Kaminey: Vishal Bharadwaj Sees Your Guy Ritchie and Says “Hold My Beer”

Kaminey: Vishal Bharadwaj Sees Your Guy Ritchie and Says “Hold My Beer”

Kaminey is 2009 Hindi crime thriller directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, written by Vishal Bhardwaj, Sabrina Dhawan, Abhishek Chaubey and Supratik Sen and stars Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, and Amole Gupte. The film follows a day the life of two identical twins as they get caught up in an increasingly complicated web of drugs, mafia, police, marriage, and many other things.

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What makes a good crime thriller? Why is it that many have tried but only a few have seemingly succeeded? Is it because they can’t write characters with distinct shades of gray? Or is it because the style of said film is too reminiscent of films past? Or is it because the film forgets to add in genuine levity by means of characterization instead choosing to work with boisterous loudness? Oh whatever could it be? The answers are seemingly simple when one looks at them. It’s not the violence or swearing or “hot” ladies that make a thriller compelling, it’s why those aspects come into play that does.

Kaminey is one of those rare films that succeeds in being a compelling balls-to-the-wall crime drama. It offsets its humor with drama, it plays off sincerity with the unforgiving bleakness of the everyday world, it tells its story while keeping you second guessing every instance because it knows your prior conditioning with the multitude of twin-based Bollywood films you’ve watched, it pays homage to its many influences (which range from El Mariachi to Jackie Brown) while staying its own unique story and it does all this by being riotously hilarious and at times, genuinely moving.

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Shahid Kapoor is a sight to behold on-screen in a role which acts as a precursor to his much more acclaimed turns in Udta Punjab and Haider. He plays both Charlie and Guddu, the lisper and the guy who stammers respectively, with a surprising amount of heft and attention to detail. On a surface level, the most obvious end to this character trait is humor. He says it himself “main Fa (S) to Fa bolta hoon”. We giggle at his Fa because we know where out mind is racing off to. But a slight incision on that surface leaves the viewer with a deeper dive into the importance of communication when one runs into specific life-defining situations. To the world, you are the sum of all of your actions and words more than your internalized thoughts and this film prides itself in showing how one’s life can be thrown into a dryer loop owing to a flaw, albeit a slight one, in his/her communication patterns. The colorful supporting cast (who could have been a handful of throwaway heathens) pop off the screen because of their uniquely quirky traits and the downright ridiculous situations they find themselves in.

The film is chock full of subtle imagery and even more subtle commentary about the human condition. The film feels no need to draw attention to itself because it knows it’s kicking too much ass and has multiple layers in itself that one can sink into with multiple viewings (it knows you’ll come back to it).

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Onto the all the fun little touches and the broad strokes I liked about the film. The songs and score. Just delightful. It’s an extremely rare phenomenon when a film impresses me enough to make me look into its soundtrack but hot damn. Fatak and Dhan Te Dan have worked their way into my workout playlist and that is a much harder goal to achieve than your day-to-day movie award (not that the filmmakers were going for it). Big shout out to master lyricist Gulzar Saab.

The cinematography and editing style are extremely inventive. There is a method to the madness with how the camera moves whilst achieving some truly complex shots. It might not register starting with the first frame but I assure you that the proverbial lightbulb will go off once you do get comfortable with the flow of the film.

All the little nods go to those moments of visual storytelling and character motivations revealed via actions rather than words in a hyper-verbose film ( a hard trick to pull off). The fun English lines peppering the songs which say “slow” when the beat picks up despite the audible instruction. Shahid Kapoor playing the guitar to “Duniya Mein Logo Ko”. I could go on for days.

*cough* that little subplot shared between the brothers is slightly hackneyed *cough*

That shot of Shahid Kapoor running with the horses (yeah, I know all the overtones, undertones and everything else that shot is going for but), Man that shot is burnt into my retinas. It is the kind of moment that makes a movie star. So very good. I live for this stuff.

Suggestion: Please watch a version of the film with subtitles if you’re not comfortable with Hindi as a language.

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Great Movies – The Damned United: Ambition, Friendship, Respect with some Football on the Side

Great Movies – The Damned United: Ambition, Friendship, Respect with some Football on the Side

The Damned United is a 2009 biographical sports drama film directed by Tom Hooper, written by Peter Morgan and stars Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, and Jim Broadbent. The film tells a largely fictional tale of Brian Clough’s ill-fated 44-day spell as the manager of Leeds United whilst recounting his rise to prominence to be deserving of the biggest job in the land.

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Instead of going on with my regular write-up, I’m going to try and explain my admiration for this film via the deep bond I have with 2 specific scenes in it.

Let’s start off as we almost always do with one of those folksy anecdotes I use to make sense of cinema. The world of pro-wrestling is built on the foundations of respect. The code dictates that you know your place in the company and always show respect to your fellow wrestlers. One of the ways to do this is, when you run into another wrestler backstage, you extend your hand to give out a handshake. It is a code strictly enforced and followed by all. I say this because this film has one of my favorite inciting incidents that kicks the plot into motion. The story is predicated on a handshake or lack thereof.

I’m a huge believer in honor codes and respecting your fellow man, no matter how high or low they are on the totem pole of social standing. The incident hits home for me and I get wrapped up in the story every time I see it happen.

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The next anecdote I have comes thanks to the most celebrated innovator from the world of racing, Enzo Ferrari. It is said that Ferrari believed that a race was won or lost even before the car’s engine turned on, on the race track. He valued the power of preparation and planning to such a high degree.

This sentiment is echoed in this film in an excellently executed scene. The moment of truth for Brian Clough where his years of preparation come to a head with his reverse fixture against Leeds United as the manager of Derby County. With a mountain of nerves and humiliation staring him in the face if things were to go wrong, Michael Sheen’s Brian Clough walks into his team’s dressing room with the calm reserved for only the best of snipers.

There is no rousing speech. There is no swelling music. Every single man in that room knows the task at hand and what they need to do to make themselves champions. A bunch of fired up footballers walks onto the pitch but Clough himself stays in his office throughout the duration of the match. The slow moving clock, the cheers of the audience, the score that accompanies the scene and Martin Sheen’s face which acts as a canvas of human emotion all combine to form those few seconds of cinematic excellence which captures the human experience to the finest degree. I FUCKING LOVE IT.

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I LOVE THIS MOVIE, loved it the first time I saw it. This might be the 15th time I’m rewatching it and I love it even more. The direction, the camera work, the character arcs, the high stakes, the relationship between the two leads, the joy of sport, the sheer destructive repercussions of ambition, the distinctly British feel the film possesses all meld in with my love of football and leave me speechless at every watch because I’m too busy cheering my nuts off.

One need not be a fan of football (I refuse to call it soccer) to like this film. As the best sci-fi films are never about the future but a commentary about the present, this film is not about football. It is about respect, ambition, rivalries and the power of friendship

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Great Movies – Whiplash: The Prices We Willingly Pay For What We Truly Want

Great Movies – Whiplash: The Prices We Willingly Pay For What We Truly Want

Whiplash is a 2014 drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle. It stars Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. The film depicts the progression of the relationship between an ambitious drummer and his aggressive instructor.

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Every time I rewatch this wonderful piece of cinema, a line from “The Prestige” comes to mind. Tesla (David Bowie) and Angier (Hugh Jackman) have a discussion wherein the latter asks the former to build him a cloning apparatus. Tesla asks Angier a specific question “Mr. Angier, have you considered the cost of such a machine?” to which Angier responds “Price is not an object.” Tesla, realizing Angier’s one track mind reiterates by saying “Perhaps not, but have you considered the *cost*?”. A cursory look at the aforementioned conversation accurately displays the primary theme this film is going for.

I’m riveted by this film every single time I watch it because I sit in my chair and ask myself, “Am I that guy who would risk it all and never be discouraged while trying to achieve greatness in something I’m passionate about?”. My personal thought process coalesces with the story unfolding on screen and it leaves me with curled up fingers, held up breath and unblinking eyes as the end credits roll. The film is a fantastic cinematic experience.

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There is not much I can say, that hasn’t already been said, about the performances, music, lighting, pacing, and direction. The shots are expertly crafted, the music is euphoric and poignant with everything else in between added in for good measure, for a film about “drumming” (which it is not), the film has an electric pace and the look, mood, and tone of the film only add to the overall aura of infallibility the film possesses. The acting is just so very good. So very very very very good. Expect for that “I’m upset” bit, so very very excellently good. God damn man. That is my absolute mixed fruit jam.

My only ding against the film would be the moderately week romance subplot. It seems quite out of place because it fails to match the tone of the film. I do concede that the film needed something to show Andrew’s near-psychotic levels of obsession with his craft demolishing every other human connection else in its path but I’d have liked to see something else depicting it or this subplot explored better. But, ’tis but a scratch on the champ’s face.

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I’d love nothing more than to settle in explaining every single facet and scene of this excellent film while writing a blog post which would equate to a thesis paper but I’d like more to not influence any reader’s thoughts. (I’d still suggest watching Lessons From The Screenplay’s video about Whiplash)

This film plays slightly differently every time I watch it owing to the fact that I’m not the same man at every rewatch. I’ve learned something new, I’ve grown as a person, my view of the world has been shifted ever so slightly and this film looks different, sounds different, plays differently but never fails to be excellent. Really really great cinema can do that.

I wish I could throw roses and the screen, clap loudly and say “Bravo” (like a opera watching dandy) on my next viewing.

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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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The Lost City of Z: Oscar Bait Released Too Late

The Lost City of Z: Oscar Bait Released Too Late

The Lost City of Z is a 2016 biographical drama film written and directed by James Gray. It stars Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Ian McDiarmidand Franco Nero. The film gives the audience an account of the life of famed explorer Percy Fawcett and his attempts at finding The Lost City of Z deep in the Amazonian jungles.

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The Lost City of Z is one of those films every critic raves about but falls off the map just as quickly. It could be one of those films that release every Oscar season. It has all the hallmarks an Oscar bait movie could have: the writing is going to tight, the cinematography (by Darius Khnodji, love that guy) is going to be awesome, the direction is top notch, the performances are all good, it’s a biopic etc. you know how it is. It’s just that all that technical mastery cannot amount up to a truly memorable film when all is said and done. It’s not a bad film but I would be lying if I said it was a great one.

The story of the film is intriguing. I have read many a time that we as a species have lost a lot of our technical advances or have had to re-learn many things because our ancestors failed to keep written records/lost records due to wars, natural disasters etc. It is an idea that has fascinated me for the longest time. The film had me hooked before the plot actually kicked in. The film began and between being distracted by how starkly different good old Robert Pattinson looks and really getting into the first act of the film, I found myself losing interest in what was happening onscreen quite rapidly. Not a good sign.

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I would like to explain my mindset while watching this film by comparing it to the TV show House. House has a very specific formula to it (a reason for me losing interest with it), a fact long time viewers could vouch for. The 4 act TV script has very similar tropes it follows with almost every episode. Sick guy comes in, everyone diagnoses it crappily when House diagnoses it correctly, the sick guy gets worse and finally, he’s saved by House’s genius. This film suffers from a similar drawback.

Yes, this is a story of one man’s dream and how he intended to achieve it by any means necessary but the fatal flaw is that each of his attempts seems eerily similar to the first one. The law of diminishing returns states that these scenarios will soon end up being tedious and leave the audience tepid. The film, to its credit, tries it’s best to make these scenarios exciting but for me, there is a whole lot of been there done that within the film itself, let alone other movies.

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I can see where the critical praise for this film comes from. It is all about the technicality and craft involved with the production. I know people who like to shower praises on a film because of those internet-friendly buzz words like, but not limited to, deliberate pacing, beautifully shot, takes time with its storytelling, doesn’t have a million cuts, classic filmmaking sensibilities and so on. But, all those great parts do not make for a compelling whole. I could sit here and nod with the crowd but there comes a time in every man’s life where he needs to take a stand, this is mine.

Overly dramatic for a random internet review indeed but that out of left field statement has more dramatic weight than the film itself does on a whole. Quite the forgettable film even though it brims with a whole lot of quality for the simple reason that it fails to be arresting.

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The Host: You Don’t Mess With Korean Godzilla

The Host: You Don’t Mess With Korean Godzilla

The Host is a 2006 monster film directed by Bong Joon-Ho written by Baek Chul-Hyun and Bong Joon-Ho and stars Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona and Go Ah-sung. The film follows the attempts of a family to rescue the main character’s daughter from the clutches of a mutated monster that arises from the excessively polluted Han river.

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Alright, first things first, the CGI work on the monster is not spectacular. It looks a smidge better than the sharks from Sharknado and I will hold it against this film even though I don’t need to. Barring that one little gripe, this is a fantastic monster movie.

We have always been told why Jaws is as awesome as it is. Even though Jaws is essentially a schlocky B-movie, it works as well as it does because of the masterful direction, score, and, most importantly, character work. An argument can be made that the shark is the least compelling part of the whole film. The Host uses a similar template while trying to infuse itself with a hefty amount of social commentary a la Godzilla.

The most arresting thing about the film is its direction. The shots, the colors, the camera moves, the jarringly incongruous music which acts as a background to the scene unfolding on screen and a few other things all add to the film’s overall originality. A dark sense of humor permeates throughout the film, A Clockwork Orange-Esque might I add. The film winks at the audience at a few instances acknowledging the sheer improbability of its subject matter while masking a knowing nod, within the overt wink, to our current concerns about the environment. It’s a hard trick to pull off but by God, this film is smart enough to do it.

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The next big win for the film are the characters and the actors’ portrayal of those roles. Song Kang-Ho is one of the most ridiculously talented actors I’ve come across. I’m amazed that the same guy played the lead role in Thirst, Memories of Murder, Joint Security Area, Mr. Vengeance, this film and so many others. His sheer range and ability to engage me as an audience member with every single one of his films is a testament to his skill. All the supporting characters perform their tasks well and each of them serves a function in the overall narrative (refreshing) with a special mention going to the child actor who plays the lead character’s daughter. She is what you’d get if Dakota Fanning’s character from War of The Worlds was less screamy and more capable.

This film is a rollicking good time on the surface and hides many smart moments and thoughts right under that it’s popcorn movie “crust”. This film commands your attention because of how fearless it is while dealing with some of its heavier themes and works as a roadmap to most major “blockbusters” on how not to be chicken-shit when it comes to making monster movies. The exposition needn’t be front and center, the characters needn’t be stupid, and the audience needs to be respected. The film is deceptively smart and I’d like to advocate the reading folk to conjure up their own interpretaions of what the film is trying to say.

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A Death In The Gunj: Rises Above Its Plodding Pace To Deliver Moments of Excellence

A Death In The Gunj: Rises Above Its Plodding Pace To Deliver Moments of Excellence

A Death In The Gunj is a 2016 drama-thriller directed by Konkona Sen Sharma, written by Konkona Sen Sharma and Mukul Sharma and stars Vikrant Massey, Tillotama Shome, Gulshan Devaiah, Om Puri, Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey, Tanuja and Jim Sarbh. The film follows the lives of a family who go on a seemingly uneventful holiday to McCluskieganj.

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There are two schools of thought I had to look into while watching A Death In The Gunj. One side of me wanted to enjoy this movie for being a deliberately paced, character driven art film. The other end of me wanted to scream out at the tedious, plodding and pretentious mess this film was on the cusp of becoming. The film, miraculously, tows the line between being entertaining and sticking to its art house roots quite well.

The things I loved about this film are aspects which may stay with me and marinate in my mind for the foreseeable future. Vikrant Massey’s spellbinding performance as Shutu had me riveted from the first frame I spotted him in. The character is fantastically written and carried off with aplomb. Full marks to the man’s physical acting, his mannerisms, his facial emoting, and so many other little ticks that make the character who he is. I could have done without the “My Favorite Words From E” moment as it feels a bit too on the nose to add some quirks to a soon to be fully fleshed out character.

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All the other great parts of the film fall under the technical/filmmaking category. The film is gorgeously shot and every frame is lit perfectly. Be it candle lights, dark rooms or bright sunny days, the film’s mood and tone are carried across by how strong those technical aspects are. A shout out to the sound department. The foley work and ambient score are just magnificent and add much-required personality which sets the film apart from the herd while working as a showcase for Konkona Sen Sharma’s assured direction. Some of the shots in the film are expertly composed and one of the final shots of the film, which involves a tree, is not one I’ll forget soon.

On the flip side, the film’s drawbacks are its supporting characters and pace. This is not to say the actors aren’t doing their job well, far from it. I’d categorize these supporting characters are functional characters more than fully formed people. Yes, there are allusions to backstories for these people but their current state of affairs are not compelling enough to make me care. Ranvir Shorey’s “douchebag” character is cringeworthy at best and some choice words I’d rather not use at worst. Some of the dialogues they are given are stilted and function as exposition dumps which do not help the cause.

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The film suffers from weird ebbs and flows. There are these exceptionally tense scenes sandwiched between long stretches of nothingness. The film’s energy level dips constantly. A tighter edit and shorter scenes might have gone a long way in making this film a hugely more enjoyable experience.

That being addressed, I’d highly recommend this film to people and ask them to look at it from an insular perspective. The character work put into Shutu and how deftly his mental deterioration is handled impressed me to no end. I’d not go as far as to call his mental condition depression, as I’m clearly not qualified enough to make assumptions when the film doesn’t do it itself, but a deep dive into a young man’s much-damaged psyche executed with the slow-burn it deserves is commendable show of a first time director’s fortitude.