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    17 years



Great idea, messy execution
This film is not your typical romantic comedy or romantic drama. Tamasha explores the idea of falling in love with the masks that others present to appease society rather than their true selves. This is shown in a very comprehensive way through three time periods in the protagonist's life - a child appeasing his school, an adolescent appeasing his father and an adult appeasing his company. It is only in the absence of any inhibition that a real sense of joy and connection is allowed to emerge, in the form of storytelling with others. At the same time, the limits of this disinhibition is also apparent as his love interest admits she only finds an interest in an idealistic true persona that might not be sustainable. If this all sounds messy, you'd be right, as the constant interweaving of time periods and plot threads gets chaotic and hard to follow. It's an ambitious film, something along the lines of (500) Days of Summer crossed with 3 Idiots, and it suffers from not being able to execute such a lofty ambition cleanly.

Top Gun: Maverick

Absolutely stunning
This is the closest thing I'll get to seeing an Ace Combat movie. The valley mission, straight out of an Ace Combat game, is portrayed in all its dangerous glory with high G-forces, practical effects, sunlit cinematography and thrilling training sequences that show just how much is at stake. As a cinematic experience, these action-packed flight sequences make the audience feel like they're right there in the cockpit and that anything could happen.

However, this isn't an Ace Combat movie, it's a Top Gun movie, so how does it compare with the original? It blows its predecessor right out of the water with a more compelling character arc that continues right from the original story but adds so much more. The legacy of Goose's death is something that weighs heavily on Maverick as he has to tutor his son Rooster. The whole film is about Maverick coming to grips with how to protect and encourage Rooster, all while doing his duty to the overall mission. Compared to the thin machismo of the first Top Gun movie, Maverick is a more compelling and original experience.

Top Gun

Exciting but vacuous
Top Gun is the Hollywood movie to end all Hollywood movies, reveling in its cheesy one-liners and action-packed set pieces without any other substance. The core of the plot is so barebones that it could be described in a few sentences, with an obligatory romance that comes out of nowhere and inner turmoil that appears too late in the film to have any real impact. This lack of compelling story undercuts the few moments of brilliance that Top Gun contains - its famously soaring set pieces filled with excitement, machismo and camaraderie. It's a paradoxical experience, both intense yet vacuous, and ultimately unfulfilling.

The Exorcist

Simple story done well
Despite its reputation as the scariest film of all time (at the time of release and now), The Exorcist is quite simple at heart. It pits the fundamentally different worlds of banal suburbia with ancient religious evil, descending into madness as the demonic threat can't be understood or contained. The presentation of this film is what shines, as it slowly builds up characters and situations that feel real and all too familiar. Everyone is strained to their breaking point, from the distraught mother to the hapless doctors to the conflicted priests - and don't forget about Regan herself! Despite some outdated effects and unintentionally comedic lines, her portrayal of demonic possession was horrifying and heartbreaking to watch. Though to be honest, the hospital testing scenes felt much worse to me, as a more tangible form of bodily invasion.

Free Willy

Simple and sweet
Free Willy is the quintessential 90s family film along the lines of Home Alone - innocent, schmaltzy and full of cloying sentimentality. It contains everything you've seen before and has passed into cliché - misunderstood kid who just wants to prove himself, heartfelt friendship with a precious animal, plot to thwart secret bad guys and so on - but it does so with such determined idealism that you can't help but feel a sheer, overwhelming joy. Free Willy is the family movie to end all family movies, a condensation of so many feelgood tropes that it collapses under its own gravity to form a singularity of Hollywood magic.

Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions

Not as bad as I had expected
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions was not as bad as I had expected. The strongest point of the film was definitely the visual experience. It was quite stunning to look at with many cool shots and scenes.

However, like the original series, there were plenty of predictable downsides. The duels were repetitive which made the film dull to watch. The storyline itself raised far too many questions and plot holes. Did Sarah give the puzzle pieces away so that they would be away from Diva and so that the pharoah would be ressurrected faster? If so, why give them to Yugi? Why not give them to Kaiba? Why would either of them agree to the tournament?

At least there was a nice progression of setting up mysterious and then answering them later in a satisfying way.

Avatar: The Way of Water

Free Willy in space
I have mixed feelings about this film - I loved the experience, but I still think the first one was better and more focused.

From the start, The Way of Water tries very hard to differentiate itself from its predecessor. After a brief prologue sequence recounting the aftermath of Avatar, we are treated to a sudden time skip that parallels the real life wait for the sequel. Instead of Jake Sully the warrior newcomer, we now see Jake Sully the experienced commander and father, accompanied by a dizzying number of new child characters who take centre stage. Each of these children has their own personality, goals, backstory and connections, from the mysterious Kiri to the (admittedly hard to tell apart) brothers to the indecisive Spider to the little Tuk. The film takes time to really establish their interactions and make them act like a family, before thrusting them into entirely new circumstances, making the story feel quite fresh and averting my fears that it would just be a repeat of the first film.

Once the Sully family exiles themselves to some remote islands, the film throws in even more characters and doubles the size of the cast. I don't remember their names, I just remember that one of them had the broccoli haircut, and of course I had to take a star off for that. If it sounds overstuffed at this point, you'd be right. In its attempt to do every character and plotline justice, the film starts to drag. Demoted back to newcomers, the family gets to grips with their new environment and builds bonds with the new tribe and each other, which is also an opportunity to revel in underwater scenery. This is when the film shines, but also when its three hour runtime becomes obvious.

By the final act, the film has explored the setting of Pandora far beyond the confines of the forest in the first film, yet the stakes feel smaller. The action scenes are intense and non-stop, yet the only thing at risk in the battle is a whaling ship and the hostages, a far cry from the entire planetary intelligence in the previous installment. The climactic fistfight between Jake and the resurrected Quaritch is far less dramatic than the battle in the first film. This move to a smaller scope is probably deliberate, as the film wants us to focus on Jake's family, and it pays off as we know each member intimately by the end and feel like we have grown alongside them.

The sequel's strength is how it (almost) balances its many juggling acts. It makes an effort to connect with the storyline of the first film, yet also presents the audience with a barrage of new material. Long time fans will be pleased to see familiar characters and settings alongside the previously unseen oceans and creatures of Pandora (the film's creators know that we've seen hours of the forests already). It also makes an effort to present a satisfying and self-contained story, yet also sets up storylines for the next sequels. Unanswered questions like Kiri's true nature or Spider's allegiance pique the interest of the audience without feeling like a cop-out. The individual plotlines of the characters are all balanced against each other and returning characters are given new roles to play, especially Quaritch, who feels far more interesting and fleshed out in this iteration. However, as mentioned, the film does get bloated when it tries to to explore so many characters, so perhaps this is one juggling act where it starts to drop the ball.

On the negative side, The Way of Water still inherits a lot of the first film's faults that the series just can't shake off. The humans are still cartoonishly evil and ludicrously inept, which makes the stakes unclear. The exhaust of a landing rocket incinerates the forest, leading to an even bigger base than before, instantly undoing the Na'vi's victory of the first film (why don't they always do that?). The humans and their technology are treated as an oppressive threat but are also dispatched with incredible ease (especially anybody sitting in a cockpit), depending on the needs of the script from scene to scene. Even the "elite" soldiers who are resurrected in Na'vi bodies fare little better than disposable fodder, dropping left, right and centre without posing a real challenge (other than a dated Vietnam War reference). We don't actually see the humans' motivations until about halfway through the movie, when an overzealous captain holds up a vial of a precious resource, cites a dollar amount and whines about quotas, in a scene directly ripped from the first movie. Despite its supposed importance, we never see this resource again. It's all so maddeningly simplistic.

I haven't yet addressed the elephant in the room - the visual effects. The effects in this film were so realistic that I wasn't consciously wowed or impressed, I was just totally immersed in the experience. I watched this film in Dolby 3D with high frame rate but I legitimately can't remember noticing anything in 3D or high frame rate because the immersion was too good (as strange as it sounds). When I came into this movie, I wasn't sure how special effects technology could possibly progress even more than current blockbusters, but James Cameron has outdone himself again and given us another leap ahead. This is probably the closest I'll get to seeing life on another planet until Avatar 3.

All in all, I do think this film was a good experience, but it was trying to do too many things at once, and was not as streamlined or personal as the first Avatar, which had a clear focus on Jake Sully rather than an entire ensemble. If the first film was Pocahontas in space, this one is Free Willy in space - and Moby Dick in space - and The Abyss in Space - and Titanic in space - and... you get the idea.

Thor: Love and Thunder

Is that it?
This film left me wondering, "is that it?" There weren't many things that were explicitly bad about Thor: Love and Thunder, but it simply felt disappointing and lukewarm. The film draws from previous efforts by Marvel and Taika Waititi to present the Thor franchise in a more quirky and comedic way, but it falls flat due to overuse and repetition. This style was pioneered mainly by the predecessor Thor: Ragnarok, when it had novelty value compared to the first two Thor films, but now the effect has worn off and Waititi feels like he's retreading the same territory. For example, there's a scene involving stage actors that appears to be almost exactly the same scene as in Ragnarok. The positive aspects of this film include the serious elements like Christian Bale's performance as Gorr the God Butcher, the stark monochromatic palette, the realm of the gods and Natalie Portman's character development, but these are juxtaposed too heavily with the constant comedy, making the tone very inconsistent. Besides that, the glaring flaw is that the stakes are just not that interesting - some children are kidnapped (but they don't seem to be in that much mortal peril) and some gods are also in danger (whom we barely see anyway) - making the protagonist's quest feel not so compelling.


Nice premise, messy execution
Luck has a really great premise that I loved from the beginning. People are lucky or unlucky, and there's a whole other fantasy world that allocates this to our world in random amounts. A completely unlucky human stumbles upon this world, populated by cute mythological creatures, to strike a deal and make her life turn out better. What's not to love? The first ten to fifteen minutes set up the situation very well and showed a lot of clumsy moments that make the audience root for the protagonist. Once she enters the luck world, however, the film dwells too long in world-building that becomes divorced from the main premise (we quickly forget about the child being adopted) and becomes a mess with too many places, characters and plot elements being introduced (not that any of these are bad in themselves). Later, the premise of the film shifts to a more cosmic scale as the CEO tries to change the entire balance of our world to only have good luck, just like the world she inhabits, but quickly changes her mind for very unconvincing reasons (I don't think it was adequately explained why this would be a bad thing). We only see the control room and don't actually see the effects of unbalanced luck on the human world, which seems very distant when we can't see it anymore. Finally, by the end, we return to the initial premise, and it feels like the protagonist has skipped between multiple films. Luck had a lot of good potential and dipped into it from time to time, but is let down by a lack of focus.

The Killing

Prototypical film noir
The Killing is one of the earliest film noirs, and it shows clear evidence of not having the genre's conventions all sorted out. The narration at the beginning (added at the behest of the studio) was clunky and overdone, the plot takes a while to pick up and there are too many character introductions to slog through. Once The Killing does get into action, it cleverly juxtaposes the characters' extensive planning with a botched execution that highlights each of their flaws and imperfections, albeit with a rather awkward non-linear plot structure that is not as effective as Tarantino's later pastiches. The whole film is let down by a very implausible and abrupt ending where one character inexplicably kills an entire room of armed men with only a few shots, suddenly negating the rest of the film. As an early attempt in the film noir genre, it has some flaws to figure out, but is otherwise a decent watch with a well-cast ensemble.


Not just a buddy, but a life saver!
I love dogs so I loved this documentary. The dogs featured in Buddy are not just fuzzy friends, but trained helpers who make life so much better for their masters. Each segment focuses on a different person's life which has been saved or transformed by the loving presence of their dog companion. Going beyond the typical cliché of a blind person led by a guide dog, the documentary shows many other life situations like a mobility issue and PDD-NOS. It is careful to focus on the positives in the person's life and the dog's role in it, rather than just about the problems. A must-watch for dog lovers!

MEGALODEMOCRAT: The Public Art of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

The main crux of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's artwork is that they are interactive installations connecting many people together, binding the public into one consciousness. This premise was quite an interesting departure from the usual modus operandi of public art that is usually mysterious and garners nothing more than a glance from passersby. Each project is different and is adapted for each location, attracting large crowds. This documentary traces the entire development of Lozano-Hemmer's projects from conceptualisation to planning to installation, and also shows the impact on the community as entire crowds come to experience his installations. This gives a very comprehensive view of the projects and how they are ultimately collaborative in nature, rather than self-contained. By far, the most important thing is the amount of personal interaction, and this was shown all around the world.

Curious George

Rather basic animated movie
Curious George is a movie best suited for younger children. It has a rather basic and straightforward story that feels like an extended edition of a Saturday morning cartoon episode. This is not a bad thing in itself, as it makes the movie fun and easy to follow, but the style could be off-putting to older children. Although the plot and premise are banal, these are overshadowed by expressive characters and little comedic moments that make Curious George a joy to watch, like the balloon flight or the son's jealous tantrums. The titular George the Monkey is a happy little creature who expresses a lot with no words, and the protagonist is a hapless fellow we can't help but love. As an overall film, it's lacklustre, but as a series of short escapades with memorable characters, it shines as engaging, bright and colourful.

I Am Groot

It's Groot. That's it.
It's Groot in some very short skits that build up to his famous titular catch phrase. Nothing more, nothing less. Relying mainly on physical comedy, each segment is a self-contained episode that will entertain enough to pass the time but without anything really memorable. Off the top of my head, some of the highlights were the episode with the tiny aliens and the episode with his leaves. Each one shows Groot's childlike and inquisitive personality but focuses more on slapstick which got a bit generic and wore out its novelty. I Am Groot is nothing bad as far as animation goes, but nothing stunning or truly engaging either.

La planète sauvage

Neat little sci-fi scenario
Fantastic Planet is a neat little film from yesteryear. Coming into it, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but the psychedelic visuals and surreal situation in the opening scene quickly set the tone. The entire landscape is incredibly bizarre and dynamic, thanks to the biologically inspired imagination of the artists. The humans are subject to a role reversal as they are pushed, prodded and petted into submission. On this backdrop, we follow a domesticated "Om" (human) on a journey from an alien world to an escaped society of humans as they band together to revolt. The depth of the alien world, the resourcefulness of the humans and the overall message of the film were very well done with a lot of visual imagination to keep the audience on their toes.

Hera Pheri

Incredibly silly and incredibly fun
As far as Bollywood films go, Hera Pheri is the epitome of the silly "screwball" genre where characters bumble about from one antic to another with little overarching themes - and I loved it! The storyline is a hot mess as it awkwardly tries to combine several big ideas - a character trying to get a job at a bank, a chance encounter between poor tenants, a weird romance subplot that disappears just as abruptly as it appears and - the biggest highlight of all - a kidnapping scam gone awfully wrong. This latter section is where all the actors shine as they brazenly bounce off each other in wacky moments (there are simply too many to mention). On another Bollywood comedy film, I disparagingly mentioned that it felt like the story was improvised by students; for Hera Pheri, I get the same impression but I mean the judgement in a good way, as they clearly made the style work.

Chak De! India

Powerful sports film
Uniquely for Bollywood, Chak De! India is an underdog themed sports film centred around hockey. The obscurity of this sport in India is directly touched upon, with many characters struggling to get the respect they deserve, doubling the battles they face. The lead actor plays a disgraced yet firm coach who wants nothing but the best out his players - both individual excellence and teamwork skills. These players are portrayed very convincingly and feel like real humans with memorable personalities - no light feat, considering the size of the roster. The hockey matches in the final act of the film are filled with excitement and tension that pays off in ways that are somewhat predictable but also sometimes unexpected.

Un monstre à Paris

The poor man's Beauty and the Beast
I really loved this film from the beginning, but my interest petered out after the halfway mark. The characters and voice acting are all very distinct and really draws the audience into their lives. The Parisian setting is well rendered and nostalgic (if a bit empty). The quirky scenes like the lab, the straw coat and the modified truck were all quite entertaining and creative. The musical sequences combining Franceour and the singer were also quite well done. However, the "Gaston" equivalent in this film was too single-minded and not quite as charming, so his single-minded pursuit of the "Beast" felt too contrived. What follows is an odd mishmash of unattended subplots, camerawork/editing that skips about and a hollow ending.

The Bob's Burgers Movie

An uproaringly entertaining romp
I've never seen the Bob's Burgers TV show but my sister was a fan so I decided to watch this together. What a blast! The plot is fairly basic but it's brought to life with so much character and energy that it captures the viewer and sends them on a ride. Each character gets their own emotional arc as the restaurant's downfall unleashes a totally new adventure, all with catchy musical numbers and suspenseful twists.


Thoroughly entertaining
I was engaged by Lightyear from the start, with its hilariously hostile environment to Buzz's time dilating quest to the dryly humorous robotic cat Sox. Our audience got really invested in the search for a working crystal and Buzz lamenting the changing world around him. Unfortunately, the plot goes a bit haywire around the halfway mark and the film drops from an 8/10 to a 6/10, so I averaged my score to a 7. The characters start making too many mistakes, the message is repeated too often, the villain has odd character motivations and the plot generates too many tangled threads and questions. What ties the whole film together is the entertaining set pieces and comedic scene, especially Sox, the real star of Lightyear!


A masterclass of acting
Udaan's main strength lies in its powerful actors. At all times they embody very flawed and broken characters without veering into the melodrama that often plagues similar productions. Rajat Bermecha plays the protagonist Rohan, a quiet but mischievous young man who wants to follow his dreams but finds himself obstructed at every turn by his short-tempered and violent father played by Ronit Roy. Caught in the crossfire is the young brother who accepts what comes and isn't in a position to see what's wrong. Alongside the main cast, Ram Kapoor plays the uncle Jimmy Singh who acts as a counterpoint to the father, a kind figure who supports the children as much as possible but nonetheless has limited ability to improve their lives. The film is ultimately inspirational without being maudlin, as it shows the ultimate power of personal liberation in a realistic setting.


This film was an impressive visual achievement for the time. The settings are very detailed, the characters have fluid movements and there are a lot of well rendered action sequences. The titular "Metropolis" of the film is a very advanced looking society with robots alongside humans in a rather tenuous relationship. There are shades of the original 1927 Metropolis with a disgruntled worker underclass, but here they have specifically been put out of work by the robot workers. The robots themselves are neither saviours nor villains but play both roles, and feel as fleshed out as the human characters. The central achievement of this film is to make the audience feel the robot relationships as deeply as the human ones. The storyline got a bit confusing at times because there were too many characters who looked similar from a distance and had a lot of complex interactions; these factions should have been cut down, but overall it was a great watch with a lot of technological imagination.

The Message

Stock standard religious film
The Message is a rather average film about the origins of Islam, featuring very standard character tropes and scenes. There's the oppressor, the turncoat, the martyrs, etc. The dialogue is very blunt and the scenes are very predictable and straightforward. Might make for a simple introduction to this religion, but the runtime is a tad too long.


Indian Western
Taking cues from the spaghetti Western genre, Sholay is an early example of the Indian "masala film" combining many influences. At heart it's a buddy comedy with two bumbling thieves, but there is also a cheesy romance and hard hitting gangster backstory. At times the film struggles to balance these three subplots and often veers into bloated scenes and tonal inconsistency, but overall, it is a fine watch that really sells the friendship of the protagonists against the odds.

Andaz Apna Apna

Extremely silly
This film has the energy of some overactive school students who discovered a video camera for the first time and improvised some very nonsensical skits. If that's your style of humour, then watch and appreciate all the fun surrealism. But if you're like me, don't waste your time.

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