Movies: Spider-Man 2

April 30, 2005 at 1:23 AM (General)

I finally watched Spider-Man 2 on CD last night.  I thought it was a very good movie!

I suppose everyone knows the story already, but let me just repeat it here: it’s two years after the events of the first Spider-Man film, and Peter Parker’s (Tobey Maguire) life is in a shambles thanks to his secret identity.  His relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is going from bad to worse, his grades are declining, and he’s unable to pay the rent.  Besides all that, there’s the emotional baggage he’s carrying, knowing that he was partly responsible for his Uncle Ben’s death.  Anyway, as things turn out, Peter meets Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) for research work on a paper he’s writing.  The doctor is working on an experiment related to fusion, funded by Osborn Industries, which after the death of Norman Osborn is now run by son Harry (James Franco).  Of course, things go wrong during a critical experiment, and the four mechanical arms that Dr. Otto used to handle the radioactive materials are now permanent parts of his nervous system.  They’re also interfaced with his brain, and he is convinced that he needs to try the experiment again, so he takes to stealing to support the research — as new super-criminal Doctor Octopus or Doc Ock.  Spider-Man attempts to stop him, but certain events lead him to abandon his identity and go back to being just Peter Parker.

Will Spider-Man return to stop Doc Ock?  How does Spider-Man/Peter Parker deal with his personal problems?  All these things are very satisfyingly dealt with in the movie.  Not only does it work as an action/adventure film (the train sequence is breathtaking), it also worked on an emotional level.  I had a great time.

The movie is directed by Sam Raimi and scripted by Alvin Sargent (story by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and Michael Chabon).

The scene where Doc Ock is hospitalised after the accident is very reminiscent of director Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II — not literally, rather, in the way it’s filmed and edited.  The beautiful paintings that you see during the opening credits (they basically summarise the first movie) were done by master artist Alex Ross.  You can download those paintings from his site.

The only criticism I have about the movie is that I was never really convinced with the transition of Doc Ock from what seemed to be a very levelheaded scientist to a maniacal villain.  He seemed like too reasonable a guy to do the things he did, regardless of whether the arms were "talking" to him or not!

I do hope the (inevitable?) sequel will have The Lizard or Venom as the main villain.  Both are superb creations in the comics, and I really look forward to seeing them on screen.  Every time Dr. Curt Connors (Dylan Baker) was on screen in this movie, I couldn’t help thinking of what the film version of The Lizard would look like.  It’s probably foreshadowing the villain for the next movie, though I later learnt that there is a reference to "Eddie" (for Eddie Brock a.k.a. Venom) in the first film itself.  I probably need to watch the first film again, to spot this reference (I didn’t know about Venom when I watched the first movie) as well as to compare it with Spider-Man 2.

Oh, and I finished reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It’s an awesome book and I actually got more out of it now than when I read it originally!  Now I suppose I’ll have to read the second and third books again as well, since I read them quite a while ago.  Or should I read the fourth and fifth books, since I have not read them at all!!

Anyway, while I make up my mind about that, I am currently on Part 4 (of 12) of DC Comics’ 1986 Watchmen.  My description for this amazing graphic novel by Alan Moore (writer), Dave Gibbons (artist) and John Higgins (colourist) would go something like this — a superbly written book with great depth, breadth and scope, wonderful characters, and enough subplots to choke any screenwriter attempting to make a movie out of it!

And that’s after reading just two parts out of the total twelve.  I’ll write in detail about it later.

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Three Things

April 29, 2005 at 1:08 AM (General)

One.  My training at TCS starts on May 27th in Mumbai.  The venue is Hotel Sea Princess at Juhu.  The training will go on for 17 days and at the end of that I will be told where my final posting would be.  The coordinator for this Induction programme is Ms. Aswini Mano.

Two.  I watched Van Helsing last night.  I wouldn’t say it is a great movie, but I certainly enjoyed watching it.  The movie has lots of action and moves blindingly fast, but what I appreciated most were the very beautiful locations.  I thought they really added atmosphere to the film.  The visuals were great in some places but not so convincing in others (I am here specifically referring to the werewolf and the "Mr. Hyde" CGI).

Three.  With an April 29th release date, initial reviews (from press screenings, etc.) of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are out.  Of course, there are some critics who bashed the film, but overall, the reviews indicate that it is a well-made film.  I look forward to seeing the movie.  I read the first book in the series some four years ago so I started re-reading it today.  Found a lot of new things to remember and quote!

Well the original title of this post no longer is true because I just thought of two more things to write about.  I guess these things happen.  Like one of those meaningless coincidences that Douglas Adams talks about in Hitchhiker’s, my TCS training period is 17 days, and according to Aliens, if a team of Colonial Marines is overdue for 17 days, a rescue team will be sent.

Finally, JoBlo.com reported about the Saw 2 Poster today.  It’s a pretty great poster, cleverly carrying on the theme from the earlier film’s posters.  Saw 2 will be directed by Darren Bousman (apparently he is writing the script also, under supervision from the first film’s creators).

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Blade Runner Drawing (Completed)

April 27, 2005 at 10:18 PM (General)

I finished the Blade Runner drawing I was working on.  After scanning it I touched it up a bit in Photoshop (added text and a bit of faint colour).

Here is a small version of the picture.  Click it to see a larger version of the drawing:

The drawing came out OK, I guess, but it’s not my best.  When it comes to art, our eyes are trained to accept accurate representations of reality.  When a drawing has flaws, we immediately know that something is wrong, even though we may not be able to identify exactly what the flaws are.

I’m my own best critic, so I picked out the following flaws in the picture.  Next time I’ll try to do better —

  • Harrison Ford’s (Deckard’s) and Sean Young’s (Rachael’s) faces have come out OK.  But Rutger Hauer’s (Roy Batty’s) face has not come out so well.
  • If I had a white pen, I could have experimented with adding some highlights to the image.  As it is now, the text "Off World" on the blimp at the bottom left had to be done by drawing an outline and colouring around it.
  • I don’t like the way the buildings, etc. seem to be sticking out of Roy’s head!  At the time, I actually couldn’t figure out what to put in that blank space.
  • Rachael and Roy are both looking in the same direction.  I should have drawn Rachael looking the other way.
  • The Chinese girl’s face is actually on a large, building-size screen.  That hasn’t really come out well, and the perspective is not quite right in those elements of the image.

I think this is the first time I’ve analysed a drawing of mine closely.  Perhaps if I do that to earlier drawings I’ll find all sorts of flaws!

Thanks to Mansi for her comments on the work-in-progress image I posted.

A drawing I want to do in the future: something related to Sin City.

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A couple of changes

April 27, 2005 at 3:29 PM (General)

I changed a couple of things on this blog.  The first thing you will notice is that the colour scheme is different — it is a customised version of Dave Shea’s "Snapshot Sable" theme.  I like blue better than the previous green colour.

I also updated my Blogger Profile.  Favourite Books now includes Sin City: That Yellow Bastard, and the link for my personality type is changed.  PersonalityPage.com has an easy-to-understand description of my personality type, ISTJ, and it fits me well.

Also added a link to a Creative Commons License at the end of the blog page.

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Blade Runner Drawing (Work in Progress)

April 26, 2005 at 4:00 AM (General)

I have been writing quite a bit about Blade Runner recently, and like I mentioned yesterday, I have by now downloaded several images from the movie.  These include some very nice drawings and paintings of characters from the movie, and therefore I thought of trying my hand at that as well.

I am trying a couple of new things with this drawing.  Firstly, I am consciously deciding on a layout.  Also, I am consciously trying to highlight different elements of the drawing by contrasting lights and darks.  Both these things are inspired by comics artist Jim Lee.  Whether I mess things up or not, only time will tell, but it doesn’t hurt trying.

Currently the drawing is about two-thirds complete.  I thought of having the three main characters from the film in it — Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, Sean Young as Rachael, and Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty.  Depending on how these three faces turn out on the page, I’ll add other details to complete the drawing.  So far, two of the faces (Deckard’s and Rachael’s) are done.

At first, I thought I’d wait until I finished the drawing before writing about it.  Adding another post here would mean that the post with my drawing of Varun would go off the main page!  And I didn’t want the blog page to only have text.  However it’s now already 3:40 AM and so I am going to continue the drawing only tomorrow — so I thought I’d post a Work-in-Progress picture anyway.  Here it is:

Blade Runner Work in Progress by Karthik

Hopefully this won’t turn out as one of those drawings I never finish.  I’ll post the completed picture once it’s done.  Comments on this are welcome.

There’s also another thing I wanted to write about.  Zee Studio (that movie channel formerly known as Zee Movie Zone and Zee MGM) is showing Kill Bill Vol. 1 on May 8th and Kill Bill Vol. 2 on May 15th (at 8 PM).  Now May 15th is my birthday, and what better to watch on that day than a Quentin Tarantino movie?

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Blade Runner Comic, AOD Alternate Ending

April 25, 2005 at 4:24 AM (General)

Blade Runner is one of my all-time favourite science-fiction films.  I was searching for images from the movie today, because I intend to do a drawing related to the movie sometime.  I did manage to get several images, video clips and other stuff (a lot from this site), but one link caught my attention and I felt I just had to write about it.

This site called Bladezone has the 1982 Marvel Comics adaptation of the movie online.  It can be viewed here.

The comic adaptation is written by Archie Goodwin, pencilled by Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon, inked by Williamson, Dan Green and Ralph Reese, and coloured by Marie Severin.  I thought the comic was nicely done, capturing the feel of the movie well.  There’s especially a double-page spread showing the cityscape of Los Angeles, 2019 that’s really nice.  Of course, since the comic came out at the time of the movie’s original release, it is quite in tone with the theatrical version of the film — there is no ambiguity in here as to whether Deckard is a replicant or a human.

The comic is 44 pages long, excluding the cover page, etc.  It will take some time therefore to read it online, but if you have a decent internet connection you can manage it.  I’ve downloaded all the pages.

This is just in!  For a very long time now I’ve been trying to find a clip of the alternate ending to Army of Darkness.  Finally, I found it at this page, and I just watched it.  No matter how many times you read about something like this, it can’t beat actually watching it, and it was great.

At the end of the theatrical release version, Ash (who has been fighting the "medieval dead" in the 13th century) is told that if he says the words "klaatu verada nikto", he would return to his own time, and the evil would be stopped.  Of course, being the fool that he is, he doesn’t say the words properly — and the evil follows him back to the present time.  There’s a terrific fight with a demon in S-Mart (the supermarket where Ash works), and the immortal concluding line "Hail to the King, Baby".

The original intended ending, though, goes like this — Ash is given a potion by the Wiseman, and told that each drop he drinks from it would allow him to sleep for a century.  Ash goes to a cave and seals it, and then drinks the potion.  Unfortunately, he drinks one drop too much (being the fool that he is, of course)!  When he wakes up, he exits the cave, and to his shock, sees a desolate landscape with several wrecked earth monuments and a red sky — and realises that he is the only man left on the face of the earth!  The movie ends with his cry of despair, "No!!  I slept too long!!"  This ending was deemed too dark for audiences, and it was changed before the film was released.

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Movies, Censorship, New Comics

April 24, 2005 at 4:30 AM (General)

I watched the original Jeepers Creepers about a year ago on TV, and now I got to see the sequel on STAR Movies.  The two movies have an interesting concept — the Creeper is a creature that awakens once every 23 years, and it feeds on humans for 23 days before it goes to sleep again.  It can smell fear in its victims, and chooses what parts to eat and "absorb" into its own body.

In the first movie, the Creeper menaced a brother and sister.  The sequel is set a few days after the events in the first film, in fact, on Day 22 of the Creeper’s feeding period (apparently, apart from setting the sequel 23 years in the future, which studios would not appreciate, this was the only route available to the filmmakers).  A bus transporting a high-school basketball team breaks down on a deserted highway, and the Creeper is hungry for their flesh.  Although the story and characters aren’t really developed that much, the movie worked as it built suspense very well, and took full advantage of its setting (deserted road, near cornfields).  It is written and directed by Victor Salva.  Of course, this TV version (like most TV versions of horror movies) is censored for language and possibly some of the gore as well.

On a related note, STAR Movies recently showed Evil Dead II.  I would like to warn people who are planning to watch it on this channel, that it is a HEAVILY CUT version.  This, inspite of the fact that they have certified it as being suitable only for viewers of 18 and above.

A bit of history would make things clearer.  From the time STAR Movies started operations, they have had this practice of classifying films as G, PG, 12, 15 or 18 (closely based on the BBFC‘s system).  In early years (up to 1995 or so), these ratings had a purpose, and they fairly well suited the films they were attached to.  After 1995/1996, the channel started showing censored versions of movies, so the ratings had no relevance.  You never get to see anything rated ’18’ on this channel anymore.

Which is what annoyed me with their version of Evil Dead II.  When they showed that ’18’ rating before the film, I almost expected them to show an uncut version — but what I got was a version that was so badly cut, that it would be even tamer than something rated ’15’!  The possessed Linda dance scene is totally missing, therefore, there is no headless-corpse-with-chainsaw scene in the cabin, the shot of Ash actually stabbing his possessed hand is cut, and it was somewhere here that I stopped watching the movie.

You would be better off if you watched the movie on some other channel, or rented a CD.  Again, if you are lucky, the CD that you rent might contain an uncut version of the film — if you aren’t so lucky and if it is an Indian ‘Diskovery Video’ version, then that is slightly cut as well.

Now to change topic, I got to read the complete The Dark Knight Returns today.  I had read books 2 and 4 earlier, now I read the other two books.  The story broadly covers the return of the Batman, ten years after his ‘retirement’.  As he’s now 55 years old, he is no longer the fit crimefighting hero that he was earlier, and in fact he is portrayed as an obsessed, tormented, raging figure.  Frank Miller’s story covers various themes, such as how the Batman is now viewed as a genuine menace to Gotham City’s public in general, the role of the media, etc.  The books are pretty nightmarish in tone and I definitely think that they are suitable for mature readers only.  In India though, publishers Gotham Comics are selling this four-part series as just another Batman story.

Yesterday, I searched for Spider-Man India on Google, and found the following reviews for the four-part series — this one from Spiderfan.org, and this.  Apparently it came out long ago in the US, Marvel Comics is coming out with a collected edition also.  The funny thing is that I never saw it in shops here.  I tried getting the books in Manipal and in Hyderabad, to no avail.  You’d think that the books would be aggressively marketed in India, but I unfortunately never got to see the books.  Other titles published by Gotham Comics have advertisements asking you to order a Special Collector’s Edition of Spider-Man India #1 for Rs. 195.  Considering that regular Gotham Comics titles are sold at Rs. 15 and Rs. 25, I think that’s a pretty high price for just one issue.  Anyway, I hope I will get to read them sometime.

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Of Noir and Crossovers

April 23, 2005 at 4:33 AM (General)

I’d recently posted about two of the Sin City stories that I read — "The Big Fat Kill" and the excellent "That Yellow Bastard" — well, yesterday I read another one, called "The Hard Goodbye".  These are the three stories that have been adapted into the movie.

"The Hard Goodbye" is about Marv, who spends a night with Goldie, only to find her dead when he wakes up.  She was pretty much the best thing to happen to him, and he decides to find the people responsible for her murder and take revenge.  While the story may sound simple, it has deep characterisation, and it kept me totally involved.  Like the other work by Frank Miller that I’ve read so far, it is very emotional.  I also love the black and white artwork in this story.

Recently, I’ve also read a number of crossovers, including the four-part Aliens vs. Predator vs. The Terminator series, Batman/Spawn, the three-part Batman vs. Predator series, and the four-part Superman vs. The Terminator series.

Out of these, Batman vs. Predator was pretty decent, with a Predator showing up in Gotham City and murdering gangsters.  It all eventually leads to a showdown with the Batman himself.  I thought the artwork was very good, and the series had its share of bloody and violent battles.  If Predator 2, the movie, had taken place in Gotham City, it would have been similar to what this series depicted.  Written by Dave Gibbons, with artwork by Andy (pencils) & Adam Kubert (inks, letters) and Sherilyn van Valkenburgh (colours).

I did not like Superman vs. The Terminator much.  It had Sarah and John Connor in Metropolis, running from Terminators who want to eliminate John.  Superman steps in and fights for humanity in 2000 A.D. as well as 2032 A.D.  A lot of characters are introduced (Supergirl, Superboy, Lex Luthor, Cyborg, Steel and a Terminatrix), and personally I did not think the timelines were properly handled at all.  Written by Alan Grant, art by Steve Pugh (pencils), Mike Perkins (inks) and David Stewart (colours), letters by Clem Robins.

Aliens vs. Predator vs. The Terminator picks up a short while after the storyline of the Alien: Resurrection movie.  Annalee Call and a group of soldiers have got word that a space lab is conducting strange experiments involving the aliens, and therefore plan to stop them with Ellen Ripley’s help.  Once they get there, they stumble upon a plot to destroy humanity — apparently Skynet has embedded commands in dormant Terminators, who would resume their attack against humans when the time is right.  And now they’re building Alien-Terminator hybrids.  It’s up to Ripley to save the day.  Somehow, the Predators have also tracked them down, and they’re willing to assist Ripley in destroying the Alien-Terminator hybrids.  I thought this series was OK, though, I didn’t much like the interpretation of the Predator.  They’re shown simply as green-skinned humanoids, and all Predators look alike.  And I also have a complaint about the Predators’ ships being orange in colour.  Other than these two complaints I liked the artwork.  Written by Mark Schultz, artwork by Mel Rubi (pencils), Christopher Ivy (inks) and David Stewart (colours), letters by Pat Brousseau.

I also read the one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore, and illustrated by Brian Bolland & John Higgins.  This was an excellent book, with Batman tracking down the Joker, who has escaped from Arkham Asylum.  The Joker’s origins are also explored in parallel, and we see what a truly disturbed character he is.  The artwork is very beautiful and detailed, and I think it’s some of the best artwork I’ve seen in any comic.  It wonderfully supports the character-driven story, and overall, it is a fantastic book.

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Movies: Child’s Play

April 23, 2005 at 3:41 AM (General)

I watched Child’s Play 2 last night, and it was great.  Having watched the first movie for the second time a few days earlier, I had the added bonus of continuity in the story being preserved.  It is also worth noting that I have now seen all five Child’s Play movies.

The first film opens with serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) being cornered by cop Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) in a toystore.  To cheat death, Ray transfers his soul into a Good Guy doll named Chucky (Ray is a practitioner of voodoo and other black magic).  Later on, working mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) buys the same doll and gifts it to her son, six-year old Andy (Alex Vincent).  And soon, people start getting killed.  Andy is the only one Chucky has revealed his secret to (the fact that he is alive), so no one else believes him when he says that the doll was responsible for those killings.  Chucky was apparently destroyed at the end of the first film.

Of course, the company that manufactures the dolls wants to know what went wrong with the Chucky doll, and at the beginning of Part 2, they put together the doll only to have it escape and resume its killing spree.  With his mother in a mental institution, Andy is adopted by a caring couple, but it’s not too long before Chucky comes after him.  Chucky must transfer his soul into Andy’s body, otherwise he will permanently be trapped in the doll’s body.  Andy once again tries to warn his new family — the couple, Phil (Gerrit Graham) and Joanne (Jenny Agutter) Simpson, and Kyle (Christine Elise), a young girl who has also been adopted — but people still find the concept of a killer doll hard to believe, until it’s too late.

I found both these movies to be extremely entertaining.  The effects that brought the Chucky doll to life were great and very convincing, Brad Dourif’s voice work as Chucky is awesome.  I also thought Alex Vincent’s acting as Andy was excellent.

The series consists of Child’s Play (directed by Tom Holland), Child’s Play 2 (directed by the first movie’s co-screenwriter John Lafia), Child’s Play 3 (directed by Jack Bender), Bride of Chucky (directed by Ronny Yu), and the recent Seed of Chucky (directed by Don Mancini).

Don Mancini created the concept for the series, wrote all the five movies, and directed the last film.  While the initial entries in the series were more traditional horror films, the recent ones have been more inclined towards dark comedy.  The last two are the strongest entries in the series in my opinion, with a great amount of creativity on display.

According to this page on IMDb, the TV version of Child’s Play 2 is an extended version, and this is the version that I saw.

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Movies: Nemesis Game

April 21, 2005 at 4:09 AM (General)

STAR Movies showed Child’s Play 2 (it’s the only one in the series I haven’t seen yet) at 11 PM tonight and I recorded it to watch later.  But then when I was about to sit down and watch that, I saw that the next movie on the channel was Nemesis Game.  I was under the impression that it was one of the Nemesis movies of director Albert Pyun, but as it turned out it was something different.

The movie has an interesting concept — the Nemesis Game of the title involves the quest for the meaning of life.  It’s somewhat similar to the concept of Pi, where the protagonist is searching for an explanation to reality itself.  The game in this case involves riddles.  These riddles are found in subway stations and other gloomy places, spraypainted on walls.  The player answers these riddles one after another, and upon solving the final riddle, the ultimate "Design" is revealed.

Sara Novak (Carly Pope) is a college student whose mother died in a car accident some time ago, and she is drawn into such a game.  Vern (Adrian Paul) is a video store owner who also gets involved in the game, and soon it becomes apparent that the answer is definitely not pleasant.  A parallel plot is that of Sara’s father, a cop, who is investigating a woman named Emily Gray (Rena Owen) who has confessed to murder.  Emily is someone who is aware of the Design, and apparently that has something to do with whatever crimes she committed.

Now the movie certainly did a good job of building suspense and raising lots of intriguing questions — namely what is the Design, and what happens when one answers the final riddle, how is the Design related to what Emily Gray did, who is behind these riddles, and so on.  However, somewhere towards the end of the movie I started thinking "when are we going to get some explanations?"  Not too long after that the movie ended, and the problem is that no explanations whatsoever were offered!

I understand that a proper explanation can’t be given — after all, the movie is about the meaning of life itself, something which I am sure even the director/writer Jesse Warn knows — but the movie ended very abruptly, and no resolution was given.  While an ambiguous ending, I realise, is probably the only way to go with such a story, I was atleast expecting answers to SOME of the questions that the movie raised.  Leaving that aside, I think the movie was pretty nicely made, it certainly kept my interest (unfortunately that made the ending feel all the more like a cheat) and had a nice creepy atmosphere.  I think it’s worth a watch.

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