Friday, April 29, 2005

Movies: Spider-Man 2

I finally watched Spider-Man 2 on CD last night.  I thought it was a very good movie!

I suppose everyone knows the story already, but let me just repeat it here: it's two years after the events of the first Spider-Man film, and Peter Parker's (Tobey Maguire) life is in a shambles thanks to his secret identity.  His relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is going from bad to worse, his grades are declining, and he's unable to pay the rent.  Besides all that, there's the emotional baggage he's carrying, knowing that he was partly responsible for his Uncle Ben's death.  Anyway, as things turn out, Peter meets Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) for research work on a paper he's writing.  The doctor is working on an experiment related to fusion, funded by Osborn Industries, which after the death of Norman Osborn is now run by son Harry (James Franco).  Of course, things go wrong during a critical experiment, and the four mechanical arms that Dr. Otto used to handle the radioactive materials are now permanent parts of his nervous system.  They're also interfaced with his brain, and he is convinced that he needs to try the experiment again, so he takes to stealing to support the research — as new super-criminal Doctor Octopus or Doc Ock.  Spider-Man attempts to stop him, but certain events lead him to abandon his identity and go back to being just Peter Parker.

Will Spider-Man return to stop Doc Ock?  How does Spider-Man/Peter Parker deal with his personal problems?  All these things are very satisfyingly dealt with in the movie.  Not only does it work as an action/adventure film (the train sequence is breathtaking), it also worked on an emotional level.  I had a great time.

The movie is directed by Sam Raimi and scripted by Alvin Sargent (story by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and Michael Chabon).

The scene where Doc Ock is hospitalised after the accident is very reminiscent of director Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II — not literally, rather, in the way it's filmed and edited.  The beautiful paintings that you see during the opening credits (they basically summarise the first movie) were done by master artist Alex Ross.  You can download those paintings from his site.

The only criticism I have about the movie is that I was never really convinced with the transition of Doc Ock from what seemed to be a very levelheaded scientist to a maniacal villain.  He seemed like too reasonable a guy to do the things he did, regardless of whether the arms were "talking" to him or not!

I do hope the (inevitable?) sequel will have The Lizard or Venom as the main villain.  Both are superb creations in the comics, and I really look forward to seeing them on screen.  Every time Dr. Curt Connors (Dylan Baker) was on screen in this movie, I couldn't help thinking of what the film version of The Lizard would look like.  It's probably foreshadowing the villain for the next movie, though I later learnt that there is a reference to "Eddie" (for Eddie Brock a.k.a. Venom) in the first film itself.  I probably need to watch the first film again, to spot this reference (I didn't know about Venom when I watched the first movie) as well as to compare it with Spider-Man 2.

Oh, and I finished reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  It's an awesome book and I actually got more out of it now than when I read it originally!  Now I suppose I'll have to read the second and third books again as well, since I read them quite a while ago.  Or should I read the fourth and fifth books, since I have not read them at all!!

Anyway, while I make up my mind about that, I am currently on Part 4 (of 12) of DC Comics' 1986 Watchmen.  My description for this amazing graphic novel by Alan Moore (writer), Dave Gibbons (artist) and John Higgins (colourist) would go something like this — a superbly written book with great depth, breadth and scope, wonderful characters, and enough subplots to choke any screenwriter attempting to make a movie out of it!

And that's after reading just two parts out of the total twelve.  I'll write in detail about it later.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Three Things

One.  My training at TCS starts on May 27th in Mumbai.  The venue is Hotel Sea Princess at Juhu.  The training will go on for 17 days and at the end of that I will be told where my final posting would be.  The coordinator for this Induction programme is Ms. Aswini Mano.

Two.  I watched Van Helsing last night.  I wouldn't say it is a great movie, but I certainly enjoyed watching it.  The movie has lots of action and moves blindingly fast, but what I appreciated most were the very beautiful locations.  I thought they really added atmosphere to the film.  The visuals were great in some places but not so convincing in others (I am here specifically referring to the werewolf and the "Mr. Hyde" CGI).

Three.  With an April 29th release date, initial reviews (from press screenings, etc.) of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are out.  Of course, there are some critics who bashed the film, but overall, the reviews indicate that it is a well-made film.  I look forward to seeing the movie.  I read the first book in the series some four years ago so I started re-reading it today.  Found a lot of new things to remember and quote!

Well the original title of this post no longer is true because I just thought of two more things to write about.  I guess these things happen.  Like one of those meaningless coincidences that Douglas Adams talks about in Hitchhiker's, my TCS training period is 17 days, and according to Aliens, if a team of Colonial Marines is overdue for 17 days, a rescue team will be sent.

Finally, reported about the Saw 2 Poster today.  It's a pretty great poster, cleverly carrying on the theme from the earlier film's posters.  Saw 2 will be directed by Darren Bousman (apparently he is writing the script also, under supervision from the first film's creators).

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Blade Runner Drawing (Completed)

I finished the Blade Runner drawing I was working on.  After scanning it I touched it up a bit in Photoshop (added text and a bit of faint colour).

Here is a small version of the picture.  Click it to see a larger version of the drawing:

The drawing came out OK, I guess, but it's not my best.  When it comes to art, our eyes are trained to accept accurate representations of reality.  When a drawing has flaws, we immediately know that something is wrong, even though we may not be able to identify exactly what the flaws are.

I'm my own best critic, so I picked out the following flaws in the picture.  Next time I'll try to do better —
  • Harrison Ford's (Deckard's) and Sean Young's (Rachael's) faces have come out OK.  But Rutger Hauer's (Roy Batty's) face has not come out so well.
  • If I had a white pen, I could have experimented with adding some highlights to the image.  As it is now, the text "Off World" on the blimp at the bottom left had to be done by drawing an outline and colouring around it.
  • I don't like the way the buildings, etc. seem to be sticking out of Roy's head!  At the time, I actually couldn't figure out what to put in that blank space.
  • Rachael and Roy are both looking in the same direction.  I should have drawn Rachael looking the other way.
  • The Chinese girl's face is actually on a large, building-size screen.  That hasn't really come out well, and the perspective is not quite right in those elements of the image.

I think this is the first time I've analysed a drawing of mine closely.  Perhaps if I do that to earlier drawings I'll find all sorts of flaws!

Thanks to Mansi for her comments on the work-in-progress image I posted.

A drawing I want to do in the future: something related to Sin City.

A couple of changes

I changed a couple of things on this blog.  The first thing you will notice is that the colour scheme is different — it is a customised version of Dave Shea's "Snapshot Sable" theme.  I like blue better than the previous green colour.

I also updated my Blogger Profile.  Favourite Books now includes Sin City: That Yellow Bastard, and the link for my personality type is changed. has an easy-to-understand description of my personality type, ISTJ, and it fits me well.

Also added a link to a Creative Commons License at the end of the blog page.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Blade Runner Drawing (Work in Progress)

I have been writing quite a bit about Blade Runner recently, and like I mentioned yesterday, I have by now downloaded several images from the movie.  These include some very nice drawings and paintings of characters from the movie, and therefore I thought of trying my hand at that as well.

I am trying a couple of new things with this drawing.  Firstly, I am consciously deciding on a layout.  Also, I am consciously trying to highlight different elements of the drawing by contrasting lights and darks.  Both these things are inspired by comics artist Jim Lee.  Whether I mess things up or not, only time will tell, but it doesn't hurt trying.

Currently the drawing is about two-thirds complete.  I thought of having the three main characters from the film in it — Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, Sean Young as Rachael, and Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty.  Depending on how these three faces turn out on the page, I'll add other details to complete the drawing.  So far, two of the faces (Deckard's and Rachael's) are done.

At first, I thought I'd wait until I finished the drawing before writing about it.  Adding another post here would mean that the post with my drawing of Varun would go off the main page!  And I didn't want the blog page to only have text.  However it's now already 3:40 AM and so I am going to continue the drawing only tomorrow — so I thought I'd post a Work-in-Progress picture anyway.  Here it is:

Blade Runner Work in Progress by Karthik

Hopefully this won't turn out as one of those drawings I never finish.  I'll post the completed picture once it's done.  Comments on this are welcome.

There's also another thing I wanted to write about.  Zee Studio (that movie channel formerly known as Zee Movie Zone and Zee MGM) is showing Kill Bill Vol. 1 on May 8th and Kill Bill Vol. 2 on May 15th (at 8 PM).  Now May 15th is my birthday, and what better to watch on that day than a Quentin Tarantino movie?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Blade Runner Comic, AOD Alternate Ending

Blade Runner is one of my all-time favourite science-fiction films.  I was searching for images from the movie today, because I intend to do a drawing related to the movie sometime.  I did manage to get several images, video clips and other stuff (a lot from this site), but one link caught my attention and I felt I just had to write about it.

This site called Bladezone has the 1982 Marvel Comics adaptation of the movie online.  It can be viewed here.

The comic adaptation is written by Archie Goodwin, pencilled by Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon, inked by Williamson, Dan Green and Ralph Reese, and coloured by Marie Severin.  I thought the comic was nicely done, capturing the feel of the movie well.  There's especially a double-page spread showing the cityscape of Los Angeles, 2019 that's really nice.  Of course, since the comic came out at the time of the movie's original release, it is quite in tone with the theatrical version of the film — there is no ambiguity in here as to whether Deckard is a replicant or a human.

The comic is 44 pages long, excluding the cover page, etc.  It will take some time therefore to read it online, but if you have a decent internet connection you can manage it.  I've downloaded all the pages.

This is just in!  For a very long time now I've been trying to find a clip of the alternate ending to Army of Darkness.  Finally, I found it at this page, and I just watched it.  No matter how many times you read about something like this, it can't beat actually watching it, and it was great.

At the end of the theatrical release version, Ash (who has been fighting the "medieval dead" in the 13th century) is told that if he says the words "klaatu verada nikto", he would return to his own time, and the evil would be stopped.  Of course, being the fool that he is, he doesn't say the words properly — and the evil follows him back to the present time.  There's a terrific fight with a demon in S-Mart (the supermarket where Ash works), and the immortal concluding line "Hail to the King, Baby".

The original intended ending, though, goes like this — Ash is given a potion by the Wiseman, and told that each drop he drinks from it would allow him to sleep for a century.  Ash goes to a cave and seals it, and then drinks the potion.  Unfortunately, he drinks one drop too much (being the fool that he is, of course)!  When he wakes up, he exits the cave, and to his shock, sees a desolate landscape with several wrecked earth monuments and a red sky — and realises that he is the only man left on the face of the earth!  The movie ends with his cry of despair, "No!!  I slept too long!!"  This ending was deemed too dark for audiences, and it was changed before the film was released.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Movies, Censorship, New Comics

I watched the original Jeepers Creepers about a year ago on TV, and now I got to see the sequel on STAR Movies.  The two movies have an interesting concept — the Creeper is a creature that awakens once every 23 years, and it feeds on humans for 23 days before it goes to sleep again.  It can smell fear in its victims, and chooses what parts to eat and "absorb" into its own body.

In the first movie, the Creeper menaced a brother and sister.  The sequel is set a few days after the events in the first film, in fact, on Day 22 of the Creeper's feeding period (apparently, apart from setting the sequel 23 years in the future, which studios would not appreciate, this was the only route available to the filmmakers).  A bus transporting a high-school basketball team breaks down on a deserted highway, and the Creeper is hungry for their flesh.  Although the story and characters aren't really developed that much, the movie worked as it built suspense very well, and took full advantage of its setting (deserted road, near cornfields).  It is written and directed by Victor Salva.  Of course, this TV version (like most TV versions of horror movies) is censored for language and possibly some of the gore as well.

On a related note, STAR Movies recently showed Evil Dead II.  I would like to warn people who are planning to watch it on this channel, that it is a HEAVILY CUT version.  This, inspite of the fact that they have certified it as being suitable only for viewers of 18 and above.

A bit of history would make things clearer.  From the time STAR Movies started operations, they have had this practice of classifying films as G, PG, 12, 15 or 18 (closely based on the BBFC's system).  In early years (up to 1995 or so), these ratings had a purpose, and they fairly well suited the films they were attached to.  After 1995/1996, the channel started showing censored versions of movies, so the ratings had no relevance.  You never get to see anything rated '18' on this channel anymore.

Which is what annoyed me with their version of Evil Dead II.  When they showed that '18' rating before the film, I almost expected them to show an uncut version — but what I got was a version that was so badly cut, that it would be even tamer than something rated '15'!  The possessed Linda dance scene is totally missing, therefore, there is no headless-corpse-with-chainsaw scene in the cabin, the shot of Ash actually stabbing his possessed hand is cut, and it was somewhere here that I stopped watching the movie.

You would be better off if you watched the movie on some other channel, or rented a CD.  Again, if you are lucky, the CD that you rent might contain an uncut version of the film — if you aren't so lucky and if it is an Indian 'Diskovery Video' version, then that is slightly cut as well.

Now to change topic, I got to read the complete The Dark Knight Returns today.  I had read books 2 and 4 earlier, now I read the other two books.  The story broadly covers the return of the Batman, ten years after his 'retirement'.  As he's now 55 years old, he is no longer the fit crimefighting hero that he was earlier, and in fact he is portrayed as an obsessed, tormented, raging figure.  Frank Miller's story covers various themes, such as how the Batman is now viewed as a genuine menace to Gotham City's public in general, the role of the media, etc.  The books are pretty nightmarish in tone and I definitely think that they are suitable for mature readers only.  In India though, publishers Gotham Comics are selling this four-part series as just another Batman story.

Yesterday, I searched for Spider-Man India on Google, and found the following reviews for the four-part series — this one from, and this.  Apparently it came out long ago in the US, Marvel Comics is coming out with a collected edition also.  The funny thing is that I never saw it in shops here.  I tried getting the books in Manipal and in Hyderabad, to no avail.  You'd think that the books would be aggressively marketed in India, but I unfortunately never got to see the books.  Other titles published by Gotham Comics have advertisements asking you to order a Special Collector's Edition of Spider-Man India #1 for Rs. 195.  Considering that regular Gotham Comics titles are sold at Rs. 15 and Rs. 25, I think that's a pretty high price for just one issue.  Anyway, I hope I will get to read them sometime.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Of Noir and Crossovers

I'd recently posted about two of the Sin City stories that I read — "The Big Fat Kill" and the excellent "That Yellow Bastard" — well, yesterday I read another one, called "The Hard Goodbye".  These are the three stories that have been adapted into the movie.

"The Hard Goodbye" is about Marv, who spends a night with Goldie, only to find her dead when he wakes up.  She was pretty much the best thing to happen to him, and he decides to find the people responsible for her murder and take revenge.  While the story may sound simple, it has deep characterisation, and it kept me totally involved.  Like the other work by Frank Miller that I've read so far, it is very emotional.  I also love the black and white artwork in this story.

Recently, I've also read a number of crossovers, including the four-part Aliens vs. Predator vs. The Terminator series, Batman/Spawn, the three-part Batman vs. Predator series, and the four-part Superman vs. The Terminator series.

Out of these, Batman vs. Predator was pretty decent, with a Predator showing up in Gotham City and murdering gangsters.  It all eventually leads to a showdown with the Batman himself.  I thought the artwork was very good, and the series had its share of bloody and violent battles.  If Predator 2, the movie, had taken place in Gotham City, it would have been similar to what this series depicted.  Written by Dave Gibbons, with artwork by Andy (pencils) & Adam Kubert (inks, letters) and Sherilyn van Valkenburgh (colours).

I did not like Superman vs. The Terminator much.  It had Sarah and John Connor in Metropolis, running from Terminators who want to eliminate John.  Superman steps in and fights for humanity in 2000 A.D. as well as 2032 A.D.  A lot of characters are introduced (Supergirl, Superboy, Lex Luthor, Cyborg, Steel and a Terminatrix), and personally I did not think the timelines were properly handled at all.  Written by Alan Grant, art by Steve Pugh (pencils), Mike Perkins (inks) and David Stewart (colours), letters by Clem Robins.

Aliens vs. Predator vs. The Terminator picks up a short while after the storyline of the Alien: Resurrection movie.  Annalee Call and a group of soldiers have got word that a space lab is conducting strange experiments involving the aliens, and therefore plan to stop them with Ellen Ripley's help.  Once they get there, they stumble upon a plot to destroy humanity — apparently Skynet has embedded commands in dormant Terminators, who would resume their attack against humans when the time is right.  And now they're building Alien-Terminator hybrids.  It's up to Ripley to save the day.  Somehow, the Predators have also tracked them down, and they're willing to assist Ripley in destroying the Alien-Terminator hybrids.  I thought this series was OK, though, I didn't much like the interpretation of the Predator.  They're shown simply as green-skinned humanoids, and all Predators look alike.  And I also have a complaint about the Predators' ships being orange in colour.  Other than these two complaints I liked the artwork.  Written by Mark Schultz, artwork by Mel Rubi (pencils), Christopher Ivy (inks) and David Stewart (colours), letters by Pat Brousseau.

I also read the one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore, and illustrated by Brian Bolland & John Higgins.  This was an excellent book, with Batman tracking down the Joker, who has escaped from Arkham Asylum.  The Joker's origins are also explored in parallel, and we see what a truly disturbed character he is.  The artwork is very beautiful and detailed, and I think it's some of the best artwork I've seen in any comic.  It wonderfully supports the character-driven story, and overall, it is a fantastic book.

Movies: Child's Play

I watched Child's Play 2 last night, and it was great.  Having watched the first movie for the second time a few days earlier, I had the added bonus of continuity in the story being preserved.  It is also worth noting that I have now seen all five Child's Play movies.

The first film opens with serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) being cornered by cop Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) in a toystore.  To cheat death, Ray transfers his soul into a Good Guy doll named Chucky (Ray is a practitioner of voodoo and other black magic).  Later on, working mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) buys the same doll and gifts it to her son, six-year old Andy (Alex Vincent).  And soon, people start getting killed.  Andy is the only one Chucky has revealed his secret to (the fact that he is alive), so no one else believes him when he says that the doll was responsible for those killings.  Chucky was apparently destroyed at the end of the first film.

Of course, the company that manufactures the dolls wants to know what went wrong with the Chucky doll, and at the beginning of Part 2, they put together the doll only to have it escape and resume its killing spree.  With his mother in a mental institution, Andy is adopted by a caring couple, but it's not too long before Chucky comes after him.  Chucky must transfer his soul into Andy's body, otherwise he will permanently be trapped in the doll's body.  Andy once again tries to warn his new family — the couple, Phil (Gerrit Graham) and Joanne (Jenny Agutter) Simpson, and Kyle (Christine Elise), a young girl who has also been adopted — but people still find the concept of a killer doll hard to believe, until it's too late.

I found both these movies to be extremely entertaining.  The effects that brought the Chucky doll to life were great and very convincing, Brad Dourif's voice work as Chucky is awesome.  I also thought Alex Vincent's acting as Andy was excellent.

The series consists of Child's Play (directed by Tom Holland), Child's Play 2 (directed by the first movie's co-screenwriter John Lafia), Child's Play 3 (directed by Jack Bender), Bride of Chucky (directed by Ronny Yu), and the recent Seed of Chucky (directed by Don Mancini).

Don Mancini created the concept for the series, wrote all the five movies, and directed the last film.  While the initial entries in the series were more traditional horror films, the recent ones have been more inclined towards dark comedy.  The last two are the strongest entries in the series in my opinion, with a great amount of creativity on display.

According to this page on IMDb, the TV version of Child's Play 2 is an extended version, and this is the version that I saw.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Movies: Nemesis Game

STAR Movies showed Child's Play 2 (it's the only one in the series I haven't seen yet) at 11 PM tonight and I recorded it to watch later.  But then when I was about to sit down and watch that, I saw that the next movie on the channel was Nemesis Game.  I was under the impression that it was one of the Nemesis movies of director Albert Pyun, but as it turned out it was something different.

The movie has an interesting concept — the Nemesis Game of the title involves the quest for the meaning of life.  It's somewhat similar to the concept of Pi, where the protagonist is searching for an explanation to reality itself.  The game in this case involves riddles.  These riddles are found in subway stations and other gloomy places, spraypainted on walls.  The player answers these riddles one after another, and upon solving the final riddle, the ultimate "Design" is revealed.

Sara Novak (Carly Pope) is a college student whose mother died in a car accident some time ago, and she is drawn into such a game.  Vern (Adrian Paul) is a video store owner who also gets involved in the game, and soon it becomes apparent that the answer is definitely not pleasant.  A parallel plot is that of Sara's father, a cop, who is investigating a woman named Emily Gray (Rena Owen) who has confessed to murder.  Emily is someone who is aware of the Design, and apparently that has something to do with whatever crimes she committed.

Now the movie certainly did a good job of building suspense and raising lots of intriguing questions — namely what is the Design, and what happens when one answers the final riddle, how is the Design related to what Emily Gray did, who is behind these riddles, and so on.  However, somewhere towards the end of the movie I started thinking "when are we going to get some explanations?"  Not too long after that the movie ended, and the problem is that no explanations whatsoever were offered!

I understand that a proper explanation can't be given — after all, the movie is about the meaning of life itself, something which I am sure even the director/writer Jesse Warn knows — but the movie ended very abruptly, and no resolution was given.  While an ambiguous ending, I realise, is probably the only way to go with such a story, I was atleast expecting answers to SOME of the questions that the movie raised.  Leaving that aside, I think the movie was pretty nicely made, it certainly kept my interest (unfortunately that made the ending feel all the more like a cheat) and had a nice creepy atmosphere.  I think it's worth a watch.

Hitchhiker's Trailer

As I mentioned in the last post, the second of the two movies I am really waiting to see is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I had the opportunity to see the new trailer for the movie yesterday (it was actually released a while back but I only downloaded it yesterday — here is a direct link to the medium-res trailer, which is about 12 MB in size), and I must say it is one of the best trailers I have ever seen.  It begins with a voice-over, introducing the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as a standard repository for all knowledge and wisdom in the universe.  Then, as the Guide opens, the voice-over begins describing what the book has to say about movie trailers.  While this is happening, footage from the movie is shown.  Here is a transcript of the Guide's entry on trailers.

Movie trailers are designed to give you an idea of the film in question, in a very short space of time.  Typically, they begin with the introduction of the main character, who will very shortly have something so utterly fantastic happen to him, that someone just HAD to make a movie about it.  (Arthur Dent's character is shown and he is apparently not too happy about his house being demolished, and certainly shocked at seeing huge spaceships in the sky).  Often, this section is preceded by the words 'In a world'... (the Earth is shown being destroyed by Vogon ships) ...but sometimes not.

Trailers also normally employ a deep voice (narrator's voice turns deep, like a typical movie trailer voice), that sounds like a seven-foot tall man who has been smoking cigarettes since childhood. (narrator clears throat)

The goal is to create a piece of advertising that's original and exciting, yet intelligent and provocative.  In other words, lots of things blowing up... (explosions happen) ...occasionally interrupted by a girl in a bikini (girl in bikini shows up).

Generally trailers also feature heartless, evil villains, hideous creatures, dolphins, physical violence and of course, the promise of true love.  And lastly, there is a final montage, often set to rock music... (you see a montage, set to rock music) ...that is designed simply to blow away whatever synapses you have left in your brain.

This culminates in a reveal of the main title, like so... (the movie's title appears on the screen, read out by a deep voice) ...followed by the release date (April 29, 2005) so that the audience might plan the next few months of their lives accordingly.

This was certainly a remarkably imaginative trailer!  By the way, the end music is from Danny Elfman's score from Men in Black, which suits this trailer really well.

Oh, and the movie's official site — which, by the way, was launched 42 days before the movie's release date — is also very nicely done.  Especially the 'Guide to the Guide', which even gives you a recipe for Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters.

There is no Justice without Sin

The above quote is from the awesome Trailer 2 for Sin City, one of the two movies I am really waiting to see.  The trailer can be viewed at the Sin City website.  I read a few of Frank Miller's Sin City comics over the last few days.  The movie is based on three of the stories, namely "Sin City (The Hard Goodbye)", "The Big Fat Kill" and "That Yellow Bastard".  I have read the last two stories.

"The Big Fat Kill" opens with Shellie, who is in danger from the drunk Jackie Boy and gang.  However, Dwight is in the room and he drives away Jackie Boy and gang, who make their way into Old Town.  That's where the complications start.  Old Town is a section of Sin City entirely run by the prostitutes there.  The book describes them like so — "The ladies are the law here, beautiful and merciless.  If you've got the cash and play by the rules, they'll make all your dreams come true.  But if you cross them, you're a corpse.".  Dwight apparently has a past with the ladies in Old Town, so he knows what can happen when a drunk gang shows up there — namely a total bloodbath — and thanks to the deadly assassin Miho, everyone is killed.  But then something is discovered that might mean the end of the truce (between the ladies, the cops and the mob) in Old Town, and Dwight must now take steps to ensure this doesn't happen.  An entertaining story, with some over-the-top violence, and one very bizarre/funny sequence (namely the talking head one).

While I liked the previous story, I absolutely loved the next story I read, "That Yellow Bastard".  This is about a cop, John Hartigan, who is one of the few honest cops in Sin City, and has always stood by principles no matter what.  With just one hour to go before retirement, he is informed about one loose end — a little girl, eleven-year old Nancy Callahan, is in grave danger of being raped and killed by Junior, the son of corrupt Senator Roark.  So Hartigan saves her and puts Junior into a coma, but then he is imprisoned.  The Senator threatens Hartigan that he will kill his family unless he confesses to having raped Nancy and shooting his son.  Hartigan spends eight years in prison, receiving letters every week from Nancy, who owes her life to him.  She writes to him under the name of "Cordelia", so that no one would be able to trace them back to her.  But one day the letters stop coming, and Hartigan must save her again.  "That Yellow Bastard" is one of the most involving stories I've ever read, and it was very dramatic.  The relationship between Nancy Callahan and Hartigan reminded me of the Luc Besson film The Professional.  The characters are very well written and the story overall is very emotional.  There is some pretty disturbing stuff in the book, especially the confrontation of Hartigan and the Yellow Bastard, but it all establishes the atmosphere of Sin City very well.

Both these stories feature great artwork.  The art is primarily in pure black and white (no tones), except for little bits of (yellow!) colour (to highlight certain parts of the art).  The whole thing is of course a one-man job, being written, drawn and lettered by Frank Miller.

I can't wait to see how the books have been translated into the movie.  Everything I've seen about the movie so far looks absolutely stunning.

Friday, April 15, 2005

It's an Arac Attack!

Watched Eight Legged Freaks last night on HBO.  It was a pretty awesome little movie, lots of fun.  The story is pretty typical, a drum of some toxic waste falls into a river near the town of Prosperity, Arizona, and mutates spiders to giant size.  Soon the arachnids terrorise the town, and it's up to Sheriff Sam Parker (Kari Wuhrer) and her family to lead the town to face the titular creatures.  It's an old-fashioned monster movie, only done with modern (excellent) visual effects, which make the creatures very convincing on screen.  I thought the humans in the movie (including David Arquette and Scarlett Johansson) gave very good performances as well, and I liked the way their characters were written.  Directed by Ellory Elkayem, this movie also had a great rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" by Joey DeLuxe during the end credits.  The original title of this movie was Arac Attack, but according to a post on the IMDb Forums, it was changed to avoid confusion with "Iraq attack".  I like the original title better then the final one.

I got the CD of Mindhunters a couple of days ago.  This movie was also very good, it is directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and most recently Exorcist: The Beginning), and is about a group of FBI agents who find themselves on a remote island, undergoing a test that will qualify those successful to become profilers.  However, once they arrive on the island, they start getting killed off one by one (the movie contains many nasty but well thought out murder sequences), and it becomes apparent that there is a killer in their midst, and it will take all of their profiling skills to find out who it is.  Very tense movie, I especially loved the way Harlin set up each murder sequence (one scene in particular — the one with the "electrified" water — is so well filmed that I was practically holding my breath for the entire length of that sequence!) to have maximum effect, apparently he tweaked the editing of the film a lot to get the pacing just right.  It shows.

Finally, I did watch Big Trouble in Little China as I mentioned, a few days ago.  It has been a long time since I watched this cult film and it was a total blast this time around.  It's a very entertaining film about pig trucker Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) getting involved with some nasty Chinese sorcery.  He goes to the airport with his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) in order to pick up Wang's girlfriend Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) — but the girl (and eventually his truck as well) gets kidnapped.  Soon, it becomes apparent that Miao Yin was abducted by David Lo Pan (James Hong), who is a cursed centuries-old sorceror, who must marry a girl with green eyes to lift the curse and gain ultimate power.  With a little assistance from local sorceror/tour bus driver Egg Shen (Victor Wong), nosey reporter Grace Law (Kim Cattrall) and a few friends, Jack and Wang set off on a rescue mission.  Superb adventure/comedy movie from director John Carpenter that really lives up to it's title.

Some interesting links

I came across these links recently and thought of sharing them:

Detective Comics #27 (published in May 1939) contains the first ever Batman story.  Kit's Silver Age Comics has scans of this six page story, and a few other notable Batman stories, here.

Was browsing Jim Lee's blog today.  We got a cable internet connection at home so I downloaded four videos of a sketch done by Lee, of the character Jenny Sparks.  The DC Comics site has a page with the videos here, though I downloaded them from this page on The Anomaly.

It was awesome watching these videos, they show a true artist at work.  I have a few issues of Jim Lee's Batman: Hush, and a Superman story he drew, and I like his artwork a lot.

Also came across this very negative review for the upcoming The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie.  The link I have given is to the short spoiler-free review of the film, the site also has a longer review but I didn't read that as it contains spoilers.

The past few days I've been reading a lot of articles on Wikipedia on comics.  Came across a LOT of very interesting information.

A new drawing... and my best one yet!

The first time I attempted drawing a picture of Varun was some seven years ago.  That attempt came out pretty well.  A few days back though, Varun suggested that I do a caricature of him (after looking at the caricatures I did for Interface).  So I did, and here is the result:

I consider this drawing the best I have done till date.  Varun was very happy with it too...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A headline with a difference

A lot of the previous posts have been about comics or movies.  Well, this one is no different, but I just put a different headline for some variation.

I read the new comics I got and they were great.  Planetary #2 was terrific as expected, with Snow, Wagner and The Drummer investigating monsters in Japan.  Of course we all know which monsters writer Warren Ellis was referring to!  Tomb of Dracula #2 had an all-out battle between vampires and vampire hunters, as the hunters prepare to ambush Dracula in his lair.  Dracula is beginning his transformation into super-vampire, but for the four days during which that transformation takes place, he would be vulnerable to attack.  But of course he is well aware of that fact!  Astonishing X-Men #2 had beautiful artwork and an interesting storyline where one Dr. Kavita Rao has found a "cure" for mutation.  Finally, Book 4 of Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns featured intense action and an even more intense storyline, with complete chaos in Gotham City.  The issue features a violent and ugly battle between Batman and Superman towards the end.

Got the CD of Big Trouble in Little China.  It has been a very long time since I've seen this movie.  I am going to watch it now.

Friday, April 08, 2005

More comic goodness

I got some great Gotham comics today.  There's Warren Ellis/John Cassaday/Laura DePuy's Planetary #2, Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Night Returns Book 4 (I have Book 2), Tomb of Dracula #2 (I read #1 a couple of months ago.  The story features Blade) and Astonishing X-Men #2.  I read about this title just yesterday on the John Cassaday site, and I'm surprised they're publishing this in India.  This comic is written by Buffy creator Joss Whedon and illustrated by Cassaday.  Apparently it won several awards, and the art looks awesome.

I haven't read these yet, and am looking forward to doing so.  I'll write an update once I read them.

I also watched The Grudge again today.  It was not as scary as the first time for the obvious reason that I knew what was going to happen, and I was also not watching it alone.  Varun liked the movie too.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Comics: Planetary

While I was in Manipal, I used to always buy a bunch of Gotham comic books before leaving for any bus journey — the main reason being the fact that there was a newsstand nearby.  Just before the Kodaikanal trip last month, I again bought a bunch of books (following tradition), among which one was Planetary Issue 1.

This was a title I had not heard of before, and I was a bit surprised that it was being published in India.  Anyway I found the first issue very interesting.  The book is written by Warren Ellis and is illustrated by John Cassaday, and is about the organisation Planetary, consisting of the hundred year old Elijah Snow, the millionaire Jakita Wagner and The Drummer, who can communicate with machines.  The organisation is funded by the mysterious Fourth Man.  In the first issue, the three unearth a quantum computer built by a secret society during WW2.  A bit of searching informed me that this is actually a DC/Wildstorm Comics title (I downloaded the Preview issue from the site), and also turned up these very informative sites — the Planetary Comic Appreciation Page and Planetary.  Also got a bunch of stuff related to the comic today, will go through it tomorrow.

The Gotham Comics site is outdated and doesn't seem to have any information on Planetary, but I am guessing it is a monthly title.  Tomorrow I will try to see if issue #2 is out.

Movies and Comics

Movies I've watched recently include:
  • Hellraiser: Hellseeker - watching it a second time, pretty good.
  • Modern Vampires - weird comedy/horror movie.  I did not like it.
  • The Usual Suspects - I have seen this many times before, one of the best movies I've ever seen.
  • The Grudge - this I watched last night, and it was very scary.  The movie's story isn't anything substantial.  It's basically about a house where something terrible happened, due to which some spirits are around, and they proceed to curse everyone who enters the house.  Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and directed by Takashi Shimizu (who also made the Japanese original Ju-On: The Grudge).  The movie kept the scares coming, and was very creepy indeed.  Normally, I watch movies at night with all the lights off, and this time was no different.  But twenty minutes into the movie, and some dim lights went on.  Reminds me of the time I was watching The Evil Dead around seven years ago.

I finished pencilling and inking the first strip of my new comic Dark Tales 03: Steal.  I have to colour it and letter it and then I will put it up somewhere.

Speaking of comics I was also reading some of my old ones yesterday.  One that I would like to mention in particular is Star Trek #22 (DC Comics), from 1985.  The story is called "Wolf on the Prowl", written by Tony Isabella, with art by Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran, colouring by Michelle Wolfman and lettering by Agustin Mas.  The entity known as Redjac (known by many names throughout time and space, including Jack the Ripper on Earth) is causing murders on board the Enterprise, while Kirk and crew proceed to Enoch IV where they hope a final confrontation with the evil entity will take place.  An clever continuation of the storyline of Episode 36 ("Wolf in the Fold", 1967) of the original TV series.  Unfortunately though, the story in this book was continued in the next issue, which I don't have.

Over the last few days I finished reading all the Calvin and Hobbes strips that I have.  All were great.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Movies and Books

Last night I watched Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (for the second time) and the night before that, Cabin Fever.

Yesterday my father and myself went to YMCA hall where they had an exhibition/sale of old books.  I got these three books: Star Jaws by Will Eisner, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty and The Anatomy of Swearing by Ashley Montagu.

Varun has put up some of his new wallpapers on his blog.

Among other things, I downloaded Skulltag v0.96c yesterday.  It took a long time but as this one is supposed to be much faster than the older version, I am hoping it will run smoothly on the older computer.

Sin City is currently #112 on the Internet Movie Database's Top 250 movies.  The music in the trailer, by the way, is "Cells" by The Servant.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Movies: Identity

I watched Identity for the second time today (on HBO at 9 PM).  The movie is a well-constructed thriller that starts off more or less like a typical murder mystery — a group of strangers arrive at a motel on a dark, rainy and very stormy night under different circumstances, and then start getting killed off one by one — but by the end the movie changes into something else entirely.  Obviously I wouldn't want to spoil the movie for people who have not seen it, so I'll just say that it's very good.

It is written by Michael Cooney, directed by James Mangold and stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet among others.  It also has one of the coolest movie posters I have ever seen.

This evening I was reading some of the Andrew Loomis books I'd downloaded earlier.  If there are two things I need to learn to make my drawings better, they are anatomy and perspective, and hopefully with some practice and these books, it'll happen.  Also started doing some rough layouts for a new comic.

Varun has set up a blog here.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Movies: Seed of Chucky, Assault on Precinct 13

I managed to get Seed of Chucky and Assault on Precinct 13 on CD yesterday.  Now these are two movies I wanted to watch for a long time, but I was not able to do so in Manipal.  Therefore I was quite pleased to get the CDs.  I watched Seed of Chucky yesterday and Assault on Precinct 13 today.

I had positive expectations about both movies because of reviews that I'd read, and both films in fact met or exceeded my expectations!

Seed of Chucky is set in Hollywood, where a film is being made about Chucky and Tiffany, the infamous killer dolls from the previous movies.  The previous movie ended with the titular offspring of the two dolls being born — this child is now six years old and is performing in a circus as a ventriloquist's dummy.  When he sees TV reports about his "parents", he gets to Hollywood and inadvertently resurrects their souls into the puppets used in the film.  Lots of chaos follows as Chucky and Tiffany continue their killing spree, though Tiffany wants to set a good example for their child.  The dolls also plan to take over the bodies of Jennifer Tilly and Redman (playing themselves).  The fifth in the Child's Play series in my opinion is even better than the previous Bride of Chucky, and is very creatively made.  Writer-director Don Mancini puts in lots of clever dialogue, inventive doll mayhem and let's not forget, plenty of dark and dirty humour.  Once again, Brad Dourif outdoes himself as the voice of Chucky, Tiffany is superbly voiced by Jennifer Tilly, and the doll effects are brilliantly realised.  One of the best scenes in the movie is the one where Chucky drives Britney Spears' car off the road.  The car explodes, and Chucky says "Oops, I did it again!"

Assault on Precinct 13 is a remake of the 1976 film by John Carpenter (which I haven't had the fortune to see).  The present film stars Ethan Hawke as Sgt. Jake Roenick, one of three people in Police Precinct 13 on New Year's Eve.  It's a dark and stormy night, and the precinct is going to be closed down.  As luck would have it, a bus transporting criminals — including the gangster Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) — is forced to stop at the precinct due to the weather.  The criminals are brought inside the police station.  Soon, the station is surrounded by masked people armed to the teeth.  At first, the cops think that they're all Bishop's men wanting to break him out, but it turns out that they're dirty cops — led by Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne) — who are afraid that their corrupt activities would be discovered.  So they want Bishop and everyone else inside dead.  What follows is an intense standoff between the two groups over the night.  This remake is directed by Jean-Francois Richet and is a taut thriller.  Apparently even John Carpenter liked the remake.

Oh and the April Fool's joke at was great.