Live long and prosper!

June 18th, 2009


So, finally, I got to see the new Star Trek movie. And the best part was that I watched it in a proper movie hall – not one of these itty bitty 100-seater tiny multiplex large screen home-theatre jinks.

I have always been a fan of the original Star Trek  – more so than any other SciFi programming out there.

Why? Primarily because I prefer to read my SciFi and secondly because most SciFi films and TV serials are either too cheesy and filled with only action/sex/idiotic robots or too complex to be attempted without some form of interactivity with the audience. (Actually I can’t really think of a SciFi flick that was too complex – any suggestions?)

Star Trek : TOS (The Original Series, as it’s apparently now known, in order to distinguish it from the Next Generation, Voyager, Explorer… whatever, you get the idea), was brilliantly conceptualized by Gene Roddenberry in 1964. Some of the obvious devices in the series included the Warp Drive (faster than light propulsion) and a variety of alien encounters. But some of the more unique features were the teleporter and the logic-over-emotion Vulcan species.

But my biggest draw in terms of the series itself was the fact that most technology was a theoretically logical progression from our times and most critically, this technology was rarely more important than the people who used them.

Of course, for a ten-year old boy watching Sunday television on Doordarshan, there were the usual cheesy fights; the fact that Capt. Kirk was a mostly lousy fighter who always managed to hang on to the cliff edge but still get the girl at the end; the brilliant single-eyebrow lift of Spock (which I learnt to imitate to show off – now I can do both eyebrows independently!); Bone’s corny “He’s dead, Jim!”; and all the shots of the crew members throwing themselves at the corridor walls to indicate the ship under attack!

The new movie manages to keep the spirit of the series alive, without being too much of a by-the-numbers kind of film. Using a slightly illogical plot-device of an alternate time-line being created due to a supernova meeting with red matter – the movie sets itself in a world similar to yet different from the world of TOS.

James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself born in a escape pod after his father dies battling the villain Nero (Eric Bana) and turns into a wild young man who is persuaded to join the Starfleet after a fight with a bunch of cadets. He manages to be Kirk without being overshadowed by William Shatner’s original portrayal, but doesn’t really get to kiss the girl.

Spock is brilliantly portrayed by Zachary Quinto and more than manages to hold his own against the original Leonard Nimoy in the brief sequence they have together. (Yes, Nimoy makes a guest appearance – but Shatner does not.)

The relationship between the two is more reminiscent of the fourth Star Trek movie (The Voyage Home), with Spock, in conflict with his half-human nature, coming into direct conflict with Kirk – who doesn’t originally start the show as the captain of the Enterprise – over the latter’s unconventional approach to solving their problems.

At the end of the movie, I felt a longing to watch the next in the series (I guess it is likely to come out sooner rather than later) and that is a good sign for the future of the new crew.

There were a lot of deft touches like Zoe Saldana’s portrayal of Uhura (and her relationship with Spock – of course, I should’ve guessed it before!); Karl Urban’s funny man Bones McCoy; and Anton Yelchin’s young Russian Chekov having problems with his Ws and Vs!

Nero was the least strongly defined character, what with a bunch of snarling and nothing much else – but possibly this was the only way to allow the other characters to be defined more clearly before coming into conflict with him.

You can watch this movie even if you’re not a Trekkie. It’s far far better than any of the Star Wars prequels – think more along the lines of Batman Begins. J. J. Abrams has managed to set a good foundation for a future Dark Knight-like movie.

RANT: Why do movie halls in Bangalore, at least for the night show, cut the closing credits. It’s terrible to hear Leonard Nimoy say in the closing, “To boldly go where…” and nothing more.

Categories: bangalore, movies, personal | Tags: , , , , | No Comments

One man can make a difference – NOT

October 26th, 2008

After 20 years, two TV movies and a TV show that no one ever watched, Knight Rider is back on the small screen with your favourite car KITT and Michael Knight. But not quite.

David Hasselhoff, the TV star everyone pans but still watches played the original Michael Knight. In his tight jeans and cowboy boots and with his overly ham acted performance, Michael was a unique character. Someone who was different, because they were – not because the script told them to be.  Justin Bruening just doesn’t cut it. He is stiff and starchy and carries a gun, something that the original Michael Knight rarely did. And of course, in deference to the original series, he starts off as Mike Traceur and then is “killed” and is reborn as Michael Knight (btw he is supposedly the original Michael’s son).

KITT has changed as well and how… Even though he now has Val Kilmer’s voice, he just doesn’t have the dry, sardonic style of the original William Daniels. And to top it off, the car has no personality (unlike the original Pontiac TransAm), because although it supposedly is a Ford Shelby Mustang, it morphs into a whole variety of other Ford cars and pickups, like a long running Ford commercial. And then there’s the voice modulator box. Unlike the original single glowing box or the later three bar design, there is a glowing orb, which just looks to weird, like an alien creature.

But the biggest problems with the show is the scripting and the story. Firstly, the original show was really about the car and it was technological, but it wasn’t un-accessible. Most of the stuff the car did was considered “Hey Cool, I wish my car could do that!”. But here it seems that everything is in the realms of half-reality and half-sci-fi where you wonder whether it exists, but you’re sure that you will never get a hold of it even fifty years later unless you work for the US Government or have as much money as Bill Gates (which reminds me, have you seen the really stupid Gates+Seinfeld MicroS**t advertisments? – a post for another date). Secondly, the story, at least for the pilot and the first episode, makes no sense. Some weird people do some weird things like cutting a guy’s thumb for his DNA instead of a blood sample! And the plot just meanders along at times while seeming over full at other times.

And of course, the biggest problem is the premise. The original series said that it was the story of “a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless in a world of criminals who operate above the law…”, but here it seems to be a FBI operation which doesn’t say much for the original Foundation for Law and Government which worked on its own in a kind of vigilante way with tacit approval from the Government. And instead of Michael, KITT, Bonnie and Devon in a world of their own, we now have a dedicated team of FBI personnel which means leaks and stupidity and a bunch of idiotic people who sit around and stare at KITT.

Does that mean I won’t watch it? No… but I will keep going back to the old campy stuff!

Categories: movies, reviews | Tags: | No Comments

Movie Madness

May 8th, 2006

Last week – or rather, the weekend starting Friday before last – was a mad movie weekend. Not as mad as some that I’ve had before – I remember one time I watched six movies in a single day and then added another three the next, but that’s another story!

Coming back to the mad movie weekend recently, A and I watched a range of movies, and finally didn’t end up seeing the movie that we had planned to watch finally!

It started off with us watching Gangster with a few of A’s colleagues. Of course, the plan was to go watch Darna Zaroori Hai, but due to a lack of planning and co-ordination, all the tickets were sold out (I guess most people forgot that it was opening night!).

I went into the movie with trepidation considering that I quite dislike one of the two heroes of the movie, Emraan Hashmi, otherwise known as the Serial Kisser of Bollywood! I really can’t figure out why he’s considered so great. In any case, the other male star Shiney Ahuja, I really like, so it wasn’t like I didn’t want to watch the movie at all.

And I was pleasantly surprised at the movie. Remember this is a commercial Hindi movie, so those of you who can’t handle the style will not like the movie; but for those of you who can – well, be prepared for a interesting, but not great flick.

A young bargirl in Mumbai has a gangster fall in love with her and take her away from her horrid life. But he is hunted by the cops and his former criminal associates and has to send her off to Seoul after a young boy they adopted is shot by the cops. Being a *good* guy (inspite of his criminal tendencies), he hasn’t slept with her because they’re not married yet. In Seoul, all alone and getting drunk every night, she meets the other guy (Emraan), who takes care of her and seduces her at the same time. I won’t let out any more otherwise I’ll give away the ending.

While Kangana as the girl was good in bits, she has a funny way of speaking, so I found that a bit distracting. Emraan Hashmi was his usual self, if you’ve seen any of his other movies, you’ll know what I mean. But Shiney truly carried the movie. He was brilliant in almost every single scene.

The movie was a decent thriller with good music especially compared to the crap coming out of Bollywood nowadays. The camera-work up close was odd considering there were too many close-ups of the actors noses for some reason!

Not a great recommendation, but watch it if you have some time on your hands and nothing better to do.

Neither A nor I felt like stirring out to watch a movie in the theatre the next day. So we decided to do pick up something to watch at home. After not watching some of the Oscar movies before, we took a plunge and picked up both Walk the Line and Brokeback Mountain.

First up was Brokeback. When Ang Lee’s previous movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came out, both of us were hugely underwhelmed. I really couldn’t see what the hype was about. And this time too, I was prepared for disappointment. Unfortunately, some of my fears were not unfounded.

Let me start off by saying – Yes, this is a brave movie. Yes, we need more movies like this. Yes, congrats and all that. BUT(t?) it is not a great MOVIE by any means. I am sorry, but Heath Ledger cannot act. Mumbling your lines doesn’t make you a mid-western cowboy. And where is his passion for Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhall)? It’s supposed to be a romance for god’s sake. What about the chemistry (rather lack of it)? I’ve seen more chemistry between men on Will and Grace for god’s sake! I thought it wasn’t supposed to be about two men who f**k just because they aren’t getting any with the women. But the first time they do it, it seems just like that.

I am really glad that the Oscar went to Crash. As a work of movie making, it’s far far better than Brokeback. I understand that movies talking about uncomfortable topics are necessary, but one needs to make a good movie as well. Remember Philadelphia? It talks about homosexuality, AIDS, racism – you name it. And it was a brilliantly made, brilliantly acted movie.

Watch Brokeback, if nothing else, for the visual beauty. And for Jake – he was good, but let down by his partner!

Walk the Line, on the other hand, is a really good movie. The story of Johnny Cash well told. I hadn’t expected much from the movie and wasn’t sure why Reese Witherspoon won best actress. But after watching the movie, I can understand. Understatedly made, with really good performances from Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese as June Carter.

Watch the movie – it’s really one of the best movies of the last year.

The next day, we again planned to watch DZH, this time with A’s mom and brother, but he didn’t want to watch it, so we switched to Mistress of Spices. A had read the book, and I had skimmed through it, so we knew the plot. Don’t bother reading the book, it’s not worth it. Of course, the reviews of the movie weren’t great either, so we didn’t have any high expectations of the movie.

Unfortunately our fears were not unfounded. Aishwarya Rai cannot act to save her life. The few roles where she was better than a mannequin were those with really great directors (in Raincoat, Devdas and Chokher Bali) and even there she was limited. Dylan McDermott was better, but there was no chemistry between the two of them. Some reviewers have harped on the inane conversations between Aishwarya and the spices in her spice shop, but seem to forget that these conversations are there in the original text (and are just as inane)!

The movie is so bad that I won’t waste any time telling you the plot – just imagine a watered down version of Chocolat. There are just too many things wrong with the movie. The director for some reason seemed to have insisted on the voice-overs being spoken extra slowly in order to make everyone sound short of intelligence. He also doesn’t seem to know much about India – while he sets the opening scenes very obviously in Kerala, the younger version of Aishwarya screams ‘Mummy’ and ‘Papa’ when her parents are attacked by thugs!

The only real redeeming factors about the movie are visual. The spice shop is beautifully created and Santosh Sivan’s cinematography is stunning.

Don’t watch the movie except as a visual treat. In fact, just turn off the sound and play a nice blues cd in the background. It might be far more worthwhile thatway!

Categories: movies, reviews | No Comments

Strongly rising anger…

March 28th, 2006

despondent recently had an entry Open Your Mouth and Die about the shooting of Meher Bhargav. When I was writing about the furore about Rang De Basanti (see earlier posts), what I was most upset about was the fact that there could be very few things in the world that would make people take up arms and kill a defence minister. I felt that people couldn’t be more wrong. What about Meher Bhargav? If I were her husband/son/daughter, I would very strongly like to take a gun and… Okay, maybe I am more prone to violence than other people. But I still feel outraged about the lack of anger for her and her family. It’s like people don’t care anymore.

Coming back to Rang De Basanti, there were those who came out of the movie saying that it was too idealistic. But is anger against the shooting of Mehar Bhargav too idealistic? Was she being ‘too idealistic’ when she tried to stop the b***** eve-teasers? Or are we expected to sit back and say Chalta Hai or Let it go?

While I have pretty radical views on what to do with rapists and eve-teasers (castrate the bloody b********!), I think the law is still far too lenient with such individuals. And in the case of Meher Bhargav, I would still like to shoot the perpetrators in the b***s even if I don’t kill them.

Stand up! Make yourself heard. Change the attitude because of which people can get away with such an atrocity!

Because Meher Bhargav stood up for what she believed in, she was killed. But there are only 6 bullets in a revolver. If we all stand up, at least the 7th person will still be able to make a difference. In a country of a billion people, that’s not too big a sacrifice to make for what’s right.

Categories: india, movies, politics, riots | No Comments

Far too much yellow!

February 7th, 2006

This is not a review of Rang de Basanti. For my own review you can read it at my other blog.

I am disappointed that many people have felt the movie is bad because of personal prejudice. The contentions raised by these individuals varies from ‘Advocating violence is wrong‘ to ‘the characters are daft‘ to ‘nobody in their right minds would do such a thing‘ to ‘Bhagat Singh & Co. were seriously stupid‘ and of course the grand-daddy of them all ‘non-violence is the only true solution!

*Please note that I am using Bhagat Singh & Co. as a mere shortcut. Each member of the group had his/her own very important part to play in their activities. No flaming please, in this regard at least!

I have nothing personally against any of the individuals linked to above, and while they have every right to their own opinions, I do feel the need to balance the perspectives somewhat.

Firstly, let’s look at the historical perspective.

1. Indian independence was not won by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. For those of you who think I’m being blasphemous, let me clarify: Mahatma Gandhi was a brilliant leader of the masses. But he did not act in isolation. It took every single person who participated in the freedom movement to make any impact on the Raj. Both the violent and non-violent protests were necessary. And more importantly, the British left India, only because their hold on the country had become tenuous following WWII. They no longer had the men and money to fight to keep ruling over the country. And the protests (both violent and non violent) were getting too difficult to handle.

2. If Bhagat Singh & Co. had not decided to act in the fashion they did nearly 80 years ago, how many people would have realised that the machinery of the Raj could actually be damaged? One must remember that for over a century people believed that the power of the Queen over the country was inviolate. We were a country of people who had been ruled by kings for as long as we could remember. Nobody attacked the kings except for family and other kings. Bhagat Singh & Co. stood up to the establishment and the rest of the country realised that it was possible to change the system themselves. Not everyone decided to take arms against the Raj. Many of them joined the Gandhian movement. But people were jolted out of their current existence by the hope of a new order largely due to these men’s actions. Ask your grandparents about it if you don’t believe me.

3. There were many many people back then who decided that Bhagat Singh & Co. had no right to take the ‘law into their own hands’. If it hadn’t been for the others who did not sit back and agree with the ‘law’, we might not have gained freedom, because the British would not have to fight to keep control over India.

4. Bhagat Singh & Co. did not use assassination as their only tool. They participated in more non-violent protests than most people living in India today have ever done. The bombs they threw in the parliament were most clearly designed not to hurt anyone (a fact borne-out by the British themselves). They killed Saunders because they believed that he was responsible for murder.

To take a modern example. Today Saddam Hussein is under trial for genocide. The country that brought him to trial is America. American troops have killed more innocent Iraqis than the number of Americans killed by Iraqi troops. Shouldn’t Bush be under trial for genocide too?

You will state that this argument is fallacious. And it is. My point is, why shouldn’t Bhagat Singh & Co. have the right to decide if Saunders was guilty of murder? Who does have that right? Either one should say that nobody has that right. In which case anarchy would reign based on who has the greatest power (America in the example). Or one should say that it depends. On what? In Bhagat Singh & Co’s case, they believed that Saunders was guilty as charged and should be taken away and hanged (or rather – shot). By law in most countries, 12 jury members are enough to convict a man of murder. So we’ve got half a dozen men convicting Saunders of murder. And there was no need for any defence. It was public knowledge that he was responsible for the deaths of many innocent lives. The ‘law’ at that time protected him from any action taken against any ‘native’ person. Who is to say that Bhagat Singh & Co. were wrong in what they did. Not me. None of us might be living the lives we are if it weren’t for them.

Coming back to the film itself.

1. Even though some people find it disagreeable, the fact is that the events of our bunch of modern ‘revolutionaries’ (DJ & Co in short), paralleled the actions of BS & Co. almost exactly.
a. Systemic failure of some kind (Jalianwala Bagh vs. MIG crash)
b. Non violent protest (Simon go home vs. candles at Amar Jawan)
c. Police brutality at non-violent protest.
d. Violent retaliation against a single person identified as cause of said Systemic failure (Saunders vs. Defence Minister).
e. Death of the conspirators (Hanging vs. Shootout)

2. At no point during the film do any of the group advocate violence as a solution to any problem. Karan most clearly says at the end that he agrees that what they have done is wrong. He encourages everyone to change the system by joining the IAS or politics. He does not pretend to be a hero of any kind. Anyone who watches the movie and comes out saying that the movie is advocating violence needs to have his head checked. It’s like saying that because Harry must kill Voldemort, JK Rowling is advocating violence. RDB is a movie that incites us to change our society just like HP is a series of books talking about good vs evil. Neither of them say use violence. They just point of that at times, when people are pushed too far, violence is the method that they used. Not that violence is the method you should use. Change what you can.

3. Some bloggers believe that nobody living the life of DJ & Co would do such a thing. Why not? Bhagat Singh & Co. did the same thing 80 years ago. They could have also lived ‘normal’ lives had they chosen to. My grandfather himself had a choice of joining the ICS and decided against it (during the Quit India movement). Had he joined it, he would have had a cushier life than most people in our country even today. When you love and care about someone or something (whether it is a friend, a lover, a child or even a country) enough, you will be willing to take up arms against injustice done to the object of your love. And you will be willing to die in that cause. It has happened in the past, and continues to happen today. A young person in college is highly likely to not use the long winding route to justice. Give him a gun and he will go out and kill someone. Babri Masjid anyone? Many of the people who brought the structure down were young students caught up in the moment. Ordinary young men from ordinary middle-class families. Many of them agreed later on that they had done something wrong and would not advocate it. What makes it so unbelievable that DJ & Co would so something so hot headed and then agree that they have done something wrong.

4. Do you really believe that suicide bombers go and attack their targets while pissing in their pants? Far from it. Most of them believe in their cause so strongly that it would take an army to stop them from achieving their purpose. (Of course now a huge number of people will link what DJ & Co did with terrorism. It is a wrong assumption. According to one of the primary working definitions of terrorism, it is the unconventional use of violence against civilians for political gain. The aim of terrorism is to terrify. The aim of DJ & Co was most clearly to administer justice in their eyes. They were not terrorising the government or the people of the country. It is very clear in that regard. If of course you did not recognise that – too bad)

5. Other bloggers believe that the government would not act the way it did. There would not be any attacks on unarmed peaceful protests in the heart of the capital. Nor would there be massed public killings of the group at the AIR headquarters. Wake up and smell the humus. The government in India and around the world does exactly that. Time and again. It can and will do that because it has the power to attack those who oppose it. The media is powerless to report on this beyond a point because most forms of mass media are commercial entities and can be bribed, bullied or coerced into reporting the news (or not) in the way the government wants. Look at Google in China!

But most importantly, this movie is NOT advocating violence. For those of you who misread this, it is NOT ADVOCATING VIOLENCE. Rather it is a movie that tries to tell you that things are wrong with our country in much the same way that things were wrong 80 years ago. If we sit back on our fat asses and type on our computers arguing about whether violence is right or wrong, nothing will change.

It is a MOVIE after all. It is NOT a documentary. It is designed to get your minds out from the little hole that it has dragged itself into and make you look at the world around you. And in that, it has achieved it purpose adequately. Because you are sitting there and criticising it, you have been affected. Good or bad. It doesn’t matter. But criticise the right things. Don’t go on about how the movie advocates violence or how violence doesn’t change anything. Violence exists in this world. It does change things. For good or bad. The war on Iraq can be directly linked to the twin tower attacks. Did it improve life for the Al-Qaeda? Maybe not. But it changed things – most certainly. (Again I am not linking Dj & Co with Al-Qaeda. I am just pointing out that the effects of violence are far from negligible). And the movie most definitely does not advocate violence. Watch it again if you don’t believe me. And this time, watch it with an open mind. And remember that you can watch a movie like this, today, in a free India, because of people like Bhagat Singh & Co.

Categories: movies, politics | 2 Comments