Starring: Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra, Rajkummar Rao, et al.
In The White Tiger – an ambitious Indian man uses his wit and cunning to escape from poverty and rise up to the top.
The description above may feel similiar to the 2008 smash hit Slumdog Millionaire. In some ways, the movie actually does, but while Slumdog Millionaire showed a more fantastical approach to the gruesome journey of escaping the grasp of abject poverty, The White Tiger chooses the harsher, much darker route. Much like it plays out in real life.
For Balram (Adarsh Gourav), a life of servitude is all he’s ever known, and for countless others like him, that’s the only life they know until they die. But Balram is cunning and has something most others like him never do – ambition. The ambitious wasn’t there as much as one’d credit his smart thinking, but it is this ambition that propels Balram to cunningly affix himself as the primary driver for Ashok, the U.S. educated lad of a powerful and corrupt Indian family, and his wife Pinky.
The White Tiger sheds some light into the systematic approach of how the rich stay getting richer and the measures they put in place to ensure the poor do not challenge this status quo; The Rooster Coop, Balram calls it. For people born in the lower caste system, like Balram, life is a vicious life – you’re born, you live, you serve, and you die. No ambition. Nothing. Occasionally a Balram comes through challenging the limits of what’s viewed as the norms, just like the titular White Tiger does with its arrival, but that’s about it. For every Balram that sees through the guise of bogus friendship and familial ties with his master and manages to claw their way out, a thousand more fall at the hands of theirs. It’s a crazy reality.
This book to movie adaptation doesn’t leave much else to be desired. Adarsh Gourav’s performance as Balram is incredible, the unflinching look of innocence, that unwavering smile that draws you into thinking him an idiot could’ve fooled me almost as much as it fooled his so-called masters. Priyanka Chopra does some of her finest acting as Pinky and, as I’ve heard, so does Bollywood sensation Rajkummar Rao, too, as Ashok. It is a well-done movie, entertaining, educating and evocative.
‘The White Tiger’ is a compelling piece of fiction with an ending that’ll most likely leave viewers conflicted about still rooting for Balram considering the huge price he paid to breakfree from the Coop or simply satisfied for his new destiny.
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, et al.
A Promising Young Woman has her dreams and aspirations cut short after an ugly incident happened while in medical school. Now, she’s a vengeful head looking to make the world better, one sinner at a time.
A good revenge thriller can never do wrong, even to the most casual moviegoer. And ‘Promising Young Woman’ keeps up with that tradition. It’s a commentary that stirs up conversations around heavy topics many people tend to shy away from, like the evil nature of sexual assault and its effect on survivors. Promising Young Woman takes it’s time to unravel itself, just like its femme fatale protagonist, Cassie, revealing a story that’s as well-put together as it’s relevant in this day and age.
Although there are elements of romance and (dry) comedy here and there, this isn’t a romcom (I must warn anyone who may be confusing its colourful poster and cinematography for something else), Promising Young Woman takes a heavy topic and builds a light conversation around it, it raises up mysteries that aid its storytelling and smartly provides answers where it can, trusting its viewers to fill in the rest. These are symptoms of a good movie, one that doesn’t make light of the heavy topic it sought to address from the start.
It’s because of movies like ‘Promising Young Woman’ that I stay hopeful –irrespective of all the postponed movie dates– and say 2021 is off to a good start.
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway, Ben Stiller, Ben Kingsley, et al.
One of the best things movies do for humanity is that they help preserve history. Right now, humanity is living through one of the worst times of its existence and it’s only fitting that parts of this struggle are recorded for the sake of posterity. Locked Down, the most recent entry into a new sub-genre of films shot during the Coronavirus pandemic and the eponymous lockdown, hopes to do same, which is commendable. But if posterity will be kind to such a movie, well, that’s another matter entirely.
Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Linda (Anne Hathaway) are a married couple toeing the line of separation but are stuck with each together because of the lockdown. There’s not much they can do about this and their displeasure except drown their sorrows in cheap wines, reading poems aloud on the cold streets, and finding some other silly things to do to keep sane.
‘Locked Down’ started like a simpleton movie made in the guise of documenting history when really it’s was planning all along to morph into something way more interesting – a heist movie. I thought this was a cool move that pump a bit of life into the movie’s veins. Also, it was good to see a movie where a couple (Spoiler ALERT!) found their way back to each other, rather than further away as has been widely said to be happening to relationships during the lockdown.
Sadly, not the heist twist, or Ejiofor and Hathaway doing cute-ish, silly things with their faces, or even the A-list celebrity cameos are enough to elevate this movie beyond average for me. In the end, ‘Locked Down’ is just another entry into the ever-increasing list of “movies no one asked for,” “movies no cares about,” and “movies we’ll soon forget ever existed.”
Lt. Harp, a drone pilot with a penchant for making tough calls and disobeying direct orders, goes on one of his rounds and causes the loss of life of two Marines. As punishment, Harp is sent to be semi-tutored on the field by Leo, a cool, human-like robot played by the indefatigable Anthony Mackie.
Will our (humans) obsession with robots cause the extinction of the human race someday? That’s a question that’s lingered with humanity for some time now, a point that’s been addressed by so many movies in the past and rehashed, once again, here. This one has a cool twist most people don’t see coming, but is that enough to say it brings something new to the table? That’s a question I struggled with at the end of watching ‘Outside the Wire’.
I still don’t have the right answer.
What I do know is that, I don’t love it. I also know that I don’t hate it. I simply acknowledge its existence for what it is – a watchable war/action movie with a touch of SciFi some people may enjoy more than some others, which is perfectly normal.
What’s your own take on ‘downside the Wire’? Think it brings something new to the table?
Starring: David Giuntoli, Michael Jai-White, Kelly Hu, et al.
Batman: Soul of the Dragon.
If this animated movie didn’t carry the Batman tag, chances are I wouldn’t watch it, ever. Yet, seeing it now, I can’t help but wonder why it was tagged a Batman film when the Caped Crusader is nothing more than a glorified supporting character? Fame really is something.
Set in the ’70s, this alternate reality Batman is a disciple of a martial arts master at an iteration of Nanda Pabat that’s missing the iconic League of Assasins and Lazarus Pit. Interestingly, there’s enough new secret lying around its grounds to keep things heated up.
Bruce Wayne faces a deadly menace from the past, with the help of three former classmates: world-renowned martial artist, Richard Dragon, Lady Shiva and Bronze Tiger.
The movie’s synopsis may have been exaggerated a little bit to place more focus on Bruce Wayne and his Dark Knight persona than there actually is –probably to heat up anticipation for the movie– but I can assure you, he’s not that important, not in the sense you may be expecting, and you won’t feel bad about it. This doesn’t in anyway count as a spoiler neither does it mar the fun that comes with watching this movie and its many enjoyable fight scenes. I may be wrong with my judgement here and after watching it, you may just find out that I’m simply jealous of Mr. Wayne. Who knows? 😄
‘Soul of the Dragon’ tells a Batman story that’s different from the kind of brooding production we’ve come to expect from the DCAU at this point, but it’s also a daring snippet into what DC may be planning to do and the kind of story it hopes to tell with these characters following the closing events of ‘Justice League Dark: Apokolips War’. The animation quality looks good, very easy on the eye, and the voicing too sounded awesome. In my book, this is another win for the Animated Universe.
Depending on how you’re looking at it, ‘Batman: Soul of the Dragon’ passes some important messages that may have some real-life application. I loved the subtlety with which it addresses religious fanatics, poking fun at the silly ideology most people hold onto that a Messianic figure is someday going to appear and fix everything that’s wrong with humanity, when the real power to effect change is really in our hands. Again, I may be wrong; maybe I’m overthinking it, but that subtle message is my biggest take from the movie.
Would you be missing anything if you skip this one? Well… no. But I think it’ll be good if you see it. The least I can assure you is that it won’t upset you, unlike some other recent DC offering.
The way we consume movies changed drastically this year 2020. This kind of change happens every few decades and another is fast upon us by the arrival of streaming services in time for the unforeseen Coronavirus pandemic. A few movies stuck to the cinemas, many saw their release dates pushed back multiples times, even into 2021, and those that couldn’t wait fell into the swooning arms of the streaming service with the most cash to spare them. Most of the movies on this list belong to the latter category.
In no particular order, here are my top 20 movies of the year 2020.
1. Palm Springs (Rom-Com of the year)
Stuck in a time loop, two wedding guests develop a budding romance while living the same day over and over again. Read review here.
2. Soul (Animated movie of the year)
Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz — and he’s good. But when he travels to another realm to help someone find their passion, he soon discovers what it means to have soul. Read review here.
3. His House (Horror film of the year)
A refugee couple makes a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, but then they struggle to adjust to their new life in an English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface.
4. Sylvie’s Love (Love story of the year)
Sylvie has a summer romance with a saxophonist who takes a summer job at her father’s record store in Harlem. When they reconnect years later, they discover that their feelings for each other have not faded with the years. Read review here.
5. The King of Staten Island (Comedy film of the year)
A semi-autobiographical comedy-drama about Pete Davidson growing up in Staten Island, including losing his father during 9/11 and entering the world of stand up comedy.
6. Tenet (SciFi film of the Year)
A secret agent is given a single word as his weapon and sent to prevent the onset of World War III. He must travel through time and bend the laws of nature in order to be successful in his mission.
7. The Devil all the Time (Crime Drama of the Year)
A young man is devoted to protecting his loved ones in a town full of corruption and sinister characters.
This movie had Tom Holland in a quality performance outside the MCU, it made me appreciate him more and, now, I find myself looking forward to all the stuff he’s got coming out in 2021.
8. Da 5 Blood (War Drama of the Year)
Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. Read thereview here.
9. Extraction (Action Thriller of the Year)
A black-market mercenary who has nothing to lose is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. But in the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, an already deadly mission approaches the impossible. Read the review here.
10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Go behind the scenes with the people who brought an unsung trailblazer, otherwise known as the Mother of Blues, to the big screen in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Read the review here.
11. The Trial of the Chicago 7
The film is based on the infamous 1969 trial of seven defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy and more, arising from the countercultural protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The trial transfixed the nation and sparked a conversation about mayhem intended to undermine the U.S. government.
12. The Croods: A new Age
Searching for a safer habitat, the prehistoric Crood family discovers an idyllic, walled-in paradise that meets all of its needs. Unfortunately, they must also learn to live with the Bettermans — a family that’s a couple of steps above the Croods on the evolutionary ladder. As tensions between the new neighbors start to rise, a new threat soon propels both clans on an epic adventure that forces them to embrace their differences, draw strength from one another, and survive together. Read the review here.
13. The Invisible Man
Cecilia’s abusive ex-boyfriend fakes his death and becomes invisible to stalk and torment her. She begins experiencing strange events and decides to hunt down the truth on her own.
14. Escape from Pretoria
Two white South Africans, imprisoned for working on behalf of the African National Congress, are determined to escape from the notorious Pretoria Prison.
Alexander Hamilton, an orphan, arrives in New York to work for George Washington. After the American Revolution, he goes on to become the first Secretary of the Treasury of the US.
Teenage elf brothers Ian and Barley embark on a magical quest to spend one more day with their late father. Like any good adventure, their journey is filled with cryptic maps, impossible obstacles, and unimaginable discoveries. But when dear Mom finds out her sons are missing, she teams up with the legendary manticore to bring her beloved boys back home.
17. Love and Monsters
Seven years after the Monsterpocalypse, Joel Dawson, along with the rest of humanity, has been living underground ever since giant creatures took control of the land. After reconnecting over the radio with his high school girlfriend, Aimee, who is now 80 miles away at a coastal colony, Joel begins to fall for her again. As Joel realizes that there’s nothing left for him underground, he decides to venture out to Aimee, despite all the dangerous monsters that stand in his way. Read the review here.
18. The Gentlemen
Mickey Pearson is an American expatriate who became rich by building a highly profitable marijuana empire in London. When word gets out that he’s looking to cash out of the business, it soon triggers an array of plots and schemes — including bribery and blackmail — from shady characters who want to steal his domain. Read the review here.
19. Vampires vs. The Bronx
Vampires vs. the Bronx is a 2020 American comedy horror film directed by Oz Rodriguez and written by Oz Rodriguez and Blaise Hemingway. The film follows a group of teenagers who are forced to protect their neighborhood in the Bronx when a gathering of vampires invades. Read the review here.
20. Bad Education
Roslyn Schools Superintendent Frank Tassone and his assistant Pam work together to put the district on the map. However, a school reporter uncovers an embezzlement scheme, which threatens their reign.
Honourable mentions: Small Axe, Nomadland, One Night in Miami, Sound of Metal, Spies in Disguise, The Old Guard, Freaky, The Banker, Enola Holmes
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Daveed Diggs, Angela Basset, et al
I picked up a new movie habit this year, where I go into a movie semi-blind. No full knowledge of its synopsis, no viewing of its trailers, or some of the other promotional materials that form a preconceived notion of what to expect when I eventually see the movie. Funny thing with Soul is that, I actually didn’t plan to do so with it from the start, but once I figure that was what was happening I just went along with it. And boy, am I glad I did!
Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz — and he’s good. But when he travels to another realm to help someone find their passion, he soon discovers what it means to have soul.
‘Soul’ is a thoughtful piece of art. Director Pete Docter, known for hits like ‘Up’ and ‘Inside Out’ movies that stimulate important conversations around what it means to truly be alive, follows up his awesome streak of incredible movies with this even more incredible entry. Soul definitely is my favourite animated movie of 2020, and with time, may rank high up the list of Disney Pixar’s greatest movies of all time. It’s a wonderful movie with a message that may appeal better to adults than kids, but both ages are sure of a good time watching it. If you’re a big fan of animated movies, you’ll definitely enjoy it.
Starring: Pedro Paschal, Priyanka Chopra, Taylor Dooley, et al.
It’s not everyday kids get to save the world or their parents, but when they do get the chance to, it’s usually fun.
‘We Can Be Heroes’ may not be the most serious or fun movie out this December, but it’s the kind of mindless fun kids and adults in search of something unserious would appreciate. Kind of like the Spy Kids movies of the 2000s. Not all December movie releases can be blockbusters like Woman Woman 84 or Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, some are content just being plane old, easy to swallow Heroic parodies with a simple message. For We Can be Heroes, that message is the gospel of togetherness ad the need to always be united, a lesson children can really use much of in the world of today.
I’ve got to say, the kind of powers given to the kids in this movie were hilarious. I understand it’s a parody and all, but Slow-motion? Isn’t that a curse? 😂
Watching this movie was real fun. I’m glad I didn’t skip it.
PS: Pedro Paschal seems to be having the time of his life this 2020 (from The Mandalorian to WW84 and now this), and I couldn’t be more happy for this guy who stole all our hearts with his brief but memorable scenes years back on Game of Thrones.
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Paschal, Kristen Wiig, et al.
When Wonder Woman hit the big screen in 2017, it was the breath of fresh air DC desperately needed at that time. Critics loved it and the audience adored it. Everything was beautiful in La La Land, so it was only fitting that the first critically acclaimed movie for the DCEU received a sequel ASAP. Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve had to wait even longer for the highly anticipated Patty Jenkin’s sequel to arrive. It finally did on Christmas Day, and thanks to Warner Bros. HBO Max deal, everyone has the opportunity to see it almost at the same time.
Why all this history? Wonder Woman 1984 took the long and tough road to get to us. Expectations were really high for it, made even worse by the heat of the Lockdown brought upon fans by the pandemic, which saw the movie’s release date changed multiple times. It’s unsurprising for a movie of this kind to receive polarizing opinions from fans upon its release, and that’s the current fate with WW84. The amazing reviews and ratings it received from Critics before its official release, particularly from Rotten Tomatoes the aggregate rating site, has dropped drastically the more people get to see it for themselves.
Having seen this movie for myself now, one thing is clear to me, no matter what kind of opinion people have about Wonder Woman 1984, it’s not much match for the first one.
But is it a bad movie? Far from it.
“Amidst the magical lasso, flying superheroes, and invisible jets, at the core of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is a story that we can all relate to: the desire to have our greatest wishes come true.” Thanks to the Dreamstone, a magical object by a yet unseen god of Lies, the people of 1984 start to get their wishes come true. This Dreamstone is how the movie’s villains Maxwell Lord and Cheetah both get their powers.
Wonder Woman 1984 is kinda fun, promising and tonally DIFFERENT from the first one, which is really why I like it as much as I do. It doesn’t try hard to retrace the paths of what made the first one a success, but forge a new, decent story with appealing new characters.
Also, the performances by the actors were nothing short of awesome. Gal Gadot as Diana of Themiscyra is one of the best thing to happen to the DCEU and, once again, she shines brightly like the beautiful, talented diamond that she is. Chris Pines’ return as Steve Trevor made logical sense thanks to the Dreamstone, his return was one of my greatest fears going into the movie, and it gave us another opportunity to see one of Hollywood’s finest Chris’ in action. Kristen Wiig and Pedro Paschal as Barbara/Cheetah and Maxwell Lord were really great additions to the franchise.
Wonder Woman 1984 did have some very memorable scenes and some that are sure to raise the eyebrows of very passionate fans; scenes like the one with the invisible jet and flying Diana fit the bill for the latter nicely.
It’s cool movie and I enjoyed watching it.
PS: In some ways, in WW84, Diana as Wonder Woman felt like a parody of Spider-Man, Hawkgirl (and one other comic book character I can’t remember at this time) with the way her powers worked in some scenes. I thought it was hilarious.
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Rinzy’s Rating: 3/5
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