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One-Line Review: Blank (3 Stars)
Blank is the type of movie that shows why a decent story needs a slightly more decent filmmaking (direction, writing, and performances) to come out as something that is remotely watchable for even the average audience, regardless of its theme and the X-factor. TN.


Capsule Review: Thamasha (7 Stars)
Thamasha (Comedy) makes you feel good about life. It makes you want to tackle the issues in your life by looking at the bright side. The same way how the #2 showstealer in this comedy drama Chinnu Nair lives her life when she is at the receiving end of unsolicited analysis and advice from the society. Vinay Forrt, however, is who drives this show into a delightful mixture of mild slapstick and realistic depiction of human life with his nuanced performance as this somewhat taciturn, perennially anxious bachelor looking for a bride. I could say that this is an extension of his memorable role in Alphonse Putharen's Premam (2015) but that would mean taking the novelty out of this original slice-of-a-life film that unearths the hidden problems influencing the decisions of bachelors and bachelorettes of the world, and how appearance is still regarded as the number one factor in arranged matrimony in India. Save for the illogical and/or factually incorrect nature of the conflict in the second half involving social media, I had a pleasant experience viewing this due to its sufficient dose of comedy and wonderful performances including by Navas Vallikunnu, Arun Kurian (who excels as the typical 'brother of the protag'), and Grace Antony. Thamasha is bound to bring a heavy smile on your face that will linger for days after you watch it and that's the magic of this new director Ashraf Hamza who we need to keep an eye on along with Khalid Rahman and Madhu Narayanan all of whom have given us three of the best films of 2019 so far. TN.


One-Line Review: Hamid (7 Stars)
It will take a little extra patience from you but Hamid (given Urdu name) delivers as a heartwarming film about looking for closure in your personal life when things become difficult as does for this young school-going kid in this social drama who decides to take it up with god to find answers. TN.

Children's Park

One-Line Review: Children's Park (6 Stars)
When you see Shafi and Raffi joining hands for a movie you know there's gonna be heck load of laugh out loud comedy in the start and some emotional drama in the second half, and Children's Park is no different. TN.

Child's Play

Capsule Review: Child's Play (3 Stars)
Child's Play is a movie that shouldn't have been made for there is no difference between it and the half a dozen or so installments that preceded it. But more than that it's the simple lack of horror and the doll's awkward appearance that plays spoilsport with this more of a slasher film. What I did like, however, is the representation of how artificial intelligence can wreak havoc by taking over our lives. Now that's a theme I like but for all the other reasons there's no way I am going to be stoked about a Child's Play 2 reboot.

Chaayam Poosiya Veedu

Molecule Review: Chaayam Poosiya Veedu (5 Stars)
Chaayam Poosiya Veedu (The Painted House) starts its inaccessible philosophical drivel right from the start as you follow an aged writer going about his life without disturbing his environment when a young woman with a seductive air comes visiting. A man in the same age group as hers comes visiting next causing disturbance in the writer as he continues to see his life being turned upside down by these two vagabonds; but only time tells him that they have some other plans in mind. It is obvious that Chaayam Poosiya Veedu would take the dull, ambiguous route to end its story but what it does differently is the easy-going narration with straightforward dialogues between the three main characters. It makes for a good one hour before the story takes a turn and makes you wonder what the makers are trying to say. The female frontal nudity, perhaps to denote the sexual desire in human beings, could have been avoided but that does not stop the philosophical drama from losing sight and conveying its message (what I deduced from it, that is): that sometimes it can be difficult to understand or justify why you are living the life. TN.

Oru Avadhikaalam

Molecule Review: Oru Avadhikaalam (2 Stars)
Major Ravi's first film Oru Avadhikaalam (A Time of Vacation) is as horrible as you think it would be, forcing you to go back and confirm the basics of filmmaking. It looks everything like the past century (as it was produced before 1999 as Toofan (Typhoon)) where kids fool around in a small village, bump into a wounded dog, and then decide to keep it. The only problem is that dogs are not allowed in the village due to a strange superstition, something you only realize when Major Ravi himself makes a special appearance at the end and preaches about it with a patriotic jingle concluding the torture that has about five good jokes for you to prevent from dying. TN.


Molecule Review: Lens (7 Stars)
Lens is a film that practically needs a lot more polishing in terms of performances, direction, and continuity. But from a theoretical point of view, it hits the nail throughout, holding up a mirror to our society where obscene MMS clips are the talk of the town. Quite uncomfortable to watch, Lens takes you on an arresting journey with the main character who unknowingly gets entangled in a mess over his chatroom practices. As haunting as the tale is, I'm sure it is going to make you think for a few days about your own consumption of pornography whether you want to go that road or not. TN.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

One-Line Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (4 Stars)
In an attempt to take the story of the immortal assassin Baba Yaga ahead, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum unleashes a flurry of tedious actions sequences that just do not end and makes the viewer go numb which is still not as worse as the lack of heroism available here to relish, the very heroism that made the first two films likable. TN.

Fakir of Venice

Capsule Review: Fakir of Venice (5 Stars)
There's some real wisdom thrown around in Fakir of Venice (Monk of Venice), a story of a downtrodden building painter (Annu Kapoor) who is hired by an unscrupulous and opportunistic young man (Farhan Akhtar) to fake act as a religious ascetic from India as part of an art exhibition in Venice. The narrative introduction from the point of view of the man cements his character as snobbish as you are taken into the journey from India to Italy where the exhibitionists and connoisseurs fall for the grace of this monk who can stay trapped underground for hours at a time. Kapoor and his character steal the show as they shine light into the world of petty jobs in India and elsewhere in the world. "The world doesn't let us work and live peacefully, does it?" quips a character when asked about why anyone would sleep under mud for a living and why there has to be a vigilant second person when someone does a stunt like that. A bit of self-reflection is also a part of Fakir of Venice as one of the character says, "I didn't know dying would be so difficult," but then the good points of the film comes to an end as the narrator goes on and on about why he did what he does, making you anxious with boredom. Looking at the Venetian locales is a treat but the lack of fluidity and coherence makes Fakir of Venice a film that should have stayed maybe even 10 more years back in time, in 1999. TN.

Batla House

Molecule Review: Batla House (4 Stars)
Nikkhil Advani's Batla House gets repetitive as you move ahead following John Abraham's gritty yet helpless cop character (bound by red tape) who uses his gut feelings and little investigation to go behind a bunch of students who might be terrorists. The problem with this film based on true events is that despite not wanting to it takes a stand at the end and that's not the best way to produce a film based on true events especially when those events are still rife with debates. Nonetheless, the little bit of police procedural and action sequences are enough to keep you occupied in the first hour if you are a fan of Abraham, cop films, or the sound of gun shots ringing in your hear. Ravi Kisan steals the show with his 10 minutes of screen time, no doubt. TN.

Little Superman

Capsule Review: Little Superman (0 Stars)
There's a sequence in Little Superman where a character is straight out eaten by a comic version of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and then saved by a genie-like being covered in gold. That is probably the peak point of embarrassment for director Vinayan and his team as they set out on a ridiculously ambitious project of creating a superhero film that also translates as one highlighting a social cause (corruption by government officials). It is clear that this low-budget play is targeted at young kids but even a six-year-old will disregard it as something that has been made without an iota of imagination. There are also a handful of frames built only for the 3D effect and it's so conspicuous, I am finding it difficult to call this a film. Little Superman gets everything wrong from the basic premise of filmmaking to storytelling for kids, making it perhaps a top contender for the worst Malayalam film of the 2010 decade. TN.

Mission Mangal

Capsule Review: Mission Mangal (3 Stars)
There is an overlying sense of artificiality in the way Mission Mangal (Mars Mission) has been made, with abundant textbook techniques to mix comedy and drama into the proceedings of a vastly technical subject such as an organization's attempt to send a satellite on the Martian orbit. It ends up as a series of cringe-worthy sequences. For a film that demands realism as the only single factor, Mission Mangal strays away from it right from the word go! as we see the actors fooling around in office and wherever they go. It's a good idea by writer R Balki to refer home science as the solution to issues hampering space travel but the way they have been dramatized makes the discerning viewer coil in anger and disgust. Melodrama takes the limelight in the film that can be best characterized as a lackluster take on a historic feat, that only gets worse as you proceed watching it, eventually leading you to a specific scene where a gang of inebriated Isro scientists brawl in a metro car all of which reeks of self-righteousness. Mission Mangal is a mockery of the very subject that it pays homage to. There's no reason to spend any money on this and I would instead recommend going through the Wikipedia page of the actual mission instead. TN.

My Great Grand Father

One-Line Review: My Great Grand Father (2 Stars)
My Great Grand Father is a perfect example of obnoxiously poor filmmaking thanks to its unconditioned and illogical storyline, poor plot continuity, extremely misogynistic sequences, and a sheer lack of humor despite the promise. TN.

Dil Juunglee

One-Line Review: Dil Juunglee (3 Stars)
Maybe it's the London setting in the second half of Dil Juunglee (Heart Wild) that makes the romance appealing but there's no way one call this ordinary tale of young love fresh or which lacks cliches. TN.

18am Padi

One-Line Review: 18am Padi (1 Star)
Not even the brilliant pieces of action cinematography can save this multi-genre vomit that aims to convey so much using so less organization between the actors, the plot arcs, the intentions, 18am Padi (18th Step) can very well be nominated for the worst Malayalam film of 2019 and I'm sure by December 2019 the qualification will be unanimous. TN.

Super 30

One-Line Review: Super 30 (6 Stars)
Hrithik Roshan shines in Super 30 despite his overtly off transformation into a mathematician from a poor family in Patna who goes on to develop an ingenious coaching program for Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) aspirants who are from the most marginal walks of life in the state of Bihar and which then takes a virulent turn (on its way making you emotionally weak and maybe even cry due to the sultry supply of motivational jump scenes) into a critique of one's right to education in India and how good education is only possible for the rich, while not once attempting to focus on the basic theme of the film: teaching mathematics.

Helicopter Eela

One-Line Review: Helicopter Eela (2 Stars)
The artificial nature of Helicopter Eela which further translates into oversmart takes on college/teen life, single-mother-son relationship, and one's quest a assuming a creative career makes you want to hate it. TN.


Molecule Review: Iblis (4 Stars)
Iblis (Devil) is a clever fantasy romance with a colorful production setup and technical brilliance. It attempts to bridge the gap between life and death while providing a critique of the way humans live while trying to avoid death. Why it turns into a snoozefest can be attributed to the loose screenplay and a lackluster style of storytelling with not much weightage given to visuals despite their high magnitude in almost all the frames of this experimental cinema. If you enjoy romance and surrealist experiences, give the film some time and patience to construct itself and it will be rewarding. TN.

5 Weddings

One-Line Review: 5 Weddings (2 Stars)
5 Weddings is the perfect example of how bad filmmaking, bad concept, and an overall bad execution can eventually result in a messy, half-baked romantic drama about a PIO American landing in India to cover a bunch of weddings. TN.

Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi

One-Line Review: Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi (4 Stars)
As silly as it looks and really is, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi (Happy Will Run Away Again) manages to make you laugh thanks to inputs from Jimmy Shergill and Piyush Mishra, which is only second to the brilliant production design of its setting in China. TN.


Capsule Review: Unda (7 Stars)
Khalid Rahman's Unda (Bullet) has a climax that not only feels hurried (so as to fit into the 2-hour running time) but also deviates from the realistic cap that it was donning since the start where a group of policemen from the Indian state of Kerala are sent, unprepared and without sufficient resources, for election duty to a remote location in another Indian state of Jharkhand, this one known for its high Maoist activity. The film is a stark description of the laxity of the police force in India, general unpreparedness, rivalry between state governments, caste discrimination, and much more. But what comes out as the biggest takeaway from Unda is how the job of a police office is looked at by those who aspire to become one. Mammootty has acted and been directed so well that you get to see that rare acting prowess that he possesses, and when it comes out along with wonderful performances from his other cast members (notably Arjun Asokan in a lovable role and Rony David), it appeals the viewers so much that such a climax can be forgotten and forgiven for. Rahman's crime drama film is authentic, relevant, and one that has been told so objectively you can't disagree with what's happening. I think we have added one more director into the short list that we should take seriously in Malayalam cinema. TN.


Little India Directory Review: Bharat (5 Stars)
There is a peculiar sense of style and nostalgia in which Bharat (India) has been made, making Salman Khan push not just as an action hero that he already is but as also who thinks highly of his country of birth. But the drops of exaggerated patriotism, a lack of logic, and a humdrum run of events - a trademark for the actor these days - does not translate into what was so effortlessly achieved by his contemporary and a better action star Akshay Kumar.

Salman Khan is the son of a refugee in Bharat whose ambition in life is to keep his family together after the devastating events of the Partition of India. It was his father (Jackie Shroff) who had asked him to keep the promise of doing so after staying back in what would be Pakistan in search of his young daughter. Fast forward a few years, Khan's character goes on to keep his promise through some popular events that shaped India to its current state to eventually nudge a bigger conflict: his inability to let go of things.

Bharat has an interesting message to disseminate - that of people being bound by relations and their effects on the lives of everyone involved. But the premise is what takes the fun and conviction out of the drama, which has been projected with a wrong, playful tone.

At first glance, Bharat looks like an ode to the changing times of India as director Ali Abbas Zafar tries to cram everything into his 150-minute container of exaggeration and horseplay even as he aims to strike a few chords with his equally patriotic, sentimental audience. How else would one justify the presence of the topics of the boom in Gulf oil and acceptance of live-in relationships in India? The lack of homogeneity comes in between the audience and the entertainment as Bharat continuously slips into the masala territory that Salman Khan is famous for harbingering.

Narrating the birth of India while referencing a few notable events since 1947 does establish a sense of nostalgia in the audience, which is why Bharat just passes the boredom test even if you are not a Khan fan. But director and writer Zafar needs to take a lesson or two from other directors in the scene who use the same resources to create thrills (Andhadhun (2018)), organic storytelling (Luka Chuppi (2019)), and palpable, emotional drama (Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015)) without being monotonous. His Bharat, however, does earn some points for its narrative technique and extravagant production, but it fails in the departments of storytelling and 'connecting with the audience.' Those two might make you run for the door, triggered by the more-than-one masala songs that just do not fit.

Another problem, although minor here, is the fashion of ad placements these days. Bharat promotes Zee TV (a national channel in India) as if it were a character; so unabashed is its presence, you almost think of a TV show popular in another television network (Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate on Star TV). With Student of the Year 2 (2019) as another example that took place only a month ago, it is evident that Hindi cinema is banking too high on ad placements in its films, a habit that not only plays with the movie-watching experience but also is downright ridiculous in terms of art.

Khan is surprisingly mature in some parts of the film, acting his age and doing what he is logically capable of. In other scenes, he is the typical character that we have seen almost every Eid in the past 4-5 years - the bread-winner with a cause to execute and a sister to marry off; the hero with more than a few plates to fill; the champion who thinks more than just about his family when his single-most love is his family. You see everything in Bharat and that is why it does not seem novel. The supporting characters have been directed very well, and do add to the emotional tug that you will feel towards the end. Kaif is probably the highlight of this film but I am personally not too ecstatic about her performance. Although she looks her character, her emotions did lie somewhere else than her face. Much like how Bharat's focus lies; not on the Partition but on the protagonist's ambition. Which is a good thing for this emotional drama.

There are a lot of things to watch and ponder about in Bharat yet none of them outsmart the final emotional message, which would have been delivered faster had Zafar not taken too long to get to the point. If you have the patience and some tissues for the tears that are bound to come even though artificially, Bharat will not just be a jingoistic, tear-jerking recipe. TN.


One-Line Review: Soothrakkaran (2 Stars)
Soothrakkaran is surprisingly amateurish and idiotic and none of its able (Lalu Alex, for instance) or untalented (Niranjan, for instance) cast members can help salvage this sinking ship that has some of the worst cinematography I have seen in a long while in any regional cinema which is not its biggest problem. TN.


One-Line Review: Ratsasan (6 Stars)
With the usual cinematic detective tropes but a haunting background score and arresting overall filmmaking that will keep you on the edge of your seat, Ratsasan (Monster) excels as a psychological thriller and police procedural where a psycho serial killer targets and kills school-going girls. TN.

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