Monday, December 19, 2005

King Kong

How many times have you come out of a movie feeling.. .. exhausted!? I bet not too many..
"King Kong" is likely to be one of those movies. Make no mistake, this is a movie of monumental proportions... it is a B-I-G movie... in every of the word. Yes, sometimes it does tend to border on the "too much" line... its a bit too long, too far-fetched at times, perhaps too ambitious(?). But the very fact that you're still trying to catch your breath when you come out of the movie speaks volumes of the intensity of the movie.

I really wanted to watch "King Kong". It had become one of those once-a-year movies that you just have to watch.. at any cost. The promos had blown me away.. and to top it all, almost every single review I read (about 25, I think!) went to the extent of labelling it as a modern day classic. I just had to watch it.

With these kind of expectations, I went into Vue cinemas on saturday night. I'm pretty sure that a few hundred others in the hall were carrying similar expectations. And this is why the initial portions of the movie gain so much importance. Almost an entire hour is spent building up the characters, and more importantly, setting up the stage for the big guy to arrive. It is done so masterfully, that you actually relish the first hour with eagerness rather than waiting with annoyance. The very first sequence, when the depression era is depicted with a classic song playing in the background, is pure class.
Jackson has done wonderfully well to keep an eerie feeling intact whilst he moves the story forward in its own pace into the skull island.

The hour that follows gives you some serious action. You've got dinasour stampedes(!!), flying dinasours, T-Rexes, human sized insects, and what not... (how did the natives survive in that island?). Kong does arrive with a bang, but its the scene when the first T-Rex is shown which really sends a shiver down the spine.

There is a 15 minute long sequence involving a fight between Kong and three T-Rexes(!) that is so incredible, that had it been a cinema in Bangalore, I'm sure the hoots and whistles at the end of it would've been deafening. ( I can still remember the 2 minute long whistle fest at Urvashi cinema at the end of the Neo-vs-100-Agent-Smiths fight in Matrix Reloaded!)
Special effects are flawless, breathtaking.. a perfect example of how Hollywood just keeps raising the bar every time. But the moments that actually make the movie are those little ones in between the action.. like the one where Ann realises that Kong actually enjoys her antics and performs some comedy in front of him for the first time... the one where they enjoy the sunset for the first time... the delightful little sequence on a frozen water pond in central park in NY, and of course the climax, which is tragically memorable.

Naomi Watts plays Ann Darrow, and the movie is essentially about Ann and the special bond that she shares with the mighty ape. And Naomi Watts is every bit of Ann Darrow that you want her to be. She somehow fits the "Beauty" as in "Beauty and the beast". She can not only scream with the best of'em... she can emote with the best too... as she has proved earlier in "The Ring" movies and "21 Grams". Jack Black and Adrian Brody also fit their roles quite well. Black, in particular, delivers superbly in a role that many thought he was miscast. Brody is typically unassuming and also manages to pull off a hero-isque shade of his character that was required for the middle part of the movie.
Andy Serkis must be the best CGI-actor in the world.. or is he the only one? His Kong is just terrific and shares a great non-erotic, sometimes-adorable-sometimes-possessive chemistry with Naomi Watts. This is what drives the movie.

Although the end is tragic, the last 15 minutes of the movie is pure magic.(I didn't intend that rhyme!) The world war fighter planes attacking the ape atop the Empire state building and a desperate Ann trying in vain to do something about it leaves a lasting impression. It takes some directorial skill to portray a sequence like this (which is mainly action) and yet show the different emotions that the ape goes through at those moments(confusion, anger, hurt, momentary bliss) successfully to the audience.

Peter Jackson has pulled out all stops to make this reportedly $220 Million movie... but most importantly he's given it the soul it required.. in the most subtle as well as in more obvious ways.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I had no clue what Narnia was all about. I had seen its name being mentioned a few times at, saying it was one of the eagerly awaited movies of the year,et al... but thats it. It was only after a collegue here (an Englishman) told me about it that I got excited to see the movie.
"The Chronicals of Narnia" is a series of seven books written by C.S Lewis, an English Author. These books are about an alternate world called "Narnia" and the adventures of a few children who manage to discover it in various ways. Although I cannot make comparisons because I haven't read the Narnia series.. I still got the feeling that, in some ways, it is similar to Harry Potter..

So I went to watch the first installment of Narnia - "The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe"...
had to endure 15 minutes of commercials at the beginning.. most of them aimed at children (which kinda made me feel not too good about the movie)... Then things brightened up with a terrific trailer of the next Pirates of the Carribean movie - "Dead Man's Chest".. Ahoy! Put that one on my list..

The movie starts off nice & slow... the build up to the actual intro to Narnia is concise yet effective. When they did show the alternate world.. I must say I was a tad dissappointed... maybe coz I had a mental picture of something spectacular & out of this world (in every sense).. But to be honest, it did get better as the winter dissappeared and we were treated to some stunning locales of New zealand... or was it Ireland?
It is basically the story of these 4 kids.. in post world war era, who discover Narnia behind a wardrobe. Narnia is full of mythical/magical creatures.. It is ruled by the evil "White Witch" from the past 100 years.. A prophecy says that 2 sons of Adam (boys) and 2 daughters of Eve (girls) will land up in Narnia and end her rule. So she wants to catch hold of every human who comes to Narnia and freeze him/her. The rest of the story is about how these kids join forces with the real king of Narnia - Aslan and defeat her. And guess what.. Aslan is a Lion.. and a phenomenal one at that. The girl who's played the youngest kid is absolutely adorable..The Witch is superbly menacing!

Comparisons with the "Lord of the Rings" are inevitable (especially when you see the final battle) and not without reason too. For those who aren't aware, C.S.Lewis was a contemporary of the equally legendary J.R.R Tolkein, the author of LOTR. Narnia also has some of the key elements of Christianity imbibed in it.. just like LOTR. And finally, it seems that the director of the movie is a friend and fellow New-Zealander of a certain Peter Jackson.

All said and done, its a pretty decent movie. Perhaps more enjoable if you've read the book.
I still didn't think it was worth 6.5 pounds... But then, of late, no movie other than King Kong looks to be worth that much to me..
Come on Naomi.. scream for your life!

Currently Listening to: Some Techno Instrumental

Monday, December 12, 2005

Of Tubes, Tabloids and Christmas Lunches.

The London Underground or "The Tube" as it is popularly called is one of the best, if not the best example of the great things that we humans are capable of. It is a public transport system which carries over 2.7 million passengers a day !!! Most of it is automated, which means if you want to catch a train to victoria at 08:37, the train will be there at 08:37:00. no less, no more.

More than anything, the swiftness & efficiency with which the system operates simply blew me away. We Indians would use the term "phata-phat" to describe this!
It usually doesn't take you more than 10-15 mins to reach anywhere in prime london area using the tube. Here are some stats of the LU.
Y'know, one by one... I'm beginning to see the reasons why UK is called a "developed" nation.

Change of subject> Tabloids.
Okay, here's the thing that beats logic. I go to watch Harry Potter and they flash the "12A" rating on the screen atleast 3 times before the movie making it clear that some scenes may contain "fantasy" which is "unsuitable for younger viewers". Okay. I get it. You guys are very concerned about what your kids see. Good.
Next morning, I walk into a departmental store. At the entrance, there's a full stand of magazines and tabloids containing... "topless" pics of some women... on the COVER.
The Sun says "Page 3: Lesbian Girls bare it all".
Well... what if a mom walks in with a couple of young kids? what is she supposed to say? "You boys stand outside while I buy some milk"???
And its there everywhere... railway stations, malls, supermarkets, u name it. And I've seen thousands of parents with their kids at all these places.
But hey, don't blame the tabloids.. what are they supposed to to? Put an "18 only" stamp on each picture.. that would probably block all the stuff they want to show!
Y'know, one by one by one... I'm beginning to see the reasons why UK is called a "developed" nation.

Topic Change> Christmas Lunches
I had 2 extremely different christmas lunches in the space of a week. One of them was an official lunch party organised at a roof garden at kensington high street in london. It was a theme party and the theme was "1920's Gangsters & their molls" !
You know, these theme parties are a big thing here.. people go to great lengths in order to make the best impression at the party. The food was very average.. but I heard people telling me that the non-veg option was much better... well, not much of use to a veggie like me.

It is quite common here for people to drink like crazy during these parties. After the lunch, there was a mini disco-thingy.. which was empty until they started playing the latest Madonna, which rocked the hell outta most people, including me.
We had to have a burger at McD to feel alive after that so called "meal"... man! how these people survive here after eating so little still beats me.

The second lunch I had was at our VP's home near Southhampton. It was a beautiful experience.
Picture this: 1.3 acres of "landscaped" land in the countryside. A luxurious house. Scenic views from the windows. Nearest neighbour: about 100 feet away. I found it incredibly romantic!! Only wished "someone" was with me.. *sigh*
They had these 2 cats (Cats are the most common pets in UK). One of them was so adorable..all of us just loved playing with it.

Lunch time...They treated us to a typical English Christmas Lunch, which was quite interesting and surprisingly tasty too. They'd even cared enough to prepare separate vegetarian dishes for us, which we really appreciated. Then they told us about all these silly christmas traditions, like crackers, silly hats,etc... They also made us go through some of them, which was so much fun. It was quite a memorable experience, I'd say.
On the way back, I tried to imagine how it would be to have a party at a location like that... dancing with "someone"... to Madonna, of course..

Y'know... one... by.... one...reasons....

Currently Listening to: Rang De Basanti - Rang De Basanti

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Day in London

After enjoying a week in the quieter suburbs and enjoying the countryside, I couldn't wait to go to London on saturday... I mean du-h, it was 'the' London... I had always dreamt of going to the Buckhingham Palace and trying to get one of those royal "robotic" guards to smile !! I had thought of all these wierd things I'd try in front of them just to make them emote...

Anyway, back to the point.. London. Yes, We (me & my roomie) started very late... I have a perennial waking up problem, you see. It was noon when we reached the Waterloo station. It was nothing like any of the railway stations I'd seen before... amazing!
Well, we're inside the station for not more than 2 minutes... and an announcement goes -
"Due to an immediete security threat, everybody is required to leave the station at this moment"
What the?????
We tried not to panic & just left the station.... Although nothing apparently happened later, for a moment though, I was s-c-a-r-e-d! I'm not sure whether it was because I felt something would blow up the station or because of the fact that I was being stared at by a few suspicious 'gora's..for just being a colored man.... but in hindsight, you can't really blame them.

We then took a walk on the Thames walkbridge... it was quite nice and cool. Then we headed to the famous Trafalgar square. This place is truly fantastic... its so picturesque. No wonder there were hundreds of tourists there... we took a few nice snaps there.. Didn't get a chance to go to the National gallery... some other time maybe.

Next stop was the Buckhingham Palace. Since it was sunny, we decided to walk all the way... But what a dreamy-eyed-tourist like me forgot was the legendary English weather. Within 10 mins, it started to rain! Dammit! Hmmm, 20 wet minutes later, we reached the palace only to find out that it is open for public only for 3 months in a year... aaarrrrrghhhhhhh...
This day is turning out to be a dampner, eh...
Atleast the sun came out again.... we met our friends as expected in front of the palace...
As per the plan we had to go to Madame Tussauds and The London Eye before 8 pm... Decided to have a snack on the way near Oxford Street... That street is amazing.... it is the centre of London, and on a saturday evening, it is absolutely packed with people... But somehow, It wasn't half as suffocating as Brigade Road in Bangalore.

The snack break lasted an entire hour. We had to scrap Madame Tussauds.
Headed towards the London Eye. Fastest way to get there... London Underground (More details about this in the next post)
It was a great sight. It is about 450 feet high & rotates very slowly, giving the person on it panoramic views of London City from various heights & positions.
After waiting for about 45 mins to get tickets, we were finally aboard the eye.
I'm generally not too fond of heights, but since it moved very slowly & also the fact that it was night time, it wasn't as scary. Once we reached the pinnacle, the view it offered of the city was purely breathtaking. It was similar to an ocean, except that instead of water, it was only lights, lights & more lights.... as faaaaar as I could see. Gosh! I dunno how Bangalore matches up with this...

Back on land, we went back to oxford street to hang out with another friend. We had a very nice Indian dinner at a restaurant called "Bombay Palace". We were chatting for so long that when we were finally done, it was 11:30 in the night. Time to head back...
Reached the Waterloo only to find out that the next train to Basingstoke was another 30 mins away. While waiting at the station, we found out that there are beggars here too... eh, a bit more "sophesticated", I dare say!! well, they beg in english.. for starters :))
On our way back home on the train, I kept thinking... well, I am livin' it up here in London.. ain't I?? My mind went back to a couple of nightclubs we passed by as we were heading back... They sure looked inviting...almost magnetic sometimes... but we didn't want to try everything in the first visit itself...especially since we didn't know much about the city yet..
But I'll be back baby...I will be back.

Currently Listening to: Lucky - Sun Zara