So you wanna watch something…
Black Adam: The latest DC universe flick has Dwayne Johnson playing Black Adam—an anti-hero with anger management issues. Set in a fictional Egyptian city of Kahndaq, Black Adam wakes from a 5,000-year-long slumber to find that he has been blessed with superpowers. That’s pretty handy since he will need them to free the people of the city of its neocolonial corporate-military regime. And he has a team of wingmen—sent from the United States—to help him get the job done.
The Guardian doesn’t have much to say about the movie except to lavish praise on its hero: “Johnson’s massive bulk, planet-sized head and sly gift for deadpan humour all make him a great superhero.” OTOH, Associated Press isn’t impressed by its “derivative and baggy screenplay” that “goes from one violent scene to another like a video game in order to paper over a plot both undercooked and overcooked.” Variety is also not sold on the narrative, but thinks it is all just a set up for a potentially awesome franchise—so you may want to check out this origin story now. ‘Black Adam’ released Thursday in theatres.
Ammu: Ammu (Aishwarya Lekshmi) and her good cop husband Ravindranath (Naveen Chandra) are happily married—until Ammu forgets to take his lunch to the station one day. Her “mistake” earns her a slap—and little sympathy from her mother, who asks, “But what did you do, Ammu?” It only gets worse from there. This movie tries to offer a ‘realistic’ look at domestic violence—where abusive husbands are not stereotypical villains. And villains are sometimes unexpected heroes—since it is a murder convict who helps Ammu escape her toxic marriage in the end. ‘Ammu’ is the first Telugu original on Prime Videos.
The News Minute appreciates Lekshmi’s performance which “anchors the film”—but says Ravi’s sudden transformation into the bad guy is “abrupt, and to be honest, a little unconvincing.” The Hindu calls it “poignant yet unconvincing”—but for the most part, “a win.” The movie dropped on Prime Video on Wednesday.
The School for Good and Evil: Here’s something lighter for family night. ‘The School for Good and Evil’ is set in a knock-off Hogwarts that takes the Gryffindor and Slytherin rivalry up a notch. This school raises both future heroes and villains—and is the alma mater for fairytale characters like Cinderella. Sophia (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie) are besties who are each sorted into the ‘wrong’ team. Despite her fantasies of ball gowns and princes, Sophie is cast as a baddie—while the die-hard goth girl Agatha is stuck in the cotton-candy-pink halls of the princesses. As Sophia tries to free herself from this unfair fate, she is caught in the grasp of a greater evil—and has to be rescued by Agatha.
Although this Paul Fieg movie has a star-studded cast—Charlize Theron, Laurence Fishburne, and Kerry Washington—New York Times says it is often “cringe-worthy.” The gripes include “cheesy special effects; blatant telegraphing of plot points; crude world-building and scant character development.” But the Times thinks it is still worth your time—thanks mostly due to its interesting plot and “immaculate style.” The Guardian dismisses it as derivative and uninteresting: “Its determination to be like other things leaves the impression of nothing at all.” But we still think this is an easy watch for the kids—or if you’re hurting for some Harry Potter-eque magic in your life. ‘The School for Good and Evil’ dropped on Netflix on Wednesday.
Sita Sings the Blues: Almost every Diwali, we recommend this one thing: A gorgeously animated film set to 1920's jazz and taglined “the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.” Yes, it’s a 1.5 hour-long movie so we recommend checking it out when you have time over this long weekend on YouTube.
A list of good reads
- Prathyush Parasuraman in Film Companion pays excellent tribute to Simi Garewal—who transformed the talk show format in India—and whose standards have never been matched by the likes of KJo.
- The Guardian’s review of Suleika Dawson’s memoir has all juicy details about author John Le Carré’s sex life that you may or may not want to know.
- Also in The Guardian: George Monbiot takes to task everyone who is more worried about preserving great paintings—from tomato soup etc—than our own planet.
- Christian Science Monitor reports on the Bowenpally Vegetable Market in Hyderabad—which is powered by rotten onions.
- Wall Street Journal (splainer gift link) has a behind-the-scenes exclusive on the epic metaverse fail inside Meta.
- The Atlantic looks at why so many kids need glasses now. Yes, those ubiquitous screens are a reason—but also how evolution shaped human vision.
- For those interested in pondering big ideas, The Atlantic asks: was Francis Fukuyama right after all? Are we at the end of history?
- The News Minute offers a fascinating look at a centuries-old Indo-Portuguese language that still survives in Kerala.
- Scientific American has a must-read on what is going on with people in a coma. Yes, some of them may indeed be conscious.
- Paul Newman’s recently released memoir—based on tapes he made decades ago—has spawned a number of excellent articles. The New Yorker review is among the best of them.
- Mongabay did an important report on farmers protesting plans to build an IIT campus in Goa—by taking away their orchards and farmlands.
- The Print profiles a tiny company engaged in blockchain mining in a crowded Rohtak market.
- Womaning in India has a very good newsletter edition on what it takes to be a successful working mother in India. (h/t founding member Basreena Basheer)