Back to Karthik82.com!

September 5, 2006 at 9:43 PM (General)

I spent the last month or so doing a redesign for my website, Karthik82.com.  I first set up the site in 2002, and until 2004 had maintained my blog there.  However, owing to the fact that I didn’t have proper access to FTP and all while I was in TAPMI, I used Blogger and later in 2006 started using this WordPress blog.

Now I’ve revamped Karthik82.com with a brand new design, and added all my old content to it.  From now on, I’ll be writing my posts over at that site itself.  Of course, this blog will still be here, to preserve the posts I’ve written, and if required I may make the occasional post here.

However, henceforth, for access to all my content, including the blog, please go to Karthik82.com.

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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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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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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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