• Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar

    Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar

    ★★★★★

    Aamir Khan and a bicycle race? It’s like this movie was made for me.

  • Two Acres of Land

    Two Acres of Land

    ★★★★½

    How appropriate that a film based on “The Bicycle Thief” would also have a title whose English translation isn’t quite right. A masterful blend of melodrama and neo-realism.

  • Burrow

    Burrow

    ★★★½

    If my 4-year-old were an Oscar voter, this one would win the whole thing. Easily the most-requested bedtime short since its release back in December, Burrow still holds up. Cute in all the right ways, I’m bumping this half a star.

  • Devdas

    Devdas

    ★★★½

    Sanjay Leela Bhansali turns up the opulence and spectacle to 11 here, and SRK, Aishwarya Rai, and Madhuri Dixit certainly add the beauty and star power, but this much-celebrated take on the Devdas story does little to elevate itself over Bimal Roy’s 1950s classic version. Choosing a different opening for the story had me excited for possible new directions Bhansali might take this story, and the technical skill, production design, costuming, et al are all second to none. Still, my Bhansali problem continues, and the whole affair feels a bit inert and empty.

  • Devdas

    Devdas

    ★★★½

    My first Bimal Roy film, Devdas is an Indian literary and cinematic classic—and for good reason. Star-crossed love and substance abuse drive this narrative, but unlike Gaga, Garland, or Streisand... no star is born in the end. Having not yet seen Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s epic take on this story or Anurag Kashyap’s modern update, Roy’s classic felt like the right introduction to this famous love triangle. Dilip Kumar gives a brilliant performance as the titular Dev, while both leading ladies and Roy’s impressive direction & cinematography shine.

  • Dabangg

    Dabangg

    ★★

    With a title that sounds like a Kid Rock lyric or a Sisqo song title (and a story that is about as deep as either), Dabangg is campy action fun. Salman Khan is too stiff here to really sell his protagonist, and there’s a tonal issue where the film plays itself a little too straight when it would probably work better as a comedy. Still, there are a few nice dance numbers, and Salman’s parkour scenes are fun. Dabangg is a surprising FilmFare winner, but it probably won’t stop me from checking out the rest of the series sometime.

  • WandaVision

    WandaVision

    ★★★

    When it spoofs decades of TV sitcom history from the 1950s to the 21st century, WandaVision is a blast. Olsen and Bettany are clearly having a ton of fun here, and their campy performances carry the show. Unfortunately, once the series remembers it’s a Marvel product, and, as a result, must force itself to connect to a larger whole and serve some larger, money-grabbing purpose... it kind of loses its way. As a sitcom homage, WandaVision is a winner; as a Marvel extension, it’s more of the same.

  • The United States vs. Billie Holiday

    The United States vs. Billie Holiday

    ★½

    With The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Based on the Novel, ‘Chasing the Scream: the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs’ by Johann Hari), director Lee Daniels returns to the same miserable filmmaking that turned me off to his work completely with Precious. There’s simply no story here, and no real appreciation for Billie Holiday the artist, reducing her monumental impact on popular music to “Strange Fruit” and some graphic scenes of drug addiction. This isn’t Andra Day’s fault; she’s clearly giving her all in the performance, and the vocal work is impressive, but the whole film is a colossal mess.

  • Badlapur

    Badlapur

    ★★★

    An excellent premise, a jaw-dropping opening segment, and an overall well-paced revenge thriller are ultimately let down by a script rife with misogyny. Still, Sriram Raghavan is clearly one of the most talented filmmakers working in India today, and Badlapur showcases many of his talents, even if I was less onboard than with Andhadhun and Johnny Gaddar.

  • Mera Naam Joker

    Mera Naam Joker

    ★★★★★

    After a few days of letting this one settle in, I'm upping to 5 stars. Mera Naam Joker is a pitch-perfect triptych of melodrama, expertly navigated by director-star Raj Kapoor. It's hard not to see this as a melancholic reflection on Kapoor's own, monumental influence on the Hindi film industry, which adds depth and poignancy. As someone never particularly interested in clowns or circuses, it's a testament to Kapoor's brilliance here that Mera Naam Joker held my rapt attention for over 4 hours. A masterpiece.

  • Shree 420

    Shree 420

    ★★★★

    With Shree 420, director-star Raj Kapoor borrows a page or two from Chaplin before adding a uniquely Indian twist that is all his own. With a timeless story, quality performances from Kapoor and Nargis, and an all-time Bollywood number in "Mera Joota Hai Japani," Shree 420 is another solid entry in Kapoor's strong filmography as a director.

  • Mr. SOUL!

    Mr. SOUL!

    ★★★½

    Mr. Soul! is a documentary film that manages to stay interesting on the strength of its subject matter alone, despite some straightforward, bland filmmaking. The interviews and performance footage from the original Soul! series are timeless and engaging enough to carry the documentary, and the talking heads do their part to add context and cement the legacy of Ellis Hazlip and the show. My only wish is that some of the performances were allowed to go on longer.