January 11, 2007

Decadence of dreams

I’ve said this before – maybe my tastes in movies are changing or Hollywood is totally bankrupt in the ideas department. Or maybe it’s both :p I still have to see a totally satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable Hollywood movie in months. About the only US/Western entertainment that I’ve found to be enjoyable lately has come from TV. Maybe it’s the longer length, or the shorter episodes but there is some good stuff on TV that really works.

Take for instance, "Prison Break". While I have yet to see season 2 and am curious as to how they can maintain the same level of novelty and interest as the first season, I nevertheless found it to be a gripping and entertaining drama. Then there is "Lost". Sure the second season sagged a bit down the middle and I do hope that they tie everything up neatly in the third season (which I hear is the final season) but it’s still damn interesting. I also hear good things about "Heroes" though I’ve yet to see it.

On the other side of the coin, the Hollywood side, you have trash like "Miami Vice" :p We watched it yesterday and it is the worst excuse for a movie that I have seen in a long time. It appeared to be more of a soft-porn movie which had somehow stumbled into the area reserved for the more upstanding citizens of the movie world. I kid you not, the first part of the movie was mostly shower scenes and bedroom scenes and what not. Considering that you had at least five sex scenes in a two and a half hour movie, there wasn’t much room for story :p

Not that there really was a story, mind you. It appears as if Michael Mann decided to go experimental on this one (or maybe you should drop "experi" and you’d be closer to home :p) You get dropped into the story in-progress and at the end you are yanked out without any satisfying conclusions. The story was supposed to be about finding a mole in the FBI but at the end of the movie, we still have no idea who the mole is. The woman that Sonny Crockett risks everything for, goes away into the sunset on a boat. Life just drags on. No satisfaction, no emotion, no connections – basically, a big old zero. The only good thing I have to say about this movie is that we only paid $2 for a local DVD copy – my sympathies to anybody who paid full price for this garbage 🙂

The second movie that we watched yesterday, "Children of Men", was much more satisfying and engaging. The movie started off slow and I was beginning to think it was a dud too. I love science fiction movies but this was way too close to home to be entertaining – it was just depressing. However, as the story progressed, I became more and more involved with the character of Theo Faron, who goes from your average guy who just wants to make his own corner of the basket safe and nice while the world goes to hell in a handbasket, to a knight in rusted armour :p Of course, the high point in the movie, for me personally, has to be when I suddenly heard cries in perfect Sinhalese from a wailing woman standing by a slain boy, towards the end of the movie 🙂 Overall, it was a good piece of cinema though not something I’d want to watch if I wanted pure entertainment – it’s just too gruesome and hits too close to home for comfort of mind.

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Posted by Fahim at 10:07 am  |  2 Comments

December 11, 2006

Entertainment in the hole

I have not been able to find a good movie lately even to save my own life :p Everything seems to be either bad remakes or sequels which never go anywhere. I thought "Mission: Impossible 3" would prove to be good but it was nothing special. The story was average and there certainly weren’t any memorable stunts as in the previous movies. I hear that "Miami Vice" is a bust as well, though I haven’t seen it myself yet.

About the only two English movies that were even passable recently were "Nanny McPhee" and "Wedding Daze". However, the former didn’t really grab your sympathy. It was a nice morality tale which was supposed to warm your hearts but the children (who were the key) came out as brats who needed a good spanking rather than adorable miscreants who needed a firm hand :p Of the children, the only one I really liked was Baby Agatha. On the other hand, "Wedding Daze" was better but a bit predictable and the comparison to "Father of the Bride" didn’t help much. The other interesting fact is that neither of those movies was released in 2006 – I was watching old fare, there :p

It’s been a rather dry season on the Bollywood side of the fence too. I hadn’t seen one movie that really tugged at your heartstrings or made you want to jump up and dance like in the days of yore. The much awaited "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" was a damp squib as far as I’m concerned. Sure, it had enough star power for a galaxy or two but the story really went nowhere. The closest thing (ironically) that KANK came to was "Closer", which I didn’t particularly like either :p Incidentally, Shah Rukh appeared to be borrowing from his older roles in this movie and was actually making me feel a bit nauseous – it wasn’t a good performance and it wasn’t a good movie.

The bright spot of the year? It has to be "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" 🙂 I had liked the original, "Munna Bhai M.B.B.S." but not overly so. It was fun but not brilliant. The sequel was different. It was a touching story which kept your emotions going almost throughout the entire movie. I was either laughing or sniffing (not glue :p) through every scene. Sure, at least some of the characters were already established, but the director managed to give them new dimension and new meaning. I was a bit confused by the fact that the sequel appeared to not acknowledge the original – it was almost as if the original story took place in an alternate universe and the new story is a complete retake of Munna Bhai’s life. Other than that, this was a beautiful movie and a pleasure to watch. In fact, I just might watch it again 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:15 am  |  No Comments

November 4, 2006

The forces that move us

I don’t seem to find myself compelled to write about the movies that we watch anymore – I’m not sure if that is because I’m too busy or because we haven’t seen a movie that actually moved me in a while. Yesterday, we did see something which, even if it did not move me to reflection as much as usual, did make me pause a bit. The movie? "Edison Force", which apparently was released as "Edison" originally but was renamed for the DVD.

On paper, the movie looks absolutely brilliant – Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey, with a supporting cast which is a veritable who’s who of Hollywood? It seemed like a movie buff’s dream! I enjoyed the story most of the time though there was nothing really new in there. I loved how the movie showed the motivations for the different characters and the changes in their outlooks and actions as the story progresses. I also enjoyed the fact that at heart, the movie was a cautionary tale/morality story.

However, with such a large cast of well-known characters, the story needs to be especially strong to let each of the characters to shine through. This just didn’t seem to happen. I enjoyed the story while it played out but afterwards, I can’t point to one person (or one character) and say this is what defined him. If anything, all I remember vividly from the movie is Moses Ashford’s (Morgan Freeman’s character) potty-mouth :p (It just seems so wrong to have Morgan Freeman say the things that Moses says – almost as bad as hearing your own grandfather using the obscenities that a teenager would use ..)

The biggest flaw was probably in letting the entire movie hang on Justin Timberlake‘s scrawny shoulders :p Don’t get me wrong, I was surprised at how well he acted given his normal persona that you see in the DVD extras. But boy, even given that improved acting, he really didn’t convey much emotion or character throughout the movie. And given that the story is mostly about Pollack (Justin’s character), it is no wonder that the movie ended up feeling so anaemic – because that’s how Pollack comes across.

So in the end, I don’t know whether movies are becoming worse by the day or if my tastes are growing more rarified, but I just can’t find any movies recently about which I can really say "Wow, that moved me!". "Edison Force" is no exception.

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Posted by Fahim at 8:08 am  |  No Comments

October 9, 2006

Codes, Concepts and Breakouts

We watched "The Da Vinci Code" a couple of days ago. I am not going to go much into the movie itself since everybody and their unborn child has probably seen it by now. Or heard about it. Or been urged by their neighbour’s grandmother to go see it. Or read about it in the newspaper. Or something. You get the picture 🙂

Now Laurie had already read the book. I hadn’t. So the movie was all new to me – especially since I hadn’t been interested enough in the book to learn what the story was about :p What did strike me while watching the movie was that the story was almost a poster-child for Donald Maass’ "Writing the Breakout Novel" 🙂 Maybe I’m reading more into it (pun intended) than I should. But I’m reading "Writing the Breakout Novel" at the moment and Dan Brown appeared to follow Donald Maass’ advice very carefully. Perhaps it was coincidence, perhaps not. So the first thing I did was to check for any connections between Dan Brown and Donald Maass. Don’t think I found any direct connections or references to Brown being influenced by Maass’ book. So then, I looked up the publication dates for the two books and Maass’ book had been out for 2-3 years before Brown’s book was published. So I guess it certainly is possible.

Or maybe it’s just coincidence. Maybe bestsellers do follow a formula. I have no idea 🙂 But what I did notice was that Brown raised the stakes continually as Maass advices in his books. You start with a simple murder, then Langdon gets called into take a look, then we learn that he’s a suspect in the murder, then he learns that there is a conspiracy behind it and he has to go on the run and so on. The stakes just keep rising and you are swept away in the tide of rising excitement.

Then there are the characters themselves. There’s Langdon’s claustrophobia, which is introduced almost as soon as the story starts. So you start sympathizing with him. Then you are introduced to Sophie and you learn that she does not believe in God. You start wondering about her. Then you learn that her whole family died when she was a child and you begin to realize perhaps she blames God for it. So you again sympathize with the character and are invested in their quest and what becomes of them.

There are many other points to ponder about how the story (in the movie) follows Maass’ advice closely. It probably is coincidence but then again, it’s a nice mini-not-quite-conspiracy theory of my own to say that Dan Brown wrote his bestseller by following Maass’ advice to the letter :p Or maybe, it just points to the fact that you can write by numbers as long as you know which numbers to follow 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 6:33 am  |  1 Comment

June 19, 2006

A Holiday of Chaos

We’ve been running into a spate of bad movies recently 🙂 I don’t know if it was just our mood – getting movies that just didn’t match our mood or if the movies themselves were bad. All I know of is that we have a growing pile of movies that have been watched halfway and then left aside. But a few days ago, we did hit a few movies which were quite good. Of course, it might be that the streak of bad movies just made these seem really good but then again, maybe not.

The first one in the lot is "Chaos". However, I can’t talk much about "Chaos" because it would ruin the "game" for other people :p What’s the game? Well, the game is something I play each time I start watching a movie or TV show – I start trying to figure out the ending as soon as the story starts unfolding and the score is decided by how soon I guess the ending 🙂 I love those movies where the game is at least half-way challenging and "Chaos" is perhaps in this kind of rare category. So I will not ruin it for any other players out there. I’ll just say that it has Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes and Ryan Phillippe and that it is a good story 🙂

The other movie, "Last Holiday" does not get in to the game at all 🙂 It is a rather predictable, straightforward story about a quiet and meek woman who suddenly finds her voice – both figuratively and literally 🙂 It is one of those wonderful feel-good movies about a person rising through adversity and the scorn of "society" to find their place in the world. I loved the movie though the storyline itself held no real surprises. It is one of those pick-me-up kind of movies which leaves you feeling really good about yourself and life at the end of the movie. Watch it 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 6:44 am  |  1 Comment

May 30, 2006

Masks and men

We watched "The Legend of Zorro" a couple of days ago. Now I was a big fan of "The Mask of Zorro" but the sequel? Well, it left me a little cold :p I think this might have something to do with the fact that the movie seemed to be (at least to me) a mishmash of what is "hot" at the moment. For instance, instead of the swashbuckling sword fighting that Zorro is so well known for, we saw Zorro jumping and swooping and rolling and gliding like a prize gymnast crossed with a show horse and an eagle :p Then the whole thing about Elena and Diego breaking up and all the ensuing hijinks seemed just a teensy weensy bit forced. But that might have just been me 🙂 The best part of the movie for me was Diego and Elena’s son, Joaquin and all the trouble he gets into. Overall, the movie just didn’t stand up to the legend of Zorro that I know of.

On the other hand, we watched "Neal ‘N’ Nikki" yesterday and it totally surpassed my expectations 🙂 I thought it might simply be an "experiment" by Yash Raj films. I had seen the beginning of the movie earlier and had not been very impressed. It had looked like something they’d come up to take Bollywood movies in a "new" direction. Dispense with the usual sugar sweet love stories and instead have something raunchier and much less inherently Indian. They did do all that, sure :p The movie is the most non-Bollywood type movie I’ve seen in a long time.

In Indian cinema, you hardly ever see any kissing let alone pre-marital sex or any kind of talk of sex. (Sure, rape scenes used to be big at one time but even then, that was for the sympathy factor rather than the sex factor and to build up the fact that the hero will eventually avenge the injustice :p) That particular trend has been changing. I can think of a few Indian movies of late which featured pre-marital sex or extra-marital sex. But nothing which just openly and joyously said, "this is all about sex!" I’m sure a lot of Indians (as well as Sri Lankans and others from the sub-continent) are going to be aghast at the movie and call it a perversion of culture. They are right on one level – it is. But at the same time, it is a fun romp. An unashamedly "guy" movie aimed directly at the younger generation.

Is it trashy? Yes it is. But it also has some fun moments and some really good scenes between the characters. The acting? The less said about it the better – if it could have been more wooden, the theaters would have been swarming with termites :p But I did enjoy the songs and half of them were in English and were sung very well …

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Posted by Fahim at 7:22 am  |  2 Comments

May 21, 2006


We have been waiting to get a good copy of "Ultraviolet" for a while now. I don’t know why we got interested in the first place – it might have been the fact that Milla Jovovich is in the movie or it might have been the DVD cover which shows Violet (Milla’s character) extending a strange looking sword. Or it might have been a cover blurb about vampires. I forget which now. But it really doesn’t matter since my title says it all, this movie really bites :p

Sure, it looks great as far as the visuals go but the story (which is non-existent) and the world and even the fights just don’t hold together. I have read that they cut over 30 minutes from the movie and that the director’s cut version will be more coherent. Let’s certainly hope so since this movie had nothing much in the way of coherence. OK, sure, it made sense in a linear kind of way but the events of the movie seemed to be there just to keep the story moving and to make things exciting and not out of any kind of logic :p

There were way too many logic problems and the story was so bad that I’ve almost forgotten most of it by now 🙂 However, the logic wasn’t the only problem. This movie reminded me way too much of other movies for it to be just a coincidence. First and foremost, there is "Aeon Flux", which was released just before "Ultraviolet". There are a lot of parallels between the two movies and the two stories and while I didn’t think much of "Aeon Flux" either, that at least had a much tighter story than "Ultraviolent" … sorry, I mean "Ultraviolet". Actually, the movie doesn’t even deserve the "ultra-violent" moniker because while there were plenty of fights and beheadings and what not, leading one to think a lot of "Kill Bill", it just didn’t have the grittiness or the reality of violence that "Kill Bill" had. This was just imitation violence of the stylized sort which just leaves you yawning after you’ve seen the same thing three times over. (And yes, you do see the same fight at least three times in "Ultraviolet")

Of course, then there are the inevitable "Star Wars" comparisons. The single-combat, the way the swords suddenly shoot out into their hands from nowhere, all has a strong "Star Wars" feel to it. And to top it all off, you have the "Matrix" stuff added to the mix :p When Violet goes to the ministry (or whatever) and the security computer says "weapons detected – many" (which was a really stupid line for a computer), I expected her to do a Neo and Trinity right there. Of course, they didn’t show that fight but instead showed the results (maybe the fight was cut?). Others have also pointed out similarities to "Tron" in the motorcycle chase scene and while I could see it later, I didn’t actually notice it while watching the movie.

Basically, "Ultraviolet" seemed like a hodge podge of a lot of movies but it didn’t have enough story or character development for it to stand on its own. Of course, one reviewer on IMDB commented that "if story was the only thing that mattered, then you might as well stay at home and read a book instead and that this movie had sound and visuals and that mattered". Sure, if you want meaningless noise and rapid movement, you can stare at the highway all day and that should satisfy you :p But if you want an enjoyable science fiction movie, this might not be the one for you … unless of course, you want a movie to laugh at and pick to shreds 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 6:38 am  |  No Comments

May 16, 2006

Up and at ’em …

Do you ever have days when you feel as if you need to be up and about, doing something, anything, as long as you’re doing something productive? I get days like that often and what do I do? I usually code a new application or go hunting for new software on the Internet :p Yesterday though, I didn’t do either. Instead, we watched "Full Frontal" and I tell you, it was a horrible waste of time 🙂

For some reason, "Full Frontal" reminds me of "Syriana". It probably has the same anaemic, lackadaisical attitude towards storytelling. That might have something to do with the fact that there isn’t much story to tell :p It’s a weird, rather sloppy and self-absorbed story about Hollywood people. It also is a movie within a movie within a movie kind of thing – you know one of those conceits which sound much better when you think of it than when other people see it … kind of like one of my novels :p

We didn’t watch the whole movie. Oh no, a full evening’s worth of "Full Frontal" would have been too much for our frontal lobes to take! Instead, we watched half the movie and then put the rest off till tomorrow when our brains would have recovered sufficiently to undergo that kind of punishment again :p

Basically, it’s got the kind of assemblage of stars that you’d usually only see on a clear night or at the planetarium 🙂 Plus, it was apparently done on a really low budget and the stars maintained their own costumes, hair and make-up and so on. I guess you get what you pay for though. Because this movie, it looks low-budget. But then again, it probably was a good thing because then they would have had less to lose than with a high budget movie since the only vision I can have of this movie is of it sinking like a block of concrete thrown in the lake :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:00 am  |  1 Comment

May 2, 2006

The good, bad and the plain stupid

We watched two movies yesterday (well, the second half of one and another one fully :p) and while both were basically on the same subject – family – they were miles apart in how the stories went. Of course, this is no surprise given that the stories were set worlds apart – one in Detroit, USA and the other in Chennai (or Madras), India. But let me get to the movies themselves.

I like Tamil movies. They try to explore "real" issues instead of getting all fluffy like Hindi movies (not that there is anything wrong with fluff mind you :p) and while they still do adhere to the story-song & dance-fight formula, they do tend to be entertaining. We watched the latter half of "Bose" yesterday and it certainly was entertaining … but perhaps not in the way the director intended.

The story is about Bose, your ordinary Indian commando, who is cashiered from the army for shooting a minister in the family jewels to save a girl who is about to be raped by the minister. This being a Tamil movie, it is all about the corruption in politics and the lone struggle that Bose leads against the forces of the minister who wants revenge. What was funny (or irritating) about the movie was the fact Bose’s whole family appears to be composed of stupid people. His whole family knows the story about him shooting the minister but his mother brings a thug searching for Bose home, his father reports Bose to the police, his brother takes his whole family and runs to the very minister who is trying to kill Bose for protection. The sheer stupidity of the plot made me pause the movie and shake my head quite a few times but the action sequences seemed to be derived from Hong Kong flicks rather than recent Tamil movies and so, if you are an action aficionado, you might still want to watch this one 🙂

The other one we watched yesterday was "Four Brothers" – about a four brothers (naturally :p) who team up to hunt down their mother’s killers. Now this one, I must say, was most excellent 🙂 I don’t believe that the movie was shot in Detroit but it does give you a feel for Detroit (I used to live there, so that might explain the "feel" in part :p) and I loved the characters in the movie. There was so much camaraderie, so much brotherhood between those four disparate individuals that they seemed to be "real brothers" (as they say in the movie). It’s a bit violent but a good movie nevertheless 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 6:57 am  |  No Comments

April 17, 2006

Roll thunder

Ray Bradbury‘s "A Sound of Thunder" is a short story that I have remembered even after many many years of reading it. Of course, today, I don’t remember anything much of the plot. All I do remember is the basic premise – that somebody goes back in to the past, steps on a butterfly and causes cataclysmic changes in the future. Of course, I realize that I remember these incidents probably because they have somewhat of a connection to the "Butterfly Effect" – another favourite theory/hobbyhorse of mine 🙂

I got reacquainted with "A Sound of Thunder", albeit in a slightly modified version when we watched the movie version of the story a couple of days ago. The movie version started off pretty much the same way I remember the short story to have been though to be honest, I don’t really remember much about the short story. The story is about a business named Time Safari’s which sends people from the future to the time of the dinosaurs so that hunters from the futures can bag the greatest game that ever walked the earth, or something like that. The Time Safari people take great pains not to introduce anything from the future into the past or to bring back anything form the past back to the future so as to prevent any time paradoxes or alterations to the timeline.

The movie continues on from where the short story ends and in true movie fashion, finds a heroic solution to the whole issue and the protagonist ends up saving the future and putting and end to the time travel menace in one fell swoop. But I gotta tell you, the movie was downhill all the way after the original short story bit ended :p In fact, the movie would have been great as a comedy but it was laughable as a science fiction flick because, as Laurie likes to put it, "there were plot holes big enough to drive a galaxy through" :p

Leaving out the really bad special effects and the extremely timely deus ex machina fashion accidents and saves that happen frequently in the movie, let me move on to the more absurd points. Apparently, Time Safari goes back to the same time in history for their dinosaur kills – that is part of the plot. However, except for the final scene when the protagonist goes back to stop the butterfly being killed, the Time Safari people never meet themselves. Strange? I would think so :p

Then there’s the outlandish "time waves" :p The butterfly being killed in the past introduces changes to the future. But one would think that the changes would be immediate. But no. These changes come in waves. And you can actually see the wave rolling over the landscape. And the wave (of time, mind you) causes actual physical destruction like flipping cars over or flinging the protagonist all over the landscape like a child’s rag doll 🙂

That is just the tip of the iceberg. There are the strange mutated plants which somehow had evolved over 65 million years to be more vicious because a butterfly was killed. Boy those plants sure must have loved that butterfly :p Then there’s the strange baboon dinosaurs who just make me laugh. I can go on and on and on but why bother? If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t go in expecting good SF. But if you do want a good laugh, this one’s just the ticket :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:29 am  |  No Comments

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