Illustration Friday: Routine [Drawing and Video]

August 28, 2008 at 2:23 AM (Art, Movies) (, , , , , , )

This week’s Illustration Friday topic is "Routine".  And when I saw that, there was only one thing I could think of — the song "Every Day is Exactly the Same" by Nine Inch Nails.  This is an amazing song, I can relate to it quite well (heh)!  Anyway, here is a page with more details on the song and the lyrics.  Without further ado, here is the drawing I did —

That’s Trent Reznor, the man behind Nine Inch Nails.  The picture was done with ballpoint pen on a small notepad actually!  You can click on the image above to see a larger version.

But wait!  That’s not all!  In addition to the above drawing, I did a bunch more inspired by the song and by movies that kind of follow a similar theme.  And what’s more, I filmed myself drawing them and put the footage together into a video.  So here’s a fan-made music video for Nine Inch Nails’ "Every Day is Exactly the Same", directed by yours truly, Karthik Abhiram —

You can go to the YouTube page here.  Feel free to comment either here or on the video page!

By the way, I’ve scanned the five other drawings that are visible in the video (one is visible VERY briefly, the others have considerably more screen time).  I will put them up later.  I actually did all this over the weekend but didn’t have the time to make this post.  Thought I’d go ahead with the Reznor drawing alone because I didn’t want to go too far away from Illustration "Friday"!

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Drew Struzan Website Updated

August 19, 2008 at 10:55 PM (Art, Movies) (, , )

I have written about movie poster artist Drew Struzan a few times on this site.  Today, I noticed that his website has been updated, and the best part is that high quality pictures of his artwork have been published there!

Above is a detail from Drew’s poster of the Kurt Russell starring, John Carpenter movie Big Trouble in Little China.  Amazing art, right?  Below, is a poster for Blade Runner

That image was used for the poster and DVD cover art for Blade Runner: The Final Cut (by the way, I bought the DVD sometime back).  According to the Drew Struzan website, the original art is done with acrylic paints and coloured pencil on 30" × 40" gessoed board, and can be purchased for USD 125,000!  The three posters for the Back to the Future movies are sold as a set, for USD 350,000.  Obviously, only very wealthy art collectors can pay that much for the originals — but I’d love to have large size prints of these posters.

You can have a look at his works here: DrewStruzan.com.

And, I also found this 7 min 30 sec video on YouTube: Drew Struzan: The Appreciation of an Artist, which is really worth watching — it has directors Frank Darabont and Guillermo Del Toro talk about Struzan and even shows Struzan himself working.  Really amazing stuff.

EDIT [23:08]: Speaking of DVDs, I should mention that Sekhar Kammula’s film Happy Days is out on DVD.  It is released by Sri Balaji Video (this company puts out good Telugu DVD releases) in a region-free NTSC version, in anamorphic widescreen, with English subtitles and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound mix.  Unfortunately, there are no extras or special features to speak of — I kind of expected that a hugely popular movie like this would get a more special treatment!  Anyway the DVD only costs Rs 125, so I bought it.  I also got the DVD of this thriller called Anasuya.

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Hostel and Hostel: Part II (Drawing, Review)

August 11, 2008 at 4:16 AM (Art, Movies) (, , , , , , )

I watched both Hostel (2005) and Hostel: Part II (2007) back-to-back, this weekend.  The first movie begins with three friends, Paxton (Jay Hernandez), Josh (Derek Richardson) and Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) heading out to a hostel in Bratislava, Slovakia, in search of beautiful women who will "do anything" with an American tourist.  Once there, things take a turn for the worse when one-by-one, they disappear — we realise later that they’ve been abducted by an underground "Elite Hunting" club, who kidnap tourists and offer them up to rich people to torture and kill in any way they see fit!  The sequel is more-or-less a retread of the first film, except this time we have three female lead characters — Beth (Lauren German), Whitney (Bijou Phillips) and Lorna (Heather Matarazzo) who go to the Slovak hostel, and we get to see more of what happens "behind-the-scenes" at Elite Hunting.  Both films also have the appearance of the "Bubblegum Gang", a group of little kids who are very, very dangerous.

Both movies come from writer-director Eli Roth and are executive produced by Quentin Tarantino.  The movies became well-known due to their extremely violent and bloody content — these two, along with the Saw movies are commonly referred to under the "torture porn" genre.  Of course, both are well-done movies and if you like this sort of thing, they’re highly recommended!  I thought the Saw movies were a notch better than this series, though.

I did a drawing today based on Hostel and Hostel: Part II.  It was done with ballpoint pen and I added some colour to it on computer.  The drawing features Rick Hoffman as the "American Client" from Part 1, the Bubblegum Gang leader from both movies, Lauren German as Beth from Part 2 and Jay Hernandez as Paxton from Part 1.  You can click on the images to see larger versions (warning: black and white image large version contains profanity).

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Wanted (Drawing, Review)

August 10, 2008 at 10:32 PM (Art, Comics, Movies) (, , , , , , )

Wanted is a movie adaptation of a comic book miniseries by Mark Millar (writer) and J G Jones (art).  James McAvoy stars as Wesley Gibson, a nobody who leads a pathetic life as an office worker.  Life seems to be going nowhere for him (this part of the movie reminded me very much of Fight Club in terms of dialogue and tone, which was awesome — plus, one sequence has the Nine Inch Nails song "Everyday is Exactly the Same" playing in the background!), until one day, he meets Fox (Angelina Jolie).  She tells him that his father was one of the greatest assassins in the world, and that he was killed the previous day.  She leads him to an underground "Fraternity" of assassins, led by the mysterious Sloan (Morgan Freeman), and this is where his training begins.  Wesley is trained to be part of the Fraternity, so that he can avenge the death of his father.  Of course, the movie has a few twists up its sleeve as well, beyond this.

The movie is a loose adaptation of the book — some of the elements are retained, while much of the fantastical elements are removed.  In the book, the Fraternity are actually a group of supervillains (all superheroes having been eliminated in 1986), and there are a group of warring factions within.  Some of the scenes from the book make it intact into the movie (for example, some of the training montages).

The director of the movie version is Timur Bekmambetov, who made the Russian films Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) (2004) and Day Watch (Dnevnoy Dozor) (2006).  Like in those movies, the visuals are stunning here — there are some jaw-dropping and "Whoa!" inducing action sequences.  The movie has a nice demented sense of humour too (one example which you can see in the red-band trailer — Wesley smashes a computer keyboard on the face of a coworker, and momentarily, as the keys fly out, they form the words "fuck you", the last "u" being a tooth!), and one point that is to be really appreciated is that they didn’t tone down the violence — there’s quite a lot of bloodshed here.  The acting is all good, and fans of the "Watch" films will be glad to see Konstantin Khabensky in a small role here (he played Anton Gorodetsky in those movies, and appears as a character called "The Exterminator" here).

I watched the movie in a theatre and had a big grin on my face when the movie was over.  Highly recommended.  Rating: 9/10.

And that brings us to the drawing above — which I actually did before watching the movie.  It was done in pencil, and I added the brown colour in the background in Photoshop.  You can click the image for a larger version.

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Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Drawing, Review)

August 10, 2008 at 6:06 PM (Art, Movies) (, , , , , )

Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a film from Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto.  It begins with a character called the "Metal Fetishist" inserting rods of metal into his body.  Subsequently, the Metal Fetishist is run over by a Salaryman (an office worker).  What follows is a bizarre sequence of events and images, where the Salaryman apparently starts mutating into a metal creature, with wires and other objects of metal emerging from his body.

This is a nightmarish film that is shot in black-and-white, with very little dialogue and a grungy, decayed look.  Shinya Tsukamoto wrote and directed the movie, and also stars as the Metal Fetishist — which makes one question his sanity!  One could compare this with a David Cronenberg movie, where "metal is the new flesh".  The movie is well made and has some very good effects and visuals, all accomplished on a low budget.  It is one of the weirdest movies I have seen (the weirdest would be David Lynch’s Eraserhead, but this also comes close), and I would recommend watching it if you have a taste for stuff like this.  Beware though, that it contains some explicit content and is definitely an adults-only film.  Shinya Tsukamoto made a sequel to this, called Tetsuo II: Body Hammer which I have not seen.  Rating: 7/10.

And as you might expect, I did a drawing based on this movie which you see above.  It was done in ballpoint pen and shows the Metal Fetishist on the top right, with the Salaryman in an advanced stage of "metal mutation" on the bottom left.  You can click it for a larger version.

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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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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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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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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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