The Rainmaker Film Review

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The Rainmaker stars Matt Damon, Claire Danes, Danny Devito, and John Voigt in roles and is directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film follows the character of Rudy Baylor, portrayed by Damon, a young, righteous lawyer with a romantic idea of how the law should work and a disgusted impression of how it does. Baylor is indoctrinated into a dishonest firm, but quickly rushes to the honest defense of a family who have had their insurance claim denied unfairly. The film explores the idea of integrity in the practice of law and the justice system, in a picture of the late 90s south, and is based on the novel of the same name by the one and only John Grisham.

This was a film that I was expecting to favor well with me. I’m a sucker for legal drama, and I’m an even bigger sucker for the image of people doing right when it would be easier not to. Righteousness is an idea not nearly broadcasted enough within the entertainment industry, and it’s that reason why I think writers like Aaron Sorkin, and, indeed, John Grisham, are a gift unlike no other. That’s my daily dose of Aaron Sorkin fangirling.

Jokes aside, The Rainmaker is infused with moral value, in as blatant a way as it could be. For me, that’s an abundantly positive thing. I have learned, however, that projecting an integrity and honor centric way of living can tend to be labeled ‘preachy’ in the 21st century (case in point: the criticism that often faces Aaron Sorkin. Okay, now I’ll stop). It might be advisable, if you’re one of those people who can’t stand the idea that there is a way to be behave that is better than you are now, to avoid watching this film.

I should think that it wouldn’t bother most people, seeing as it’s woven into what could only be described as a strong, memorable storyline. Characterization is a very strong point in the bare bones of the film; it’s not easy to make an audience care about a character they only see for a limited number of minutes on screen but they manage it in the case of Donny Ray Black, the crippled young man whose condition is pointedly ignored by the insurance company his family is suing the film. It is a similar mold from which they have produced Claire Danes’ character, Kelly Riker, and her relationship with Rudy Baylor (Damon). I can’t put my finger on what is is that’s endearing about their relationship. Aide from the strong chemistry, the contrast between Baylor and Kelly’s husband, Cliff, forces a shockingly whole image of a relationship which is not, in the end, given much of any screen time. Mention is also due to John Voigt, who does a typically masterful job of antagonising himself in the role of the lead counsel on the opposing side.

All in all, this is as strong a film as any you’ll see. Between Damon’s charm and a sharp, intelligent, and easy-on-the-ear script, your attention shan’t waver. I would go as far as to say that this is not only a good film, but an important one, and I’d would place on it my strongest of recommendations.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 80/100                                                     Aryamaan’s Score –

 

Searching Film Review

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One of the most unorthodox films to be made in as long as I can remember, Searching is the story of a father’s desperation after his daughter’s disappearance. The catch? The entire story is told from the screen of a laptop computer. If you can’t realistically imagine how that’s possible, join the club. I’ll try to explain as best I can. The film isn’t shot with a moving camera, rather it is a combination of text screens, Skype calls, YouTube videos, and social media accounts that all come and go on the face of a desktop, and, occasionally, a laptop, computer. If I put a camera on your laptop screen for a while, what you’d see is more or less exactly how the entire film is put on screen. The film stars John Cho and Debra Messing as the father and the leading police officer.

In case I haven’t made it obvious, I was very confused by the idea of this film before I saw it. I’ve always taken issue with gimmicks, they irritate the crap out of me, and that’s what the concept sounded like: a gimmick. It sounded like they were trying to make a quirky, “interesting” film more than a good one, and, while people are entitled to make whatever they want, I find that “interesting” concept films have a nasty habit of trading substance for style a little too willingly. That was my perspective, until I saw this film. Searching is a scarily well told story, considering the theoretically limited way in which they chose to tell it. David Kim, portrayed by John Cho, is a shockingly well rounded character; thanks largely in part to a heartfelt performance from Cho. I’d say Debra Messing was good, not exceptional. I can’t say I saw the twist with her character coming, but I had a feeling there was more than met the eye with her. She was too bland to have been all that she appeared to be (dangerously toeing the spoiler line here).

The credit for Cho’s performance, for which I’m shocked he’s received little to no critical acclaim, has to go to some really inventive writing. Being from Gen Z, it’s crazy to see a character drawn so well using text messages. The messages we don’t send have as much meaning as the ones we do, and at least a third to half of David Kim’s characterization is done over iMessage through his text style. More striking than Cho’s performance is the coherency of the the story being told. Ten minutes in I was intrigued but apprehensive; how exactly were they planning to sustain a thriller like this? I’ve seen suspense brought about in a lot of different ways, but never through the snail-like scrolling of a girl’s text messages with her uncle, or a sudden pause and rewind of a YouTube video. Music is important, I’d say they’re probably dependent on it. That’s not a bad thing, they’ve made expert use of their music, but it’s the only mode with which to cover up for the lack of action and whatnot. There’s not an ounce of flash in this film, but plenty of suspense nonetheless.

Alongside the crazy technical aspect of the film, it’s impossible to forget that this is a plastic and metal film about flesh and blood, and the complexity of the relationships that come in the box. The first ten minutes or so give you a compelling picture of a family of three, and the harrowing events that turned three to four, and it’s incredible how they maintain an emotionally potent thread for all the relationships they describe. Again, testament to the meaning behind the texts we don’t send as much as the ones we do, and the most critical subtext behind the smallest of gestures. Make no mistake, this is an emotionally sophisticated film, and it does it in a way that I for one have never seen before.

There’s an obvious thematic conversation to be had here. Our reliance on social media, and the things we can find out about each other on social media, are ideas that have undoubtedly stayed with me after watching Searching. I should say, I’m not on any social media, so I don’t know how far I can relate to the issue, but there’s no real veil over how much information we put on social media, and how much we probably shouldn’t. One way or another, promise you have not been made to care on a screen in quite the way you will be here. There’s an extent to which I take my impressions with salt. It’s entirely possible that, simply by virtue of the fact that I haven’t ever seen anything like it before, I’m a little too blindsided to know the difference between good and bad. I know I was committed, which was not among the things I was expecting to happen when I switched on a film I was apprehensive of. There’s no doubt about it, this one’s no gimmick.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 83/100                                                                    Aryamaan’s Score –

URI – The Surgical Strike: Film Review

uri - the surgical strike - film review

URI – The Surgical Strike has definitely started the year off with a bang. Though the viewers know the outcome of the movie, it still encapsulates them. It is definitely one of the better Bollywood movies I have seen. The movie feels closer to a ‘Black Hawk Down’ or ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ rather than an ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ kind of film. Though a very realistic film, being a Bollywood movie, it is a little ‘filmi’ in a few places. However, every Bollywood lover loves these dialogues – only in a few places though. Broadly speaking, the sheer power and truthfulness, promises an enjoyable watch, making it worth your money.

The movie is largely about a retired para-commando, who comes back into the field after the loss of a family member in a terrorist strike. The Surgical Strike – URI – is basically his way of revenge on those terrorists.

The actors have done extremely well, especially Vicky Kaushal. Even when costarring with actors like Paresh Rawal, he definitely stands out. The military training he went through for this was completely worth it, making him perfect for this role. I did like him in ‘Manmarziyan’ and especially in ‘Sanju” as ‘Kamli’ but URI completely exceeded my expectations. Vicky successfully shift from the warming and happy feel of ‘Kamli’ to the steel like ‘Vihaan Singh Shergill.’ With this role, he has definitely cemented his role in Bollywood and increased my respect for him as an actor as well.

I was sold in the trailer itself. Kaushal’s power packed performance is clearly visible in it itself. There is a funeral scene in the teaser (0:38 – 0:45) and ithe scene where Vihaan Singh briefs his men in the trailer (1:26 – 1:39) – Oh, I got goose bumps.

Yami Gautam supports him well, playing an intelligence officer – Kirti Kulhari, though having a little screen time. Well, I’m in no position to critique the likes of Paresh Rawal but he played his role as the National Security advisor with a lot of power, creating an impact with every one of his dialogues.

However, I personally felt that the film did drag a bit in the beginning, dwelling a lot on his personal life, dealing with the loss of his family member. The film, about 2 hours 20 minutes long could have been slightly cut down to about 2 hours 5-10 minutes. But it didn’t take away much from the movie.

Aditya Dhar achieves the correct balance, with the help of some brilliant visuals, sets and cinematography. There are some typical Bollywood hero moments, but it can’t remove those. Aditya Dhar manages to maintain the suspense, tension and power throughout the movie, especially when the planning and implementation of the surgical strike is portrayed.

All in all, URI – The Surgical Strike strikes the correct notes for an Indian audience. I will not be surprised if the movie does brilliantly in the box-office. Dhar’s storytelling combined with Kaushal’s powerful acting has brought forth a brilliant outcome. Though I would’ve preferred a slightly shorter film, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The film is a tribute to all those martyrs who lost their lives in the camp in Kashmir. Everyone involved with this film should be proud of what they have made.

-Aryamaan Dholakia.

Aman’s Rating: /100                                                                            Aryamaan’s Rating: 82/100

The Notebook: Film Review

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It’s time for what I imagine would be an unpopular opinion. 2004 saw the release of what probably is the most iconic romantic film of the 21st century: The Notebook. Featuring stars such as Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, the film tells the story of a romance barred the the class divide in the late 1930s America. The film features flashbacks to and from the present and past, as an old man tells the story, in parallel to the film, to his mentally degenerative wife. The romance takes place in part over several years, and during periods of separation, Gosling’s character would write letters to McAdam’s character every day which her mother would block, hence the title of the film.

I personally did not find the film particularly impressive.  Romantic films are a thing that need to be done right to be done well, and I didn’t find the relationship itself especially promising after the first time they were separated. McAdam’s need for freedom from an ordered lifestyle is well demonstrated (which is very important when that life also happens to be a privileged one), but it doesn’t do enough to sell her motivation for me. In that sense the fall felt too quick. The cheesiness, which I can be more than forgiving for in a romantic film, isn’t well taken, and motifs like the “dream house”, for example, are not especially convincing. It comes across as too sappy, too meditated at times in the writing for it to sell the relationship; and I don’t feel either one of Gosling or McAdams, two actors for whom I have enormous respect, have reached anything resembling their potential in this film.

Some of the plot details threw me a little as well. For one thing, the reveal at the end is possibly the most obvious of any I’ve ever seen, the kind I could have told you just from reading the synopsis, and the actual trajectory of the two lead characters is not particularly realistic. The resistance from McAdam’s character’s family does invoke emotion without a doubt, that was one of the strongest aspects of the film. In that sense however, it’s the concept of obstacles in romance that an audience commits to, not so much the characters, which in my opinion defeats the purpose. Any film can sell a concept, that’s not the hard part. You need to be able to sell it in the context of the film, and while the film does that, it’s not up to a mark that I think it needs to be.

Of course there’s a thin line to respect here. Romantic films aren’t always made with the first priority being to be written succinctly, or to be made thoroughly authentic. Sometimes a film is made as a picture of love as the storyteller sees it, and that’s not always something that can be assessed per say. With that in mind, it’s important to note that I did not connect with the film, that does not mean, by any means, that you won’t. That’s the trouble with romantic films, they happen to be more subjective than most. Everyone has a different way of looking at it, more so than a drama or an action film which is made with more objective messages in mind. Overall, I’d say I was not personally a fan of The Notebook, but as possibly one of the most iconic films of the 21st century, and without a doubt one of the most iconic romantic films of the 21st century, maybe it deserves not to be taken at face value.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 63/100                                                         Aryamaan’s Score – 79/100

Aryamaan’s view is quite the opposite.

Aquaman: Film Review

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Aquaman was the next instalment in the DC film universe after Justice League. Clearly, it didn’t have a lot of expectations to meet. That’s pretty much all it did. For me, it did surpass Justice League but possibly not Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman and was nowhere close to Wonder Woman. It did not live up to the hype that surrounds it.

The film has a slight immaturity to it, making it feel like a sci-fi Indiana Jones movie; finding the map, going to some cave in the middle of a desert to find a clue and then finding the ‘treasure’ to beat the bad guy. It was as if the movie was meant for a 15 year old audience. It could definitely use some better writing. However, it is visually really pleasing. The vfx and special effects make the movie a pleasant watch and the actors always look stunning as well. Unfortunately, hot actors and good special effects are not always enough to make a successful movie.

James wan has done well compared to previous DC movies but could have made a much better film. The main issue I found in the movie is that though they try adding a base of realism to these movies, trying to copy batman but then they just go over the top with the powers and cgi in the end. It almost makes it like a video game rather than a movie. Just stick to one! It eventually becomes too much. The sense of realism or gravity is completely gone. This is solely due to the directing and writing. I love how these other wordly encounters have just become another everyday spectancle in the DC universe. A giant metal insect dude punching a hot guy with abs through 10 pillars…oh so common. Atlantis has been completely misused. I thought they were supposed to portrayed as an ancient superior race but appeared as a giant military with a horrible political system always ready for battle.

The actors have done a good job; Jason Momoa is perfect for the role, performing insane action sequences with his tattoos and Amber Heard in wet suit, come on. Nicole Kidman was slightly underwhelming with her role as Atlanna. There is a slight amount of overacting through the movie but it is a superhero movie after all.

The music in the movie is good and the album has a few great songs. “Everything I need” took me, almost convinced me to give the movie a good review… so I balanced it a bit.

The movie does tend to add an emotional element towards the end and has good set up for it, however, does require better writing. In terms of box office, the movie is doing really well but isn’t as good a film as it could be. I would describe the film to be something like edging. Reaching the peak, but stopping just before and not starting again.

Overall, the movie doesn’t suck as such. There is a lot to dislike and a bit to like but not worth waiting 2 hours before the movie actually takes off. You wouldn’t feel robbed if you went to watch the movie but for me it wasn’t worth a 500 rupee ticket and 400 for popcorn.

-Aryamaan Dholakia

Aman’s Review – N/A                                                                           Aryamaan’s Rating: 72/100

 

What’s the meaning of edging?

Bandersnatch: Film Review

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The entertainment sensation that’s sweeping the globe at the moment is Black Mirror’s season-independent film Bandersnatch. Starring Will Poulter and Fionn Whitehead, Bandersnatch is an interactive film, where the audience is in a position to make decisions for the character. Just like in popular horror/mystery videogame Until Dawn, the story plays out until moments when two options of further action are offered to the audience between which the audience must choose, and the story goes on from there. The result is a seemingly unending number of different endings, as the smallest, most seemingly insignificant decisions, such as what to eat for breakfast in the morning, change everything. The actual storyline follows a 1980s videogame developer called Stefan Butler, as he attempts to adapt a fictional choose-your-own-adventure book titled Bandersnatch. That’s the base idea, from there the story can go in a number of different directions, with 5 confirmed outcomes and a number of variations on each outcome.

Let me start by saying they absolutely did it. They succeeded in doing what had, till that point, to the best of my knowledge, never been done before in mainstream entertainment. The interactive choose-your-own-way concept is a potentially game changing way of consuming media, and I fully expect more people to take full advantage of Bandersnatch’s raging commercial success to produce tons more like it. This makes me hopeful for an interesting new future. I’ve had the opportunity to see Until Dawn in action and I hope the popularity of both products prompts the entertainment industry to continue to experiment with the ways of storytelling. The narrative concept is fantastic.

I’m not sure the same can be said for Bandersnatch as a piece of entertainment. Superb intellectual concept has become a norm for Black Mirror fans, myself included. Unfortunately, so too has Black Mirror normalized an intensely pessimistic and bleak way of looking at the world and the way it works. Warnings of a world losing its grip was one thing. I personally feel that they’ve taken it too far.

Bandersnatch, in all it’s wonderful complexity and divergent plots, loses the reigns on the negativity of its message in as many scenarios that I’ve seen. In fairness, I don’t claim to have seen every variation, and there might be one out there that dilutes the overwhelming “you-are-in-control-of-nothing-so-let’s-do-psychedelic-drugs” point that the film seems to put across. If such a variation exists, I stand corrected. However, as of this point I can safely say that more or less every version of Bandersnatch ends in drug-induced suicide, failure, death, mental disorder, failure, and death. As someone I discussed my issues with correctly said, it’s not fair to hate something for being pessimistic. I don’t think my perspective on Bandersnatch comes anywhere near hatred, more a sense of sadness at the creator’s deeply wounded way of looking at the world, and the young, impressionable minds he or she risks in converting to this church of pseudo-existentialism.

Anyone who is aware of the free will vs determinism debate knows of the damning evidence in support of the argument that human beings are in control of little to none of their actions. Most people, myself included, agree that true free will realistically doesn’t exist, and many extreme holders of the view do genuinely believe that we are all in the control of someone or something else. We might be, there’s no way of knowing.

My issue with some peoples’ ideas about this, however, come in more the extremist ways of looking at it. There’s a bit in Bandersnatch, or at least the bit I saw, where Colin gives Stefan a video about the fictional author Jerome F. Davis. The video descends into madness pretty quick, which is all fine, part of the storytelling that I so far have no complaints about, until a line resembling this one comes up. “You are not in control.” I’m with you. “The things that happen to you are out of your control.” Gotcha. “So why not commit murder?” Huh? “Maybe that’s what ‘destiny’ wants.” Skipped a couple steps there, pal.

That line is one of a number of examples of very extremist, edgy, and pseudo-existential responses to the idea of determinism that Bandersnatch propounds with the volume dialed to fourteen. Existentialism is the philosophy of asking the questions about ourselves and our existence. It is not the philosophy of “nothing-really-matters-so-let’s-jump-out-the-window-what’s-the-point,” and sometimes that’s the way Black Mirror makes it look. That’s pseudo-existentialism, which, when blown out of proportion, is an epidemic of negativity and multi-directional anger, much like the situation we are currently in, where edginess is fashionable.

Black Mirror has, for the most part, done an exceptional job of toeing the line between reasonable bleakness and unreasonable bleakness, only crossing over occasionally, and, almost always, appropriately. I think it might have something to do with the availability of multiple, equally dire endings that add up to a thunderous wave of extreme pseudo-existentialist idea being put across, and I do worry for the people who will watch Bandersnatch, research all of the many perilous conclusions, and internalize the message of hopelessness that Black Mirror finally took too far.

– Aman Datta

 

Aman’s Score – Hell if I know                                               Aryamaan’s Score –

Airplane! : Film Review

Airplane! - Film Review

Widely seen as among the funniest films ever made, Airplane! is a spoof comedy film revolving around an aircraft that becomes infected with a sickness, leaving a traumatized war pilot in the perilous position of landing a commercial aircraft. The film stars, among other, Pete Graves, Robert Hays, Leslie Nielsen, Julie Hagerty. It was released in 1980 to overwhelmingly positive box office and critical response, but was criticized at equal measure for what could only be described as a unique sense of humor.

My expectations were very high going into this film. I’d heard all the stories, of course, and seen a few clips, but I had my doubts about whether or not the film could sustain that for the course of its 1 hour and 27-minute runtime. I was absolutely not disappointed. Airplane! is among the funniest movies I have ever seen without a doubt. People interested in watching the film should probably be warned that it doesn’t even try to maintain a sensible plot; it’s a full on spoof film, supposedly of 1957 film Zero Hour, where the pilots fall sick and a passenger is forced to land the plane. There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on at all times, and next to none of it makes logical sense. Half the plane gets fatally sick because they had fish for dinner, and at least one woman’s tongue gets replaced with a never ending slew of unhatched chicken eggs. It’s batshit crazy.

That said, alongside the slapstick comedy, there’s a decent amount of nuanced, (if slightly distasteful 🙂 comedy. It’s hard to pinpoint something they didn’t make a punchline out of. There undoubtedly somewhat racy and offensive undertones; I don’t think I’d recommend this film to someone who feels they fall into the category of ‘uptight’. I mean see, I don’t think there’s anything in there that’s in bad taste or anything, but there are a couple times where they make a punchline out of jewish people and there are a few suicide jokes. Again, the specific jokes aren’t in bad taste, but the subjects could be seen as a little edgy so just a heads up to anyone who feels they might not enjoy it.

I should reiterate that the plot does not exist, and what does exist is kind of crap. It’s not the intent of the film. I absolutely died laughing during the vast majority of the film, I didn’t stop once to think about the realism because the tone discards it as immaterial. Leslie Neilsen is an absolute god among men. His classic deadpan delivery kills every time it shoots. Peter Graves remains that guy I swear I know from somewhere but I can’t place where, and the romantic duo of Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty makes for the reason for a lot of the suicide jokes. The star of the show is, of course, Otto. Watch the movie, you’ll know what I mean.

I’m sure you’ve been able to tell, but this was a really hard review to write; namely because I honestly don’t know what to say. There’s not much sophisticated concept to talk about; it’s just a gloriously funny movie, among if not the funniest I’ve ever seen. It’s not your usual comedy film, the comedy itself is quite niche and unique so if it ends up not being your cup of tea there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, nor, for that matter, is there ever anything wrong with a film not being your cup of tea. Realized how that read after I’d written it. I’d definitely give Airplane! a chance though. One of the funniest films out there.

Aman’s Rating: /100                                                                         Aryamaan’s Rating: 66/100

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs: Film Review

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The Coen Brothers latest project released on Netflix earlier this year as the film adaptation to their own collection of unreleased short stories, entitled “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” The film is an anthology of six different stories, each exploring an aspect of the way of life of the wild west of old. The six stories run over the course of 2 hours and 13 minutes, with a lengthy cast starring the likes of James Franco, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Kazan, and others.

I was not at all interested in this film before I saw it. I’m not the biggest Coen brothers fan in the world as it is, and I’m even less of a fan of westerns. This being as hard-core a western as it gets, I was not thrilled when my family decided to watch the Netflix film on holiday. I came out of the film thoroughly confused. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an exceedingly odd film, comprising of six undeniably odd storylines with many irrevocably odd characters in the strangest circumstances I’ve ever seen. Each story, pretty much without exception, is a full blown desert burner, so anyone who, like me, is not necessarily a fan of the whole sand and dustballs aesthetic, I’d avoid this film at all costs.

It peaks early. As much as I don’t like the genre, the first story, starring the titular Buster Scruggs, is an undeniably thrilling and enjoyable segment. Scruggs is a country-music singing, gun-slinging, sharp-tongued son of a gun with more charisma than anyone for miles, and his Jack Sparrow meets Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained persona is too entertaining to look away from. Unfortunately, this segment lasts about twenty minutes at best, at the end of which shit gets a little crazy. I don’t want to say what exactly happens, it’s a little too priceless when it happens to take that image away from you, but suffice it to say that it’s definitely drug induced.

The other stories would take too long to explain individually. They’re all very stylistically made, which, at first, seems to be the only noteworthy thing about them. You’ll find your mind occupied by wondering why exactly you’re watching a guy dig holes for ten minutes straight for, or whether that could possibly be the guy who plays Dudley in Harry Potter during stretches of confusion and boredom; only to have that monotony broken by events that could only be described as tragic and gruesome. Death, injury, and discomfort are frequent companions while watching this film.

Nonetheless, the stories are decidedly not without point. To be honest, as strange and needlessly quirky as a lot of it tends to be, all of them end in a way that makes you think (with the exception of the last one which is just weird). The messages aren’t always fun, often depressing, might they are definitely provoking. Of what, it’s not always easy to say. This is the way an anthology is supposed to work, I suppose. Absent the time it takes to sell character and plot, the Coen’s have written a collection of stories that say more than they tell. What they say might not be easy on the ears, but to those with the interest, you come away from this film with plenty of food for thought on the human condition, even if you couldn’t relate to the stories themselves.

It’s an exceedingly odd film, no doubt about it. I went into it very apprehensive, and, frankly, was pleasantly surprised by the commentary, when I wasn’t straight up confused with what was happening. There are some absolutely priceless sentiments wrapped up inside the potentially over-stylized waffle. Enjoyable viewing kind of depends on whether you can eat the waffle to get to the gems. I’d like to end this with a quote, a rough one mind you, which closes the first story. As Buster’s consciousness leaves him, he speaks to the audience in his wonderful cowboy manner “I’ll see you all up in the paradise beyond the heavens. I’m sure it exists. If it don’t, what’re all the songs about?” Priceless.

Aman’s Rating: 63/100                                                                    Aryamaan’s Rating: 68/100