Showing posts with label movies I like. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies I like. Show all posts

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bill Paxton, Renaissance Man

 

This is how I will remember the late Bill Paxton. As the renaiisance man from Apollo 13.

 

 

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You know time is flying when your favorite actors from your childhod leave you.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sully soars

 

Finally got around to watching a really nice movie. Sully. Starring Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the experienced pilot who successfully landed a doomed commercial airplane onto the hudson river and saved everyone onboard. Directed by Clint Eastwood. And since its based on a highly reported real life incident, there is enough material to make an enriching movie. And that’s what this movie is.

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First, Tom Hanks is excellent in the role. There is something about his calm, confident voice and demeanor that soothes anyone in crisis. You are happy that he is in control, anybody else would freak out. And he does not overshadow anybody else. There is enough screen time for everybody who was involved in the incident that day. And the screenplay is clever. The main Miracle on the Hudson is shown via three , overlapping flashbacks, telling the same story from different people’s perspective. We get to see what the passengers saw, what the air traffic controllers heard, what the first responders and citizens saw, and finally what the two pilots were going through. Some scenes really look over scripted, like how everyone talks to Sully as if he was God. But it could have really happened, having saved so many lives that day. New York got some good news after a long time, specially involving airplanes.

This is going on my re-watch list.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Ayalum Njaanum Thammil

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2012 was a landmark year for Malayalam movies. Maybe it was the fear that the world was coming to an end that drove it, but some of the best ciritically and commercially acclaimed movies of Malyalam came out that year.  Anjali Menon’s Ustad Hotel, and Manjadikkuru, and Lal Jose’s Diamond Necklace and Ranjith’s Spirit all came out in a row. It was a privilege to know and speak the language, so one could really enjoy these movies. Of course, duds like Casanova and Shikari also were released, but maybe it was the law of averages catching up. Director Lal Jose had a hat-trick that year, and released three movies, and the most critically acclaimed of the releases that year was his Ayalum Njaanum Thammil.

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I enjoyed it immensely when it came out. And today, after a few years, I got to rewatch it. And I am blown away by the creative and technical excellence of this movie and its cast and crew. This is one of those rare gems you come by chance, and the challenge to bring to screen the story would have scared away many film makers. But in the hands of Lal Jose and his team, you can enjoy a hollywood-like movie taking place in Kerala. Undoubtedly Prithiviraj’s career best performance, and Lal Jose’s best work. The fact that the screenplay was by real doctors gives credibility and depth to the medical profession.

The movie was an intermittent flashback narrative. In the present day storyline, Dr Ravi Tharakan (Prithiviraj) is a renowned cardiac surgeon in a private hospital, but on a rainy night, an operation he undertakes to save a girl child, without her parent’s permission, goes horribly wrong. Inorder to save himself , he runs. The viewer/audience is lead to believe that he may not be a good or capable doctor, and the rest of the movie aims to redeem his true worth, through flashbacks to his younger days. The story goes back and forth through the flashback narrative, as new charachters are introduced in both timelines, sometimes the same charachter. And we learn that Ravi was once a careless, carefree, and irresponsible student of medicine. And at a certain stage in his life, he met his mentor, senior doctor Samuel, who’s relentless commitment to his patients and faith in Ravi transforms Ravi forever.

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Part of the flashback story is set in the picturesque hills of Munnar, where Dr Samuel is the only doctor at the only hospital for miles around. Here Dr Ravi will have to serve two years as an intern inorder to graduate for his certificate. Ravi hates the place, the patients, the distance from his native and girlfriend, and specially the strict senior doctor who constantly reminds him that in the medical profession, no amount of negligance can be permitted. A series of misfortunate events cause him to separate from his girlfriend, and when a chance of revenge presents itself, with the risk of hurting the life of a young girl, he takes it. Samuel reprimands him, and he stands to lose his license. But Samuel, who is know for his honesty, lies for Ravi in front of medical commitee, to salvage Ravi’s career, giving him a second chance to redeem himself. His first lie, Samuel says, is because of his faith in Ravi. This incident changes Ravi’s outlook and life forever, and he commits himself to his profession and to serve and save humanity.

The movie is about mentorship. Although it is set in the medical profession, the ideas and situations presented can be found in any profession. You can learn all you want from books and labs, but your learning only really starts when you are mentored by someone senior. I can relate to this, my own career is testimony that without the right mentors, I would have ended up in totally different part of this industry.  A mentor can break or make someone’s career. Dr Samuel is so committed to his patients, that his own personal and financial life is in a turmoil, he barely has the finances to bail out his own estranged son from the police. But he finds solace in the fact that every day he saves lives.

The movie also highlights some of the problems faced by the medical community, specially the challenges of running a private hospital for profit. And the role of media in propogating half truths. The private hospital buys expired medicine and equipments after being bribed, and the charity hospital in the hills has only a single doctor to supervise every patient.  Local politicians switch sides when issues arise. But there are two scenes which highlight the main charachters. They stood out for me.

The first is when a religious mother brings her injured son, who had an accident, to the hospital for medical care. She insists that she does not require the doctors to operate on her son. She beliefs in the power of her god, and only requires the nursing care of the hospital until god can treat her son. Dr Samuel believes they must do whatever they can to save the life of the young man. He secretly, without an explicit permission, operates on the young man, thus speedening his recovery. Nobody else in the hospital knows about this. And when the young man wakes up next day from his coma, his mother says praise the lord. 

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The other scene is Ravi’s apology to the young patient, whose life he had gambled to get his revenge. This is the scene:

 

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Gets me everytime.

But this is not even the most emotional scene in the movie. That hat goes to the late Kalabhavan Mani, portraying the father of the little girl, pleading with Dr Ravi to save her life. Mani, who started his career in movies as a slapstick comedian, shows raw talen in that scene. You can really feel his pain when he bows to Ravi and begs him for his sympathy. I doubt anybody else could have played a convincing ruthless (and possibly corrupt) police officer in one scene, and a loving, doting father to his only daughter in another within the same movie.

I doubt if this movie would ever be remade into another language. It takes guts, and commitment , to make such a movie. Like Dr Ravi, very few people out there have that kind of commitment.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Jacobinte Swargarajyam

 

Yesterday I watched this new Mlayalam movie : Jacobinte Swargarajyam (Jacob’s Kingdom of Heaven), written and directed by Vineet Sreenivasan, and starring Nivin Pauly. I haven’t felt such a positive vibe in years watching a Malayalam movie. I went to the theatre unprepared, recent hectic work didn’t give me time to read up on it. And I was pleasantly suprised and amazed that Vineet Sreenivasan could create such a nice feel good movie. And the how of it is explained in the end. This whole rags to riches to rags to riches (2nd time) story is based on real life incidents, one of many people who lost money during the financial crisis , and that of a personal friend of Vineet. And I am sure for years to come, this people are going to watch this movie just to get inspired.

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For once, Nivin is happy playing Jerry,the eldest son of Jacob, and he watches silently from the sidelines as Jacob (the fantastic Mr Renji Panikker) shows him how to run their business. He talks to Jerry as a friend, and shares his philosphy and hard work, honesty and perseverance is all that one needs to succeed in life. Jerry takes control only in the second half of the movie, where he proves that he too has his father’s business acumen and won’t give up without a fight. Jacob and family live a very comfortable life in Dubai, where he has built his empire of business. He is extremely positive, and is proud of his achievements, and wants his children to become even more successful than him. He helps the poor, and the entire family is god fearing.  His family is his everything, and he knows that when he loses everything else, his family will be his only wealth. When a family is so well settled and close to one other, what could go wrong ? And then the movie plays out exactly this scenario. His business contact cheats him of millions of Riyals, and his investors come knocking at the door wanting their money back. Jacob stands ground, and finds a way to make some money, for which he has to leave Dubai. in an very emotional scene ,he asks his eldest son to handle matters till he gets back, and leaves Dubai.

All hell breaks loose. Jacob in stuck in Liberia (I didn’t even know such a country existed). The police arrest Jacob’s wife, and Jerry. Though Jerry knows the business, the establishment is tarnished, everyone knows the company made a huge loss, so no one is ready to do busines with them. Jacob’s second son turns out, is a black sheep,and they have to sell all their properties to generate some funds. Except for very few friends, Jerry has no one to help him. The second half shows how Jerry is able to surf this tide, and slowly win back some business, and in the process, some more time from his investors. There are long voice over scenes, where Jerry recalls his father’s wisdom. Even when he makes money, his mother reminds him that none of this is theirs, it all belongs to their investors.

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Even during this dark phase in the movie, there are fun, light hearted scenes and funny dialogues. Vineet inserts himself as another self made rich guy, who is the first to trust Jerry with a small business. Jerry gets a rare opportunity to diversify his business, and gets into travels too. There is another welcome cameo by Aju Varghese. Muthu, the youngest son of the family, is an absolute delight, and a little genius, per his teacher. And of course, the story takes place in Dubai, so there are many many scenes of the beautfiul city. The director intercuts the dark scenes with fun, humour and even a little stunts to keep the movie steady. There is no antagonist per se, but that charachter Murali Menon, looks scary ! He really looks like a baddie who can cause some damage.

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In the end, it all ends well. The family’s hard work pays off, they are able to pay back most of the money they owe, and buy sufficient time for the  remaining . Jacob is able to return to Kerala, and the whole family gets together. But we already knew this, they were going to get through. The movie is about their journey through hardships, and how they find strengh in each other.

  • Casting coup. The entire primary cast, and every other actor are fantastic in their roles. TG Ravi as the driver, Sai Kumar as an uncle. And again, Murali Menon played in such a bad ass way. But special points go to…
  • Renji Panikker. He plays a convincing self made successful patriach, the ideal head of the family. So when he falls, you feel his paint. Renji Panikker’s acting turns out better than his screen writing (from yesterdays..)
  • Nivin does a superb job playing the eldest son , thrust with all the responsibilites of looking after his family. His humour is still on track, and cries and emotes as well.
  • I was never a fan of Sreenath Basi, but turns out , this guy can actually act ! …if the charachter is wrtten for him. His deadpan humour contrasts Nivin’s, and gets to show off his singing skills as well.
  • Lakshmi Ramakrishnan plays a caring well doting mom in the first half, and a brave mom in the second half. Even when she scolds, there was laughter in the audience, looks like no one can fight with this one mom.
  • The cinematography and backgound music was awesome ! There is nice use of music throughout, lots of piano, strings..that first Onam song was fantastic ! It was nice of them to focus on Onam , even though the entire family is christian. Jomon T John surely knows his craft , and is improving with every movie.
  • Vineet Sreenivasan has finally arrived as a capable, and smart director. Most of his movies featured youngsters, but shows finesse telling a family entertainer story. I still feel is a better director than an actor. Maybe he should quit acting fully, because there is surely a shortage of good directors.
  • Dubai ! The scenes of the huge city play almost as another characther in the movie. Its only the last scenes which take place in Kerala, and you can finally feel the background shifting from a metopolitan city to green country side. They also satorize the sorry state of Indian roads, and KSRTC buses, an 50 years from now when you watch this movie again, that joke will still work.

 

Go out and watch this with your family. It could be the best family movie this year.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Action Hero Biju - An ode to the Indian Policeman

 

I got to watch this Nivin Pauly starrer movie today, and I was blown away. This is without argument the first hit for Malayalam movie this year, and a milestone for Nivin, who turns producer for the movie, and Abride Shine, the director.  Its surprising how a movie can break stereotypes, yet still be a clean entertainer in this time and age. This is one of those rare gems you can watch with your parents, and kids, and still have lots to talk about when its over. TLDR: catch it at the earliest.

The movie is an unconventional-cop-story. Thanks to intelligent writing, the movie holds together spectacularly even  when there is no one single plot or one big villian. Every other cop-movie has the officer chasing down an underworld don, or a corrupt politician, or even has the Indian cop travelling abroad to solve their cases. Not Biju Paulose. He is  the town Sub-Inspector for Erankulam, and he plays within his jurisdiction only, as per the book. I say per the book here, because Biju even knows a few law points to back him up. The movie follows about one-month of a life of very dedicated and honest police officer, and his small team. And the myriad of colorful charachters you might meet in the city. And it is these charachters and their police cases that give us an insight as to what the life of an average police officer is like in Kerala (and the rest of the country too).

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The screenplay builds up the intensity of the cases, it starts with a what is usually called petty-cases, a terminated employee not getting her promised salary, young law breakers driving illegal vehicles that sort of stuff. You realize that these might be called petty cases, but an officer cannot simply write them off, he has to give everyone the same attention, and same priority. Then the cases intensify, there are drug dealers, the gunda mafia. Towards the end, Biju himself ends up in hospital due to an encounter.

Star of the show, Nivin Pauly’s charachter of SI Biju Paulose is the uncorruptible , honest police officer. He cannot stand injustice. And he makes sure he dolls out justice to anyone in his jurisdiction coming to him for help. He does not care for ministers, or rich affluent people. He is the common man’s hero. But that does not mean he takes law into his own hands. Nothing illegal. As he says clearly in the movie, “its not about right or wrong, its about the law”. He is willing to turn the other way if the culprit is willing to compromise with the victim. But if the culprit does NOT, well, then its Biju’s way. Nivin changes tone all through the movie, he talks to the complaintants calmly and pleasingly, but if he finds anything illegal, he raises his tone and shouts down the enemy. He is not afraid to smack someone in the face, or use his favourite tool – the humble coconut ! If every policeman in the country were like this, the country need not have lawyers and judges.

What stood out:

  1. A bunch of new actors play the complaintants, everyday people in the city. Housewives, auto drivers, drunkards, thiefs, shop keepers. Everyone plays them convincingly, with enough lines. Lot of humour there.
  2. Sooraj Venjaaramoodu’s 5 minute cameo in the movie steals the thunder. His charachter Pavithran breaks stereotypes too. When he first walks into the station, he looks inabreiated. His complaint is that his wife left him for his friend. We, the audience, is convinced that is is Pavithran’s fault. Surely the wife cannot be blamed.  Biju calls them both to arrive at a compromise. The second time we meet him, we are in for a shock. Turns out, Pavithram does not drink or smoke. Is not a wifebeater or drunkard. He works hard for a living and provides for his wife and his only daughter. The 5 year old daughter is his entire world. But his wife was in love with somebody else the whole time. Pavithran is willing to take back his wife, and even willing to correct any mistake he might have commited. When Biju puts forth a compromise proposal to share custody of the daughter, is is revealed that the daughter was never Pavithran’s ! Sooraj’s acting to his revelation is simply jaw dropping. There were claps in the theater when he finally leaves the station in tears. Reminded me of that scene in Indian Rupee when thespian Thilakan cries holding on to a pole for support.
  3. The movie addresses a few threatening & relevant social evils. The officer talks about the suicide of a mother with her baby at a school function, explaining his point of view that it is when people lose courage to face challenges in every day life that they brink on suicide. He opines that modern life in luxury and care has made people weaker, and when they are not able to meet their goals in life, they give up easily. And the urge to overcome obstacles has to be learnt at home and school. As per official reports, Kerala has the highest suicide rate among the major states in India.
  4. The other topic addressed is the rising usage of drugs/intoxicants among youngsters, specially children. This can be seen as a cliche because Biju is never shown smoking or drinking in the movie, being a police office, one would assume otherswise.  He is againts usage of tobacco or drugs, and gives a like statement that the boys in the family have more freedom, when they should be under scrutiny too.

What did not;

  1. The most useless movie charachter of the year award would go to Anu Emanuel. With no dialogues, or anything to contribute to the movie, she was just there for eye candy. Her part could have completey written off and that could have improved the movie.

Stray thought: This is Nivin’s first joint production. He is really nervous with the venture. And thankful. The first 3 minutes before the movie is full of him and Abride thanking everybody he ever met on their journey to this movie. And special thanks was to Vineet Sreenivasan, who gave Nivin his first role.

This is definitely the first big hit of this year for Malayalam cinema. Off to a good start, here’s expecting more…

 

Nivin Pauly Action Hero Biju movie review Anu Emanuel Abride Shine police Biju Paulose preview hit

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Martian - Second best movie of the year

 

Jurassic World is the first, obvi :-) .I got to finally watch this movie in 3D, and must say it tells a very realistic and believable story of Robinsonade on Mars. I guess it will be best enjoyed by scientists and engineers, people who solve technological problems every day, and even by anybody who has ever fixed a bike or plugged a leak. The director, Ridley Scott, has made movies across genres and timelines, but has been steadily delivering big budget duds, like Exodus and Prometheus. But in the Martian, he had decided to tell a simple story of engineering problem solving, and a man's resolve to survive.

First things first. Matt Damon, as the astronaut  stranded on Mars, nails it. He gets the best scenes and dialogues. And the supporting cast also does a good job. Matt's space cowboy role is much better written than Cooper from Interstellar, and the astronauts from Gravity. But thats mainly because he is still on solid ground (Mars) and has better equipment and state of mind. Instead of saving the world like Cooper, he is focussed on saving himself, wanting a little bit of spotlight on himself. He is also very logical and plans his actions without emotions getting in the way. While this means he approaches problems scientifically, I think it stops from his character development. And this is my biggest problem with the movie. During the entire 500 sols on the red planet, we never even once see/hear Mark Watney talk about his family, his friends, his hobbies..and what he misses the most on earth. 500 days alone without even a way to hear a human voice. It can mess things up. But Mark does not go crazy or suicidal. He works it out like a robot.

In Interstellar, decades have passed on earth after Cooper leaves and he is desperate to return to his kids. In Gravity, Stone wants to get back to her family and daughter. But Mark was no one close. Even in the end when Mark is safe on planet earth and is now teaching, he is seen alone, without a shot of his home or a partner, or what kind of music he likes. The only thing we get to take away from the movie about Mark's personal life, is that he prefers coffee. The book (which I am reading) tells us a lot more about Watney, that he grew up in Chicago, and likes beer, and that he is sick of potatoes. The movie does not describe his loneliness and isolation while being stranded 250 million miles away.

There are some spectacular shots of the Mars horizon in the movie, you gotta watch it in 3d. And the rescue sequence in the end is awesome. The ships are not overdone, they look functional and well designed. The equipment of the crew is what modern astronauts have. There is not too much jargon in the talk , on hindsight, this is unexpected. And there is almost equal coverage of the actions on earth and Hermes spacecraft to the scenes on Mars. But they could have done a little more, IMHO.

Gravity on Mars is only about one-third earth gravity (actually 68%). So it should have been visible on the planet. But the Mars visitors walk around like they do on Earth. Weird.

There is a huge time lag for electronic communication between earth and mars. Max 22 minutes. Even light,the fastest thing in the universe, would take 22 minutes to travel from earth to mars. But in the final rescue sequence, the crew at Houston is shown listening on the rescue in real time.

Mark does not fall sick, or injured during this 500 sol stay. After the injury from the debris, the staples himself shut, and there is no show of infection or side effects. Except for the passing out on the Mars Ascention Vehicle in the end, he is in excellent health ! Prolonged exposure to low gravity environments  should have shown effects on this health.

Mars is a low gravity planet very far from earth. Relativity tells us that time on Mars will be slower that of Earth time. What effect does this have on communication, and aging ? Nothing addressed.

But these are minor issues. The movie does justice to the book. Clearly the movie is about surviving odds. And solving problems. And team work. All in all, positivity. I am sure at least a few young minds will be inspired to take up astronomy as a career prospect after watching this movie.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Inside Out - Story Telling Perfection

 

Working at Pixar must be challenging, this studio has created by far the most visually stunning and emotional computer animated movies ever. Every time they make a new movie, they are competing against themselves. No other studio comes even close to producing the refined product one comes to expect from Pixar. And so everything they produce, right down to the shorts, are must-watch. Their latest offering, Inside Out will leave you in laughing out with joy, and in tears  before the end. This is some piece of really great story telling, and its not just for the kids !

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Quick question , which is the last Pixar movie you remember watching ? The one which really touched your heart ? Chances are, it was 2009's Up. That movie made viewers cry by simply rendering graphics with music, with absolutely no dialogues in some key scenes. Inside Out will be the next Pixar animation which will play with your emotions. This is a coming of age movie. Kinda. Its about the gradual, almost imperceptible demise of childhood. In the artificial world beautifully created in the movie, the premise is that there are basically five emotions controlling every one's thoughts: joy, sadness, fear, anger and disgust. Its the same for every person, and these five emotions try among them to control emotions. At a turning point in the lead character's life (Riley), something unexpected happens, joy and sadness get lost , and separated from the rest of the gang. While joy and sadness try frantically to get back, the remaining three emotions try their best to control, and Riley's life is turned upside down, or inside out.

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Even with such a simple premise, Pixar is able to create a huge world with many plot points. The world building is complex, there are various characters and machines running the brain, and each one has a specific task. Even sadness, who stands out with her melancholy and who is despised by the others, has her place and importance, and no-one else can replace that. The takeaway: emotions are meant to connect people together, and that relationships are the most important things in life. After a tumultuous day with the emotions running all over the place, order is restored, and things improve, Pixar style !

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jurassic World - the best Jurassic Park sequel!

 

I just watched Jurassic World, first day, first show today here in Bangalore. With on the most un-enthusiastic and lethargic crowd I have seen. No one shouted, yelled or screamed during the movie. There was only a single kid in the audience. But that in a way, allowed me to watch the movie distraction free. This has been a 22 year wait for me ,and I think this is by-far the best sequel to the original Jurassic Park movie. It borrows a lot of ideas from the first book, and brings in lot of new ones as well. And you will best enjoy this movie if you take it as a direct sequel to the first JP, forget the two sequels which came out in the last 22 years, and you will be fine.

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The movie tells us a pretty basic and simple story, I will not bother writing out the plot here as somebody already put the whole thing on Wikipedia. But the gist is that after the events of the Jurassic Park movie, Ingen had to sell everything to a new company (Masrani), and they took the next step in the business. They now have a full fledged , functioning park on the island, with 25+ species. But seeing a real life dinosaur is not terrifying anymore, so they decide to make the mistake of creating an entirely new dino species from scratch, by mixing up dna from different animals. Just when things look stabilized, the new "asset" escapes from its paddock, unleashing terror on the island when it still has 20k visitors there. When all attempts to use modern "sophisticated" technology to capture the beast proves futile, they find the only way that will still work…another dinosaur !

Oops…almost gave that away. Spoilers follow: First they try to use the trained raptor squad to hunt down the i-Rex, but then, it turns out the i-Rex also has velociraptor dna in it! They communicate, and now the raptors have a new 'alpha'. When that plan too backfires, they unleash the resident T-Rex. The T-Rex was the hero (or heroine, she is a female, remember ?) of the first movie, saving some of the lead characters from the raptors in the first movie, and here that idea is re-used. So the two rexes fight it out, with a little help from blue, the lone raptor, and then finally, mossie (the mososaurs) finishes the i-rex off.

Surprises: Having read the books and watched the previous movies like a hundred times, I thought I had become a JP expert, and could predict some parts of the story. But I was surprised by a few things:

  1. Maximum Kills, maximum thrills. This is the Jurassic movie which has the highest number of deaths (both humans and dinos) on screen. Some of the gruesome kills are done offscreen, with only blood splatter for a little animation. I counted 7 humans dead, not including the entire ACU team, and many of the other dinos. While JP showed only a  4 kills ( Genarro, Nedry, Arnold, Muldoon), each one had a some focus (Arnold's death was not shown) building up to it. Here, the kills are quick and there is no build up. Except Masrani, he was shown to be someone who enjoyed watching and caring for the animals, but he pays the price of taking out the chopper without a license.
  2. Nobody important dies. The central cast survives the carnage. Hoskins is the only one killed by the raptor, but he was a bad guy anyway. The two kids, Claire and Owen escape with a few bruises. I was expecting Barry, Owen's friend (sidekick), the black guy, to be killed, but is shown in the end very much alive. Which brings me to…
  3. Henry Wu survives ! Again ! Henry is the only person who escaped form the incident on the original park, and then escapes again in JW, this time, with a lot of embryos and his work with him. This sets up the stage for the sequel, which I bet is gonna look stupid. In the Jurassic Park book, Henry Wu is killed by a raptor just before the novel ends, when he helps the team to try and restore power in the park. There is a part in the book were he argues that the dinos in the park are not-real, because they are engineered. And that part is now in this movie when he discusses this with Masrani.
  4. JP Nostalgia : There are some clever throwbacks to the original movie. The original JP tune is re-used, when the park is introduced in the beginning, when the kids explore it. Mr DNA shows up at the visitor centre. Lowery's console at the control centre is just as sloppy as Nedry's and he is wearing a JP t-shirt ! When lost on the island, the kids find an abandoned warehouse full of stuff form the first park. They find one of those 'expensive' 3d glasses, and a working gas powered jeep (number 29) in red and white which they use to escape to the visitor centre. During the raptor chase at the visitor centre, Clair turns on a holographic device, which renders the hologram of a dilophasaurus, which jeered with its frills, distracting the raptor. And….and the red flare. Claire uses a red flare to distract the T-Rex towards the Indominus Rex !
  5. Jimmy Fallon cameo: Jimmy has a cameo as the presenter during the gyrosphore trip, were they show him in his scientist suit, and the lab around him bursting into flames. Apparently, they spared no expense, just like when they used Richard Kiley in the first movie.

My only gripe with the movie was that there were really no surprises, most of everything happened just as predicted. The whole plot unfolded pretty much as in the first movie, Owen is actually brought in to inspect the paddock of the Indominous Rex, just as the experts are brought in to inspect JP, and the creature escapes. Nearly all of the key scenes were already released out, in the form of trailers and sneak peaks. The rest of the plot came out in the form of rumours and leaked photos, thanks partly to hyper active social media, and partly due to viral marketing. The only true surprise everyone wanted to know was what eventually would happen to the I-Rex, Mossie gets it ! The parts which were weird was were Owen 'communicated' to the raptors, and Hoskins repeatedly describing scenarios to use the raptors in battle. But still, I was happy with were the story went. This opens up a lot of possibilities for the sequels. For instance, many of the flying reptiles could have escaped from the island, what happened to them ?

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Colin Trevorrow has delivered a polished, intelligent, and crowd-pleasing would-be blockbuster.  Jurassic World accomplishes the task of being something of an original adventure within the confines of being a sequel. It has almost too many good ideas, while using the original film only when contextually appropriate. I wish the main characters were a little more refined, and I wish the film took the time to explore its subtexts beyond periodic seasoning, but that may be me wishing for a different film. The movie we got is pretty good, and Trevorrow has delivered what amounts to a best-case scenario for a novice director being handed the keys to a massive franchise.

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Download the cam rip of the movie from here.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Premam

 

Filmi 'experts' would say that 'Premam' is too silly to be the name of a malayalam movie, it is too short and bland, and the word might sound a little negative as well (compared to its nobler sister 'Sneham'). Had this movie been released a decade earlier, it would not have worked, the story is too simple, there are no established actors, no superstar, and the entire crew comprises of people unknown of. But it works, and what makes it click is it's simplicity. A simple story of a malayalee boy, his two best friends, and the three loves of his life. The movie is proof that even the simplest idea can work, if executed properly, with perseverance and passion.

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I saw this movie today in Bangalore, about a week after its release, and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Again, the movie fights convention, they never released the trailer, the only publicity was one of the songs, and some posters. So when people walked into theatres, they had no idea what to expect. The story is of our mallu hero George, growing up in a village in Aluva, Kerala in 2000, and how he tries to woo the love of his life at that point. Nivin Pauly excels in a role tailor made for him. He has two best buddies, always to advice & rescue him. Shambu is the more pessimistic of the lot, and Koya, the little more practical minded one. Its nice to see a Hindu, Christian and Muslim  trio of friendship here. And the three friends persist through life, they are together all the way through college, and even after that. Anyway, George faces a lot of competition from other 'roosters' in his neighbourhood and ultimately rejection, and has to move on. The movies skips to his final year in college, when George is now the brash student everyone hates , and where he unexpectedly starts to fall for his teacher, a guest lecturer in his college. But their mutual love goes unrealized as she faces an accident and loses her memory (this amnesia part is the only stereotype of this movie). The third act of the movie is in modern times, our times. George has mended he brash ways and actually runs his own coffee shop. This time, love comes calling his name again. George has to go through what we see as a third rejection again, but good things , it seems , come to those who wait. We see our hero getting married, its a happy ending and all is well.

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You see the problem here ? The above condensation of the story does not do justice to the movie. At all. What stands out is the execution. Everything from the cinematography, costumes and dialogues to the awesome background music and editing, is a class apart. The cast is perfect, everybody has a role to play, and they all play believable, everyday characters. No over-the-top or artificial characters here. And the visuals, of rain and sun and flowers…oooh..too much nostalgia ! The background music complements the visuals beautifully. I could point out numerous things which the set department got right: the kids of 2000 use the trusty-rusty cycle to get around, and have to use landlines to call each other. They hang out at the local tea stall, and drink lime soda with kuskus. George uses a hero pen and actually writes down a love letter, and makes spelling mistakes too. He has to tear up everything and start from scratch again. There was no cell phone or sms back then. No internet or facebook. Kids of today would find living in those times really frustrating. And in the college timeline, which runs in 2005, there is a hint of technology. SMS over cellphones was the simplest way to get a message around. And in modern times ,the characters spend a lot of time on their smartphones. This kind of attention to detail sets this movie apart, nothing is out of place.

The makeup deserves a special mention, because we see the lead characters growing and aging through the movie, believably. The trio of actors who play the +2 school kids is the very same who play the 30+ characters at the end. And the actors too change their mannerisms to suit the age: the school characters are naive and shy, while at the other end we see them mature and confident (and stoned too, for too long). But the surprise offering of the movie is the role of Malar, the tamil guest lecturer played by the debutante tamil actress. Nobody could have seen this one coming. She does a fantastic job at playing her role convincingly, its hard to digest that it was her first (and possibly last) movie. I also like Vinay Fort's character of Vimal sir, the bumbling mumbling teacher of the college. This character is gonna live forever.

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The story is an amalgamation of the love stories of many , many young couple from that period. Everybody will be able to relate to some aspect of the storyline. And the movie itself can be considered a sort of rebellion, against various stereotypes of the industry. This is a new breed of film makes who excel in in telling stories using beautiful visuals, accompanied by perfect music. Who would have thought that such a simple story played by inexperienced actors could set the box office ringing ? And if this is the vision of things to come, and things are doing in the right direction. Expecting more from this crew of youngsters.

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Update(01-Jul): Looks like the dream run of this movie at the theatres will be cut short abruptly, a copy of the movie given to the censor board has been leaked online. But on the flip side, they already made a lot of money. And Nivin has got rave reviews for his acting, the people have anointed him the new superstar of Malayalam movies. Some are calling him the next Mohanlal, as his acting reminded them of Mohanlal's early career. But he is cautiously playing down the hype and maintaining that he still has a lot to learn. He pointed out that he is now 25 movies old , in just 5 years !

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Crimson Tide

 

I have some movies on my hard drives I love to watch over and over again. And today I just felt like watching Crimson Tide again. Its one of those rare war-themed movies with a nicely told story and great acting. It is also one of those rare movies were the enemy is not a Nation or Country. The enemy is War itself. And there is no antagonist or protagonist per se. Both the lead roles are against each other, but they are right in their own ways. The audience would take sides on what kind of character they are themselves are.

 

The movie tells the story aboard a  US Nuclear submarine a decade after the cold war, and the two top people in command are in conflict with each other. The crew of USS Alabama is called home from vacation to active duty, and to go out in preparation of war. The sub's captain, Ramsey (Jene Hackman) , goes with his guts, just staying within protocol.He does this because he is one of the few guys remaining with actual combat experience , and has friends in high places (as is revealed towards the end of the movie). He also has a group of fiercely loyal officers on board. He needs a new Executive Officer , who will be his second in command, and selects Hunter (Denzel Washington, in the first of many collaborations with Tony Scott), a by-the-book officer who is careful both with his words as well as actions. The two have differing views on war and politics, this is made clear in the beginning when Hunter shares his views of war in the Nuclear world. He states that the true enemy is "War itself".

 

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From here on, we see Ramsey hating Hunter for his more diplomatic and cautious approach on deck, and this escalates quickly. Ramsey runs a mock drill in the sub when there is a fire emergency in the galley, which Hunter does not approve of. The whole point of this scene is to explain to us, the dumb viewers, what the entire procedure is to launch a nuclear missile from the submarine. Every command given by the captain has to concurred on and repeated by the Executive officer. This unified chain of command is how the crew would follow orders in face of an emergency.  Some time later, they receive an actual message from the Navy , asking them to go to Defcon 3 and to be ready to fire nuclear missiles at Russia.

As evident from his talk in the breakfast scene, Ramsey is ready to pus the button, he just needs to know when. He does not want to know the why. He believes that in the Navy, you just follow orders given to you, and expects everyone else to fall in line, including his XO. But Hunter, on the other hand, is cautious, especially when it comes to launching missiles. When they receive the second message to fire the missiles, Hunter gives his concurrence un-willingly. But before they can act on the message, they spot a problem. A russian submarine in the vicinity, and they navigate to avoid and identify this ship. During this manoeuvring, they receive an incomplete third message regarding the missile launch. This is the second act of the movie, and launches both the characters against each other in a mutiny. 

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Holy Shit !

Then they both go at it – guns blazing. It's hard to pick out all the dialogue because they roar so hard over each other, but Washington certainly gets to give a great speech: "No sir I do not concur, and I do not recognise your authority to relieve me of my command under navy regulations … under operating procedures governing the release of nuclear weapons we cannot launch our missiles unless you and I agree … this is expressly why your command must be repeated. It requires my assent, and I do not give it, and furthermore if you continue on this course without confirming this message first I will be forced … to relieve you of your command."

This is a genuinely surprising moment, because the one thing Scott left out of our thorough immersion in navy procedure is that the XO might be able to take over the sub. Despite a bit more shouting from the captain, the chief of the boat, reluctantly backing the XO, calls for two men to take the captain to his cabin. Hunter and Ramsey just glare at each other, and after one last bark from the captain, Ramsey is led away.

This is where the audience begins asking : "Who is right ?" . Ramsey has years of experience guiding him. Hunter has not seen any combat at all. The entire crew is loyal to Ramsey, and will follow his command. Hunter is new on the boat, how can he come in and take over the sub ? Its not a democracy on a nuclear submarine, its a chain of command. There is also a hint of racial tension , with all the talk of black and white horses. (Hunter is black, and Ramsey is white.)

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Just when the audience starts thinking that the inexperienced Hunter is probably making a mistake, we see the russian submarine emerge again. Earlier Ramsey had expertly avoided direct contact with that sub, but Hunter was meeting it head on. Hunter is able to guide the sub and successfully attack the enemy sub, but in the process the Alabama is also hit, and takes damage, and starts sinking. Hunter has to give an order to seal up a bay, which would save the ship, but kill three of his crewmen trapped in the bay. Ok , so he is good enough to fire, but got the sub hit. Hunter's first priority is to get the radio fixed and receive the complete message. At this point no one, not even the audience, knows what the actual intended message is. It could be order to stand back. It could very well be an order to attack

This is my favourite thing about this movie. Once we enter the submarine and it leaves the harbour, all the action takes place on the sub itself. The action never cuts to any other place:  the other sub, the Naval command centre, or anyone's homes. There is no flashback either. Since we are in a sub under the sea, we cannot just turn on the TV or radio  to know what is happening outside. We don't know what the actual situation of the emergency is. So we just have to go with what the crew of the sub knows at the moment.

Towards the end, Ramsey is back in the command post, and has a showdown with Hunter, even punching Hunter in his face for the missile key. At this point, it is just personal to Ramsey, he doesn't care about protocol anymore. But just then, the radio is restored, and they receive the full emergency message. They have been ordered to stand down, the nuclear emergency is lifted. Hunter has his 'aha' moment, but does not show off. Ramsey is proven wrong after all. For the first time in the movie, he confidently hands control to this XO, and walks off deck.

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On hindsight, we see that Hunter, through his cautious approach, just prevented a nuclear war. A possible third world war. But it is made clear that Ramsey's actions too were right. He acted with whatever information he had at that point.

Plot Hole: All the messages (EAM) they receive on-board the Alabama is authenticated using codes. Except one. The second message they receive, to go to Defcon 3. That message is received and just read by everyone in the scene, without being authenticated.

Also, the aftermath of the two submarines attacking each other is left un-resolved. Three US sailors lost their life during the attack, which was during the mutiny. One whole Russian submarine was destroyed. This would have surely increased the tension between the two countries. But these points are not addressed at the end.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ohm Shanthi Oshaana

 

I had missed this movie a the theatre when it was released. So I caught up when the DVD came out. And boy, had fun watching it and reminiscing  of the good old days. It is a fresh , nice , simple movie, with it’s heart in the right place, and nothing vulgar. The story of the girl falling for and pursuing the boy has been told many times, but here there was a certain freshness to it.

In the movie’s first scene, when baby Pooja is born, and the good doctor is informed that it is a boy, an interrupting person in the room congratulates him. “Having a boy baby is much better than a girl baby”, he says, and proceeds to support it with some of his points. Doctor Mathew looks heavenwards and says “Praise the Lord !”

Then the nurse arrives and informs him , saying she had made a mistake. And the baby is a girl, not a boy. The stranger who had earlier congratulated him, now gets up and walks away.  Doctor Mathew looks heavenwards and says “Praise the Lord again !”

A simple , but important message, to love the girl child. From this point , the movie talks of only one thing- Girl Power ! Kudos for the makers to take time to weave this into the very first scene.

Easter Eggs Galore :

The main character and narrator of the movie, Pooja Mathew, played innocently by Nazriya, is born in 1983, the year I was born. And throughout the movie, the story makes numerous tributes to many things of that era. It was a fun going back in time, and here is the list I could point out.:

  1. Year 1999. The grown-up Pooja is introduced in mega-serial announcement style. These mega-serials began as a boon to the otherwise entertainment drained Indian TV viewers, but is now the bane of the idiot box. Many mega-serials run for many years with a crazy twisting story line which made no sense.
  2. Again, the introductory scene, various pictures in Pooja’s room point to things which were cool that time.  A scene drawing from Spadikam, the Mohanlal starrer, which gave the superstar the image of a goonda with a heart of gold, and fetched him a state award.
  3. Rambo. In the 90’s the only place you could see a six pack was in a hollywood movie. Rambo established Sylvester Stallone as the action star to watch out for, and youngsters repeatedly rewatched the series just to see him flex his muscles and arrow down copters. Even today, I watch it when it is on TV. There is also a picture of Clint Eastwood, the original cowboy of Hollywood.
  4. On Doctor Mathew’s table is a cassette player, and a copy of  World Book. Before the internet, the World Book encyclopaedia was our only way to gather diverse information. And the trusty cassette player was the gadget every youngster wanted. Before the CDs came down.
  5. Complan. The complan boy and complan girl was one of the most successful and common ads on TV back then. It made stars of both the young models.
  6. Niram. The 1999 Mayalayam campus hit movie Niram was talk of the town when it came out, and re-introduced the chocolate hero. When you watch the movie today, you could see the crappy direction, and crappy acting, unimaginative songs, and severe lack of story and coherence. But back then, people just swooned at the cute story of the young couple in love.
  7. Pooja sees the Hero Honda CBZ in the movie, and gets one for herself. The  CBZ was the first muscle/sport bike to be introduced in India. Before the introduction of the CBZ, the Indian motorcycle market trend was towards fuel efficient, small capacity motorcycles (that formed the 80–125 cc class). Bigger motorcycles with higher capacity virtually did not exist (except for Enfield Bullet). The launch and success of Hero Honda CBZ in 1999 showed that there was demand for performance bikes. Other Indian motor companies would soon follow the trend and bring in high performance bikes of their own.
  8. Pooja’s class goes on a tour to Veegaland , which was the first amusement park of Kerala. It soon became the preferred holiday destination of Malayalees of all ages, specially school and college trips. But the huge rid pipes of the park are as dirty today as shown in the movie !
  9. Pooja’s father gifts her a new Nokia 3310 ! For many of us (at least for me!) , this was our first mobile phone. Kerala was one of the first states to launch mobile connection services, as early as 1995, cell-phones were becoming available in the market. But the call rates where highly consumer-unfriendly. In some of the usage plans, the rate of outgoing calls was 12 Rs/- per minute, while incoming calls were charges Rs 7/- per minute ! Of course, this meant that calls from unrecognized numbers where not answered :-) . In order to save on costs, many of us began to develop a system of codes using missed calls, 1 missed call meant something, 2 short missed calls meant urgent… Those who had landlines where given missed calls repeatedly so that they would call back landline  to cell phone, landline rates where still cheaper and often free for some minutes.Bigger and better cell-phones were brought to Kerala from the Gelf , and the market had limited options. The Nokia 3310 turned out to be a consumer favourite, it was small, it’s battery ran for 2 days, and the interface was extremely simple and easy to use. The ring tone composer on the device was a crowd favourite, because unlike modern smart phones, this was probably the only way to customize your phone – by getting/composing and playing the latest songs as phone ringtones.
  10. More bikes ! David Kanjaany drives a Yamahaa RX 100, the cheaper 100 CC bike of boys of that age. While Giri arrives on his loud and inefficent , but sturdy Enfield Bullet.
  11. Karate ! Before Keanu Reeves popularized Kung Fu in the Matrix movies, Karate was the number one marital art style taught and practised. People used to go to such Karate classes, some organized in schools too, preferring the imported art over Kerala’s own traditional art of Kalaripayattu.
  12. Shakhtimaan plays on the TV at Pooja’s home. Shakhitmaan was India’s first TV superhero, (the first Superhero was of couse, Mr India, in the movies), playing every Sunday. When Shaktimaan first aired on Doordarshan, there were a lot of controversy created as children set themselves on fire or jumped off buildings hoping that Shaktimaan would save them.About 400 episodes were telecast before it finally lost its charm.
  13. Video libraries. Pooja and gang go to a video cassette library and ask for Spadikam, and is told that Velliyettan has come in. Giri comes in and borrows the casette of Enter the Dragon, the Bruce Lee karate classic. Till the end of the 90s, these casette libraries were the place to get the latest movies, in every language. These casettes could be overwritten, so the library owners would just record a newer movie when they get a master copy.
  14. Pooja hums the tune Cheppadikunje, from the Malayalam dub of The Jungle Book TV animation. The song, and the show was loved ones from the age.
  15. David Kanjaany opens an Internet Cafe in the village. Internet arrived in India end of 90s, and internet cafes opened up all over the country, where people could pay and use computers to use the service. The charge were also high, some charge upto 70 Rupees per hour. Today, internet rates have plummeted in the country , and it has become cheap and affordable on smartphones.
  16. Doctory Mathews drives an old Contessa Classic. It was a popular car in the 60, but was a dinosaur in the 90s.
  17. That Prathikaranam show was hilarious. It used to be the weekly audience-channel interaction program of Doordarshan. The anchors where actual DD employees, and the Nirma ad , was overplayed on TV.
  18. The spooky Manichitrathaazhu theme plays when Pooja asks for permission to go out from her father. Apart from being the highest grossing Malayalam film of the year 1993, Manichitrathazhu is considered as one of the best thrillers ever made in India as well as one of the best Malayalam films ever made. The Vidamaatte ! was iconic , and fetched Shobana the National Award for Best Actress. Although the movie was cheaply remade into 6 languages, none of the remakes had the aura and spookiness of the original, which did not use any computer graphics or VFX, and relied entirely on set design and background music and lighting to show its mysterious spookiness.
  19. Hrithik Roshan’s entry into Hindi movies, and the hit song from Kaho Na Pyaar Hain. This was the movie which was full of cliches, but the audience lapped it all up, turning him into a superstar with his very first movie. And our generation began drooling over his body..:-)
  20. The Dil Chahtha Hain song plays on Pooja’s TV. DCH released only one year later than KNPH. It was another iconic trendsetter movie which even won a Award for its debutant director.
  21. The entrance coaching bit was funny, and the class and teacher was modelled on the PC Thomas’s entrance coaching centre in Thrissur. Many of us lost our money and countless days lost in his strict classes, and some of the really gifted ones even got good ranks ! Just to clarify, I never attended his classes, and spent my weekends programming away on my own PC.
  22. The cassettes in the video library are replaced by CDs. The new medium promised better picture and sound quality, but soon ended up promoting video piracy because they could be easily copied onto computers.
  23. Kozhikode is described beautifully, it has a culture of its own. And a timeless charm. The year is 2004. And a lot of things happened in the preceding four years. MadhuMohan stopped his serials. Veerappan is killed. The 2004 Tsunami hit India too, and affected millions of lives, and the word Tsunami entered Malayalam lexicon.
  24. It is said that “Every Facebook user has had a dark past. Orkut !” Before Facebook, Indian youngsters where hooked onto Orkut, the social netwoking service launched by google in 2004. Orkut could show you who all visited your profile, so it was common for boys to lurk around and try to make as many orkut-girl-friends as possible. But after numerous scraps and spams, users got bored of it and abandoned ship to move to Facebook. On June 30, 2014, Google announced it will be closing Orkut on September 30, 2014.
  25. Pooja uses a ThinkPad laptop, the design of that lines of laptops has not changed till this day, even after IBM sold Thinkpad to Lenovo.
  26. The boring Doordarshan song plays in Pooja’s classroom, it has been a standard tune to denote boring situations.
  27. The Classmates song plays and movie is talked about. The movie itself only came out in 2006, but it was a box office hit and has a cult following.
  28. Rajamanikkyam poster in Pooja’s home. Man, I hated that movie, but everyone else loved it.
  29. For some reason, Dr Mathews is reading Vanitha !

 

My only rant about this movie, Dr Mathews. Nicely played by Ranji Panikker, this father is by far the most carefree father I have seen, in movie or real life. He does not worry when his teenage daughter leaves home often, or notices the sudden changes in her mannerisms. He is not at all concerned when the grown up Pooja leaves and arrives home at odd hours, even 12 in the night. He gifts her a cell phone in high school and is not worried if it might be misused. And when he finally knows about her affair, is so cool about it, he welcomes them whole heartedly without thinking of the possible problems of this relation to his family and community. I have seen some dads who are casual to their children, bug Dr Mathews is lost in his own world, and is a lazy and careless dad.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

‘Jurassic Park’: How Have The Special Effects Held Up So Well?

Universal Pictures

Despite hitting theatres over two decades ago, the visual effects in 1993's “Jurassic Park” still hold up very well. The velociraptors, the T. Rex, and other dinosaurs are just as believable today as they were more than twenty years ago.

But why is that? How have Steven Spielberg's effects in “Jurassic Park” stood the test of time, while other movies have not aged so well?

When used properly, computer generated visual effects can help transport viewers into the world of the movie. Filmmakers can use VFX to build sets they could never build practically, or to render fantastic creatures and locales. When used poorly, though, CG imagery sticks out like a sore thumb. There’s nothing worse than being engrossed in a movie, only to be taken out of it by a bad or fake-looking piece of VFX.

In the early 1990s, movies were suddenly filled with VFX and barely any of it was up to snuff with the Industrial Light & Magic’s Oscar-winning work on “Jurassic Park.” It’s hard not to cringe looking back on some of those early efforts.

“Jurassic Park” helped ignite a revolution in Hollywood, one that saw movie studios rush to replace things like sets and creatures with computer generated. Spielberg’s film proved that almost anything could be realized with computers, and in many cases it could be achieved for less cost. It was the first step towards almost fully computer-animated films like “Avatar” and “Gravity,” but like any first steps there were a few stumbles.

As it turns out, the real secret to making VFX look realistic is lighting.

Universal Pictures

It’s no coincidence that many of the scenes featuring computer-generated dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” take place at night and in the rain. The weather and darkness helped mask what the filmmakers didn't want you to see -- that is, still fairly rudimentary computer generated creatures. Putting a dinosaur in the dark or behind an object went a long way towards convincing the audience that it was the real deal.

There's some debate in the VFX community as to how lighting should be used. "District 9" director Neill Blomkamp actually favours a completely opposite approach, playing up the harsh lighting to make the CGI look more realistic.

"We set out to work with digital creatures, lighting and compositing environments that are conducive to something photo real," Blomkamp told the LA Times in 2009. "My stuff tends to be [computer generated] in very harsh light, like sunlight. Harsh shadows. It feels real. Sometimes it’s easier to make stuff look photo real in that environment.”

Jurassic Park

Another secret of “Jurassic Park's” effects? Most of the dinosaurs were actually created using tradition practical effects, like animatronics and costuming. There is about 15 minutes worth of dinosaur footage in “Jurassic Park,” only six of which are computer-generated.

Most of the big shots featuring the Tyrannosaurus used a life-sized animatronic dino built by special creature effects guru Stan Winston (the guy behind the Xenomorph from "Aliens" and the titular "Predator." As well, many of the raptors were actually just men in suits.

Universal Pictures

Amazingly, "Jurassic Park" wasn't originally supposed to even have any computer-generated VFX. Spielberg and company originally planned to use a technique called Go Motion, a stop-motion animation technology developed by "Star Wars" effects guru Phil Tippett which added motion blur to the creature. However, after seeing early VFX tests put together by ILM without permission, Spielberg and company were convinced that CG was the way to go. Tippett stayed on as "Dinosaur Supervisor," overseeing the animation of the beasts.

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However filmmakers decide to create their computer-generated creatures, even today it's a huge challenge to make them look believable. Sometimes you're just better off taking a practical approach.

It's absolutely incredible that more than 20 years on, the dinosaurs of "Jurassic Park" still look as good as they do. Will we still say the same thing in another 20 years?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bangalore Days - Rocks like the city !

 

Watched the much awaited Malayalam multi-starrer movie Bangalore Days yesterday. And loved every bit of it. Here is another movie where the story and characters are the real driving force. Writer-Director  Anjali Menon sure does know how to create convincing characters. And boy, can she write ! There are few writers out there who can create and juggle so many characters  and still tie up all the loose ends together in a neat knot. If you are a Mallu, aged less than…maybe   40 years….then run to your nearest theatre and watch it !! Hurry !

 

Bangalore Days tells the story of three cousins, very much close to each other, even if their families don’t gell well, who travel to the big city for different reasons, and end up discovering each other and themselves all over again. It is a story of love, and hope, and everything in between. Don’t go by the movie name, the story & the characters are so good, that they could have very well named the movie Kochi Days, or Trivandrum Days…and it would still have worked. But there is something about this big grand city that attracts youngsters (and older ones too, apparently) , and the truly metropolitan environment means you meet people you hardly run into anywhere else. There is something for everyone here, I am sure each cinema goer will be able to relate to at least one of the many people depicted on screen.

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The story is narrated by Kuttan (Nivin Pauly), who is a stereotype young Malayalee software engineer. Many stereotypes will be broken in this movie..even Kuttan’s. Kuttan has just landed a plush software engineer’s job out of Kerala, but is a homesick country man at hear. He runs home first chance he gets, and is clearly in love with his home and the green country side. He introduces us to his two cousins, who have different personalities, but the three of them are one happy bunch. Divya (Nazriya, in her most mature role so far) has just completed her graduation, and has MBA plans, but that goes out of the window when her family decides to get her married to a successful MBA manager,because her horoscope says so. She will have to relocate to Bangalore city, setting the stage for the story and the movie-name. The third wheel of this brat pack is Arjun (Dulquar), who is a born rule breaker, and loves his cousins, and loves to hate everyone else. He is a school drop-out , which means  he is tagged un-successful in life, but is most carefree, and manages to live on his own as a bike mechanic & racer. After Divya’s marriage, the cousins find reasons and move to Bangalore just so they can hang out together. Halfway through the movie, at the interval, their lives have changed; all three of them face problems in their lives. And then , in the second act, they all find their way back, magically.

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Lets start with Kuttan. He is excited to move to the big city, but is not ready for the long office hours waiting for him. He also has a culture crash of sorts, his naadan (countryside) ideologies in harsh contrast with the new city life. He wants to marry a typical village belle, but meets and falls for the most unlikely candidate; Meenakshi an air-hostess he bumps into (Isha Talwar) on his first plane journey. He changes himself, for her, and starts dreaming of love..but his dreams come crashing when she runs back to an ex-boyfriend. Back home, his always ill father, has run away, lured by spirituality and faith, and he now has to take care of his mother, whom he reluctantly brings to Bangalore. Turns out, his father did not run away for God, but was actually running away from Kuttan’s mother. Its all not bad for him, as he finally understands the contrasting nature of his people, and renews his life with new hopes, after packing his mom to US to his elder sister.

Arjun is facing an identity crisis of his own, he is hot tempered and rude, and shuts everyone out, the only people he opens up to are his cousins. Backstory reveals that his parents are divorced, and that he ran away from school. He finds solace in the voice of an RJ in the city, who inspire him positively. When he finally meets her (Parvati) he sees someone who has lost more than himself, but has learnt to forget, and take life head-on. She is disabled from the waste below. He is reluctant to make the first move, as she is clearly setting out for a better life, with a university course abroad. She too hesitates, scared to fall for him who clearly has second thoughts. Eventually, he musters the courage to ask her to stay back, with the support of his family and biker friends.

Bangalore Days Poster New

But the track I liked best was Divya’ and Das’s , their married life, the turmoil and the way they overcame them. Divya , the extrovert, bubbly and highly optimistic little girl is excited to be married, and to move to Bangalore. She settles at once to her new life, enjoying the luxurious lifestyle , with her cousins for company. But her husband Das (Fahad Fazil) is a polar opposite, a corporate henchman, forever typing on his laptop, or travelling abroad for his work. He lives a strictly controlled life, and despises changes. He also has a past he is reluctant to talk about, and this is turned into a surprise twist in the their story towards the end. It turns out, Das used to be a champion motocross bike racer named Shiva, and was madly in love with Natasha (Nithya Menen, no dialogues for her). Natasha dies in a bike accident while Das was driving, and he has never come to forgive himself for his mistake, believing he killed her. Natasha’s parents hold him responsible, and he still mourns for her, turning one of his rooms into a sanctum-sanctorum for their memories. All this is revealed when Arjun joins Shiva’s earlier biking team. This twist was a pleasant surprise , not only did it add colour to Das’s dull life, but the backstory explained why he is they way he is. Divya decides not to run away, but to help Das come to terms with his past, even going as far to meet Natasha’s parents and speaking for him. Das finally lets go, and embraces his new life. This part reminded me of the character  Aditya Shroff from Rock On, who too has a bitter past, and has turned from Rock singer to a serious boring investment banker. Even there, it is his wife Sakshi, who helps him come back to love and life.

Bangalore Days-Fahadh,Dulquer and Nivin

Apart from these main tracks, there are also many other characters in the movie, like Kuttan’s and Divya’s parents, extended relatives, and Divy’a neighbours from her flat, a bunch of colourful and relatable folk.

What stood out :

  1. Background music. The visuals are eye-catching for sure, but the BGM adds a second layer of perspective, lots of guitar, violin and pianos, specially the bike scenes…oooh. Kudos to Gopi Sundar, from Kuttan’s hilarious theme-BGM to Arjun’s electric guitar theme, to he sure knows how to immerse the audience.  The songs rock too ! (searching for torrent)
  2. Visuals..a cool and dry Bangalore, without the traffic and pollution. I dream of the Bangalore depicted in the city, where you can ride your four-wheeler care freely, but alas..that world exists only in movies.
  3. My favourite scene: Divya helping Das cope. The BGM and visuals in these scenes were dream like.
  4. The final race. The last 10 minutes shows Arjun competing in the motocross race, it was both poetic and exhilarating, the music, the editing..everything top notch. Picture perfect.
  5. Disability. Sarah plays a paraplegic , and has difficulty moving around the city in her motorised wheelchair. There is a scene where Arjun jumps on the road to stop a bus for her. Disabled people face such transport problems everyday in our country, yet there is very much being done for them.
  6. Natasha dies in a bike accident. I am all for safe driving. Road accidents kill  hundreds of people in our country every day. I hope this scene convinces people to ride safer on roads.

 

Anjali Menon has hit gold third time in  a row (or fourth, if you count Kerala Cafe). Three times lucky ? Naah, it three times hard work and persistence. Thank you for a lovely movie, Anjali.