American Made

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Capsule Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson and Jayma Mays
Genre: Biography
Rating: 7/10

Tom Cruise is refreshing in his new role: he plays Barry Seal, a pilot with a shady past of illegal smuggling of Cuban cigars, who turns his life around when he gets recruited by the CIA to work together with the government in clandestine operations. The secret operations that Barry goes on are dangerous but they act as crucial portals of information – for example, one of Barry’s tasks involved flying a two-engine plane across El Salvador and Honduras to report back on mutinous barracks that work against the government. Cruise’s portrayal of this man who (not-surprisingly) does not change his colors with the opportunities thrown at his feet – Seal, at one point, smuggles in drugs to USA, from Colombia, is really raw; it’s not an empathetic portrayal but with a character like Seal, it’s not meant to be, no matter how thrilling the missions are that he goes on. Seal merely acts as a vehicle to the CIA to get things done, and the movie actually deals with this subject well and does a really good job instead for the most part, playing with grim realities.

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The Lego Ninjago Movie

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Capsule Review

Cast: Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Olivia Munn and Jackie Chan
Director: Charlie Bean
Rating: 7/10

In The Lego Ninjago Movie, Ninjago seems like the coldest place on Earth but that could just be because of how Lloyd Garmadon is treated here – as the son of the evil Lord Garmadon, the city doesn’t like the young boy, even though Lloyd always saves Ninjago as the ‘Green Ninja’. Luckily, Lloyd has his fellow ninjas to depend on: Nya, Kai, Jay, Cole and Zane; Lloyd is also their leader and each of the ninjas have their own amazing character qualities, from Kai’s outgoing demeanour to Nya’s competitive streak. The entire film focuses on the six ninjas and their master, Wu trying to save Ninjago from Lord Garmadon, when the latter strikes the city in a mammoth way – the film is battle-heavy and the battles are exciting but the whole experience would have been more of an absorbent quality if character-exploration had happened on a deeper scale for the ninjas.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

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Capsule Review

Cast: Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Rating: 4/10

The story in the sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service picks up where the last film in the spy installment left off: Harry Hart is, at first, believed to be no longer with us but when Charlie Hesketh, a trainee, previously, with a cybernetic arm, manages to enter the Kingsman servers and soon after, very tragically, a stream of missiles kill all British agents and the Kingsman headquarters perishes, it so emerges that Harry is alive; this revelation is made when the Doomsday Protocol leads Merlin and the most ridiculous of all characters in the film – Eggsy, who fails to convince as a heroic Kingsman agent, to Statesman. What then follows is a a fight by Harry (and remorsefully, the very irritating Eggsy, too) to save our world from the Golden Circle – a terrorist organization, which has got recreational drugs infected with a toxin, that makes victims suffer from mania and paralysis, before succumbing to death.

The film is convincing on the thrilling action and the wide range of spy agents thrown at you, such as Agent Tequila and Agent Champagne – both members of the Statesman, which spends time masquerading as a Kentucky-based Bourbon whiskey distillery. But that’s where the fun stops, so much so, it’s hard to resist feelings of wanting to cling onto Elton John’s extended special appearance in a glamorous avatar in the film: a pointless appearance of Cambodia and the presence of women thrown around, who only really have a special knack for jolting a speeding narrative into sudden (uncomfortable) stops – all these women do really is pretend to be charismatic, sometimes even on polar ends, but fail at it miserably, and these plotholes make the movie a bumpy ride; it’s tough to figure out which is more tragic – the many tripping points in the movie, or the untimely demise of Merlin.

Mother!

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Capsule Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Rating: 7/10

Mother! is a remarkable film. There is this ‘Poet’ (Javier Bardem) and the woman he created, the ‘Mother’ (Jennifer Lawrence), who is married to him, loves him and the two eventually even have sex, following which the Mother gives birth to a son but everything in the script doesn’t have so much of a relatively tranquil atmosphere. The brilliance of the movie is that it switches from light romance (which Lawrence emotes evocatively) to horror and then to utter tragedy.

Separate stories seem rather abruptly stitched with each other, at times in Mother!: for example, when the Mother tries to protect her infant, she fails – in the end, her son is brutally killed by the Poet’s fans, post his fans performing solemn ceremonies around him; the fans, who normally exhibit extremely loony behavior such as stealing objects from the pair to act as mementos, are around the two because of this book the Poet’s just published, which he finally manages to do when he finds out he’s going to have a baby – the thought of which makes the Poet overjoyed. This puzzle-like approach to storytelling by Darren Aronofsky makes for a bumpy-ride of mental adjustments sometimes, because everything moves so fast – a good handful of mini-stories juggernaut around before the overarching brilliant theme of the film (comprising of the three dramatic forms) manages to shine through.

After losing her son, Mother willingly gives up her love (well, what is left of it!) for the Poet, at his asking, and he rather quite brutally replaces her with another entirely new woman, another Mother, but who seems to be not very much different from the previous Mother. The movie is quite unique to begin with – a crystal placed in a frame turns a charred house into a temple-like home, an eerie romantic-tragedy but it works rather superfluously.

The Founder

McDonalds is one of those fast food joints which can easily be termed as an American classic. Born out of the ingenuity of two brothers Maurice “Mac” McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and Richard “Dick” McDonald (Nick Offerman), it’s hard to escape its presence around the world. In John Lee Hancock’s (Snow White and the Huntsman and The Blind Side) latest film, The Founder, a failing salesman with a Prince Castle milkshake invention he wants to sell catapults an already successful business venture into a profitable franchise financed by middle class money (in front of which, the scenario is caricatured so that Ray is the founder of McDonalds) at first, and then into this huge independent fast food corporation, but at the expense of growing into a dishonourable businessman.

A captivating tale about the global origins of a hamburger shop
A captivating tale about the global origins of a hamburger shop

The film starts out heartwarming: when you meet an overtly-curious Ray Croc (Michael Keaton) drive out to pay a visit to a drive-in, which has placed an enormous order of milkshake makers, it’s not hard to see what might follow, despite the comfortable life Croc has been leading so far, with his wife, Ethel because Croc’s professional experience, at this point in time, is limited to being just a plain sailing travelling salesman often down on his luck. After getting a mini-tour from the founding brothers of McDonalds, at dinner, Ray convinces the two to franchise the joint, so long as both Maurice and Richard name-stamp all future changes that are about to follow. Up until here and especially when Ray struggles to franchise the joint amongst people with wealth (in the fifties) – which is similar to the experiences that had put off Maurice and Richard from the idea of franchising the joint once before, Ray comes across as a somewhat simple and hardworking businessman, struggling to make business ends meet. It’s hard to not root for Ray here but pretty soon the ugly side of the business world takes over and Ray goes from a struggling business person to a financially struggling person. Ray finds success here too, after some time and begins to offer a real estate investment window for new McDonalds franchises – it brings in more company income and follows through with the McDonalds brothers vision of the quality of milkshakes never getting compromised, in spite of initial troubles for Ray in that food department.

With Ray’s newfound success in business, he eventually reduces the quality of the milkshakes that are offered, buys out the hamburger shop and never honours the founders with their business royalties because the agreement to sell involved no contract. What is extraordinary about the movie is Robert D. Siegel’s unique script – the lengths to which a businessman can go to call an American hamburger shop his own, when he never invented it, is a morally-corrupt moment, in an otherwise inspiring film. But I liked that the spotlight is placed on the corporate universe in a honest manner because business dealings aren’t always about honesty, they are also about manipulation; naturally in a business environment, not everyone’s moral compass always functions correctly, even though what they really should be doing is prop up some moral boundaries instead. The squeaky clean image of the corporate world gets tarnished magnificently in the film – it’s not just suits and boring ties, it’s also about an enduring amount of real success, which Ray manages to bring to McDonalds on a global level.

Rating: 8/10

My Life As A Zucchini

An orphan called Zucchini looks like a potato with blue hair. He is made of Play-Doh and Zucchini likes to roll his big owl-like eyes at life’s little moments. My Life as a Zucchini attempts to part with good wisdom over serious (and relatable – well, for me) episodes. I liked how it takes a subject so rarely explored – the lives of kids in a home, and then makes it both endearing and fun. Splashed with colours and funny-looking children, the French movie looks set to be a rare classic, where animated films are concerned.

An amazing animated tale
An amazing animated tale

In this tale of an orphan boy, Zucchini, who is nine years old, befriends kids in the same boat as him who all have had difficult pasts, and to make matters better the group all have the same day-to-day worries as any other kid in town – how to roll as a gang through it all. Zucchini comes to the Fontaine household after he kills his mother by accident during one of her anger-filled outbursts, whilst drunk.

Over there, he find friends: Ahmed, Camille and Alice. The four kids aren’t that much different from each other even though upon first look you would like to think otherwise. Camille, the latest addition to Fontaine saw her parents get killed and commit suicide, Ahmed’s father is in prison for looting a shop, and Alice’s father had to be taken away for his bad nature.

There is also a bully around by the name of Simon that the gang tries to keep off their tracks at the orphanage, who, in reality, is a sharp contrast to Raymond – the nice policeman, with a moustache. It is only because of Raymond (he hides the fact that Zucchini accidentally killed his alcoholic mother) that Courgette even found a space to call home in Fontaines.

Zucchini develops an infatuation for Camille, who speaks her mind and loves footie (love it! – sometimes more than the character of Courgette) and this actually is a little bit of a ‘love at first sight’ scenario because Zucchini develops romantic feelings for Camille, the moment he meets her. Camille and Courgette even spend some time thinking about how to continue to be together when they are no longer together at Fontaines’. The snowy atmosphere in the film is one of the nicest things, I feel and the movie really does have a great story.

Rating: 8/10

Jackie

Jackie is a tribute to the steeliness with which the former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (also known as Jackie) manaevoured the assassination of her husband President John F. Kennedy, when the two were out on a trip in Texas. Dressed in a pink Chanel suit and a pillbox hat of the same colour, the young First Lady’s choice of attire on that day has since then evolved into one of the most memorable fashion reference points in history, particularly for the sixties. In the film, Natalie Portman stars as Jackie and it is directed by Pablo Lorrain; the film is quite dramatic in places and more often than not it is emotional and historically-evocative.

Natalie Portman portrays 'Jackie'
A class act in fashion

Portman looks very much like she is keeping up appearances for her role and it is tough upon first sight to strike a chord with it because I think the most endearing quality of a biopic is the level of realism that can be sourced and splashed on screen. That nature of the film acts as a major drawback because Portman doesn’t convince enough as Jackie and it almost throws off a very good script off it’s tracks. The story is, first and foremost, about an interview given to LIFE magazine soon after the sudden death of her young husband, during which she is rather easily irritable and even flat out tells the unknown reporter (for the magazine) that he cannot print segments of it.

Jackie comes off as a woman that you cannot help but sympathize with. She divulges that the ‘Camelot’ remarks surrounding the presidency was a pure marketing pull and nothing else, and she always has to have a sense of higher duty: whether or not she is on the other side of Atlantic and projecting a classic American culture because once she did use to be the First Lady or if she is at home in the United States managing to keep the whole story of what transpired on that tragic day the least bit sensitive that is possible. The film is watchable for that new angle on a remarkable political figure, and then there are also the breathtaking costumes.

Rating: 6/10