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Monday, 14 April 2014

Across The Universe: On Romance, Musicals and The Beatles

One Worth Watching

Across The Universe

First of all, let me clarify.

This is a new feature I'm starting, every time I watch a new movie or re-watch an old one that I really feel deserves mentioning, I will try right a post about it. 

Today's film? 

The 2007 romantic musical starring Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachael Wood. The film consists of 33 songs by The Beatles including the one that the films title comes from. 

Now I'm not a big music guy, but The Beatles are just something else. 

Across the Universe pays homage to the stellar music by weaving it into a narrative that has flights of fancy and moments of real heart. 

At its core the film is a romantic tale between Lucy (Wood) and Jude (Sturgess), but the film fleets through points of artistic identity and the Vietnam war all the while reveling in the kitsch brilliance of the 60's. 

I really like those Indie romantic films with the cliche sort of endings in a manner that fuses some terrific tunes and a heart warming show from the lovers and an ambiguous shot at the end. 

Across ticks that of in every which way, it ends with a returning Jude looking to find the girl he lost in Lucy and reaching to the roofs and singing for her 'All you need is Love'. Ending up into a sing along from his friends, and finally him staring at her across the roof. 

A moment of sheer bliss encapsulated by everything that makes the film so wonderful; a Beatles song. 

Each song is crafted with such soul and understanding on screen, and sung with reverence and honor to the foursome's works. The way in which the pictures fleet and screens cut are something else. 

The film flows into songs from whimsical, the downright depressing, to artistic and mind blowing in minutes. 

A Golden Globe nominee, Across The Universe isn't one to miss especially for the Beatles lover. It's so steeped in their works, that the main characters and then some are named after the songs from Lucy to Jude and beyond. 

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Mining the Past: Nostalgic Moments, My Creative Influences and Shelf Life

Writing/Drawing Under Influence

On my Influences and Nostalgia


Webster's Dictionary defines Nostalgia as 'pleasure and sadness caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again'

If that's true, then for the past few weeks I have fallen prey to this one to many times. What's funny about my being Nostalgic is that the memories I have are fleeting, they seem to be flowing from my mind towards the skies. I fail to grasp onto anything that I dearly care for anymore. I remember my old house, but sadly lose its essence in minutes. I remember my childhood, but feel like a stranger in the details.

So it doesn't help when one of my favorite columnists, Ron Marz writes a post like this. It makes me question, why I do what I do/want to do. 

Why am I becoming a comic book writer/artist? Why am I so persistent in that dream? 

So for days on end, I have toiled with the jumbled and blurred memories of my life in order to find those things that push me forward each and every single day. It's been an arduous task, one that took a lot of research and thought. 

See I'm not a child of the 70's or 80's where comic books were at the peak of their brilliance, as a pop culture geek I wasn't born and brought up by the wonders of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Heck I was born in Kenya, a damn beautiful piece of Mother Earth no doubt but one where pop culture and especially comics weren't as profound as they were to me. I was the black sheep of the family, and I like to think I was a weirdly unique piece in my school of 12 years. 

I might not write enough, I might not read enough, but comics drive me to this day. So going back became as the definition says, a poignant moment of reflection. For the love of god, I couldn't find my greatest influences. 

I tried and tried and then I came upon a revelation. I'm a child of 1990's and 2000's, I'm a kid from urban Nairobi, a city that has just recently in the past five years picked up a thriving comics and animation industry.

I don't need to have the same form of influences that Ron Marz has, it's what makes me a unique and hopefully one day an excellent writer and artist. My influences as a child may not be as many, but as an adult I have learned enough to know how I want to shape and utilize my skills in both facets. 

So I got my memory jogging from present to past. I took everything I knew about my childhood, major things that formed me no matter how vaguely I remember them. I took the things I picked up many years later, the things I learn from today and most importantly those pieces I have kept tucked away in my heart no matter from which time they may be. I put them on a list that I will now share below. 

They might not be forming how I think or write for now, but I know that soon enough they will come in handy. So let's check out what I'm being influenced by...(Note: It's a lost of stuff)

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Aila and Oi Ma!: Celebrating 20 Years of Andaz Apna Apna

Andaz Apna Apna

Celebrating 20 Years

I made it clear last year, I am a huge Bollywood fan, so long as it's good cinema in my opinion. My love for the whacky Hindi comedy movies of old is unparalleled. I adore the classics (even if I never got to see them in theaters), from Gol Maal to Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and from Chashme Buddoor to Bawarchi. 

While the films listed above may have iconic status and be the best of the genre, there's one film that holds a larger grasp on my heart and soul. This is none other than the cult classic; Andaz Apna Apna. 

Released 20 Years ago on this date, Andaz Apna Apna is a zany comedy starring Aamir and Salman Khan. If you scroll to the bottom of the blog there's a list where you'll see that it is my 3rd favorite film of all time (and it will most likely stay so as the list gets updated). 

But don't let my words fool you, Andaz Apna Apna also has acquired iconic status through the years it toiled after being a flop at the box office on 11th April 1994.

Aamir and Salman at their best!

For me, I discovered the film at the age of 7 and I never looked back. Since then I have watched and laughed through the feature 23 times. 

Everything about the film screams instant classic. 

The unforgettable dialogues like 'Gogoji Apka Ghagra' to 'Thaki tiki, thaki tiki, thaki tiki, thai!' and of course the oft quoted (by me) 

'Pitaji aap mahan aap great hai , aap dhanya hai, aap pujya hai, aap jaisa pita duniya mein nahi, balki aaj mereko ehsaas hai hua ki aap toh purush hi nahi.'

I'm not going to write them in English, because they will be lost in translation.

The Legendary Crimemaster Toto, sorry Gogo

The mind blowing scene inducing laughter. When Teja reveals his master plan to take his brother's money so that he can make a poultry farm and sell eggs...see reading it isn't funny, you have to watch the film and that too without subtitles.

Some catchy campy Indian music, specially the tuneful 'Do Maastane Chale'

And of course those Over The Top pitch perfect performances by everyone especially the two leads, Paresh Rawal as Teja and Uncle and of course Shakti Kapoor as Crime Master Gogo. 

This is a comedic genius worth the watch. 

So Celebrate Twenty Years today by Watching this juggernaut of laughs and love.   

This is as much I can say, cause this is a special film to me so it's hard to write about. I can't write the funny scenes, cause you need to watch them for it to be funny.

But watch it and weep...tears of joy that is!

'Mera naam hai Crimaster Gogo, aankhen nikal ke goti kehlunga goti. Mogambo ka bhatija, GoGo!'

20 Years on and still waiting for that sequel

Friday, 4 April 2014

Reel Reviews: Captain America-The Winter Soldier

Magneto's Movies

Reel Reviews Captain America-The Winter Soldier

Release Date: 4th April 2014

Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Sebastian Stan as James Buchanan 'Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, Emily VanCamp as Agent 13/Sharon Carter, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, GSP as Batroc, Stan Lee as Security Guard, Ed Brubaker as Scientist, Thomas Kretschmann as Baron Von Strucket, Aaron Johnson as Quicksilver, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch with Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury

Genre: Comic Book

Score:  9.0/10 (w/out vfx 9.1)

Pros:-Much of the film especially the first half has an espionage thriller tone to it that makes it seem fresh as a superhero feature

          -Writers explore and delve into a lot of serious themes that are relative to real world problems as well as their own in film world. These are; The varying definition of freedom, Patriotism vs. Captain America's Ideal Symbolism and Trust etc.

          -Marvel's brand of humor is kept at a minimum such that it never distracts from the issues writers try to tell, and actually feel organic. This allows the narrative pace to be maintained perfectly and keep the espionage thriller tone intact

          -There is tons of world building within the film, but unlike Iron Man 2 it doesn't bog down the script. Instead the world building is kept within the narrative, pushing the characters, the film and the universe forward as a whole

          -Cap's character arc of being a tarnished symbol and the idealistic option for the world is developed well within the sub text. His relationships are kept more to the forefront, thus building from the ideas in The Avengers of a man out of time.

          -Supporting characters also get the scope of development. While not as much as it should have been, the ideas of Winter Soldier being a lost soul are ever present.  Black Widow is head and shoulders with Cap, her back story is further delved into while there is a natural progression of her arc in finding the hero within. Her dynamic with Cap is also intriguing

          -Action is mind blowing. The choreography and stunt work is exquisite, where as the camera tracks the film in a way such that it encapsulates the idea of the espionage sub genre and yet feel comic book in flavor

          -The Russo brothers visualize the best Marvel directed film, they come out of their comedic comfort zone in making a bombastic action film yet make sure the elements of the grounded humanity in the script is kept intact

          -Evans gives another stirring performance showing why he is Captain America. This is Johansson's best who does further to humanize her character while shifting in her duality. Mackie doesn't get much scope, but he brings great levity and even seriousness when needed.

          -The real show stealer is Sebastian Stan, he doesn't get much to do early on except look menacing. Yet in three scenes he brings out the characters facets from guilt to despair with great deft

          -In limited scope; Redford, Samuel L Jackson, Cobie Smulders and especially Frank Grillo leave their mark

          -Music is stirring and perfectly fits the narrative beat by beat, it's far more memorable than anything else Phase 2 has churned out

          -The VFX job is also stunning, giving the action a grandeur feel

Cons:-The second half does lose steam by becoming generic at times, the solution to the finale is too easy

           -Marvel still doesn't get its villain right, unless Hydra makes a big splash across the Universe (which the post credits scene alluded to). Even then the head as Alexander Pierce was too bland and generic

           -For a film that keeps its ideas within subtext, there's to much unnecessary exposition 

           -Like with Thor 2, Captain America develops important plot points in it's final end credits scene. Showing Winter Soldier at the Smithsonian and finding out who he really is, is an important character piece that should have been in the main feature. His main arc isn't fleshed out well enough as the title suggests, hopefully a spin off film can fix that

           -3D was highly unnecessary, the Russo's never kept it in mind when filming either

Best Scene: The final fight, as Cap gives up and tells Winter Soldier to finish him if he really doesn't remember who he is. 

Best Performance: Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America and Sebastian Stan as Bucky/Winter Soldier

Best Dialogue: 'The price of freedom is high...and it's a price I'm willing to pay!'-Steve Rogers telling the SHIELD agents that are innocent and do not know Hydra's plans

                         'This isn't the age of spies. This is not even the age of heroes. This is the age of miracles...and there's nothing more horrifying than miracles.'-Baron Von Strucker, speaking about the twins. Miracles since Marvel Studios don't have the movie rights to say Mutants.

Coolest Comic Book Reference: When Sitwell is forced to revela Hydra's targets, one of the men he mention is a certain Stephen Strange who is the hero of the mystic arts; Doctor Strange

Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out today, with already great critical praise behind it. Partially based on Ed Brubaker's similarly titled comic. It's based on the book as well as 70's and 90' stories where Cap lost faith in the system. The story sees Captain America as a part of SHIELD's espionage tactics, but when his past comes calling he must fight back for a personal reason. This film is on par with The Avengers, and kicks off not only the road to it's sequel but to Phase 3 and beyond of the MCU. 

My review is below, however this is a prototype. I wish to watch the film a second time, and if necessary I will make changes to my review after doing so. Till then, just enjoy this one! 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Snap! Crackle! Pop Culture!: Captain America Edition

Snap! Crackle! Pop Culture!

Captain America Edition

No need welcome this old feature back, lets just get into action (One note though, there will be no Your Favorite *Insert Here*= Your Personality feature, because I can't think of an idea for it so instead more memes!)

On Comics, Their Adaptations and Giving some credit

Comics in Pop Culture

Influential Quotes without the Source

I am sorry, even I can't make sense of what that title is. 

What I am trying to tell you is, is about the emotions that run through me as a comic book fan. 

Recently on Facebook I read a quote from a friend, that quote was said by the Joker...from the Dark Knight movie, of course.

 It got me thinking once again about a very vital and terrific influence comic books have left on pop culture history and the masses who consume it.

I thought long and hard about how important the Dark Knight as a film was in showing the serious sides that comics have and are presumed to not have. I've gone back and again in the years to watch the film and see the reviews, with many a critic and movie goers exclaim how this iteration of Batman is what comics should be. 

In fact, I vividly remember an argument with my class mate on why he should watch comic book 
movies. He in turn told me how childish I am to like such stuff, and how the only comic book based movie he could stand was Dark Knight because it apparently took itself seriously. 

This brings me back to the quote (that I saw on Facebook). 

Even if cbm's are popular now, comic books aren't, at least not in the part of world I come from or I lived in (although it is catching up here in India). 

It's not like every person or most people who loved the movie, statistically picked up the book and continued onwards for a lengthy period. You can't blame them though, even with a reboot; DC has a convoluted universe of stories and mythologies to its characters. Heck I myself, had seriously began reading Batman a year prior to The Dark Knight and only because I knew the movie was coming. 

The thing is, I don't think when it comes to CBM's that their sources get their due as much as they should. This maybe because, of lengthy decades long worth of material to pick from; the comic book movies tend to not follow one particular storyline. 

This is much more seen true to everybody for The Dark Knight Trilogy, where everyone thinks and knows that the theme of those films is a realistic world with a vigilante in it. No superpowers, just a guy with gadgets but in a bat suit. As such they believe that the comic books had no major influence on Nolan's work.

Yet from the smallest of ticks in performances, to the larger writing and certain scenes and dialogues; Christopher Nolan actually adapts a lot from the history of the Caped Crusader. I just wish sometimes that apart from the really invested nerds, the wide world would know that. 

Of course, I do want to make an apology. I'm not venting my frustrations here at anybody, heck I'm just typing and typing without having a concrete point.

Still let me just do what I was initially going to do, give a bit of Joker quotes from the comics and you might also see the influences they had on Dark Knight and any other adaptations; 

Some Mad Quotes

'All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy'-The Joker, Killing Joke by Alan Moore

'You had a bad day once, am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress up as a flying rat? You had a bad day, and it drove you as crazy as everybody else... Only you won't admit it! You have to keep pretending that life makes sense, that there's some point to all this struggling! God, you make me want to puke. I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by the mob, maybe? Brother carved up by some mugger? Something like that, I bet. Something like that... Something like that happened to me, you know. I... I'm not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another...'-The Joker, Killing Joke by Alan Moore

'If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!'-The Joker, Killing Joke by Alan Moore

'It's all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for...A monstrous demented gag! So why can't you see the funny side! Why aren't you laughing?'-The Joker, Killing Joke by Alan Moore

A whole conversation that you need to read just to see how brilliantly comics can be written, and with the right dose of subtext that not even movies can get;

'Parting is such a sweet sorrow dearest. Still, you can't say we didn't show you a good time. Enjoy yourself out there... in the asylum. Just don't forget -- if it ever gets too tough... there's always a place for you here.'-The Joker, to Batman who he brought to the Asylum, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth

'Flattery will get you nowhere. You're in the real world now and the lunatics have taken over the Asylum. April sweet is coming...'-The Joker, to Batman when he insults him, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth

'Look at me; I'm a bird, I'm a plane...I'm a Bat!'-The Joker, Justice by Alex Ross

'Why be a disfigured outcast when I can be a notorious Crime God? Why be an orphaned boy when you can be a superhero?'-The Joker, Batman 663 by Grant Morrison

'I'm not mad at all. I'm just differently sane'-The Joker, Joker painting the idea that he isn't insane but rather he is super-sane AKA ahead of the curve, Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison

'You'll never be sad, and you'll never be lonely. You'll always have me to dance with'-The Joker, Batman Confidential

Granted this was a quote from 2008 when the movie released, but it was just to reinforce the decades idea of no Batman without Joker. 

There's a lot more and better ones as well, but the gist of it is that a lot of Joker's famous quotes formed the dialogues of the films and elements of other adaptations. His most famous story is from Killing Joke, which is why it takes prominence here.

Not trying to offend anyone here, I just wish I can get someone to pick up the books once in a while. Hopefully more such articles will reinforce that. 

If not, I always have the opportunity to do that through the comics I write myself.

PS: There's a lot more than just these quotes that influenced the Dark Knight Trilogy, watch out for a post on that titled 'The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Influences it took and the ones it left'   

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Dark Knight through the Decades: A Prelude

Memories of the Dark Knight...

...and understanding every interpretation

The first and fondest memory I have of the Caped Crusader is getting up early Saturday morning and waiting impatiently to catch the half an hour episode of Batman: The Animated Series. 

Among the countless other superhero cartoons playing re-runs back in the late 90's and early 00's, it's Batman: TAS that got me hooked on becoming what I want to be and doing what I love; Comics, specifically drawing and writing them.

Now for decades on end, Batman has held the idea of being the brooding vigilante. Yet through these 75 years, the character not only outside of his source medium but within it; has been interpreted in many a wildly different form and tone. 

The original Batman was a crusader based upon the likes of Zorro, the comics during the early inception had a certain goth vibe to them. 

In the 60's to 70's he became a lighter character, one who took on wildly out of this world concepts head on. His flamboyance and kitschy sensibilities ringing far and wide.

But then by early 1970's Dennis O'Neil, Neal Adams and Steve Englehart brought the character to his now known form; The Detective. In true form, Batman became a superhero mixture of Goth and Realistic vigilante taking on the criminals of Gotham like a modern day Sherlock Holmes.

80's then saw much more darkness shroud Bruce Wayne. The ideas of reals masks was established, as Frank Miller painted the definitive tragic origin of Batman. He emphasized image of Batman as a vigilante on a crusade. In turn this darker Batman became a symbol for everything worth fighting for, and a champion for the oppressed against the crumbling politics of real life in Dark Knight Returns. Year One was just the cherry on that cake.

But like with many things in pop culture, the 90's took these ideas on a superficial level and to the extreme at that. Batman. Early 90's saw a new Batman (Jean Paul Valley) take over after the iconic breaking the bat segment involving Bane. All those once considered 'cool' ideas of Batman with spikes and more violent took shape, but luckily Batman's 90's plight didn't last as long as other characters.

Mid to late 90's spurred the growth of Batman and his family. While things were so and so in the adaptation front, as the Bat-Movies became too glow-y while Batman: TAS rocked the world.

Batman began a resurrection with the 00's. His status as dark brooding vigilante and often jerk was turned around by Grant Morrison to alternative hero. He became the epitome of hero, simply because unlike his counterparts; this was a man taking his early suffering and loss, and turning it into an emotion he could use to save the world. This is such that

Morrison's run (spoken at length here) took the idea of each Batman interpretation and made it canon in a form that kept in line with his most acceptable form yet honoring the legacy left by other writers. He even made Batman that much more vital, by marking Bruce Wayne's legacy through history when he was sent back in time.

Then the biggest point was the blurring lines between the faces of Batman and Bruce Wayne. With Bruce Wayne opening up the Batman INC. he became a financial backer for the Caped Crusader and a hero for Gotham in his own right.

While on the sides, Gotham City had become a bigger part of Batman's life through the decades, it now gained historical depth and fleshed out the cities character. Thus leading into the DC New 52 reboot.

Where everything was being analyzed, picked and retconned for each character; DC kept everything about Batman intact. Yet going into the 2010's Scott Snyder has added much to the Batman legend including what seems to be a terrific yet honoring and honest origin of the Batman.

Batman in Live action through the years, Ben Affleck is missing; or is he?!

As you may notice much of the latter portions are extensive, this is because these are the Batman stories I am familiar with. Beyond the cartoon, it wasn't until 2007 that I began to take a real interest in the Dark Knight.

The death of , creator of the 60's Adam West Batman show, spurred something in me. I decided to
take a gander at the campy live action fiesta and have started really enjoying the hokey plots and terrible acting. 

So much so that just after 3 episodes, I was set to write about it. Instead I decided to give a history lesson, to give context for you and a reminder for me. Going forward I will write extensively about the Adam West Batman and the high on cheese style from that era, how the show opened avenues for the Batman and how it nearly killed everything the 'real' (in my eyes; Detective Bat) stood for.

For Goth Batman, I will have to find the books or I might need to succumb to my former Pirating ways.

For the others, well in the 7 years of my Batman reading I have collected an extensive knowledge on the best parts and even some worse of the character. But I will hopefully continue to explore this, I'm not promising anything (we know what happened last time)

Holy Bye bye Batman! (Sorry I'm still trying to find my inner Burt Ward)

Aneesh Raikundalia