Archive for July, 2009

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Ice Age III: Ice Age III is the Leprechaun III and IV of its generation. Unnecessary, irritating and damming proof that kicking a dead horse is funny only when it is not used as a metaphor. I can think of only two genuinely funny moments…a prehistoric ostrich chick getting knocked out trying to bury its head on ice, and a deer making fun of the Sabretooth tiger (Diego) for being old and wounded. Hmmm…maybe they should have had a couple of velociraptors beat the crap out of a prehistoric horse. Nah, even that couldn’t save this film. P.S: I loved Ice Age I.


Nowhere: Gregg Araki’s cult status could conquer a small Polynesian Island if it wanted to. Such is his intensity for stirring up emotions through films. There is myriad of expectations (mostly underground, I hear) that greet his efforts. Many assume that an Araki film is more or less doomed to to cross cinematic taboos and explode in the face of every art movie critic while others thump their bibles (or any religious souvenir of choice) and plot devious schemes to keep his films away from their sons and daughters. Maybe I am overhyping the fellow a bit too much, but for what it’s worth his 1997 film – Nowhere – is 88 minutes of nauseating brilliance.

In fact even Araki’s description of it as “a Beverly Hills 90210 episode on acid” seems to fall short of capturing its vivid concoction of sex, drugs, teenage confusion and the devastating aftermath of its collective tryst with romance and violence. James Duval (Dark) and Rachel True (Mel) who plays his girlfriend deserve special mention. The colour of death in their eyes is scary and it almost blinds me to the fact that Shannen Doherty and Heather Graham share the same space with these largely unknown actors. Watch it as you would a Harmony Korine film…with hesitation and with someone at an arm’s length to tell you to persist with it.


Mysterious Skin: While Nowhere was raw and intense, Mysterious Skin is far more cautious in its approach to let its characters toy with the audience’s perception of their lives. Having said that, I must warn you that there is absolutely no redemption in Mysterious Skin, so do not expect Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to get together with Brian (Brady Corbet) and sell surfboards near the warm Atlantic Ocean by the end of the film. Neither is it a heart-warming story about kids dealing with sexual abuse. Gregg Araki has taken a very weird path in this one. It starts off by giving us parallel stories of Neil and Brian – two kids whose slices of Americana have been distasteful and crippling; both seemingly victims of various stages of child abuse. One of them goes on a downward spiral while the other represses the memory and instead gives it enough leeway to screw with his head .

gregg araki

A few of the graphic scenes and the urgency of their appearance almost hinder what is otherwise a decent film. Tthankfully, the actors spare us the loose dramatization of pain and violence, which could have made for tedious viewing. I expect better things from Gordon Lewitt in the future. First Brick, now this. Good boy. As for Bill Sage who plays Coach with such dedication to all things Eighties porn-y and ultra-fucking sleazy, good for him too. I bet his wife never looked at him the same way again. Yes, that’s a compliment.

Scratch: See, this is why I lug my ass all the way to Old Parsons Complex and sit there in front of scornful air-conditioning to purchase DVDs instead of downloading them. With the sheer amount of strangely moving art out there, I sometimes feel that only actual physical and accidental glances might bring me closer to the more obscure ones (…cue American Beauty theme song). During one such visit, I came across Scratch – a documentary by Doug Pray on the fascinating culture of turntablism.


Since I have not ventured too far into the nuances of this art form (apart from DJ Shadow, DJ Krush and Danger Mouse), I had a great time discovering how deep the roots of scratching sink into popular and underground culture. Even if your musical tastes exist beyond the boundaries of hip-hop, give Scratch a try…it can never be inconsequential to watch and listen to artists wax poetic/lyrical/egomaniacal about their music. Of course, I was not a big fan of the DJ Jazzy Jeff’s presence; any man who thinks Will Smith can rap is an idiot in my book.

Thankfully, there is enough lyricism in the way the others have expressed their thoughts on turntablism; so much that I am almost tempted to write letters emails to DJ Qbert or DJ Shadow and to tell them that they are A-Ok in my book. They, of course, would laugh uproariously at the magnificent pointlessness of my imaginary book and then we would get together, listen to some Afrika Bambaataa and make prank calls to Lil John. Hmmm…silly fantasies aside, seriously people, give Scratch a spin.


Transformers II: I thought I’d just post a link to Srikanth’s hilarious review in Seventh Art (brevity is an art), but the prospect of trashing this shit is too much fun to pass. Here we go…take everything you could hate about the 1980s sitcom Small Wonder and throw in all the moments during which you were 80% sure that Robocop was going to cry. Wait, wait…not crappy enough. Matter of fact, why don’t you – the good reader – eat some Mexican food and think about how bad Rajnikanth’s Robo is going to be when it eventually gets released. Now, with that sadness in your heart and steamy bile in your abdomen, take a dump. Yes. That’s how bad Transformers II stinks.

P.S: I hated Transformers I, as well.

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Belgian trip poppers Hooverphoncs led by bassist Alex Callier and guitarist Raymond Geerts (vocalist Geike Arnaert left the band in 2008) are a fascinating lot. They make pop music that could drive dance floors insane with equal proportions of curiosity and confusion. Play any track of their magnificently conceptual Hooverphonic Presents Jackie Cane or Blue Wonder Power Milk in a club and watch the crowd writhe in slow, uneasy motion to the sound of their own insecurities.

You can find similarities to Portishead, Morcheeba and Massive Attack, but what really separates Hooverphonic from UK’s finest trip hoppers is their complete nonchalance for the proven and tested (although one could argue that Portishead achieved that to a greater degree on Third).

After gaining unexpected international recognition with their  sparse debut A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular, they released a sophomore album, which was more organic and traditional than what was expected of them. Also, for a trip hop band – the album did really well, sparking off parodies, cellphone commercials (ughh) and sitcom theme songs. While the critics flogged their third album – The Magnificent Tree – for being too commercial, it probably yelled the loudest as their  credibility for crafting pop gems made gentle waves  on both sides of the Atlantic. From then on, each album has been markedly different from the other with the heights of experimentation reaching crazy levels on their The President of the LSD Golf Club – an electronic album that does to psychedelic music what chocolate sauce does to ice creams.


With the recent departure of their singer, it is rumoured that they searching for a new vocalist by holding auditions through their official website.

You should check out a lot of their earlier stuff (especially the Power Milk album), but I just can’t resist recommending Mad About You. This is one of those tracks trashed by die-hard fans for being too radio-friendly and well, I just don’t understand the criticism. It is a fantastic little song led by an ultra-groovy bassline that ties orchestral strings to sacchrine-sweet sounding vocals, which heavily breathe, “Give me all your true hate, and Ill translate it in your bed, into a never seen passion…that is why I am so mad about you, mad about you”.

It almost makes me want to build a time machine, go back to high school and kick myself in the head for choosing The Chemical Brothers over Sneaker Pimps.

Hooverphonics – Mad About You

Hooverphonics – 2Wicky

Hooverphonic – Vinegar & Salt (with Scala Choir)

Hooverphonic – Eden (acoustic)

Sneaker Pimps – Post Modern Sleaze


Sit Down and Listen

The President Of The LSD Golf Club

Hooverphonics Presents Jackie Cane

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I really hate Windows Vista. I really do. One of its minions – Microsoft Word 2007 – has decided to gloriously fuck itself up beyond redemption and the brain cells of the geekiest of my friends.

Until Point Dexter picks up my phone calls, all those sad little written posts on Hooverphonics, Banhart, Harmony Koraine, Transformers, Tupac and quite possibly the greatest Brit gangster film ever made will have to wait and muse on far more frivilous matters on my laptop.

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Saul_WilliamsSaul Williams is a poet, writer, actor, critic, music producer, vocalist and MC extraordinaire. You just have to imagine our comical neighbourhood bear – T Rajendar – but without the exaggeration of talent or opposable thumbs. As a musician, he has been known to breathe heavily into the microphone and spit fiery words against oppression, corruption, social degeneration and other such things you’d find under every rock in your neighbourhood. His music is unclassifiable and that’s that; only someone truly hotheaded could mistake him for a pure Hip-Hop musician. While his debut Amethyst Rock Star was an eclectic soup of the finest ingredients this side of Hip Hop, IDM, funk and even chamber music, the more recent Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust had Saul coaxing industrial post-rock sounds to fornicate with street poetry. Nothing in-between (Not in My Name, Self-Titled) bothered lending itself to a singular description either.

The only thing you can be sure of Saul Williams is that he considers his prodigious talent to be a responsibility, without it ever becoming a mere obligation. He seems to be the sort of a person who craves for music to be used as a weapon to blast sense and civility into people rather than as a pointy stick with which musicians can point out irreverent statistical data on the white board. Of course, what I know of him is just what I have read about it…so I am not going to sit here and argue about how someone should probably steal Rock N Rolla Fucka Bono’s honorary knighthood and give it to him instead.

saulwilliamsHaving been an erstwhile fan of his for many years, I can’t speak enough about the man’s brilliance as a songwriter and beatsmith. Songs like Convict Colony, Pedagogue of Young Gods, Coded Language and the truly great Twice Upon A Time challenge you to listen to them one more time. Like most of the music that I drown myself into, these stimulating passages of glorious sounds backed by provocative wordplay and pristine production can make you uneasily adjust your rear end to the chair or bite your fingernails without realizing it until the flesh makes for difficult chewing.

Don’t be alarmed by it.

Matter of fact, I expect you to squirm while listening to Black Stacey…and it’s not because the track contains a venomously personal message by Saul Williams, as evidenced by words such as “I apologize for bottling up all the little things you said that warped my head and my gut, even though I always told you not to brag about the fact that your great grand mother was raped by her slave master, yeah I became militant too”. That’s all fine and dandy, but hearing him spit it out without a filter had more of an effect on me than the actual content of what he says.

It goes beyond lyrics and social issues and miscues, man.

Way beyond.


Saul Williams – Black Stacey

Saul Williams – List Of Demands

Saul Williams – Coded Language


Amethyst Rock Star

And the rest

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Hangover: The cinematic equivalent of taking a huge hit of LSD and watching a fat dude slip and fall on a banana peel. Ironically, Mike Tyson knocking the fuck out of the tubby Zach Galifianakis qualifies as the only funny moment in the film.

Al-GoreKnowing: Despite Nicholas Cage’s presence, the film is bearable for about an hour. And then they mess it all up by promoting the subjective fear of global warming. It seemed as though the film was trying to emulate Manoj Shyamalan’s Happening and become that late night movie to which Al Gore probably jerks off to. Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Ninth Gate also suffered from the same problem – no, Gore didn’t get turned on by them, it’s just that they were perfectly reasonable ideas that ended up being pale caricatures by the time we had a reason to give a shit about their characters. It also doesn’t help that the acting was really really bad. Cage, like Tom Hanks and Tom Berenger, is wooden as oak and under the impression that a pretending to have constipation is method acting. Rose Byrne is gloriously bad, as well…if only someone told her that a concocting a hundred variations of the “what’s that putrid smell?” look conveys neither fear nor paranoia. If only Roger Ebert didn’t give this four stars. If only I knew.

Kalloori: Director Balaji Shakthivel should be commended for keeping the melodrama down to a necessary minimum. Lord knows that few Indian directors tone it down for the benefit of subtlety and grace. Being loud is very much a South Indian attribute and to portray that in films can be construed as taking the easy way out. How easy would it have been to give one of these characters a glaring archetypal trait or a standout physical abnormality and beat the same to death by referencing it for the sake of comedy/tragedy/whatever? How many more people would have enjoyed Kalloori if it had some bloated comedian spewing socialist comedy? Or how about if they had shown the wrongdoers in Kalloori being brought to justice? A lot of things that could have been done to muddle up this re-telling of the obviously tragic bus-burning incident of Coimbatore were daftly avoided by everyone concerned. With the exception of one or two unnecessary song and dance sequences, I felt that the film was almost perfect in the way it nurtured the central characters.

kalluri_mTamanna (Shobana) and Akil (Muthu) taunt us with such quiet restraint. They could have gone all giggly and light-headed on us; instead they convincingly plow through the tragic irony that ends up epitomizing their characters. The supporting cast adds to the realism, as well, with their complete nonchalance for the camera that seldom zooms into their faces. In fact I don’t remember one other character’s name other than the two lead characters and well, that’s just life isn’t it? Most of the people we pretend to care about mean jack shit in our grand scheme of things and what only matters is the sequence of events they might possibly set in motion to either make our lives better or truly fuck it up. Director Balaji Shakthivel knows this. Cinematographer Chezhiyan knows this and all the actors and actresses, as well. A rare moment for recent Tamil cinema.

pollathavanPollathavan: Hype has turned Dhanush into Kollywood’s sad little anomaly. People have always believed that he was capable of things that so naturally seem to elude him on-screen. For instance, comic timing and charisma. He is so far away from being someone who can entertain the masses with brevity in thought (like his post- Moondru Mugam era father-in-law so easily did) that I almost pity him for considering the journey. I mean, look at the way this man cries on your television screen. Seriously, take any film that he has acted in and skip to the scenes in which he expresses sadness…it is friggin hilarious. I do believe Catherine Zeta Jones has met her match. It is dam near impossible to misconstrue his annoying overconfidence for talent unless you pay zero attention to the finer details. Even in his debut (Thulluvadho Ilamai), the final scene (apparently, it made grown men cry) featured the diminutive Dhanush rocking a B-grade porno mustache as comfortably as a redneck would a leather jacket at a Prince concert. As far as Pollathavan is concerned, thankfully it is not a remake of V Srinivasan’s 1980 Rajinikanth-thriller of the same name…but it is a far scarier proposition; it is a modernized version of Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thieves, which was in fact was a novel written by the Italian painter Luigi Bartolini. Surprisingly, Vetri Maaran’s version has many great things going for it.

Dhanush’s dad is yet another brilliant character essay by Malayalee actor Murali. The villain and his drug-addled psychotic brother are over-the-top but for once with good reason, as are the fight sequences and the Karunas-inspired comedy. The camerawork during the seedier moments of the film is pretty fucking great too. Most importantly, Dhanush’s presence does not bother you at all. Another landmark in Tamil cinema.

Judgement nightSaroja vs Judgment Night: A few months ago, I wrote this post on Saroja saying that director Venkat Prabhu seems to have been tremendously influenced by Guy Ritchie films. A lot of the quicker-than-a-blink editing used to keep the ambience wry and sudden seemed familiar from films such Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the tremendously average Revolver. Even worse was my misconception that Prabhu had written an original barnstormer of an urban adventure. Unfortunately, Saroja is an almost identical remake of Judgment Night with only the kidnapping drama conspicuous by its absence in the original buuuuut…after watching Judgment Night, I had a gut feeling that the he had a firmer grasp on irony than Hopkins ever did (or ever intended), as was evidenced by the humour with which he treats the cowardly nature of the protagonists. In the English version, Stephen Dorff‘s fear and insecurities act as a balance to Cuba Gooding‘s violent braggadocio and Emilio Estévez‘s sense of morality, and we, the audience, are almost told to judge these characters based on their traits. In Saroja, I guess the director’s intention was just for us to point our fingers at the characters and laugh as loud as we can.

If ever I had one bone to pick, it would be this…director Prabhu has apparently stayed away from putting his own spin on Jeremy Piven’s character (Ray Cochran) from Judgment Night, which is sort of confusing. I can only imagine the insane levels of awesomeness Saroja would have gone through if someone like Karthik Kumar had played Piven’s character. Then again the director could have willfully left out the best part of Judgment Night only to showcase his own originality. Bah who do you trust anyway? Some non-conformist, talented director who can save Kollywood from its recent slump and whose bloodline was singularly responsible for shaping music in Tamil cinema? Or a mean-spirited critic who hasn’t made a single film in his life, much less a short film?

What? Seriously?

Read also

Srikanth’s fantastic review of Om Darbadar on Seventh Art

I can safely say that the Venkat Prabhu‘s version was leaps and bounds better. I had a gut feeling that the he had a firmer grasp on irony than Hopkins ever did (or ever intended), as was evidenced by the humour with which he treats the cowardly nature of the protagonists. In the English version, Stephen Dorff‘s fear and insecurities act as a balance to Cuba Gooding‘s violent braggadocio and Emilio Estévez‘s sense of morality, and we, the audience, are almost told to judge these characters based on their traits. In Saroja, I guess the director’s intention was just for us to point our fingers at the characters and laugh as loud as we can.

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Finally, some cricket that I can sink my teeth into. After months and months of tolerating the Twenty 20 nonsense and a few jarringly bad ODI matches, I got a chance to watch the ongoing 2009 Ashes series. I must say, so far it has been a real treat. On Day One, when Freddie Flintoff bowled four mean bouncers at Simon Katich and mouthed a stern warning to him, I flipped my middle-finger in front of the television (danger is my last name, courage is the middle one) at the gargantuan fast bowler, sneered, wiped imaginary saliva at the corner of my lips and made a mental note – ‘game fucking on’. The fifth ball was another rising meteor threatening to explode on the batsman’s face and Katich, with footwork that could have saved S Ramesh’s career, lifted his bat, followed the bumper and patted it down.

Now, the average Twenty 20 fan would have preferred if the batsman had stepped down the pitch, turned the face of the bat and lifted it over the wicketkeeper’s head towards the cheerleaders’ section for a DLF maxipad? This however is Test cricket. More importantly, the Ashes. The pleasure index is not directly proportional to the distance that the bowl travels or the sheer amount of bullshit conversations it generates. What matters the most here is a test of skill, patience and confidence.

asheshThe bat and the ball will do battle without the distractions of the mundane. There will be no theme song played in the stadium every time a boundary is scored or whenever a wicket is taken; only a fierce war cries and erstwhile grunts that pack more aggression and intensity than the collective bite of a hundred Rotweilers that could be bought with spare change from your favourite Indian cricketer’s savings account. Before you can impersonate Shah Rukh and start bleating ‘kuch naheee you anpatriatic dawg’, take your medication and understand that I don’t enjoy watching Team India play cricket. It’s not a personal indictment against their abilities; it just is what it is, an aversion towards seeing the same faces that constantly appear on crass commercials in-between semi-decent TV programs.

Ricky-Ponting1_0This however is not about my dislike for the blue men group; this is about a legendary cricket series between the Englishmen and the Aussies; civilized yet conflicting, hateful yet dignified, two teams drenched head to toe with the venomous spirit of one-upmanship and the history of the Ashes spurring them on to magnificent heights their coaches never knew existed. Whether it is Mark Ramprakash’s sudden metamorphosis into a poor man’s Jonty Roads overnight or Paul Reifel’s dogged patience that promoted him to the status of an all-rounder within the span of a few Test matches, the suffocating pressure of expectations has never failed to inspire these cranky buggers. Hell, even the commentators are at their best. Just listen to Nasser Hussain belt out some of the wittiest dialogues since Richie Benaud thrilled cricket fans with his ‘oh dear me’ references.

Day Two had Ponting and Katich on unbeaten centuries, with the captain (who also happens to be the best active batsman in international cricket) looking to wash away the silliness that is the rumour surrounding the fading away of the baggy green era.

All I need now is for Star Cricket to let John Dykes back in the studio for the pre-game show….aahhh sweet cricket, welcome home…I will drink thee once again from the Ashes urn.


The Ashes coverage

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