‘Mindhunter – Season 2’ Web Series Review: Mysterious and creepy but engrossing only in parts

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Source: Netflix | YouTube

Mindhunter makes you imagine how a deadly crime would have taken place as it throws open the psychological reasons behind it

Season two of Netflix’s Mindhunter kicks off the proceedings with a dull first episode. After such a haunting, spine-chilling and thrilling season one, the very beginning of the second season puts you off. But the magic begins in the second episode as Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), FBI agent, comes to his own. Even Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), his colleague, remarks that “he’s back”. Well, Holden was the most interesting leading character in the first outing. And it’s only in the second episode when the intriguing interviews with serial killers commence (where the greatness of Mindhunter lies). This is where Holden slyly manipulates killers who are being interviewed. He gets them to talk about instances that are gruesome, brutal and violent which, otherwise, they won’t easily reveal. Jason Hill’s fantastic background score takes care of the rest.

Based on the non-fiction called Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, the series tells the story of FBI agents who seek insights from imprisoned serial killers, study their behaviour, thoughts, and actions, and use that to find other such killers out there. (Ed Kemper, played by Cameron Britton, is a serial killer from season one. His interview with Holden made a tremendous impact. The season two makes sure of honouring this character by allowing him to make a brief appearance here). These are the killers who, as Bill states, “develop a sickening personal signature” and resort to committing “compulsive crimes”. Mindhunter is an exceptional and remarkable series for some important reasons. It never shows a person committing a heinous crime. It only talks about it. It shows photographs of dead persons taken by security officials for investigation. It makes you imagine how a deadly crime would have taken place as it throws open the psychological reasons behind it. David Fincher is one of the executive producers and has even directed a few episodes. So, you can expect the series to be extraordinarily suspenseful and thrilling as his films are known for.

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Source: Netflix | YouTube

Impressive cinematography lifts Mindhunter’s quality even further (Helmed by Erik Messerschmidt and Christopher Probst). Take this scene for example. In this, you get a longshot first. The surrounding isn’t bright where a car is parked at. But a little daylight has sneaked in. This shadowy place has a creepy aura about it. A guy approaches towards this car and enters inside it. You, then, get closeups as you see Holden sitting in the front seat of the car and the guy who just came in is sitting right behind him. While Holden does his usual manipulatory tricks while hurling questions at this guy about a serial killer, the camera juggles between side views and front views. The camera never focuses on this guy’s face as you get a blurred view which makes it even more intriguing. And in several other scenes, the camera also does little tricks to make a just-another-scene into a fascinating one. For instance, while a prison gate is thrown open and closed, it feels like the camera is affixed to the gate.

Anna Torv, who plays a psychologist Wendy Carr, was brilliant in season one. (She arrests you with her marvellous act). But she has less screen space. Wendy’s role in the investigation, albeit impressive to watch, is limited and fades away as her lesbian relationship take the centre-stage (which seem interesting at first but even this loses the sheen). Talking about personal problems of characters, even the problems that Bill confronts at home seems to be developing into something more serious and riveting. But that turns out to be repetitive and predictable.

The series also tries to keep its viewers guessing about the crimes and the motives. But it falters with the execution. It takes too long to create the confusion in your mind and ends up wearing you out. For instance, there are concerns of racial discrimination and attacks by Ku Klux Klan that seems to be turning into a grim situation. A political game gets triggered too. But the intensity, that the series wants to show through such politics and hate crimes, is never attained. Such long and tiresome instances aside, the series is otherwise a supremely engaging crime drama. It’s the want of knowing the answers behind the killings that make it worthy of binge-watching.

‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ Movie Review: A fantastic action film that exhibits a sheer mastery over death

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Revel in the gruesomeness, strength, guts, and the sheer mastery over death that the film exhibits. Keanu Reeves is a master at work.

Inside a public library, at the beginning of the movie, John Wick (played exceedingly well by an intense and fierce Keanu Reeves, maybe even more than what he displayed in the first two chapters) is looking for a book in a shelf. He finds the one he was looking for and opens it. There is a photograph of his wife, some coins and a Jesus Christ cross locket inside this hardback book. He takes an emotional look at the photo and keeps it back at the same place. You can’t have an extended period of silence and calmness in a John Wick film series. So, a guy attacks John. The same book comes handy for John to kill that guy as it makes for an eye-popping fight sequence. But John can’t rely on things like a book to get the better of all those who are looking to attack him. He, in a scene, rightfully says that he needs “guns… lots of guns”. And he does use an awful lot of them in addition to daggers in this film. He, of course, shows some acrobatic fighting style as well.

Director Chad Stahelski’s John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is much better than Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 for obvious reasons. There is no antagonist character he is after. He is fighting goons all alone with some help that he gets from a few people. The First Chapter had a weak villain in Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). I watched the First Chapter again and I was largely unimpressed by this character as it hardly had any impact. The Second Chapter had a promising start to the villain character as Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) sets John’s house on fire but this too faded away eventually. On the contrary, there is no dedicated antagonist character involved in Chapter 3 and no unnecessary and uninteresting hero-villain duel. There are men and women sent out with the task of killing John Wick. We get to see what John does best – “Hunt”.

We know what John Wick is capable of. We have already seen him inserting a pencil inside a man’s ear in the Second Chapter. So, seeing him using a book in this film to kill a guy was not surprising. He, also, just doesn’t shoot someone with his gun. He keeps his gun close to the attacker’s head and shoots him multiple times that sort of leads to ‘head explosion’. In fact, such scenes occur so much so that I, for a moment, forgot the persons getting killed are ‘humans’ as I loved the way John Wick goes about doing everything.

The First and Second Chapters of this film series established a unique style for itself. We get a fantastic bird’s eye view of skyscrapers and roads below at night time. The character of John Wick is registered in our minds as being someone with an immense amount of “audacity”. He is also said to be “a man of focus, commitment and sheer will”. As a matter of fact, there is always a style quotient about him. He drives a stylish-looking Ford Mustang car. A room full of cash in church gets engulfed in flames behind him as he walks casually. In Chapter 3, the style and the brutality get combined and multiplied.

While the First Chapter had a story, a grudge and a motive behind all the killings, the Second Chapter seemed to be ‘story-deficient’. What worked in both films were the action sequences involving John Wick. Therefore, Director Chad Stahelski strikes the right chord in the Third Chapter by infusing plenty of truculent action sequences. It’s difficult to know which one’s real and which one’s done through VFX as you get so absorbed by amazingly filmed scenes. A special mention must be given to three particular realistic sequences involving – the room full of daggers, the motorcycle chase, and the fight against the assassin, Zero (Mark Dacascos). The fun element associated with the fight against Zero and his men is something to watch out for.

Marcus (Willem Dafoe) shoots from a distance to save John Wick in the First Chapter (An interesting plot twist that surprised many of us). There is Winston (Ian McShane), in Chapter 3, who pulls the trigger of his gun to leave us in shock. Sofia (Halle Berry) and her two ferocious dogs, fighting alongside John Wick, is a mind-boggling addition. Even Charon (Lance Reddick), who keeps a serious expression and gives an intelligent perception about him in his brief appearances, comes in support of John Wick and shoots down foes.

As it all started with the killing of his dog, which gave him a “semblance of hope” and was not just a puppy to him, John Wick’s affection towards dogs kept on going in the Second Chapter as he adopted another very obedient dog that also features in this film.

The film has ended on the promise of yet another outing. Until then, it’s time to revel in the gruesomeness, strength, guts, and the sheer mastery over death that the film exhibits. Keanu Reeves is a master at work.

Delhi Crime Web Series Review: A tense and heartrending portrayal

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Richie Mehta has done a marvellous job to depict a brutal incident in an engrossing way.

It’s not even a “heinous” crime. It’s “insanity”. An apt way of putting things into perspective by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Vartika Chaturvedi (Shefali Shah). She is heading a criminal investigation to find out the 6 men who raped a woman on a moving bus. Delhi Crime, Netflix’s web series, directed by Richie Mehta, is an unsettling portrayal based on a real incident that shook the whole world. It was not only the gangrape that called for immediate investigation and protests in India’s capital city. The insane manner with which she was tortured was much more painful to even imagine (the details of which I am in no mood for reiterating as I am already in shock after watching this series and it’s going to be days before I can actually start thinking that I can get by in this cruel world).

The series not only takes potshots at the lack of alertness on the part of some of the police officers, which many argue is the major cause of crimes taking place, it also brings into purview how some of the honest cops put in their heart and soul into the investigation process. Vartika finds out that a male police officer is high on weed while on duty at a checkpoint on the road and replaces him with a female officer Neeti Singh (played brilliantly by a believable and empathetic Rasika Dugal). Neeti goes on to restrain a vehicle doing an illegal ivory trade. Vartika makes a good point that this is the reason why more women police officers are needed. That does not mean that there aren’t any good male cops around. A police constable, involved in this investigation, has no time to buy medicine for his wife. Another police officer readily accepts the order to travel a long way for capturing one of the rapists as his whereabouts come to light but the officer expresses his tiredness as he sighs wearily. Another cop, whose wife has come to police station carrying a lunchbox out of concern, has no time to eat food, let alone eating along with her. Even Inspector Bhupendra Singh (Rajesh Tailang), who is closely working with Vartika, has back pain but keeps going to help fast-track the investigation (Bhupendra’s respect for Vartika and the understanding between them is exhibited with perfection).

You feel the indignation rising inside you when one of the prime suspects gets caught and he, after tense interrogation, confesses that he committed this crime and adds that he has no regrets on doing so. But you also see that these rapists do have fear of their family. They try to commit suicide inside the prison fearing what would their family do when they get to know about their son being involved in this crime. One guy, apprehended by the police, tries to swim across a pond in order to get away from the police officers after being caught. But, when the police officer yells at him saying that what he did on that bus would be told to his mother, he stops right there, says that he will cooperate in this case and pleads to them not to reveal any of this to his mother. It is strange to see that someone, who loves his mother so dearly and does not want her to know about his stupid act, can go on to do horrible things to another woman.

One of the most impactful scenes is the one where the victim comes to her senses in the hospital and agrees to narrate the whole story for official records. She went through something so disastrous and inhuman. So, when she, with what strength she can gather, speaks with a low volume and tells everything to an official person (who is, again, a woman), it starts upsetting you. This official person, somehow, writes down the complete story controlling all her emotions.

It is agonising to even watch something terrible like this happening to a woman. Andrew Lockington’s music enhances the intensity with which the series proceeds and Richie Mehta has done a marvellous job to depict this brutal incident in an engrossing way.

Review of How To Train Your Dragon Movie Series: Peace and Unity

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How To Train Your Dragon is a film series comprising stupendous animated action fantasy that shows that there is strength in unity and with unity comes peace and mirthfulness.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is taking his dragon, Night Fury a.k.a Toothless, for a flight. The dragon dives straight to the ground before altering its direction just above the ground level and going upwards and soaring at a great height. This is so fantastically depicted that we get immersed in a phantasm and feel like we are the ones riding that dragon. This is also the first taste of successful flight for Hiccup as a dragon rider in the first instalment of How To Train Your Dragon series. The immersive experience remains intact in the subsequent follow-ups to this first part.

Based on Cressida Cowell’s series of books by the same name, this film franchise, set in a dreamy world, has a moving story that, with human-dragon friendship, illuminates how unity and togetherness can bring about a much-needed peace and happiness even in the real world. How To Train Your Dragon shows Hiccup, a small kid, often termed weak and incapable of fighting, leading the way to prove how love can prevail over hatred. In How To Train Your Dragon 2, it’s Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) living alone amongst the dragons and safeguarding them to ensure that one species do not get wiped out because of assault by the other (again, a much bigger picture represented where, in reality, we hear of a number of animals in danger of extinction due to man’s callous activities). While Hiccup has got this “dramatic flair” of protecting and loving the dragons from his mother, we can only learn from him and apply that in this world we love so dearly so as to protect endangered animals on our planet. Well, I am not sure if this is what it tried to depict but, in a way, it did seem to be sending out this strong message – This world is not only for humans.

Hiccup’s father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) leads from the front in killing the dragons for the security of people but the other side of his character, that is understanding and affectionate, takes over due to Hiccup’s influence. The father-son relationship was, especially, touching as Hiccup lovingly reminisces about the time spent with his father as a young kid in How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

The series is committed to showing a world where women are part of the decision-making process and are as strong as men. Hiccup’s father asks for the opinion of his wife on what she thinks is needed to be done as she opines and leads them along to save dragons. She, also, can be seen winning in an arm wrestling match against a muscular-looking man.

The series has its share of hilarious instances too. My favourite of all is the one where Night Fury takes the cue from his master Hiccup to impress a female dragon Light fury but winds up doing them all wrong and even weirdly enough.

John Powell’s exceptional music lent a great value to this film. It magnified the emotions attached to different scenes and aptly blended with the mood of the film.

The fairy tale endings of the first two parts did not work for me and seemed draggy. Even some of the revelations did not really come off as a surprise (Hiccup says that he did not kill Night Fury as it was frightened like him but the events leading up to this revelation was suggestive of the reason for his refrainment and it was a child’s play to figure this out).

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World made the most of the foundation laid down by the first two instalments. It was easily the best of this film franchise. Even though it has a proper ending, it still leaves a sign of continuity and one can only hope that it resumes from where it left with another remarkable outing. Nevertheless, How To Train Your Dragon is a film series comprising stupendous animated action fantasy that shows that there is strength in unity and with unity comes peace and mirthfulness.

The Haunting of Hill House Series Review: A spine-chilling series where even ‘no-ghosts’ scenes are horrifying

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This series will definitely inspire and pave way for more series to be made in the horror genre without trying too hard to make the viewers jump out of their skins… Spoilers ahead.

“Aaaargh..”, screams young Nell (Violet Mcgraw). She has woken up from a nightmare or that’s what her father Hugh Crain (Henry Thomas) thinks. But she says that she saw a bent-neck lady. He calms her daughter down and exits the room and closes the door slowly. Diagonally opposite is the room of the other daughter and he finds that she is sleeping quietly. He notices that the door of young Nell’s room is open again, closes it shut and goes back to his room. By this time, the expectation of seeing a ghost or something is already sky-high. The camera is focussing on the door that opened itself, slowly turns left towards the adjacent wall and the scene cuts. This scene comes at the start of the first episode. Such is the brilliance of this series that even when there are no ghosts around, you are terrified by the thought of seeing it.

Created and directed by Mike Flanagan, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House is a supernatural horror series which is based on Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name. Over the course of 10 episodes, we travel along the journey of a family whose lives are haunted by their short stay at the Hill House. The greatest strength of this series is the way it is structured in its writing. There is a constant juggling between two different timelines. One of the timelines, which is also the root of the whole story around which everything depends upon, shows the terrifying things that happened to the family in Hill House in 1992. The other timeline shows the present world, that is, 26 years later, where we see how the events at the house have shaped up the lives of the family members. So, what happens here is that it lets you put different pieces together and keeps you constantly under its grip. And when I say young Nell or young Luke (Julian Hilliard), I am referring to the younger version of these characters during their stay at the Hill House.

This series is not about never-seen-before moments. The horrifying scenes are something that we have seen or experienced in different horror movies. There are no forced inclusions of ghosts to scare you. There are no unnecessary loud screams to frighten you or annoy you for that matter. It keeps you on your toes and takes ample amount of time to allow the fear to grow on your mind. When Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser), the eldest daughter, opens the door thinking that some kid is playfully knocking on her door, there is no one outside. And the next moment you hear loud bangs from all corners of the house sending down chills all over your body. In another scene, Hugh Crain wakes up in shock seeing his wife Olivia (Carla Gugino) sitting over him holding a knife-like object against his neck. There is a feeling of terror as, like Olivia, we try to picture how she got here in the first place.

Well, we do see appearances of ghosts but they come at the right places and their transient presence is enough to make your heart go pitter and patter. A tall ghost, with its feet just above the floor, slides inside a room. Young Luke, one of the sons of Hugh Crain, who is hiding under the bed, makes a sound out of fear and the tall ghost bends down to take a look at him. In another scene, Shirley is embalming, which is a way of forestalling the decomposition of the dead body, and while she is doing that, we are horror-struck by the anticipation of some ghostly thing to happen but nothing happens. And when she is done embalming and is leaving the room, she sees the ghost of her mother Olivia sitting on a table and beckoning her. Most frightening ghost in this series is the bent-neck lady. We see her appearing on top of young Nell. She even pops up out of nowhere in the car to scare the wits out of Shirley and her sister Theo (Kate Siegel).

There were scenes where someone just talks about a hair-raising experience where it compels you to imagine and feel the chills. A woman explains a horrific experience to Steven Crain (Michiel Huisman) who is another son of Hugh Crain. She explains how her husband died in a car crash and saw his ghost hanging over the ceiling of her room. We do not see any visuals here but it is so terrifying to just envisage that. In another scene, Dudley, who is a caretaker of Hill House along with his wife, explains how he asked his wife not to stay at Hill House after dark and stopped seeing strange events happening in his house. Such scenes just raised the bar higher and made this series as frightful as it can be.

I felt like the series started losing the grip post-midway. It did not scatter my wits as it did in the first five episodes (there are 10 episodes in total). But it did not bother me much because I was still engrossed and affrighted as the series uncovered more important details of the events that happened at the Hill House. Mike Flanagan’s writing is top-notch coupled with great performances from the casts. This series will definitely inspire and pave way for more series to be made in the horror genre without trying too hard to make the viewers jump out of their skins.