: “Gods of Egypt” is one helluva exciting and engaging experience to spend a lazy afternoon with. It sets out to provide no-holds-barred entertainment, and that’s what it exactly does, without ever pretending to be anything more. Yes, it’s over-the-top, at times superficial, and mostly flashy, but it’s also offers plenty of fun – a simple, laidback kind of fun that we can all connect to from time-to-time if we are just willing to pull our heads out of our asses. For all its clichés, plot contrivances, and neat trimmings, Gods of Egypt succeeds as an endearing, goofy gloss on the fantasy spectacles of yesteryears – something like a homage to Ray Harryhausen’s best works like “Clash of the Titans” (1981), “Jason and the Argonauts”, and “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”, but “I, Robot” twelve years ago to show off his visual eye, and he does it with aplomb and opulence, sadly, with too much opulence at times, which threatens to derail the viewing experience at certain junctures. Nevertheless, its over-indulgence and some logical loopholes aside, “Gods of Egypt” inexplicably won me over with its spectacular canvas and light, breezy entertainment.
Kill Command – 3.1/5 stars: Writer-Director Steven Gomez’s indie sci-fi film pays as an obvious homage to all things James Cameron, but this homage knows its limitations, sticks to its strengths, and shows reverence to what it’s paying homage to without ever trying to outdo it or get too smart for its own good (a grave blunder many movie with similar intentions commit). “Kill Command” has an unmistakable retro – vibe that manages to suck you into its world – a world that somehow defies the limited budget it’s constrained with by riding on the backs of some brisk pacing, interesting plot elements, surprisingly decent effects, and all-round good performances, which come together to conceal many of the scripting flaws. What, this low-budget robot movie successfully does in the end is outscore many similarly conceived but poorly executed large-scale, big-studio, hollow Hollywood spectacles.
Race – 4.7/5 stars: A stirring biopic, rich in period detail, Race is an inspiring depiction of multiple Olympian gold-medalist Jesse Owens’ belief in his abilities and triumph over several race-related issues that almost derailed his position in the annals of sporting history. The film pleasingly plays to its old-fashioned strengths of paying reverence to determination and perseverance, and they work big time in presenting one of the best feel-good film to emerge in recent times. It also offers a telling medley of sports, politics, racism, adversity, tenacity, and history, delivered with as much fluidity as its protagonists’ swift and agile strides. And, if the movie manages to be the uplifting human drama that it is along with being a pumping sports biopic, then much of that is owed to Stephan James, Jason Sudekis (surprisingly one and all in his first serious dramatic turn), and the veteran, Jeremy Irons, who contribute as much vigor and verve to proceedings with their fantastic performances as Stephen Hopkins does with his thoughtful direction, and writers Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel manage with their sharp, effervescent script. In short, Race is one highly engaging and thoroughly rewarding biopic that you need to run and see as fast as you can.
Batman: Bad Blood – 3.3/5 stars: As is the norm with Warner Bros./DC’s DTH-video series, “Batman: Bad Blood”, too, is short and snappy, clocking in at about 75 minutes, which means its themes are mostly presented on the surface, with little time for any deeper exploration. Nevertheless, this latest offering from DC’s popular and highly entertaining animated universe – the only avenue where they still score over Marvel – has an enjoyable comic-book appeal; presents an intricate story (which gets a bit too intricate for its own good at times) amid tons of superhero fun and crackerjack animation; is gleefully action-packed to a fault, and gets you involved from the get-go and holds your interest to the end even if it doesn’t absorb you as much as some of Batman’s more superior animated outings like “The Dark Knight Returns”, “Under the Red Hood”, “Mystery of the Batwoman”, and “Son of Batman”.
Money Monster – 3.5/5 stars: Well-acted, smartly written, and tensely directed, “Money Monster” rides a timely wave of economic issues and societal discord to deliver a mostly engaging, almost pulsating, but occasionally far-fetched and sporadically inconsistent thriller. It also takes a much-needed dig at those TV charlatans who spout all that devious hokum about stocks and shares, and use their guiles to charm unsuspecting, hardworking folk into innocently gobbling up their gobbledygook. As a tense piece of entertainment, Jodie Foster’s fourth Directorial venture works just fine – it’s quite edgy, surprisingly witty for its heavy subject, and ticks most of the right boxes. However, as a suspenseful film about a pertinent topic, it comes close to investing in some good stocks, but never quite manages to sell it before those stocks start dipping.
The Finest Hours – 3.9/5 stars: “The Finest Hours” blends high-stakes adventure with uplifting human drama to take viewers on an exciting voyage on the rough open seas while also never forgetting to be an inspirational, stirring journey that pays the right homage befitting the real-life heroes at the center of its plot without ever glorifying them to the point that their human perseverance and unending tenacity become transcendental and difficult to relate to. Its brilliant entertainment coupled with quality drama, good acting (particularly from Chris Pine and Casey Affleck while Ben Foster and Holliday Garinger are also serviceable), tight scripting, and mesmerizing visual effects. The boat-navigation scenes against insanely inclement weather on stormy open waters alone are worth the price of admissions as is the actual rescue and sequences where a bunch of exhausted sailors do everything in their power to stay alive on a ship ripped in half. “The Finest Hours” is just a perfectly done adventure with copious exciting, tense, and poignant moments about what was unquestionably a heroic rescue 64 years ago.
The Darkness – 1.4/5 stars: “The Darkness” is so obsessed with being vaguely creepy and so caught up in its delusions of grandeur about making the next-best haunted house movie that it can’t be bothered about peripheral distractions like plot development, entertainment, originality, and logic. In his attempt to do all things “Poltergeist”, Director Greg McLean ends up shitting all over the legacy of the aforementioned classic, going to show that even if you blatantly derive from a superlative film, you need an astute mind with sound judgment at the helm of things. McLean throws everything from CGI phantoms to horrified looks to what’s-lurking-behind-the-bend our way, but they all do little to hold our attention. The scariest thing about this scary feature were its misleadingly scary previews. What in the world could have convinced the immensely talented Kevin Bacon to star in this unmitigated, soporific mess?
Baskin (Turkish) – 1.7/5 stars: The Turkish horror feature “Baskin” never really involves you in its narrative or characters, and offers very little in the way of genuine scares, ultimately plummeting its initial promise into the depths of repetitively muddled dream sequences. Yes, gore, guts, and grotesque abound, but if anything, they serves as classic representations of a plot that fails abysmally to support the carnage that unfolds onscreen. I’ve nothing against extreme violence and copious bloodiness; but their indulgence needs to be backed with at least a semblance of purpose.
10 Cloverfield Lane – 4.3/5 stars: Smart, sly, atmospheric, crisply directed, and palpably tense, “10 Cloverfield Lane” brilliantly chews its confined setting, with the help of an exemplary three-man cast, to offer a diabolically subversive little gem of a sci-fi film in the league of indisputable classics like “A Clockwork Orange”, “Blade Runner”, and “Soylent Green”, which take wicked pleasure in bending the genre to not only make the viewer keep guessing the trajectory of the plot, but also the theme of the film itself. In doing so, it also underlines the disconcerting thought that regardless of whatever extraterrestrial terrors we think may be lurking outside, the greatest peril could come from the individuals inside. This claustrophobic sci-fi -thriller will excite you, keep you on edge, lull you into a false sense of safety, jolt you back to reality, and then evolve into a wholly different kind of beast in the finale, at which point of time you’re so involved that your suspension of dis belief can handle just about anything.
Dirty Grandpa – 1.9/5 stars: Offensive in all the wrong ways, “Dirty Grandpa” desperately wants to be a raunchy, politically incorrect, gross-out comedy, with crude gags and a big heart, but all it ends up being is a desperately rehashed, piss-clone of some of the better works of Judd Apatow, Evan Goldberg and The Farrellys. Spare yourself the torment of having the image of cinema icon Robert De Niro tarnished forever, and go look for your does of dirty humor elsewhere.
Sairat (Marathi) – 4.1/5 stars: It may be old wine in a new bottle, but, boy, what a sparkling bottle it is. “Sairat” proves yet again that a great Director doesn’t need great stories or brilliant concepts. They can breathe life into the simplest, mundane yarns, and spin a highly engaging narrative around it. It also helps if you’re backed up by two central performances (Rinky Rajguru and Akash Thosar) that can portray your vision to the T by knocking it out of the park in doing nothing more than just being as realistic and as natural as they can on screen. And, that music…my, oh, my…it has the power to make a stone fall in love; touch the soul of a terrorist; and even get the dead to rise up for one last dance – take a bow Ajay-Atul, you’ve created one of the best OSTs in cinematic history. “Sairat” is a love story that’s as uplifting as it’s difficult to watch because of how innocent and yet brutal it is.
The Witch – 1.8/5 stars: Visually, “The Witch” looks damn creepy, and it builds immense atmosphere, but it all peters out well before any significant momentum can be reached. Yes, it’s different from your regular, modern horror movie, but it also fails miserably at capitalizing on being different. Plus, there’s too much of mumbo-jumbo about religion, sin, feminism, and other peripheral stuff going on for the film to get its head out of its own ass. In addition, “The Witch” commits the cardinal cinematic sin of misleading viewers because the trailer and posters sold it as a horror movie, but, in actuality, it’s a somber drama about familial discord and witchcraft. “The Witch” is like a boring, King James version of a horror movie. Many other critics are raving about it, but after watching it, I felt like going home and sitting through a Wes Craven or Dario Argento marathon.
13 Cameras – 3.5/5 stars: Victor Zarcoff’s slow-burning debut is edgy enough to get him noticed as a Director to watch out for, especially in the thriller and horror genres. That doesn’t mean “13 Cameras” is a flawless film, but it effectively weaves together more than a few ominous sequences, and slowly but surely keeps building on the tension to deliver a grim and, at times, uncomfortable thriller. But, where Zarcoff hits a whole home run is in delivering a finale that’s genuinely chilling and unnerving. And, that twist in the end there’s no way anyone can see that coming.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War – 1.7/5 stars: Three of Hollywood’s most powerful actresses at the moment get lost in a mosaic of bloated visual effects, which is as big as any crime a film could commit. Plus, by cramming far too much material into its 114-minute runtime, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” feels rushed from the beginning and totally incomplete toward the end. This is the kind of trip they’re referring that makes people gripe about Hollywood’s reliance on sequels and cheap franchise cash-ins, which offer nothing but over-done, run-of-the mill CGI. In fact, if “Huntsman” does anything, it’s expose Chris Hemsworth’s acting shortcomings and seriously question his ability to carry a movie on his shoulders; in short, Hollywood need to do a rethink about banking on him as leading-man material. (He’s good as Thor, but that’s Marvel, which almost sells itself.) On the whole, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is an entirely unnecessary sequel to what was already a weak first installment, which did very little in terms of setting up a franchise.
Deadpool – 3.9/5 stars: Irreverent, incorrigible, downright hilarious, and gleefully profane, “Deadpool” subverts superhero film formula with wildly entertaining and deliberately non-family-friendly results. It busts the pomposity of your average Hollywood comic book movie and also manages to totally rip apart the fourth wall with complete self-awareness, a deliciously laugh-out-loud script, and a cocky, abrasive title character played with much joie-de-vivre by a surprising likable Ryan Reynolds (perhaps he should play all his onscreen roles with a mask). It’s about darn time that superhero flicks got a character as twisted, as real, as unbothered, and even a bit selfish as “Deadpool” is. Even though the bad guy and his character arc are somewhat of a letdown, this is still about as much fun as you could ask for from an R-rated superhero movie.
Hail, Caesar! – 3.3/5 stars: “Hail, Caesar” has engagingly goofy intrigue to it, but the plot is merely an excuse for the Coen Brothers to spoof a series of Hollywood genres with gleeful abandon. It’s a film some will love, some will hate, while others will sit somewhere in the middle of disappointment and admiration. The problem is that “Hail, Caesar” is easily the Coens’ most and least cynical, which makes it lodges it just below the best among their enviable filmography. Fans of these iconic filmmakers should enjoy the ride. Those unfamiliar with their previous work may find it all a bit too strange. Nevertheless, “Hail, Caesar” joyously continues the Coens’ tradition of churning out pastiche films every now and then; it’s brazenly silly but pulled off with old-school panache. By no stretch of the imagination or loyalty to the brothers’ erstwhile endeavors will this ever find a place among their previous classics. However, as a glorious ode to an era gone by and referenced only in passing thought among those who don’t matter, and in hushed whispers among those who do, “Hail, Caesar” works just fine.
The Boy – 1.9/5 stars: “The Boy” aims to set itself squarely in the fictional canon of Chucky and its brethren, but it ends up trying to do so much that it forgets to scare us. A heavy reliance on dream sequences for jump scares reveals that the plotline has nowhere to go, and the climactic twists are wholly dissatisfying and belie logic when drawn up against the (mildly scary) events that precede it. Fans of The Walking Dead’s gorgeous Lauren Cohan should wait for another feature that does justice to the actress’ talent. She tries her best to salvage whatever little she can from the drab screenplay and lackluster direction, but, then again, there’s only so much she or any other actor stuck in such an unimaginatively hauntless situation could do.
Neerja (Hindi) – 4/5 stars: With Neerja, Director Ram Madhvani delivers a film that’s grim, hard-hitting, real, emotional, and terrifying all at once. Neerja is not a film that you watch for entertainment, it’s a depressing watch because the real-life story, where a 23-year old flight attendant sacrifices her life to defend the passengers aboard her plane, is deeply tragic and heart-wrenching. Moreover, at approximately two hours, the pacing of the film is just right, giving the audience enough time to both digest the proceedings and get involved in the narrative. As an ode to the youngest recipient of India’s highest civilian honor, the Ashoka Chakra (for displaying extraordinary valor, human kindness, and self-sacrifice away from the battlefield), Neerja is a must-watch. You’ll be glued to the screen as Neerja Bhanot’s intrepidity, calmness, and willingness (surprisingly well-done by Sonam Kapoor) to put other lives before her own fills you with admiration, pride, and even a sense of humility. In addition, the movie also makes a brief but telling statement about the need to raise our daughters as fearlessly as our sons, a message that the legendary Shabana Azmi nails in that last scene.
Teraa Surroor (Hindi) – 1.7/5 stars: For all its intent to be a slick thriller, “Teraa Surroor” is desperately short on novelty and entertainment. It’s merely another yarn of a hero on a rescue mission, in which all the goons he fights in an exotic foreign locale are Indian and it is blatantly obvious that all the action sequences are shot in India, with no attempt made to even disguise it. True to his reputation, Himesh Reshammiya — the only valid reason for “Teraa Surroor’s” existence – does not show any expression; not even one, not even a quarter. Naseeruddin Shah, Shernaz Patel, and Shekhar Kapoor somehow find their way into this tripe, and do whatever they can for it. But, obviously, that’s not enough. The movie is often unintentionally funny, and not something you’d want to waste your precious time on. Now, on paper, the film did look like a neat thriller. However, the execution is marred with umpteen songs, romantic flashbacks, and infinite slow-mo sequences that eventually kill the pace and continuity. Neither suspenseful in its twists and turns, nor breezy in its proceedings, the film seems to exist for no other purpose than to act as a showcase for Himes Bhai and his minimal talent. It’s not the worst Himesh film, but that isn’t saying much considering how low he’s already set the bar.
Sanam Re (Hindi) – 1.6/5 stars: The only good things that can be said about “Sanam Re” are that the makers have done a fine job of selecting locations and the cinematography appeals to your senses. Besides those factors, the film has absolutely nothing else to appeal to your senses. The music is quite forgettable, the direction is amateurish, the writing pathetic, and the performances are no great shakes either. At least Director Divya Khosla Kumar’s debut film, “Yaariyan”, moved along at a decent click even if it was way too clichéd. Here, the pace is so sluggish that you’d might have to pinch yourself to stay awake not even an hour into the movie. Divya Khosla needs to brush up her directing skills quick because her directorial is starting to look more like a holiday package for the entire production team. If you thought that “Sanam Re” is a love story, then it isn’t one any sane person would want to experience in their lifetime. This isn’t a love story to be watched on Valentine’s Day or any other day for that matter.
Mastizaade (Hindi) – 1.8/5 stars: In an attempt to make a sex-comedy, “Mastizaade” goes extremely overboard and ends up becoming directionless. The film is nothing but an onscreen amalgamation of Wassap jokes, clichéd one-liners, and viral videos. There are scenes here that could give you nightmares – like seeing the septuagenarian Asrani almost bare-clad under a waterfall, or Suresh Menon’s gay caricature that has been done to death and isn’t funny anymore. “Mastizaade” is as pointless as a punctured condom and as ghastly as a bad boob-job. It’s made by a bunch of sweaty sleazeballs intent on exploiting Sunny Leone’s star power and her tasteful sex appeal in an attempt to straight up rob you of your cash. What the filmmakers do is shamelessly and pathetically prey on a certain repressed section of the audience, by serving up an unforgivably brain-dead offering designed to appeal to their most primordial instincts. A sex-comedy is meant to be silly, titillating fun, not unabashedly crass and unapologetically stupid.
Fitoor (Hindi) – 1.3/5 stars: Abhishek Kapoor clearly has “grand ambitions” with his “Great Expectations” (pun intended). In adapting Charles Dickens’ seminal literary classic to the Indian screen, he mostly gets the milieu right but everything else is a hot mess, with a cold setting. The script meanders, takes far too long to come to the point, and the subplots take away from the main love story, which doesn’t have much love or passion in it to begin with. And, as if taking a cue from Abhishek Kapoor’s lackluster Direction and the sluggishness of the screenplay, Aditya Roy Kapur and Katrina Kaif, too, do their best to not infuse any romance or passion to their chemistry (or rather the lack of it), which quickly fizzles when it really needed to sizzle. A lot of the tonal inconsistencies arise from the loose adaptation of the great material. Maybe, just maybe, Abhishek Kapoor should stick to adapting Chetan Bhagat’s books for the big screen. How else does one explain a Director going from two great films like “Rock On” and “Kai Po Che” to this tripe? Now, “Fitoor” does score some points for its breathtaking cinematography, opulent sets, and lavish costumes. Sadly, the editing lags and lacks any slickness, with the film going on for far too long. In the end, “Fitoor” doesn’t spare Kashmir, Delhi, London, or even Pakistan (which somehow finds its way into this tale), and certainly not the audience.
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday – 1.5/5 stars: It’s like one of those drab and juvenile “Muppets” or “Scooby-Doo” movies, where you’re happy to see the characters back on screen again, bet get quickly annoyed that the filmmakers forgot to add enough jokes to make it funny or at least some coherent humor for the adults to find it funny along with the kids, especially considering that the core audience would be adults who had watched it when they were kids. The character of Pee-wee Herman is still as startling and original and endearing as he ever was. In fact, I would have given “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” a 1-star rating was it not for Paul Reubens being charming as ever in the role that made him a household name. He just deserves a funnier, more entertaining holiday to connect with today’s audience and reconnect with the audience who grew up enjoying his simple, innocent, silly brand of laughs that were by no means absurd or off-putting. There’s a difference being silly fun and sheer stupidity.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny – 3.5/5 stars: While “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” looks tremendous and the fight scenes are giddily exhilarating, you can’t help but feel at times that something’s lacking. Perhaps the villains needed to be more fleshed-out, maybe the main characters’ backstories should have been better handled, or the plot could have had more depth. But, for what it’s worth, this is still one helluva entertaining martial arts spectacle even though it doesn’t quite measure up to the lofty standards of its prequel. Plus, Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen never fail to make it worth your while. After Netflix’s highly successful original TV shows, “Sword of Destiny” along with the stupendous “Beasts of no Nation” last year keeps the flame burning brighter than ever for the live-streaming service’s exciting new foray into original movie-making.
Ride Along 2 – 3.2/5 stars: “Ride Along 2” wants you to relax your brain (not switch it off, whatever that nonsensical term means) and enjoy some silly jokes, simple fun, adolescent gags, and innocent banter between Ice Cube and Kevin Hart; and guess what…? It gets you to do exactly that, so it’s a success to that effect at least. Those who had a good time with the camaraderie and opposing comic styles of straight-faced Cube and motor-mouthed Hart from their first outing together, will have enough reason to smile at their second collaboration for this sequel to their hit buddy-cop venture. Though it’s more or less of the same, there’s still plenty going on here to make it feel just about different enough – from its predecessor and other numerous buddy-cop movies out there – to get the job done. And, on that note, however watchable, “Ride along 2” may be, or regardless of how much innocuous fun there’s to be had from it, Hart and Cube should pull up to the curb and bring their almost-milked ride to a stop with this sequel for fear of exhausting the formula to the point that it’s no longer fun or watchable.
Kung Fu Panda 3 – 3.8/5 stars: Along with the expected visual splendor reminiscent of its first two installments, “Kung Fu Panda 3” also boasts much of the same whole-scale fun, dreamy charm, and inescapable with that made its parts one and two such lovable family fare. On the whole, the film is simpler and sweeter than the first two entries of this infectious franchise, but that doesn’t in the slightest take away from the fact that it’s humor is just as effective and the characters as affable or memorable (both new and recurring) as they ever were. And, as often it is with these kinds of films, the animation is spellbinding, but, where it sets itself apart from most of the other visually gorgeous affairs is in its striking palette of colors and mesmerizing landscapes, derived from sources as rich and diverse as Chinese and Japanese artwork to grunge and rock music album covers. If the plot is a tad rushed in places and some of the characters not as fleshed out when compared to parts one and two, then the animation and visuals takes it to whole different level that those two films didn’t come near. At the end of the day, “Kung Fu Panda 3’s” vibrant and merry mix of life lessons and action-packed adventure wins you completely over.