A Cure for Wellness: Retread, Retread, “Hey That’s Cool”, More Retread *sigh*

A Cure for Wellness: Retread, Retread, “Hey That’s Cool”, More Retread *sigh*

Read “RETREAD” as “RETARD” for a second there didn’t you? LOL

A Cure for Wellness is a 2017 psychological horror film directed by Gore Verbinski, written by Gore Verbinski and Justin Haythe and stars Dane DeHaan, Jason Issacs, and Mia Goth. The film follows the life of a young corporate executive who is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a wellness facility in the Swiss Alps.

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Let me judge this film by how it looks. This is one of the most gorgeously shot movies one might have the pleasure/displeasure of watching (depending on how many “fucked up” movies you’ve watched). Every frame is deliberately constructed, every camera movement has a purpose, every shot looks like a bloody award-winning photograph, the color palette is fantastically unsettling, and movies like this are the reason I dread visiting places that seem too good to be true. I’ll stay in my grimy apartment thank you very much. Lest I forget, the sound design is absolutely brilliant too.

Now, let’s peel the proverbial onion and look at what this film has to offer in terms of substance. This film is long. 2 hours and 26 minutes long. I’m not one to complain about length because one of my favorite films of all time, The Dark Knight, spans about the same length of time. The question then moves to what does this film have to offer in terms of plot to warrant that length. Honestly speaking, it has distractingly little.

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I would compare this film to Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box’s music video. The good people who made that video blew their load way too soon and showed the viewer all the “cool” imagery they had going for them within the first minute. After that, the video threads back on those images and alters them slightly to keep the viewer engaged. That video, however, had a great song as a companion to arrest an audience, this film suffers from having no such arresting force.

If this is your (I don’t know) 10th “weird” movie, you’ve seen everything this film is going to show you. Maybe not as well shot as this, but you’ve seen it. There are callbacks to Oldboy, Shutter Island, A Clockwork Orange, a bit of Hostel, you catch my drift. If the film is trying to achieve an unsettling mood, it misses its mark as it lacks the kinetic energy of those aforementioned films.

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Then come the characters. God damn it man, why? Why do horror films do this to me every time? Why do you guys make smart people stupid oh so quickly? I’m unsure about how much this spoils the film so please be warned before you read ahead.

  1. If I’m running a shady medical facility and a dude comes to me and says I want to take one of your patients back with me and the patient is willing to go back with the dude (whilst not realizing something shady is happening there), why would I stop him? The bigger picture dictates I let him go to keep my operation a secret right? Am I wrong with this thought?
  2. I’m a dude who has been given this magical water to keep me healthy but I see a weird bug floating in it, why would I ever drink it again?
  3. I see my flush handle shaking uncontrollably. Would I not call a plumber or, at the very least, take a peek inside the flush tank instantly rather than waiting for it happens a few more days just to be sure that the handle is actually shaking? I mean, come on.
  4. If I’m a creepy dude running a creepy medical facility, why would I be/hire people who behave creepily? Why don’t we hire normal people to cover things up better?

Aaaaaaah, so many reasons to be bugged by this film. All this could be forgiven if the film’s 4th act didn’t happen. The film hints at this ridiculously cliched conclusion from act 1. It does it’s nudging to arm bruising lengths and when the eventual resolution happens, I felt so let down by the 2 hours that preceded it. I refuse to believe that the film has a deeper meaning than it’s surface level story just because it has a kooky final frame. You are just an exercise in frustration movie, not A Clockwork Orange.

I wanted to like this movie. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love “headcase” films. There is so much to love in this film but each of those moments of visual brilliance is undercut by downright daft storytelling that alludes to deeper meanings while it can’t get its surface level story to make sense. Eery imagery and creepy sounds cannot carry a film, case and point A Cure for Wellness.

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Great Movies – CM Punk: Best In The World

Great Movies – CM Punk: Best In The World

There are two ways to write this little piece here: as a wrestling fan marking out for one his favorite performers or as a genuine lover of the art of cinema. By god, I’m going to try and write it both ways.

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Wrestling Fan Review

This is the most honest to god documentaries the WWE has ever produced. They do avoid a few things here to save face and to avoid mentioning TNA, but they do not shy away from vilifying themselves when need be. The company went all out to get footage from IWA Mid-South to Ring of Honour. I have watched most of the documentaries WWE has produced ranging from The Monday Night Wars to The Rise and Fall of ECW to Paul Heyman’s documentary but none of those match the sheer raw emotion and heart this film possesses.

The documentary has some deep cuts. Watching non-WWE names such as Colt Cabana or CM Punk’s ex Natalie Slater on the documentary gives the film the authentic feeling it deserves. Even though the film is made with a lot of polish, it never comes off as heavy handed or as a film towing the company line. There is an inherent scrappiness to it all and watching CM Punk’s journey from being a self-trained backyard wrestler to one of the marquee names on the WWE roster is one of the most inspiring stories I could recommend to all of you. It is the dream a lot of my fellow wrestling fans share, we want to be the hard-hitting promo cutters and the show-stopping wrestlers like our personal wrestling heroes. This film lets us live that dream vicariously and I love it for that.

If you are a fan of Pro-Wrestling like me, you know CM Punk. You know what he meant to you in the summer of 2011 (and also before and after that). You know why he is so special and you know why this documentary rules.

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Movie Buff Review

CM Punk: Best in The World is an exceptionally well-told story. The narrative at play has all the makings of your best rags to riches movies. The only difference this time is that the story is all too real. The struggles a man has to endure to achieve his dreams while not compromising on his morals is one almost anyone can relate to.

The WWE editing team is the gold standard when it comes to making hype videos and Hall of Fame packages and this film is an amalgamation of both. The slick editing combined with a riveting story make for a film that is genuinely enthralling. The various stages and phases of CM Punk’s career and his gradual evolution as a person are spellbinding to watch. Even though he has a cold exterior, the film nimbly shows off his inner workings. The tattoos which have a deeper meaning than just being body art, his loyalty to his friends, his reverence to his mentors, the love of his craft, all that and more make for a well rounded and ultimately respectable character.

The punk rock fuelled soundtrack is a character in itself as it reinforces the characteristics of this man we are closely observing for the better part of two hours.

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In Conclusion

I have been a fan of Pro-Wrestling for over 13 years. I have seen great athletes come and not so great ones leave but I have never seen an athlete who captured my imagination like CM Punk. Could I be putting this movie on my Great Movies list because of a personal bias? Maybe. But that is the beauty of it. I, as a fan, was so invested in this man’s journey that I can’t help but be in awe of it when it is presented in such a fantastic way.

I remember CM Punk winning the Money in The Bank Ladder match, I remember CM Punk winning his first world title, I remember CM Punk scattering Paul Bearer’s ashes on The Undertaker, I remember CM Punk’s pipebomb promo, I remember CM Punk wrestling a 5 star match against John Cena, I remember CM Punk matching up against Jeff Hardy, I remember The Straight Edge Society and most of all I will never forget the pulse-pounding CM Punk chants from that crowd in Chicago on Money in The Bank 2011.

To quote the novel Fight Club, “You work your whole life for that one moment of perfection and one moment is as long as perfection lasts.” The moment CM Punk’s music hit on that fateful night and the crowd went into raptures, the culmination of over a decade of hard work, was a moment of perfection. It is burned into my retinas and etched into my mind and because this movie recaptures that lightning in a bottle in the most excellent way possible, it is one of the greatest films ever made.

P.S – I know what happened a couple of years after this documentary came out and it’s okay, CM Punk is still one of my personal heroes.

Please LIKE, SHARE, COMMENT and FOLLOW and let me know about your favorite or least favorite wrestlers.

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Think-Piece: Why The Statement “This Is Good For A Kannada/Tamil/Hindi/Telugu Film” Is Toxic

Think-Piece: Why The Statement “This Is Good For A Kannada/Tamil/Hindi/Telugu Film” Is Toxic

To all my brothers and sisters watching Indian regional language films, how many times have you heard someone say this statement.

Bro, that is so good for an (insert language here) movie.

Why do we say this to each other? What makes us feel like we need to bring in the fact that a movie being made in a certain language makes any sort of difference to its overall quality? Is this a good thought process to have or a bad one? These questions have plagued me for as long as I have been watching films.

The first time this line rang the proverbial bell in my head was when a few close friends of mine and I walked out a Kannada film which was released overseas. We went into the film extremely excited, as the film has garnered rave reviews from almost everyone in India, and we came out feeling like we had got our money’s worth. But out of the whole group, I felt myself feeling singled out because I felt that the movie wasn’t worth all the hype. It was by no means a terrible film but I felt that the film had received more than its fair share of hype. I tried to back my opinion up by saying that the film had some weak acting, unnecessary songs and a plot which flips on a dime without a natural progression. At this moment, one of my friends told me that, this was a great achievement for a Kannada film. I had heard that statement a whole bunch of times before but this time it felt different. I could only think of all the movies getting a pass for being made under the umbrella of a regional language.

I could name a multitude of films which slip under the radar of serious scrutiny because of this mentality. We accept mediocrity because of a technicality. Maybe the films or stories aren’t mediocre themselves but a few specific aspects of the film are, be it acting, production, visual effects, score or many others.

For example, let me take up Baahubali. The grandest film ever made in the history of Indian cinema.

Am I going to say Baahubali is a bad film? No. Most definitely not.

The simple point I would bring up here is that the VFX in the film are below the high bar S.S. Rajamouli set for himself in Eega. The film’s story might be quite the cliched one and the first act of the film has unconvincing motivations galore but the selling point of the film was its scope and scale. The film’s world felt massive. It was building a lore around itself and it invited the viewers into a world they had a hunger to see. It was supposed to be a thing of beauty.

But somewhere down the line, the visual effects work was not what the film demanded. Everything felt below par. The water seemed too fake, the gigantic backgrounds seemed too fake, the feats of heroism seemed too fake and the list goes on. The ingenuity used to create some truly inspired weapons and action sequences felt a tad undone because of the distracting CG work. After watching the film I spoke to a few people about it and how the visual effects just did not match up to Eega. I’m sure you could guess the response I got:

Bro, It’s awesome for a Telugu Film.

Is it, though? Is it really? I do appreciate the work put in by hundreds of artists to bring the film to its final form but that does not mean we can’t aim higher. We saw how good the effects in Eega were just a few years prior. We knew what Rajamouli and his team were capable of. We knew we could expect something close to excellence. When what we received was, in a sense, subpar, we need to do two things. One, appreciate the man and his team for the work they put in and two, talk about the room for improvement which is glaringly obvious.

This is a microcosm of a gigantic problem which I see exists with the Indian moviegoer’s mindset. We want to see excellence but we keep defending mediocrity. Mediocrity comes in many forms and we need to address those issues for the overall betterment of art. Blind defending creates an environment where we stop challenging each other to do better.

As a few more examples, I have never heard a person say:

  1. Bro, Lagaan is a great film in Hindi film circles
  2. Aa Dinagalu, is a great film in Kannada film circles
  3. Vedam, is a great film in Telugu film circles
  4. Kannathil Mutthamital, is a great film in Tamil circles

The resounding verdict coming out of audiences mouths for these films was:

This is a great film. Period

Those are the standard bearers of excellence our films should aim for. Those are the standards we must demand as audience members. If we demand better, we will get better.

There is always a natural progression to art. Sooner or later a visionary comes along who shakes everything up because she/he knows something better can be done. We have been witness to their work as well, be it Puttanna Kanagal, S.S. Rajamouli, S. Shankar, Mani Rathnam or Anurag Kashyap. Questioning, critiquing and working towards overall betterment will only accelerate the process of discovering such visionaries.

My plea is for all audiences to go into films not only as fans of a certain artist but as fans of cinema at large. Once we do that, we can objectify work. When we objectify work, we have an intelligent and unbiased discourse in place. If and when we meet our idols (in the film industry) with that dialog in mind, we can fanboy/fangirl around them, critique them and learn from them in the best way possible.

That method of thinking may aid us in creating excellence rather than half-heartedly approving mediocrity.

Think-piece: Female Characters Are Not Children

Think-piece: Female Characters Are Not Children

Female characters being introduced into a film surrounded by a horde of children has been a pet peeve of mine for the longest time. It is not because I consider children as bad foil but it is because of the mental association this creates for the audience. There is a constant gripe among audiences that female actors do not get roles to shine in at best and do not have a role of any value at worst. The reasons as to why that happens is an essay for another day. What I would like to address with this little piece is how female characters in Indian films are reduced to entities with no decision-making capabilities whatsoever.

We have all been witness to a whole bunch of movies where the lead actor/hero comes into frame with an act of total grandeur. He either beats up a group of 50 men or rides in on a motorcycle (shot in slow-mo) or charms the audience with his wit etc. These are usually done with the utmost care. These scenes are thought out over and over again with a lot of attention paid to the actor’s image and packaging, even if the scene is not dictated by logic.

Ask yourself a question. Why is this done?

This creates a mental association for the viewer. He/She knows this is a man who has everything in place. He is either strong/smart/savvy or many more of such desirable qualities in an uber-man. The films may usually write themselves into a hole with such nonsensical character writing but then again, the character is not made to look weak. He is usually made to be a person who can make his own decisions and has his life under his control.

This brings us to the opposite number. The female lead.

Ask yourself another question. How many times have I seen a lead actress in a film introduced with children? If you can’t remember any, I will drop a few examples to jog to your memory.

Gajini (Tamil), Remo (Tamil), Sundaranga Jaana (Kannada), Bommarillu (Telugu), Arya 2 (Telugu) just to name a few. Bollywood is not above this phenomenon. They do it too. You know there are a ton of other films that do this just as I do.

You may ask me, What’s the problem with that? It is harmless and looks cute.

There in lies the problem.

Every time a film does this, the credibility of the female character is completely lost. As we discussed about mental associations in a paragraph above, the effects are similar here as well. One need only remind oneself the last time they entrusted an important decision to a child. The answer will be a resounding NEVER a 100% of the time. A 10 second shot of introducing an actress with a group of children might seem to convey innocence but in all honesty, it conveys ineptitude. It tells the audience to not take the character seriously as she is just as playful and innocent as a child who has no capabilities to make complex decisions whatsoever.

Think I am over reacting? Question time again.

Take Bommarillu as an example. Ask yourself if Genelia’s Hasini ever makes a complex decision by herself or if every decision is made for her throughout the film. Ask yourself if her character is ever written to have the slightest bit of mental maturity. One need only think back a few seconds before he/she realizes that even though the film is exceptionally well made in terms of its two male leads, the lead actress gets the shorter end of the stick. The character of the mother is usually written well conveying poise and grace but the character of the love interest is written as a pawn to propel the arcs of its male leads.

Arya 2 for example has Kajal’s Geeta play a pawn between the two male leads again. She has no thought process of her own and chooses her personal relationships based on actions of the male leads. All she is concerned about is how she comes off to the one or the other man. This pattern of behavior is child-like and bears no semblance to a grown woman’s thought process.

These are but a few examples to illustrate how inept some of the writing gets with a lot of films the audience are subject to on a weekly basis. One might make the argument that if the writing were better, the introduction makes no difference. I would like to counter that by saying the introduction put to film sets the tone for the rest of the character’s actions. It is a narrative crutch used to aid weak character development. Any film which says the goal of a woman is to be pretty, innocent, meek and child-like does not understand women in general.

One may ask me an example of a good female character. I would say check out Gautham Menon or Mani Rathnam’s catalog of films. Every single one of their films has characters chalk full of character. Neither of those men choose the easy way out when it comes to defining their characters. They have handled multiple genres and most of the readers are fans of their work. The characters are etched in your memory and are not interchangeable because they are written as grown up, smart and capable women.

I do understand that movies are just movies and one need not look too far under the surface. The argument against that is, movies are the most accessible forms of art. Young men and women grow up watching them. It molds thoughts and solidifies mental imagery. If a young man feels like he can emulate the great qualities of a complex hero, he also needs to understand the complexities that go into every woman who appears on-screen. Women are not children who can’t think for themselves, they are fully formed human beings who are capable of complex emotions and can make decisive decisions.

It is just a sad sight when I see this trope being so overused in Indian cinema. I would like to see it purged off our screens and also to see our film-makers put in some more effort when writing their characters. When one can think one’s mother is complex, the same mind can also come to the realization that a woman in her youth can be a complex individual as well.

Rambling About The Lords of Salem (2012)

Rambling About The Lords of Salem (2012)

Nutshell Ramble

“Rob Zombie makes a Roman Polanski film” and be prepared for everything implied by that statement.

OVERALL SCORE – 3/5

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Full Ramble

The Lord’s of Salem is a 2012 supernatural horror film written and directed by Rob Zombie. It stars Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Philips, Meg Foster, Dee Wallace, Bruce Davison and a host of other actors in minor roles. The film plays on the ancient story of witches in Salem, Massachusetts and the effect they have on a modern-day radio DJ.

First things first, any audience member who may be a tad religious may have to say a few Hail Marys for watching this film. The film does have some beautifully shot blasphemous imagery. Some of the lighting and the ominous tone present in the film from frame one are the film’s biggest selling points. Sheri Moon Zombie does her job considerably well throughout the film. She has precious little to offer in terms on character but the style with which she comes off as a damaged and vulnerable everyday woman is quite engaging.

The score of the film adds to the aforementioned tone. The film does have a score which varied wildly from your everyday horror film. It might be the type of score most other  horror films might get if they aren’t hell-bent on sounding like most of their peers. The directing however leaves much to be desired. Gory imagery, allusions to the occult and some creepy creature designs can only do so much when they are trying to hide some inept shot selections and camera moves.

Apart from a decently engaging plot, I could see myself asking if I found anything else engaging. The answer is clearly none. After kicking the story off with a plot device which makes an appearance in a creative manner, the film slowly loses steam. The plot goes down the rabbit hole of being predictable and hollow. The makeup and costumes (or lack thereof) add to the creep factor of the overall viewing experience. It goes hand in hand with the score to act as the saving grace of a sagging second half.

The difference of a master director and a regular filmmaker is very easy to spot when The Lords of Salem and the Roman Polanski film it is similar to are watched back to back. The clear divide that is created in terms of storytelling, tension building, iconic imagery and payoff are clear for all to see. This is not to say that The Lords of Salem does not have much to offer, but what is has to offer might not stay in the collective memory of the audience for more than 10 minutes after its credits roll.

Rob Zombie is a fun filmmaker. I quite enjoy his remake of Halloween. He is no John Carpenter but he is serviceable at best. A quick read about the film’s production history shows that, this was the first film where Zombie was given complete creative control. A completely unhinged Rob Zombie makes for an interesting watch if not a memorable one.

OVERALL SCORE – 3/5

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A Review

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a 2016 fantasy adventure movie directed by David Yates, written by J.K. Rowling and stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell and many others. The film is a cinematic version of the textbook used by the students of Hogwarts.

First things first, revisiting the world of magic which was created by the Harry Potter franchise is an absolute treat as always. The visual aspect of the film is one to create some awe in the audience. A few gripes one may have had with the previous films are addressed in the film but as always, with this magical franchise, it leaves more open doors with what magic and cannot do.

Eddie Redmayne is absorbing as Newt Scamander. Unlike Harry Potter, he is not a inept hero who gets some free passes because he has friends at high places or because he has friends who are more talented than him. Newt Scamander is a very strong and capable wizard even if he might not look as much. His passion for his work, his knowledge and his spirit invite the viewer to along with him to help his cause. One might think if most people who are in his line of work were as forthcoming and had such uncompromising clarity about their goals, the cooperation from the public in general would be much higher. The main supporting cast in the film does their job well. Special mentions go to Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol for being one of the better movie romances one can see on the silver screen. Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller do their jobs in quite the convincing fashion. Even if they are not compelling enough in the opening exchanges, they do hold some weight by the time the closing sequences come around. The true stars of the film behind Eddie Redmayne are the beasts, which are indeed fantastical. The sheer imagination on display here elevated the film to a higher plane.

The moment when the parallel plots of the movie meet is quite sudden. Even though the plots intersect a few times before the climactic scenes, the lead up to the climax might feel a bit rushed. There are a few moments of poor/haphazard editing. The multiple jump cuts sprinkled along the run time might catch an audience member’s attention. J.K. Rowling’s screenplay is a joy to watch on the screen. It translates exceptionally well to the big stage. The fact that there are 4 more movies to come in this franchise might not seem like a good prospect when all is said and done. The world however exciting does not have enough material to carry 4 more 2 hour films.

This film however stands on its own two legs very well. There are nearly no callback to the Harry Potter world, which is a very refreshing change in pace from a franchise film. Armed with a compelling lead and the wonder which accompanies the world, it is a very worthy watch. The film might leave most members of the audience wanting more but I for one would ask the audience to be careful what they wish for. It might ruin the proverbial good taste if gluttony is the order of business.

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OVERALL SCORE – 3.75/5

Rock On 2: A Review

Rock On 2: A Review

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Rock On 2 is a 2016 musical drama film directed by Shujat Saudhagar, written by Abhishek Kapoor and Pubali Chaudary and stars Farhan Akthar, Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli, Shraddha Kapoor, Shashank Arora and Prachi Desai. The film explores the life of Magik after the events of the first Rock On.

There was a very resounding complaint back in the day when Rock On came out. The complaint being, for such a fun and evocative film, the band has such an unoriginal name. Magik is indeed a very un-inventive name. But, that was the only unimaginative aspect about the previous film. It was loads of fun and excitement with exceptionally uplifting music. Rock On 2 however is anything but fun or uplifting. The unoriginality in the band’s name seeps into the film as a whole.

The film has some of the most depressing lead characters one can see. All 5 principal characters are sad for one reason or the other. They are trudging through their lives being unhappy and they carry their doom and gloom attitude throughout the run time. This carries into the music and visual style of the film. The music goes very dull for long stretches of time. Whenever a song resembling the film’s original rock music roots comes up, the audience member has been drained of so much energy that he/she finds it hard to get back to the state they song expects them to be in.

The one thing to like about the film however are its performances. The actors know who their characters are and embody them very well. A few of the tunes which are laced throughout the film, which are not a part of the film’s songs, are a joy to listen to. They showcase a lot of creative energy which  have may been flowing through the composers. But alas, those moments are few and far between. Those little moments of beauty are hidden between a non-stop onslaught of subplots and dull, hackneyed moments.

It’s hard to write about a film that has so little happening in it even though the film shows a lot happening on-screen. A good way to conclude this would be, every time the film references the first movie or plays a clip from it, as an audience member one might be nostalgic for all the good that film was. It is not a good nostalgia which makes one want to enjoy the story unfolding on screen. It only makes one compare and contrast, and highlights the flaws of the motion picture projected on the cinema screen.

It has always been said comedy sequels are the hardest ones to make as they lose the spirit of the original with their attempts to recreate a perfect storm of things that made the first one special. Maybe, movies which have bands forming or new musical acts coming to life are hard to make sequels too as well. If there is one thing this film shows, music is indeed magical and trying to recreate a specific feeling again is harder than just throwing a few songs together and calling it a new rock music experience.

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OVERALL SCORE – 1.75/5