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

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

June 9, 2006

It’s the knowing that’s hard …

We watched “Home Delivery” yesterday. It is a Bollywood comedy but it really wasn’t that funny :p It took way too long to set up the characters and their back story and then where it could have been funny, it kind of skipped over the possibilities and simply opted for more boring stuff. It did have some great feel-good moments towards the end but most of the audience (except for us masochists of course :p) would have either turned off the movie or walked out long before that.

Sometimes though, even a bad movie can lead to an epiphany 🙂 As I watched the movie, I began to see similarities between how the movie’s plot evolved (or didn’t evolve) and my novel, “Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog“. The thing is, I’ve not been able to get much feedback on “Honest” or the writing style I use there. When I submit a chapter for critiquing, I get arguments about whether I should have used blaster or credits in there instead of inventing a term. Or I get told that it’s cute but that my humour gets annoying after a while :p Of course, on the other hand, there are others who’ve said that they like the writing.

To be honest, I don’t really let the criticisms or compliments bother me since I know that both are weighted by individual preferences. Sure, if everybody was unanimous in saying that I sucked, then I’d give up writing but so far that hasn’t happened (and that’s not to say it still might not :p). But basically what I’m getting at is that I haven’t used gotten any concrete critiques (except from a couple of people) that I can use to specifically “fix” my novel. But watching “Home Delivery”, I thought maybe my problem was the same as the movies – it sounds good as an overall idea but the execution meanders too much to make a good story :p

I don’t know if that is actually the case or not. Maybe I just haven’t found the right person to submit my work to but any avenue is worth investigating and I feel that my story perhaps has too many characters and too much meandering. So I’m going to use “Home Delivery” as a template of what not to do and then take apart one of my favourite novels to see how things work there. Then I’ll decide how I go on from there – whether “Honest” can stand as it is with a few tweaks or perhaps if I should simply rewrite it to be leaner and meaner 🙂

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 4, 2006

Race, what is it good for?

We’re watching "Anita and Me" at the moment. It’s one of those rare Indian movies made in English. There are a few of those around and we’ve gathered all of those together and watch them avidly since these movies have an experience beyond Bollywood and Hollywood. They are unique in their own terms because they provide an Eastern perspective of the West – or something like that 🙂

"Anita and Me" is the story of Meena, an Indian girl living in an English backwater village in 1972. She is fascinated by Anita Rutter (though the way they pronounce it, it sounds more like "rotter" :p) the local troublemaker and glamour girl. It’s an unlikely friendship and highlights a lot of things that we’d rather not think about. There is of course the racism, it is an underlying theme throughout the movie – both the racism of the British towards the Indians as well as the reverse racism of the Indians towards the British. But there are all the other subtle variations – wanting to be somebody you are not, wanting to belong, wanting to be your own person.

We haven’t seen the whole movie yet but so far it is interesting though sometimes a bit hard to understand because of the thick brogue of some of the characters. Even Meena, who is Indian, has a real thick accent which is unlike any Indian accent I’ve heard but then again, given she was probably brought up in England, it probably makes sense that she’d speak more like the natives of her village rather than her own parents 🙂

What interested me was the strong undercurrents of racism of all stripes and colours that the movie portrayed. We’re used to the usual stereotypes of racism and how the brown/black/coloure (make your choice) people are always looked down upon by the white folks. But what about the reverse? Sure, it’s true that most of the folks in post-colonial countries (at least) bow down to those with white skin as if they were aliens, or messengers from God :p But at the same time, they have this habit of disparaging the whiteys (or "goras" or whatever the common local term) and their morals and culture and so on. Is this not racism as well?

In truth, what should matter to us about another person is how they conduct themselves and how they treat you and others around them. Their skin colour or the country they were born in (or brought up in) should not matter at all. Unfortunately, it might be a long time before all of the human race comes to realize this ….

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Posted by Fahim at 7:13 am  |  No Comments

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 26, 2006

Hit and Myth

We watched "The Myth" (or "San wa" which is the Chinese/Hong Kong title I believe) yesterday and it was an interesting experience. It was a Jackie Chan movie but a completely different JC movie than I’d seen before – there was the usual JC style physical comedy stuff, but there was also a bit of science fiction, a historical story, fantasy elements and even a love story. The problem was that it tried to be way too many things in one movie :p

In fact, it played out a lot like two separate stories – one set in the time of the Qin dynasty, two hundred years or so before Christ and the other set in the modern day in what looks like Hong Kong. The historical story is about Meng-Yi, a general in Emperor Shi Huang-ti‘s army, who finds himself in love with the emperor’s concubine. The modern day story is about an archaeologist named Jack Chan (I bet you won’t be able to guess who plays him :p) who remembers bits and pieces of Meng-Yi’s life as the story progresses.

Jackie Chan drops the usual cop role that he plays all the time and assumes the guise of an archaeologist with gusto reminding one of a modern day Indiana Jones with those fluttering fists and flying kicks in place of the whip :p The frequent references to tomb raiders makes one think that Lara Croft is right around the bend somewhere but Jackie never comes close to looking as good as Lara :p The fight in the glue factory with Mallika Sherawat gradually losing her clothing probably would keep some entertained while the sheer comedy of the fight in the glue factory will keep others in stitches.

The transitions between the modern story and the historical story were jerky and not very well done. The way the story unfolded, you only got glimpses of the historical story and you never are sure if they are in chronological order or not and if there was a relevance to some of the flashbacks (like the fight with the Indian prince) except to move the story forward. The fantasy bits with the immortality pill and the hidden underground city were a bit too much and stretched the suspension of belief to it’s utmost limits. And the ending was rather flat.

It’s an enjoyable movie and an interesting experience because of the multi-national, multi-lingual (you get Cantonese, Korean, English and probably Malayalam) aspect of the movie. The fights were interesting and the humour pretty good at times but the story seems a little bit too thin overall. But still, you might enjoy it for the sheer novelty factor 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 6:44 am  |  No Comments

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