Bad Education: Film Review

Bad Education: HBO's True Story Isn't Just About a Real Con ...

One of the most anticipated films of the last few months dropped as per schedule on HBO and HBO carriers today in the form of Bad Education. The film tells the true story of the most extensive school district embezzlement in American History, orchestrated by the then superintendent named Frank Tassone. The film stars Hugh Jackman as the lead, in what critics are labelling the best performance of his career. The film also stars Allisson Janney, Ray Romano, and Alex Wolff, directed by Cory Finley, and written by Mike Makowsky.

I’d been looking forward to this film since I saw the trailer a few months ago. I’m a huge Hugh Jackman fan, and I’ll watch anything that Allisson Janney’s in, and, with absolutely nothing else to do, I sat patiently and waited for the release of Bad Education on Disney + Hotstar, which carries all HBO content in India. My anticipation came good and then some. Bad Education is the best film of 2020 so far. Everyone’s pulled their weight on this one; Jackman’s performance is inarguably the best of his career (we’ll get back to that in a bit), the writing is sublime, and the visual composition is brilliant.

Supporting characters are underlined by nearly universally superb performances from supporting actors. But the two main attractions are obvious here; Allisson Janney could just be in line for a second Oscar for a supporting role, delivering a venomous, frightening performance as Pam Gluckin. She brought this very subtle, very aware evil to her role, helped enormously by the writing which I’ll cover in a minute. But first we have to address Hugh Jackman, whose performance was just incredible. Aaron Sorkin, who is, in my opinion, the greatest writer of all time, talks about the way he wrote anti-heroes. He describes his method to writing such characters with objectively dishonourable characteristics as having them plead their case to God as to why they should be let into heaven. Jackman and Mike Makowsky, the film’s writer, have teamed up to do just that, in a beautifully empathetic performance of a man who did, in fact, steal some 2 million dollars in taxpayer money from a Long Island school district. The whole first half of the film is spent building up the likability of the man, exploiting Jackman’s face-value personability and adding to it a characterisation campaign that makes you tremble with fear at the idea that he might’ve been involved in Pam’s theft, then spending the rest of the film justifying his actions within a certain reason. Before anyone jumps up and down, I don’t think it falls into the ‘glorification’ category that people are plenty fond of dumping things in these days. It’s part of what made this film so interesting, part of you knows that Frank’s been hard-done by this whole situation. There are two scenes in particular that come to mind, one with Jackman and Romano on the school bleachers, and one of Jackman and the parent of a struggling child in his office. The two scenes are almost one-after-the-other, and they both make the same point. It highlights the way we, students and parents both, exploit the teacher relationship as a means to an end, a transaction that doesn’t tend to be all that meaningful for us but plenty meaningful for them. Frank’s point is that he had, in his capacity as a teacher and superintendent, done an incredible job, elevating the school district to its place among the best public schools in America, with some of the best college acceptances. That quality did a lot for the student’s futures, and made some real-estate moguls rich, and he did it all on a teacher’s salary. He’s shown throughout the film to take an interest in the quality of his institution way above what many would call the call of the job, his argument is that he’s not been treated fairly and I hear it. If it hadn’t been for the extent to which he’d acted on that argument, I’d maybe be on his side, but embezzling 2 million dollars takes his argument too far. Still, Jackman squeezes every iota of feeling out of the dedication his character shows his students and his job, making for a frustrating likability right alongside a sinister undertone.

A lot of the genius of this film comes out from the writing. There is some really impressive not-so-subtlety to the syntax of this movie. Something about the way the words work themselves, amplified tenfold by performances like Janney’s and Jackman’s, which maintain this weirdly diabolical tension the whole way through the film. It’s engrossing, but, that aside, the way the plot moves forward is really interesting. They sell Frank hard early on, but the way his story intertwines with the Rachel’s (played by Geraldine Viswanathan) investigation is good, and the way her father’s situation mirrors what’s happening at Roslyn is a good detail that gives me an explanation behind every motivation and every action. They really work hard to cover all their bases, and they do it convincingly. I’d emphasize again how well Frank is characterised throughout the film, it’s a fascinating portrait they’ve painted and I’m left to wonder the extent to which it’s faithful to reality. I should mention that I haven’t had a chance to do anything resembling in-depth research into the source material; I’m not in a position to comment on historical accuracy. I am, however, in a position to comment on the quality of the storytelling and how they’ve presented their version of history on screen, and they’ve done it marvellously. Frank’s character is the best possible example of that, irresistibly personable and genuinely caring on one side and sinister on the other. Makowsky is also an interesting perspective on it all. Aside from the superb job he’s done on screenplay, he was actually a student at the Roslyn middle school when Tassone was arrested.

Every part of this film fires on all cylinders. I don’t have any trouble saying it’s among the most consistently rounded films I’ve seen in a long while, a testament to phenomenal writing, acting, and visualization. I was expecting an interesting plot, I don’t know that I was expecting as much emotional depth as I saw, or the fascinating character that Frank Tassone turned out to be. I just have nothing bad to say about it. This was a fantastic film, easily the best of 2020 (though there hasn’t been much in 2020), and arguably one of the best new releases in quite some time. With any luck it’ll get its due, which I expect to be Oscars in Best Film, Screenplay, Performance in a Supporting Role for a terrifying Allisson Janney, and Performance in a Lead Role for a frustratingly complex Hugh Jackman.

Edit: Tragically, since the film was made for television by HBO, it actually isn’t eligible for any academy awards during any cycle. It won’t likely have a theatrical release. That puts this film squarely in the Film made for Television category at the Emmys, which it’s absolutely sure to sweep.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 88/100                                                                       Aryamaan’s Score –

Extraction: Film Review

Extraction (2020) - IMDb

With the recent increase in demand for action warfare, which audiences are currently being deprived of on the big screen, Extraction was perfectly timed for its release. Directed by Sam Hargrave (stunt coordinator for the last 2 avengers films), written by Joe Russo (Co-director of Captain America: Civil War and the last two avengers films) and starring Chris ‘Thor’ Hemsworth, ‘Extraction’ had really high expectations. With some amazing chase sequences, hand-to-hand combats, gunfights and explosions it absolutely hits the right spot. The action is non-stop right off the bat but, honestly, the rest is quite middling.

We’re introduced to Tyler Rake, an Australian mercenary whose introduction scene is almost perfect to educate the audience about his character. He’s seen jumping off a cliff and meditating at the bottom of a lake, with some emotions of pain to show how he battles his internal demons: a perfect summary of his character in 1 scene. Rake is called into service to rescue Ovi Mahajan (Rudraksh Jaiswal), the son of an Indian druglord (Pankaj Tripathi – played only for one short scene though), which is essentially the plot of the film. Ovi has been kidnapped by Amir (Priyanshu Painyuli) – his father’s rival – a sadistic but almost classy Bangladeshi drug lord. He’s young, powerful, has a certain sense of style and has a Bangladeshi military officer in his pocket. When I say sadistic, Amir really takes it to the next level – from kidnapping one child, throwing another off the roof and cutting off two of the child’s fingers simply because one if not enough!

What’s surprising is that usually in action movies like this which revolve around a ‘rescue mission,’ the first half of the movie is rescuing the victim an then the rest is escaping back home or killing the villain. In ‘Extraction,’ however,’ Tyler rescues Ovi in the first few minutes of the film and with relative ease. The majority of the movie is Tyler fighting off kids, military officials, Saju and almost everyone in the city to get out of Amir’s ‘lair.’ This goes to show the attention to detail and the amount of planning that went into the action sequences throughout the film. It’s like a race – the foot is never off the pedal right from the start till the end of the race.

Hargrave, a veteran from the Marvel universe, as more than enough experience being a stuntman, stunt coordinator and second unit director for some of he most action heavy films (Civil war and several avengers films). He does brilliantly with all the shootouts, explosions, chase sequences and fights.  His directorial style favours a lot of close-range clashes and fights which make the film so much more interactive. His unique ability to weave his way through this action sequences with such fluidity using hand-held cameras makes the audience feel caught up right in the middle of the action. One scene in particular, where the film follows the new trend of single-take sequences, set by ‘1917,’ looks fantastic. His stlye complements Hemsworth’s raw power and masculinity so well.

The set, however, wasn’t justified completely for me. On of the key components of the film was that it was set in Dhaka but it never acquires that distinct character that it should. It simply serves as a backdrop for Hemsworth. Anyways, he delivers everything and more with his natural ability to ‘turn up the heat.’

The screenplay is quite good for an action film, inspired from a graphic novel by Joe Russo himself. It holds up the film but still has space for quite some more. Amir, the lead antagonist in the film, is described as “Dhaka’s Pablo Escobar” but he really doesn’t get to evolve too much as the dreadful, terrorizing drug lord character; majority of his scenes are just sitting back and ordering a few of his dogs to clean up the mess. I mean yeah actions speak louder than words and there was more than enough action to solidify who Amir was, but I was just begging for a few more trademark dialogues from him or a certain quirk maybe that would fortify the heartless character he is. Hemsworth is more than capable to do all the heavy lifting himself but the lack of a worthy adversary undermines his performance. Another feature I really missed was Chris Hemsworth charisma. He has this amazing natural ability to radiate charisma in addition to his brilliant comic timing but he didn’t get any opportunity to highlight that in the film.

The performances are quite good honestly. Hemsworth steals the show as always but Painyuli, Randeep Hooda (as Saju), Golshifteh Farahani (as Nik Khan), Rudraksh and David Harbour (as Gaspar) have justified their own parts well. Hooda, especially, with his rock-steady performace as Saju has a powerful impact on screen.

Another feature that stood out were the soundtracks that were peppered throughout the action sequences. I love the idea of songs like ‘Ek ladki ko dekha to aisa laga’ and ‘Mehendi lagake rakhna’ playing in the background while some crazy action sequence is playing onscreen. It usually seemed to work but eventually got slightly odd at parts. Overall, though, this decision added a more positive impact to the sequences than negative so I’m all for it.

All in all, this movie was a cracker that explodes right in your face. The action sequences are absolutely brilliant and Chris Hemsworth does exactly what Chris Hemsworth does for 2 hours straight. Trust me, as far as the action sequences go, your expectations will be surpassed. Of course there are a few negatives and the story isn’t as strong but they don’t largely interfere with the films rhythm and purpose. Netflix adds a powerful addition to their arsenal of action genre films. It may not be high quality cinema but it’s entertaining for sure – people flying everywhere, bullets being fired, bombs exploding, cars flying all over the place (I mean it’s almost as if Rohit Shetty had a part to play in the making). It’s one of those movies where you don’t have to use too much of your brain to watch: sit back, shout ‘Holy shit’ a couple of times and just have fun.

– Aryamaan Dholakia

Aryamaan’s Score – 73/100                                                                Aman Score –

Easy A: Film Review

Easy A (2010) - IMDb

Easy A is a romantic comedy about a straight-shooting high school girl who becomes the subject of a wave of gossip and rumour, a wave she does little to quell, which changes her social position in the school forever. The film stars Emma Stone, as well as Stanley Tucci, Dan Byrd, Lisa Kudrow, and Penn Badgley among others.  The film, which is many ways a modern rendition of The Scarlet Letter (referenced extensively in the film), follows Olive, as an acute giving-streak leads to the destruction of her reputation despite having done nothing at all. Easy A was directed by Will Gluck and written by Bert V. Royal.

This film was a very pleasant surprise. I went into it expecting something decent, its reputation would suggest at least as much.  I was in no way expecting one of the best-written rom-coms since When Harry Met Sally, which combined deceptively hilarious dialogue with very sudden yet shockingly appropriate tonal switches, making the few moments of sobriety about this film count for much more than their minutes. That’s a very steep task, and one that this genre tends not to do all that well, but Easy A makes sport out of injecting moments of sincerity smack in the middle of its comedy riffs, and it does it in a way that feels completely organic, which is a serious feat. It’s also absolutely hilarious, to a degree that, once again, I don’t think I expected.

Emma Stone is great in a performance that earned her a Golden Globe nod. In fact, in a rare criticism of the writing, Olive’s goodness in the context of this story probably wouldn’t have shown enough without Stone and the sincerity she brought to the character, in that evidence was a little lacking solely on paper. But the acting quality didn’t stop there; most every role in the film was filled by an actor who brought charm to their relatively smaller inclusions. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are just delightful as Olive’s parents, an absolutely irresistible. The same is true of Thomas Haden Church, and is unmatched in Penn Badgley’s character, who barely exists on paper. Given that, one has to acknowledge the writing is extremely imperfect, and probably sacrificed character work for good comedy, but the effect of that is covered up by supplementary support from a really strong cast.

There is some amount of incredulity I held about some plot points. Olive’s guilt about “breaking” the marriage of her favourite teacher is a little strange, when she called herself a homewrecker I figured his wife was going to suspect that he’d slept with her. The way it actually happened, I have a hard time understanding why she assigned herself any more than a very small amount of guilt at all. I also think some of her decision making as a character was hard to believe and/or hard to get behind. It’s one thing to be an unflinchingly giving person, what she did was another thing entirely. Characters exacerbating their own situations isn’t a rare occurrence, you can’t expect characters to act rationally at all times, but the way in which it seemed to get out of hand was a bit much and felt out of character at certain points.

In spite of that, it does a pretty bang-up job addressing the social issues it was targeted at. A more accurate and on-the-nose representation of the elaborate game of Chinese Whispers that is high school gossip you won’t see, as well as a slightly subtler nod to the double standard of slut-shaming. It never gets to the point where it feels preachy, it’s never put in as many words, but the effect is there and it works pretty well. It’s one of those instances where one of the main ideas of the film is the driving force of the plot, but still isn’t shoved in your face along with the moral of the story as a line of dialogue.

All in all, Easy A was just an inescapably enjoyable film, and a refreshing re-evaluation of the romantic comedy genre for me. I’d emphasize once more how funny and well written it is in parts, and, where it isn’t, it’s supplemented by a cast that performs the hell out of it. It surprises me that Bert V. Royal hasn’t really done work on a proper feature film since this one. His IMDb says he’s got a couple things in pre-production and filming respectively, the details of which are scarce, so hopefully we’ll see something of his on the big screen once more. In the meantime, I’d recommend Easy A for a really good time and some even better laughs.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 74/100                                                                Aryamaan’s Score –

Hasmukh: Series Review

Hasmukh Season 1 - Netflix Web Series Complete Download With Subtitle

Yes! Vir Das is back on Netflix with ‘Hasmukh’ after his incredible special, ‘For India.’ With the increasing trend of the dark-comedy genre like ‘Parasite’ and ‘Stree,’ ‘Hasmukh’ too attempts to cement its place in this genre with an absolutely brilliant plot idea (delightful and diabolical to be precise): Hasmukh (Vir Das), a struggling stand-up comedian is desperate to kick-start his career and in an unexpected turn of events, his career starts with a murder. But what’s even worse, he discovers that he only gets the ‘feel’ of performing after murdering someone! Once he has tasted blood and experienced the high of success, there’s nothing stopping him and his newfound addiction. Armed with this new-found craving, Hasmukh becomes a youtube sensation and finds his way into a comedy show in Mumbai as a wild card entry. The protagonist, who we grow to love, is also a serial killer.

The first episode, for me, was one of the best: a great introduction to the characters, the setting and situation befalls our protagonist. The show dives right into the plot without wasting much time, hooking the audience in the first few scenes, before the intro music starts (played almost halfway into the episode). But the show starts to fall a bit from there. Shows that revolve around stand-up comedy are supposed to have great comic material and especially with Vir Das being one of the writers along with Neeraj Pandey, Suparn Verma, Amogh Ranadive, Nikhil Advani and director Nikhil Gonsalves the expectations were really high. But unfortunately the writing doesn’t meet those expectations – quite a letdown to be honest. There are some hidden gems, though, like the satire about lawyers in Mumbai and of course the next show with the satire about Indian women but the reactions of the audience, the judge and the other characters slightly overdo it; they break the flow of the delivery and reduce the impact of the delivery.

A huge positive about the show though is the smart plotting and pacing of each episode. Each episode adds new twist to the story, which constantly increases the excitement and suspense, making the show quite easy to watch.  Each episode ends with a cliffhanger, a new source of suspense to cling onto. The thought, “will his past ever catch up to him?” keeps reminding the audience of the uncertainty of his fate, injecting a sense of edginess to the show, which glues the audience to their seats, waiting for the next episode.

With his incredible talent and diversity, India’s leading English-language stand-up comedian, Vir Das, makes a smooth transition to Hindi with ease. He is without doubt the standout factor of the show. Though used to doing stand-up in English, his delivery while doing stand-up in Hindi is very effective, though not the best written in this case, and especially with that slight UP accent that he adopts. He’s acted well and is very convincing as his character; even in the emotional scenes while speaking to Sasha in episode 6 – brilliant. Ranvir Shorey (playing Jimmy ‘the maker,’ Hasmukh’s manager) complements Hasmukh’s character exceptionally with his gold grill and his signature newsboy cap. Their teamwork and brilliant chemistry is what holds this show together and provides majority of the positive moments of the show. Ravi Kishan (as the owner of the channel), Manoj Pahwa (as Gulati), Amrita Bagchi (as Promila) and Deeksha Sonalkar (as Rhea) do justice to their characters. Suhail Nayyar also does a good job as Krushna Kumar (Hasmukh’s rival), with effective delivery during his stand-up. The competition between K.K. and Hasmukh at the end of the competition provides some of the best scenes of the show. One of my favourites (apart from Shorey and Das), however, was definitely Inaamulhaq as the police officer. His tagline is great and he delivers it brilliantly every time.  The performances help emphasize on each character’s convincing backstories – another major positive for the show.

Director Nikhil Gonsalves has adeptly handled the material he was given and has done well with the screenplay, which may not have been the best. There were some scenes, which weren’t as well thought out I guess: Hasmukh chokes a character in the car, the car is seen taking turns on the road but somehow it always seems to stay on the road despite the driver being choked. Nikhil definitely focuses more on the dark-thriller scenes than the comedic but still manages to deliver a binge-worthy but a one-time watch limited show.

All in all, Hasmukh does have a lot of potential with its performances, plotting, pacing and emphasis on its characters backstories but some of its comedic material and certain over-the-top scenes drag it down. It is definitely a pleasing one-time watch for those looking for a dark, crime drama but not those looking for comedic relief.

– Aryamaan Dholakia

Aryamaan’s Score – 69/100                                          Aman’s Score –

Pirates of the Caribbean: Franchise Review

Series Actor Says Disney is Discussing a Sixth "Pirates of the ...

One of the most iconic and highest-grossing film franchises of all time is none other than the Pirates of the Caribbean films. 5 films (at time of writing) follow Captain Jack Sparrow, immortalized by the ever-controversial Johnny Depp, on a series of swashbuckling, action-packed adventures over almost 15 years between the releases of The Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Men Tell No Tales (or Salazar’s Revenge, depending on where you live). The franchise has grossed some 4-and-a-half billion dollars over 5 films and been nominated for Oscars along the way. The first three films were directed by Gore Verbinski, which were followed by the fourth and fifth being directed by Rob Marshall and the pair of Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg respectively. The films also features a wide variety of other franchise mainstays such as Kiera Knightly as Elizabeth Swann, Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa, Kevin McNally as Gibbs, Bill Nighy as Davy Jones, Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma, Tom Hollander as Cutler Beckett, and many others. The idea for the films was based on the Disney theme park ride of the same name.

I was very excited about Disney + Hotstar dropping in India for a lot of reasons. Nearly chief among them was the Pirates franchise. I’ve just finished a marathon of all five films, so these memories are fresh.

I absolutely love POTC. For me, this is one of the most consistently fun, funny, and engaging film franchises out there, which is why some people’s perceptions of it don’t make much sense to me. I’ve heard a million people echo the same sentiment: they talk of the first film as though it’s some kind of Holy Grail, like it changed the meaning of the term ‘inspired by’ in a filmmaking context (which I suppose it did) , but then proceed to trash the remaining 4 as though they suddenly went in some crazy other direction. The first film is undeniably incredible, on a lot of levels. Honestly, to incept something so full of character and style from literally nothing but a theme park ride is something special. Looking back, it actually did play a huge role in shaping the visual tone of the first three films, a potent and distinctive element which the fourth and fifth films were foolish to try to stray away from however much they might’ve. Still, there were no stories nor characters in the source material, so to combine that visual style with such a brilliantly engaging storyline and arguably the strongest character base of any film was the happiest marriage anyone could’ve asked for.

We mustn’t skimp on praise for the great Johnny Depp, who seemingly single-handedly created one of the best characters ever, and added to it with one of the best and most recognizable performances ever, leading to an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the first film, a feat comic-book movies have yet to achieve (not counting, of course, the single greatest performance of all time). If there’s any disadvantage to Depp’s brilliance, however, it would only be that no one talks about the quality of some of the other characters and performances in the films. Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa is a savage delight to watch on screen. Any other actor and that character would’ve fallen flat, any other movie and Rush would’ve fallen flat, but somehow Captain Barbossa shines with charisma and charm. Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are pretty great characters too, it’s a very easy love story to commit to and their on-screen chemistry is great (and for a little more romantic tension, they throw Jack in there to pretty hilariously compelling effect in the second and third movies). Even Davy Jones deserves a mention. A gaping flaw in the third film is his interactions with Calypso, is feels a little awkward when you actually see it, but Nighy does a slightly improbably good job considering how much of his face he has to work with as an actor to convey the deep, deep pain of that character. A lot of that credit also goes to some shockingly good music, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

I stand resolutely behind the second and third films. The second film is very nearly as good as the first. The third is maybe a little too long with a little too much content squeezed into its runtime. If you’re not paying pretty close attention to the third film then you’re liable to miss stuff, which I suppose isn’t the deftest of approaches to a pure escapist film. That said, it’s still wildly entertaining (although maybe a little trippy in parts). The fourth film gets way too much hate. Yes, one misses Elizabeth and Will, and it definitely drags in parts, but damned if it doesn’t have as much classic Jack Sparrow as the rest of them. The mermaid and the missionary’s romantic angle was weak, no one’s disputing that, but Penelope Cruz is pretty good as Angelica, and her and Jack’s dynamic is entertaining. I grant you that there’s something qualitatively inferior compared to the first three, which I put to the change in director, but it’s nowhere near as bad as its reputation would have you believe. The fifth one is a little more problematic, in two key ways. The first problem is the visual tone: it doesn’t feel like a Pirates movie. It doesn’t have the same slimy, grittiness that gave the first three films their character, which is another reason why Verbinski seems to be the only director who knows how to make these movies. The second issue, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, was Johnny Depp. It felt a little bit, just a little, like he forgot how to play Jack. He was always drunk, but there was always an obvious intelligence to him, some semblance of method to the madness. It wasn’t a constant issue, there were moments that were exactly as good as they ever were, but about a third to half the time was spent a little more drunk and oddly higher pitched than Jack usually is. Aside from that, the rest of it was still pretty good. It was nice for them to rope the Turners back into it, the new cast was good, and the rest of the film played out more or less as a Pirates movie would. A dip to be sure, a significant one, but not as far as some reactions to it would lead you to believe and still fun.

I do just want to touch briefly on the music throughout the franchise, because my God is it good. Aside from the theme song, which is one of the best out there, there’s a lot of really incredible and oddly communicative soundtrack to these movies, particularly the second and third. Whether it be pulsating tracks to lay out the pace of an action set-piece (of which there are many), or equally grand and emotional pieces, like those that play a pretty massive role in characterizing Davy Jones or Will and Elizabeth’s relationship, POTC is an extremely musical franchise, and element that they do exceedingly well.

Yeah, this is an amazing franchise. The first three films, at the very least, are just bursting with style and fun, and I don’t get the feeling that they’ve remained in the zeitgeist the way they deserve to. There are whisperings of a 6th film. I really hope those are true; they teased a return for Davy Jones in the post-credits of the last film which would be fun to see. Original? No, but fun. That’s the thing with these movies; with the exception of the first, it’s a fairly transparent formula. But I’d argue there’s nothing wrong with a formula, as long as it works. These films aren’t higher cinema, they’re meant for a good time, and I defy you to find a better one. Honestly, Captain Jack is one of my favourite characters of all time. Put him in front of a brick wall and I’d watch it, he’d probably make it entertaining too. If they make a 6th, I’ll be the first in line at the theatre; in the meantime, I cannot recommend a POTC marathon strongly enough, especially under the current lockdown, where we’ve got nothing but time and options. This is one of the best.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 85/100                                                          Aryamaan’s Score –

Westworld: Series Review

Westworld (TV Series 2016– ) - IMDb

One of the most talked-about shows of the last few years has been Westworld. Westworld is a futuristic, science fiction concept series about a not-so-distant future, where an amusement park allows the rich and wealthy to experience their deepest inhibitions and exhilarations in a synthetic wild-west world. Things go awry, however,  when the synthetic human that inhabit this world start to question the nature of their reality, leading down a rabbit-hole of confusion, death, and existential questions of consciousness. The series was created by Lisa Joy, and stars a host of acclaimed cast including Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Tessa Thompson, James Marsden, and Anthony Hopkins among others. Westworld has completed 2 seasons on HBO, and is halfway through airing its 3rd at time of writing.

To provide a little bit of context to this review, I’m writing this having finished seasons 1 and 2, without having started season 3. I wouldn’t want to review something that hadn’t been seen to its completion, especially a show with as many twists and turns as this one, so this review is essentially covering seasons 1 and 2 only.

This show is an exercise. It’s pretty far and away the most interesting concept and situation on television right now, with a fantastic idea and a narrative strong enough to carry it, but it is undeniably a little bit of brain calisthenics. Westworld is like a high-tech philosophy course, one that asks extremely sophisticated questions about human ethics, the essence of free will, and reality in general. It does it in incredible ways, composed and woven through a fascinating and impossibly entertaining story. If one cares to pay the appropriate attention, Westworld is an unbelievable story. They set up rules and stick to them throughout; the rules are complex, but, once you’ve got them, the plot is a ride you won’t want to get off of. I actually think that the first season of Westworld might be one of the best seasons of television I’ve ever seen, for a lot of reasons. The frickin fantastic concept and plot aside (assuming I’ve been on about that long enough), the characters are great, the writing is fantastic, and everything is executed to perfection. They’ve hit every single note as far as technical sophistication goes; the visuals and music are composed perfectly, the visual tone feels eerily right in the story, and the acting is a little hard to believe in moments. It adds up to a perfect execution of the concept, and the effect of that is hard to overstate. You really, genuinely stop seeing hosts and robots anymore after a point. The emotions come through so deeply, honestly and so raw, it just breaks your heart.

There are 3, maybe 4 twists on this show that are up there with the best I’ve ever seen. Even when you kind of, sort of, see it coming, it still hits you just as hard, maybe harder.  Season 1 is incredible that way, dropping hints at what truly is, convincing you of certain things, timelines and realities, and then showing you what really was all along. I would highlight Anthony Hopkins, who is perfect in every way as Robert Ford, and Evan Rachel Wood, for the sheer acting feat she’s done here, drawing Dolores’ complete arc over the course of 2 seasons. But the show is seemingly filled to the brim with deeply understood characters. Ed Harris is incredible as The Man in Black, with all his mystery and violence that feels like the strangest enigma, right up until you understand everything, all the pain on pain on pain in his past. Thandie Newton’s Maeve is one of the best pieces of writing, with an arc not as varied as Dolores, but much, much more emotionally compelling.

Season 2 is a little bit of a step down from season 1. The mysteries and questions are almost as interesting, but there’s a lot of narrative distraction that doesn’t belong where it is. The big change at the end of season 1 makes the stakes feel a lot more real, which is awesome, but I didn’t much enjoy any of the Shogun part of the story; it felt like a bit of a waste of time if I’m honest, and I feel like they could’ve chosen to do a lot more with the characters involved in that arc than they ended up doing. The Ghost Nation/Indian story started off boring, but got good in a hurry, so that didn’t feel as much a waste as the Shogun bit. The Man in Black took the new mantle as arguably the most interesting character, diving deeper still into his bubbling, red-hot pain and subsequent chase for something that just isn’t there. Still, the whole endgame of the Valley Beyond is a little less interesting and conceptually relevant as compared to season 1’s Maze; it started to turn the story down a slightly more typical path. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as the first season. That said, 1 or 2 of those crazy, mind-bending twists did save themselves for late in season 2, and they paid off pretty damn well. I haven’t started season 3 yet, I have a lot of questions going forward about what is to become of the hosts at large, which I’m hoping will be answered soon, as soon as I finish writing this as a matter of fact.

The show’s philosophical journey is what sets it apart from almost anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a very complex and sophisticated exploration of what my fellow IB students will recognise as “some TOK shit”. But it’s such an interesting discussion of the ideas of freedom, right and wrong, and the nature of consciousness, that I think even they would forgive the incessant questioning of what consciousness is. I’d love to get into the weeds of what the show says it is, but I’d rather not spoil it for anyone who’s yet to see it. It’s an extremely interesting take on the line between consciousness and programming, as well as the potential illusion of free will in the first place. One thing, which they never actually mention in the show but which struck quite a chord for me, was the weight that they give to the idea of nostalgia throughout the show, even if they never call it that by name. Great power is given to actions and places that have happened before, to the past at large, and I think a significant amount of my appreciation for the symbolism of those actions and places comes from my own nostalgia-streak. Aside from that, the show is ripe with interesting motifs and metaphors, the piano that plays itself being the most notable, that play an interesting intellectual role throughout the series.

This is a phenomenal show; one that accomplishes feats of storytelling in a seemingly effortless way, as if it was all lain out beforehand. Its concept, its idea, is incredible, and it has the narrative strength to match it in every way. It is a little bit of a mental workout, you need to pay very close attention to understand the rules of the game in all its intricacies, but once you do, you’ll find yourself bound to an unforgettable and entertaining exploration into the human psyche and consciousness that I’d honestly prescribe absolutely anyone.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 89/100                                                                       Aryamaan’s Score  –

Angrezi Medium: Film Review

Angrezi Medium Starring Irrfan, Kareena Kapoor and Radhika Madan ...

Angrezi Medium is simply Irfan Khan and Deepak Dobriyal all the way through. Apart from their powerful performances, there isn’t much to complement about this comedy venture gone wrong.

The movie revolves around Champak Bansal (Irrfan Khan), a single parent and Udaipur mithai shop owner, who is constantly confused about literally every important life-decision he makes during the duration of the film. There is always some reason to pull him in opposite direction, which doesn’t make a bad foundation idea for a comical film but unfortunately the film doesn’t deliver and definitely does not compete with its predecessor, ‘Hindi Medium.’

Homi Adajania, the director, hasn’t done bad with the screenplay of the film: the main reason for the films downfall. The film had 4 writers, which possibly could’ve been the reason for poor script – too many conflicting ideas and techniques I’d say. It almost seems forced at times and eventually gets slightly repetitive, when the writers keep mining for laughs from Champak Bansal’s severely impaired proficiency in the English language and the hardships he faces because of it. There are multiple ungainly attempts to include laughter throughout the movie, however, Irrfan Khan and Deepak Dobriyal, thanks to their excellent comic timing, do manage to bring in quite a few.

The Champak Bansal’s character is similar to that of Raj Batra in Hindi medium: a well-intentioned individual with a poor ability to speak the English language and would go to any lengths to get his daughter into a respectable educational institution, a university in UK in this case. The character is supposed to be Irrfan Khan’s big return to cinema after nearly a year and a half and he returns with flair but a good performance does not always result in a good film.

Radhika Madan (as Champak Bansal’s daughter) does quite well with her role of a small-town girl with a big dream, but the conflicting impulses that the screenplay forces upon her character take away from her performance and allow Irrfan Khan and Deepak Dobriyal to take the take the spotlight.

All the other supporting actors, in fact, have done quite a decent job with their roles, with Meghna Malik as the school principle, Zakir Hussain as the principle’s husband and the court judge, Ranvir Shorey as the NRI friend and of course Deepak Dobriyal as Champak’s cousin Gopi, but have unfortunately been let down by the screenplay. Dobriyal is a laughter riot and completely lifts the film with his crafty interpretation of Gopi.

The first half of the film is bearable because of Champak’s eccentricity but the film slowly begins to drop in the second half with the narrative device leading to be largely superfluous. When the action moves to London the film urns for the worse. The film searches for comical highs and intense dramatic scenes so hard but to no avail. It adds Kareena Kapoor Khan as a London police officer, Dimple Kapadia as the cop’s mother and even a cameo by Pankaj Tripathi as a human smuggler but it really doesn’t aid the film because their characters simply aren’t developed enough.

The film rides on its actors with Irrfan, in the lead, who transitions effortlessly between emotional, ecstatic and comedic scenes. If the film is genuinely funny in parts, it is due to the lead actor’s ability to salvage whatever he can from the script. Champak’s lingo and the scene where Irrfan, Dobriyal and Kiku Sharda (Champak’s childhood friend) share a whiskey-fuelled conversation are examples of the potential that this film had. All in all, Irrfan returns with a bang and Dobriyal supports him brilliantly but the film does not deliver what was promised.

– Aryamaan Dholakia

Aman’s Score –                                           Aryamaan’s Score – 63/100

The Dragon Prince: TV Review

The Dragon Prince - Wikipedia

‘The Dragon Prince,’ created by Justin Richmond and Aaron Ehasz (Avatar: The Last Airbender), is another great entrant into Netflix’s fantasy arsenal. An epic tale of greed, power, hope and triumph with magical elves, enormous dragons, Kings and princes, political conflicts and an ancient enmity between the Humans and the magical creatures of Xadia, all for the eyes of a 13 year old. Though made for children, this show is a delight for all ages. I saw this show with my 13-year- old sister and I think we both loved the show equally as much. The various characters, sub-plots and gorgeous animations solidifies ‘The Dragon Prince’ s one of the great animated fantasies of our time – trust me, it’s the cutest baby dragon you will ever see. The storyline is as good and effective as the gorgeous animation of the show. You could call it a ‘Game of Thrones’ for children, if you will, but with a much much better end to series (end of season 3 as of now).

Season 1 was relatively slower compared to seasons 2 and 3, setting up the foundation of the show with so many characters, locations, and dynamics in relations and it does a great job to serve its purpose. Prince Callum and Ezran are immediately likeable characters and internal conflict within Rayla is beautifully portrayed. Viren, Soren, Claudia and Amaya are given an equal amount of attention to highlight their characteristics and motives, allowing the young 13-year-olds to choose their favourites. But their views will soon change. King Harrow’s character, in what little time he has on screen, is used brilliantly to evoke sympathy among the audience members, creating an almost immediate dislike towards the elves. But as the season progresses, our views towards each character change, sometimes drastically, and the sides we previously thought were ‘good’ are not any more. Season 1 was a great introduction to the setting of the show, but the slow pace doesn’t allow season 1 to match the heights of season 2 and 3 where majority of the story-line lies. One of the cutest scenes ever, though, is at the end of this season. Trust me, you’ll know.

What follows season 1 is the beginning of a grand adventure that progressively increases our excitement and constantly upends our expectations of the characters and the vast history of the magical world within ‘The Dragon Prince.’ Season 2’s storyline is so dense and characters feel so much closer to you. Callum and Ezran have matured way beyond their years in just a few days, Rayla’s character has got a brilliant backstory and her relations with Callum have grown much closer, Viren’s intentions are getting more clear but we understand his reasons for them, Claudia and Soren are constantly torn apart between the princes and their power-hungry father resulting in probably the best character arcs of the show, while we are introduced to another Villain of the story, Aravos.  Season 2, episode 5 is where things really start building up and the tension, suspense and excitement all quickly increase. “Breaking the Seal” and “Heart of a Titan” are beautiful episodes that will keep you glued to the screen and make so much more sense of every character’s actions. Season 2 was a great follow up to season 1 with not only an emphasis on plot and character building but also a significant leap in animation, making it look even more beautiful than season 1.

Season 3 is the perfect amalgamation of all the various conflicts and adventures together. We are again introduced to many more characters and races (sunfire, skywing and moonshadow elves), who have pivotal roles in the story to come. Every character’s backstory grows even more and so does the lore surrounding this magical, fantastical world. What I was most excited about was that we got to see a lot more of Xadia, the magical lands of elves, dragons and all sorts of magical creatures. The animation is gorgeous making Xadia is astoundingly beautiful, with dragons being these enormous, majestic beasts and these tiny puffballs that are so darn cute (Zym and Bait are still at the top of the chart though). This season emphasizes my favourite aspect of the show: the show is not pure good vs pure evil. The characters are so much more complex. Ezran, Callum and Rayla are purely good of course but what about Viren? We learn that he is not simply a power-hungry mage who is trying to take over the world but has a much deeper, emotional backstory and is simply being nudged over the edge by Aravos. Claudia and Soren too have a much more complicated character arc. It’s anyone’s guess: which side would they take.

Richmond and Ehaz never forget that the primary audience is 13 year-olds. Every episode tends to have a few light-hearted, comical moments to bring a short but much needed break: whether it is Bait or Zym’s cuteness, Ezran’s innocence, Calum and Rayla’s slightly awkward relationship or Soren’s stupidity. The balance between light-hearted and heavier moments is almost perfectly maintained through all 3 seasons.

Like ‘Game of Thrones’ and Ehaz’s previous show, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” ‘The Dragon Prince’ beautifully weaves together stories from the past, further deepening the lore and backstories, which make the present adventures that much more exciting and intriguing. As we learn of the events that connect King Harrow, Viren and the Dragon King, we gain sympathy in surprising places and characters that previously seemed two-dimensional, suddenly find depth. What follows is a story that’s entertaining, funny, heartfelt and often sshocking.

Though primarily for children, I am exceptionally pleased to have another fantasy show made for families that doesn’t hold hands or make everything easy to understand. I like not knowing for sure where any of this is going, and I like that I can sympathize even with characters like Lord Viren, despite his numerous flaws. Characters are constantly bombarded with difficult choices and even the kindest souls have to face problems that good intentions cannot solve.

The show is without doubt one of the best I’ve seen and my sister can vouch for that too (especially season 3). Every character has a backstory we can relate to, providing clarity for why the character is doing something, be it the protagonist or antagonist. And for a 13-year-old to see so many different sides to one person, it is nothing less than an education. They learn to look at the world and the people around them in different perspectives, making them more understanding and empathetic as humans. If you haven’t watched The Dragon Prince yet, do yourself a favor and add it to your queue.

– Aryamaan Dholakia

Aman’s Score –                                                                           Aryamaan’s Score – 85/100

The Social Network: Film Review

The Social Network — Sorkin, Structure, and Collaboration - YouTube

A film that many are demanding a sequel to, given recent events, is 2010’s The Social Network. The film is an interpretation of the events surrounding the development of Facebook and its creator Mark Zuckerberg, notably, the circumstances which led to multiple lawsuits being levied against Mr. Zuckerberg for allegedly stealing the idea for the site and cheating his friend out of the profits. The film was directed by the great David Fincher and written by the possibly greater Aaron Sorkin, who won an Oscar for this particular screenplay. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, and Justin Timberlake among others.

I’ve really tried not to write Sorkin reviews, for fear of the towering shrines to my love for his work they would pretty much inevitably become. I’m deciding to screw that for this particular movie, partly because it’s pretty much the most universally recognized “great film” that he’s done (some of his other stuff might be characterized as an acquired taste by others, definitely not me), and partly because I see nothing wrong with a towering shrine to my love for his work. Aaron Sorkin is, in my opinion, the best writer in the history of the known universe. He’s known best for his soaring, snappy dialogues and characters who value morality and integrity in the work they do above all else. Those characters tend to populate his TV shows, for which he is certainly more acclaimed but doubtfully as well known. For his films, Sorkin has had a tendency to pick up on ‘true stories’ about exceptional, potentially morally ambiguous people who’ve done incredible things, and making sport out of dissecting their psyches and motivations. That pattern brought Sorkin to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, hence The Social Network.

Sorkin himself has been pretty open about the strange first-glance reaction to his pairing with David Fincher of all directors, a legend in his own right. Fincher is best known for creating visual masterpieces, with a insanely methodical filming process geared towards making things visually beautiful, while Sorkin writes “people talking in rooms.” It turns out to be an unbelievably happy marriage of styles, as Fincher’s knack for visual dynamism gives a new kind of rhythm to Sorkin dialogue in The Social Network. For a film that doesn’t lend itself to a variety as far as visual settings go, Fincher does an incredible job making it really easy on the eye to watch. Between some expert filter use and some crazy editing (for which an Oscar was taken home), The Social Network makes visual beauty out of pretty innocuous visuals. That understated feeling of just being nice to look at makes it that much easier to sit back and let the barrage of words that is Sorkin dialogue wash over you. The writing on this film is genius. I mean there are moments when you just sit back and wonder which planet this guy’s from kind of genius. It’s a very different breed of writing from what anyone who’s seen The West Wing might be used to from Sorkin. It’s less soaring and measurably more sarcastic, for the purpose of a very different character from Jed Bartlet. Regardless, the energy and rhythm is still there, it still strikes as hard and as deep, and it still manages to be easy on the ear all at the same time.

Credit certainly has to be given to a spectacular cast that takes the task of working with the two most attention-to-detail-obsessed men in Hollywood into their stride. Criticism on the basis of the accuracy of the portrayals and plot aside (we’ll get to that), Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic at conveying what was meant to be conveyed about Zuckerberg’s character on paper. He’s got a voice and a tone that was made for Sorkin dialogue, and he delivers the socially awkward genius in a way that no one else is capable of (of course it’s a type-caste at this point, but he’s only ever pulled it off). I really enjoyed Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Eduardo Saverin. I know that he’s basically the centre of the criticism of the film in terms of its accuracy, one of the main sources of information being a book that he was consulted on. Again, we’ll get to the accuracy of it all in a second. That aside, Garfield does a pretty stand-up job giving the character legs and likability. Armie Hammer deserves a recognition for his performance as not one but two Winklevoss twins. Aside from contributing to the Oscar for editing, Hammer does a pretty interesting job in making two distinct characters out of the “Winklevii” which I don’t think is acknowledged nearly as much as it ought to be. Justin Timberlake shows some chops in this film, giving Sean Parker a delightful smoothness and face-value appeal. Collectively, the entire cast of this movie contributed to a pretty perfect performance of Sorkin dialogue which just never gets boring.

I also want to get into the narrative structure, which is one other piece of genius to come from the Sorkin himself. One of the things that keeps the story as engaging as it is the back and forth narrative structure between the story and the depositions. The way the story is told through the depositions is really interesting, and, notably, from everyone’s point of view except Mark’s (I promise we’ll get into that in a sec). It keeps the suspense and the pulse of the film, as well as making for a more interesting source of exposition than in most films.

Alright, let’s get to it. The big question surrounding The Social Network is one of accuracy. A few people, many of who were Mark Zuckerberg, have contested the representations of the facts in this film. Zuckerberg contends that the writing makes him come off as mean (a little bit), deceitful (It does), and callous, as well as ignoring a lot of allegedly key details. Sorkin based the screenplay for this film on a book called “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, the primary consultant for which was one Eduardo Saverin. Understandably, people argue that this is the root of the inherent bias in favour of Saverin in the telling of the story, as well as the source of a few key omissions. It’s a hard thing to properly understand, I don’t know that I get to say that I’m particularly in the know about the ‘true’ events of the story, so I don’t want to paint a blanket picture. The reality is I just don’t know, and having seen this film before knowing any of the facts, it’s hard not to be skewed. With that in mind, I think two things. One is that there are certain facts that aren’t deniable, to my understanding, such as the fact that Saverin’s shares were the only ones diluted to allow for new investors. If that’s true, it’s hard to spin anything anywhere else. I guess it’s harder to identify a “fact” like that in the case of the Winklevoss twins, so their situation and representation is a little murkier. The second is that Sorkin has, on multiple occasions, reiterated that the Mark Zuckerberg you see on screen is essentially a fictional character, borne of his personal interpretation of the situation, and isn’t necessarily intended to be an exact replica of the real thing. I can understand that to a certain extent, no biopic has ever been 100% accurate and bias isn’t an inherently bad thing, it’s what allows for different perspectives (hence this review). At the same time, I get the sense that Sorkin saying that is kind of like him saying that The West Wing isn’t making a political statement or supporting a political agenda, or that The Newsroom isn’t telling current News media what they’re doing wrong; similar in that it’s partly valid and partly bullshit. I think it’s not unfair to suggest, based on his work as evidence, that Sorkin has a certain amount of disdain for the Social Media industry, and that’s not going to be a non-factor when you’re writing a movie about them. In my opinion, even that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bias just makes for a point of view, and they’re all valid here. That drags up the question of the ethics of unabashedly putting your point of view in a film, which is always going to make a deeper impression in the court of public opinion than facts and black-and-white text on a page. It’s a difficult thing to understand, especially in a place where the real facts are hard to identify. You could even argue that Zuckerberg’s character has some sympathetic angles, I certainly thought so. There’s more depth to Eisenberg’s portrayal than just a genius jackass, he’s a wounded animal with his experience with Erica Albright, and that spurs him on to do a lot of what he does in the film. That may or may not be accurate, but it’s certainly not a purely assholic representation.

It’s a complicated film, with a complicated story. “But they’re not saying it was badly written.” The Social Network is probably among my favourite films ever, one of those I can watch any number of times without getting bored, which is a testament to the quality and craft of the filmmaking. The subject matter isn’t the kind of thing that would ordinarily put it that high up on my list, but something about it is compelling enough to get me to care a great deal, and my thanks go to David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin for that. With recent developments in the story of Facebook, a not insignificant proportion of people are calling for a sequel to The Social Network. Now that would be something. We have only to wait and watch for the possibility of that. In the meantime, The Social Network is an incredible film which is undeniably worth a watch, or a re-watch if it’s been a while. I promise you, Sorkin and Fincher don’t let it get boring.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 91/100                                                       Aryamaan’s Score –

X-Men Dark Phoenix: Film Review

Amazon.com: X-Men: Dark Phoenix DVD [2019]: Movies & TV

Understood as the final film of the long-running main X-Men timeline, X-Men: Dark Phoenix released last Summer (2019) to a relatively poor box office and critic rating. The film is set after X-Men: Apocalypse, at a time where mutants have been not only accepted as part of society, but hailed as superheroes by a grateful public. A mishap during a mission just outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, however, results in a change in Jean Grey’s power, and the arrival of a force ready to steal her uncontrollable power. The film was written and directed by Simon Kinberg, and stars a full returning cast including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult among others, as well as Jessica Chastain as a newcomer to the franchise.

It took Corona Virus quarantine to get me time to watch this film. I went in with very low expectations, in fact, I’d been putting off watching it, knowing its reputation as a serious disappointment and blemish on an otherwise wonderful franchise. I’ve been a pretty big X-Men fan (“pretty big” extends as far as the movies) for a long time, and I’ve come to prefer the James-McAvoy-Michael-Fassbender era of the story to the originals, which is saying quite a thing. Those two actors, specifically, came into these already fabled roles and really made them their own with their own subtlety and nuance which I’ve come to adore, and it was a shame to hear that it was all to end in a whimper. Having actually seen the film now, I can confirm that it is almost every bit as disappointing as it was billed to be.

The real tragedy is that the bare-bones idea of the film isn’t bad. In fact, bits of it are even really good, well-thought out and interesting as far as the character journeys go. If you’d narrated the plot of Dark Phoenix to me, for example, without giving me dialogue or screen-writing syntax, I’d say it could be a home run, down to pretty specific scene-to-scene detail. The heel of this film was the execution of the idea, from the writing to the realisation of the tone. Everything about how this film was done was a mistake.

Let me give you an example. Raven’s death (which was a little oddly spoiled, in its entirety, in the trailer of the film), was a fantastic thing to do. I’ve always had a lot of respect for writers who have the balls to kill characters, especially one as perpetually relevant as Raven’s, so I tip my hat to Kinberg on a conceptual level. It takes courage to show your audience that there are actual consequences and actual loss that happens in a high-stakes situation like this one (unlike how Marvel has officially lost the whole world’s credibility). The problem crops up in the way that it happened, and the way things happened around it. The actual moment of her death hits hard enough, despite how they tried to ruin it in the trailer, but the way it is received, by Charles specifically, feels too quick and altogether superficial. Charles’ character arc went the distance, but was completely flat. The idea of his hubris in the face of positive attention from the world for the first time is a good idea, but McAvoy hasn’t been given anything in the script to work with to bring his change out in a compelling way.

The script in general is filled to the brim with blunt, clunky dialogue that takes away from the honesty of some of the moments on screen. It’s also sprinkled with kind of a strange brand of throwaway humor which lands as often as it doesn’t, as opposed to very front-and-center comic relief that we had a great time with in the older films. That, mixed with some very over-the-top and very much out-of-place action (find me one reason why he lifted the subway out of the ground) led to a very different feel from the rest of the films in this franchise. Frankly, the entire tone and mood of this film feels like a vastly different product than what we’re used to. A new flavor isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, but it needs to work, well, for it work in a franchise, and to end it with a film that doesn’t feel like an X-Men film is a little bit of a disservice.

Speaking of disservice to the franchise, I have some questions about continuity, relative to the end of Days of Future Past (undisputedly the best film of the franchise in my opinion). Jean is very much alive at the end of that film, as is Charles the headmaster of the school. Assuming this is the same linear timeline (which we’ve been given no reason not to believe is the case), I am left with a fairly simple question, namely: huh? There isn’t an obvious line that connects this film to the end of that film, which was kind of the point of the reset? To then fill in the gaps between the past and present points of time in Days of Future Past? No?

This was a slightly unfortunate ending to a really wonderful franchise that told a wonderful story about some wonderful characters. Again, conceptually, this was a pretty good film. The ideas were more or less right (I didn’t touch on the vague-ness of Jessica Chastain’s villain. Yeah, it was vague and generally not that interesting). The sad fact is that the quality of ideas wasn’t matched with quality of execution. I mean no disrespect to Simon Kinberg, I’ve been a fan of a lot of his work as a writer (some of the older X-Men films, This Means War, Sherlock Holmes, and his contributions to Star Wars Rebels), but there’s no getting around the fact that he missed the ball on this one. I can only look back fondly on the rest of the franchise, and try not to think too hard about this one.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 47/100                                                                             Aryamaan’s Score –