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‘The Holdovers’ Review | Paul Giamatti, Alexander Payne Reunite For This Year’s Most Beautiful and Poignant Comedy

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Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa in 'The Holdovers' (Focus Features)

“They don’t make them like that anymore” is one sentence that we hear a lot when it comes to cinematic brilliance. Most of the times, it is used for titles that might be considered a classic. Sadly, this sentence is being used too often these days and even for those projects, that might not even qualify. However, Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers is undoubtedly one of the movies that deserves to be called an instant classic and I can wholeheartedly say: “They don’t make them like that anymore.”

The holiday season has arrived and audiences want to see movies that makes them feel that holiday spirit. Although it is very rare to see both these qualities in the movies these days, ‘The Holdovers’ has quietly gained popularity among cinephiles this holiday season, emerging as one of the year’s best films among audiences.

The movie is set in a boy’s boarding school in New England in 1970. Paul Hunham is a stern yet brilliant professor who refuses to give passing grades to rich students just because their parents are some of the school’s biggest donors. He is firm and doesn’t let these brats take advantage of him. On the other hand, we have Angus Tully, who is the son of wealthy parents attending the school who tends to ready the students for top universities. It’s Christmas time and everyone is going home, but things take a wild turn for Hunham when he is forced to babysit for children whose parents are unable to let them return home for the holidays. Eventually, Tully ends up being the only child in Hunham’s supervision. As the two begin to spend time with each other, they slowly begin to know much more about each other and understand why they are how they are.

Dominic Sessa, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Paul Giamatti in ‘The Holdovers’ (Focus Features)

There is no doubt that Paul Giamatti’s role as Paul Hunham is one of his most compelling roles. Make no mistake, Giamatti has given several amazing performances, but Hunham turns out to be a role that makes audiences realise how truly amazing he is as an actor. The way he insults people in this movie is hilariously brilliant. It seems Giamatti had a lot of fun while shooting this film and went down the memory lane to prepare for the role. Giamatti is just breath-taking in this role. On the other hand, Dominic Sessa is truly a revelation here and delivers a performance that touches everyone’s heart. In the beginning, you might not like his character but as the story moves forward, you understand why he is like this and Sessa completely nails it.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph delivers a deeply heartbreaking performance as a grieving mother in the film. Randolph gives a detailed performance showing both deep sadness and moments of happiness. It’s a portrayal of grief that feels very genuine and touching.

Even though there are moments that makes the film touching, ‘The Holdovers’ is hardly a serious drama. It’s a very welcoming holiday movie that doesn’t shy away from being funny and absurd. These characters have faced sadness, loss, and pain. However, the movie bravely allows us to laugh alongside them, as their humorous shortcomings transform a typical holiday stay at home into unexpected hospital visits and adventurous trips spanning multiple cities. For many people, it will be nostalgic to see this old-school sweet holiday movie that they must have seen in their youth and takes them to a time where people cared about feelings.

All in all, THE HOLDOVERS is a moving, bittersweet comedy drama that instantly becomes a Holiday classic. A story where you’d think how emotions don’t change even though life has.

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‘The Letter Writer’ Review | A Heartwarming Tale of Love and Cultural Awakening

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Eslam Al Karawit in 'The Letter Writer' (Prime Video)

In The Letter Writer, director Layla Kaylif crafts a captivating narrative that revolves around a young Arab nationalist boy navigating the complexities of love, loss, and self-discovery. Set against the backdrop of a seemingly mundane summer job as a professional letter writer and translator, the film takes viewers on a poignant journey that transcends cultural boundaries. The film unfolds as our protagonist, a young Arab nationalist boy, immerses himself in the world of professional letter writing and translation during his summer break. What appears to be a routine job takes a transformative turn when he becomes enamored with an English woman he must write to. The plot beautifully explores the dynamics of cross-cultural communication, shedding light on the richness of both Arab and English traditions.

At the core of The Letter Writer is a heartwarming love story that transcends linguistic and cultural barriers. The emotional depth of the narrative is amplified as the young boy pours his feelings onto paper, grappling with the complexities of love and the inevitable challenges that arise. The film masterfully captures the universal themes of heartbreak and resilience, resonating with audiences across diverse backgrounds. The cinematography in the movie is visually stunning, capturing the vibrant landscapes and cultural nuances of both the Arab and English settings. The director skillfully uses visuals to enhance the emotional impact of the story, creating a visually immersive experience for the audience. From the bustling streets of the Arab city to the picturesque landscapes of England, every frame is a visual treat. The cast delivers stellar performances, bringing authenticity and depth to their characters. Eslam Al Karawit, the young protagonist, is marvelous in his and captures the innocence and passion of youth as he navigates the complexities of love and self-discovery.

Rosy McEwen in a still from ‘The Letter Writer’ (Prime Video)

On the other hand, Rosy McEwen, with her portrayal, brings an unparalleled sense of elegance to the movie. She conveys her emotions with subtlety and poise, leaving an inedible mark on the audiences. The chemistry between the lead characters is brilliant, drawing viewers into their emotional journey.

The Letter Writer stands out for its sensitive portrayal of cultural nuances. The film is crucial for the deep understanding of Arab traditions and values, destroying stereotypes and fostering a sense of appreciation for cultural diversity. The respectful and nuanced approach to cross-cultural relationships adds a layer of authenticity to the narrative. All in all,  the movie is a must-watch film that beautifully weaves a tale of love, loss, and cultural awakening. With its engaging plot, stunning cinematography, and stellar performances, the movie transcends cultural boundaries, leaving a lasting impression on the audience. Whether you’re a fan of romance or enjoy films that explore the complexities of cross-cultural relationships, The Letter Writer is one of those rare titles that delivers on both fronts. Prepare to be captivated by this heartwarming journey of a young boy discovering the power of words and the universal language of love.

‘The Letter Writer’ is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

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Comic Book Movies

Madame Web Review

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Celeste O'Connor, Dakota Johnson, Isabela Merced & Sydney Sweeney (Sony)

Be ready to get caught in the web of Cassandra, our very own Madame Web. Swing by your local cinemas now to catch Madame Web on the big screen!

Plot

Cassandra Webb is a New York City paramedic who starts to show signs of clairvoyance. Forced to confront revelations about her past, she must protect three young women from a mysterious adversary who wants them dead.

Isabela Merced, Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor (Sony)

Movie Review (no spoiler)

Madame Web, the fourth entry in the Sony’s Spider-Man Universe brings us a different take on a complete new group of heroes in the heart of New York. I need to caution the readers that when going to watch the movie, keep an open mind. This movie is about Madame Web and her role as a protector to three young women who will play a much greater role in future…hopefully. If you are expecting Peter Parker / Spider-Man to swing in and catch a crook, you will sadly be disappointed.

I firmly welcome the new take on the Spider-Women within Marvel. Since Across the Spider-Verse I have pondered the question on whether we will get a chance to see any of the Spider-Women on the big screen and also the ‘How?’. I have always seen Cassandra Webb / Madame Web play a motherlike and protector role. I personally think Dakota Johnson played her part excellently well in that sense.

Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced and Celeste O’Connor plays the parts of Julia Cornwall, Anya Corazon and Mattie Franklin and delivers a breath of fresh air. They are teased to play big roles in the future, according to the villain in the movie. The new villain of the movie, played by Tahar Rahim, provides a thrilling experience at first but gets taken down too easily at the end.

Tahar Rahim as Ezekiel Sims (Sony)

Madame Web provided a good introduction to a new character, which is Madame Web, but sadly doesn’t provide any promise of continuity and linkages with any of the existing movies within the current universe. A few easter eggs in the movie point to another beloved Marvel character, but I would have loved to experience more of Cassie’s web and the chance of a teaser for the other heroines of the movie since there are still so much stories left to tell. There is unfortunately no post-credits scene, which was a let down, considering Madame Web is part of the Sony Spider-Man Universe and continuity is what many are hopeful for. I’m curious if we get to see continuity later in the form of a sequel or even a cameo of Cassie, Julia, Mattie and / or Anya in any other production.

I rate this movie 3 out of 5.

The trailer doesn’t spoil too much of the storyline. Make sure to catch at a big screen near you.

Madame Web Official Trailer (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

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‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ Review | A Spellbinding Journey of Magic, Heritage, and Heroism

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A still from 'The Tiger's Apprentice' (Paramount+)

‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ brings Laurence Yep’s beloved children’s book series to life in a visually stunning and enchanting cinematic experience. The film introduces us to Tom Lee, a Chinese-American teenager portrayed by (actor’s name), whose life takes an extraordinary turn when he discovers his destiny as a magical guardian in a long lineage known as the Guardians. With a stellar cast including Soo Hoo, Golding, and Yeoh, the movie promises an exciting blend of fantasy, adventure, and cultural richness.

The narrative centers around Tom Lee (Brandon Soo Hoo), who learns about his mystical heritage as a Guardian and embarks on a transformative journey guided by a mythical tiger named Hu, played by the charismatic Henry Golding. The stakes are high as Tom must confront the formidable Loo, portrayed by the legendary Michelle Yeoh, a force with dark intentions to harness magic to destroy humanity. To counter Loo’s power, Tom must reunite twelve Zodiac animal warriors and master his newfound abilities. One of the film’s standout features is its breathtaking visuals, transporting the audience into a world where magic and reality seamlessly coexist. The CGI work in bringing the mythical creatures and magical elements to life is nothing short of spectacular. From the majestic presence of Hu the tiger to the awe-inspiring abilities of the Zodiac animal warriors, every frame is a visual feast that captivates both children and adults alike.

Tiger's Apprentice

A still from ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ (Paramount+)

The Tiger’s Apprentice not only offers a fantastical adventure but also celebrates cultural diversity, particularly the Chinese heritage. The portrayal of Chinese-American teenager Tom Lee adds an authentic touch to the narrative, fostering a sense of relatability for viewers from similar backgrounds. The incorporation of Chinese mythology, Zodiac animals, and legendary figures enhances the film’s richness, providing an educational and entertaining experience for audiences of all ages. The film boasts an exceptional cast, with Soo Hoo delivering a compelling performance as the protagonist, Tom Lee. Henry Golding brings charm and gravitas to the character of Hu, the mythical tiger mentor, while Michelle Yeoh’s portrayal of the formidable Loo adds a layer of complexity and intensity to the antagonist. The chemistry among the cast members elevates the emotional depth of the story, making it a truly engaging experience.

At its core, The Tiger’s Apprentice explores the classic theme of the battle between good and evil, with Tom facing the daunting task of thwarting Loo’s destructive plans. The narrative is enriched by themes of self-discovery, courage, and the importance of embracing one’s heritage. As Tom learns to harness his magical abilities and seeks the support of the Zodiac animal warriors, the film imparts valuable lessons about unity and the strength found in diversity.

A still from ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ (Paramount+)

In conclusion, The Tiger’s Apprentice emerges as a must-watch film that seamlessly blends fantasy, adventure, and cultural elements. With its captivating visuals, strong performances, and a narrative that resonates with universal themes, the movie is poised to enchant audiences of all ages. As Tom Lee embarks on his magical journey to save humanity, viewers are treated to a cinematic experience that is not only visually stunning but also emotionally resonant. The Tiger’s Apprentice is a celebration of heritage, heroism, and the enduring power of storytelling, making it a standout addition to the world of family-friendly cinema.

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