Recently by Ram Venkat Srikar

Totally Under Control Movie Review: Timely and Timeless

A conscientiously infuriating and trepidatious documentation of a systemic failure.
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The obligation while reviewing documentaries that has always challenged and fascinated me is to create a clear distinction between the film's subject matter and filmmaking craft. Totally Under Control is no exception, and is, perhaps, a bigger challenge as compared to other documentaries ascribed to its germane nature with which it addresses the prevailing COVID-19 situation. One certainly cannot - and should not - overlook its relevance. After all, the film’s fundamental motive is evolving as you read this. Probably the most felicitous film you can get your hands on at the present, Totally Under Control is a conscientiously infuriating

Possessor Movie Review: Layered with Terror

Brandon Cronenberg's sophomore effort is ridden with anxiety, distress, and shock. But you'll crave for more.
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When someone asks me what a film is about, I’m often puzzled whether to share the synopsis of the film, or tell what the film is actually about. Take the case of Parasite, for instance. It’s the story of a poor family infiltrating a rich family to make money. What is it actually about, though? The persistent, wide gap between classes in a capitalist world. A layered screenplay bestows such depth, the duality, or what we call, subtext. Ignore the subtext, you still have a coherent film. Likewise, I can surely tell the story of Brandon Cronenberg's sophomore effort, Possessor.

Chemical Hearts Movie Review: Teenage-romance Turns Contemplative

Richard Tanne's second feature is a contemplative experience that leaves with a bittersweet feeling.
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Three minutes into Chemical Hearts, you understand that the film is twisting the teenage-romance genre. It places teenage characters in dramatic situations, in which death and PTSD complicate things, while characters remain teenagers grappling with the difference between objective reality and subjective reality. To call Chemical Hearts pretentious would be untrue, but it could have easily fallen into the trap of flatulent intelligence in the pretext of depth. That doesn’t happen, thanks to the way these characters are set-up; sophisticated yet utterly simple. For instance, when Grace Town (Lili Reinhart) explains her understanding of life and death - drawing an

Coup 53 Movie Review: Transmutes Intricacy into Intrigue

With a plethora of material at disposition, Taghi Amirani's skillfully made documentary assures the intrigue remains intact.
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The facet of documentary filmmaking that excites me most is the aftermath of the release. Documentaries affect the real world and real people; wider the subject matter, wider the impact. On this premise, I'm certain that Coup 53 will have a profound impact on an entire generation of Iran, offering a bit of closure to some, and furthers the existing material pertaining to the Iranian coup d'état, while also instigating a sense of treachery they’ve been subjected to 67 years ago. More importantly, the film factually addresses the major role of the USA and Britain in operation Ajax, whose involvement

Most Wanted (2020) Movie Review: A Middling Crime Drama with Identity Crisis

A drama like Most Wanted, which heavily banks on its characters, needed a much strong emotional connection.
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Daniel Roby’s Most Wanted (also known as Target Number One) begins with Daniel Léger (Antoine Olivier Pilon) a troubled young man, receiving his first paycheque as a lumberjack. It’s a cheque, remember. Moments later, we see him talking over the phone with his mother, who is clearly suspicious of him when he asks her credit card number citing he doesn’t have money at the moment. Convinced that he’d use the credit card to buy drugs, his mother hangs upon him. With no money at his disposal, he takes off on his bike without paying i.e. robbing the store. These two

Athlete A Movie Review: Moving Documentation of an Immense Tragedy and a Gargantuan Triumph

The new Netflix original is another crucial addition to the studio's growing library of powerful documentary titles.
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The greatest achievement of any great documentary is that it can actually change lives. Indirectly, they can inspire and instigate a conversation about a particular subject matter, thereby holding the potential to alter viewer perceptions. In a direct sense, the best of the documentaries empower the humans whose story they are capturing on camera and give a voice to them. The Paradise Lost documentary trilogy by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky and the Peter Jackson-produced West of Memphis cumulatively played a vital role in cleansing the public image of three wrongfully convicted teenagers in 1993’s triple homicide case. The aforementioned

Babyteeth Movie Review: Melancholia and Merriment Go Hand-in-hand

Shannon Murphy's feature debut is bittersweet meditation of death.
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It’s been a while since I shed a tear while watching a movie. With Babyteeth, though, I shed more than a few tears, after a very long time, and the first time in a teen movie. Teen movies, as a genre, have become associated with cliches of late. There is no need to name them, throw a stone at the genre and it's highly likely that you hit a cringe-ridden movie that either considers its concept the need of the hour or the plot has little gravity to hold the whole film. However, there have been fine films, over the

7500 Movie Review: Largely Free of Turbulence

German filmmaker Patrick Vollrath makes a promising debut with a flight-hijacking thriller that strives for realism and mostly succeeds.
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Unlike other movies based on flight-hijacking - Air Force One, Passenger 57, Operation Thunderbolt, or say Non-stop - in which the rescue efforts comprise the majority of the narrative, here is a film that observes the tension from the viewpoint of pilot, who is usually the first one to die in such films. Moreover, like the protagonist of 7500, Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an American co-pilot on board the flight from Berlin to Paris, we see the proceedings outside the cockpit only through a TV. The story-telling choice, which confines us to the cockpit for 99.2% of the runtime, invigorates the

Mirador Movie Review: Captures The Ethos of Comraderie

Antón Terni's provocative documentary underscores the beauty of companionship.
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In Spanish, Mirador means "lookout." The word has multiple connotations. Alertness, observation, prediction, or a person assigned to keep an eye on his surroundings. The last of the aforementioned undertones befit the documentary’s subject matter, that encircles three friends and the solidarity among them. The irony, though, is all of them are visually-impaired, meaning they can’t keep an eye on each other literally, but their support is persistently up for grabs, figuratively. The locale is a secluded and sylvan rural part of Uruguay, where the film’s prime subject, Pablo Zelis, leads a simple and tranquil life. He records and listens

Tommaso Movie Review: A Humanistic Drama That's Devoid of the Drama

The evident creative choices, intentions, and a towering performance from Willem Dafoe fail to succor this pretentious, tasteless film.
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In 2007’s Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Willem Dafoe played Carson Clay, a filmmaker whose film ‘Playback Time’ premieres at Cannes. Tommaso, which also premiered at Cannes last year, reminded of the aforementioned film-within-film, only less absorbing and exponentially more pretentious. The film brings back Dafoe into an Abel Ferrara contemplation for the fifth time, with their last collaboration being Pasaloni (2014), a film that chronicles the life of Italian filmmaker, Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose film Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom remains in the books of history as one of the most infamous films to be ever made. Over the

The Painter and The Thief Movie Review: Therapeutic Portrayal of Uncommon Intimacy

Benjamin Ree's documentary is a memorable, atypical tale of friendship, redemption, and solicitude.
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Benjamin Ree’s The Painter and The Thief is a musing, contemplative portraiture of juxtaposing individuals, that captures the gentle deliquesce of dissimilitude between them. The Norwegian documentary finds its fons et origo in the pilfering of Barbora Kysilkova’s - the eponymous painter - paintings, and swiftly molds into a vignette of her relationship with Karl-Bertil Nordland, the thief. The film is neither about unearthing the whereabouts of the stolen painting, nor about finding the burglars involved in the subject. It pivots around the idea of empathizing with the adversary, trying to learn and apprehend the latter and his/her inducement, thereby

In Search of Kundun Movie Review: For the Love of Scorsese and His Pictures

Capturing the essence of Scorsese's style of filmmaking and passion for the craft, In Search of Kundun is a joy for cinephiles.
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When Martin Scorsese is the focal point of conversations between cinephiles, it is highly likely that the master’s gangster-films - which made him the filmmaking brand he is - permeate the circumference of the discussion. Agreed, Scorsese’s vision added a layer to the aforementioned genre, and his films have become the calibration standards to evaluate contemporary films falling under the gangster’s umbrella. Scorsese gained prominence among film enthusiasts, like myself, for his insanely popular mob dramas. Ranging from his Boxcar Bertha to his latest The Irishman, his films carried an ethnographic sense through the characters, their accents, their ideologies, and

The Wolf House Movie Review: Child's Imagination Meets Real-life Horror

Masquerade as propaganda, the Chilean film marries horror with a child's imagination, and the result is equally appalling and spectacular.
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The Wolf House is 73 minutes of "Wow! How did they pull off?". The startling stop-motion animation, which bestows 'awe!' after 'awe!' every minute is only one of the pillars that hold this astonishing form of story-telling. Masquerading as a propaganda film to cleanse the ill-reputation of Colonia Dignidad, an isolated community formed by German fugitive Paul Schäfer, there's more to the film than what appears, although it draws little from the real-life incidents, on the surface. The community, which was legally bound for agriculture activities, became infamous for the torture, internment, and murders that came to light a few

Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story Movie Review: Morally Ambiguous yet Emotionally Fulfilling

Although the film's touch-and-go nature refrains us from completely experiencing the wound, the film's humanistic nature will hold your attention.
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I strongly believe that when we watch a documentary, our validation of the film is completely attributed to our perception of the subject. Agree with the point the documentary's trying to make? The likelihood of you ending up savoring the film is high, and vice-a-versa. In documentaries, the more the subject overshadows the artform, the closer it echoes a news special. It's a blockade that Netflix documentaries effortlessly surmount. Evaluating Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story solely from the art perspective, the film's touch-and-go nature refrains us completely experiencing the wound, as the information seldom overcomes that 'news-special' treatment.

Circus of Books Movie Review: Love over Sexuality

A gentle 'be kind' note to the world camouflaged as a lovely, intimate portrait of a family.
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At the center of Rachel Mason & Kathryn Robson's Circus of Books is the bookstore run by the former's parents, which predominantly houses gay pornography. Barry & Karen Mason ran the store - that established itself as the heart of the gay universe, in the neighborhood - for 30 years. "It's a long time to do anything", says Karen, as she sits on a couch with Barry in their living room. She wears a red top, she is an aggressive woman; he wears a Hawaiian shirt, he is full of joy with a consistent smile. The film lets us into

TV Review: The West Memphis Three: An ID Murder Mystery: A Documentary Miniseries by the Book

Despite the staggering subject matter, the new documentary lacks the punch.
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The West Memphis Three: An ID Murder Mystery is a fly-on-the-wall documentary primarily chronicling the court trial of the murder of three eight-year-old boys in Robin Hood Hills, that shook America in the year 1993. This isn't the first piece of cinematic documentation based on the tragedy. Well, two tragedies to say. One in the woods, where three young boys were brutally murdered. The second one in the court, where three teenagers were wrongfully convicted. Over the years, there have been three films preceding this three-episode series. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations,

How to Fix a Drug Scandal Series Review: Ripples of a Sweeping Tragedy

Premiering on Netflix April 1, the limited documentary series is thrilling, suspenseful, entertaining, and profoundly informative.
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How to Fix a Drug Scandal is the dictionary definition of infotainment. It's thrilling, suspenseful, entertaining, and profoundly informative. I might just use my new-found knowledge in dinner-table conversations with my family to sound intellectual. It's such a meticulously researched tale that deeply explores the subject matter. Directed and produced by Erin Lee Carr (Thought Crimes: The Case of Cannibal Cop and Mommy Dead and Dearest), the limited series is on the same lines of Netflix’s earlier releases - The Devil Next Door, The Confession Killer, and The Trails of Gabriel Fernandez - which revolve around one particular incident subsequently

Resistance (2020) Movie Review: A Compelling Holocaust Story

The Jesse Eisenberg-starrer has a beautiful message behind its intriguing holocaust story.
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Drawing parallels between current times and the setting of the film tells one thing for sure: irrespective of whether it's the World War II or a global pandemic, humans have always found solace in some form art. We - currently locked down in our homes - are leveraging on films and TV shows on Netflix, prime, etc. Likewise, back during the Second World War, music and slapstick comedy served the same purpose. This facet is beautifully addressed in Jonathan Jakubowicz's Resistance, which is based on the life of Marcel Marceau, one among the most prominent mime artists to ever live.

Spenser Confidential Movie Review: Epitome of Mediocrity

The fifth collaboration by Peter Berg & Mark Walhberg is on the downside of the duo's filmography.
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Spenser Confidential is the cinematic equivalent of 'sit back and relax on a lazy Saturday afternoon'. The Netflix original would befit the category 'play in the background while scrolling through your phone' if the platform ever adds one. Laced with mediocrity in every aspect, the film is at its best when seen through the aforementioned context, however, as a standalone film (I'll address this point later), it's mediocre. Extremely mediocre. I mean, pretty mediocre. Allow me to emphasize it one more time, it's spectacularly mediocre. It takes effort to produce such a calculated end product, and it needs to be

Young Ahmed Movie Review: Minimalistic but Speaks Volumes

Terrific performances invigorate this little film
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It's arduous to write about Young Ahmed without imposing personal views and judgements. Such is its concept. The Dardenne Brothers craft a film minimalistic on scale but speaks volumes about the world it is set in. The French film tells the story of Ahmed, a 13-year-old Muslim boy, on the misguided path of extremism camouflaged as religion. By the time we are introduced to him, this seed has already been planted deeply in him. A person named Imam, seems to be the influence. In the very first scene, he refuses to shake hands with his teacher, Inès, who has been

Tread Movie Review: A Captivating Cinematic Recreation

Although it feels like it takes sides, Tread is a moderately neutral documentary.
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Tread is more of a cinematic recreation of real events than a documentary. It's so cinematic that if it wasn't a true story it would have been a perfect revenge thriller. It's what I would call the marriage of tragedy and a vigilante revenge thriller. Marvin Heemeyer, the subject, is treated as the tragic hero with a proper hero's arc. All he wants is a peaceful life free of hurdles but when the world throws hindrances at him and keeps doing that for over 13 years, it's time for the working-class hero to pick up his weapon and fight back.

For Sama Movie Review: War Seen Through a Young Mother's Eyes

A mother's confession letter that is sure to resonate with the entire world.
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If For Sama is a painting, pain is the brush. If it is a book, anguish is the pen. If it's metamorphosized into a human, a mother's love suffuses its heart while the fear and anger fill the mind. For Sama is beyond a personal film. Beneath the evident horrors intimately captured by the Waad Al-Kateab, the subject, narrator, and co-director of the film, lies a mother's confession letter to her daughter. "Heart-wrenching" is a milder word to describe the horrors, while befittingly construes a mother's agony. The agony is personal, but it resonates with the world, being the profoundly

José Movie Review: Realism Dominates Craft

This Guatemalan drama is a delicate observation of an episode in the life of its titular character.
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Conflict defines the structure of a story. Mightier the conflict, the intriguing the story gets. But what if a story lacks conflict, or persuades you into accepting something invisible as its core conflict? José answers it, or may I say, lets you figure it out. Incompleteness resonates with José, the titular character, the people around him, and even the film itself. A character even says that he paid half the amount to purchase a house. The film tries to replicate José's life, considering his life isn't complete yet, incompleteness doesn't come with a negative connotation but befittingly describes one of

'A Sister' Live Action Short Review: Utilizes Minimalism to the Fullest

A brilliant exercise of inducing anxiety.
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A Sister is a film that relies heavily on the atmosphere. It's a dark film, literally. A moving car on a freeway at midnight is the vehicle for the film. The story begins and ends in approximately 17 minutes. There's isn't anything like a narrative or story here. A woman in possible danger calls emergency services where the employee, another woman, has to help her. What sets the stakes high is that the caller is not in a situation that could have catastrophic results, but the call she makes could be her only chance in preventing the disastrous consequences, which

TV Review: The Forgotten Army: Predictability Plays the Spoilsport

A barely effective war drama that never finds it foot.
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The Forgotten Army has its creator's signature all over it. And that doesn't quite work in its favor. Kabir Khan brings on his documentary heritage to all of his feature films. Beginning with his debut, Kabul Express, followed by New York, Ek Tha Tiger, Bhajrangi Bhaijaan, Phantom, and his last release Tube light, all the films have war, and travel in common. Characters travelling in pursuit of something has been a key narrative tool. And The Forgotten Army is no different, and that's where things go haywire. The Forgotten Army just feels like yet another Bollywood movie minus the dance

'The Neighbor's Window' Live Action Short Review: Leaves a Lasting Impact

A little film with a huge heart.
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I love it when films tell a thing or two about life, smoothly sharing a message into our subconscious. Especially anything that makes me feel good and appreciates little things in life which we, in general, take for granted. Marshalll Curry's The Neighbor's Window is one such bitter-sweet story that's coated with multiple themes like urban loneliness, individuality, marital life, and the way we perceive other's lives. The emphasis is on the last point. Here, the leads, Alli (Maria Dizzia, terrific) and Jacob (Greg Keller, equally good), a couple on the beginning of mid-life crisis, literally peek into the window

'Brotherhood' Live Action Short Review: Family & the Cruel World

The sorrowful story takes center stage despite the masterful cinematic craft at display.
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Brotherhood could have been a minimalistic tale of a family confronting a circumstance, which although it appears to bring joy, has a severe flip side to it, both repercussions in contrariety to each other. When the eldest son of the family, Malek returns home after spending a year in Syria, should the family exult the recrudesce of their son, or bemoan the veracity and cower from the possible consequences? Without restricting to this question, which evidently facade the narrative, the film goes deeper and beyond. It's the father's internal turmoil as he thwarts being rived between his family and his

'Nefta Football Club' Live Action Short Review: A Light Film with a Heavy Moral

A sweet tale of ignorance where the wisdom lies beneath the silliness.
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Nefta Football Club is a great case study to convey a message through the film instead of jostling it on the face. Rajinikanth, an Indian movie star with a legacy as famous as Chuck Norris, is known for mouthing dialogues about life and success. One such dialogue is "You can't achieve success without hard work, and the success that comes your way without hard work won't stay long." This quote sums up the moral of the 18-minute Nefta Football Club. Filmmaker Yves Piat treats a thin thread with the utmost respect and gives a piece of cinema that has profound

'Saria' Live Action Short Review: Agonizing and Heartbreaking

A potent work that emphatically proves the effectiveness of short-form cinema.
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Bryan Buckley's Saria is based on 2017's tragedy when 41 girls orphan girls lost their lives to fire in Virgen de La Asuncion Safe Home in Guatemala, the very same orphanage they were housed in, or I may say, jailed. The first and last shots of the film have a spider crawling in the hallway of the orphanage, and the spider appears at three different junctures. First, the spider crawls into a closed room. Second, Saria, the titular character, saves the insect trapped in soap foam and lets it go out of the orphanage. Third, the spider crawls out of

All the Freckles in the World Movie Review: Suffused with Simplicity, Innocence, and Lively Moments

Yibrán Asuad's film is suffused with simplicity and innocence.
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Is it necessary that a film set in the '90s resemble a movie from the '90s? All the Freckles in the World had me asking that question over and over, scene by scene. And my answer to it, it's not an issue if done well and even better if it mirrors the time. It wouldn't take thought to strike the film off by disregarding the simplicity of proceedings to the shallowness, the light-hearted nature to the absolute lack of stakes, and self-absorption to the absence of motivation in writing. The moments aren't underlined; no musical score guides you on how

The Sonata Movie Review: Safe, Self-aware, and Focussed

It marries the physical and mental facets of horror.
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A little question strikes me every time I watch a horror movie. Do horror movies exist in the universe of other horror movies? Isn't it quite apparent that an old mansion in the woods is a set up for the upcoming horror? The person entering it should be aware of it or at the least, shed little doubt, provided he/she has seen at least one horror movie in their life. Andrew Desmond's The Sonata has a quite interesting treatment. The evident intent of horror films would be to scare the living shit out of the audience. Some choose jump scares,

PSIFF 2020 Review: 'Free Color' Replicates Its Master's Art Form

Alberto Arevalo's documentary follows Carlos Cruz-Diez, Venezuelan-born artist, who at 94, sets out to achieve something unseen and unheard of in the artist community.
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I've always wondered how individuals feel after reaching a peak of success in their respective fields, I mean, don't the tremendous achievements create a sense of satisfaction leading to fulfilment? If not, then I have to change the way I look at success and its fruits. It takes some time to get familiar with the vibe it creates, but after its opening moments, Free Color profoundly replicates the art form, which the film's subject and artist, Carlos Cruz-Diez, dreams to create. Now, we have only seen color being a part of an art form. In painting, color decorates, creates a

The Aeronauts Movie Review: Almost Reaches the Peak It Set Out For

This jarring adventure has an endearing story of two individuals beneath.
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There is something I'm concerned about and have to address it in this review considering its relevance with this film. With biggies like Netflix and Amazon jumping in, Over-The-Top media services are undoubtedly reshaping the way movies are consumed. But I wish I had seen this film on the big screen, but somehow I couldn't because Amazon opted for a direct streaming release in most parts of world, with an exception of some major markets, where the film received a limited theatrical release. I can certainly imagine how beautiful a giant balloon flying above the clouds would have looked stunning

Tell Me Who I Am Movie Review: Childhood Horror, Brotherhood, Life, and Love

A strikingly intimate portrayal of brotherhood that'll shake you from within.
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Before anything, I'm craving to grasp how filmmaker Ed Perkin persuaded the subjects of Tell Me Who I Am to share their darkest secrets, not just with him, but with the entire world. For that case, I have a stronger desire to listen to their conversations before they captureded a single second of the film. It isn't a kind of concept that lets a documentary filmmaker meet the subjects, spend some time, get to know them and start filming. That doesn't apply here because Perkins set out answer questions which were weighing heavy on Alex Lewis, one of the subjects,

One Child Nation Movie Review: Harsh and Distressing Because It Is Real

This documentary is an unapologetic description of the unpleasant aftermath of China's One-Child Policy.
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The more brutal and tragic our world gets, the deeper and interesting the films based on it get. It is cruel of me to expect a cold and callous world, but when a filmmaker captures the chaos and catastrophe with purity, we can't help but immerse into the story. Filmmakers Zhang Lynn and Nanfu Wang tell a powerful personal story with their own voice (literally) in One Child Nation. The film studies China's One-Child Policy, which restricted Chinese citizens to have only one child. And more than the policy itself, the film throws light on the aftermath by investigating the

6 Underground Movie Review: Michael Bay All over the Place

No amount of high-budget action can make up for what it lacks on paper.
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I've always admired people who defeat their inhibitions and fully embrace what they want to achieve, provided that I like what they are trying to make piercing way through their restraints. In 6 Underground, Michael Bay explicitly lets go of his inhibitions as a filmmaker, and somehow, I had to change my opinion about his impediments. Over the years, Michael Bay set some ground rules in his films which the general movie fans are quite familiar with. So, after viewing 13 of his films, do you think critically dissecting the editing style employed, the way the film is shot, or

The Report Movie Review: A Story That Needs to Be Told

An efficacious and heroic story of a desk-employee dealing with the stain on a country.
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When we see a film or documentary which closely observes a real person or an incident, recollecting thoughts and summoning them in words, nonchalantly turns into our personal take on the subject. I believe it's one of the attributes of a good film dealing with such subjects, and The Report is one such addition to that unseen list. Four minutes into the film, Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) answers the question, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Run for office?" with "No. No politics for me. I think I'll be more effective behinds the scenes, somewhere I can

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator Movie Review: A Minimalistic yet Potent Documentation

The film raises relevant questions while documenting a preposterous person.
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When a news anchor displays disbelief in his claims of sleeping less than 30 hours a month, Bikram Choudhury replies, "I'm the weirdest man you'll ever come across". This plausibly is the only accurate statement about Bikram's persona out of the myriad self-appreciating comments he makes over the 90-minute runtime of the film and most likely, his entire life. Eva Orner's documentary, Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator follows the standard investigative exemplar as it explores the highly public life of the bad boy of yoga, Bikram, the founder of 'Bikram Yoga', well, at least that's what he claims to. A significant

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