It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – Hymns of Celebration

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Some movies just make you go Awww. You end up forgetting real life and start appreciating the wonder of reel-life. Frank Capra’s epic, It’s a Wonderful Life, is one such movie.

Well reputed for its repeat value as a feel good Christmas drama, it holds a television record during holiday season for all the wrong reasons. A copyright booboo consequently enabled television stations to endless hours of free screening on TV. But, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Frank Capra’s melodrama as the failure to renew its copyright in 1975 arced as the sole reason It’s a Wonderful Life has become the quintessential Christmas carol. Not surprising at all, It’s a Wonderful Life is a sweetie that’s sappy and splendid – taking you to the land of fairytales again.

Capra had already won three Oscars by the time he co-wrote, directed, and produced It’s a Wonderful Life. Sadly, the movie bombed at the box-office. It was celebrated in the Oscars though—receiving five nominations, winning only one. A shame, but considering it clashed with William Wyler’s Best Years of our Lives, it’s not surprising, a bit saddening. Still the movie ranks today as one of the greatest films made—a personal favorite of Frank Capra and James Stewart, who stars in this sentimental drama as George Bailey.

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The movie spans 26 years starting 1919 when George was merely 12 years young and ending at around 1945, with George now happy and merry at 38. Incidentally, that was Stewart’s real age when he came about doing It’s a Wonderful Life. Considering that he plays an 18-year-old here, it’s amazing how Stewart doesn’t look that old for his role as young and enthusiastic, George Bailey. His youthfulness and enthusiasm never really fades—a trait that keeps George going despite his rough life amidst tough times. As they say, what a time to be alive!

For George and his virtuous wife, Mary Bailey (played by the charming, Donna Reed), this period starting from George’s early part-time work at a Pharmacist’s until his responsibilities as the Chairperson of Bailey Bros. Building and Loan Association—becomes a romantic period that sees them bloom, whither, and shine again making a jolly family of six. In these 26 years, they grow to cherish their smalltime Bedford Falls turning this small town into a haven. George spends his time serving his hometown, and keeping it off the sordid hands of slumlord, Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore) – saving the day many times for the hardworking and oppressed citizens of Bedford Falls.

Yet, one has to pose the question, what happens when this local messiah in flesh and blood faces trouble and finds himself in the corner? How can he go on protecting his fellas when he, himself, is done and dusted? That’s the catch, but have no fear friends for AS2, Angel Second Class, passionate admirer of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is here to save the day. His name is Clarence Odbody, played with jest by Henry Travers.

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Clarence’s favorite novel, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer knits a mawkish metaphor in Wonderful Life. Like Tom, George’s overriding guilt of saving the day and undoing the wrong forms the basis and very like Tom and his pal, Huck, George is also an adventurer at heart wanting to visit Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. Of course, this remains unfulfilled for he has to grow up at a young age and takeover as the Chairman of his father and uncle’s association. Not to let his people down and to ensure that Potter is kept at hand’s reach, George reluctantly agrees and once he does, his adventures only begin within the confines of this small town.

It’s a Wonderful Life might be longer than it appears for today’s viewers. At over 2 hours, the movie is slow taking its time as it skims over 26 years. Not to say it’s boring, which it isn’t, it can feel a bit tedious at times, but the splendor we see on screen, Capra’s tight direction, and the droll life and times of the Bailey couple keep it refreshing and amusing. It’s one of those movies you’d enjoy in a cold night wrapped around warm blankets with your family, which is also why It’s a Wonderful Life has become a nostalgic fair.

For people who’ve grown up reading and watching fairytales, it’s a wonderful throwback to those times, and only augments one’s deep-rooted desire for fantasy, goodness, and the celebration that’s life. And for Capra, celebration it was. After returning from his time away during the Second World War, Capra envisioned a movie that would celebrate life amidst the gory world he’d witnessed. James Stewart was on the same boat. Together, they created magic – delivering a movie that has become reminiscent with celebration and the joy of living. It’s a mad, mad, mad world—and Capra uses his wit and humor to tell a story of innate divinity behind the madness that appears.

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Under the mask of fantasy though, Capra uses this film to shed light on the manipulation of proprietors, capitalistic powers, and the chi of commercialization. He throws light on all these issues loosely, but doesn’t go into details as Wonderful Life isn’t really about life’s negativity, it’s about optimism, about human endeavor, and the value of individual lives. What’s important for Capra is to put these into effect and make this world one wonderful place – appreciating the wonder of life.

When George finds himself in the all-new Bedford thanks to Clarence, the movie takes a sharp noir turn, with low-key lighting, degenerative locales, and power-hungry maniacs ravaging the city, now renamed Pottersville. In the scene when the never-born, never-here George Bailey visits his dilapidated house, Capra throws sharp shadows in George’s face, and creates a depleted environment. Even if it’s for a tiny portion of the movie, we get a feel of a genuine film noir and the sad part – it could be the actual representation of an increasingly commercial America in the post-war scenario.

Nonetheless, we don’t suffer too much in such a noir-ish setting as Capra brings us right back into his fantasy. Perhaps he was clinging on to those values that made him the Frank Capra, and perhaps that’s why we all love him and his movies.

Looking back, It’s a Wonderful Life is the zenith’s of Capra’s career. How ironic that it led to his downfall, whilst being perhaps his best effort and one of the most glorious films ever made. Capra went on to direct five more movies after Wonderful Life. While they’re impressive in their own ways, none match the joie de vivre of It’s a Wonderful Life.

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It’s a Wonderful Life is heart-warming. Filled with Capra-ian ebullience, it highlights all the wonderful aspects of life, love, and the world. There may be few bad apples, but not all apples are the same. One just needs to realize the goodness in people, and strive to accept life a celebratory journey than a power-driven game. Maybe a bit too utopian, but a man (read person) doesn’t get into a situation like this always, right?

I’ll leave you with a quote from Capra when asked about the legacy of the movie:

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud… but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

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Ah, it is a wonderful life.

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Phantom of the Paradise (1974) – When the Phantom Meets Dorian Gray in a Faustian Affair

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The ever notorious Brian De Palma builds his gothic drama on the foundation of three classic novels—Gaston Leroux’ Phantom of the Opera, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the German legend, Faust, popularized by Goethe and Christopher Marlowe. As it goes, De Palma does the seemingly impossible by creating a perfect transmutation of three novels featuring the devil, the man who sold his soul to the devil in a Faustian trade-off, and the unlikely musical genius, the Phantom.

Despite borrowing the premises from these classics, De Palma manages to present a shrilling satire on the booming entertainment industry of the 70s—revealing the private lives and behaviors of music artists and recording studio executives. The overarching dominance of corporates over art serves as the central theme. That’s only the beginning though as Phantom of the Paradise treads over mayhem and chaos—disorganization and catastrophe.

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In this devilish drama, De Palma uses his archetypical violence in telling a story of a naïve music composer, Winslow Leach (played by William Finley), who is robbed and destroyed by the executive of Death Records, Swan (Paul Williams)—only to come back as the devil’s double. Jessica Harper stars as Phoenix, the unrequited lover of the Phantom, but De Palma doesn’t spare her either. Her life spirals down to chaos as her fame increases, as people go crazy over her sultry voice and girl-next-door avatar. Leave it to the Phantom to save her though. He secretly writes songs for her. She gives them life and that’s all the Phantom wants. Nevertheless, we have a villain in the perplexing Swan—who does things his way or the highway, and when the Devil himself faces off against the Devil’s Double, we’re in De Palma territory.

Phantom of the Paradise is content-driven and includes themes from the trio of novels, yet also manages to give a commentary on fandom, the entertainment business, monopoly of recording studios, degeneration of artists, frantic stampedes, and the manufacturing of music stars to meet the needs and demands of these studios. Musicians-cum-artists may create magic, but the magic is all in the hands of these moguls who retain it and reuse it as they deem fit, as it fits their agenda.

For a movie that says so much, Phantom of the Paradise is a breezy ride, which is nothing short of sensational considering the gravity of the themes De Palma explores and the novels he bases this fantastic story on. Paradise contains all of De Palma’s idiosyncrasies as a filmmaker. There’s love, sex, violence, treachery, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption—making this film a thesis on De Palma and his thrilling style.

Then, there’s overindulgence (Swan) and there’s under-indulgence (The Phantom). On one side, we have the power of control. On the other side, we have the virtue of a genius. In the middle is the struggling singer, Phoenix, in oblivion to all of this—trying to create a path to musical glory. Along the way, she loses track, but her omnipresent guardian angel is always there for her, looking out for her—trying to rescue her from the dirty business and attempting to introduce her to the sound of music.

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De Palma’s Carrie (1976), Scarface (1983), The Untouchables (1987), and Mission Impossible (1996) might be more popular than Paradise, but with no qualms, one can safely assert that Phantom of the Paradise is his seminal classic. It’s brutal, gory, and tragic, with some unforgettable scenes shown with a bittersweet touch. It tells a fascinating story of polarities, yet it’s very entertaining. In questioning the underbelly of the music business of the 70s, De Palma not only informs, he entertains. He makes this a joyous watch defying stereotypes. Considering that Paradise is a musical tragedy, the mere fact that it’s warm despite being cold, it’s fun whilst being sad makes this an exemplary piece of art.

What makes Paradise worth it is the fairytale-like presentation. De Palma executes this grave movie with light undertones and sets a fanatical mood. Whatever you see is light-hearted. The gory scenes are shot comically. They’re powerful, but filtered. The villain is what you’d expect from a Disney cartoon—smooth, yet with his own quirks. The Phantom, the unlikely hero, is like Popeye who’s a go-lucky guy that reaches another plane when he smells the air of music, when anybody questions is ingenuity, when people try to plagiarize his compositions, or when they set their evil eyes on his ladylove. His life and his music are only for the Phantom, and more importantly, Phoenix.

None of the actors in this movie really outgrew Paradise. William Finley stars with bravura and naivety as the unlikely Phantom. Jessica Harper steals the show. Three years later, she’d star in Dario Argento’s tour de force, Suspiria—one of the finest horrors ever made, but it’s sad to see that she never reached her true potential as an actor. Paul Williams, a real life musician, probably climbed his highest peak with Paradise. He’s brilliant as the suave, cunning, and quirky Swan—a role, it appears, designed for him.

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Complimented by terrific performances, a brilliant script, and De Palma’s unwavering artistry, Phantom of the Paradise is total non-stop action. Taking you to De Palma’s frenzied world, it clutches onto you and doesn’t let go. A fine addition to New Hollywood of the 70s, Paradise is a mixture of love and hatred forming an untouchable pact that carries the film’s legacy until today. The scar-faced Phantom in a match against the Devil, dressed to kill, all equipped to blow you out – a feat, mission impossible to topple.

The Lake House (2006) – When Love Calls

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A dreamy story about two time-separated romantic loons, The Lake House pitches Sandra Bullock (Kate Forster) opposite Keanu Reeves (Alex Wyler) in a love story spanning several years for one (Wyler), mere months for the other (Forster). When Kate leaves her beautiful lake house for better pastures, she slips a letter for the new tenant of the house requesting the would-be tenant to forward her letters, if they fall into the box, to her new address. The recipient of the mild gesture, Wyler is somewhat startled by her letter since nobody has lived in the isolated lake house for years. The two exchange their precarious understanding of what all of this could mean before realizing that they are separated by two years. Wyler, in 2004, is renovating the remote haven, while Kate, in 2006, has left the bliss of the lake house and moved to work as a medical practitioner in nearby Chicago.

You could say paradox is the key in understanding this unrealistic, but engaging movie. The Lake House isn’t about reasoning as you’ve already sensed. You have to feel it. Some may feel it. Some may find it forged and pretentious. Wherever you stand, you’re probably correct. The Lake House falls in those categories of movies that are sure to upsurge polarizing appraisals; some seem to hate it, some just love it. Seems apt for a movie that crushes logic apart and locks viewers in a state of emotional awe thanks to the vivid sentiments oozing out of the screen—perplexing and soothing as a whole, but not entirely flawless.

Alejandro Agresti clasps the themes of relating and retrospection by drawing symmetry between the characters. Their underlying states resemble each other. On one side, Wyler has a bleak relationship with his single-father (Christopher Plummer) and on the other side, Forster is in friendly terms with her single mother (played by Willeke van Ammelrooy). At the same time, both, Wyler and Forster have special confidents—for Wyler it’s his brother (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and for Forster, it’s probably Anna (Shohreh Aghdashloo). These extraneous characters slice up the psychology of the two lovers, which enables viewers to understand the lovingly absurd predicament of Alex and Kate. Yet most importantly, it gives us a peek into their state of mind—and somewhere deep within them, their yearning for something to happen.

These interactions also aid in understanding their backstories. Wyler carrying an unassuming persona of a man unable to forgive his father—his father’s insatiable ambitions derailed their family and ultimately led to the demise of his mother. Forster’s one-dimensional and pragmatic approach to life, although painful at times to watch despite the fanatical, subdued romance not bound to time and space, reflects her glooms and a sturdy predicament of a lonely woman stranded amidst the hustle and bustle of Chi Town.

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A very good analogy of the circumstances of Wyler and Forster would be the lake house itself. Located away from the crowd of Chicago, isolated and abandoned, the two lovers share the same tranquility and the innate detachment with their surroundings akin to the lake house. Inside them, one would perhaps find a whirlpool of retrospection alienating them from the present, from reality, hence, forcing their hand into trying something supernatural, something fantastic, which would suggest their out worldly romance. Both people bound by time and space, yet fighting against the same dynamics; how fitting that they discover solace in a true romantic saga straight out from the lands of fairytales. As a tangible story though, it comes from South Korea (a remake of the beautiful Il Mare). As such, the story doesn’t have to make sense logically. In the realm of the movie, the romance beyond time is a fitting complement to the time-ruptured states of two people who build and protect—whether it’s lifeless physical buildings or full-of-life souls within the physical.

Talking of this romantic melancholy, the soulful, almost timeless, background score adds a rich ripple to the movie (music by Rachael Portman), if one could borrow the liberty of relating the movie to the lake itself. Through each swing of musical notes, the viewer moves deeper into the psyche of the story and this makes for a resounding experience of emotional scrutiny—almost awe-inspiring, the visuals on the screen and the musical harmony off the screen collaborating to paint a wonderful drama about relating, waiting, and understanding.

Behind each of these painted frames is one world so abundant and artistic that in itself gives a warm feeling and a stylish look—romantic in its own way. The world of the movie and the cuddling warmth, the wonderful use of vibrant colors, and the cinematography (Alar Kivilo) mainly emphasizing long and mid shots of Chicago’s architecture, whilst creating an atmospheric setting is a major plus and strengthens the already strong spiritual tie with the drama on-screen.

For what it is, the story is loopy and it demands unwavering attention from you to understand what’s happening. Even though the concept is simple, it gets confusing at parts. Some of the major plot points seem unconvincing, which may bug the viewers—but one has to ask, when has romance ever made sense, or when has there been a consistent pattern to romance? I watched Lake House with an open heart and I loved it—probably a bit more than I should have, but it was touching, ironically relatable, and even melting.

It’s not for everybody, but the few takers of this movie would appreciate the mood it creates. Not a classic, but it’s not as bad as the reputation it has garnered. The movie gives a lucid picture of the timelessness of reality, but underlying all of this is the truth of the inevitability of time, and the span of action that only time decides and nothing else.

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With a captivating story that is beyond realism and a true saga of hope and redemption, it might just be a perfect date movie, or better, a movie that sums up everything inconsistent about love and relationships. Utterly sweet, mindlessly sensible, dreamy, heartfelt, and oh-so artistic, The Lake House is a guilty pleasure. If you’re dreamy, try this. It’s beautiful.

El Ángel Exterminador (1962) – The Exterminating Angel

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Affluence is a stain, a privilege exclusive to the notorieties of one community in contrast to the other slices of society, underprivileged, oppressed, and living as mere cogs in a grand machine run by the elites, Marx called—the bourgeois. In The Exterminating Angel, Luis Buñuel explores the world of the ostensible well-heeled benefactors of society, their social interaction, cognition, and the maquillage separating them from others, whilst forming a vivid imagery of their lives and times. The Father of Surrealism in Films, as he is known, the Spanish filmmaker made films in Spain, Mexico, and France—constructing a distinctive style heavy in alignment with the Surrealist Movement of the 1920s. Although, Luis Buñuel’s career spanned a decorating forty years, it wasn’t until the 60s and 70s, when he came on his own as a legendary filmmaker and creator of a niche, a Cinema most distinctively hailed as the Luis Buñuel Cinema.

The Exterminating Angel follows the tracks of Surrealism borrowing the lens of satire, a critique on the high society of Spain, almost reminiscent of the era around the Spanish Civil War. A group of prosperous families arrives at a dinner party organized by Señor y Señora Nobile. The high society dinner gathering reflects the mentality, the gimmicks of these elites and under the mask of cordiality and courtesy, we see shades of loathe, lust, envy, and disdain for one another—a cluster filled with pretentious charms and an abhor for the rest of humanity, perhaps even their own kind.

Joyful and full of merry, the invitees engage in mutual showcase of hypocrisy and have, what it appears, a glorious evening. After a beautiful piece of sonata by a woman, the etiquettes of the party fade away and the hour of departure approaches, but the guests find themselves unable to leave the lavish mansion, the music room, and opt to retire on the sofas, the chairs, and the floors of the room itself. Each of the guest reposes in the music room and by next morning, their inability to leave the premise becomes obvious. There is no physical reason for their apprehension, but precisely—apprehension it is, the psychological kind.

Since its release, The Exterminating Angel has gained a cult status. A metaphorical satire on the high society life, the movie may be set around Spanish diaspora, but as a cinema, the relevance could be stretched to all corners where the slant of class-based discrimination exists. Luis Buñuel takes a surreal approach, which is his forte, emphasizing on the communion of the subconscious and the conscious, the dream and the reality in formulating an austere story. It’s also ironical as the movie is almost comical to watch; the mockery viewers witness on the screen, mockery of human populous and the fictitious line of demarcation humans have drawn against their fellow humans, appears in a realist light.

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Much similar to a group of people stranded in an isolated island, the degeneration of these assumptive individuals, claiming to be on the right side of the demarcation line, grow dreary as they find themselves stuck in a perverse predicament. Soon the inmates, if one would, grow desperate for freedom and basic human necessity, and turn into savage creatures morphing their demeanor from elegance to barbarianism—becoming the antithesis of their own beliefs and standpoints.  Through such a stark mess, Luis Buñuel uses this vehicle to ridicule the presumptive and pompous nature of human beings. When it comes down to it, not one individual, save for a Buddha or a Jesus, could withstand the calling of savagery with a point vision to survive and live as humans and not creatures stuck in a tenacious fix. Whether part of the elites, or living as a meek proletariat, the theory of survival applies to all beings, and Luis Buñuel makes a practical statement on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs though this satirical drama—almost mystifying.

Whilst the guests are unable to leave because of their psychological make-up, not due to a physical defect, the rescuers outside the mansion aren’t capable of rescuing these stranded people either for the exact same reason. They just cannot seem to enter the mansion, even when they try. To put this into perspective, this inner apprehension might indicate the unwillingness of the high society people to allow others into their life and inner circle. Along with that, neither do these people care about those outside their society or dare and get closer to them, nor do the people from the other society dare or wish to come closer to these oppressors of life and living. Very symbolic indeed, The Exterminating Angel explores extermination of such insensible and ludicrous mechanisms that are neither real nor unreal, but exist as an omnipresent distortion of society.

When one of the women in the room (plot point ahead), La Valkiria (Silvia Pinal), as she is illusorily called, realizes the spatial positioning of all the guests—almost a replica of their positions during the twilight of the party, she pledges all to repeat their actions and seek liberation by accepting the right time in letting go, embracing change, and moving on. Letting go might be the central plug of the movie and unlike in the first instance, when the guests are rigid and pompous—stomping over others in their self-indulgence, this time around, the guests grow into miserable mortals having unmasked their illusions and forced to sustain as beings they’ve learned and lived to loathe all along. In simple words, when it’s time to release the grip, time to call it a day, or a time when one realizes that the only way back is forward, one should take the opportunity because life moves on and moving on is the only universal fact of life. The climax is revealing in similar ways. In almost a repeat of the same scenario, in a Church this time, people seem unable to leave. Armies take the initiative and fire gunshots this time, which could be representative of a revolution, or of hitting back. A cornered cat can be very dangerous—probably another analogy in a way to define this indefinable chapter.

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The Exterminating Angel is classic cinema rich with a social message and presented in an immaculate style real to the surreal filmmaker. Serving as a metaphorical rendering of a universal theme, the movie is true to Luis Buñuel’s interpretation of cinema and one of the finest from the enigmatic director. Trying to find meanings to the symbols in the movie might be futile, even though, ironically, that has been the prime motive of this analysis. With that, The Exterminating Angel exterminates any other interpretation and endorses Buñuel’s vision of cinema as an artistic field—open to multiple interpretations. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so they say. In the case of this movie, a glaring, contrasting tale of social classes, Luis Buñuel’s effort magnifies the bizarre world through the way thoughts function and the manner in which thoughts aid in interpreting a situation. Interpretations are always subjective and as a school of Philosophy, Solipsism, adds—only one’s mind can be known. Any other form of reality may not exist; hence, reality is subjective and never objective. Frames the world of Luis Buñuel’s cinema in one line!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) – The Webslinger is Back

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The most popular and loved Superhero makes his return to the screen—big or small—and whether you like the presentation or have grown past the fanboyism, you can’t help but appreciate the iconic Superhero. After the reboot in 2012, Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) comes home with the second version in this mega budget Spider Man outing, with more action, heart-throbbing special effects, tangy angles, numerous subplots, and of course—the one, the only—Spidey is back! But one has to ponder on the consequences. Has Spider Man lived its glory? Is it time to shelve Spider Man, or may the writers and directors of Spider Man series’ be more creative and abject by giving us more of what Spider Man originally carried?

We start with the past, Peter’s (Andrew Garfield) parents—Richard and Mary Parker—fleeing away, after Richard Parker discovers the real face of Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper)—a revelation that could change the face and fate of OsCorp. Whilst a dazzling way to kick things off, it’s not until 30 minutes later in the movie, the present, that it really gets going after the electrocution of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), who then goes on to become Electro. During the same period, Norman Osborn passes away leaving his legacy to his son, Harry Osborne (Dane DeHann). Harry not only inherits the Empire but also the disease, which cripples him, maims him, prompts him—turning Harry into a Goblin, the Green kind. The disease starts appearing on his body and he deludes himself that the only way to survival is the blood of Spider Man. Things don’t go as planned for Harry and Electro, with them forming an allegiance against Spider Man and his lovebird, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

As a legacy, Spider Man has a lot of goodwill working in its favor. The villains, the already immortal character, fan boys like yours truly and of course the financial backstopping that Spider Man is amidst a part. In itself, Spider Man remains this all assembled franchise where you needn’t ask for anything more… Yet, perhaps, you could? Whether it was Sam Raimi’s Spider Man trilogy or the current series helmed by Marc Webb, I’ve always wondered why these makers opt for a select number of adversaries as opposed to enhancing the array of Spider Man villains available in archive. Nonetheless, due to copyright matters and all the gloom, here we have The Amazing Spider Man, as it is.

The Amazing Spider Man 2 is another one of those could have been flicks. What would seem as a case of screenwriting training, the penning trio of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Jeff Pinkner acclimatize with precarious plot devices, many straight from the book, in creating a perfectly textbook screenplay that becomes too methodical and fabricated as the story progresses. I’m not exaggerating when I say that any avid filmgoer could call the next scene or the next major sequence a mile before it actually happens. The range of characters, the multi-layered and intense story, and the way all these juxtapose together ends up making the movie a glorified pilot episode that would have been brilliant for television, but ends up being too much of an overdrive for a movie.

Emma Stone filming The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in New York on 17 April.

The brewing relationship dilemma and the romance between Peter and Gwen add the finer touches to the movie. The subtleties between Parker and Gwen bring up the human element, the sentimental hint, and their complex, complicated relationship; the profound depths of their predicament stand, by far, the most attractive acquisition of this installment. Having said, it might not be the silkiest road to romance and mutual understanding because there are times when these pious lovers love each other to the extent of consensual separation just because their love is far stronger than any other force in existence, which would be apt if it dared to make us empathize. Sadly not!

In an attempt to be something, The Amazing Spider Man 2 tries too hard, and at the pinnacle, crumbles apart because it has too much to say, yet very little is meaningful. Apart from the romance between Parker and Gwen; not much actually… Playing with layers and multiple subplots are some of the best tools in enhancing the experience for the viewers, which is quite a gallant intention from the writers. When you suppose it’s the writers of previous million-dollar spectaculars, the question to be raised, especially when it comes to this immortal franchise, why does Spider Man 2 seem so distraught and jarring despite having stellar special effects and a history of animation behind it? With that, I’d like to project my attention to Marc Webb, whom I feel just botches a spectacular chance in taking the series further than its predecessors did. The characters are part of a musical chair, they come and go, and chances are if you’ve watched major Superhero movies from the last fifteen years, you’ve watched everything The Amazing Spider Man 2 has to offer and more…

How many times before has lack of proper communication caused the world to fall apart? Tick. How many times has misunderstanding created rift between two superpowers? Tick. How many times has a friend felt betrayed for selfish reasons? Tick.  How many times has your enemy’s enemy become your best friend? Tick. How many times… That’s right. And, none of these would have mattered, if Spider Man 2 dared to dream, as they say. In forcing a full-throttle superhero action drama, the makers have played it safe and so methodical that everything in the movie comes detached and at times, mind-boggling at the sheer stupidity of events, or the plain sadness in how Spider Man franchise has been beating a dead body over and over.

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So yes… Let this spider bite you. Let the web slinger enchant you, but The Amazing Spider Man 2 isn’t the flawless reverence to the legend of Spider Man. The movie is still one heck of an experience, and for lovers of the hanging legend of Manhattan, you could give it a shot, but be assured, it’s not really worth any shot on its own merits. Probably the first time the Superhero is not the center of attraction in the movie, which could be decoded either way—positive because it is a mystery or negative because it feels like a sterile start to something else. Either way, this Spider Man edition has it all, as a paradox, and doesn’t have much… Capped by a ludicrous denouement, which we all get, the final 10 minutes was the slasher for me and summed this movie for what it deserved—something that could have been so much more, but as it stands, is nothing more than a disappointing flight from one skyscraper to the other in a trance beyond comprehension.

Noah (2014) – This Ship Has Sailed

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Darren Aronofsky travels to the Biblical age with Noah revisiting the Genesis flood narrative from The Old Testament and the construction of the greatest marvel known to existence, Noah’s Ark. With the sole ambition of saving the last traces of humanity—Noah and his family—and every animal possible in what is a total cleansing process banishing all that is evil and starting a fresh, the whole of existence, the Creator sends a colossal flood wiping away evil from the face of the Earth. Only the good-hearted Noah along with his family and the innocent animals survive to arrive at the laps of Mount Ararat. Mythical sciences around the world have suggested many flood narratives threatening to end the world and existence, as we understand. Noah’s Ark, being the most popular of such myths, becomes the subject for Aronofsky’s masterwork.

The descendent of Seth, the white one, Noah, played by Russell Crowe, pledges to save the soul of Creation by building an Ark with instructions from the Creator itself—a measure to survive the gargantuan flooding that would last 370 days. Whilst building the Ark, Noah comes across various impediments and sees the nature of humanity as corrupt, selfish, and egoistic. Facing opposition from descendants of Cain, the evil one, and with the aid of some giant, rocky troll-like creatures that are the Fallen Angels called The Watchers, Noah completes the task, but the real conflict—the real poison—is within him and the members of his family. Noah is a legend of inner viciousness more than outer conflict. It denotes the nature of human beings—the vile, ugly layer within the beautiful face—contrasting it to the beauty of every other organism in this planet that has more goodwill and purity inside than humans, the most conscious of all beings, yet the most derailed and desolate under whom creation has become the allegory of Hell.

Noah-Screencaps-Movie-Wallpaper-HDAs a movie, Noah has a lot of positives; it’s a must watch for the sheer imaginative visuals and to experience the mythical world in what is one of the most compelling, visually abundant cinemas that is a cinematic experience and a story relived. The time-lapse sequences, first of the diffusion of actuality around Noah’s Ark and second, the creation of creation are two of the grandest, visually spectacular pieces of optical reality on the screen. Subsequently, the special effects and the cinematography overwhelm the viewer. Not in a negative way, but the overdrive of the ocular grandeur stunts the story—making Noah a thrilling experience, a more style, less substance epic.

In essence, Noah fails to create an entrancing story—a compelling drama. Aronofsky avoids the provocative questions and emphasizes on the great escapade, yet as a story and a morally rich issue, Noah comes across superficial, with a flat story that is predictable and under the gimmick of some of the most tantalizing visuals in cinema. Stretching at 138 minutes, the pace is rather erratic, with it moving very slow in some occasions and progressing rapidly at other times. In many parts of the movie, the enchanting graphics and cinematography saved the movie from being a boring ride because it does tend to get groggy. The exchanges between Noah and his family, mostly his wife Naameh, played by Jennifer Connelly, gets too melodramatic and to the stage of annoying the viewers, especially the bickering pre-climax sequences.

If you ignore the inconsistencies in the story, the characters are all over the place. Whom am we supposed to sympathize with here? Noah comes across extremely bullheaded, a man with a superiority complex making it difficult to distinguish if God is a villain and a sadist enjoying the mayhem it created in the world. One could argue that Tubal Cain (Ray Winstone)—an animal eater—is the ultimate agent of the Devil and needs to perish from this beautiful creation of the Creator, but why would hoards of people deserve the fate? Is God not the all-compassionate one?

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Moving to Noah’s family, his children, especially Ham (Logan Lerman), is rather a silent assassin, but the character terribly disappoints as Aronofsky builds and builds the personality of Ham—only for Ham to become a recluse at the end, who just doesn’t seem to be loved by his parents or wanted by anybody else. Could you really blame him? If at all, I felt for Ham because of how he seemed to be all lost and isolated amongst his own. In some way, the grand—the greater good concept—of Noah falls into a stifle trauma and a vengeful fight between family members sharing different ideologies, which is ironic considering the stakes of all of Creation’s existence was at the mercy of this one family and one man, Noah. The measure of significance makes the trifle conflicts between the family members and their scorn for Noah for doing what he had to do even more shameful because at the end, each comes across as a self-centered individual and how could the Creator decide that such people deserve the dignity of saving the world? It just makes the entire movie pointless and a gigantic waste of resources. It just fails to evoke any empathy from the viewer. The Creator “making” Noah do what he had to do is another laugh worthy motivation. Everybody is a sinner, so we should kill everybody—except animals! The makers don’t do the concept any favors with the plotting of the story and the sequences leaving much to be desired.

Apart from the spectacular visuals, Noah has only one other redeeming quality—Russell Crowe’s performance. Although the character is very controversial, Crowe does his absolute best in putting out a show that is among his best works. As a torn father, a loyal husband, an obedient and humble descendent of Seth, and the chosen one of God to carry out the mission, Russell Crowe grows with his character and his internal pain shows up on every fiber of his being. In fact, Crowe as Noah is the only thing that works in the movie apart from the dazzling CGI, which is sad because the theme of this story had much more in it than Aronofsky could deliver at the grandest stage.

2014-Noah-WideToo patchy of a movie, too long, plodding at times, and a disappointment, Noah could have been so much more. It’s not a patch on Aronofsky’s previous works. It is pretentious and preposterous, and if not for Russell Crowe, the core of the movie could have been devastated due to the shockingly erratic handling of the overall story and the movie. The VFX, CGI, and the incredible underlining of Iceland save the movie from being a damp squib, but for a film admirer, Noah simply doesn’t deliver. I’d still recommend watching it for the enchanting experience, but don’t go expecting a story that would match up to the technology because it quite frankly lags way behind. A let down…

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) – Leap of Faith

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Ben Stiller is back, and how, with an unshakable character thriving to shape his life and the world around as one storm of cognizance—into the vast depths of reality, or perhaps—absurdity! Remaking the old comedy classic by the same name (1947)—itself based on the polarizing short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” by James Thurber, Ben Stiller gives this new version of Mitty an elegant visage; a monarchic grandeur, a hypodermic makeover—creating an ultimate inspirational jigger; a story for everybody, a life for seekers of thrills and absorbers of adventure: the spirit of Walter Mitty!

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Living in his own world of fantasy, where he only accepts the biblical maxim of ABC—audacious, brace, creative; that’s Walter “ABC” Mitty, only too timid, shy, nostalgic, imaginative, and a subdued clone of the man that is Walter Mitty in his dreams. The story of one legendary man—similar to the everyday Joe—only this time, on the right end of the spectrum; Walter has all the time, the platform, and the “ghost cat,” at his surficial wigs of halo. It is just time that he discovers that halo. The halo arrives, big time, in the form of Sean O’Connell, played by the Icon—Sean Penn—a mythical photojournalist who, at last, proves his status as a living legend and not mythology. O’Connell, with the reputation that dwarfs in comparison to the man, and I mean this, is a longtime partner and comrade of LIFE magazine. Walter Mitty, his unduly associate—partner at work. For the very last edition of LIFE magazine before going online, Sean sends a film roll containing the special #25 for the final cover page of LIFE magazine. Somehow, sheer luck or distraught, it’s not there! With Ted “I’m lovin’ it” Hendricks (Adam Scott), Managing Director of the transition and downsizing, at his throat, Walter Mitty must find this final piece of jewel to celebrate the life and times of LIFE magazine. The stage is set for Walter Mitty—the calling of adventure, as they call it!

Ben Stiller, as Walter Mitty, is a natural. Serious, dreamy, zoned out, the ordinary guy, just a daydreamer; timid, frail, a New Yorker within New York, and a secret admirer, lover of the cutely wonderful Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), Ben Stiller raises the game as Walter Mitty and personifies his soul with this dreary human being daring to become immortal through his own vivacity and the underestimated power of imagination. Ben Stiller has it! As Walter Mitty, not only did Stiller direct a movie that designs the grandness of living your dreams, but portrayed a dud, with his trademark comic subtlety underlying his serious zeal for adventure and, what they call, a larger than life vocation, yet just a Negative Sales Manager. It was worth the wait, if that is the curiosity. Ben Stiller just slams it.

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The spiritual enrichment of Mitty is arguably the best part of the story/screenplay. Arguable, perhaps not, because the crowned head of this visual magnum opus has to be—the one—Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano, 1993) for the camerawork that justifies the benevolence of a movie as The Secret Life… The moving visuals were, hold your breath, breathtaking; entailing the spirit of Walter Mitty, the repressed one, and vindicating the motto of LIFE, “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” Running from New York to the condescending Greenland to the eruptive Iceland, the camera illustrates the splendor of those beauty lands, but all important is the message written in each shot, each angle, each composition—stapled, you will find, the quintessence of Walter Mitty and his incredibly secret life that doesn’t confide to secrecy; it explodes out like the volcano in Iceland, and culminates into the Himalayas in the company of Ghost Cats. One only needs to dare to dream and to go beyond daring and live those dreams… Sharing the honor is Theodore Shapiro for the instrumental background score; engrossing and apt, perfect blend of melody, vocals, and the soulful injection of harmony.

At heart, Walter Mitty is just like every ordinary person—relatable in every way. Living life; dream on, go—live your dreams; we’ve heard those clichéd concepts buried to the ground and beaten until the core of the planet. Reality has a different story to share. In this case, it’s nothing about daring to live the dreams, but willing to reach to an extent for something, you justly believe in. Walter Mitty brings that contemplative moment. It addresses every day of life in this circle of stagnancy; been there, done that—in essence, have you, “been there, done that?” Taking this approach, Mitty isn’t preachy or philosophical about anything. Walter Mitty works for LIFE magazine, a monotonous job without change for 16 years, and now under the brink of uncertainty and the passion for the last picture from the iconic Sean O’Connell, this is Walter Mitty. The vivacious Cheryl instigates this coy, stale person to do whatever is necessary to do—whatever that needs to be done, but the real trigger is the guy called Todd Maher (Patton Oswalt), the eHarmony service provider, who acts as the kick-pad for Walter. On the negative—in terms of the pitch and story—the plot featuring Maher probably adds a degree of impracticality to the story. It can’t be all that convenient in Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan, can it now—especially from an eHarmony personnel?

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The extremities of life typified by the typical Walter Mitty, this movie is an emotional and cinemascopic marvel featuring excellent performances, especially Ben Stiller, the officious Adam Scott, and the cheerful Kristen Wigg. Not to ignore Kathryn Hahn (as Odessa) and Shirley MacLaine (as Edna) for their complimentary parts in fulfilling Walter’s life and times as the Incredible Walter Mitty in a not-so-incredible world of New York, but the almighty ubiquitous pervasion of the world’s punctuation of life and Nature. Walter Mitty is for the emotional ones; maybe not entirely unique in presentation, yet a stunning effort from the vision of Ben Stiller and the lens of the cinematographer—truly world class cinematography and a tip of the hat to the direction and performance of Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty. What clicks is the emotion, and that’s the zenith of accomplishment for any movie; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty accomplishes that zing of emotional mix.

Hereafter (2010) – Beauty of Calmness

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Ever wondered of a world beyond life—an “in-between” of sorts amidst the apparent and the oblivious, where you no longer live but remain hovering in afterlife, a phase hereafter?

Near-death experiences aren’t new to us. Many have returned from the tunnel they speak of—back to this dimension of consciousness, but only after capturing a glimpse of the other world afar the physical. People report qualities of absolute freedom, weightlessness, freedom from the limitations of body, and a place illuminating that pervades everything, where human souls are subject to benevolent transient of awareness beyond the limitations of time, space, and mind—a state of deathlessness.

What died isn’t real. And, what we experience after cessation of life is immortal. So believe people who’re charmed by near-death experiences or the other half who are obsessed by death. Infinitely, there exists a world beyond what we see, life beyond this version of consciousness, and that is what Hereafter tries to explore.

Summoning themes of the esoteric, three people besotted to death by their own distinct circumstances and forced to come in terms with conscious life—an ever-present yearning for something special in this tiny point between vast emptiness—Hereafter finds itself a fertile premise in search for intrinsic meaning and along the way, an enriched life.

Peter Morgan wrote the script of Hereafter enjoying the ambience of Austrian mountains. Sharing a striking silence akin to those lustrous mountains, the world in the movie, the script of Hereafter reached Steven Spielberg who decided to ensure that it is actualized and before Peter knew about it, the King of Spontaneity Clint Eastwood started filming based on the first draft itself.

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Hereafter tells a tale of three individuals projecting their state in a sequence of 1, 2, 3, with each scene following the same order—starting off with the story of a French journalist Marie Lelay, a Tsunami survivor from 2004 in a stunning show by Cécile De France. The second protagonist, a young Londoner, Marcus (Frank McLaren)—in a timid, yet brooding performance, is trying to shake off his twin sibling’s (George McLaren) sudden death—unable to do so. The third central character, George Lonegan, living in San Francisco, assumed by Matt Damon in a powerful, yet restrained performance. This reserved and lonely George has a special gift of feeling the dead; a gift Lonegan considers a curse restricting any chance he has at a normal life.

The psychology of these three characters, each living in the perky cities of Paris, London, and San Francisco, and their coming to the state they are—slowly form the spine of the movie. They must resolve their protuberant conditions and move ahead – leaving behind their anxiety and remorse – accepting the happenings and embracing life as it is. Hence, Hereafter forms a cross-pointed account of three ordinary people connected by an extraordinary fascination to death and the enquiry into life after here.

The mood of three gobbling cities (Paris, London, San Francisco) serve as the background for these ruminating characters in a fight against themselves amidst their fascination with death. Clint Eastwood creates a meditative milieu, with a thoughtful, detached, and reflective treatment of a fantasized theme. Refraining from trotting a path that could easily have made Hereafter a concentrated fantasy movie, instead, Eastwood detaches himself from the content and simply shows viewers the conditions of these people fighting the enigma of death, exclusive to their own predicament.

Rather than running a commentary on this mythical issue, Eastwood shows it as it is, with his thorough minimalist presentation of occurrences. In doing so, he draws wonderfully normal characters driving them to a point of unison and readying them, all along, for a new start. Hereafter structures itself closer to real life than fiction, which might sound superfluous since the world is largely set on the fantasized reality of death. Eastwood’s treatment of the subject ensures that Hereafter stands tall as a revelation on how death affects people in its own quirky ways.

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A high ranked journalist such as Marie, subject to a near death experience in Thailand, begins contemplating a life beyond the obvious after the incident and devotes her time in reflecting her mystical romance with death. A London schoolchild, Marcus, who loses his dearer-than-God twin brother, begins questioning life and develops a keenness for psychic inquiries in order to be closer with his brother. Whilst Marcus ventures in the world of psychic readings, the makers slam the overtly self-proclaimed psychics who work to con people than help them as demonstrated through Marcus’ own experience. The proletarian worker in George Lonegan has spent most of his life in close proximity with death and dead people. Making him gifted and unique, George yearns for a normal life where he is more concerned with life than death. These three special beings struggle to get past their phases and arrive to a stage they yearn for – different for all three, yet intermediately connected.

As a movie, Hereafter is a staple in American cinema, even though it hardly excited critics and viewers when it came out. Strikingly close to art house creations of Europe, Hereafter is as close to the cool, detached cinematic style of Europe as one could get from the lens of America. Although Hereafter is a high budget minimalist film with stunning production design, it feels quiet, very ambient. The dialogs sound jarringly real, less dramatized—similar to everyday conversation, as one would find in art-house films. Not shocking though that the movie received mixed reactions upon its release, partly due to the lack of theatrics one would assume.

Hereafter is methodical, slow-paced, which in many ways acts as a case of catharsis than a movie that aims to entertain. Eastwood delivers a simple, yet shockingly subdued movie, burning in tension underneath, with an ambience of coldness and piercing silence—almost close to how life functions for the normal, smaller than life person.

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The progression of the story and the plot arrangement seem unpolished at first instance. It was filmed after the first draft of the screenplay itself, but deep inside, it is not really unpolished. The story is tense, the treatment is subtle, and the tone is therapeutic with some striking scenes backed by the fantastic cinematography (Tom Stern) and beautiful artistic design (James J. Murakami, Patrick Sullivan, and co.). Clint Eastwood gives the movie an expressionistic stamp. It’s of course a drastic switch from his popular Western flicks. Hereafter is more natural and imaginative that rounds up beautifully to become perceptive than interpretative.

Is Hereafter flawless? Why, that would be impossible! The immediate bonding of Melanie, portrayed pleasantly by Bryce Dallas Howard, and George seems far stretched, especially the dialog exchanges between the two in their cooking class sounding premature. The final coincidental meeting of the three central characters at a Book Fair in London, while that may not be impossible, pushes the issue towards sluggish writing, hence, the first draft bite.

Even with such flaws, Hereafter is an ironic story and flawed as human lives are. At the end, when dealing with a human who spends more time contemplating and contacting the dead than the alive, and characters immersed into the art of dying, the flaws in the movie punctuate the artistic allurements and the loopy plotlines—making this movie a playful involvement into poetry, over a serious approach on prose. After all, life is poetry. You never really realize how and when it starts and how and when it ends. Wasn’t it just yesterday?

Hereafter mayn’t be an archetypical Clint Eastwood classic. Yet, Hereafter might stand in the pinnacle of his arsenal. While there may be movies that are better remembered and perceived than this hushed classic; as far as storytelling and a perfect treatment of a story is concerned, Hereafter is one of Eastwood’s prime feathers in his hat filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Hereafter masters the art of witnessing. It dares to be honest without the preaching. It’s as good a soother you could find, closely mirroring the beats of music than actual drama. If there’s tenderness in movies, it’s right here. One of Eastwood’s finest attempts, it’s arguably his most underrated gem – a movie worth applauding for its honesty, beauty, and serenity.

Krrish 3 – When East Meets West (2013)

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The emotional impressions of the East combine with the power bloc of modern day heroism, the Superhero prodigies of the West.  The result is of a superhuman—a transporter of hopes for millions of people and an idol for everybody, Krrish—India’s response to Captain America and a mishmash of Spiderman, Superman, and Batman. Magnanimity certainly doesn’t harm. Krrish 3 is precisely the story of India’s newly found superhero, yet it is not just Krrish who is the central point of the story, Krrish 3 works for other reasons apart from just Krrish—the innately pure superhero, with a heart of gold—as they say—and a body of steel, as one would suppose.

Krrish series started as a franchise with Koi Mil Gaya (2003, Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta, Rekha), a movie a result of pure imagination over astute scientific observation—popularly influenced by E.T. the Extraterrestrial, or at least believed to be such. With a soulful protagonist in the form of Rohit Mehra (Hrithik Roshan), and a touching story, Rakesh Roshan (Karan Arjun, Krrish Trilogy) built a movie empire based on science fiction, the popular trending of alien life, and the birth of a human with extraordinary powers through Koi Mil Gaya and Krrish (2003). Krrish 3 carries on from where Krrish left, but with a different style and treatment. This time around, Rakesh Roshan presents Krrish 3 as India’s most accomplished VFX and CGI exhibition—assuming the responsibility of creating a gigantic visual spectacle along the lines of Hollywood marvels. Krrish, the movie, was the birth of the superhero Krrish and his fight for humanity, but against a fellow human. On the contrary, Krrish 3 embraces an assembled crew of characters possessing out-worldly strengths and attributes squaring Krrish in a predicament he has never been before—facing off against an ensemble of super villains. Not alone in this unique environment, Krrish—the superhuman—has the omnipresent grace of his father, Rohit, protecting and guiding him—beyond space and time.

Whilst Krrish 3 is a brainchild of the superhero, summer blockbuster concept, the movie remains true to the Indian way of storytelling, which could be bad or good. In this case, it’s a mixture, but in large portions, it’s really good. Perhaps due to the association with Diwali—a Diwali bonanza, as they say—Krrish 3 is more of a dramatization of a superhero holding the popular premise of saving the world from ulterior forces. Following the archetypal formula of super protagonist vs. super antagonist, Rakesh Roshan’s brilliant execution of this formulaic, well-structured template movie turns it from a mere model to entertaining cinema, and his sublime treatment differentiates Krrish 3 from other movies trapped in the state called structure syndrome. True to Bollywood oddities, Krrish 3 mixes quirky Hindi movie plots and the Hollywood superhero muscles borrowing some clichéd plotlines from yesteryear Bollywood movies, and scenes and designs from the Hollywood outings of Avengers, X-Men, and Transformers. It holds its own though, big time, despite being a concept that Hollywood seems to fantasize about, almost every summer.

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Several themes run across the screen—duty, honor, loyalty, love, dedication, and the concept of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam—what could loosely be translated as Universal Humanhood, if I may. Prominently, the legendary maxim of resident Uncle, Ben Parker, from Spiderman becomes the logline for this superhero outing: with great power, comes great responsibility. Krrish 3, in its absolute essence, is the actualization of that one masterful quote.

The selling point of the movie is, without any reservation, the visual graphics. Taking a segment in time to talk about them, the CGI and the visual FX, Krrish 3 is by far India’s best dive into the unknown waters of visual effects—particularly at such a grand scale. In comparison to Hollywood standards, the effects seem trivial at times, but excluding those moments, few and far in between, the team of Krrish 3 has meticulously created unbelievable imageries and enhanced the graphics—presenting India’s first superhero science fiction movie, especially on the pedestal Krrish 3 finds itself, as a visually bombastic superhuman action drama. To clear the air, there may not be a parallel between Gravity (2o13) and Krrish 3, but neither is there a parallel to Krrish 3 in Bollywood, or any movie to come out of India. The VFX is international quality—transcendental. For the film industry, especially with Bollywood going the Hollywood way, for good or bad, Krrish 3 has opened the gate.

When we look at the Krrish franchise from a commercial perspective, Indian audiences have been very dodgy of superhero and fantasy movies. It is a stunning statement that Koi Mil Gaya was the first ever fantasy, science fiction movie to become a blockbuster in India. Even so, Koi Mil Gaya wasn’t exactly a full-blown techno movie; it was a drama, a retelling of a story of one special boy. Three years later, when the first superhero of India was born, Rakesh Roshan didn’t project Krrish as a complete superhero movie. Romance and family drama, with impressive stunts—and a protagonist with superhuman powers—seemed to be the spine of the movie. When arriving to the third episode of the trilogy, Krrish 3 comes to its own—putting a mask of a techno marvel and appearing as a complete superhero flick with stunning visuals and sequences, where the technology has overtaken the dramaturgies of the earlier two films in the trilogy. Not without a balance, though—so would Rakesh Roshan suggest. The melodrama finds itself drifting throughout the movie. Rakesh Roshan cracks this intelligent line to treat this experience as a manifestation of supernatural powers, with the Indian spices of drama alive and flowering the on screen daring of one Krrish—thereby striking a crucially needed balance.

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Hrithik Roshan as Rohit Mehra delivers a genuine and natural performance. The use of the adjective startling would be an understatement for the performance is filled with innocence, accuracy, and spontaneity. As he did a decade ago, Hrithik Roshan chameleons himself into the genius who forgot to grow up channeling a physical look and mannerism that would prompt anybody to forget that the actor playing Rohit and Krrish is the same. It was inspiring. To much disappointment, conversely, Hrithik doesn’t have the same power as Krishna or Krrish. The acrobatics, stunts, and Hrithik’s look as Krrish cannot be faulted, but Hrithik, as Krishna, is bland and as Krrish is decent. On a side note, the mask doesn’t offer any realistic protection to Krrish’s identity, and since identity protection is of such importance, the scene in which Kaya fails to recognize Krrish as Krishna appears phony and a tad unrealistic. Also, Hrithik as Krishna looks too jacked up and built for any normal person to believe that he isn’t some supermodel or at least, a wrestler. Whilst it suits his superhero alter-ego to the core, but as an ordinary person, that’s too super. Amidst all of this, Krrish’s main job is the action part, the super action—where he is very impressive.

Hrithik’s leading lady; however, with all due respect, couldn’t have been a more irritating outfit. From her dressing style, gestures, to her dialects, Priyanka Chopra appeared as some teenage music icon over a wife and a journalist that she was playing in the movie. It was only after the interval, when Priyanka Chopra didn’t have much to do except shed tears, did she cease to become irksome. Kangna Ranaut was decent, but her face carried an awkwardness that was difficult to decode. Nothing special, but with a stronger role and a far more accomplished act than Priyanka Chopra, Kangna gave a very functional performance.

The least of the stars amongst the actors, bare minimum, yet the actor who delivered a powerful and unnerving performance as Kaal, Vivek Oberoi—a cold, restrained, and sadistic performance by a man curtailed by time and fate. Almost at the level of previous great villains of Hindi cinema, Vivek Oberoi was Kaal and not the other way around. Prodigious—from his look, his dialogs, his facial expressions, and his demeanor as the unworldly sadist—Vivek Oberoi was on his game.

Fused into the theme of Universal Humanhood, Krrish 3 is a pleasurable superhero entertainer with fantastic visuals, a solid plot, and some natural performances. A remarkable step up for Bollywood and despite its flaws and loopholes, Krrish 3 is what people call—a very good commercial movie. A journey worth to the theaters considering the ticket prices, your coffee or soda, and those sandwiches or popcorns, fans of Bollywood should give this movie at least one chance, notwithstanding the comparison to Hollywood. Appreciate it as an Indian superhero science drama, Krrish 3 is a dramatization of an Indian superhero, with brilliant visual effects—some eye sparkling, some decent, but all worth the price—ultimately shaping up as a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

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By the way, Sonia Mehra’s (Rekha) exclusion from the movie and her mysterious death was rather sad. But since we are in a killing spree—Nisha (Preity Zinta) died in between of Koi Mil Gaya and Krrish, while Sonia in between Krrish and Krrish 3—here’s hoping Priya Mehra (Priyanka Chopra) “dies” in between Krrish 3 and Krrish 4! Had to lay that down…

La Maschera del Demonio (1960) – Mask of Satan

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The subculture of Goths has given birth to many movies in the history of cinema. The Goths have always been people and culture of immense mystique; many times, the subject matter is so intense that movies become cults just due to the myth surrounding Gothic culture. The Mask of Satan is one movie falling under the umbrella of Gothic cinema, yet it is not just an extension in the long inventory of Goth movies. The Mask of Satan exhibits numerous issues, and lying at the heart of this classic is a benchmark movie in the history of European Cinema. The movie prizes this accolade not just for its innovative splendor, but also as part of film literature and history—a landmark.

The movie is set in the mid-1800s in Moldavia—split between Romania and the Republic of Moldova. With a gap of two centuries distinguishing the events in the movie, the story begins at Moldavia in the 17th Century—around 1630 C.E.—when Moldavia existed as an autonomous state in Eastern Europe. Subsequently, the world of this movie falls during the Renaissance Movement laying at the tail end of the Metaphysical Era. The prevailing action of this era, therefore, saw the great revival of art, culture, history, and philosophy along with the beginning of scientific observation, Positivism.

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The milieu of La Maschera del Dominio is the highly cursed system of witch burnings and killings that was rampant in Europe in the High and Late parts of the Middle Age up until the Age of Enlightenment, and beyond—but to a lesser extent. During this era, Catholic Churches were the all-powerful institution in much of Europe using their might to eliminate women practicing witchcraft, an art that was unethical, immoral, and sinful. The dreaded devil worshipping is the central theme of this movie, and the Catholic/Religious bans on devil worshipping and the consequent punishment gives Black Sunday its platform to launch a stellar story much in conjunction with European practices in the Middle Ages. These historical facts blend into the drama built through the movie and the result is one gripping horror of myth, reality, history, and calamity.

Coming from Italian Filmmaker, many call him the pioneer of the Giallo movementMario Bava, Black Sunday is a pioneering horror movie that uses innovative camera techniques, lighting, and shooting style. The camera movements and the unvoiced focus on each character enhance the story in muted rituality—without the need for exposition and active conflict. In fact, the way of filming underlines passive conflict and gives power to showing than telling. The setting of the movie, Gothic art, etiquette, and infrastructure, paints a visual a tone of grandeur that Mario Bava captures with his unique way of filming.

The core story kick starts with a session of accidents and coincident that sways Dr. Andre Gorobec (John Richardson) to Moldavia with his senior, Dr. Thomas Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi)—on their way to St. Petersburg in Russia. Various conditions turn this pair to the dreaded spot with a witch’s legacy hovering for two centuries. While touring across the Chapel of Sacrifice, Andre comes across the central character of the story, the elegant Princess Katia Vajda (Barbara Steele). Here in this moment of eons, the horror begins promising to revive an ancient curse and destroy Katia and her family. The tale is all about the great revival, the power of faith, and the tragedy of life.

The pace is brooding and the movie claps onto you. Flowing in its mystical charm, without hiccups, the best compliment for the movie would be that you do not realize the passing of time at all. It’s engrossing and a wonderful display of visuals and arts amalgamated with terrific shots, simplistic storytelling, and dynamic characters. Black Sunday is an archetypical Gothic drama not just for the style, but also for the masterful execution and dramatic development of a classic witch story.

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For the luxurious revelations of European Cultural Revolution, Mask of Satan is a movie rich in exhibition, intense in dramatization, natural in recitation, formidable in portrayals, and splendid in direction. The movie is not just a display of horrific events but also a revelation of the myths and symbols of witchcraft; a bonanza for everybody interested in investing their time in cinema.