Dude, where's my car

Dude, where's my car is the movie that unleashed Ashton Kutcher upon the world, paving the way for a whole new generation of stoner movies. This movie is squarely responsible for such absurdities wrought upon this world as Zoltan, shibby, "... and then", super hot giant alien chick, dude & sweet, Continuum Transfunctioner, and the ten different ways to say "dude, where's my car".

Following the capers of two potheads (Ashton Kutcher and Sean William Scott) who, predictably, have no clue where their car is parked after an epic night out. As they try to re-discover what happened the previous night, the whole world seems upside down. Hot chicks sprout up like mushrooms after a tropical rainfall, groups of random stranger either want to kidnap them or be best friends with them. Very soon they realize that something they might have known the night before could be all that stands in between them and inter-galactic annihilation.

There are tons of laugh out scenes, that have been copied and parodied endlessly. One of the funniest is the "... and then" sequence, the battle of wits between Ashton and an Chinese takeout microphone box. Then there is the tribute to communication every couple should envy - "what does my tattoo say" conversation. Not to forget the bubble-wrap spacesuit space nerds or the alien Nordic dudes or Pierre and the ostrich compound.

The movie is cheesy, trite, slapstick and childish. The whole thing is filled with jokes that obviously make more sense further under influence one is. Otherwise, there is no reason how anyone sane could come up with and film the scenes that litter the movie. And I guess that is what you need for a classic stoner movie. And when you are in the mood to engage none of the cells in your brain, that is the kind of movie you want to settle in the sofa with.

December 27, 2010

Sea Beast

I've been accused of being indulgent on movies, rating them too highly, till I pointed out that we generally watch the highly rated ones, quite unlike Sea Beast. True, the movie may not be on par with the rest of them, considering it was a made to TV SyFy original. But there is a certain perverse pleasure in reviewing it that I cannot wait to get started.

There is a comfort in watching movies like Sea Beast. While you may never have seen this one before, you know everything there is to know about it. You know the characters that are going to get killed off (they are the ones trying too hard to be funny or needy), there will be a hot biologist or zoologist or some researcher (so the audience can get relevant background information), the Sheriff (or other person in authority) is going to pay with his life for doubting the hero, and the proficient with explosives lead figure is going to cause a boom in the creature's nest. In fact the boom towards the end of the movie was actually quite cool - an idea that pretty much demanded the rest of the movie be built around it. Here is a haiku for the movie summary.

monster hunts by lake
amphibious death dealer
find nest for big boom

The movie is rife with zombie-characters, who have no discernible backgrounds or compelling reason for the audience to invest in their well-being. The actors in turn as just a uninvolved in the proceedings, with a distinct Japanese translation time-lag between their facial expressions and dialogue. The monster, a disgusting CGI built, invisible, bear-like, venomous, whip-tongued, anglerfish lookalike ugly creation seems to cause more reaction in the audience than the characters. I think they built he entire monster during post processing and none of the characters got to see it while they were filming.

There are enough and more plot clichés, to keep you entertained. And there are just as many disjointed jumps, like a new movie started in the middle of the one you were just watching. But as long as you don't try too hard to make sense of why something is happening, there is enough on screen to keep you interested for a couple of hours. There are a few moments of good old screams thrown in for good measure.

It is not worth setting a reminder for, but if you switch to SyFy one insomniac evening and nothing else is on - stick around. It definitely beats tossing around in the bed.

December 26, 2010

Battlestar Galactica - Redux

The series of Battlestar Gallactica is long. Including the three hour minseries that kicked it off, there are a total of 75 episodes which, including the longer episodes, clocks in at 78.5 hours. Counting out the advertisements, that is a total run time of about 3,376 minutes of captivating intergalactic goodness.

And goodness it is, from the first episode to the last. Series generally have a tendency to drop their intensity as time passes by. Characters become jaded, the plot becomes thin and stretched, and reality often intrudes to have some of the stronger actors leave the show. It is so much of a given for me, that I drop my expectations of any series, the longer it sticks around. BSG bucks the trend. It is relentless. Characters grow, evolve and fall in and out of focus. The plot twists and turns, runs into dead-ends, and sets off immediately in another direction. And someone in the writing department seems to actually keep track of loose ends and red herrings; seemingly caring enough to tell the viewer which is which.

Waking up the day after the final three episodes, felt like the day after something momentous. A simultaneous feeling of satisfaction and emptiness. Such was the palpable universe created by the show.

There are many things to love about the show, the most enduring are its characters. Through the series, the characters show depth of character and development in the face of adversity. And yet, they are the same - with their familiar failings and insecurities. There is no sacrificing their core, even as circumstances and realities around them change. Maybe it was a stroke of genius in casting, or maybe it was just brilliant writing. You admire the characters you hate, and love the character you pity.

BSG has had a lasting impact in our house, for the new words it has added to our vocabulary. What the frack, isn't just IKEA's double-sided mirror anymore. Automatic functions on any gadget gives us pause, and an urge to check for Cylon interference. "Action stations!", means we really have to get cracking on something. And finally the Cylon theme music - the haunting, lilting melody of destruction. Now, if only we had something to call a DRADIS.

Season 1
Season 1
Season 1
Season 1
Season 1
Season 1

Having watched all the episodes on demand, in about a month's time, raises an interesting question for me. Does it make us lesser fans because we did not have to endure the agonizing delays between episodes? Is our enjoyment lessened by the fact that we learnt of the fates of the twelve colonies, well after after every one else that had followed the original airings of the show? I'm sure there is some truth to that. But having lived and breathed the series for four weeks made it so real, so visceral, that no amount of re-watching a previous season can ever equate. So if you haven't watched the series, and have Netflix, you know what you have to do? "Galactica Actual. Execute order."

December 24, 2010

Black Swan

Black Swan is a pretty good psychological thriller. With the mind as the protagonist and expectations as the villain, the movie tells a suspenseful tale of suffering, opportunity and insecurity.

Nina (Natalie Portman) lives with her controlling mother, desperate for the major break that can elevate her years of hard work to its rightful destiny as the lead of a ballet production. Just when she is able to quell her own fears and land the role, her insecurities explode in the form of a newcomer Lilly (Mila Kunis). As Nina tries to meet the director Leroy's (Vincent Cassel) demands for a different kind of perfection, she is forced to tap into an unknown side of herself. With her innocence, sanity and life in the balance, the question is whether Nina can learn to distinguish her angst from reality in time to save herself?

Natalie Portman is exquisite as Nina - a tortured perfectionist, who has little of her self outside of being a dancer. She brings a certain desolate beauty through the movie, magnified by the intense scrutiny of the cameras as they rarely leave her alone. The remaining characters almost seem to tiptoe in and out of the scenes, demanding and whining, always in the background. There is an undercurrent of instability that runs through the whole movie, as fantastic images are woven through the narrative. It is scary in parts, not so much for the imagery, but more because they actually seem to make sense.

The movie does not have much of a story to speak of, and never pretends it does. Pivoted around Nina, it is more of a dance, a ballet if you will. A ballet of the mind and the heart. A ballet that grips you at the beginning and threatens to never let go.

There is so much of the movie vested in having the audience identify with Nina, that it does seem overwhelming in part. But thanks to some superb performances, the narrative always bounces right back. This movie is rated R, for more than just the scares. But it is an involved, adult, exploration of the psyche. A must watch.

December 19, 2010

127 hours

127 hours is an intense thriller, that packs in an immense depth of character and range of emotion, in what is really a simple story. It follows the real life story of a happy-go-lucky outdoors loving hiker, whose arm gets trapped by a boulder in the narrow canyons of Utah. Over the next 127 hours, he gathers enough courage and recklessness to extricate himself, by essentially separating his arm using nothing more than a worn down pocket knife.

The hiker in question is Aron Ralston (James Franco) who underwent this ordeal in 2003. Aron sets off one Friday evening, without telling anyone, to hike the wilderness of Utah. After an overnight sleep he begins his bike ride, that quickly turns into a hike, where he meets two young female hikers. After revealing an underground lake to the two, he continues his hike. Navigating through a crack in the ground, Aron dislodges a boulder that rolls over trapping his right arm, pinning him in the middle of the desert.

After he overcomes his initial anger, Aron realizes that he is probably going to die there. And with the realization comes the clarity of thought that makes him relive his past, and appreciate the importance of all that he left behind. With no food, running out of water and in on position to sleep, his condition deteriorates, till he starts hallucinating about that which has been and that which is to come.

James Franco is brilliant as Aron, with all his triumphs and all his faults. The cinematography plays well on the themes of loneliness, regret and claustrophobia. Music is as much a character in the movie as Aron is. Scored by A.R.Rahman, the background ventures daringly into the narrative, deftly taking it over in places before letting the visuals claim back the storyline. And yes, there is that wrenching scene as Aron snaps the radius and ulna of his forearm, before beginning to hack through the remaining muscle. There is more than enough of an anatomy lesson as the hard nerves refuse to be sliced, instead choosing to overwhelm an already tired mind with more pain.

What epitomizes the movie for me is not the butchery, but the moment as the last tendons snap away and Aron is thrown clear of his own arm. The simultaneous sense of loss and freedom leaving Aron and the audience together in stunned silence. And that is what the movie is about - not the story of the guy that lost his arm. It is rather the story of the guy, as he lost his arm. While it is not a movie for the faint of heart, it is for everyone that is looking for a reason to take life to heart.

December 11, 2010

British Comedy on Netflix

Battlestar Galactica is still in progress, and is just as intense as the miniseries that started it all. But that also means it has been a while since we started something new. Figured it was a good enough time to go back to series of British Comedies on Netflix that is a great source of amusement for the anglophile.

Coupling

Coupling starts off a little slow. The pilot is awkward, tentative like people that have just met each other. But just like the friends that they are destined to be, the characters and series quickly fall into a familiar rhythm. The characters are neurotic, self-centered, silly and mostly harmless. And yes, they think a lot about sex. A lot.

Coupling deals with coupling in all its glorious varieties. The easy kind. The unattainable kind. The unwilling to take a hint kind. And of course the forbidden kind. And if you don't quite know what coupling is, that is a reason for you to not only watch this should, but also get yourself familiar with the Queen's English.

Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard is a funny British man. He is intelligent, long-winded, witty, and is build to perform on the stage. His live shows seldom seem scripted, instead they are random walks down the lanes of history, politics, society. Eddie has a number of live one-hour shows on Netflix, including Dress to kill, Definite Article, Glorious, Circle and Unrepeatable.

Eddie typically starts off with a topic, interrupts himself, loses his train of thought and picks up quite another thing without so much as a by-your-leave. All the while, flipping through his imaginary notebook on his palm, making notes like "Lost them there" and "Never do that again".

So yeah. It is funny, and you should watch it.

Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister is an extremely funny political satire. The series revolves around the delicate seesaw balance of power between the democratically elected minister and the politically savvy civil service. Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP, is saddled with a potentially dead-end role in the Department for Administrative Affairs. When Jim decides to wield whatever power he has, he is thwarted in his attempts by none other than his Permanent Secretary, who takes immense pleasure in pushing ahead with his own agenda of status quo. And to balance this power struggle is the quietly funny Principal Private Secretary, who uses the under-breath mutter to great comedic value.

The IT Crowd

The IT Crowd is a geekier, nerdier, tamer, english-er version of Office Space. Where Office Space packs and undercurrent of anger and rage, The IT Crowd revels in discomfort and awkwardness.

The show pays homage to the quintessential IT support jokes - "Have you tried turning it off and on again?", and "Are you sure it is plugged in?". And to really get things going, it drops an unsuspecting, technically naive, female boss in with two of the more reticent from the human species. And for good measure throws in some insider jokes, authentic props and virtual characters. All conspiring to keep your computer going and keep you from getting anything done.

There you go. Cue up the Instant Watch queue on Netflix, hit play and begin hours of clipped comedic genius.

December 08, 2010

The IT Crowd

British humor has a flavor of its own. Maybe it is the clipped accent, or the propensity to represent the biggest disasters with the most toothless choice of words. The IT Crowd does both of these, while injecting a healthy dose of nerdy humor into the mix.

"Hello, I.T. Have you tried turning it off and on again?". Roy (Chris O'Dowd) is the exasperating IT helpdesk guy from the basement of Reynholm industries, who uses this greeting to successfully navigate through most of his workday. His partner in crime is the much less accessible Moss (Richard Ayoade). Both would probably have been relegated to the dark confines of the basement, but for the fortuitous arrival of Jen (Katherine Parkinson) the confused go-getter with a suspect resume. After overcoming her horror and finding herself in charge of the IT group, Jen decides she must employ all means necessary to get herself out of the basement. After overcoming their horror at finding themselves in close proximity to a female, non-technical manager, the two IT guys decide they rather like this arrangement.

What follows is hours of cringe inducing, social norm defying, girl-chasing hilarity. True to class, there is enough and more of situational humor to keep the episodes rolling. And then there are the characters, a few are recurring, while most make their mark in a single episode. Richmond the Goth, who seems to be walking the fine line between a vampire and a misunderstood loner. Denholm Reynholm the original boss, earnest and clueless, that make Jen the head of IT. Douglas Reynholm the son, who finds little time for business between his chasing of Jen and his collection of erotic art.


The IT Crowd is goofy, rife with insider jokes and spoofs and most of all, entertaining. There is Star Wars, 8-bit pixel cartoons, EFF, The Flying Sphagetty Monster (Praise be unto His Noodliness!) and OMFG - RTFM. Having been shot in front of a studio audience, there is also a certain simplicity to the show. And where there is nerdy simplicity, there is bound to be LOL.

December 05, 2010

Primer

Movies have been called uncompromising at a whim, but there have been few that actually deserve the label. Primer is one movie that does. It is the most intellectually taxing movies I have seen in a long time. And it was constructed to be that way, without explanation and without dumbing it down for the average viewer - uncompromising.

Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) are two engineers, who accidentally create a machine that allows anyone to travel back in time. This wasn't a "be your own grandfather" type of time travel. Rather it was a time-consuming, methodical, repeatable way to essentially relive a part of your own life. For every hour of time travel, a person spends three hours living, un-living and reliving the same hour. Wikipedia has a helpful(?) graphic below, that makes this clearer.

The movie revolves around the layers of deception that the Aaron and Abe build around each other. What starts off as a means to scam the stock market, rapidly escalates into a matter of life and death as the father of Abe's girlfriend shows up comatose. Very quickly the story dissolves into a complicated mess of counter actions, using technology that neither understands, on a moral platform that neither respects.

What sets the movie apart is the strictly matter-of-fact approach throughout. There are no elaborate set-up shots, no background clarifying flash-backs. Shot with a budget of just $7,000, the movie succeeds in bringing an immersive experience of chaotic life at the bleeding edge of new technology without checks and boundaries. The look of the movie is flat, overexposed and industrial with echoes of metal and garages. The dialogue is jargon filled, authentic, and impenetrable. The plot quirky, and unresolved.

If you like closure in your movies, you will detest the mere existence of this movie. Even if you are used to making do with a little ambiguity, this film will test those limits. The movie isn't as much a story telling as it is an exploration of the what-if. If you ever thought about time travel, or wondered about the mind of an inventor, or worried about power without checks - you'd want to pop this DVD in and let go.

November 27, 2010

HP and the Deathly Hallows - I

Any undertaking, like recreating the seventh Harry Potter book on film, was going to be a difficult ask. Not only is the novel long, but the fans has come to expect more and more from each successive movie in the franchise. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 makes an attempt to scale new heights, but is only barely successful at maintaining status quo. The story is absorbing, but the movie seems tired and fatigued, and not in a oh-my-god-its-voldemort way. More in a please-stop-asking-us-to-make-more-movies kind of way.

The movie starts off abruptly with everyone being mean to one another, the three young wizards looking dazed and confused and the audience being told that everyone turning into Harry is the only way forward. I do know the story, which is why it seems so jarring to start off without explanation in the middle of a scene. It seemed as if the focus was to just get on with it already. The hurry is even reflected in the scene where Hedwig gets shot down - no slow motions, no freeze frames, the action kept running away. And just as abruptly things slow down to a deliberate walk. Any movie that is part of a series deserves some scenes to continuity; I guess the assumption that this movie does not need to do that is what makes the opening scenes so presumptuous.

If the movie had continued in that vein, I would probably have walked out half-way through, but it quickly recovers. We are given time to sympathize with the current state of affairs, the fall of the ministry, the takeover by the dark Lord's council, and the pogrom against the muggles. And definitely missing a couple of continuity conversations apropos the horcruxes, the kids dive into their search. Contrary to some early reviews, the whining scenes were not as onerous and the layering of pulsing action scenes definitely helps move the story along.

The movie, at least the version we saw, seemed to have suffered cuts from the final release version. While Google called the movie at 2 hours 30 minutes, our screening lasted just about two hours. This could definitely help explain why we were so jarred as we started and went through the movies - maybe waiting for the director's cut on Netflix is in order.

There is little that I can say to introduce a newbie to the series if they have not already seen an earlier Harry Potter movie. This movie definitely follows the earlier ones stylistically, yet bringing an additional layer of darkness to the proceedings. The locations are well orchestrated and bring aspects of the book to life. Use of hand held photography during some scenes adds tension, deservedly so. The kids look old, and not just older. But all said and done, you know you really have to go watch this movie, right?

November 22, 2010

Ink

Ink is a strange sort of a movie, that defies simple categorization. It is at once dark, dramatic, uplifting and in places poetic. It wields horror and action as an means, but the end is a light, almost spiritual affirmation of love.

Ink is a lost, tortured character, that inhabits an alternate reality of dreams, where the good (Storytellers) and the bad (Incubi) have always been at odds with each other. Ink wants to join the Incubi, as a way to make a place for himself in his world. To do so, he kidnaps the soul of a little girl, planning to deliver it as payment. As Ink makes his way with the girl to the Incubi, the Storytellers begin planning a rescue.

They enlist the help of a blind Pathfinder named Jacob, and a fellow Storyteller Liev. While Liev gets caught herself in order to protect the girl from Ink, Jacob unveils his ability to tap into the "beat of the world" and manifest tiny physical changes.

Meanwhile in the real world, the girl's father is busy with his own work, unable to spend any time with his daughter. As Ink reaches his goal of meeting with the Incubi, and Jacob sets in motion the grand symphony of chain reactions, the story comes to a climax as worlds and time come together for a thrilling finale.

Ink, along with similar movies like the Pan's Labyrinth, exhibit a certain type of childish naivete in the story that works for them. The characters may seem fantastic and simplistic, but that only helps bring the form of the movie into focus. As a story Ink may not be the most accessible, but it works. Rather than ty to figure out exactly what is happening all through the movie, it helps to suspend not just disbelief but curiosity as you are carried on the fantastic ride through the world of dreams and reality.

November 20, 2010

Battlestar Galactica

After having been burnt badly by Lost, we were skeptical about starting another science fiction mega series. But I've always heard that Battlestar Galactica was different. I remembered the intense hysteria (albeit at a much smaller scale than LOST) as it was drawing to a close. And it was rated 5 stars on Netflix and 9/10 on IMDB. So, well, we took the plunge.

The series kicks off with a 3-hour miniseries. Based on the 1979 original, the mega pilot sets the stage of the renewed conflict between humans and their runaway creations, Cylons. As the 40-year old armistice between these adversaries is broken in a violently savage attack, leading human race to the brink of complete annihilation. The only thing standing between a complete Cylon victory is the lone aging decommission-ready spaceship - Battlestar Galactica, and the last few civilian ships that were able to escape the nuclear holocaust.

There is a reason one is able to refer to events in this fictional universe as fact - the world created by the series is that immersive. Pulling together a mix of the familiar and the completely alien, BSG is able to create a believable universe with a deft touch of novelty. There is a new religion, and new Gods. Amen is replaced with "So Say We All". The military is just as regimented, the hangars just as rowdy. Fighter planes are called Vipers and they still engage in dogfights. But then the spaceships all have regular gravity, and rounds shot into space go ping ping ping; hits go boom (in case you did not get that last bit, space has no air and therefore no way for sound to travel). The sets are detailed, the special effects are elaborate yet believable.

And the best part about BSG are the characters the push the science firmly into the background. There is the old dog veteran Admiral (Admiral William Adama), his estranged son (Captain Lee 'Apollo' Adama), the cocky yet talented pilot (Captain Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace), the reluctant politician president (President Laura Roslin), the schizophrenic genius with a deadly secret (Dr. Gaius Baltar), and the embedded Cylons. Faced by an unbelievable catastrophy and an uncertain future, the characters grow, adapt and learn to live with each other.

The series channels a certain metallic, gritty feel of life in space. Camera work has a hand-held feel to it, with abrupt zooming especially during action scenes. Lighting swings between the darkness of confined space and blown out over exposure of alien suns. Some scenes carry a predominant blue cast. The scenes and camera work are as much a part of the narrative as the dialogues and characters.

Battlestar Galactica is a engaging drama above all else. It is a story of human survival, faced with an unrelenting enemy. It is a story of camaraderie, fortitude, selfishness and betrayal. And it is a robot alien story that is worth investing a few weeks in. So Say We All.

Apocalypse Now (Redux)

There is a reason why Apocalypse Now is on a number of top movie lists of all time - it is just that good. Thanks to Netflix, I got a chance to relive the three plus hour redux version. And it is as gripping, raw and dramatic as I had remembered it to be.

The story of Apocalypse Now can be summarized into a sentence - a captain is asked to go upriver into Cambodia, during the Vietnam war, to kill a Colonel who had gone rogue and was operating outside the bounds of human decency. The rest of the movie is an exploration of the psyche of war, and the damage it wrought on the minds of men and women involved in the conflict. It is a manifestation of the insanity of battle, the ambiguity of its morals, and a quest into the very definition of victory.

The cinematography is psychedelic, filled with blues, pinks, purples and greens. The days are filmed in flat monotones, and the nights in unmitigated bright splendor. The indoors are a constantly moving play of dappled light, while almost all outdoors shots include fog - the fog of war. The music swings lazily from the classic Ride of the Valkyries to what can only be described as trippy bell crescendos. The movie, especially the redux version, does not care about time. The scenes are elaborate, fading in and out of each other, never clean or clipped. The dialogue and voice over, ties it all together - recurrent, almost poetic in places - all the while driving relentlessly amidst the chaotic visual imagery.

The movie has some of the most memorable scenes of modern cinema. The iconic scene of napalm bombing of a countryside with The End from The Doors playing in the background sets the mood for the entire movie. Then there is the attack by the helicopter gunships playing The Ride of the Valkyries. And of course there is the scene that has been parodied so many times since - "The horror, the horror".

Marlon Brando plays Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, the errant colonel. Martin Sheen is the loner Captain Benjamin L. Willard, sent to end the Colonel's command with extreme prejudice. Robert Duvall is Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, the surfing-crazy commander. A very young Harrison Ford and Lawrence Fishburne also star in the movie.

If this is the first time you are watching the movie, I'd suggest the regular as opposed to the redux version. There are a number of scenes that add a lot of depth to the story, but may end up being too heavy for a first timer.

November 11, 2010

A Scanner Darkly

By itself, A Scanner Darkly is an absorbing tale of addiction, surveillance, paranoia and betrayal. And if you add in the strong cast and unusually surreal cinematography, the story becomes a catchy exploration of the nature of freewill set in a failing state of the future.

Substance D, is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that has rampantly taken over society to the point of collapse. Even a virtual police state with constant surveillance seems ineffective in capturing the purveyors of the drug. The drug cartels have become so powerful, that the individuals working in the narcotics bureau have to resort to hi-tech shape-shifting suits to protect their identity.

Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is an introspective cop, working on drug enforcement, who himself is addicted to Substance D. James Barris (Robert Downey Jr.) is a fast talking, enlightened fellow addict, who can do anything in the name of self-preservation. Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane) represents the common everyday addict. When Bob has to investigate himself and his friends as part of his job, he realizes that the source of drugs may be closer than he imagines. Fighting increasing paranoia and psychosis, Arctor has to work against a deadline imposed by his degenerating mind to discover the truth behind the source of the drugs.

The movie does a great job of channeling elements of Trainspotting and Blade Runner, in capturing the despondency and chaos of drug use. The screenplay adds to the tense and gripping narrative, sometimes derailing the narrative just enough to make you doubly attentive. The dialogue is inventive, dark and perverse. The characters are hazy, colorful and disengaged. And the story, with its unexpected twist at the end gives the experience a deeper, more meaningful closure.

A Scanner Darkly is one of those Science Fiction movies that has no science and almost very little fiction about it. It is experimental story-telling where form and factor go hand in hand with intent - until the two are indistinguishable. Sure you can always find the story a little contrived. Or you could argue that the original novel did not entirely come through in the movie. But at the end the movie is visually one of the more unique experiences. And an engrossingly bleak story about a dystopian future.

November 08, 2010

Megamind

Megamind is a surprisingly touching yet funny story of a wildly successful super-villain, who finds himself in the unexpected position of having no arch enemy. As he yearns for the good old days of one-up-man-ship with the savior of Metro City, Megamind's one act of kindness comes back to haunt everyone with a vengeance.

Megamind the movie plays off, repeatedly, on the concepts of relative good and evil. In the presence of overwhelming good, Megamind defaults to being a villain and in the sudden vacuum of success, he is reduced to dutifully dehydrating trash. While this may sound cheesy, the movie pulls this off with equal parts witty repartee and goofy aplomb. The story has enough depth (nature vs. nurture as NPR calls it) to keep the adults interested while being silly enough to draw laughs from the younger audiences. The 3D effects are moderate and well executed, a perfect example of a maturing genre that is moving away from its early nauseating excesses.

The movie has its share of inventive characters and gadgets, starting with the Megamind's minion - the fish from his home planet that sits in a bowl, on a robot, wielding enough strength to crush a car. Then there is Megamind's extraordinarily useful dehydration gun which needs all but a drop of water to undo. And then his invisible car, which for some strange reason, lacks a panic button. And finally the ever-useful cloaking device that allows Megamind to take the form of anyone at all.

The characters are over the top, artfully voiced and three dimensional. Will Ferrel is the quirky villain, whose opponent is voiced by Brad Pitt. Tina Fey weighs in, in her inimitable style while managing to sound fresh and different.

All said and done, this is an animated super-hero movie - wantonly cheesy in places, but delightfully executed. The dialog is witty, pronunciation an atrocity, the evil is palpable and the eyes extraordinarily large. Most importantly the namesake sports a large polished dome for a head and comes with a skin hue of a popular primary color. Now who wouldn't want to see that.

Buried

Buried is an intense thriller that entirely takes place, first shot to the last, in a wooden coffin buried under the sands of Iraq. Joining the rarefied ranks of movies set in a minimalist locations, Buried brings it to a whole new level. Shot entirely in the tight confines of a wooden box, the movie employs tricky cinematography, extreme closeups and uncomfortable sound effects to take the audience along into the suffocating underground.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a defense contractor who drives trucks for the US Army in Iraq. When his convoy is ambushed and many of his fellow drivers killed, Paul is knocked unconscious and taken hostage. He wakes up to find himself in a coffin underground, with a cell phone, a lighter, a knife and a flashlight. Racing against rapidly depleting oxygen levels and battery power in his phone, Paul has to figure out a way to contact the outside world and save himself. When the phone rings for a impossible ransom call, the only question is whether it is a blessing or a curse.

Paul is the only visual presence in the movie and turns in a gripping performance as a civilian caught in the war. Swinging from a defiant belligerence to medicated sobriety to despondent realism, Paul is realistic and relateable. All other characters in the movies are voices on the phone, and range from the bored 411 operators, the bitchy ex-girlfriend, the inconsolable wife and the matter-of-fact negotiator. All bring in a level of twisted hilarity to the situation that would make one laugh out were it not for its hopelessness.

The movie definitely suffers from its own plot impossibilities - like having a lighter lit for a couple of hours inside a wooden coffin. (High school science tells us it will probably be not more than a few minutes before all the oxygen in the coffin is used up) Or having microwave radiation (cell phone signal) penetrate earth to give you enough bandwidth to upload a video in under 5 seconds. But fortunately, after the first few minutes of disbelief the story quickly takes hold of you. Given that the ending of the movie caused some in the theater to swear loudly was ample evidence that physical improbability was not on the top of anyone's minds.

All in all, it is a brilliant thriller that grabs hold of you from the first scene till the last. Even with its sparse set of elements, the movie is great way to spend a couple of spellbinding hours.

November 01, 2010

The Last Emperor

The Last Emperor is a study of the follies of historical human obliviousness. Pu Yi was the last emperor of China. Born into a life of unlimited power, adoration, corruption and decay - Pu Yi attempts to grow up and take his inevitable place as the head of one of the largest kingdoms in history of the world. Simultaneously the world around him is changing. His kingdom is no more, the economic order of the country is in upheaval, and the world is heading towards its first major war. But ensconced in the lap of luxury in the Forbidden City the child emperor has no inkling of it all.

The movie is a powerful historical portrayal of the life of the last emperor of China. In addition to being historically accurate, the movie also carries the burden of exploring the psyche of the child and the man who lost more than probably anyone else in the history of mankind. And it is this complexity of subject matter that tends to make the movie and tad difficult to approach. Without appropriate historical background, there is a lot in the narrative that is lost on the ordinary viewer.

Cinematically the movie is beautiful. Luxurious sets, elaborate dresses and wonderful acting all combine to make it an absorbing watch. The plot as it unfolds from the point of view of a young child separated from his mother, to the spoiled young man, a manipulated ex-monarch and a wizened old man is well written and still better executed. The only sticking point in the movie for me, was the choice to use English indiscriminately, as an attempt to make the movie more accessible. While the choice makes the movie more accessible, it also makes it seem that much inauthentic.

I first saw the movie more than 10 years ago. The thing I remembered most about the movie was that I had witnessed something seminal, even though the story did not stick with me. When I found it on Netflix, here was an opportunity to watch the movie once again and correct a distorted view through my own past.

The strength of movies like the Last Emperor, lies partly in the power of the historical narrative and partly in the ability of the audience to relate to the times. The history is unparalleled. But the focused narrative built around Pu Yi, almost a century afterward, does present some cultural challenges that makes you walk away from the movie feeling as if you are missing something. Watching it a second time did not quite cure that for me. That, for me, is a measure of both its strength and weakness.

October 31, 2010

Hereafter

Hereafter is an engaging tale of life and hope through the eyes of the afterlife. Absorbingly slow and vicariously involving, the movie follows the stories of three people across three continents as they come to terms with their own experiences with death.

George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a medium - the real one, gaining his ability as a result of a series of near-death operations during his childhood. Even as he makes a living out of helping people connect with their loved ones after life, George realizes that the process is taking an emotional toll on him that he is not ready for and decides to give it up. Marie LeLay (Cécile De France) is a French reporter who is caught up in the 2004 tsunami and has a near-death experience that leaves her with with a new view of the afterlife. Marcus is a London school boy who loses his twin to an accident and finds himself withdrawn and desperately looking for some answers. As fate conspires to bring the three together, the audience gets a surprisingly non-religious discussion of the nature of the afterlife.

Juxtaposing the message of hope against the finality of death is an easy thing to do. But doing so in a heartfelt manner, without degenerating to a theological debate or a pseudo-scientific babble, is the difficult part. Director Clint Eastwood, does a good job with straddling the line without picking sides, yet turning in a heartwarming character study with a rich narrative. The visuals are engaging and stunning in parts, the screenplay swings lazily between the uncomfortably tight and the luxuriously wide. Scenes almost always take longer than required, but manage to keep their relevance.

Matt Damon displays his, to paraphrase my wife, honest humility that makes it easy to relate to him. Which, given the nature of his profession, is an achievement in itself. The twins George/Frankie McLaren are superb. The French are, well, French - fitting the caricature to a T. The other characters flit in and out of the storyline lending depth and relevance to it.

This is not a movie if you are looking for a snappy storyline. The movie is slow. But it is a speed that is appropriate to the subject and narrative. And sometimes that subject may hit too close to one's heart; be prepared for it. All in all it is a great engaging drama to immerse yourself in and take with you even after the final credits roll.

October 30, 2010

Sphere

I had avoided watching Sphere for a while, because of its cast - Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson. Not that the three were in any way bad actors. On the contrary, when you have such strong performers packed into a science fiction movie, and it doesn't turn out to be spectacular - it is usually bad. Unfortunately, the movie lived up to my worst fears.

Sphere is based on a Michael Crichton novel, and is the story of four scientists who are commandeered to help investigate a strange craft lodged in the bottom of the Pacific ocean. Upon arrival, they realize that the craft is not alien, but from the future, and has in its cargo a large, alien, golden sphere. As the scientists are exposed to the sphere, and deadly accidents begin to take place thousands of feet underwater, they have to figure out the cause of these accidents or accept the fate that none of them will ever see the outside again.

The problem with idea-driven science fiction novels - like this one - is that there are so many ideas to be explored and discussed, that there is very little time for character definition. Further, the entire narrative seems force fit to discuss the concepts, and seems rather artificial and stunted. For a viewer, that makes it extremely difficult to care about what is happening on screen. That was the case with Sphere. A lot of wondrous happenings did take place, but it was like a forced march that left one too tired to care for the scenery. Having too many stars only worsened this. Everyone had so many dialogues to speak that there wasn't much listening going on.

That is not to say there was nothing good to come from the movie. The concept itself was though-provoking. The idea that an alien could be truly alien without a physical manifestation is powerful, which the movie was able to explore rather well. And if you were looking for a great documentary without a voice-over, then this would be it. As a thriller ... it could use more character and fewer stars.

October 29, 2010

The Last Winter

The problem with horror movies for me, is the ultimate resolution of the horror. The cause of horror is never as scary, and worse, triggers the left side of my brain and I am left shaking my head at the implausibility of it all. The Last Winter pulls a bit of the same with its supernatural themed resolution and the ever-present reminder of eco-activism. Overlooking these however, makes the movie a slow, but absorbing tale of creepy, incessant mishaps on a drilling base in the wilderness of Alaska.

There is something about the white flat landscape of the arctic circle that make it a perfect locale for things to go wrong. And in the movie they do, starting from an innocuous bloody nose during touch-football to the eventual onslaught on the phantom culprits.

Ed Pollack (Ron Pearlman) is the gruff taskmaster that heads a drilling crew deep in Alaska. To his eternal disdain, the crew also includes an environmentalist (James LeGros), who is concerned that all is not well with the operation. When a crew member begins acting strangely and is discovered outside, frozen to death, the clock begins to tick on a series of unexplained accidents. As the toll begins to mount, survival becomes the only goal.

The movie is glacially slow as it begins, but in time the narratives picks up enough to be involving if not gripping. Cinematography follows a similarly lazy approach, and the director does not always use the white expanse as a fellow cast member (like say in Fargo). That said, there is something enticing about a horror movie that does not follow the usual set pieces. And moreover, it is a supernatural thriller set beyond the Arctic circle. If that does not interest you, and it should, then this movie is probably not something you want to spend your time on.

October 27, 2010

Guns, Germs and Steel

Guns, Germs and Steel

One of the biggest issues I have with the book Guns, Germs, and Steel is its name. Other than act as an intermittent rallying cry, the title does little to summarize the arguments presented by Jared Diamond as the underlying reasons for broad developments of human history across the ages. Instead calling it Geography, Technology, and Germs may as well remove the need for a longer synopsis.

In the book, as well as the supporting PBS and National Geographic series, author Jared Diamond makes the arguments for his theory supporting the underlying inequalities of human progress. The main reason is the difference in Geographic bounties bestowed upon the people by the places they developed in, as opposed to any innate capabilities of the people itself. In other words, the inequalities are supported by the accident of location, rather than any design of race. The arguments can be summarized into the following:

  • Agriculture and the domestication of animals was the key in stabilizing human societies, supporting villages and cities through productivity, thereby freeing people to specialize it trades other than food gathering.
  • Geography is the deciding factor in the emergence (availability of edible plants and domesticable animals) and spread (agriculture spreads well along the same latitude in Eurasia as compared north-south in the Americas) of agriculture.
  • Development of cities was key to increased human densities, leading to the growth of communicable diseases and corresponding immunity in peoples over time.
  • When two civilizations meet (fight) the prevailing civilization is almost always predetermined by their level of technology (guns and steel - resulting from their head start in establishing cities) and their susceptibility to diseases (germs - determining whose diseases are deadly to whom).

Admittedly, these are a ideas that are really powerful and useful in their own right. By establishing the precept that geography could play such an integral part in the growth of societies, the author is able to take the conversation away from specific human abilities to broad inevitable cultural movements. And the large number of examples do go a long way in supporting the arguments in the book. Some have criticized the book for being too deterministic or fatalistic. But it is in being so oriented to cause and effect, but identifying a substantially new cause is the strength of the book.

What the book is also successful is doing is provide a language to interpret the large conquests of history, in terms of the key abilities of the warring factions. Be it the story of the Conquistadors or the rise in European powers, the book does a decent job in explaining them through the ideas of guns, germs and steel.

That is not to say there aren't gaps in the narrative - the biggest being China. For a people to develop almost along a parallel path with little outside influence, while bucking the trends of social development outside, China presents a unique juxtaposition to the deterministic sense in the rest of the book. While the author acknowledges this and provides some context, it stands more as an example to what can be done despite the geographical realities of a people.

The biggest issue I had was, the way technology was used to answer a question about technology. The author begins the book based on a question asked of him "Why do white people have so much cargo, but we New Guineans have so little?". Cargo here referring to the riches of technology. By answering that question with guns & steel doesn't help. Instead, if one were to take those out of the equation what remains is germs and geography, which is probably too simplistic.

As a racially agnostic way of parsing and understanding world history, the book is a definite winner. But to not consider any human achievements into the mix tends to leave quite a few open questions.

October 25, 2010

Moon

Moon is one of those slow, understated mystery movies, that emphasizes the prime purpose of movies: storytelling above all else. Restricted to the stark and claustrophobic confines of a moon base, the movie traces the last days of solitary life for Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), as he gets ready to head back to Earth after his stint managing mining operations for a critical clean-energy resource found only on the Moon.

As Sam goes about completing his missions, he begins to see and hear things that are not supposed to be. He keeps this from the lone humanoid presence on the base, the robot GERTY (Kevin Spacey), to not let anything interfere with the reunification with his wife and child on Earth. But, an unfortunate accident with a Harvester sets in motion a series of events that brings him that much closer to coming back to Earth and that much farther from home.

Eschewing dramatic scores for the sounds of the everyday, the movie sets up a feeling of loneliness and solitude. This is further accentuated by the clinical whiteness of the moon bunker, echoing Sam's state of mind. For a movie shot in 2009, it has a remarkably retro feel to it - some scenes almost paying homage to The Clockwork Orange. The viewer is successfully pulled into the brooding world of Sam, and as things go bad for him, cannot help but internalize his struggle for existence.

The movies under-emphasizes the science part with almost no reference to the "how" beyond what is strictly required for the plot to unfold. In doing so, it brings two actors to the forefront - man and the unknown company that put him alone in the middle of the Earth's lone satellite. In essence this is a story about the struggle of man - against the elements, against the upcoming resource crunch on Earth and against the ever present greedy corporation. Yet it doesn't turn preachy or Luddite but is a rather uncomfortably personal exploration of these themes.

It is almost required by space movies to have references to the grand daddy of them all - 2001 Space Odyssey, and the Moon does not disappoint with parts of the set, the daily activities and GERTY resembling HAL 9000. Shot with a budget of $5 million, this is no Space Odyssey, but is nevertheless an absorbing tale.

October 10, 2010

Firefly and Serenity

There are few good television series that turn into good movies. There are fewer great television series that become great movies. But there is only one great television series that spawned a great movie, but found no commercial success in either flavor. That is the series Firefly and the movie Serenity.

There are many theories as to why, the absorbing tale of a cocky captain and his capable yet flawed crew aboard a transport space ship (Serenity) was cut down so mercilessly at the end of but one season. But the truth is that not having Captain Mal (Nathan Fillion) around to mouth off his passive aggressions towards the merciless control of the Alliance has left television worse off.

Firefly is not the story of a hero. It is not the charted course of a flawed man overcoming his pitfalls to accomplish something memorable. Instead it is a character study of survival. Filled with a cast of relative unknowns, Firefly explores the reaction of a free man to an uncompromising crushing tyranny. In a way it is an exemplification of Adam Smith's invisible hand, playing out not in economics but in life.

Firefly has introduced us to a class of neurotic yet real characters, from the ever dependable second in command Zoe (Gina Torres) to her loyal yet jealous husband Wash (Alan Tudyk); from the pretty and confused Kaylee (Jewel Staite) to the elegant Inara (Morena Baccarin); from the temperamental Jayne (Adam Baldwin) to the solid conviction of Shepard Book (Ron Glass); and finally the spoiled but grounded Simon (Sean Maher) to the quietly scary River (Summer Glau). There is little but circumstance that holds this rag-tag army together. But at the same time, they complete each other in a way that almost makes their coming together fated.

Snappy dialog, deep characters, well designed space ships, a wonderful music score and an underlying tension in the story, all combine to make it a great watch. But for all that was lost, there was one part of the story that suffered the most because of an untimely cancellation - it was the story of River Tam.

And that is where Serenity the movie takes it up. With almost the same cast and a self-contained story line, Serenity, picks up shortly after the last TV episode. River, who is mostly helpless in her flight from the Alliance in the TV series comes to her own as Mal tracks down the gruesome secret the Alliance want to keep from the world by silencing River. As Mal tries desperately to broadcast the secret to the world, the crew defend against horde of blood-thirsty sub-humans to buy Mal some time. Help arrives from a very unexpected location.

Do not let the label of science fiction put you off; the series and movie do not talk about warp drives or holographic projections. Instead it is an honest to goodness story of pragmatic survival against a powerful yet hidden enemy.

October 07, 2010

Dark City

The movie Dark City straddles the line between science fiction and noir genres, with remarkable aplomb. Filmed almost completely under artificial lights, the movie has a beautiful retro, futuristic feel to it. Barring some jarringly anachronistic CG imagery in the final showdown scenes, the movie maintains an honest consistency to noir themes.

The movie follows the self discovery of a man, who finds himself at the beginning of the movie, with no recollection of who he is or where he came from. And unlike Jason Bourne, he has no special skills other than an unknown power to reshape the entire world around him.

John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) is the blank slate, on which the disturbingly dark world around him essays an interpretation of time and memory. As John begins to understand the nature of his world, he also begins to question the reality of his life - in particular the continuity of time and dependability of memory.

The ideas are not necessary novel, but reflected in the light of the vivid stylish world of Dark City, they are immersive. And layered in with the ideas are the characters that appropriately defined with the awkwardness demanded by an artificial existence. Emma Murdoch (Jennifer Connelly) plays the beautiful yet lost wife of John. Dr. Daniel P. Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland) is the link between the world of the humans, and the forces that defines it.

Dark City combines the moody feel of noir, with beautiful photography and a thoughtful exploration of the psychology of humanity. There is something in it for the mind and the eyes. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable flick for those looking for something out of the ordinary.

October 05, 2010

The Haunting in Connecticut

Classic horror movies have a formula. Someone in the past commits an unspeakable horror, which is documented in the newspapers of the day, but is otherwise forgotten. The house, that witnessed said horrors lies vacant till unsuspecting family moves in. Moving in family also has its own demons to contend with. Upon the expected manifestation of latent evil, unsuspecting family first suspects itself before realizing the true culprit. Good Samaritan shows up from unexpected quarters to rid the house of evil, while also putting the demons of the family to rest.

The Haunting in Connecticut, follows this to a T. Every plot element makes its appearance on cue. But what ultimately carries it through is a subtle mix of decent acting with well edited horror sequences.

The movie chronicles the, supposedly true, travails of the Campbell family, who's son Matt is suffering from cancer. After moving to Connecticut to be closer to the hospital treating Matt, the family is slowly sucked into the past of the house. Matt, being the closest to death, is the only one that can see feel the presence in the house before all hell breaks loose. The idea that being alive is a continuum that dictates the degree of correspondence one can have with the fully dead is the most original idea of the movie.

Despite it all, I am not tempted to give the movie anything less than a three, because of the really good execution of the various elements. Matt (Kyle Gallner) looks convincingly haggard as a cancer patient, while Virginia Madsen (as Sara Campbell) helps pull together the role of the unsuspecting mother. There are three other children and a Dad, that mostly remained undeveloped character stubs.

Having decided to watch the movie as a warm-up to the main feature of the evening, Let Me In, I was not disappointed at all. Looking back, I realized I should have known the entire movie before it started, but it was more than fun while it lasted.

October 04, 2010

Let Me In

It is difficult to imagine the movie Let Me In without thinking of the 2008 Swedish original Let the Right One In, and as such reviewing it without referring to the original is difficult, if not impossible. The original had certain things going for it, the setting for example. It is somehow difficult to replicate the late Soviet Era feel for a movie, in continental United States. That said, the movie does a remarkable job of staying true to the original while adapting it to a different place and time.

The movie revolves around a bully victim, Owen, who is unable to get any support at home from his divorcing parents. Then a new girl moves in next door - Abby, who is patient, helpful, supportive and, as he discovers later, a vampire. As the relationship between Owen and Abby deepens, Owen slowly realizes the true nature of the one person he is able to lean on. Abby, meanwhile, loses the one other person who knows her secret - her father. The two children with no supervision and control, find themselves hurtling towards a destructive ending.

Abby (Chloe Moretz), turns in an unsettling performance as the young vampire, managing the thin line between the vulnerable and the monstrous. Owen (relative newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee) does a really good job as the confused and vulnerable boy.

The atmosphere is another key cast of the movie. Shot mostly under artificial light, the yellow cast of the sodium vapor lamps brings a sense of hopelessness and loss. The playground with its abandoned merry-go-round under snow accentuates the despondent mood.

As a horror movie there are a few cringe-worthy scenes, but no where close to a what a classic horror flick would demand. And even in the couple of action scenes with the vampire, the movie chose to use CGI, doing so very badly. The tempo of the movie is a slow ponderous exploration of the world from a child's point of view, with brief blocks of mystery and horror.

Do not watch if you are looking for an action horror flick. If you liked the original, you should probably have a go at this as well. And if you are looking for an alternate intelligent vampire movie, with no glistening, this is a must see.

October 03, 2010

The Town

The Town

An unexpected romance trips the otherwise hardened & capable bank robber with robin-hood like morals. Despite the weak, almost cliché, plot to the movie The Town, Ben Affleck's new flick set in Boston is an engaging narrative with an almost plausible ending.

The Town is a classic cops and robbers tale. Ben Affleck as Doug MacRay leads a gang of four bank robbers, who specialize in wearing distinct masks during their heists. During one such hold-up, they end up holding hostage the manager of a bank - Claire Keesey played by Rebecca Hall. Hot on their heels is the FBI fronted by Jon Hamm as Adam Frawley. Wanting to make sure that the hostage cannot identify them, Doug contacts her separately, and ends up falling for her. As the gang decide to pull one last job and the FBI are within indicting distance, Doug has to choose between staying true to his childhood friends and leaving it all for the girl he fell in love with.

Feels like you have seen it before, doesn't it? The plot is not what makes the movie great, but the tight action scenes, interspersed with real dialogues between well-fleshed out characters makes it entertaining. Doug is a nuanced character, who comes across as a "nice guy" despite having bank robbery on his resume. He is ably supported by his childhood friend, James Coughlin, who does well to portray a machoism tinged lunatic. Jim is the perfect foil to bring out the sanity of Doug.

The robbery scenes are well staged, with several parts of the resulting car chase scenes shot from a claustrophobic in-car point of view. There is a gritty urban feeling to Boston and Charlestown (a la The Departed), which does well to contemporise the setting.

If crime drama is your thing, this is a must-watch. Alternately if you are looking for a good date-movie, this may not necessarily be a bad pick.

October 02, 2010

Arrested Development

Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything - and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It's Arrested Development.

The familiar refrain, by the omniscient narrator (uncredited Ron Howard) kicks of every episode of this hilarious sitcom. The story revolves around the seriously dysfunctional antics and relationships of Bluth family. A successful entrepreneurial family, the show begins as the patriarch is arrested for financial malfeasance, that evolves into borderline treason. Matters then fall to the one good son, Michael, who tries to take control of the business, put an end to nepotism and corruption, and continue to feed off familial dysfunction.

Michael's snobbish mother, Lucille, finds herself unable to maintain her lifestyle without the easy checkbook of the business to sustain it. Michael's two brothers, GOB and Buster, find themselves absolutely incapable of being helpful, and unable to realize that. His sister Lindsay with her husband Tobias and her daughter Maeby move from Boston to be part of the family, mostly because loser Tobias decides to become an actor. And finally there is George-Michael, Michael's son, who is struggling to balance his admiration for his father, with his own growing physical and emotional needs.

The show is great because of its deeply flawed characters. And through the three seasons of the show, the characters don't evolve much. Yet somehow the flaws are examined and clarified enough to make you accept them for who they are. Justifying the flaws of the characters, to make the audience discount them is, in my mind, the biggest achievement of the show.

Seeing beyond the flaws of the characters, allows the subtle situational comedy to shine through. The show is shot is quasi-documentary style, with hand-held cameras, no laugh-track and an intrusive commentator. A rapid back-and-forth dialog rich in wordplay ties it all together. Conversations and misunderstandings, do more to move the story forward, than dramatic plot elements. Of course the undercurrent of the taboo - incest and infidelity pitch in to help with the story when nothing else seems to happen.

There are several recurring hilarious elements in the story. One of the best is the "Chicken Dance" practiced by the family members. Each family member has their own unique interpretation of the dance when they decide to employ it to bait someone into attempting something that is bound for failure. And when failure does come to pass, there is always the confession "I've made a huge mistake".

The show suffered from classic slow uptake by the audience, in spite of critical acclaim. Eventually success however came, when the show went to DVD and lately to Netflix instant watch, which is where I got to watch it. With the rumors of a feature film, this is probably the best time to watch the three seasons of the show in preparation for the upcoming grand finale.

October 01, 2010

Introduction

Over the last few months, I realized we were steadily moving away from cable as our primary source of entertainment. Instead we were spending more and more time watching shows on demand. Netflix, of course was the primary culprit, and with their support for the Wii, suddenly, things were a lot easier.

Movies are something we watch a lot of any way.

And I was frequently running out of topics for the Blog.

The solution: This new blog - which is going to focus primarily on Reviews. movies, TV shows, gadgets and whatever else.

Turns out, getting a new blog hosted, and linked to my website, with a consistent look and feel is pretty quick and painless. Maybe that should be a topic for a post on my blog.

September 30, 2010

Popular Reviews

Subscribe / Share


Subscribe via email:

 Subscribe in a reader

 Follow me on Twitter

Miscellaneous

 

Bloggers' Rights at EFF

 

Support CC

 

No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions