Dark Awakening: A Star Wars Fan Film

What is so great about Star Wars? I think Star Wars introduced us to a whole new Universe with limitless possibilities. There are plenty of characters and there are plenty of sub-plots which are completely untouched. And your creativity is the limit when it comes to developing any idea that revolves around the Universe. And that is exactly what the makers of “Dark Awakening: A Star Wars Fan Film” have done over here… What this film is about? Check this out!

4,000 thousand years ago an ancient and powerful artifact capable of amplifying the dark side present in any force user to terrifying levels went missing and was presumed lost…until now. Its location has been discovered by the Sith on a remote planet and is theirs for the taking. All they have to do is defeat a small group of Jedi who have settled there. But, when the Sith Witch who created it returns to reclaim it an ancient battle resumes with the fate of the galaxy resting in the winner.

I really loved the overall make-up and the costumes of the actors. Considering working on a low budget could be tough especially when it comes to producing something as grand as Star Wars, the person in-charge of these two departments has really managed to impress me. The Sith characters and also all the Jedis were very close to what the original series introduced us to. And that really helped me get a grip on the plot of the film. And yes! Tia Cherie Polite was awesome Lady Fatale!

The very first shot of a spaceship really intrigued me. But I felt that was the best shot of the film. Josh Kearney’s presence as Darth Evicerus does a great job to carry the film through a confusing back story and set-up while we struggle to accept the action being anyway close to appearing credible. The visual effects of the film are not bad but I feel the film lacks the sense of what a good edit can do to a movie.

The film is a really brave attempt to achieve a compelling storyline based on some of the characters briefly introduced in the original Star Wars series. The screenplay does an exceptional job of incorporating this film into the pre-existing and percolating Star Wars cinematic universe. At some times, I felt overall the storyline, the effects and the sound of the film could have been much better. Even the performances. But I chose to overlook these facts considering the honest attempt by the makers. I hope this film receives a great response and the makers choose to bring us a sequel to this with greater cinematic scope. As the 7th installment to the original Star Wars film franchise is set to release in the month of December this year, I have decided to watch as many fan made short films based on Star Wars as I can. It will just get me more and more excited about the film that all of us have been waiting for so long!

The film, bounces with the energy of pure invention. Although there are a few flaws, I had more fun watching Dark Awakening than I’ve had in a long time. I hope we get to see more from the makers of this film…

Don’t forget to check out the film over here https://www.facebook.com/DarkAwakeningFilm http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3726058/

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TUNGUSKA DIARIES – A Different Take

The whole idea of my blog is to appreciate films that push the envelope and learn something while I do so. “Short films” is a medium that is really close to my heart and when I see a short film, so passionately made, it simply inspires me to make more and more films.

TUNGUSKA DIARIES from Alpha Hawk Films on Vimeo.

The film TUNGUSKA DIARIES is based on the true event near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Russia. It was a large explosion caused by an asteroid and it is the largest impact event on or near Earth in recorded history.

The first thing I did after watching the film is to read more about this strange incident. I suggest you to read about the incident first and then watch the movie so that you can enjoy it even more.

The film actually combines the “found-footage” method of filming with an impactful sound design. I could really sense the presence of something, which is not supposed to be there due to the whole POV treatment. And although not realistic, it works quite well for the film.

The cinematography of the camera needs to be appreciated as well! The camera is never static. And there is always something happening on screen. It really kept me intrigued. A few suggestions would be to search for a few facts on the technical aspect before filming, such as the aspect ratio and the quality of the footage to make it more believable. However, the short is a stylish and satisfying version of a real incident, so nevertheless it works for me.

Well, I can’t help but to go back to the music of this film. While watching the film, I knew something is about to go wrong. And the music built the suspense tremendously well. It felt like I was watching Cloverfield made by Alfred Hitchcock.

I feel it is never too easy to make a found footage film. And I also think that a found footage film should be as open ended as possible. The film does score well in that manner. The film is smart, scary in a way and showcases a creative twist. It brought this strange phenomenon to my notice. And now I cannot stop thinking about it.

Over here I want to give a big shoutout to the makers of the film, especially Martin Sommerdag, the Director. Their film – A Beautiful View is coming out shortly and it is already on my must watch list.

A Beautiful View [Teaser] from Alpha Hawk Films on Vimeo.

Writing ‘Bey Yaar’ – How a Gujarati film changed the rules of the game

F.i.g.h.t C.l.u.b

Bey Yaar – It was a small budget Gujarati film that nobody had heard about. And then something magical happened. Again, something that nobody had heard about. The film’s writer Niren Bhatt tells us about the making of the film, the hurdles it faced, and its amazing journey – how it not only recovered its cost but went to earn almost 10 times its budget.

Bey Yaar

Any Gujarati (I hate the word Gujju) reading this blog is (I assume) aware of ‘Bey Yaar’, for others – it’s a small independent regional film which recently completed 25 Weeks in cinemas. It’s beyond belief (even for us) considering the fact that it directly competed with all major Bollywood releases for almost 4 months now, in a market conventionally strong for Hindi films, and in a space where regional content is absolutely non-existent in multiplexes.

For decades, Gujarati cinema was on ventilator…

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The Indie Movement that Moves You

Cinema is nowhere close to being the cheapest form of art. On the contrary it could possibly be the most expensive art form practiced worldwide. As we witnessed the digital revolution, cinema has started to become more and more personal. We are just counting days till the next Rodriguez comes up with his version of El Mariachi shot on his iPhone. And we will appreciate it not because it is shot with no budget. But for the fact that an individual has the guts to invest resources both in the form of time and money to tell his unique story.

Sulemani Keeda is a story of storytellers. It is about two struggling writers in the suburbs of Mumbai trying to make a career and deal with even more complex issues in life; such as love and, life. But it is far from being a documentary about how difficult it is to get into the industry and how one has to keep his morals aside. By watching the trailer itself you can tell that about the film that it is not a Madhur Bhandarkar film.

Simple is boring – At least when it comes to characters, make them complex. Right from their dressing sense to their smallest attributes. Give the audience something to remember. In the film, the second lead played by Mayank Tewari dwells on this simple principle.

Comic relief – For me, the genre of the film was comedy. So you can’t really call it a comic relief. But take a serious film for example – Life is Beautiful. No matter how serious your subject is, the audience needs some hope. Some reason to believe that things are going to get better. So a dramatic scene sandwiched between comedy scenes is even more gripping and it distracts from the melodrama on screen.

Every person can have a different approach to the same story. If I have to make this same film again, I would make it in a completely different form. That’s why there are new films coming every week. Because the plot of two films could be similar but the treatment of the film can change the whole perspective.

On a totally irrelevant note – Irrelevant scenes that are memorable get etched into the audience’s mind. Get your characters out of their comfort zones. Let them do things they wouldn’t do otherwise. Try to capture the emotions over there and you have a brilliant scene.

In terms of technicalities the film lacks the professional touch. At least that’s what I felt. Watching it on Vimeo certainly doesn’t make me the best judge of it. But the cinematography and the sound design was quite off. I seriously felt such a fresh story needed a better technical support. But nevertheless, it wasn’t distracting me from the story. As long as the story is going in the right direction, I don’t mind compromising on these details.

Apart from a fresh script if there is anything that makes the film what it is then it is the conviction behind it. No matter what the budget is, you are always spending time while making a film. Right from the idea to actually watching it on the screen, it takes a huge investment in terms of time. And it is a great achievement to dedicate yourself to a project such as this with little or no guarantee of returns. That is what I take back from this film.

I hate the fact that such attempts are showered with almost no love by the audience. Yes, we have a certain group that actually goes to the theaters to watch an experimental film by a talented new director. Yet, when it comes to actually getting the money back from revenues, set aside some profit; is extremely difficult. But everyone knows that. As the one character in the film says – if you want to make a film, think like a shopkeeper, not like a writer. So I don’t know about others, but I actually want to catch as many indie films as I can in the theaters this year.

To watch Sulemani Keeda online, follow these steps

Oh and by the way, here are some of the greatest indie films. Let’s watch them together!

#Whiplash Like None Other

The eternal battle between “why me” and “try me”

I have been hearing a lot about this film from multiple sources. It has been one of the favourites in prestigious film festivals around the world. Mostly in the Supporting Actor category for J.K. Simmons and his brilliance on screen. So far, the film has claimed a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, a Screen Actors Guild Award for the same and many more. I watched the film twice in one week and I feel I should refrain myself from speaking about how good Simmons is at what he put up on screen and speak more about some other points that make the film stand out.

Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) as a drummer with great potential meets Terrence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) known for his terrifying methods. Fletcher gives Andrew a chance in his top ensemble as an alternate. Andrew struggles making a permanent place in the core team as Terrence pushes both – his ability and his sanity.

The director Damien Chazelle made a short film of the same name in 2013 with the producers Jason Reitman and Jason Blum with J. K. Simmons in the same role. It was a 17 minute proof that the subject and the director can make it to the big screen. At the age of 30 the director has an Academy Award Nomination under his belt.

If you are remotely interested in this film, please do not watch the trailer. On one hand, the film shows off excellent editing but the trailers are quite the opposite. True that they generate interest about the film but if you wish to enjoy the film one piece at a time, unraveling the minute details about it; then simply skip the trailers. They contain major spoilers without any spoiler alert. Almost as if the producers were desperate to get the audience to fill the seats.

I have heard a lot of people complaining that the plot of the film is quite like any other sports film. And it is. To put it in simple terms, Whiplash is a movie about a guy with potential who meets the toughest challenge of his life in the form of his instructor. I even had an argument with a friend of mine who attacked the film by calling it a typical Hollywood commercial film. For me, the film succeeds for its spot on beginning and perfect ending.

Being a filmmaker, being an artist, I have been in Andrew’s shoes. And I feel everyone has been through this at one point or the other. We all have that one person in the world we feel is impossible to impress. And some of us do take small things personally. When you put so much of efforts in something, it is hard to take any criticism at all. The bottomline being the last scene of Whiplash. Conviction is the key. There are all sorts of friends, philosophers and guides in the world who simply enjoy to pull you down. Even if you are good. This is my way of dealing with them. NOT TO GIVE A FUCK.

Regardless of the great performance, Terrence Fletcher IS the bad guy in the film. And Andrew wins my heart. An icon such as Fletcher has the power to discourage someone. But the next great one will never be discouraged, no matter what. That is what I am going to take back from the film.

Whiplash is by far the best film I watched in 2015. I am a little biased towards it for many personal reasons. I predict the film has a great potential winning the Best Sound Mixing award and also Best Film Editing. I am sure the film will get a warm response on its release in India. And the only sound that would be louder than the drumming would be the applause the movie receives!

#Boyhood – First Time Ever!

Every impossible phenomenon is only impossible, till someone who has the conviction to bend the limits and change the rules.

Boyhood! One can go on and on about this film and yet not touch the slightest glimpse of what it has achieved in itself. Shot over the period of 12 years, Boyhood is a cinematic experiment that has yielded unbelievable results. The movie being made, itself is a legend and worthy of a nomination. But for everyone remotely interested in enjoying the film, keep aside this fact when you go to the theatres and just let it flow through you.

“I have never been in a helicopter crash, but my life from my perspective has been an adventure” – Jesse (Before Sunset)

Boyhood is a bundle of moments that encompass 12 years of the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the age of 5 to 18. The theme of the film is growing up. We are introduced to three most important characters in Mason’s life – His mother ( Patricia Arquette), his sister (Lorelei Linklater) and his father (Ethan Hawke) and a lot of important yet temporary characters.

“Do you consider your book autobiographical?”

“Well, it is hard to say. Isn’t everything autobiographical? We see things through one keyhole!”

It is one whole story from one perspective. We don’t see anything that Mason does not witness. The film is terribly honest in that sense. Of course it takes really minor liberties in a couple of scenes, but nothing largely related to the plot of the film. The director Richard Linklater said, “Boyhood is a memory. It’s about how time passes and how that informs the way in which we process the world.”

Speaking of the plot of the film, I wonder if there is any plot to the film. The film starts abruptly and it ends abruptly. We simply wish to see more of Mason after the film is over. To me, the protagonist of the film is time and Mason is the point of view character. Time goes by and we are mere observers. There are hard times and there are times when we are completely lost. But no time lasts forever. It is constantly changing. And at the end of the day, we are just in the perfect place to say, that we did alright.

The music in the film, needs an honourable mention at least. I am hoping to find the entire OST of the film as a playlist somewhere. The change in the mood of the track can let us track the change in the mood of the characters. We learn a lot, not only about Mason, but also about his father through the songs that he writes for his kids. And apart from that, songs provide the necessary transition between different vignettes in the film. Something the Contemporary Indian Cinema very generously lends its distant cousins.

If someone is familiar with the technique of timelapses; then I can certainly consider this 2 hr. 45 min. epic as a humungous timelapse. Apart from the technicalities, the two most important aspects of a timelapse are change and consistency. In the film, as the characters actually grow up, change in the physical form is a part of the parcel. But the script really maintains the pace of behavioural changes. On the other hand, the director acts as a tripod and holds the consistency. So that the movie does not become a tedious collection of moments, or as Celine says in Before Sunrise “A National Geographic program about people.”

Speaking more about change and consistency, some of the characters change. Some of them stay the same. Or to put this in better words, the goals of all these characters evolve from time to time. Mason’s Father graduates from being a manchild to a well settled man. As he puts forward himself in the film, he becomes everything Mason’s mother wanted him to become 20 years ago. On the other hand, Mason’s sister remains the same throughout. We are talking about the basics. How one person deals with a problem and what is that person’s first reaction to it.

When I watched School of Rock, I didn’t even know about Richard Linklater or the Before Series. When I first watched Boyhood, my initial reaction was burdened by the so called “gimmick” of the film 12 years in the making. Mainly because, if I have to make the film right now, I would make it in a different manner. I stay in a different part of the globe and the culture is vastly different over here. And the film relies on the simple moments shared by everyone while growing up. On watching it for the third time, by some alterations I could easily find my impressions in Mason. I could find my mother’s sacrifices for me and my younger brother and I could see my father’s inability to express his love for us in the film. And I feel that is the biggest achievement of the film. To generalize something as simple and as universal as growing up!

After this one, I am expecting at least the Academy Award for Best Director. And I am eagerly waiting for Linklater’s next. This is what he has to say about it:

“I think the word ‘spiritual’ gets me off the hook. I just shot it and wrapped it recently, and it has nothing to do with Dazed and Confused other than it would be set four years later, when one of the younger characters went off to college. It’s a party film. It’s really about the beginning of school, not the end of the school year. I guess personally or autobiographically it’s kind of in that realm, but it’s also a continuation of Boyhood, believe it or not. I don’t know if one film can be a sequel to two different movies, but it begins right where Boyhood ends, with a guy showing up at college and meeting his new roommates and a girl. It overlaps with the end of Boyhood.”

And The Nominees Are..!

It is that time of the year all the cinephiles in the world wait for. The Academy Awards! Two days ago, the nominations were out. And I have received my to watch list before D-Day. Last year I watched 8/9 of the nominated films in the Best Picture category. And with the help of a few colleagues, I was able to predict most of the wins right. Let’s see if I can do better this year.

But for now, it’s trivia time!

1. Till now, only three films were able to bag all 5 of the major awards known as the Big Five. Those being – It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

2. The only performers to win consecutive Academy Awards are Luise Rainer, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Jason Robards and Tom Hanks

3. On the other hand, some of your favourite performers are yet to hold the gold.
4. While some people crave for a victory, others decide not to attend the ceremony and receive the award themselves.
5. I keep talking about this a lot. But the shortest performance to win an Oscar for Best Actor is by Anthony Hopkins of about 16 minutes.
6. There are several different stories why The Academy Award of Merit is called an Oscar. Well, check out this weird explanation.
7. The trophy is a knight, holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes signifying the five original branches of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers).
8. The youngest actor to ever receive an Oscar is Shirley Temple (5) . And the oldest one to get nominated is Gloria Stewart (87).
9. Three actors have won Academy Awards for playing characters that utter not a single word throughout the entire film. Jane Wyman, Sir John Mills and Holly Hunter.
10. Chaplin’s film Limelight, made in 1952 had to wait for another 20 years after its first release for an award. At that time, to be eligible for the award, it had to be screened in Los Angeles.

Enid Blyton meets Paranormal- The Shadows (Poppy Farrell Mysteries #1)- Alyne de Winter

Books, Food and Me!!

The blurb reads,

It is the Chilly time of year….
Darken your Halloween with this Paranormal Thriller: The Shadows!

From the moment she enters the world of her new boarding school, Blight’s Academy, teenage sleuth, Poppy Farrell, finds danger. From a strange encounter on a train platform, to evidence of a murdered student in the woods that surround the ancient, gothic buildings, life at Blight’s Academy grows more menacing by the day.

Poppy and her friends, Clair and Georgie, must outwit their Shadows, older girls assigned to mentor them, but who coldly follow them wherever they go, like their shadows. There is a dark secret at the heart of Blight’s Academy: disappearances, deaths, and conspiracies pervade the wooded grounds, flicker in the stained glass windows, tinkle like a music box lullaby through the turreted halls.

Enter the world of The Shadows where witchcraft is afoot. Young Adult or Old Adult…

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Coherence (2014)

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

Dinner parties are sketchy enough as is.

A group of friends gather for a dinner party and the usual occurs- eating, smoking, drinking, and gossiping. Nothing out of the ordinary except for the fact that, on this night in particular, a comet is orbiting over them as they continue to speak. While this doesn’t necessarily freak them out at first, it definitely makes them a bit weary once weird stuff around the house begins to happen. Like, for instance, certain people’s iPhone screens start inexplicably cracking. And then, to make matters a bit worse, some party-goers start acting a bit, how to say it, off. They start to forget certain people’s faces and they begin to reveal deep, dark secrets that they wouldn’t have otherwise gone through with revealing, to a huge party no less. But it’s when the power goes off that everybody in the house decides that it’s time to figure…

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watching, making and learning cinema. enjoying the process