Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead)

First and foremost, some trivia about this movie -

- This movie is considered to be the bloodiest of all time (measured in amount of film blood used during the production).

- Around 300 liters of fake blood were used in the lawn mower scene, unofficially making it the goriest scene in film history.

- The DVD rental in Sweden came with supplemental puke-bags.

- On its initial release in its home turf of New Zealand, this movie earned more per screen than Batman Returns.

As you can make out by now, this movie definitely ain't for the squeamish or the faint-hearted. Director Peter Jackson's third movie (and his third zombie movie too!) , this one can be uniquely categorized as an extreme horror-comedy. Though Jackson went on to receive tons of accolades for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, for many fans of gore and horror, this one remains his best effort.

The movie starts off with a zoologist capturing a rare Sumatran Rat-Monkey (a creature with a hilarious 'legend' about its origin) from Skull Island for the Wellington zoo. Now, the local Maoris know of the curse associated with this horrible creature's bite. So, when the zoologist gets his hand bitten, they simply hack it off. And then, they notice the scratch on his head... then, we are left with the guides who sell off this monkey to the Wellington zoo and scamper away.

Cut to Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme), who is living a sorry life with his over-domineering mother (Elizabeth Moody) , who in turn is a completely irritable character. To add to his dismay, he falls for a Latin shopkeeper Paquita (Diana Peñalver) and his mother just doesn't approve of her.

Anyway, off he goes on a date with Paquita to the local zoo, and big Mama goes right after him. But fortunately or unfortunately, she gets involved in an 'accident' with the Sumatran rat monkey and gets bitten. And'z zombie time !!

First, it's Mum's turn to turn into a rabid zombie. But the doting son that he is, Lionel keeps her tranquilized in the basement in order to hide the problem. Well, eventually, she escapes out and then, we have a full-fledged gang of zombies and it takes some real effort from poor Lionel to keep all of them tranquilized and locked in the basement. The movie then degenerates into what could be some of the silliest, whackiest, bloodiest moments in cinema history.

This is the kind of film that will make most people downright sick in their stomachs. But then, it comes loaded with a unique brand of humor that can make you go completely hysterical. Some of the lines are such that you have to pause the DVD just so that you can finish laughing. There is this priest who, in the middle of using his kung-fu skills to finish zombies, suddenly proclaims - "I kick ass in the name of the Lord !".

Dead Alive is one of those outrageous movies that can as easily make you puke with laughter as it can with disgust. Definitely not for all tastes; but for the ones who can appreciate it, this one is a masterpiece.
Dead Alive (a.k.a. Brain Dead ) [1993]
(Unrated DVD)
Running Time : 97 minutes.
Directed by: Peter Jackson.
Cast : Timothy Balme, Elizabeth Moody,Diana Peñalver.
Official site

Suicide Club (aka Suicide Circle)

2001 (DVD) Japanese version, with English subtitles
Rating: NR
Running Time: 95 Minutes

Directed by: Shion Sono

Cast: Ryo Ishibashi (Detective Kuroda), Masatoshi Nagase, Tamao Sato, Mai Housyou, Takashi Nomura

Its a rainy day and you are standing on the pavement awaiting the arrival of the bus -- this has been your routine for the past many years now. There have been many times when a rash driver has driven right through a pothole filled with accumulated dirty rain water, splashing you all over and giving a brownish tinge to your wardrobe.

Today it's different. Imagine that the mini-tsunami that befalls you now is composed of blood, not mud.

Good, now imagine that the scene is a railway station and the blood that splashes on you is the mixture of that of 54 young Japanese teenagers. This is how Suicide club starts off. A routine morning for the unassuming train passengers changes their life forever; something that most won't be able to forget in their lifetimes. The impact for some would have been so great that most will just freak out and start hallucinating at the very sight of anything red: red wine, red roses, red signals, probably even the amber sun during sunsets. Appalling, really...Suicide club seems to reek gore from start to end.

The bizarre train suicide incident has now left the Japanese detectives baffled, especially Detective Kuroda who suspects more than just bizarre coincidences. Even more baffling is an anonymous caller who mentions a web-site that seems to track the suicides even before they happen. Initially, the police seem to think of this as an accident. Not so, if they would have seen how gleefully the students held hands, shouted to the count of 3 and simply jumped onto the path of an oncoming train -- not to forget the smile on their faces.

The incidents do not see to abate anytime soon. The suicides continue at various locations around the city, at hospitals, schools, and random and seemingly unconnected people seem to fall prey to this. There is also no discernable pattern to this. What also raises curiosity is a roll of human flesh that has been stitched together to form a bundle, a signature left behind after every such incident. Finally the pieces of skin are traced back to the suicide "victims".

The Japanese police are still not willing to classify the investigation as a homicide; instead they are very content to approach this as a mass hysteria of suicides. How the scenario changes with one single incident that shocks the entire police fraternity and what is behind this cult-influenced behavior is what the rest of the movie harps on.

Make sure to not watch this on either an empty stomach or a filled one -- and if you are a gore and blood fan, this is your movie. If you liked the spraying of blood, like a punctured garden hose pipe all over, in Kill Bill, you will probably see the positive side of this movie. Do not expect the end of the movie to shock you beyond belief; it does end tamely and I wish there was more substance in it. A movie to watch if you have nothing better to do...make sure you don't contemplate much over the movie and don't set expectations too high.

Official site

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


(2006) DVD
Directed by Vishal Bharadwaj

Ajay Devgan .... Omkara 'Omi' Shukla
Saif Ali Khan .... Langda Tyagi
Vivek Oberoi (aka Viveik Oberoi) .... Kesu Firangi
Kareena Kapoor .... Dolly Mishra
Konkona Sen Sharma .... Indu
Naseeruddin Shah .... Bhaisaab
Bipasha Basu .... Billo Chaman Bahar
Score and soundtrack: Vishal Bharadwaj
Lyrics by Gulzar

After Maqbool, Vishal Bharadwaj comes up with another masterpiece adaptation of yet another literary classic. Omkara is based on Othello while Maqbool was based on MacBeth -- both gripping tragedies that leave the users squirming in their seats, wanting more.

Make sure to leave your kids at home; you certainly don't want them to be exposed to the wide range of expletives used. I have no reservations against this as-close-to-reality rendering of the events and dialogues in this movie -- we should reserve the thrill for the audience who would take it in the right sense. There's also the "daunting" task of understanding the heavy Bihari accent during parts of the movie, which I'm sure will leave many a folks stumped.

The movie starts with a grim potrayal of a girl being "kidnapped". It looks like that scene has been shot with the singlemost intent of introducing the main characters in the movie -- Omi or Omkara (Ajay), Langda Tyagi (Saif) and Kesu (Viveik). Alas, it also tends to highlight the rampant and unobstructed spate of kidnappings that happen openly in Bihar. The girl tends to be none other than Dolly (Kareena) who is madly in love with Omi. Omi also seems to be smitten by her...all providing a perfect setting for the apocalyptic love story set in the barren lands of Bihar.

Langda Tyagi (LT) performs the perfect thug rendering by potraying a gutkha-chewing, brazen but loyal stalwart for Omi. Kesu is the perfect foil to play an educated "brat", who is relatively new to the pack but loyal to Omi as well. LT seems to be the easily irritable, uneducated and no-nonsense kind of person, while Kesu is a stark contrast to it.

As if a premonition, Dolly seems to have a legacy built around her that creates a very tense atmosphere in the Omi group of folks. As the story unfolds further, and after Dolly's introduction into the Omi household, things seems to go rather well for them. Bhaisaab (Nasser) considers Omi his "right hand" and in him finds a torch bearer to guide him to victory in the upcoming elections. Omi rises in position after Bhaisaab's victory and the obvious next step is to choose a successor for Omi, the current Thug-lord's ("BahuBali") position. What follows is a rivetting and abrupt ending which will leave the readers yearning for more.

Saif effuses class in his acting skills and Viveik seems to hold off on his own after a long spate of flops and bad acting. Ajay seems to carry on his serious-natured acting. I think he has finally realized that comedy is not his cup of tea after his ill-timed Raju Chacha. Unfortunately, Bipasha is the only sorry addendum to this movie. She is almost inconsequential and unable to enact her role to suit the needs of the movie; like a barbie doll in the story of He-man and skeletor. It looks like she just came to the shooting directly from a beauty parlour.

Luckily, she does not take up too much screen time and the others manage to salvage the day. Konkana Sen is a revelation. She plays the perfect foil as LT's wife, although the relationship is not made very clear until somewhere in the middle of the movie -- maybe another ploy to keep the suspense alive.

I would rate this as a down-to-earth and classic story tale which borders very close on the harsh realities that exist in the remote rural Indian villages; certainly not for the faint of heart or the jilted lovers. Omkara comes across as a fresh breeze in this spate of new releases that are run-of-the-mill stuff.

Official site

Monday, August 28, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

I have been looking at amazing reviews of this movie the whole of last week. As of Saturday, Rotten Tomatoes had a rating of 93% for this movie. Wow! I thought that this ought to be the one of the coolest movies this summer. But then, all the talk of this movie being a sweet little tale of a dysfunctional family coming together on a road-trip…well, that had me wondering if this was going to be one of those sad tear-jerkers. Anyway, when I got a free ticket from AMC for this Sunday, I picked this film and went all the way to Empire 25 in soaking rain to catch a viewing.

And thankfully, all my fears were proven untrue. This one turned out to be a moderately funny one, full of quirky characters and insane situations. And a healthy break from the routine stuff being thrown at us all the time. But then, it left me wondering what all that hype from the Sydney and Sundance festivals was about.

The movie starts off with Sheryl (Toni Collete) bringing her brother, Frank (Steve Carell) to live in the Hoover household, after a failed suicide attempt. Now, this family is basically a group of really whacko people, each having an equally manic personality. The head of the family, Richard (Greg Kinnear), is one big loser who is actually trying to sell a nine-point plan to being a winner, which obviously isn’t finding any takers. The angst-ridden teenage son Dwayne (Paul Dano) is another looney, who has taken a vow of silence till he becomes a fighter pilot. The seven-year old daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) is super-crazed with beauty contests and keeps “practicing her moves” all the time. Then there is the Grandpa (Alan Arkin) who is hooked to heroin and is forever spurting obscenities.

Now, little Olive qualifies for a national beauty pageant for kids in California, and the whole family ends up driving down the 800 miles from New Mexico in a car which just keeps breaking down.

As you can imagine, the situation lends itself to several absurd situations, and the movie does have plenty of them; some of them being pretty funny too. The film also boasts of some wonderful performances from the whole cast, the pick being the appealing Breslin and the expressive Dano (previously seen in The Girl Next Door).

But then, is it the award-winning stuff that it is being made out to be? C’mon, gimme a break! There have been funnier movies this season. Little Miss Sunshine is a reasonably funny movie, with some good performances and a lot of hype.
Little Miss Sunshine (Rated R, for language, some sex and drug content)
Running Time : 101 minutes.
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris.
Cast : Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Toni Collete and Steve Carell.

Official site

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Spy Game

[cross posted from]

(2001) DVD - "It's not how you play the game. It's how the game plays you."

Starring: Robert Redford (as Nathan Muir), Brad Pitt (as Tom Bishop), Catherine McCormack (as Elizabeth Hadley)
Rated R for language, some violence and brief sexuality.
Runtime: 126 min

I happened to see this movie over the last few days. I'm pretty certain you can find many review over the 'net, but here's mine anyway. Compared to the recent crap movies being released, this comes as a nice change although it is in no ways "recent".

Robert Redford gets the bulk of the screenplay. He is simply superb. The way he exudes class shows how someone can take the most suave of CIA agents for a ride.

The movie starts off with an exciting rescue mission in China that is botched up. The build up after that is pretty exciting. Not much is known about why the mission happens or who is responsible for it; all that is known is that Nathan Muir is somehow connected to Tom, who has now ended up in prison. Throw a few other CIA agents into the mix who are for some reason interested in muffling the news of the arrest, coinciding with the visit of the President of the United States to China.

Elizabeth is another interesting personality who Nathan suspects and she apparently has "doubts" built into her character that makes it so intriguing. As expected, Tom is smitten by her so much as to risk his life for her.

There are some nice flashbacks that set a well-paced story rolling. At about the end of an hour, things seems to fall in place for Nathan, then just before he is to leave the CIA headquarters finishing his last day of work, and to hand over his security card, he sees a newscast rushes back in. Then follows another half hour of riveting drama that takes the final plunge into suspense.

The happenings of 24 hours are chronicled in this 2 hour rivetting drama.

All in all, a decent movie to spend a Friday night watching.
Official site

The Descent

As scary flicks go, they don't get much better than this. A huge hit when it was released in Britain last year, this movie is a horror-buff's absolute delight. Writer-director Neil Marshall has packed the movie with a series of adrenaline-pumping, gasp-inducing moments that make this movie one of the best in its genre in recent times.

The basic premise is simple: six adventurous girls, one unexplored cave and a helluva problem. What really works in the movie's favor is the dark, claustrophic atmosphere throughout. The subterranean setting is naturally spooky and Marshall just makes the most of it.

Sarah (Shauna McDonald) is involved in a tragic accident that leaves her extremely traumatized. To get her back to her lively self, risk-loving Juno (Natalie Mendoza) invites her and four other friends for a spelunking expedition in the Appalachian mountains. Very soon, things start going wrong and the women realize that the only way out is to go right through the cave.

Then begins the mix of claustrophobia, hallucination and fear that takes the movie beyond the mundane. The director seems to have a way with darkness; most of the scenes are lit with the eerie glow of a flare, or the creepy light from a glowstick or at times, just from the nightsight of a camcorder. He makes sure that the audience is right in the middle of the clammy air, the stuffy surroundings and as time progresses, engulfed in a fear of the unknown. There's no respite, no moment to breathe easy and the thrills just keep coming in all the time.

Thankfully, there is no pretense of character development or some hotch-potch story. This movie simply delivers what it promises - a truckload of spine-chilling scary moments.

Easily one of the most refreshing releases this summer, this one's worth the price of the ticket.
The Descent (Rated R, pure horror)
Running Time : 99 minutes.
Written and directed by: Neil Marshall.
Cast : Shauna McDonald, Natalie Mendoza.
Official site