Review: Shaun of the Dead

June 25, 2006 at 2:53 PM (Movies)

Just finished watching Shaun of the Dead now and I must say, I was very, very impressed!!  As far as zombie movies go, I have seen the more popular ones released in the last few years — the Resident Evil movies, 28 Days Later, the 2004 Dawn of the Dead (I watched the unrated cut) and Romero’s Land of the Dead.  I have also seen the original Night of the Living Dead.  However, one crucial missing element is the 1978 Dawn of the Dead, which I have not seen yet.

Anyway, Shaun of the Dead offers a different take on the zombie genre, while still staying close to it.  This is a comedy/drama/horror mix that works very well!  Shaun (Simon Pegg, who also contributed to the screenplay, with director Edgar Wright) is a 29 year old "loser" who lives with his roommate, Ed (Nick Frost) and is going through some issues with his romance with Liz (Kate Ashfield) and his relationship with his Mum and stepdad.  It seems he is never able to do the right thing and take responsibility for his life.  Soon, however, there are zombies in the neighbourhood, and there is widespread chaos — and Shaun decides to take control once and for all, and save his loved ones.

Technically, this is a class production, with stylish photography and editing.  Lots of references to zombie movies throughout (I picked up on a lot of them, and the others, specifically the 1978 Dawn of the Dead ones, I got through the Trivia section for the film on the IMDb).  The zombie make-up and the special effects are all top-notch, and I also appreciated the music.  The writing and acting are also very good, and even a scenario like this is made believable.  There are lots of little things happening in the background from the very start (like news reports indicating that a meteorite entering the earth has caused a strange infection that turns people into zombies and starts reanimating corpses) suggesting an impending doomsday scenario, only our main characters don’t pick up on them until it’s too late.

The movie blends comedy/drama and horror very well, with both very funny sequences and creepy ones.  True to the genre, there is also quite a bit of blood and gore to be found here.  Overall, a great movie!

Rating: 8/10


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Illustration Friday: Rain

June 24, 2006 at 10:07 PM (Art)

Illustration Friday

Didn’t take part in Illustration Friday last week (the theme was "Dance"), but as I posted the Hellboy and Manson drawings, I thought I made up for that!  Anyway this time the topic is "Rain", and this is the picture I came up with:

Rain by Karthik Abhiram

Once again, the picture turned out quite different from the idea I initially had in mind.  When I saw the topic "Rain", I immediately thought of action scenes in movies, taking place in heavy rain.  I would have to have a light source to add interest, so I thought of having two people in the drawing against a car, with the headlight on.

I decided to do this one also in watercolour, like my last Illustration Friday drawing.  I’m not too good at using watercolour as a medium so the final image doesn’t look the way I wanted it to.  Here I have one character standing in front of his car (yes, that is supposed to be the headlight of a car), on a rainy night.  There’s lightning to the left side as well, showing just how unfriendly the weather is.

As far as the quality of the picture is concerned, I think this is just an "okay" effort.  Anyway, do comment and let me know what you think.

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Review: Ultimate Avengers

June 24, 2006 at 8:11 PM (Movies)

Just finished watching the direct-to-DVD release Ultimate Avengers.  This is an animated feature, based on the Marvel Comics series The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch.  I haven’t read this particular series, but I hear it’s a more mature-audience oriented take on The Avengers (Marvel’s answer to DC Comics’ Justice League).  Apart from Spider-Man and X-Men I am not a fan of the other Marvel Comics characters, so I have read few issues/titles featuring them.

There have been a number of very good animated features based on the DC Comics characters (I thought Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was very good, and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was fantastic) but this is the first one from Marvel Comics.  While the DC animated titles are released by Warner Bros., this one is from Lions Gate Films.

The movie begins with an exciting intro set in 1945 at the close of WWII.  Captain America/Steve Rogers is a supersoldier created by an advanced defense program, and in this mission, he foils an attempt by the Nazis to launch a nuclear weapon (which they have built with help from some aliens) into Washington, D.C.  When he blows up the weapon in midair before it can do any damage, he falls from the sky into the ocean.

Some 60 years later his body is found deep in the waters in a frozen state, and thawed out by S.H.I.E.L.D., headed by Nick Fury.  Fury assembles a team of superheroes (including Iron Man/Tony Stark, Giant Man/Hank Pym, Wasp/Janet Pym, Thor, Black Widow/Natalya Romanov) in order to fight the alien menace.  Will "Avenger" be able to save the world?

At a runtime of 71 minutes, this a very fast-paced movie.  In fact, it almost seemed a bit rushed at times — I thought that a more relaxed pace would have increased the dramatic impact of the film.  The alien menace seemed at times to take a back-seat to the engaging character dynamics here (conflict between the superheroes, Cap finding himself in a world where everything is vastly different from the 40s, Dr. Bruce Banner keeping the "Hulk" in control).  The story is also pretty linear.  But anyway, the action scenes and the character interplay made up for the other weaknesses of the movie.

The action scenes are exciting, and I especially appreciated the final battle for its intensity.  The film has a PG-13 rating for the violence, and while the tone of the film is not as serious or edgy as Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, it still makes for some entertaining watching.  The quality of animation here is pretty decent.

Rating: 7/10

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Drawing: Mike Mignola’s Hellboy

June 18, 2006 at 10:18 PM (Art)

As I was mentioning in an earlier post, I did a couple of doodles in my notebook over the last couple of days.  One was a picture of Marilyn Manson (inspired by the song "This is the New Shit"), and the other is a picture of Mike Mignola‘s Hellboy.

Hellboy is an amazing creation — I can probably say that the big red demon ("The World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator") is my favourite comic character!  The stories in these books are great, but even more than that, Mignola’s artwork is fantastic.  Lots of solid blacks and clear line work, images of statues and monuments as a backdrop to the action are some of the highlights of the Hellboy artwork.  Obviously, it’s all very inspiring, and that’s why when I wanted to draw something in my notebook, I did a picture of Hellboy.

I did a (very) rough sketch in blue ballpoint pen first, and then directly inked over it in black gel pen.  Pictured is Hellboy standing near some fire, and he is holding the Spear of Destiny in his right hand.  The Spear briefly makes an appearance in the Hellboy movie, but I don’t remember how it looked there, so I just made up my own.  Anyway, the movie (from director Guillermo Del Toro) gets a 9/10 from me, it is that good!  Ron Perlman was perfect in the role, the movie had action, drama, humour, great visuals and was very much in tune with Mignola’s comics.  A powerful music score by Marco Beltrami was the icing on the cake.

Once I was done with my drawing, I decided to do some "post-production" in Photoshop.  The result is below (click for larger image):

This post-production isn’t an exact science, so there is no fixed technique that I follow.  I usually experiment with different effects to see what works best.  This time, I copied the "Blue" channel into a new image (which got rid of most of the ballpoint pen marks), and boosted the contrast.  Then using curves, the whole thing was made cleaner.  After this, I applied colours.  The background is an airbrush using a clouds texture.

I think the final version came out rather nicely, so I am going to make a desktop wallpaper out of this.

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Drawing: This is the New Shit

June 18, 2006 at 7:22 PM (Art)

I recently attended a two-day workshop on Negotiation Skills at office.  Now it has been a while since I’ve been in a classroom environment, but this gave me the chance to do some serious doodling in my notebook.

I did two pictures during the course of the two days, below is one of them (click for a larger image):

I had been listening to the song "This is the New Shit" by Marilyn Manson the day before, and that is what inspired this drawing.  Done in black gel ink pen on notebook paper (I erased the lines as much as I could), with the "background" (consisting of a scribbled version of the lyrics to the song) in blue ballpoint pen.

The other drawing is one of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy.  This one turned out much better than just a simple doodle, so I am doing some post-processing in Photoshop and adding colour.  Will post that later tonight.

And to those of you who are thinking otherwise, I did participate well in the workshop and found it to be a good one (the faculty, Mr. Chendil Kumar was excellent).  Drawing during training sessions (or classes) does not mean that I am not paying attention!

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Review: Aeon Flux

June 11, 2006 at 11:32 PM (Movies)

With the exception of "Matriculated" (one of the shorts from The Animatrix), I have not seen any of animator Peter Chung’s work.  I have, however, read about his creation Aeon Flux, which started off as a set of episodes on MTV’s Liquid Television, and then branched off into its own TV series.  The film adaptation was released sometime late last year, starring Charlize Theron in the titular role, and directed by Karyn Kusama, with a script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi.  How well it compares to the animated version, I don’t know, but I certainly had a good time watching the movie today.  Though the trailer might make it out to be just another Matrix-style action/science fiction adventure with terrific visuals, I was pleasantly surprised with some of the interesting ideas and concepts in the movie.

In 2011, 99% of the Earth’s population was killed off by a deadly virus.  Scientist Trevor Goodchild developed a cure, and also built the utopian city of Bregna, where the remaining 5 million people lived.  Four hundred years later, all is not well in Bregna — while it might seem like a perfect society on the surface, there seem to be deep-seeded problems all over the city.  People are falling sick, there are people who mysteriously disappear, and the Goodchild regime may be somehow linked to all this.

The Monicans are a group of rebels who see the Goodchild regime as a "gilded cage", and are determined to assassinate the leader, Trevor (Marton Csokas).  Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) is the deadliest of the Monican assassins, and when her sister, Una Flux (Amelia Warner) is killed by the Government, she is only too happy to be sent after Trevor with an assignment to kill him.  However, when she infiltrates the citadel and comes face-to-face with Trevor, she is unable to pull the trigger.  Later, as the secrets of the Goodchild regime are revealed, Aeon realises that her motives may be wrong after all.

Aeon Flux is a well-done movie.  Charlize Theron was awesome in the title role — her natural beauty and grace is aided by the photography and make-up (her hair is perfect in every scene!), and though the role didn’t demand that much of "acting" I thought it was well done.  The movie was very artistic and beautiful — the costumes, sets and effects give it all an otherworldly look, which is definitely apt for a movie set four hundred years in the future.

The action scenes are exciting (the final shoot-out is the highlight), and I loved the creativity on display (the gadgets and the other science-fictional elements).  The movie is tightly edited — but perhaps a little too much (certain scenes show characters appearing magically in a particular location, whereas they would have been somewhere else in a previous scene), however it is never boring.  The story is far better than expected, and it all makes for quite a good watch.  Good job!

Rating: 8/10

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Illustration Friday: (Surreal) Jungle

June 11, 2006 at 7:43 PM (Art)

Illustration Friday

Last week the Internet connection was misbehaving a bit, and I was also pretty busy with work, so I didn’t do an illustration for Illustration Friday.  Last week’s theme was Portrait, by the way.

This time, the theme was Jungle.  The first thing that came to mind was the movie Predator, as it is set in the Latin American jungles.  But I didn’t draw anything based on that, this picture is what I came up with (click for larger image):

Jungle by Karthik Abhiram

This is a picture of a clearing in a jungle.  It’s very warm and the powerful sunlight cuts through the trees like a knife.  Originally, this was supposed to be some sort of alien landscape, that’s why the leaves of the trees are blue.  Instead of leaves, the trees were supposed to have gaseous red/blue emissions at the top.  It didn’t turn out that way, so what you have now is a more or less normal (earthly) picture.

Still, I like the way the trees seem impossibly tall and the sun seems impossibly large.  If I were to draw a person in the middle of all this, he/she would be the size of one of the letters in the text (at the bottom of the picture).

This picture was done with watercolours on drawing paper.  I bought a drawing book some days back.  The images come out much better on this paper, which is thicker and nicer compared to the standard A4 printer/photocopy paper I was using earlier.  I’m not at all used to watercolours (this is probably the second picture I’m painting with them), but I’m happy with the result.

As usual, comments welcome…

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