Padmaavat

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Capsule Review

Cast: Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Aditi Rao Hydari, Jim Sarbh and Raza Murad
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Rating: 8/10

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest masterpiece, Padmaavat, is based on a 16th Century poem by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, and the film is a visual treat: elaborate sets and gorgeous fashion choices interplay magnificently with portays of love and bravery (of epic proportions). In the 13th Century, the peaceful existence of the Rajputs of Chittor is shattered when Alauddin Kilji becomes interested in snatching the Rajputs’ kingdom away. Alauddin is an intriguing character: the nephew of Jalaluddin Kilji, a dynastic ruler from Afghanistan who grabbed the Delhi Sultanate, Alauddin killed Jalaluddin, with the help of his slave, Malik Kafur, and made himself the new Sultan. And yet, the greatest character in this ancient brutal saga is undoubtedly that of Padmavati, the Rajput queen with unsurpassable beauty, who took a heroic step to protect her dignity when the war, for her, ends in defeat – the kingdom falls to the enemy, as the king is killed in battle and the queen kills herself. The film, more than anything else, belongs to the battles and also the anticipation that builds up to discover just which dynasty victory befalls upon.

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Tiger Zinda Hai

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Capsule Review

Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif and Paresh Rawal
Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
Rating: 8/10

Salman Khan’s latest film, Tiger Zinda Hai, the sequel to Ek Tha Tiger (2012) is what a Bollywood action film should typically be like: some nurses are held hostage by terrorists in Iraq and the only way to save them is to get a very capable intelligence agent, Tiger, to do the job. The movie is all about the action and zero-nonsense, which is refreshing; the lighter moments appear in between the relationship that Tiger shares with his Pakistani wife, Zoya, and it’s rather entertaining how the couple manages to make their marriage work and portray the presence of steadfast love for almost a decade, despite the obvious cultural differences present in their relationship. It’s a one-man show – Salman Khan takes center stage as the hero, who still packs a punch after spending quite some time being nothing more than a homebody in separate European countries. The entertainment value of the action film has been emphasized in Tiger Zinda Hai and it’s really hard to not root for Tiger to once again rise and save the day.

Blade Runner 2049

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Capsule Review

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and Sylvia Hoeks
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Rating: 8/10

Blade Runner 2049 is the much anticipated sequel to the eighties’ original: the movie has an emotional core but it’s steeped with intrigue, mystery and also Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard resurfaces after thirty years – not so much as a blade runner but as a father to a girl, whose birth could catapult society into a prospective war between humans and bioengineered humans (also known as ‘replicants’). In the movie, K (a replicant) is always killing the rogue varieties of his species but he suddenly undertakes a journey to put a stop to the war, which is thrilling at first, even though K meets such a tragic fate. The movie is brilliant (and unique) for its blend of sci-fi, with a plot that doesn’t seem far-fetched – the byproducts of technology advancements have an overwhelming presence in the movie but the realities strewn through it all seems very much like it could belong in today’s times.

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.

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.

The King’s Choice

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Capsule Review

Cast: Jesper Christensen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen and Karl Markovics
Director: Erik Poppe
Rating: 8/10

The King’s Choice explores the story of Haakon VII and Prince Olav, during the Second World War, and it’s a tale worth remembering: hailing from the ruling family of Norway, the two are pensive because their country is at war with Germany; eventually, Haakon VII and his family has to tragically run away from their land because the invasion is getting very close. On the surface, the film appears packed with too much of history with a limited reel-time of 133 minutes but what the movie does is really focus on what transpires over just three days in 1940. After a small introduction of Norway’s history starting from the year 1905, the film brilliantly shows a glimpse of the kinds of trouble at hand, aside from war: socialism wants to get rid of Norwegian royalty, and the differing personalities of Haakon VII and Prince Olav over saving Norway – Haakon VII has a level-handed approach to war, whilst Prince Olav seems more reactionary and it’s a character trait that seems like it should really be cautioned against. The film is also good with the details and for doing something different with the topic of war on film – it’s more about history, rather than the military.

Loving Vincent

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Capsule Review

Cast: Robert Gulaczyk, Jerome Flynn, Chris O’ Dowd and John Sessions
Genre: Biography, Animation
Rating: 7/10

Loving Vincent provides a unique insight into one of the greatest figures in art: the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh, who is often regarded as the father of modern art; Van Gogh had managed this feat despite never having sold a single of the more than 800 paintings (he had done) to members of the public. Told through frames which encompass oil paintings on canvases, drawn in the remarkable style associated with Van Gogh, the story of the film follows the hurried mission undertaken by a postman’s son to deliver Van Gogh’s last letter to his brother, Theo. The narrative starts out straightforward but later on in the film, when it is revealed Theo died soon after Van Gogh committed suicide to lift the burden he had placed Theo under, due to being a failed artist, the primary plotline becomes an anticlimax. The overarching message of the movie remains clear, though – tragic circumstances had always coloured Van Gogh’s life. It’s also important to point out that Loving Vincent manages to remarkably cinematically untangle the dark mystery associated with Van Gogh’s sudden death, even though the whole process is very long and really slow.