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‘Turning Red’: Filmmaker Domee Shi made history by being the first woman ever to helm a feature film for Pixar with this coming-of-age tale that is groundbreaking for many reasons. At the centre of the story is a quirky Chinese Canadian teenager Meilin ‘Mei’ Lee who faces a unique crossroad after a particularly explosive fight with her overbearing mum. After having a magical dream, Mei realises that she turns into a giant red panda whenever she experiences a strong emotion. The transformation into the animal was explicitly a metaphor for puberty and Shi approached the topic with sensitivity and humour, making for a refreshing movie that everyone should watch. (Streaming on Disney+)
Image Credit: Disney/Pixar
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‘Elvis’: If one word could describe Baz Luhrmann’s biopic about the ‘King of Rock and Roll’, it would be ‘electrifying’. Actor Austin Butler deftly steps into the roll as Elvis Presley while veteran star Tom Hanks plays his manager Colonel Tom Parker. The movie is as big and audacious as the real-life legend that it’s based on — there’s lots of colour, lights, glamour and action; much like Luhrmann’s famed 2001 spectacle ‘Moulin Rouge!’ One thing the movie can be criticised for is its glossing over of Presley’s less flattering angles — such as the fact that his fame rests on the work of Black American musicians, and the age gap between him and his wife Priscilla. (UAE cinemas)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
3 of 10
‘The Black Phone’: Horror movies with children as the protagonists have been done before, but there’s something extra special about Scott Derrickson’s thriller starring newcomer Mason Thames and Ethan Hawke. Thames plays mild-mannered teenager Finney, whose sister Gwen has supernatural abilities. Their community is shocked by a series of kidnappings take place and Gwen starts having dreams about the boys who’ve gone missing. One day, Finney himself falls victim to The Grabber and is trapped in this masked villain’s basement. However, a disconnected phone begins to ring and on the other line Finney hears the voices of the Grabber’s past victims as they guide him on how to escape. It’s eerie and tragic, but also a movie that celebrates the resilience of kids and the love siblings have for each other. (UAE cinemas)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures
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‘Hustle’: Adam Sandler is most associated with comedic movies where he isn’t taking himself too serious. However, in the recent past he’s picked movies that have showcased his depth as a performer. His latest Netflix film is one such project that sees Sandler explore his more humane and sensitive side. He pays tired and jaded NBA scout Stanley Sugerman who stumbles upon a talented player from Spain, Bo Cruz (played by real-life professional basketball player Juancho Hernangomez). It’s now Sugerman’s job to get Cruz out his troubled life and ready for the NBA draft. It can go down the a typical mentor and scholar route, but the story is infused with a real love for the sport and an authenticity that elevates it.
Image Credit: Netflix
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‘Belfast’: Famed filmmaker and actor Kenneth Branagh says this movie is one of his most personal, and it certainly shows. The black and white movie is based on his own childhood at the beginning of the conflict in Northern Ireland, called The Troubles, in 1969. It’s a slow movie that chronicles the life of a little working class Protestant family. The story focuses on the family’s youngest son Buddy, who realises that his surroundings are changing when the homes and business of Catholic families on his street are attacked. Rhetoric against his neighbours are expressed openly and the kid is left confused by his own family’s struggles to survive while rebelling against hate. It’s a moving film that reveals its message so subtly and quietly that it leaves you shocked.
Image Credit: AP
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‘Top Gun: Maverick’: Rarely has a sequel surpassed its predecessor in terms of storytelling, especially one as iconic as ‘Top Gun’, which released 35 years ago and made Tom Cruise a bona fide star. With ‘Maverick’, Tom Cruise slips on his Ray-Bans once again and takes flight with a story about love, honour and redemption. Even at 60, Cruise goes toe-to-toe with a new group of cadets proving on screen and in real life why he’s counted on as the biggest star in the world today. However, credit must be given to director Joseph Kosinski whose flight into this adrenaline-charged adventure, in such a tight formation, leaves barely any room for criticism. Don’t be surprised that $1 billion box-office earner finds its place on the Academy Awards nominations list this year.
Image Credit: Universal Pictures
7 of 10
‘The Batman’: Unspooling like a modern-day horror, ‘The Batman’ was always designed to shock and director Matt Reeves left no stone unturned to throw his audience into the belly of the beast that was Gotham, ripped apart at its very heart with greed and corruption. Reeves rips off the kid gloves to go darker, bolder to create a Batman that walks the fine line between a hero and a villain. Robert Pattinson’s Batman or Vengeance, as he calls himself, is so much more that any one of us could have envisioned him to be. His bitterness, his pain and the memories that haunt him are the fuel that keep him patrolling the streets of Gotham at night, each of which are etched in Pattinson’s every expression and body language. Yet, it’s Paul Dano’s Riddler that lingers long after, a character so genuinely disturbing that he even makes Jigsaw’s brutality in the ‘Saw’ movies appear like child’s play.
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Entertainment
8 of 10
‘Scream’: Twenty-five years after a string of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer dons the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers in a bid to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past. Using their intense appreciation for the characters created by Kevin Williamson in the original franchise, director duo of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have some bloody good fun in unleashing Wes Craven’s masterpiece on a new generation of audience, combing legacy heroes with newbies to take the franchise forward. While such attempts usually fail in conception, the directors hit jackpot with this one.
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures/Spyglass Media
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‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’: A film can’t doesn’t get more meta than this, or have so much fun while doing it. Nicolas Cage plays, err, Nick Cage in this action-comedy, or rather, a fictionalised version of himself who is facing financial ruin. In a bid to fill-up up his coffers, Cage accepts a $1 million offer to attend the birthday of a dangerous superfan (Pedro Pascal). Things take a wildly unexpected turn when Cage is recruited by a CIA operative (Tiffany Haddish) and forced to live up to his own legend. Director-screenwriter Tom Gormican keeps the gags coming, but its Cage who owns every scene of this epic adventure.
Image Credit: Lionsgate
10 of 10
‘The Tinder Swindler’: Released in the lead up to February 14 (we see you Netflix), there couldn’t be a more anti-Valentine film than ‘The Tinder Swindler’, which unspooled like a real-life horror movie. In a world of internet dating, a group of women are out for their pound of flesh when they are swindled out of millions by conman who they met through a dating app. Bent on revenge, the women band together to hunt him down and recover their money. Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned, or so the adage goes, and the Felicity Morris-directorial is proof of this.
Image Credit: Netflix