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 clich├ęs, 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

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