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Big screen fare

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

“Less than an hour [in], the audience is treated to a 15-minute ultra-complex action sequence. […] What begins as a parasail wing shooting out of a motorcycle is just the start. It has countless moving parts—the multiple fliers add dynamism to the set piece—and yet it’s all coherent and easy to follow. […] It’s the glorious pinnacle of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.”

David Leitch movies, ranked

“A major advocate for stunt performers to be recognised at the Oscars, given his own background, [David] Leitch naturally puts an emphasis on in-camera stunt work. Unfortunately, some of the films he has made have suffered from an overuse of CGI or incoherent editing in the action set-pieces. That said, he’s delivered some really stylish and memorable work elsewhere.”

The Fall Guy

“Filmmaking can be incredibly complex but sometimes, all you need are two beautiful people who light up the screen together. Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt are proof. On The Fall Guy … the two showcase movie star charisma from the moment we first lay eyes on them. You can’t help but fall in love. They share incredible chemistry, the kind that pulls you into the film and makes you forget everything.”

Challengers

“Early into Challengers, Tashi notes that she doesn’t want hitting a ball with a racquet to be her only skill in life. But several years later, Tashi acknowledges that hitting a ball with a racquet is perhaps her only skill in life. […] That single-minded focus defines how Tashi lives her life and how she sees the people around her. [… Luca] Guadagnino takes primal human emotions—attraction, jealousy, failure, betrayal, despair, and sacrifice—and turns them into something endlessly fascinating.”

Rebel Moon — Part Two: The Scargiver

“The lines are so generic and devoid of specificity that they could have been written by AI models. Heck, AI might do a better job. […] On top of that, as with the original, [it’s] filled with dreary exposition. Instead of jumping into the thick of things … [Zack] Snyder wastes half of the film’s runtime slashing about, giving you backstory after backstory in a desperate bid to get you to care for the ensemble.”

Zack Snyder movies, ranked

“No matter what side of the Snyder debate you stand on, what’s clear is that he has a particular style in filming and executing violence on screen. You could argue he’s become more of himself over the years—or rather, he’s stayed consistent while the budgets and technology have bloomed around him. It’s been central to the fanbase he’s cultivated. And while I may not love any of his movies, there are captivating moments in them.”

Amar Singh Chamkila

“The strongest argument it makes is for artists to pursue their art. You can live in fear, or you can do what you were born to. Chamkila is a singer, so he’s going to sing. No matter what happens. Imtiaz Ali finds his way to an argument against the environment of censorship and self-censorship that looms over filmmaking in India today. But it’s not the defining force of the film as it ought to be.”

Damsel

Damsel … is part of a fairly new strain of feminist films that wish to dismantle the stereotypes associated with fantasy films such as these. Its subversive claims … are made clear from the start. […] But alas, this 101-minute entirely self-serious tale—there isn’t a bone of humour in Damsel—has little to say and even less to show. I kept waiting for the film to kick in, to usher me into what it promised and wow me with its action, but that moment never arrived.”

Bhakshak

“[Instead] of developing its characters, the Netflix movie is too busy dropping lines. Unable (or unwilling) to craft scenes that could get their point across, [the writers] give into grandstanding, over and over. […] Bhakshak is packed with pithy virtue-signalling dialogues, with the film’s lead character … launching into them of her volition or being set up by other characters to deliver them.”

Netflix originals, ranked

“Netflix has become ever so mainstream over the years, eschewing its early penchant for picking up off-beat titles to embrace its current status as Bollycore. What began as an avenue to offer alternative cinema has become just another glitzy enterprise. Add to that a frosty reception by the ultra-nationalist far right-wing Modi government—they have been in power since it arrived in India—and Netflix has scaled back on the ambitions it once had.”

Kho Gaye Hum Kahan

“That line of dialogue hits at what the new Netflix movie is about: the ennui of the digital age. Essentially, it wants to depict the cause and effects of generational malaise that began in millennials and is more acute with Gen Z, who were born into an always-online world. So much of our life today happens on social media. Or, rather, how it appears on social media.”

The Archies

“[Sugary] and fluffy, just like cotton candy. Sure, it has a few bones to pick and some topics to tackle, but it has little interest in scratching below the surface. No wonder then that it loves pivoting to songs—there are 11 (!!) of them … [it’s] maddening. Worse, it’s only a ‘musical’ in the sense that it features singing and dancing, as it communicates very little through those songs.”

Marvel movies, ranked

“The [Marvel Cinematic Universe] boasts four entries in the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time. Collectively, the movies have made a combined $30 billion in box office receipts alone. Licensing, merchandising, theme parks, and everything else are separate. It’s easily the biggest franchise of all time—no question about it.”

The Marvels

“[Feels] like it’s actively avoiding most responsibilities. Despite its galactic scale and life-threatening scope, The Marvels operates as a lightweight, small cosmic adventure that can’t help but feel like a stepping stone to nothing. Sure, there’s spurts of enjoyable banter between this new trio … but there’s alarmingly little dramatic material to make it a substantial film.”

The best movies at MAMI 2023

“Speaking of the slate strength, the selection at MAMI 2023 felt weaker than in past years. […] That said, until we’ve gone through the end of this year, it’d be impossible to say if that’s a reflection of MAMI’s choices or the 2023 film slate in general. Still, there were a bunch of titles that I loved or really enjoyed. Of course, the problem with creating this kind of list is the logistical limitation. While over 250 movies were shown … I was only able to catch 28 of them.”

Christopher Nolan movies, ranked

“No other filmmaker today can draw audiences solely off his name and rake in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, over and over. That too for original properties. […The] 53-year-old British-American writer-director has the kind of enviable filmography that most would die for—and has Hollywood studios flocking to him like a moth to a flame. It also makes ranking Nolan’s movies a challenge.”

MAMI 2023: 26 movies to watch

“The Mumbai Film Festival, better known as MAMI … is back in physical form after a gap of four years. […] And thanks to the riches of its primary sponsor Jio … MAMI 2023 promises to be bigger than ever. For one, it will run for a full 10 days: October 27 to November 5. Across the opening weekend, films will be screened at the glitzy 2,000-plus-seater Grand Theatre at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre.”

Khufiya

“[Its] unforgivable crime is that it’s a slog to sit through. The chief component of a thriller movie is that it needs to be engaging on a minute-by-minute level. [Vishall] Bhardwaj seems to have no idea how to sustain that—and he repeatedly undercuts himself. […] In addition to scene construction, Khufiya is a mess on virtually every front, be it dialogue, narrative intrigue, or even acting.”

Jaane Jaan

“I can’t help but feel that there’s a better movie hiding underneath, a darker, shifty and more sinister one. Even as I was watching it, I kept wondering about the energy a filmmaker like Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder) or Park Chan-wook (Decision to Leave) would’ve brought to this. There are shades of both parenthetical films, especially the latter, as the detective falls for the female suspect but Jaane Jaan doesn’t fully commit to it.”

Jawan

“A series of PSAs that are increasingly in your face, to the point that the last one is literally delivered to your face, with [Shah Rukh] Khan breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience. [… It] coasts on the movie-star charm of and the audience’s affection for Khan, but that can only take you so far. Thrust into an action thriller package—it’s more of an action comedy, to be honest—the world of Jawan operates with zero cohesion or internal logic.”

Heart of Stone

“[Its] set pieces don’t have the same intrigue as those in a Mission: Impossible chapter, and beat-by-beat, it doesn’t have the same crackling energy. Some of that is down to the ever-present augmented reality overlays. […] It’s fine to have this at the start, so audiences are aware of what’s going on, but it makes no sense to keep showing it. All the AR overlays make Heart of Stone look like a video game. Except you’re not playing—you’re merely watching.”

Barbie

“[Too] literal in places. It spells out everything. […] Instead of alluding to it, approaching it in a layered fashion, or navigating it with a deft hand, Barbie always opts for the wrecking-ball-through-the-wall route. […] Yet, you can’t deny that Barbie is also constantly funny. Packed full of zingers and situational humour, it sketches out the idiotic, the ironic, and the idiosyncratic, driven by the talents of its two leading stars.”

Oppenheimer

“On the surface, it’s about a man who helped alter the shape of the world. But it’s also about our world today (naturally). A world where patriots are discarded, put in jails, and labelled “anti-nationals”. And those who solely work for their own profit brand themselves as saviours while spreading hate and division. Oppenheimer is a character study that purports itself as a thriller for the majority of its runtime, only to gradually usher you into an entirely different movie.”

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

“I had huge expectations from Dead Reckoning Part One—and I was completely engaged […] The new Mission: Impossible film is expectedly full of action and thoroughly enjoyable. At the same time, it’s hilarious and emotional, showcasing both wit and a willingness to push itself into dark corners. More importantly, unlike the first parts of Dune and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, it’s not an incomplete movie.”

The Flash

“[A] witty and inventive buddy comedy that finds a way to honour DC’s past and even-older past. And it is at its best when it’s centred on characters and their interplay, rather than the necessary shenanigans of making a $200 million superhero movie. That’s the lesson the new DC needs to learn—one the [Zack] Snyder films and the associated ones never did.”

Extraction 2

“[The] bigger problem with the Extraction films [is that they] are more interested in wowing you with intensity and effort. ‘Look at how much work this sequence must have taken.’ […] It’s a shame the scripts don’t put nearly enough into making us care about the characters and what’s happening to them. [The writer Joe] Russo cares more about expanding his world and building out the ensemble.”

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

“Here was the opportunity to deliver a note-perfect sequel, but they’ve shot themselves in the foot by splitting it into two. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is still a mature, wilder, and more ambitious sequel—one that reminds us what animation is capable of and should aspire to be—but it’s not as wholly impressive as its predecessor.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

“Sure, it’s morbid, maudlin, and flippant at the same time—but it’s also infectious and full of spirit. [James] Gunn is hooked on a feeling and high on believing. It’s far from a smooth ride, it doesn’t always work, but it’s also the bittersweet end of an era. For us, for Gunn, and for Marvel.”

Peter Pan & Wendy

“For a tale that’s been adapted into film half a dozen times (and scores more on stage), Peter Pan & Wendy was crying out for an infusion of [David] Lowery’s Green Knight magic. Unfortunately, he’s delivered a less-than-serviceable remake that’s both undercooked and repetitive at the same time.”

Ghosted

“Sure, the woman is the spy here and the man is the love interest, in contrast to what tends to usually be the case. But it’s no Deadpool or Knives Out, despite how hard it tries. […] A cameo-laden scene halfway through the film where everyone dies is meant to elicit chuckles, but it just doesn’t work. It feels empty and abrupt.”

Murder Mystery 2

“It’s meant to mock tropes and laugh at clichés. It’s about solving a murder while having a ball. Like having your cake and eating it too. But unfortunately, just like with the first one, the sequel is really none of those things. And it’s not for a lack of trying, mind you. Murder Mystery 2 … is just pure cringe, somehow always finding itself on the wrong side of the tracks.”

John Wick: Chapter 4

“All that said, it’s hard to argue against the sheer adrenaline thrill that John Wick 4 delivers. Sure, there are just too many dishes and the size of the portions is out of control, but you can’t escape its butt-clenching intensity. John Wick: Chapter 4 delivers on what you expect from a John Wick movie—I just wish it wasn’t overstuffed and so full of itself that it threatens to crowd out its best bits. It could do well to learn from its lean, mean, killing machine.”

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

“While the 2019 original was quick on its feet and excellent in handling the wish-fulfilment stuff, the second Shazam film … lacks the joy and the freshness. […] Watching Shazam! Fury of the Gods, you get the sense that they—[director David F.] Sandberg and his team—stuffed all of their best ideas into the first one. I kept waiting for a lightning bolt to strike the film and bring it back to life. But there’s no spark, no thunderclap, and no real ingenuity.”

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

“Its skies are unreal. Its jungles and animal life are unrecognisable. It’s impossible to locate a horizon. And unlike Earth, the Quantum Realm is seemingly lit equally from every angle. Add to that a lack of foregrounding elements and an overuse of wide bird’s-eye-view shots—they are meant to evoke awe but end up disorienting you—which has a way of flattening and stretching the Marvel movie to an unappealing degree.”

Avatar: The Way of Water

“[James] Cameron has decided to present Avatar: The Way of Water in variable frame rates: standard 24fps, and high-frame-rate 48fps. Most of the dialogue scenes make use of the former, while the action is all rendered in the latter. At times though, the Avatar sequel switches between the two on the fly, in the same scene, in what is both unnecessary and jarring. […] Cameron believes this solves HFR’s pain point, but I’m not convinced.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

“[Ryan] Coogler fails to impress with the few action sequences there are, and the occasionally incoherent narrative doesn’t know how to bring its promising pieces together. At the same time, Wakanda Forever is very moving in parts; mournful and unlike most superhero movies. It also wants to unpack ideas that other MCU films are eager to avoid. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good.”

Monica, O My Darling

“For all its showiness, peppy attitude, and too-cool-for-school attitude, [Vasan] Bala can’t hide the fact that Monica, O My Darling is oppressively mundane. [It’s] all plot, plot, plot. There are so many twists and machinations—this one killing that one, that one trying to kill the other one—that it’s all basically meaningless by the end. It’s running around like a headless chicken.”

Werewolf by Night

“[Even] though it might be the first proper MCU horror tale, I don’t think it’s effective in that regard. Sure, there are moments when blood streams down your screen … but I can’t recall any genuine scares. An even bigger problem is that it’s too short. Wrapping up at 48 minutes … Werewolf by Night doesn’t have enough time to flesh out its characters. It gets over before it really even begins.”

Darlings

“[More] a comedy of errors than a dark comedy honestly. At times, it’s more like a Hrishikesh Mukherjee movie, say Gol Maal, than a proper black comedy revenge thriller in its vein, à la Promising Young Woman. Leading up to release, the cast and crew of Darlings attempted to ‘educate’ audiences on what the phrase dark comedy means. But as the Netflix film shows, they themselves do not understand it either.”

Bullet Train

“If you’re going to make an all-out action movie and have most of it take place inside of a bullet train, you got to get creative and ensure the action delivers. But just as he failed on Deadpool 2 (generic and forgettable) and the Fast & Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw (incoherent and wholly cartoonish), Bullet Train director David Leitch fails to ignite the spark here too. There isn’t a single choreographed sequence … that bowls you over.”

The Gray Man

“There’s a lot of action set-pieces scattered across The Gray Man, but none of them have staying power. Rather than meticulously craft scenes that build characters and suit their story, it seems [Anthony and Joe Russo] have crammed one in every nook and cranny of the Netflix movie. Sure, they are bombastic, but it feels like a case of the directors justifying the humongous cost of the production and VFX budget. In fact, I would argue The Gray Man goes too big.”

Jaadugar

“[Gets] everything wrong from the first minute […] Jitendra Kumar plays ‘Meenu’ Narang, a toxic and insufferable man-child who thinks he knows what love is. Meenu declares that he loves someone the first time he meets them. (Ew.) Meenu proposes marriage repeatedly, at times weeks after he’s met someone, even though he doesn’t know their last name, let alone what they want to be in life. […] Jaadugar thinks Meenu just loves deeply. But in reality, he’s just a creep.”

Thor: Love and Thunder

“[Suffers] from narrative gaps, wild tonal imbalances, and weightlessness. More importantly, it under-utilises nearly every actor and character at its disposal. At once a romantic comedy, a tale of a grieving father, a god devoid of purpose, a scientist trying to conquer death, a bored king looking for adventure, and a goofball trip through the cosmos, Thor: Love and Thunder tries to be about so many things that—many a time—it’s about nothing. Just vibes and zingers.”

Jurassic World Dominion

“Rather than being set in our world and focusing on what it might be like for humans to co-exist with dinosaurs, […] the bulk of Jurassic World Dominion once again takes place within an isolated dinosaur sanctuary that is run by a multinational corporation solely in it for the profit. What’s the point of calling it Jurassic World if your (terrible no-good) trilogy is going to end without showing us how the world and its many cultures are dealing with dinosaurs in different ways?”

Top Gun: Maverick

“[The] high-flying action is both legible and awe-inducing. […] Much of the action sequences’ propulsive force is down to planes flying so close to the ground and each other—I’m pretty sure it would get them fired in the real world—in combination with endless spins, twirls, and other exciting manoeuvres. [Joseph] Kosinski transfers his eye for flair and kinetic energy, as seen on Tron: Legacy, onto Top Gun: Maverick, imbuing the film with sheer joy and a rush of adrenaline.”

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

“[Sam] Raimi operated with a somewhat down-to-earth aesthetic in the Spider-Man world … but there are virtually no rules here. [He pushes] the MCU into places it has previously kept away from. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is, at different times, gnarly, gory, scary, and bizarro. It’s in your face and willing to push itself into the mythos and illustrative styles of some Doctor Strange comics like never before.”

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

“The magic went out of these movies long ago—and the third of five planned chapters, The Secrets of Dumbledore, is unable to truly put a finger on it. That said, I didn’t actively hate [it] like I did the last one. Or maybe it was simply because the bar had been set so low by The Crimes of Grindelwald that there was no way to go but up. Still, The Secrets of Dumbledore ends up making some of the same mistakes as its predecessors.”

The Adam Project

“[An] unfunny instantly-forgettable movie that plays it too safe and says the same old things about parenting. [Ryan] Reynolds is in a similar position. He seems to have peaked playing himself—though Deadpool 3 is yet to come, there are at least two sequels to Red Notice alongside Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot, and I wouldn’t put it past Netflix to see The Adam Project as a ‘franchise starter’. God, I hate that term.”

Turning Red

“On one level, Turning Red is about a 13-year-old girl dealing with puberty and adolescence, as her rapidly-changing body freaks and scares her out. But on another level, Turning Red offers commentary on the classic misogyny remark: women are too emotional. The new Pixar movie’s young protagonist is repeatedly told to ‘contain her energy’—with characters alleging that it would be ‘impossible to contain the dark side’ if she displays too many emotions.”

The Batman 2

“Given the sheer magnitude of The Dark Knight, it’s bold of [Matt] Reeves to opt for the Joker as the sequel’s centrepiece. […] I really hope he knows what he’s doing. The Dark Knight is one of my favourite movies of all time, and The Batman 2 will need to be something insane, special, and legendary to avoid looking like an also-ran. Reeves is inviting the comparison and he needs to answer for it.”

The Batman

“The start of this Batman-verse is asking a lot of the regular audience—and maybe, that’s a good thing. Because The Batman both feels like a terrific achievement given the comic book saturated climate we live in, and a disappointment for it struggles to retain its identity and flex more than a few muscles. [Robert] Pattinson’s Batman isn’t fully formed here, and it seems neither is [Matt] Reeves’ vision.”

Gehraiyaan

“[A] classic case of being all over the place. It starts off as a romantic character drama […] But Gehraiyaan transforms into another beast over the course of its bloated 133-minute runtime (sans credits), becoming more and more plot and event-driven. It’s been described as ‘domestic neo-noir’ by the cast and director Shakun Batra, but it’s not that—Gehraiyaan bears no traits of the neo-noir genre. It’s just poor drama.”

Looop Lapeta

“[Proof] that Bollywood can’t make a lean-and-mean high-concept B-movie. Rather than jump straight into the thick of things (and stay in its lane), the Hindi-language remake of writer-director Tom Tykwer’s Sundance Film Festival-winning 1998 German thriller Run Lola Run stuffs in all sorts of plot, subplot, and backstory into it. There’s even a song sequence that further slows down Looop Lapeta.”

Minnal Murali

“Designed as a superhero (and supervillain) origin story on the surface. But along the way, Minnal Murali crams in subplots about half a dozen other characters, which offer muted commentary on xenophobia, casteism, and religious strife. Most of these nonsensically drag on for what feels like an eternity. At 158 minutes, Minnal Murali is overlong by a mile.”

Spider-Man: No Way Home

“The big question of whether [it] stands on its own two feet is rather impossible to answer given how deeply it is woven into the fabric of five other Spider-Man movies. But more crucially, it is immaterial. [… With] the guidance of the shared film universe master [Marvel Studios, Sony Pictures has …] finally delivered a Spider-Man movie that’s at once a mouth-watering prospect for financial analysts, and a button-pushing treat for Spider-Man fans of all ages.”

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ghostbusters: Afterlife isn’t as slavish to its original film as [Star Wars:] The Force Awakens was, but it’s also not nearly as enjoyable. For what it’s worth, [Jason] Reitman tries to carve out a new voice for the Ghostbusters series [… but troublingly, it] doubles down on the nostalgia towards the end—which undoes the good work that Reitman signals at for most of his film.”

Red Notice

“[Keeps] throwing a series of one-liners without ever committing to its jokes. [It] doesn’t have a personality—it screams bland actioner […] I saw it earlier this week and I’ve already forgotten most of its action sequences. That’s how unmemorable they are. Essentially, Red Notice is a very run-of-the-mill heist movie with little flair and panache of its own. Except that it features three of Hollywood’s leading actors stars. And that is the only reason it exists.”

Eternals

“Worryingly, Eternals doesn’t ever really feel like a Chloé Zhao movie. Though that may be because we’ve never seen a Zhao movie on this scale. […] Eternals has epic vistas and is beautiful to look at, and there is a tangible feeling to some of its settings. But all of that is superficial. Zhao fails to bring the heart and soul she’s known for on Eternals—instead, she delivers a gigantic and gorgeous movie with nothing to say, something that Marvel gets blamed for all too often.”

Dune

“[A] bold bet. […] There are no lightsabers, dogfights, or space battles here. […] Its characters don’t trade quips, or ping-pong across planets on a galactic adventure. [… There’s] no humour on display here, it’s all self-serious. Dune is more akin to Game of Thrones, but in space, and, minus the sex and the humour. It serves up a whole lot of palace intrigue, hints at a questionable quasi-Biblical journey, and seemingly evokes Lawrence of Arabia at times.”

Black Widow

Black Widow is too little too late for Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, who deserved a full arc outside of her Avengers exploits. Instead, she’s gotten a farewell flick. It also wastes its helmeted villain Taskmaster. […] Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova is better served [though] a cynic could argue that Black Widow is essentially a $200 million backdoor pilot [and Marvel launch vehicle].”

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

“Where the early scenes between [Xu] Wenwu and [Ying] Li are swooning, the Marvel movie shifts into a slapstick gear with [Katy and Xu Shang-Chi]—who go from doing a mini-Speed on the streets of San Francisco, a Jackie Chan-inspired high-stakes survival on bamboo scaffolding at a Macau skyscraper, to a climactic sequence that goes all out. There are dragons, colourful horses, giant cuddly lions, and dog-like creatures with no faces.”

Fast & Furious 9

“A poorly-used John Cena can’t mask Justin Lin’s [giant electromagnet] gimmicks and meta discussions [about how everyone’s favourite petrolheads seem to survive anything and everything. Plus,] Fast & Furious 9 brings back virtually everyone we know […] F9 is essentially a compendium of The Fast Saga. But it’s still incomplete.”

Cruella

Cruella is a fast-paced slick affair. Parts of it are like a heist movie, there’s campy dramedy sprinkled in parts, and every scene of the Disney movie is a showcase for Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan. Cruella oozes style—be it the costumes, the cinematography, or the soundtrack that is obsessed with needle drops … but it’s serving precious little substance.”

The Suicide Squad

“[James] Gunn operating with his raw sensibilities and shredding what hasn’t worked for him before. As such, The Suicide Squad is not bothered with storytelling constraints. In fact, the film’s plot can probably be summed up in two sentences. [… It] feels like a series of sketches stitched together. The Suicide Squad is essentially a giant big joke that the film is in on.”

Luca

“[Brought] to life with some of Pixar’s most stylised animation to date—[Enrico] Casarosa & Co. have spoken about how they were inspired by traditional 2D animation, Japanese woodblock paintings, a bunch of Italian classic movies, and the works of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki—and paired with a scintillating background score … that is at once serene, playful, tingling, and epic.”

Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead earns its 18+ rating with copious amounts of blood, gore and human entrails … but it’s all gratuitous, and the movie is empty outside of it. [And it’s also] drab, dull and devoid of any fun. It’s a [Zack] Snyder trademark at this point, but it’s still disappointing to see that he has no interest in changing his voice or visual style.”

Snyder Cut x HBO Max

“On one hand, you’ve HBO Max, a new platform hungry for subscribers. On the other hand, you’ve Justice League Snyder Cut, arguably the hottest property right now. This was the perfect moment for HBO Max to go global. [… The] perfect gateway to millions of new subscribers. Instead, HBO Max is letting Snyder Cut fans end up a one-time customer, when it could have invited them into a whole new world were it part of a subscription.”

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

“To call it overlong might be an understatement. It’s so long that some characters aren’t introduced until after the first hour, while others don’t show up until we pass the two-hour mark. It’s so long that the film’s epilogue takes half an hour, featuring multiple ‘endings’ that seem to suggest [Zack] Snyder put everything he had up on the wall. Justice League Snyder Cut is definitely indulgent.”

Raya and the Last Dragon

“[Ever] timelier in a world where isolationism is the new normal, where people make little effort to understand each other, and nearly every country seems to be practising an ‘us first’ policy. [… Sometimes], it’s up to the next generation to fix the world. That’s a resonant message given how young activists today are viciously attacked, jailed, or even killed globally.”

Wonder Woman 1984

“The original Wonder Woman was everything that DC needed to be. […] Wonder Woman 1984 has huge boots to fill. Unfortunately, the sequel gets out of its makers’ hands, and no matter what [Gal] Gadot does—and she can do a lot—she can’t save her next adventure from being a misfire.”

Soul

“Most films … send heroes on a journey on which they encounter obstacles, before arriving at their destination with new values. But Soul goes a step further and questions all of it. What is the journey worth? What should you be willing to give in pursuit of the goal? And what if we are moving towards the wrong destination? In other words, Soul is interested in pondering the meaning of life—the biggest question of them all.”

Mulan

Mulan is a bland feminist fable that dispels some gender stereotypes but fails to do much more. Worse, it’s a marketing tool for the Chinese Communist Party.”

Enola Holmes

Enola Holmes has a habit of hammering home the same point over and over, including something as basic as that Enola spelt backwards reads “alone” [… It] feels like a film built for the TikTok generation, who can’t lift their heads from their phones long enough to follow a two-hour movie.”

Tenet

“[Christopher Nolan] not only wants to preserve the big screen experience (understandable) but he also wants to be the saviour of cinemas (risky), which have been among the worst hit industries during the [COVID-19] pandemic. But in going for a staggered release with Tenet during an ongoing pandemic, Nolan is going to end up spoiling the film for some (not good) or push them towards piracy (worse).”

Bulbbul

“Bulbbul is stuck in a drab, inert, and ridiculous film, the kind whose plot you can entirely predict after watching the first few minutes. It’s only the film’s characters—except for Bulbbul—who fail to see otherwise, to the point where it all feels like a giant prank, as if they are merely pretending to act oblivious.”

Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl borrows and fuses elements from at least the first three books … featuring a kidnapping, a resurrection, and the introduction of an archenemy. That makes [it] unnecessarily convoluted. As a result of which, it feels rushed and is ultimately all over the place.”

Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai

“Unfortunately, Choked doesn’t have anything to say about the socio-political ramifications of demonetisation. Instead, it’s merely used as a plot device.”

Mrs. Serial Killer

“Mrs. Serial Killer is one of the stupidest movies of all time. I wish I was exaggerating, but if anything, that feels like an understatement. […] Nearly all of this is down to laughable writing—or direction—from Shirish Kunder.”

Extraction

“[Most] Indian stars, who play both Indians and Bangladeshi, are … just dressing for the movie. It severely underuses everyone except [Chris] Hemsworth, and that’s a shame. […] There’s no shortage of gunplay, grenades, and hand-to-hand combat on Extraction—but little else.”

Maska

“[If] the title of your movie has no thematic underpinnings to it, it doesn’t bode well. […] Scenes are so loosely written and put up that it almost feels like the makers couldn’t wait to be done with it. Maska is a frivolous and farcical joke of a movie.”

Guilty

“The Netflix film implodes in the worst possible way, with a mix of grandstanding and wish fulfilment that renders Guilty unrealistic and illogical, in addition to a gratuitous display of sexual violence for mere shock value.”

Onward

“Everything feels familiar, and Onward does not improve on what came before. […] By Pixar’s lofty standards, Onward is more Monsters University—also from [Dan] Scanlon—than Inside Out.”

Sonic the Hedgehog

“Instead of immersing the audience in Sonic’s rich, fantastical home-world that the film briefly visits, it keeps us in a corner of the non-descript human world that robs the film of any identity.”

Yeh Ballet

“Yeh Ballet … is nowhere as brave as its protagonists. [Sooni] Taraporevala delivers a by-the-numbers movie that hits the requisite beats of a slum-to-stardom template, including an obligatory moment where a disapproving parent is won over by their kid’s talent, without any special touches.”

Birds of Prey

“[There’s] never been a larger plan for her. Thanks to DC’s failings, three different writers have all done their own thing. Hopefully, one day, someone can emancipate Harley [Quinn] from that.”

Ghost Stories

“[Dibakar Banerjee’s] societal horror story bakes in the ugliness of caste, corruption, and immorality, and directly touches upon the erosion of small towns owing to the spread of urbanisation. [… Anurag] Kashyap’s ideas are buried too deep in the film, and though [Zoya] Akhtar’s leaves itself open to interpretation, it doesn’t reward you for the thought. Meanwhile, [Karan] Johar’s has nothing to offer.”

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker ultimately plays it so safe that it makes you wonder if it was designed by committee—or a global forum of Star Wars fans who threw everything they love about Star Wars in a blender. It’s too afraid to really commit to anything.”

Jumanji: The Next Level

“Props to Jumanji: The Next Level for handing out new roles to most of its primary cast members—[Dwayne] Johnson, [Kevin] Hart, and [Jack] Black—who now have to channel a different young adult or one of the two new oldies.”

Knives Out

“The wonderful thing about [Rian] Johnson is that his films come from a place of admiration for the genre, and that he’s willing to push the boundaries on what they have been about. […] With Knives Out, Johnson throws out a story that [Agatha] Christie would have appreciated, but he makes sure to go that step further to subvert it.”

Frozen II

“[Its] new themes, which have to do with environmentalism, indigenous people, historical wrongs, and supportive male partners … aren’t delivered with the same conviction and style of the 2013 original. Its messaging lacks the emotional resonance that was at the heart of Frozen, and ultimately, feels half-baked.”

Klaus

“[Made] in the old ways of traditional hand-drawn 2D animation [but] makes use of modern touches such as volumetric lighting, Klaus can easily be mistaken for computer animation, something [Sergio] Pablos knows too well. That means most viewers will overlook the painstaking work that went into it.”

Gemini Man

“Continuing his love for bleeding-edge tech from his previous feature, [Ang] Lee has shot Gemini Man in extra-high frame rate—120fps to be precise, which is five times the standard 24fps—at 4K resolution in 3D. […] But Lee has spent time and money on technology that forget being appreciated, can’t even be seen as intended.”

Joker

“[As] an origin story—Arthur is a product of a broken mother, a broken home, and a broken city—it’s unable to meaningfully engage with what it presents. And as a standalone ~superhero~ film, Joker drinks too much from [Martin] Scorsese’s can while presenting a deeply cynical but ultimately empty viewpoint. It’s provocative but sadly, it’s also irresponsible in the handling of that material.”

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

“[The] trouble for the Fast & Furious spin-off is that its set-pieces aren’t cohesive. Rather than a scene that was conceptualised, extensively storyboarded, and then shot and cut to perfection … those in Hobbs & Shaw suffer from a lack of fluidity. And when the action doesn’t flow beat-to-beat, it takes you out of the moment. In other words, you stop caring.”

The Lion King

“[Some] of the most imaginative and best-looking frames of the original are virtually discarded on the remake, which in turn opts for a more natural feel. Therefore, those who haven’t seen the original will enjoy the remake more, as they’ll have nothing to compare it with.”

Spider-Man: Far From Home

“[Amidst] the narrative necessity of the new threat—this is a superhero movie after all—from its introduction to Spider-Man inevitably winning the day, Far From Home doesn’t give itself enough time to properly examine the emotional fallout of the abrupt end of Peter [Parker] and Tony [Stark]’s relationship.”

Toy Story 4

“With a new bunch of toys (and a returning favourite) posing big, new questions to the good ol’ ones, and a screenplay … delivering laughs and adventure in equal amounts, Toy Story 4 ends up being a great entry, one that’s self-assured and the most inventive Pixar sequel yet.”

Men in Black: International

Men in Black: International can’t recapture the Thor: Ragnarok magic, because the two stars weren’t solely responsible for it. Much of Ragnarok‘s success was down to the irreverence of director Taika Waititi […] Unfortunately, F. Gary Gray … can’t catch that lightning in a bottle.”

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

“Ultimately, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a wholly disappointing and forgetful culmination of this X-Men run, which brought together a fantastic bunch of young actors but then ran out of steam two movies in.”

Aladdin

“Were Disney interested in something other than a cynical cash-grab, that entertains children with music and dance for a couple of hours and later hopefully sells some merchandise, it could have done well to hire writers who have a deeper respect for Middle Eastern cultures.”

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

“[Were] it not for [Ryan] Reynolds, who carries over his Deadpool persona—minus the expletives—in voicing a version of Pikachu that wears a deerstalker hat and has a caffeine addiction, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu would immediately be a lesser film.”

Avengers: Endgame

“It has a three-act structure like most films, but it can also be viewed as three movies in one. The first one offering a meditative reflection on grief and loss, the second giving them hope to get back up and come up with a plan, and a final third that delivers bucket-loads of fan service in true comic book-style fashion. Avengers: Endgame needs the three-hour runtime to honour all that, and along the way, it earns that crazy length.”

Shazam!

“The fact that its hero is a teenager and isn’t carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders—unlike nearly all his DC counterparts—benefits the film greatly.”

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is more a reminder of Marvel’s early work (think the first Captain America or Thor) than its more recent output (Black Panther or Infinity War).”

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

“[An] ode to sibling rivalry and affection, which stems from wanting to spend time and bond with each other. And from a filmmaking perspective, The Lego Movie 2‘s greatest strength is how it makes such a studio vehicle feel like an indie project, true to the roots of the homemade Lego movies that started it all.”

Soni

“[It] takes restraint to depict ingrained societal pressures and injustices without being preachy or didactic, and [debutante director] Ivan Ayr has that in spades.”

Bumblebee

“Both Charlie and Bee have faced loss and are broken in different ways, and the film uses that human-machine connection to craft a well-meaning tale of compassion and friendship.”

Aquaman

“[Simply] too over-stuffed and over-long, […]the unique visual style of its underwater universe [is] overshadowed by the excesses around it, leaving behind a film that’s as muddled as our oceans today.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“[Into the Spider-Verse] takes a wacky comic storyline with an outlandish concept, and transfers it onto the screen in a fascinating and fresh manner.”

Ralph Breaks the Internet

“[The] Wreck-It Ralph sequel is clever and self-aware enough to not just mine the decades of nostalgia for a dozen laughs but turn that shameless self-promotion of Disney’s several intellectual properties into a storytelling tool.”

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

“There’s little sense of what The Crimes of Grindelwald is about, and in trying to serve an ensemble while keeping an eye on the big picture, [J.K.] Rowling fails in crafting a narrative that is engaging, meaningful, or even just enjoyable.”

First Man

“[Damien] Chazelle isn’t ever carried away by the magnitude of Armstrong & Co.’s achievements and hence, his film stays away from treating them as legends originating from a mythology.”

Venom

Venom is neither here nor there, and its failure to be self-aware makes it feel like a movie from a different superhero era at times.”

The Predator

“[A] frequently-nonsensical chapter which indulges in the action-movie tropes it wants to mock … and routinely fails in being funny, as instead of laughing with the characters and the movie, you’re laughing at them.”

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

“[It] has where it counts, offering thrilling action set-pieces throughout. With nearly all running into double-digit minutes, the attention to level of detail and the commitment to top what came before is astounding.”

The Dark Knight

“Many superhero films have since tried to copy its formula, but most have failed. The biggest fault … has been the relentless focus to ground themselves in grittiness, either oblivious or uncaring of the aspects that matter more. […The Dark Knight‘s] script was full of clever call-backs and foreshadowing, and had bits and pieces of humour in the right places … to offset the otherwise depressing nature of events on-screen.”

Ant-Man and the Wasp

“Recurring gags power much of the humour in Ant-Man and the Wasp. The advantage of such call-back moments is that it rewards the audience for remembering little details and makes them feel smart because they know what’s about to happen.”

Incredibles 2

“That the film manages to convey [so much] while being a rollicking memorable ride — action sequences with Elastigirl are awe-inspiring, while Jack-Jack steals every scene he’s present in — is what makes it great.”

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

“[Its] themes are dealt with in as perfunctory a manner as J.A. Bayona’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back reference, as the film is happy to oblige and hand audiences what they’ve come for.”

Solo: A Star Wars Story

“Partly thanks to Harrison Ford, Han Solo is one of the most famous characters in pop culture, let alone Star Wars. Telling his origin story, as the new standalone Star Wars film does, is the definition of low-hanging fruit.”

Deadpool 2

“There are a few things all that meta-referencing can’t solve, but when it’s such fun for the most part — minus a rough second act — it’s hard not to be swept away.”

Avengers: Infinity War

“[Since it] is the beginning of the end for the current generation of Marvel superheroes, it can do away with some and still have plenty to go around. That helps generate stakes and makes Infinity War different from any other Marvel film.”

Ready Player One

Ready Player One relies on its target audience’s encyclopaedic knowledge, hedging its success on the enjoyment of seeing your beloved characters/ objects in a different context, rather than an investment in its own characters.”

Annihilation

“[Annihilation] turns a story about coping with the loss of a loved one into a look at our self-destructive nature, and how that manifests itself.”

Tomb Raider

“The problem with most adaptations of video games is two-fold: keeping a check on the exposition, and designing action set-pieces that are interesting to watch. Roar Uthaug mostly fails on both counts.”

Mute

“A disaster of epic proportions. Mute includes a terrific trio of actors—Alexander Skårsgard, Paul Rudd, and Justin Theroux—but the writing is so poor, tone-deaf, and all over the place that it feels like Duncan Jones has forgotten what movie he was trying to make in the years he kept waiting for the greenlight.”

Black Panther

“[Ryan] Coogler knows fully too well the reach of something like Black Panther, and he uses the Marvel canvas to paint a bigger — but more importantly, a powerful — picture.”

Bright

“Mistrust, class struggles, and social mobility appear to be important themes for Bright in the early going, and it indulges the idea of exploring the symptoms and consequences of that for the first half hour. But it eventually gives that up, and turns into a Will Smith-movie, which is to say a generic guns-blazing action thriller.”

The Last Jedi x Rian Johnson

“[It’s] clear that [Rian Johnson] is a talent to keep track of. [His] script is full of brilliant moments right off the bat, delivering exciting space battles, personal confrontations, and a touch of levity to the proceedings.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi embeds [Rian] Johnson’s view of the Star Wars saga into literal dialogue, smartly speaking to the millions of fans through a mighty-expensive studio vehicle for which nostalgia has always been the cornerstone.”

Spider-Man: Homecoming

“The film is about Spider-Man facing what it means to be a hero, and what that entails. But instead of saying it as a fancy dialogue, it shows how great power brings great responsibility.”

Logan

“[As] he rides into the sunset, it’ll be a struggle for anyone who lived through this period to imagine someone else in the role. Logan’s excellence in being the perfect send-off for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine will make it harder still.”

War for the Planet of the Apes

“That the story ultimately transcends our hero – the trilogy has always made it easy to root for the apes – is more than fitting. [The film] builds on a central tenet – ‘apes together strong’ – and sends out resonating values that we can all learn something from.”

Coco

“The world of Coco is beautifully conceptualised and brought to life in a gorgeous, eye-popping fashion, with special mention for the aforementioned alebrije, which have their basis in Mexican folk art and have been rendered as multi-coloured fantastical creatures.”

Justice League

“It’s incapable of pushing the superhero genre like Logan did earlier this year, and it’s got too many cooks in the kitchen to produce something singular. All that ultimately results in a film that’s trying to make everyone happy by giving them what they enjoy, but lacks the required level of quality in nearly every department.”

Thor: Ragnarok

“The punchlines and one-liners keep rolling off the assembly line across Ragnarok, and most of the humour feels natural, with only bits and parts coming across a bit forced in their attempt to liven up the proceedings. […] Ragnarok’s excellence also stems from how it’s able to provide small, meaningful moments for its ensemble.”

Blade Runner 2049

“From its opening moments, Blade Runner 2049 is more interested in creating an experience than telling a story by the numbers. It’s why the director Denis Villeneuve and the film, in turn, bide their time, to slow you down and immerse in the dreary, eerie, and dystopian world of futuristic Los Angeles.”

Death Note

“Adam Wingard, who has spent over a decade dabbling in horror films, takes a similar approach to Death Note. That results in Final Destination-style killings involving gruesome violence and blood spatters, which shows that the creators didn’t spend any time understanding the magna’s overarching themes, let alone update the story for today’s age, and its Americanised depiction.”

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

“That Luc Besson managed to put together this undertaking on his own is a testament of his passion for the project, but its core failure of the relationship between Valerian and Laureline – and the lacklustre chemistry of DeHaan and Delevingne – is disappointing. For a world that brings together the four corners of the universe, it’s a shame that we’re being told the same empty tale that we’ve seen a thousand times.”

Transformers: The Last Knight

“The inability to let events properly play out causes a perennial rush. At times, it almost seems as if The Last Knight is wearing its editing choppiness as a badge of honour, daring you to make sense of the moments in between. Michael Bay further compounds the problem by never letting the film rest, and imbuing every other scene with so much incoherent action that you’ll be most likely be left with a headache.”

The Mummy

“Drowning in material that’s meant to sound worrying, and filled with self-seriousness of its prophecies, rituals and ancient past drawl that it borders on parody, The Mummy comes across as a cheap horror take on a lesser Dan Brown novel. It’s unable to find the humour through it all, delivering with such infrequency that Tom Cruise’s traditional action-star performance dissolves in the sludge.”

Wonder Woman

“For a character that’s been around for eight decades, it’s a shame it took so long for a big screen solo debut, but its arrival is more than welcome to serve as a wonderful reminder of why we need more diversity amongst our heroes, both on and off screen. Wonder Woman is far from a perfect film, but it’s brave and smart enough to be granted a well-deserved sequel.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

“[James] Gunn manages to pack an emotional punch in the end, delivering a character send-off that’s bound to bring most viewers to the verge of tears. But though the celestial action is grounded in relatable values, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘s central message—that family comes in all shapes and sizes—struggles to shine through, amid the cacophony.”

Ghost in the Shell

“If you want to call your film Ghost in the Shell, but are happy to leave the existential matter behind, it creates a product without much of a soul. That’s not something the Major would ever stand for.”

The Lego Batman Movie

“A lot of its blend of humour is directed at the Caped Crusader himself, and in its attempt to be eternally self-aware and skewer everything in its sight, The Lego Batman Movie doesn’t spare anything—with Batman even narrating over the studio logos before the first frame comes into view.”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

“In Rogue One, [Gareth] Edwards has made the most realistic of Star Wars than any before—and with that, also the most mature and grown-up one. This is not the fun-filled romp for the younger audiences that last year’s Episode VII: The Force Awakens was. Instead, Rogue One is the Star Wars prequel George Lucas should have made, and one that fans of the original trilogy rightly deserve.”

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

“As the audience, we have developed no connection whatsoever with the characters that we are about to see, yet the film is trying evoke memories of a deep past that earned its affection over the course of a decade. But this is Hollywood, a world where franchise is the new buzzword, and nothing is sacred.”

Doctor Strange

“In the first five minutes of Doctor Strange, director Scott Derrickson gives us the wildest and strangest look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet, rivalling every moment seen in any of the previous 13 instalments. Even for an ever expanding franchise that regularly sees immeasurable power, demigods from different realms, and individuals warping reality, the scene is far out there.”

Suicide Squad

“More often than not, Suicide Squad plays out completely opposite to that old adage: strength in numbers. The film fares better when it lets individual characters take over the narrative, but cowardice and a general lack of time investment make sure that no one can get in more than a single line in what is a continuous repartee.”

Jason Bourne

“The memory lapse feels tired as a plot mechanic in [Matt] Damon’s fourth outing as the character, and should the franchise choose to continue, it must give Bourne something new to take on—there are a lot of wrongs in the world that aren’t in his head—or pivot cleverly away from a Bourne-centric era (we’re looking at you, The Bourne Legacy). Perhaps [Alicia] Vikander’s Lee could be convinced to go rogue?”

Star Trek Beyond

“[In] much the same way as J.J. Abrams did with the new Star Wars, Justin Lin’s Star Trek too rides on nostalgia and exuberance to deliver a true to its roots outing in Star Trek‘s 50th year. May it live long and prosper.”

Zootopia

“What Zootopia says is even more important today, a time when democratic nations around the world move towards harsher right-wing policies, by way of fear and misinformation of ‘outsiders’. The city of Zootopia … runs obvious parallels to mankind’s own diversity and through the beaming eyes of [Judy] Hopps offers a glimpse at what can be achieved if only we don’t remain so set in our ways.”

James Bond

“As viewers, we shouldn’t be admiring a misogynist character who defines an old-fashioned idea of masculinity that involves pursuing women for the sole reason of sexual conquest while avoiding any and all emotional attachment. There is no reason for Bond the character to exist if the franchise isn’t interested in telling newer stories that don’t treat women as an object of desire.”