New York

Sleuth Operator

The-guilty-movie-review-jake-gyllenhaal
Glen Wilson/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
The Guilty (2021)

Some years ago, Halle Berry starred in a movie about a Los Angeles emergency dispatcher plagued with guilt and chained to her phones called “The Call.” A few years ago, Tom Hardy starred in a movie about a man overwhelmed with responsibility and chained to the phone in his car having the worst night of his life called “Locke.” Neither of these were the impetus for “The Guilty” – that was a Danish film of the same name that came out in 2018. But if you mashed up “Locke” and “The Call,” you have the idea; an emergency dispatcher suddenly has the worst night of his life. It all takes place at a few desks in the 911 dispatch center in Los Angeles, in the middle of last summer’s wildfires, and Jake Gyllenhaal is the man chained to his phones, desperately hoping it’s not too late.

Continue reading "Sleuth Operator" »

Sure as Shootin'

Ucha-pind-movie-review-navdeep-kaler
Courtesy photo

MOVIE REVIEW
Ucha Pind (2021)

Though parts of it are culturally specific, “Ucha Pind” easily trumps Hong Kong movies in the number of times ruthless characters double-, triple-, quadruple-cross one another. It sets up the titular village as a lawless gangland under tyrannical rule, but a few dauntless and reckless outsiders, who may or may not be working with one another, are willing to challenge boundaries. The violence is also gratuitous and graphic, traits seemingly more characteristic of H.K., South Korean or even Hollywood films.

Continue reading "Sure as Shootin'" »

City Still on Fire

Raging-fire-movie-review-donnie-yen-nicholas-tse
Well Go USA

MOVIE REVIEW
Raging Fire (2021)

Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse face off in “Raging Fire.” Finally, we have a bona fide Hong Kong action flick more than a decade after the once prolific and self-sustaining industry began to suffer a talent and capital drain mostly to the burgeoning and lucrative mainland Chinese film scene – and also to Hollywood, where Mr. Yen has landed a few supporting roles in high-profile tentpoles such as “Rogue One.”

Continue reading "City Still on Fire" »

Alien Nation

Chal-mera-putt-2-movie-review-amrinder-gill-simi-chahal-iftikhar-thakur-nasir-chinyoti-hardeep-gill-akram-udas
Rhythm Boyz

MOVIE REVIEW
Chal Mera Putt 2 (2021)

The gang’s all back in “Chal Mera Putt 2,” the sequel to the Punjabi diaspora blockbuster about a ragtag of undocumented immigrants living together in Birmingham, Britain. To uninitiated gringos, think “Limbo” reimagined as a rowdy comedy. Though the sequel attempts to replicate the original’s success formula, it seems far less concerned with immigrants toiling away at dead-end jobs or evading threats of deportation and more with their romantic prospects. For them, family affairs such as matchmaking, celebrating Diwali and funeral processions all must be conducted over FaceTime.

Continue reading "Alien Nation" »

Masked and Anonymous

Chinese-doctors-movie-review-yuan-quan
Courtesy photo

MOVIE REVIEW
Chinese Doctors (2021)

From Andrew Lau, co-director and co-cinematographer of “Infernal Affairs,” “Chinese Doctors” is perhaps a prime example of a respected filmmaker directing with one hand tied behind his back.

The story opens on Dec. 30, 2019, with deadly cases of pneumonia reported around Wuhan, China. Right off the bat, Mr. Lau is employing rapid successions of film speed changes often seen in the introductory segments of reality TV shows. We’re quickly introduced to Director Zhang (Zhang Hanyu), head of a local hospital, as some of his staff quit en masse amid traffic closures and emptied store shelves. It’s the perfect overture for a “Contagion,” “Outbreak” or zombie movie, but that is not what follows.

Continue reading "Masked and Anonymous" »

A Very Long Entanglement

Puaada-movie-review-ammy-virk-sonam-bajwa
Courtesy photo

MOVIE REVIEW
Puaada (2021)

An intoxicating mix of rom-com and thriller, “Puaada” gets more hilarious the more dire the situation its characters face. It starts out pretty ordinary – Jaggi (Ammy Virk), a humble milkman from the countryside, only has eyes for Raunak (Sonam Bajwa), an educated daughter of snobbish Air Force officer Mr. Dhillon (Hardeep Gill). Despite her façade of playing hard to get, they’ve been an item for two years. He unexpectedly shows up and sabotages her first meeting with a suitor arranged by her parents, yet his own haphazard efforts to impress them have been laughable, to say the least.

Continue reading "A Very Long Entanglement" »

A Bug's Life

Mandibles-movie-review
Magnet Releasing

MOVIE REVIEW
Mandibles (2021)

When Quentin Dupieux pitches a film, the producers get what they were promised. “Mandibles,” as the people who paid for it were no doubt happy to find, really is about two amiable French layabouts who discover a genuine giant red-eyed fly the size of a 10-year-old child in the trunk of a stolen car and who immediately consider training it to go and fetch things from the shops, rather than asking why the fabric of reality has sustained major damage. But reality is always a bit threadbare in Mr. Dupieux's tales, with their bleached daylight and vivid nonsense. His last film, “Deerskin,” steered the director's absurdist style into a darker lane, as a psychotic Jean Dujardin discovered his life's purpose in basic narcissism. The two guileless goons in “Mandibles” don't have a narcissistic thought in their heads, or indeed much else. They’re a blithe underclass, abandoned by the materialist world before and after something amazing happens. They're dumb and dumbeur.

Continue reading "A Bug's Life" »

A View to a Thrill

Bellbottom-movie-review-akshay-kumar
Courtesy photo

MOVIE REVIEW
Bellbottom (2021)

Is there anything Akshay Kumar can’t do? Over the course of “Bellbottom” he does a lot of manful striding, filmed from a low angle, so we can best appreciate his magnificence. He rides a motorbike with sunglasses but without a helmet. He has a training montage in the woods involving a lot of chin-ups and exercises with tires. He is invited to sing at a wedding reception, which then involves a montage of him and Vaani Kapoor (badly underused as his clever and perky wife Radhika) having a much better time on a train in Scotland than usual. And as a spy/analyst specializing in airplane hijacks – which were an unfortunately regular occurrence in India in the mid-’80s – he is able to boss around senior politicians of several different countries, up to and including Indira Gandhi (Lara Dutta) herself. And while this adoration is a little silly, it’s not remotely ridiculous. Somehow in the context of the plot, Mr. Kumar's star wattage is justified.

Continue reading "A View to a Thrill" »

Dread on Arrival

El-cuartito-movie-review-claribel-medina-ianis-guerrero-mario-de-la-rosa-isel-rodriguez-fausto-mata
Wiesner Distribution

MOVIE REVIEW
El cuartito (2021)

Set in a San Juan, Puerto Rico, airport (presumably, Luis Muñoz Marín International) during the Trump presidency, “El cuartito” revolves around travelers flagged by customs officers for “additional processing.” Among them: Toti (Mario de la Rosa), a washed-up Spaniard rocker scheduled to perform a Thanksgiving concert without a work visa; Lina (Claribel Medina), a melodramatic former actress lugging an entire medicine cabinet worth of pills en route to meet her sister on a cruise ship; Mariel (Isel Rodriguez), traveling with an expired U.S. passport after falling for an Argentinian and leaving the U.S. in her teens; Jesús (Ianis Guerrero), attempting to reunite with his family after their botched border-crossing attempt; and Santo (Fausto Mata), a delusional preacher with a forged missionary visa.

Continue reading "Dread on Arrival" »

The Da Vinci Code

The-lost-leonardo-movie-review-dianne-modestini-ashok-roy
Adam Jandrup/Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
The Lost Leonardo (2021)

The documentary “The Lost Leonardo” tracks a Salvator Mundi painting billed as “After Leonardo” by a New Orleans auction house and bought in 2005 for a song ($10,000, so relatively speaking). The purchasers were a group of art dealers that included Alexander Parish, a professional “sleeper hunter” in the business of finding works of art that are more valuable than auctioneers perceive, and Robert Simon. In 2017, Christie’s auctioned the painting, now dubbed “the male Mona Lisa,” for a record $450.3 million.

Continue reading "The Da Vinci Code" »

© 2008-2021 Critic's Notebook and its respective authors. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use
Subscribe to Critic's Notebook | Follow Us on Twitter | Contact Us | Write for Us | Reprints and Permissions