Dunkirk Review (No spoilers)

In anticipation of Dunkirk, I watched The Wages of Fear yesterday, the movie Christopher Nolan cites as his prime influence. I certainly got to watch a great French suspense classic in this bargain, but I don’t know if any movie could’ve possibly prepared me for what I was in for.Dunkirk, like Memento and Inception before it, is the kind of movie that has not only never been made before, but will probably never be imitated. Not successfully at least.

It’s the story of 11 fictional characters involved in the very real scenario of the Dunkirk evacuation. Each of these actors deserves a mention, so here goes:
1. Land: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy.
2. Sea: Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan, Cillian Murphy.
3. Air: Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden.

Part of the triumph of this film is in not creating a hierarchy of lead and support among these characters, and in not highlighting anyone through their actions or personalities, so I won’t make any specific mentions either. Each of them, veteran, debutant or pop star, was perfectly cast in their role, each of them gave a subtle, understated performance, and none of them will, or should, get nominated for an Oscar. Each of them, however, deserves our respect for the honest and the respect in their depiction of what it might have felt like to be there.

Speaking of immersion, the only stars who really stand out in this movie are director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema, composer Hans Zimmer and writer-director Christopher Nolan. The movie pulls off the immense feat of looking and sounding visceral and rough without Saving Private Ryan levels of violence. Most of the suspense comes from the anticipation of danger. Long stretches of silence are as engaging in Nolan’s hands as tense dialogue in Tarantino’s. We care about the characters, not because we know them, but because we are right there, fighting the battles they are, relating to them on a more raw, fundamental level than understanding their hopes and dreams. Special shout outs to production designer Nathan Crowley who makes everything look like I imagine it would have, and editor Lee Smith, who navigates a labyrinthian narrative structure with a grace that ensure that attentiveness is rewarded.

The narrative is comprised of 3 parallel stories, featuring soldiers waiting for rescue on the Dunkirk beach, sailors coming to the beach and air force pilots trying to protect the vessels from German bombers. The first story takes place over a week, the second over a day and the third in an hour. It’s a Nolan movie, so of course you aren’t told when the movie shifts from one timeframe to another, you just have to keep your eyes peeled for transitions. The clues are all there, so if anyone tells you they found it difficult to follow, just resolve to look harder. The narratives intertwine in wonderful, awe-inspiring ways that kept me on the edge of my seat, making the experience so engaging that I thought the movie must’ve been going on for just an hour when in reality it had almost ended. Don’t expect the narrative to follow a traditional 3-act structure, Nolan clearly loves to play around with it. Batman Begins had 4 acts, The Dark Knight had too many to keep track of, and Dunkirk has 1. The entire movie is its climax. You must have noticed I haven’t given much setup or premise here. That’s not because I expect you to know already, it’s because I don’t think you need to. This one long climax works best with no more context than 3 sentences at the beginning of the movie provide.

Ultimately, the feelings I was left with were awe, respect, hope, optimism. A newfound respect for the capability of the human spirit (many refer to it as the Dunkirk spirit). That’s not me being sentimental. It would be, had the movie achieved this by showing every character as their best, most ideal selves. Instead, the movie manages to depict the ugly side of people which comes out under such stressful situations while keeping its focus on the good. It shows us that not all stories have a happy ending and makes us cheer for those that do. With Memento and The Prestige Nolan gave us stories of individual feelings and actions. With Interstellar and The Dark Knight Trilogy, he showed us how individuals relate to large communities like the city of Gotham or the entire human species. With Dunkirk, he has focused squarely on what Nolan calls “communal heroism”, and lovingly crafted an ode to the cumulative value of little acts of selflessness. It’s practically flawless, and is certainly the best war movie I have ever seen.

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Watchlist for the second half of 2017

Last year I did a series of watchlists (only one of which is on this blog), where I would list the most exciting movies to watch over the coming month or 3. I got their Indian release dates from BookMyShow, but in time, I started to realise just how unreliable those dates really were. I got annoyed when movies like Hell or High Water and Kubo and the Two Strings didn’t release when they should’ve according to BMS, and soon after that I just stopped making the lists. But 2017 is ramping up to be a truly spectacular year for movies, and so many of them might slip by without people noticing them, I couldn’t not do another one.
But I’m not going through that uncertainty or that disappointment again. I’m done. So my new watchlist, covering the rest of the year from here on out, is based on the far more concrete USA release dates from Box Office Mojo. For those that also release in India, the release dates shouldn’t be too far. Those that don’t, we can still watch whenever they get their digital releases around 3 months later. With zero expectations comes zero disappointment.
Also, the second half of 2017 is gearing up to be an absolute blast for movie lovers, so I cannot reasonably list every movie I think will be amazing. I’m going to restrict myself to one per weekend. It’s not going to be easy.
JULY: The crescendo to the summer movie season
July 7: Spider-Man: Homecoming, directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car)
This looks like everything a Spider-Man movie needs to be. High school coming-of-age drama blended with action packed superheroics, with a nerdy Peter Parker portrayed perfectly by Tom Holland and a terrifying villain played by Michael Keaton. (I’m also a massive Spider-Man fan, if you can’t tell from my blog name.)
July 14: War for the Planet of the Apes, directed by Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)
The conclusion to what many are already calling one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time, this follows Andy Serkis as Caesar dealing with the conflict between his duty to the apes and his personal vendetta. The trailers look breathtaking. Also, Matt Reeves is going on to direct The Batman, so this better be great.
July 21: Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight)
One of the most exciting movies in years, this might just be the first time Christopher Nolan gives us a movie without a mindf**k, instead relying on raw emotions like hope, despair and terror. It stars Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Harry Styles. The trailer is heart-stopping.
July 28: Atomic Blonde, directed by David Leitch (John Wick)
The pitch: Charlize Theron kicks ass. The trailer: Charlize Theron kicks ass. The reviews: Charlize Theron kicks ass. What I want: for Charlize Theron to kick ass. I’m sold.
AUGUST: Summer fade-out
August 4: Detroit, directed by Katherine Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Her last 2 movies were the 2 best critically reviewed movies of 2009 and 2012 respectively. Like The Hurt Locker, this looks like an extremely tense thriller, and like Zero Dark Thirty, it’s based on an important true story. It stars John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Will Poulter and Jack Reynor. A Best Picture nomination is all but guaranteed.
August 11: Logan Lucky, directed by Steven Soderbergh (Oceans 11)
The trailer looks like Oceans 11 but if the heist crew comprises entirely of nincompoops. It’s hilarious, especially, believe it or not, Daniel Craig, who does not brood.
August 18: The Glass Castle, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12)
Look, I don’t know much about this film other than that it’s based on an acclaimed work of non-fiction. What I do know is that Short Term 12 is a powerful, brilliantly directed movie and that I’ll watch anything that teams this director up with Brie Larson.
August 25: Death Note, directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next)
The trailer doesn’t look good, I know, but this is an adaptation of an all-time great anime, so nothing can really kill my enthusiasm for this movie until the reviews are out. And the casting of Nat Wolff as Light and Willem Dafoe as Ryuk is promising.
SEPTEMBER: Fall = Downtime gems
September 1: Viceroy’s House, directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham)
I’m not sure about this release date actually, it might be releasing on August 11. Or August 18. And it might be called Partition: 1947. Either way, a British period drama starring Huma Qureshi, Michael Gambon and Om Puri in his final performance should definitely be on your radar. Early reviews are positive, but not too positive.
September 8: It, directed by Andrés Muschietti (Mama)
It’s based on a Stephen King novel, which is it’s selling point. The trailer had some creepy moments to it, and it will certainly be good to see Finn Wolfhard (Mike from Stranger Things) again, but if I do end up seeing this, it will be because of the tone and feel I associate with Stephen King.
September 15: Simran, directed by Hansal Mehta (Shahid)
This is the only Indian film on my list for the year (not that When Harry Met Sejal won’t be good), and there are 3 reasons why: Shahid, Citylights and Aligarh. Mehta has shown himself to be perhaps the only Indian director whose storytelling talent lives up to the best in the world, and this time, he’s teamed up with Kangana Ranaut.
September 22: Kingsman: The Golden Circle, directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
The first one was one of the most uniquely entertaining action comedies in years, and it isn’t always you get to see Matthew Vaughn return to direct a sequel. There is no way this won’t be an absolute blast.
September 29: American Made, directed by Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow)
It’s difficult to not be excited to see Doug Liman collaborate with Tom Cruise after Edge of Tomorrow was so good, but it gets even better once you realise that this is a character right up Cruise’s alley. Not a certain hit, but definitely one I’m curious about.
OCTOBER: Building up to Oscar Season
October 6: Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
The visionary director teams up with legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins to follow up one of the most beloved science fiction movies of all time. I’m just excited because the trailers look crazy.
October 13: mother!, directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
I know nothing about this movie. Nothing whatsoever. The director and the cast (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Ed Harris, Kristen Wiig) should be more than enough.
October 20: The Snowman, directed by Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
A crime/detective thriller starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J. K. Simmons, and I’ll stop here or the list will never end.
October 27: God Particle, directed by Julius Onah (The Girl is in Trouble)
I wouldn’t put too much faith in the director, but this is the 3rd Cloverfield movie, and the first 2 have created a universe truly unlike any other. I’m fascinated to see how much more we may end up discovering about that world through this film.
NOVEMBER: Oscar Season!
November 3: Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople)
Okay, not exactly the first thing you think of when you think Oscars. Not only is the trailer for this movie incredible, not only does it feature Thor, Hulk and Doctor Strange, not only is the villain Hela played by Cate Blanchett, but Taika Waititi is one of the most brilliant dramedic (is that a term?) directors working today. This is a must watch.
November 10: Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor)
Look at the cast. Look at the cast! Kenneth Branagh (as Hercule Poirot), Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley (pants, out of breath). Never has a whodunit had its suspects this well-cast.
November 17: Last Flag Flying, directed by Richard Linklater (Before Trilogy)
I don’t really know much about it beyond the fact that it’s a comedy starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne. That should be enough.
November 24: Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3)
Unless it’s a Cars movie, anything Pixar does gets an automatic spot on the watchlist. When it’s the second movie from the man who debuted with one of the greatest animated movies these eyes have failed to see through all the tears, it would take me being even more heartless than I am for me to not put this here.
DECEMBER: Christmas, Star Wars and more Oscar season
December 1: The Disaster Artist, directed by James Franco (Child of God)
As a director, Franco hasn’t had a good track record, but here, the premise is interesting (a behind the scenes look at the making of The Room, one of the worst movies of all time), and early reviews are positive. Could Franco get a nomination for playing Tommy Wiseau?
December 8: The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth)
When del Toro directs a fantasy movie, you know at the very least that it’s going to look stunning. Whether the story reflects that beauty, we have to wait and see.
December 15: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson (Looper)
Everything about this movie is promising. Luke training Rey, the potential fall of the Jedi Order, a meeting of the Light and Dark sides and the unveiling of the mysteries surrounding Rey and Snoke. Moreover, as respected as Looper is, let’s not forget Johnson also directed the Breaking Bad episode Ozymandias, perhaps the greatest episode in TV history.
December 22: Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Alexander Payne has quietly established himself as one of the most reliable directors working today, with movies like Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska. This is a particularly intriguing movie because of its weird science fiction premise and a cast of Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig and Christoph Waltz.
December 29: Phantom Thread, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood)
Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the greatest actors of all time, in his final performance, teaming up with the great Paul Thomas Anderson. The movie is set in the fashion industry and Phantom Thread may not be its final title. Oscar nominations are a given.
JANUARY: Oscar Spillover
Probably sometime in January: The Current War, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)
Reminiscent of Murder on the Orient Express in that feeling of Look At That Cast! Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison! Tom Holland as his secretary Samuel Insull! Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse! Katherine Waterson as his wife Marguerite Erskine! Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla! Matthew McFayden as J. P. Morgan!
January 12: The Papers, directed by Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies)
A historical drama reminiscent of Spotlight starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep as editor and publisher of The Washington Post respectively, it tells the story of the Pentagon Papers and looks to me like exactly the kind of film Spielberg excels at. And what better way to end a watchlist than with a Spielberg movie?
That’s what I have for the remainder of the year, readers. Remember, this doesn’t nearly exhaust all the movies worth watching this year. Movies like The Big Sick and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets didn’t make it here simply because they’re out on the same weekends as War for the Planet of the Apes and Dunkirk respectively. So tell me, what are the movies you’re looking forward the most to? Is there something you think I should’ve included but didn’t? Let’s keep the discussion going.
Sources: Wikipedia and Box Office Mojo for release dates, IMDb for cast and crew and YouTube for trailers.

4 Brief Reviews – Accountant, Fantastic Beasts, Arrival and Kubo

So I’ve seen 4 movies since my exams ended, and instead of reviewing all of them, here are my brief thoughts on each of them:

1. The Accountant – Gavin O’Connor

It was fine. Not great, not terrible. The story follows a genius accountant who suffers from autism. He uncooks the books for corrupt organizations, and is also a badass action hero. (Some have made the connection that The Accountant is Good Will Hunting meets Jason Bourne. It kind of is, but it isn’t nearly as good as either.)

Now, when I heard that premise, I was interested to see how these 2 disparate story types would blend. They never really did. Till the very end, it felt like I was watching 2 different films.

The best thing about the film are the performances. Ben Affleck (the accountant and badass) is amazing at showing us the awkwardness that comes with his condition, particularly in scenes with Anna Kendrick (another accountant) and Jon Bernthal (another badass). Jon Bernthal, by the way, steals the show. The scenes with him might be worth the price of admission all by themselves. J K Simmons (I’ve forgotten who his character was) gives a good performance, which is completely wasted by the film, because it’s limited to one subplot that is completely disconnected to everything else.

That subplot almost ruins the entire film. One thing this film had going for it were its thrilling action sequences, and this section of the film doesn’t have any. One thing the film definitely didn’t have going for it was the exposition, where information was basically conveyed only be telling, not showing, and this subplot had a lot of exposition. It could have simply been pulled out of the film without affecting much else, and we would be left with a much better film.

2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – David Yates

Some of my least favorite Harry Potter films were ones directed by Yates. And while I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts a lot more than Order of the Phoenix (Yates), it was nowhere near as good as Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuaron).

And that’s kind of how I feel about this film. It was good, I enjoyed it, but I was looking for more than just ‘good’.

Here’s the rundown: magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) comes to New York with a box full of fantastic beasts, which escape. The rest of the film is about how to find them.

The film does a lot of stuff. There’s a main team of 4 characters dealing with the primary mission, there’s the American minister for magic, there’s Colin Farrell as a mysterious auror (the best performance in the film). there’s a politician and his sons, there’s a church of anti-witchcraft bigots, and there are the beasts. In the background, there are rumblings of Grindelwald’s rise to power, and the theme central to his ideology, that of how the wizarding community should deal with muggle (I don’t like saying nomadge) bigotry, is central to the film, along with the theme of animal treatment.

In doing all this, nothing gets the time or depth it deserves, and everything is only mildly enjoyable (there is one character with some depth, but revealing their identity would be a spoiler). I suppose Rowling introduced this many elements because she’s used to having an entire novel to flesh them out. But compared to the other major magical film this year, Doctor Strange, which had 6 characters and one central theme, this pales.

But I’m excited for the rest of the series. There’s easily enough here to support 5 films, and I suspect Grindelwald could end up as a better villain than Voldemort.

Also, the scenes with the bowtruckle were really sweet.

3. Arrival – Denis Villenueve

Please, please watch this film. It’s in theaters now, and you’ll absolutely want to discuss it once you’ve seen it, like I do. If my word isn’t enough, it’s in IMDb’s top 100 right now.

Aliens (heptapods) come to Earth in weird spaceships. Humans try to communicate, to figure out whether they come in peace, but the languages are fundamentally different, so they recruit the world’s leading linguist Louise (Amy Adams) to learn their language while teaching them ours, along with a scientist (Jeremy Renner), because of course you need a scientist.

This film is beautiful, but what’s more important is that it’s science fiction. Like, proper sci-fi, the kind you only get around once every year. The kind that takes one central idea and ratchets up the tension, leading up to a final reveal, and leaving you thinking about its core philosophy.

That final reveal, if you really think about it, and I highly recommend you do, will blow you mind and break your heart a few different ways at once. It is so astonishing that if someone were to tell you that X information was given initially and Y was what we found out through the reveal, you wouldn’t believe a film could give us X while concealing Y for so long.

That said, I can’t love it as much as something like Her or Interstellar, and that is because of the core philosophy I mentioned. It is a sci-fi concept I have seen before, and didn’t like it then either, as it weakens certain elements of the rest of the story. A lot of people love that idea, however, and you might too. Most importantly, the idea will stay with you, and you’ll want to talk about it.

4. Kubo and the Two Strings – Travis Knight

This is my favorite animated film of the year. I haven’t seen Moana yet, or The Red Turtle, but I can still say this with confidence, because it just doesn’t get as good as this.

It’s animated in stop motion, and is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. The epic fantasy adventure is a story about origami, a story about music, and a story about stories.

Hanzo was a samurai warrior who set out on a quest to obtain 3 powerful magical items, and is opposed by a nefarious villain and falls in love with a beautiful woman.

Kubo and the Two Strings starts after that.

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is the son of Hanzo, and sets on a quest for the same 3 items along with a monkey called Monkey (Charlize Theron) and a beetle-man called Beetle (Matthew McConnaughey). The Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughters (Rooney Mara) oppose him on his quest.

This quest is different. It’s more aware of the storytelling tropes it’s going through, and thus focuses less on the action and more on the drama, which there is a lot of. Monkey and Beetle aren’t goofy kid-friendly characters, but complex, funny and crucial parts of the story. Theron and McConnaughey are perfect for their roles.

Art Parkinson is great as Kubo. Kubo is a storyteller, and gets to say badass lines like “If you must blink, do it now”, and Parkinson has the kind of power in his voice that’s required for this. Kubo tells stories through origami figures that he manipulates through his guitar-ish musical instrument, which looks just as awesome as it sounds.

It’s not flawless, as there were moments where the film held back on visual awesomeness, cutting away from scenes before they’d had their full impact. But it’s an amazing movie that I highly recommend you watch.

Watchlist: September to November 2016

These are the movies I want to watch in the coming months, with their Indian release dates.

September 2: Don’t Breathe, directed by Fede Alvarez. The premise, where a bunch of youngsters break into the house of a blind old man, who happens to be a badass, is interesting.

September 9: Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood. It’s the first major film shot almost completely in IMAX, and features airplanes and Tom Hanks.

September 16: The Shallows, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Another interesting premise, about a girl who needs to cross a not-very-wide body of water, easy enough except there’s a shark.

September 23: The Magnificent Seven, directed by Antoine Fuqua. A western starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio.

September 30: MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, directed by Neeraj Pandey. Sure, nothing about this sounds exciting, but the director made A Wednesday, Special 26 and Baby.

October 7: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, directed by Tim Burton. It’s basically Tim Burton’s X-Men, with Eva Green taking on the “Professor X” role.

October 14: Inferno, directed by Ron Howard. Yes, I liked the novel. In fact, I generally like Dan Brown’s novels. Really. Unfortunately, the adaptations have been disappointing.

October 21: Keeping Up with the Joneses, directed by Greg Mottola. A spy comedy starring Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis. This could be even better than last year’s “Spy”.

October 28: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, directed by Karan Johar. I don’t know. Could be the next MNIK, could be the next SOTY. Good cast, though. Fawad Khan was amazing in Kapoor and Sons.

November 4: Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson. Benedict Cumberbatch. Tilda Swinton. Rachel McAdams. Chiwetel Ejiofor. Mads Mikkelsen. Magic. Marvel.

November 11: Rock On!! 2, directed by Shujaat Saudagar. I cannot overstate how hyped I am for this, but Shraddha Kappor? Really? That’s like casting Megan Fox in a sequel to Mission: Impossible.

November 16: Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve. “Realistic alien invasion movie” might sound like an oxymoron, but once you watch the trailer, you realize these guys really mean it.

November 23: Moana, directed by Musker and Clements. A lot of the hype comes from there being a Disney Princess of colour, but I didn’t believe it would actually be good until I saw the trailer.

By far the one I’m looking forward most to is Doctor Strange, since the heavy hitters such as Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and La La Land are probably not coming out till November.

Neither Hell or High Water nor Kubo and the Two Strings released when they were supposed to last month, so it’s not a good idea to get one’s hopes up. Still, it looks like 2016 might just redeem itself.

Pinjre Ke Uss Paar

Not your typical prison escape story. Not your typical prison.

Alis Volat Propriis

Kyu nahi sunn sakta tu meri khamosh cheenkhei?Kyu nahi dikhti tujhe meri kapkapati ungliyaan,laal hoti aankhei?
Kya koi asar nahi meri tadapti,gurrati saanson ka tujhpe?
Kaise samjhaun main tujhe,
Parr mere khul rahe hain, apne pankh khud bunne hain maine.

Meri saans teri den hai,
Par mera hosla maine khud ko tofe mei diya hai.
Teri ye jo chah hai ki sambhal jaun main,
Teri parwah hai ki mujhe aandhiyaan na milei,
Lekin jab tak girungi nahi, wapas udna kaise seekhungi?

Teri duniya banai hai tune, ye usool,riwaz,adrishya imaaratein, yahin tera vishwaas hai.
Par meri aankhon ne inke paar dekha h,
Mere kaano ne dusri awaazo ka shor suna hai.
Janti hu main, ek dunia hai bahut badi, tere iss bharose aur pyar ke bahar.

Mujhe wo duniya chahiye, mujhe unn awaazon ke chehre dekhne hain.
Mera dil aandhiya paar karna chahta hai;
Dikhana chahta hai tujhe wo rang jinse…

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Top 10 2016 Movies That Couldn’t Be Here Soon Enough

Sure, 2017 may have stolen 2016’s thunder with the announcement of Dunkirk a few days ago, but 2016 still has a lot of cryofreeze-worthy movies. So many, in fact, that I had to leave out highly anticipated movies like Rogue One (I don’t trust Gareth Edwards), Doctor Strange (don’t trust Scott Derrickson either), WarCraft (haven’t played the game), Jane Got a Gun (haven’t experienced Gavin O’Connor’s awesomeness firsthand), Zootopia/The Jungle Book (trailers weren’t great enough), Ghostbusters (too young to be nostalgic), Star Trek Beyond (trailer was horrible), Kung fu Panda 3 (that’s how exciting 2016 is, even KFP didn’t make it) and many, many more.

There are a few more very, very exciting movies coming out this year that only barely missed out, but I’m more interested in seeing your reaction when you reach the end of the list and realize you didn’t see them there.

10. Sully – Kicking off the list is Sully, a biopic of American pilot Chesley Sullenberger directed by Clint Eastwood. The cast of this movie, lead by Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart, itself would have been enough to convince me it is going to be awesome, but it was Eastwood’s name that secured its place on the list. The last biopic he directed, American Sniper, ended up one of the best movies of 2014, and I’m sure this one will repeat that feat.

9. X-Men: Apocalypse – Directed by Bryan Singer. Not only was Days of Future Past awesome, but this is one franchise where the prequels have consistently been better than the originals. A kickass trailer and Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse pretty much sealed the deal.

8. The Magnificent Seven – This western, directed by Antoine Fuqua, is a remake of the 1960 western The Magnificent Seven, which itself was a remake of the Akira Kurosawa classic, Seven Samurai. Fuqua directed Training Day starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke and last year’s awesome Southpaw. Not only does The Magnificent Seven reunite him with Washington and Hawke, but also stars Chris Pratt and Vincent D’Onofrio. Wow.

7. The BFG – Directed by Steven Spielberg, BFG is short for Big Friendly Giant. It is a Disney Fantasy movie, and that coupled with the title would make one think this is going to be a standard kiddie flick. Sure, Spielberg excels at basically any genre he touches. Sure, the trailer possesses the one quality such a movie needs the most: wonder. But it still will be a kiddie flick, right? Oh wait, I forgot to mention: It is based off of a Roald Dahl book. So it won’t just be a kiddie flick. It will be a smart kiddie flick. I’m in. (Actually, I was in at Spielberg.)

6. Hail, Caesar! – The Coen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, True Grit) are well known for their handling of humor in their movies, so a comedy written and directed by them is an obvious pick. It becomes more obvious when you consider that it stars George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlet Johansson, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum and Josh Brolin. Still not sold? I’ll let the trailer do the rest of the job.

5. Deadpool – Directed by Tim Miller. You know what makes a comic book superhero even more awesome? When he knows he’s in a superhero movie. Ryan Reynolds has already shown us he can play an awesome Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and in the trailers so far, he seems to be even more awesome as Deadpool. The humor feels perfect, the action feels perfect, it’s as self-aware as it needs to be, and it’s irreverent as hell. This movie exists because of the fans, and so far, it seems like it was made for the fans. Warning: the trailer is NSFW.

4. Everybody Wants Some – This movie probably won’t be for everyone, it’s a very personal choice. You see, I’m a big soppy fan of Richard Linklater’s movies. He makes indie movies like Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy and Boyhood. His movies are basically a bunch of people talking to each other. And these conversations are not only very real, but way more interesting than most real conversations. So while on the surface, this seems like just another college drama, it is safe to expect much, much more than that.

3. Finding Dory – Inside Out showed us that Pixar is back to making beautiful, emotional, smart movies. But you see, we didn’t really need that to be excited for Finding Dory, because it is directed by Andrew Stanton, the guy behind Finding Nemo and Wall-E. So we know this isn’t just a cash-grab. Or if it is, it’s the good kind of cash-grab. And if you remind me of how Cars 2 made the mistake of bringing Tow Mater to the forefront, pushing Dory into the spotlight is a decision I can get behind. She’s more fun than Nemo and Marlin anyway.

2. La La Land – Haven’t heard of this movie? Until a few hours ago, I hadn’t either. La La Land is a romantic musical dramedy starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, directed by Damien Chazelle, the guy behind Whiplash. I wouldn’t place so much faith in a director based on just one movie, but you see, Whiplash isn’t just a great movie, it is one of the greatest I have EVER seen. If you need more motivation, well, JK Simmons is in it.

1. Captain America: Civil War – The very idea of superheroes is a problematic one. Always has been. It takes a dump on the whole ‘we are born equal’ thing. A few people’s whims now dictate the fates of billions. And these people aren’t elected. And we all saw the consequences of such unsupervised individual decisions in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now the only way to deal with this issue seems to be to treat superpowers, which are basically a part of who these people are, as weapons that need to be registered. No wonder people are divided on this. So now we have a superhero civil war, Captain America leading one side and Iron Man the other. And the reason I have complete faith that this issue will be dealt with properly is because the movie is directed by the Russo brothers, the directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of Marvel’s best movies to date. Also, Tony Stark saying “So was I.” Plus, it introduces Spider-Man, guys!

Honorable mentions: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice by Zack Snyder, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by David Yates and Silence by Martin Scorcese.

Also, bonus list, these are the 5 Bollywood movies I’m excited for:

5. MS Dhoni: The Untold Story – Really scraping the bottom of the barrel here, the only reason I’m interested in this movie at all is because it is directed by Neeraj Pandey, the guy behind A Wednesday, one of the best Indian movies ever made.

4. Fan – SRK hasn’t been picking great, or even good movies for quite some time now, but this seems like he’s finally going to start taking things seriously. The concept sure sounds interesting. SRK plays a guy who’s a fan of SRK. Let’s see how this goes.

3. Rustom – Also directed by Neeraj Pandey, this one has the benefit of starring Akshay Kumar. Their previous collaborations, Special 26 and Baby have been good popcorn fun. [Update: It was all a lie. Neeraj Pandey isn’t directing it after all 😦]

2. Raees – Also starring SRK, this movie has a really cool teaser. Cool enough to put it at the #2 spot. Seriously, I know virtually nothing about this movie, but I’m pumped for it nevertheless.

1. Aligarh – Citylights and Shahid are 2 of my favorite Bollywood movies, making Hansal Mehta a guy whose work I really look forward to. Add to that a premise (biopic of a homosexual professor) very progressive by Bollywood standards. Add to that universally rave reviews from festivals. Add to that Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkumar Rao, and you have a movie that almost made it to my overall list.

Top 10 Movies of 2015

It’s always fun to look back at the kind of year you’ve had, movies-wise, and 2015 was a good year for movies, so that’s even more fun. Keep in mind, though, that this came right after 2014, which was a great year for movies. So there was a certain measure of disappointment. (EDIT: Screw the disappointment, I just hadn’t seen the best 2015 had to offer when I first made this post.)

Also keep in mind that this is a list of my favorite movies of 2015, NOT the movies I thought were best made, or movies the critical part of my mind would call a tour de force. These are the movies I loved the most, so it will be a very personal list, and very different from other reviewers’ own lists, especially in one particular movie’s placement.

Finally, since I live in India, that country of late releases (if not no release), I haven’t yet been able to watch The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, The Big Short, Spotlight, Brooklyn, Carol, Anomalisa, Room, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, all movies I’ve heard are Top 10-worthy. So I’ve decided this will be a fluid list, and I will keep adding movies in their appropriate positions as I keep watching them in the early months of 2016. [EDIT: I have seen a few of them now, of course]

So let’s get on with it, shall we?

 

NUMBER TEN

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My favorite kinds of book-to-movie adaptations are the kind that add something that can only be done in a movie, thus giving the work its own identity. The book The Martian made us feel like we’re inside Mark Watney’s head, and while the movie didn’t do quite as great a job of that (as was to be expected), it made us feel like we’re on Mars, which is the kind of thing that makes good movies great.

What impressed me even more was the sheer acting talent amassed in this movie. You have Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Troy from Community, and more in supporting roles, and as the lead you have Matt Damon in possibly the best performance of his career. This was Oscar-worthy. The movie is a theatrical experience that cannot be missed.

NUMBER NINE

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Another space movie, this is by far my favorite of the Star Wars franchise, which is probably because I did not grow up with these movies.

This J J Abrams flick came with a LOT of expectations, and pretty much surpassed them. It is the definition of a great fantasy saga, with great, easy-to-root-for heroes (Daisy Ridley as Rey is the highlight of the movie), a looming threat (The First Order, which I sure hope turns out to be more than just a rechristened Empire) and an enchanting lore. Add to that some great supporting performances from Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, with a Maz Kanata reminiscent of Edna Mode, also, an adorable BB-8, and Oscar-worthy cinematography, set design and costumes, and there’s basically no reason not to watch this movie in a theater, even if you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie before. It does suffer from repetition and predictability issues, but it’s worth it.

Also, I need to give props to the casting people for not just choosing established actors. Now I can’t imagine anyone but Daisy Ridley as Rey.

NUMBER EIGHT

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This was a really good year for spy movies, with 1 of them on the list, and Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Spy almost making it.

This movie being here really shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, given that there isn’t much debate that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest movie directors of all time. Or that the Coen brothers are two of the greatest writers of all time. Or that Tom Hanks is one of the great actors of all time.

This is one of those stories, like The Great Gatsby or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which can make one fall in love with the idea of the American Dream, though, as expected with Spielberg at its helm, it is a somewhat more hopeful look at the whole scenario. The premise, where a lawyer has to face a lot of flak for defending a suspected Russian spy, is an extremely sensitive one, and is handled beautifully. This is the kind of movie that can easily slip under your radar, but shouldn’t.

NUMBER SEVEN

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I’ll be honest, I did not expect an underdog sports drama to impress me as much as this did, but as it turns out, this movie really isn’t about the underdog elements. Or the boxing. It’s about issues of legacy and identity, explored in a smart, thoughtful way.

Also, Sylvester Stallone is awesome. The guy has dramatic chops (which we already knew, because Rocky, but had forgotten in recent times). Also, one of the fights in this movie would be a nominee for that Best Scene category that totally should exist but doesn’t.

There were two great boxing movies this year, but only one made it here.

NUMBER SIX

Yes, it won Best Picture at the awards, but while I didn’t find it the best 2015 had to offer, it was still pretty damn great.

First of all, I had absolutely no idea. None whatsoever. The journalists in this biopic uncover something so shocking that I feel like I should’ve known about it. It should’ve been common knowledge, and the fact that it’s not makes the movie even more important.

While the performances, particularly by Mark Ruffalo and Liev Schrieber are outstanding, what I loved most about this movie was how low-key it was. The tension was built not through epic music and fast cuts, but subtle camerawork and a poignant score by Howard Shore. The movie definitely deserves the spotlight.

NUMBER FIVE

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We’re in the big leagues now, people. The heavy hitters of 2015. Kicking it off is one of the greatest action movies ever made, Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a truly complex hero whose badass quotient knows no bounds, and Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky, a great viewpoint character in an endlessly innovative post-apocalyptic world.

It is structured as one long car chase, so the excitement never lets up right until the very end.

And just in case you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t spend time talking about Nux (Nicholas Hoult in an Oscar-worthy performance).

NUMBER FOUR

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I cried. I don’t do that a lot. But when you-know-who did you-know-what for you-know-who, I teared up.

I’m a huge Pixar fan. And when they’re at their best, they make movies that will take you through an emotional roller coaster, but will actually leave a greater impression on you the more you think about them. This is Disney for grown ups. This is DreamWorks for smarter people. And I’m glad to say, this is Pixar in top form. They’re back, people. They are back!

And seriously, was there ever a better way to make you emotional than to tell a story about emotions?

NUMBER THREE

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Stop it, guys! I can hear you booing from here! Whatever happened to the good old days of personal opinion, huh?

Seriously, I loved the shit out of this movie. This was everything the first Avengers movie was and more. The humor worked, the drama worked, characters got more complex, their dynamic got more complex, the villain was one of the best Marvel has ever had, Vision is by far the coolest Avenger ever, the moral dilemmas were deeper … <pant> I could go on forever. <pant>

Joss Whedon was already one of my favorite directors, and he reinforced that position in my mind with this flick. This is fun with a mind. This is why I watch movies.

NUMBER TWO

The Revenant (literally: one who has returned from the dead) was directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of last year’s Birdman, which ended up being my favorite film of 2014. This time, he teamed up with Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Hardy for a brutal revenge thriller set in the 19th century.

There are a lot of things that make this movie great, from the committed performances to the intense action, but they’re not enough to put a movie this high on the list. And I would be lying if I said it was the subtle themes that did it.

No, what truly distinguishes this movie is how gorgeous it looks. The cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, has now won 3 Oscars in 3 consecutive years and it’s not hard to see why. The wilderness feels wild, the brutal cold almost made me shiver (or maybe I was watching 4dx  and didn’t know it), the bear looked frighteningly real, and there was actually a scene where the breath of a character fogs up the screen! And all of this was accomplished in natural lighting. It is by far the most beautiful movie I have ever seen.

NUMBER ONE

Yes, I’m a softie. But here’s the thing, you don’t need to be a softie to appreciate this film. Room is a near-perfect movie that can make a stone-cold heart burst.

It is hard to say much about this movie without spoiling it, because after the first act itself, it shifts gears and goes in directions you didn’t expect it to. That said, I’ll still try.

Room has a very mature way of tackling complex themes, of which this movie has many, first and foremost being the question of what makes a good mother. In exploring this theme, there comes a point when a question is raised that overturns our whole perspective of certain decisions made in the film. Gah! The non-spoiler nature of this post is killing me! Just take my word for it, the scene I’m referring to is harrowing.

The performances are brilliant. Not only is Brie Larson perfect as a young mother trying to do the best she can, Jacob Tremblay gave one of my favorite child performances in, well, ever.

Also, props to the cinematographer for a scene near the end, which is shot in a way that makes many of the themes and emotions associated with the film come full circle, and for a scene near the middle, which, to put it cheesily, makes one fall in love with life, the universe and everything all over again.

That’s all for this post, thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!