Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Review: Love Aaj Kal

Release date: February 14, 2020
Running time: 142 minutes
Starring: Kartik Aaryan, Sara Ali Khan, Randeep Hooda 

Love Aaj Kal is a strange love story.  It bills itself a journey of love and loss through the phases of reincarnation, but it was tough to tell which phases it is talking about.  The story mostly focuses on Veer (Aaryan) and Zoe (Khan), and their unlikely and slightly tumultuous relationship.  Veer is an odd character and really plays it cool emotionally.  He tries to be there when Zoe needs him, but he rejects her advances numerous times.  The story also heavily features the owner of the business center / cafe that the two hang out at (Hooda), who talks to Zoe about his own love experiences and mistakes.  There are several flashbacks to Hooda's courtship of another lady, and the mistakes that he made along the way.  

As I said, Love Aaj Kal is a strange love story.  Veer is always there for Zoe when she needs him, but he resists her advances constantly, saying that it is not the right time. It is tough to tell but it seems like he is waiting for an idealized situation, or for Zoe to give herself completely to him.  As a result, he can be cool and slightly cruel in many instances.  He clearly cares for her, but his attitude and demeanor send a mixed message.  He also starts off the movie by slightly stalking her, which was off putting to say the least.  I think it was supposed to be humorous but it sent a mixed message to start the movie.  I think the mixed message and offputting situations are a result of the film's story and not a fault of the actors; both Aaryan and Khan do a great job as their respective characters.  Aaryan could be very likable if his character was, and Khan is a fun to watch as a no holds barred Zoe.  Additionally, these characters are bolstered by some very good music to set the tone of the film.  The pieces of Love Aaj Kal seem to be there but they just don't come together well.  

I think the main flaw is that the central message here is lost.  The movie is less about romance and love and more about Veer waiting for Zoe to come to him fully.  It doesn't send a great message or really highlight a great or realistic love scenario, especially when Zoe seeks Veer's help only to have him say now is not the right time.  And there are also many weird instances with Veer, where he will ignore her during her times of need.  I do think that a movie focusing on the balance of love and career is an admirable one, and Love Aaj Kal tries to balance this, but for some reason the story just doesn't seem to work.  It also seems like for a movie with so much good writing and conversation, that a simple conversation between Veer and Zoe could have allayed much of the tension.  The movie's pacing is also off, which can be a problem for a 2+ hour movie.  The flashbacks are nice to segment the movie, but the film progresses at a very slow pace.  If this movie was in your Valentine's Day plans, you might want to try a different film and wait to see this at home.

Love Aaj Kal is an odd love story with leads that do a great job as their characters in a confusing, slowly paced story.   

Rent It

Review: Fantasy Island

Release date: February 14, 2020
Running time: 110 minutes
Starring: Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, Charlotte McKinney, Portia Doubleday

Fantasy Island is a remake of the 70s TV series of the same name.  As you would expect from a Blumhouse film, the 2020 remake has a strong horror aspect.  In the film, five strangers win a trip to Fantasy Island, where their deepest (and darkest) fantasies can come true.  However, they quickly realize that their fantasies are going farther than they thought, and many have a decidedly dark turn to them.  

I don't think anyone was clammoring for a Fantasy Island remake, but I appreciate what Blumhouse did.  They took a property that was not on many people's minds and remade it in their image.  It reminds me of Visceral Games and their attempt to make an action game centered on Dante's Inferno.  Fantasy Island is creative and different, and has some solid suspense for the first part of the movie.  The five strangers each have very different desires, and it is fun to see their different fantasies come to fruition.  The fantasies also begin to cross into each other, and seeing this chaos is enjoyable.  

And these fantasies are all beautifully shot.  The tropical scenes are gorgeous and the island scenes make you feel like you are on a tropical paradise.  Additionally, the fantasy scenes are imaginative and varied.  One fantasy is in a giant party, another is in a torture dungeon, and another is at a high end restaurant.  Each of these is different enough that it adds variety to what could have been a fairly homogeneous film.  However, as with many horror films, Fantasy Island takes an unexpected turn late in the movie.  It pivots very quickly and leads to an unsatisfying ending that seems rushed.  I understand the story, but some of the decisions don't seem to fit with earlier choices the characters make.  It is definitely a surprise ending, but it doesn't make much sense as a wrap up.  However, despite the generally poor reviews, it is still a fun journey and one that I would recommend you see at home.

Fantasy Island is a creative and different remake of the 70s TV series, one that takes the general idea and puts its own dark twist on it.  

Rent It

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Deal: Doctor Sleep in 4K for $10

Deal alert!  Doctor Sleep in 4K / UHD is on sale at various digital retailers.  The follow up to the Shining, Doctor Sleep was a surprisingly good and worthy follow up to the Kubrick classic.  And despite this movie being a critical success, it was not embraced by moviegoers.  It seems that the home release is also suffering given the quick price cut.  $10 for a new, Movies Anywhere film in 4K is a great price!  Additionally, keep in mind that this also includes the Directors Cut, which adds a half hour of footage to the original film, making this an even better deal!

To purchase at your favorite Movies Anywhere retail, follow this link.

For more information about Doctor Sleep, check out our review here!

Review: To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

Release date: February 12, 2020
Running time: 101 minutes
Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You ("To All The Boys 2") picks off right where the first film left off.  Covey (Condor) is adjusting to life with a boyfriend and all the good and bad that comes with it, only to have another letter from her past come back in full swing.  Now Covey must decide what to do with this new information and potential new crush.  

To All The Boys I've Loved Before was a fun high school drama that presented a likable character trying to cope with her deepest secret all of the sudden becoming very public.  To All The Boys 2 is slightly different in that Covey's secret is already out and she is trying to navigate this new world she is in.  On top of that, another boy from Covey's secret crushes enters the picture and messes with her internal emotions.  The story has plenty of high school drama, with all the angst and awkwardness that entails.  However, the movie is not too complex or gut-wrenching, it still has the same feel of the first film.  Even in the first movie, after Covey's secret letters are sent, it was more comical than cringey, and this movie has a very similar tone.  There are definitely cringe-worthy moments, but the overall film is a fun high school drama.  

It is really fun to revisit the characters we saw from the first film, however, since it picks off right from the end of the first movie, they haven't changed much.  The movie is a straight continuation of the first one, so if you liked the story and characters from the first, you will like this one.  Additionally, the new characters that are introduced are a welcome addition, adding a new layer to the story and drama.  The writing and situations of the film are fun to watch.  Sure, these high schoolers are way more in touch with complex emotions and are more emotionally mature than any high schoolers I have seen (a point which has a slight joke during this movie), but they have to be to allow this relationship drama movie to feel so fun.  There are some emotional scenes, but overall you get an entertaining, light-hearted, and lightweight film.  

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You introduces a new character to the wonderful cast of the first film and progresses the story of this lighthearted teenage drama. 

Rent It

Friday, February 14, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: February 14, 2020

In Theaters: Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog is an entertaining re-imagining of the classic video game.  It's wonderful performances, great special effects, and plenty of humor and callbacks to the game will quickly entertain you!  For more information, check out our review!

In Theaters: The Photograph
The Photograph tells a fresh romantic drama, with realistic characters in a modern story layered with an amazing jazz and hip-hop soundtrack and believable dialog.  For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Ford v Ferrari
Ford v Ferrari is a high octane experience with fantastic acting, a compelling story, and a combination of exhilarating sound and heart pumping race scenes that will make you think you are on the track!  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You
The follow up to Netflix's surpisingly entertaining teen rom-com continues the story of the characters that we met in the first movie and fans of the original should definitely put this on their Valentine's schedule.  And if you haven't seen the first one, make sure to check that out first! 

Streaming (Vudu Free With Ads): La La Land
La La Land is a celebration modern day Los Angeles and tells the story of two people pursuing their dreams in a city that is known to either make those come true, or crush them mercilessly.  This story is set against a backdrop of music and style that is intoxicating and exciting.   

Streaming (Amazon): Pati Patni Aur Woh
Pati Patni Aur Woh has entertaining moments with a likable cast who are put in some very ridiculous situations.  However, the film's rush to conclusion and desire to shoehorn a happy ending hurts the overall message.  For more information, check out our review!

Review: The Photograph

Release date: February 14, 2020
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Issa Rae, Chelsea Peretti 

The Photograph tells an unrealistic romantic drama with realistic characters.  Michael (Stanfield) is a talented writer working on a story about loss in Louisiana.  Mae (Rae) is an art museum curator who happens to be the daughter of a talented photographer.  The two's paths cross due to Mae's mother's photography, leading the two into a complicated relationship.  

The Photograph's main story is actually two stories in one: part of it is the story of Michael and Mae; the other part is an important relationship for Mae's mother.  These stories are told in increments, with flashbacks from the main story occurring to flesh out more of Mae's mother's life.  Despite these stories taking place decades apart, they deal with similar themes.  Learning more about Mae's mother's life helps to understand Mae's perspective; seeing the choices and sacrifices she made helps flesh out Mae's character.  And these characters are very well realized.  They thankfully do not follow your typical relationship movie tropes and feel much more authentic than you would normally get.  Aside from Michael and Mae, there are a few additional characters that help move the story and Michale and Mae's relationship along.  Additionally, some provide comic relief, particularly Michael's brother (Lil Rel Howery).  His lines and entertainment are especially entertaining and his humor helps to humanize these characters.  

These realistic characters also have mostly believable dialog.  There are some cheesy romantic movie lines, but for the most part the dialog is smart and well thought out.  But one of the most impressive aspects of this film is the soundtrack.  There is a mix of jazz, blues, and hip-hop (sometimes in the same songs) to really provide some exciting ambiance to the film.  The soundtrack is not overpowering, but it is essentially to set the mood and give insight into what is happening on screen.  The one negative about The Photograph is that the story is a long one with some pacing issues.  The movie starts off slowly, which I appreciate, but unfortunately slows down in the middle of the film as well.  However, this should not dissuade you from seeing this film.  The Photograph provides a fresh perspective on a romantic drama, with an all black cast and some aspects that take sharp deviations from your typical romantic movie plot.  

The Photograph provides a fresh romantic drama, with realistic characters in a modern story layered with an amazing jazz and hip-hop soundtrack and believable dialog.

Watch It

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review: Downhill

Release date: February 14, 2020
Running time:  86 minutes
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Miranda Otto

Downhill is the 2020 remake of the 2014 Swedish Film "Force Majeure" where we follow Billie (Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete Staunton (Ferrell) as they embark on a family vacation with their two sons to an Austrian ski resort.  But during this family vacation, a reaction to an avalanche puts their marriage to the ultimate test as each questions the other's choices, the protection of their family, and their feelings for one another. 

Will Ferrell has a pretty recognizable type of over the top humor, but in this movie it was turned down a notch.  Thankfully, although his humor was muted, his facial expressions and mannerisms were not.  It was nice to see his character here to add some diversity to his roles.  It is also worth noting that Will Ferrell and Julia Louise-Dreyfus have good on-screen chemistry.  In fact both of them did excellent jobs in their roles: they were able to capture the emotional turmoil that they were going through in a believable manner, which helps the audience empathize with what they are going through.  

This dark comedy has a good amount of humor and laughs, however it is tough for me to see what the target audience of this is given its Valentine's release date.  It is not a traditional date movie, and although the dialogue and scenarios are realistic, it is tough to get invested in these characters.  The beautiful shots of Austrian mountains are a huge plus for anyone who loves seeing beautiful scenery, but those views are put against a dark comedy and plenty of awkward tension.  Additionally, the story seems to swirl downhill only to lead to a far too convenient conclusion, hurting my overall enjoyment of the film.  I would have liked for them to fully explore some of the themes, rather than tying up this relatively short movie. 

Considering a very competitive opening holiday weekend, this movie might have to wait till you reach the bottom of the slope for you to view.  Downhill has interesting roles for its two stars set against a realistic story and beautiful scenery for this relationship dark comedy.  

Rent It

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Review: Malang

Release date: February 7, 2020
Running time: 135 minutes
Starring: Aditya Roy Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Disha Patani

Malang is a new thriller that is essentially two distinct movies blended together.  It is one part youth exploration film, where two people meet in Goa and live their best life partying, experimenting, enjoying their freedom, and slowly conquering their worldly fears.  It is also a thriller about a seemingly superhuman killer hunting down cops on December 24.  These two movies intertwine throughout, providing context to one another and pulling you deeper into the madness that is Malang. 

The visual style of Malang is really a sight to behold.  Especially during the party scenes, the colors and effects really pop off the screen.  Neon lights, glowing paint, various drug-induced effects, they all contribute to a visual style that lets you experience what the youths in the film are.  Outside of the party scenes, there are some beautiful scenes exploring Goa.  And even in the darker parts of the movie, the visual style is apparent.  Colors will pop, including lots of neon placed at the right times.  The fight scenes use an appropriate amount of slow motion and other effects (lots of rain and other water) to really make them feel impactful.  This impact is helped along by some great sounds.  Not only some fantastic music during the party scenes, but some bone crunching effects during the fights and action.  And although there is a decent amount of violence, it is never too pronounced or over the top.   

The story of Malang is well done, aside from one complaint.  The film weaves the two disparate stories together well, and slowly reveals aspects of both stories to the viewer.  The thriller side of the film is really interesting, and some of the reveals happen at just the right time.  However, there is one turn in the movie that just feels like it is too over the top.  It really dampened what is an otherwise very enjoyable story.  It was critical to the overall plot of the film, but I feel like it could have either been altered to something less extreme or have been foreshadowed more during the film.  However, that being said Balang was one of the more enjoyable films I have seen out of Bollywood.  It has a very good story and also embraces some aspects of youth culture that are often hidden away in Hindi films.  

Unleash the madness with Malang's wonderful visuals, bone crunching sound, and story that will keep you guessing!

Watch It

Monday, February 10, 2020

Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

Release date: February 14, 2020
Running time: 99 minutes
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ben Schwartz, James Marsden

Who would have thought that a movie based on a 90s videogame with a less than stellar recent track record would be good?  I definitely didn't think so after the debacle of the first trailer.  But thankfully, the Sonic movie is a really fun movie!  It quickly endears itself to you with enough references and callbacks to the film to keep you entertained.  In it, Sonic is an alien from another planet blah blah, who cares!  The story itself, like most sonic video games, is only a vehicle for good effects, a sense of speed, and the hedgehog putting himself into ever more perilous moments.  

The hearts of this movie really comes from two sources.  The first is the enjoyable camaraderie between Sonic (perfectly voiced by Schwartz) and Sheriff Wachowski (Marsden).  The two play off each other well with Sonic speaking quickly, telling good and bad jokes, and getting into all sorts of trouble.  Marsden, is the perfect foil to Schwartz, a calmer, more confident figure to counteract Sonic's crazy style.  Schwartz does a fantastic job as Sonic and really seems to get the character and his mannerisms.  The other source is Jim Carrey's amazing performance as Dr. Robotnik.  It seems like the filmmakers just told him to go crazy and do what he wanted to.  He has some really funny lines, some outbursts that come from nowhere, and even a part where he just dances during his evil plan.  It doesn't always make sense for the character, but it is always enjoyable.  In fact, most of the Sonic movie doesn't really tie itself to the video games, and that is a good thing.  The filmmakers took the characters and many of the elements, and rather than being saddled by them, made a thoroughly enjoyable film on top of them.  

As with the Sonic video games, Sonic the Hedgehog has really good effects and an amazing sense of speed.  The risk in a computer generated film is that the CG can break your immersion, but here they do just enough to bring Sonic to life without pulling you out of the movie.  And as you would expect from a film based on a video game series, the movie also has plenty of throwbacks to the Sonic games.  From ring sound effects, to actual rings, to some animations and expressions that are inspired by the video game, there is definitely enough nostalgia here to please Sonic fans.   

Sonic the Hedgehog is an entertaining re-imagining of the classic video game.  It's wonderful performances, great special effects, and plenty of humor and callbacks to the game will quickly entertain you!

Watch It

Thursday, February 6, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: February 7, 2020

In Theaters: Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey is a triumphant breakout for Harley Quinn, a wild celebration of this character filled with bold style, entertaining action, a wonderful cast, and plenty of craziness.  For more information, check out our review!

In Theaters: The Traitor
The Traitor is an Italian mob epic, with amazing acting, a brutal and compelling story, and perfect music that will keep you engaged until the final shot.  For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Playing With Fire
Playing With Fire takes a very funny cast, ridiculous situations, and lots of funny moments and tells a silly but heartwarming story that the whole family will love!  For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep pairs a stellar cast, with a big score, and enough nostalgia from the original movie to keep you entertained.  Whether you are a fan of the novel or have seen Kubrick's original masterpiece, you will thoroughly enjoy Doctor Sleep. For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Showtime): The Best of Enemies
A historical film starring two amazing actors playing very different characters, The Best of Enemies tells the story of the clash between a civil rights advocate and a leader in the local Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina during school integration.  This was an underappreciated film in theaters and should not be missed now!

Streaming (HBO): John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
John Wick Chapter 3 is an action-packed new chapter in the John Wick saga.  It has John Wick's trademark flair, brutal and imaginative action, and continues the assassin's story against ever increasing odds.  For more information, check out our review!

Review: Birds of Prey

Release date: February 7, 2020
Running time: 109 minutes
Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

After 2016's less than stellar Suicide Squad, DC decided to make a clean break from that movie's Joker... twice!  It made a dark, serious origin story in 2019's Joker; and it salvaged the best thing from Suicide Squad for a separate movie featuring Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn.  And wow was that a great decision.  Whereas the Joker is a dark descent into one person's madness, Birds of Prey is an explosive celebration of Harley Quinn's craziness and individuality.  After her final breakup with Mr. J, Harley Quinn decides to set out on her own.  However, she finds that life without the Joker is tougher and more dangerous than she originally thought.  She has to quickly learn some very dangerous lessons in order to survive in her new solo lifestyle.

The main draw of Birds of Prey is Robbie's fantastic portrayal of Harley Quinn.  She has the right combination of ruthlessness, humor, charm, and pure craziness to bring the iconic DC character to life.  Quinn is both predictable and unpredictable at the same time.  I'm glad that Suicide Squad was made because it gave birth to this badass lady who will hopefully appear in more DC movies.  Robbie is joined by an eclectic group of other leading ladies who are all insanely different making for an unlikely, but very interesting cast.  None of them are your typical villain or hero, but they each have their motivations for being pulled into the gravitational craziness that is Harley Quinn.  One is a cop who ends up investigating Harley, there is a singer and a pickpocket who both run into Quinn, and a vengeful assassin (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead who is especially engaging as the Huntress).  Each of these ladies' backstories are explored briefly; it is a nice touch but doesn't make you lose focus from the main star.   

However, outside of the stellar cast, Birds of Prey has style in droves.  There are bold color choices throughout that give the movie a comic book feel despite the realistic, New York setting.  Some scenes have splashes of color that pop off the screen; it's not in your face but it is enough to make you appreciate the comic book origins of this film.  Additionally, the costume choices--especially Quinn's--are bright and deliberate.  Birds of Prey also has a surprising amount of action, with varied and imaginative fight sequences.  The fight choreography is not lighting quick, but it is very creative, uses the unique environments and skills of the various characters, and will leave you very entertained.  Whether it's Quinn taking on a group of overconfident thugs, or an imaginative chase scene involving some pretty whacky antics, the action in this film delivers both fun and thrills.  And all of this is complemented by some really great musical choices, both atmospheric music and covers of known songs to fit this movie's style. 

Birds of Prey is a triumphant breakout for Harley Quinn, a wild celebration of this character filled with bold style, entertaining action, a wonderful cast, and plenty of craziness.  

Watch It

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Review: The Traitor

Release date: January 31, 2020
Running time: 145 minutes
Starring: Pierfrancesco Favino, Luigi Lo Cascio, Fausto Russo Alesi

The traitor tells the story of a real life mob boss, Tommaso Buscetta who was an Italian mobster in Sicily and Brazil during the 1960s and 1970s.  However, a series of brutal attacks on his family lead him to become a police informant, putting himself and his remaining family at serious risk.

This movie has multiple parts, first as a background for a mob boss and the brutal attacks that happened to his family.  Then it turns into more of an investigative, legal drama, as Buscetta becomes an informant.  These two very different themes are handled perfectly; although there is a clean break between the two main parts, there are some flash backs that occur at various times that help tie everything together.  The crux of all of this is Favino's amazing portrayal of Buscetta; Favino has a quiet confidence and a demeanor that shines through in his performance and really feels true to the man that he is portraying.  However, despite Favino being the star, the entire cast is fantastic.  Their portrayal of a variety of mafia members and family members really sets the tone early.  Additionally, Alesi as Judge Falcone is another stellar performance that really helps to move the story along.  

Everything about this movie contributes to its mood.  The cinematography, the action, the sounds or lack thereof, all help to tell this intriguing story.  The music is especially engaging and is perfectly placed to set the mood of the shot or evoke feelings.  The story itself is compelling and the fact that it is based on a true story helps you feel invested in the characters and their plight.  And the legal scenes, although they could have been fairly boring, are lively and an interesting contrast from American legal dramas.  The Italian court system is a very different world and I really enjoyed this dramatic peak into it.  The only problem with the film is that it seems to cut some corners in terms of story telling and have some very quick transitions at times.  But this is understandable for a movie that is two and a half hours long already.

The Traitor is an Italian mob epic, with amazing acting, a brutal and compelling story, and perfect music that will keep you engaged until the final shot.  

Watch It

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Screening: Downhill

Opening on February 14

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Will Ferrell
Zach Woods
Zoë Chao
Miranda Otto

Inspired by the motion picture FORCE MAJEURE by Ruben Östlund

Running Time: 1 hour 26 min
Rating: R

Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell star in this biting comedy. 

Searchlight Pictures presents DOWNHILL, directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash from a screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, and Faxon & Rash; starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Zach Woods, Zoë Chao, Miranda Otto and Kristofer Hivju. Louis-Dreyfus also produces, along with Anthony Bregman and Stefanie Azpiazu. It is inspired by the acclaimed 2014 Swedish film FORCE MAJEURE.

The filmmaking team includes director of photography Danny Cohen, production designer David Warren, costume designer Kathleen Felix-Hager and music by Volker Bertelmann.

Screening Details:

Tuesday, February 11th
7:00 PM
AMC Mazza Gallerie
Be sure to Like and Follow Watch or Pass on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and share with your friends!

As always, screenings are first-come, first-served so please arrive early to ensure you get a seat.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Review: Gul Makai

Release date: January 24, 2020
Running time: 132 minutes
Starring: Reem Shaikh, Divya Dutta, Atul Kulkarni 

Gul Makai is a dramatic nonfiction telling of the events leading to the Taliban takeover of Pakistan and the eventual attack on student activist Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was shot because she wanted to go to school.  Malala started blogging on BBC Urdu under the pseudonym Gul Makai, detailing the oppression that her hometown faced under the Taliban.  

Although Gul Makai is advertised as a Malala biopic, and it does detail the oppression faced by her and her village, the film is more focused on the Taliban takeover of Pakistan.  We only briefly meet Malala during the first hour of the film, with most of that focused on the brutality and religious ideology of the Taliban as it terrorized Pakistan.  Even after we meet Malala, there is little told about her or her courageous effort, as the film keeps going back and forth between her and the struggle of the military and insurgents to fight the Taliban.  It is a strange balance, and one that I do not think works.  The film really does paint a great picture of the grim conditions that Pakistan existed in under the Taliban, and the abject violence that occurred to enforce their religious ideology, but it unfortunately does not do a great job of highlighting its main subject.  Even the horrific event that led to the international community finally taking notice of Malala and her plight is only briefly shown.

The actual fighting is mostly well done, with lots of gunplay and some big explosions as both the Taliban grab land in Pakistan and as the military fights back against them.  There are some goofs, such as soldier's "firing" by vibrating their guns, but overall it does paint a picture of the violence that occurred in this time.  It also does a fantastic job of painting the sheer brutality of it all, but I also wonder how much was real and how much was for dramatic effect.  The acting is good, if overly dramatic.  The highlight is Malala's father, who portrays a brave, determined person doing all he can for his village and the girls who only want an education.  This film is in a tough place, because it does a good job of portraying what led to the infamous attack on Malala, but it does not do a great job of portraying the main character.  There is very little shown of her blogging and the effort she made to get the international community to notice her plight. 

Gul Makai paints a grim picture of the Taliban takeover of Pakistan, and the infamous event that led to Malala Yousafzi receiving international attention. 

Rent It