Many Movie Reviews

July 29, 2006 at 9:42 PM (Movies)

I watched several movies in the past weeks, thought of sharing my opinions on them…

  • MirrorMask

    This is a movie that has great talent behind it — it is directed by artist Dave McKean, and written by celebrated novelist/comic-book writer Neil Gaiman, and McKean.  The story itself concerns a young girl, Helena (Stephanie Leonidas) who works in a circus, but wishes to live a normal life instead.  When her mother falls sick and is undergoing surgery, Helena magically finds herself transported to a dreamworld, which is at the same time creepy and wonderful.  Here, the White Queen is sick and a "darkness" is slowly engulfing the land of light   Helena must recover the magical "MirrorMask" to set things right.  With some well-realised CGI, this is a very imaginative movie, and seems like one of McKean’s artworks come to life.  Rating: 8/10

  • A Scanner Darkly

    Set in the near future, this movie adaptation of the novel by Philip K. Dick portrays a society where the use of drugs — especially one called Substance D — is rampant.  An individual called Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is suspected of being at the top of a big drug ring, and therefore he and his associates are under surveillance by a cop called Fred.  In this future, the police wear something called Scramble Suits — a body-fitting suit that constantly changes its appearance — in order to hide their identities.  The problem here is that Fred is actually Bob Arctor himself, the two personalities created by prolonged use of Substance D.  As the movie progresses, Fred/Bob loses his grip on reality.  A thoughtful science-fiction story, with an ending that I found quite sad.  Adapted and directed by Richard Linklater, and done in a "rotoscoped" style (actors were filmed and the footage was animated over), similar to his earlier film Waking Life.  Rating: 8/10

  • Strange Days

    The movie was released in 1995, so its setting of end-1999 is a "futuristic" one.  In this world it is possible, through a device employing SQUID technology, to record experiences, which can then be played back (and re-experienced) by others.  The technology is an underground one, Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is an ex-cop who now specialises in selling these clips to cater to every customer’s taste.  When he receives a tape containing a murder recorded on it, it sets into motion events that have startling implications.  A tough science-fiction/mystery/thriller, with it’s gritty setting, violent images, flashy style and fast pace (the director is Kathryn Bigelow, who also made the "100-percent pure adrenaline" Point Break; and the writer is James Cameron), it is almost an assault on the viewer’s senses, and quite a unique movie-watching experience.  The SQUID device’s playback sequences are shown in unbroken first-person perspective, and the photography in these scenes are not only a remarkable technical achievement, but are also quite thrilling to watch.  Rating: 9/10

  • Transporter 2

    Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is in Miami, working as the official "driver" for the 6-year old son of a high-ranking US Government official.  When the boy is kidnapped, Frank must rescue him (using his driving and martial-arts skills) and foil the plot of the criminals.  I suppose the best way to enjoy this movie is to completely suspend any sense of disbelief, as it has some good-looking but ridiculously implausible action scenes.  Somewhere towards the last third of the movie, the plan of the criminals is revealed, and it’s quite nonsensical.  Anyway, director Louis Leterrier keeps things entertaining enough, and the character of Lola (Kate Nauta) (an assassin who seems to prefer walking around in her underwear, blowing away anything with two enhanced guns) certainly makes an impression!  Rating: 6/10

  • District 13 (Banlieue 13)

    It’s Paris in 2010, and the scenario is an Escape from New York-type one.  Areas of the city where crime is uncontrollable are walled-off and monitored by police stationed outside these "districts".  When an armoured car containing a nuclear weapon strays into the most hazardous district of them all — District 13 — the weapon is stolen by crime lord Taha and his henchmen.  Unfortuately, the bomb will explode in 24 hours, unless it is defused.  Cop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) goes undercover into District 13, and with assistance from Leito (David Belle), a man who was born in District 13 and knows to navigate it, he hopes to defuse the bomb in the very short time that remains.  The film showcases some absolutely amazing stunts and action scenes.  Remember those scenes in Jackie Chan movies where he does things like slide through open car windows?  Well, this film is pretty much full to the brim with such action sequences (I hear 90% of the stunts were done without using CGI or wire-work, and actor David Belle is a co-founder of the sport called Parkour that is depicted largely in this film), and combined with a fast pace (the film itself is very short, at just 80 minutes running time), and good music (by Da. Octopusss), the movie is very entertaining.  This French action film is written by Luc Besson and Bibi Narcieri, and directed by Pierre Morel.  I watched the English dubbed version.  Rating: 8/10

Well, that’s it for the movies I watched recently — will be back with more reviews later!


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Going to Hyderabad

July 8, 2006 at 2:06 AM (General)

I am going to be in Hyderabad for the next few days (vacation)!  I’ve taken leave on the 10th, 11th and the 12th, so I get to spend some good time at home.

My flight’s departure time is 5:40 AM.  I plan to leave the house here at 3 AM (an hour from now), take a call taxi and go to the airport.  I should reach home by 7:30 AM.  (What about sleep?  I will do that on the plane!)

I will be back on 12th night — that flight leaves Hyderabad at around 9 PM and so I expect to be back in Chennai at around 11 PM or so.

Been looking forward to a vacation for some time, so I’m happy I’m getting to go now.

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Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth

July 4, 2006 at 12:57 AM (Comics)

Just finished reading the one-shot Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth by Warren Ellis (writer), John Cassaday (artist) and David Baron (colourist).  Absolutely awesome!

I think Planetary was the only Wildstorm Comics title that Gotham Comics published in India (sadly, this lasted only some 4 issues, and for the past few months there have been no new comics available at all), and this caught my attention the moment I read the first issue.  It was a very engaging combination of the SF and adventure genres, featuring an organisation called "Planetary" — consisting of the hundred year old Elijah Snow, the superhuman Jakita Wagner and the mysterious The Drummer and an as-yet-unidentified The Fourth Man — who try to uncover a hundred years of secret history of the world.

This one-shot is a crossover of Wildstorm’s Planetary with DC Comics’ Batman.  It’s a very unusual take on the theme, certainly the most innovative crossover I’ve read.  The story goes like this: Planetary is in Gotham City (I’m told the universe they start off in, is the Wildstorm Comics Universe; so in this Gotham City, Batman doesn’t exist), trying to track down an individual called John Black, whose parents were victims of some experimentation that might have given John superhuman abilities.  John caused the deaths of several people, whether he did it intentionally or not is unknown to Planetary.

When Planetary finds John, they discover that he really does possess superhuman abilities — he has the power to transform reality (basically, he can transport chunks of reality into alternate universes, because his mind is locked into the rotation patterns of the 196,833 universes that make up reality).  Upon confronting John, Planetary finds themselves transported to an alternate Gotham City, and soon, a mysterious caped figure dressed like a bat — Batman — arrives on the scene.  Jakita and the Batman fight, and Elijah and The Drummer chase John.  John’s mind is unstable, and each time his power is exhibited, it transports the characters into a different Gotham City, with a different version of Batman.

In each universe, Batman seems concerned about taking down John, a known criminal — whereas Planetary recognise that John is simply out of control and the real villains are the ones behind the experiments that changed him into what he is.  Another running theme through the story is that John lost his parents in those same experiments, a parallel to Batman losing his own parents as a child.  All the events in the story take place in Crime Alley.

What makes the book so unique is that the different universes which John transports Planetary to, all represent different versions of the Batman.  The serious crimefighter Batman, the (silly) 1960s Batman, the 1970s Neal Adams Batman, the 1980s Frank Miller Batman, and even the original 1939 Batman all appear in this book)!  I thought it was a very creative way of implementing a crossover, with writer Ellis happily blurring the lines between fiction and meta-fiction!

I’ve admired John Cassaday’s artwork ever since I read my first Planetary issue.  His work has been described as "deceptively simple" — while he uses very little rendering, his art is very realistic.  The more brightly-coloured Planetary has beautiful artwork (but Astonishing X-Men took things even further, that title has some stunningly realistic art!).

The art here is excellent, nothing short of what was expected.  Especially remarkable is the way Cassaday offers his own interpretations of the different Batmans — they’re all instantly recognisable, and seamlessly blend Cassaday’s own style with the style of the artist he is emulating!  Colourist David Baron’s work goes a long way in creating the intended atmosphere for the different versions of Batman.  For example, the pages featuring the 1960s Batman have a more colourful and bright scheme, and when there is a transition from this version to the Frank Miller Batman, the palette changes to a gloomier, more gray/muted purple-brown scheme.

Wonderful, creative work, this!  The book is very fast paced, and that fight I mentioned between Jakita and the Batman is quite exciting.

Rating: 9/10

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Illustration Friday: Sticky Alien Goo

July 2, 2006 at 11:44 PM (Art)

Illustration Friday

Well, it’s that time of the week again… this week’s topic at Illustration Friday is Sticky.

And here is my interpretation of the theme, called "Sticky Alien Goo"!

Sticky Alien Goo by Karthik Abhiram

Now I love chewing bubblegum (favourite type is Fusen gum).  And as we all know, if you chew bubblegum for a while, then take it out and start playing with it, it gets really messy and sticky.  So the idea for my illustration was just that, show someone who had made a mess of things, and had bubblegum stuck on the fingers.

But as I was painting my image (yes, that is my own left hand in the picture, and no, I did not have any sticky stuff on my fingers), I wasn’t able to get the bubblegum to stand out properly from the colour of the fingers, therefore I decided to change things a little.  I painted the bubblegum in blue colour.  And obviously then it didn’t look like bubblegum any more, so I decided to give more of an SF-slant to my image, and call it, Sticky Alien Goo!

This is my third watercolour painting for Illustration Friday.  I think this turned out better than my previous two attempts.  Oh, and the title sounds like something my friend Pablo Dictter would come up with!

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Review: Videodrome

July 2, 2006 at 1:32 PM (Movies)

I watched David Cronenberg’s 1983 cult movie Videodrome a few days back.  What an unusual movie!!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything else like it (except of course, for Cronenberg’s eXistenZ).

James Woods plays Max Renn, the president of a cable network that specialises in pornographic shows.  When video pirate Harlan stumbles upon satellite transmissions of a peculiar channel called Videodrome, Renn is interested in tracking down the people behind it and possibly work out a deal to show Videodrome’s programming on his network.  Videodrome is what seems to be a live snuff channel, with nothing but murder, torture and mutilation shown throughout.

Renn finds that Videodrome is broadcast from Pittsburgh, and a person called Prof. Brian O’Blivion (who communicates to the outside world only through prerecorded video) may know something about it.  Unfortunately, it seems Videodrome is causing Renn to have hallucinations, and Renn must find out the truth before he loses his mind.

The first David Cronenberg film I watched was his 1986 The Fly (I saw this some 10-12 years back).  Recently, I watched eXistenZ, and while it was a flawed film that ended on an ambiguous note, I really appreciated the amazing creativity behind it.  Analyses of much of Cronenberg’s work have pointed out how he portrays "flesh" undergoing mutation/change though technology or psychological effect, in his films (they include quite a bit of sexual imagery as well).  All these descriptions apply to Videodrome as well — you see how video signals/violence on TV impact Max Renn’s mind, causing physical manifestations in his body (though this could be hallucination).  I felt this was a better movie than eXistenZ (a bit more ambiguous though!).

It’s a very imaginative and well made movie.  The acting by all involved is very good, and the visual effects are amazing (though at times the images are pretty disgusting to watch — the opening in Max’s stomach for example).  The movie is somewhat ambiguous in its resolution and the concept of video altering reality is not that easy to grasp, but it is definitely an awesome effort that deserves praise.

Rating: 8/10

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Review: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

July 2, 2006 at 12:05 PM (Movies)

Watched Oldboy director Chanwook Park’s older film Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance yesterday evening.  My feelings on viewing it were mixed — the film is certainly well made, with good photography, a controlled pace that suits the story, and good acting.  However, nothing good happens to the characters — there is no victory that anyone experiences, only things that go horribly wrong and are avenged in graphically violent ways.  Due to the ultimately depressing nature of the movie, I can’t really say that I enjoyed any of it.

Anyway, the story is about deaf and dumb Ryu, who lives with his very sick sister.  His sister needs a kidney transplant, otherwise she will die.  Ryu, unable to find a donor for the kidney, contacts some underground organ dealers and gives them 10 million won for a kidney.  Unfortunately, he is drugged, and robbed of not only the money, but also his own kidney!  The hospital later informs Ryu that a kidney has been found for his sister, but they need 10 million won for the operation.

Having no money, Ryu (who has been fired from his factory job) and his girlfriend decide to kidnap the factory boss’s little daughter, and ask for the money for her safe return.  If things were bad at this point, they only get worse for all the central characters in the movie, with situations turning against them in horrible ways.

The director’s Oldboy had a lot of depressing and downbeat moments, but atleast they were dramatic and had some purpose within the overall film.  Here, the violent "vengeance" is presented as is.  Nothing good ever happens to the characters.  At some point or the other everyone becomes "Mr. Vengeance" and you feel bad for the characters at both the giving as well as the receiving end.  This may have been the point of the movie, but for me, it worked against the film, in the sense that there is absolutely no enjoyment to be had.

This is one of those "really good" movies which I can watch only once!  Well, perhaps, director Chanwook Park’s third film in his "revenge trilogy", Lady Vengeance, will be better.

Rating: 6/10

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