Category Archives: Reviews

side by side movie

Movie Review: Side by Side (2012)

I believe ‘Side by Side’ is the best movie to have come out of the year 2012. It gets 5 out 5 stars for helping us understand and appreciate movies and the craft of making movies. This movie/documentary, which is based on an interview format, is produced, moderated and narrated by Keanu Reeves. Astonished? Read my review to find out why I made this selection.

It takes you on a journey of discovery, giving you a backstage pass to how movies are made. It gives an overview of processes which were used to make a movie over the years and the current technological achievements and improvements in the industry. Most importantly, the people who are being interviewed, are some of the most respected actors, directors and producers, e.g. Martin Scorsese, Danny Boyle, The Wachowskis, Christopher Nolan, George Lucas and James Cameron to name a few.

Side by Side Official Trailer (2012) from Company Films on Vimeo.

Rotten Tomatoes’s Tomato Meter gives it a 93% rating. IMDb gives it a 7.7 score. I agree with these ratings/scores. This is one movie you MUST watch. Even if you have very little time left in your life here on planet Earth, you absolutely need to take some time out of your schedule and watch this movie. Yes. It is that good. I must admit, I am biased towards documentary movies. But, wait till you watch the movie.

movie side by side George Lucas giving his views
We are going through a very significant and large transition in cinema and the digital process democratizes the whole thing. – George Lucas

It talks about the different roles of people involved in the development of a movie. It shows the dilemmas, challenges, fears and conquests from some of the amazing pioneers of movies over the years. This movie should be a definite part of every movie/technology buff’s collection.

Role of Keanu Reeves:
Now the role of Keanu Reeves in the movie. He’s the producer, the interviewer and the narrator. His voice during narration seems a little different than the usual professional British/American narrating voices we are used to, while watching documentaries. A simple trick, which I used to overcome this, is to think that Neo from The Matrix is narrating. Everything falls into place after that trick.

Movie Review: Zibahkhana – Hell’s Ground (2007)

(Estimated Reading Time: ~ 20 minutes)

(Movie Review: Zibahkhana – Hell’s Ground)
(Possibly the worst movie made/shot in Pakistan)

With movies like Josh, Zinda Bhaag and Chambaili giving hope to some about the ‘revival’ of Pakistani cinema, I felt the need to watch some of the indie movies made in Pakistan, in the past. So my first attempt was to watch a movie that was on my list for a long time but I didn’t have the courage (read stomach) to watch it. It was Zibahkhana.
Zibahkhana is a zombie / gore / horror movie made/shot in Pakistan. Directed by Omar Ali Khan and produced by Pete Tombs.

This movie surprised me with the amount of limelight it got in the media. It was mentioned in Time Magazine, The Telegraph and Variety. I was also surprised to see that it got 100% (7.2 out of 10) from rotten tomatoes. Even more than ImDB (5.5 out of 10). So I made plenty of calls to obtain a DVD with bonus features if possible. I was sucessful and started watching the movie. By the end I was immensely disappointed. It looked more like a film for assignment submission for a course whose teacher marked everyone as a winner.

So because of this disappointment, this movie gets a very special review, spoilers and all.

I give it 1 out of 10. It gets 1 for the concept of Burqaman. It loses all the other points because of low production quality, flaws in the script, substandard acting and a director with no eye for details. The best scene in the movie is that of a stream filled with trash and filth. At least the stream made an impact.

Here’s the detailed review:
From the start you have to stomach a lot before you get into the mood of watching this movie. It is sub standard from the get-go. From the poster (which was probably updated 3 times over the years) with crappy fonts (to scare us, I think) to the introductory scene that adds no horror value to the movie. i.e. A car gets into an accident because it hit something, we don’t know what. The actor sits up immediately, no shock, no trauma, and lights a cigarette. Great. There is a full shot of the actor and we see him getting scared of what appears to be thin air.  Poor acting at that.

There is the usual jumping through hoops, where a group goes on a journey and
takes a shortcut. Then there are no signals on the cellphone and they realize the gas gauge is messed up. Then the engine doesn’t start, and then the car gets stuck in mud (twice), there was mud but no source (rain/stream) shown.

Dialogues:
Actor asks whether the map has gas stations, as if it was Google maps — in 2008 — in print form — in Pakistan.

Here are some more examples:
(Rest in peace English)
“It was fucking with the shit out of me.”

(Make up your mind)
“I was attacked by something down there!”
“It wasn’t an animal, it was a man!”

(Drawing room discussions)
Actors (standing) : “Do you have any idea what was going on back then? What is your opinion on this?”

Realism:
Some form of realism is important for us to help us connect with the movie. So that we get lost in the movie and are on the edge of our seats when the action quickens its pace.

The actor in the movie is shown to be more concerned about the animal that attacked,
than the person attacked and possibly bleeding to death.

LunchTime

Here’s another scene:
(One actor gets bitten by a zombie and friends try to help)
“We have to take him to a hospital, the blood is not stopping”
(No bandages are applied. Result should be death by blood loss. But No!)
(2 minutes later in the van)
Actor (who was bitten): “I’m okay now that I have my dope”
(Moral: Dope heals fatal wounds.)

– While there is one friend in the group, who is dying in the van, two of the other friends
start politely discussing philosophy as if they don’t even care what happens to him.

– A stranger tells them he will guide them and gets into their van.
Then the same stranger screams: “I will take blood out of you all!”
Result: No reaction. They don’t stop the car or kick him out.

– A decapitated human head lies in the van. Three of their friends are missing.
And then out of nowhere a romance blossoms between the poor Christian boy and the upper-class religious Muslim girl. Huh?

The film shows a group that comprises of people of different beliefs and
backgrounds but is inconsistent with the parts played by the actors.
For example, the educated, upper-class girl is okay medicating herself when an
old lady, who she just met, seconds ago, in the middle of the jungle, says:
“Let me give you some medicine. Here. Drink it. There you go.”

Sound:
The music and sound of the car engine is turned on and off abruptly. There is no consistency. The dubbing was crappy overall. In one scene the mouth of the actor moves and words don’t come out.

Lighting:
The scenes in the night should depict the moonlight but all we see is a stage light
(very close by and at a height of 12 feet) masquerading as the moon.

We’re not idiots. We can easily differentiate both.

There is no consideration for day time and night time while shooting.
In one scene it’s noon, then it’s sunset, and then noon and then sunset.

Tube-lights were installed in the van as if it were an ambulance. More importantly, lights in the van are on while they are escaping at night, lights are off in the van when they stop to check the front of the car.
Ambulance

There is inconsistent lighting throughout the movie. They try to show a moonlit night.
Sometimes too dark, sometimes we get the feeling of a street lamp in the middle of the jungle.

Near the end, when we have established that there is enough moon light for people to walk about but then in a certain twist the girl suddenly can’t see anything, in that light. There is light all around the van, the girl does not notice the burkha-slasher, in front of the van, until she turns the headlights on. Totally believable.

Acting:
It was as if someone convinced their cousins to work with them on the project.  Even striking/beating the car in anger is unconvincing.

Human Anatomy:
This is important because the movie is a zombie-slasher movie. Human parts will be eaten. Humans intestines look like chicken intestines.

Make-up:
Make up isn’t consistent with the disease plot they were pursuing. Some have boils and white scales, some are normal with a zombie look in the eyes.

Props:
This movie could get the razzie for the worst and unconvincing ‘horror props’ e.g. the scary stuff hanging from trees include a dead crow, a brand new doll not a rag doll and a foot of a chicken.

They come to a mausoleum burning 50 or so candles (in the middle of nowhere). How the
hell do you procure candles in the jungle? It appears there is a shop in the middle of the jungle that gives out free candles and people burn them generously. When one candle will suffice for lighting they still burn seven candles in more than one scene.

Example of disregard for detail:
The burkha-slasher uses a flail to smash the head of one of the ‘teenagers’. His head doesn’t even shake/move when the death blow is served. And his eyes (appear to) roll back into their sockets.

After she strikes the slasher, she checks, to see if he is dead, in a very interesting way.
Usually in movies we kick to see something (which was out to kill us) is alive or not.
But here, the girl drops to her knees and puts her head near the chest of the slasher
(as if he was her loved one) and listens to the heart beat.

This movie should be shown in film institutes for a different reason.
“How movies should never be made.”

Here’s a simple test for you, to see how cliched this movie is:
Take a guess how this movie ended.
That’s right. Everyone dies.

I’m glad I watched this movie. Now I have an answer to the following question:
“Which movie, in your opinion, is possibly the worst movie ever made/shot in Pakistan?”
rundownshack

Movie Review: After Earth (2013)

After Earth is a science fiction movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Jaden Smith and Will Smith. Set in the future, where humans have left Earth and settled on some other planet. A father takes his son on a military mission and they crash land on Earth. The son defeats/kills the alien and saves the father’s life.

After Earth

I give it a 2/10.
2 for production quality and fear-smelling-alien concept.
It loses all other points because the story wasn’t gripping enough. It was interesting in certain scenes but didn’t have a strong role for Will Smith, which is frankly why we watched the movie. I also think that the people who watched this movie might have felt cheated in the end.

(This movie hasn’t released in Pakistan and the DVD sales are said to start in October 2013. So a lot of waiting is involved here for you if you haven’t watched it yet.)

(The details that we know from different sources is that the idea for the movie came from Will Smith. Gary Whitta wrote the script first and then M. Night co-wrote it with him later.)

The script has flaws. I have never been a fan of story writers trying to jump through hoops to make a story possible. More discussions should have been done on the script.

No Emergency escape pods:
We see that there is a military spaceship, it gets messed up and we realize that there are no escape pods to save the humans.

Flight safety:
The ship just crash lands and kills most of the crew. We deserve better from the future.
1000 years later and emergency landing still kills people? People travel (the seating arrangement) like they are going to be dropped out in the jungle from a plane?

No Space suits:
What if they land on the planet with no suitable atmosphere to expose your hands and face. Like in the case of the planet (Earth) they landed on. No thermal suits.
No breathing masks? (just in case) No gloves? (Even mountain cycling people wear gloves)

Weapons:
There are no guns (for immediate protection). All we see is that Jaden has a cutlass that is on his back. 1000 years later and we still prefer close combat with aliens that can smell you and your fear from a considerable distance.

The communicator:
We see that the communicator gets damaged. We also see that the heart beat, bone structure etc. is transmitted but voice communication not possible. So the communication between the devices is one way?

My Illogical Bones:
At the end of the movie, Will Smith is saved by his son Jaden. After the rescue, we see the medics helping Will Smith with his injuries. We know that both of the legs are broken but still Will Smith says stand me up. Why put pressure on your broken limbs? Why couldn’t you stand up during the whole movie?

Will’s disappointment:
We weren’t the only people who were disappointed. Will Smith also expressed his disappointment on Jimmy Kimmel Live, talking about After Earth coming at number 3 on its first day at the Box Office.

Further observations:
Resemblance: It’s amazing how Jaden Smith looks exactly like his father Will Smith in the movie.

Conclusion: 
I wasn’t impressed with the movie, but I would like to add it to my DVD collection 
when it becomes available on DVD.

Anime Review: Another (2012)

‘Another’ is a 12 episode anime. It falls under the category of horror / mystery / drama / seinen. It’s about a student who transfers to a new school and then one by one, students start dying in mysterious ways, because of a curse. Some are calling ‘Another’, the anime version of ‘Final Destination’. I have to be clear on this. I am not a big fan of horror movies/anime. And I’m also not a fan of people dying one by one to help pace the story.

– I give ‘Another’ 5 out of 10.

5 for excellent quality, solid foundation/theme.
It loses points for flaws in the script in the ending episodes.

After reading several negative comments on the net about this anime, I gathered some courage to watch it. It was good. The plot was mysterious. The foundation of the anime was pretty solid. It looked promising. Until the ending episodes. More specifically, episodes 10, 11, and 12.

I checked again on other sources like IMDb and yet again that site has positive (and in my opinion misleading) reviews of anime that I am not fond of.

Here’s what was bothersome about the final episodes:

Episode 10:
We find that Misaki has the power to see ‘dead stuff/people’ or the ‘color of death’ with her glass eye. 8 people died but she didn’t even bother to help.  She kept that eye covered with a patch. Why?

She knew the murderer, the ‘extra student’ but she didn’t mention it to anyone. Why?
(At the end of the tenth episode she is about to tell Kuichi but they are interrupted by a crazy knock at the door.)

Episode 11:
After Kazami is killed at the end of episode 10, we see that the three students coming down to check whether Kazami is still alive after being thrown from the second floor. Notice the extra slow walk down the staircase. What was that supposed to be? Was it supposed to add a dramatic effect to the anime? Someone was dying and they acted like
‘Let’s just go extra slow this time. Let’s take our time and let him bleed and die’

Even when Mei Misaki’s life is in danger after the announcement in the house,
she doesn’t inform the people about the murderer. Even when almost all her
classmates want to kill her, she doesn’t speak up. Why?

A student tries to kill Misaki with a — mop — and the teacher, Ms. Mikami, just walks straight into the blow of the student. She doesn’t parry the blow with her hand. Where were her reflexes? Was she trying to block the blow with her head?

Ms. Mikami was hurt/killed trying to protect Misaki. Misaki doesn’t speak up.
She is calm and composed. She just takes Kouichi’s hand and runs away. Why?

When they lock the door to a room, a girl opens the door with a simple kick. It seemed momentary insanity gave super strength.

Everyone is in a frenzy to kill Misaki. They’re smiling and laughing while approaching to kill her. Even people who were timid and didn’t talk much are now out of their shell and freely trying to kill their classmate, all the while saying:
‘Send the dead back to death!’
A worth noting aspect, in this episode and the one that follows, is that most of the people who are trying to kill have gained super skills in stabbing, slicing, dicing and throwing knives (with excellent aim I must add) at people although they have lost their minds.

Here’s something more interesting– when Takako gets stuck with wires around her neck, instead of pulling her head up to get out of the wires, — she pulls down — with her neck. What?! Who came up with that stuff?
And when she is hanged by the wires, Misaki just watches and doesn’t support her legs to save her from getting strangled by the wires. Why?

Episode 12:
Kuichi comes out of the burning house on the advice of the librarian (who also saved his life). But he goes back into the burning house after realizing that Misaki is still inside. The librarian doesn’t stop him. Why?

If a falling chandelier and a pillar weren’t enough to kill the students,  we learn that some higher power also endorses the curse and sends lightening bolts from the sky to kill Izumi Akazawa, the student responsible for counter measures against the curse. Huh?

When everything was normal there were no signals on cellphones, when the student with asthma collapsed. But when the whole house was on fire the signal reception improved for Kuichi to make a call to Misaki. What?

Conclusion:
It’s better than some of the other animes I have seen. It’s watchable.

News:
There is news of a spin-off novel ‘Another: Episode S’ releasing in July 2013.
A sequel manga/novel ‘Another 2’ has also been announced.
— I’m afraid I’ll have to skip that.

Links and resources:
Official website:
http://www.another-anime.jp/

Wikipedia post (and list of episodes):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Another_episodes

Anime Review: Night Head Genesis (2006)

This anime has 24 episodes and I give it 3/10.
3 points for concept, quality (at the time), and super-powers used.
This anime loses points because of the crappy plot.
Again don’t be misled by generous reviews elsewhere like IMDb.
It’s a drag. It would have been better if it was reduced to 12 episodes.
It’s a case of too much bread and too little butter.
(Even putting a little girl, to add cuteness to the last 2 episodes, fails. What were they thinking?)

A bit of advice: Please turn your headphone’s/speaker’s volume a little lower than you usually set. This is because of the number of times ‘Naoya’ and ‘Niisan’ is yelled.
Be prepared to continuously hear a grown up (Naoya) cry like a child and faint throughout the episodes to convince his brother to win arguments and force his ‘Niisan’ to take action.

The whole anime is weak but I’m going to talk about 5 episodes in the end.

Episode 19:
Students die. Both the brothers just watch the students floating in the pool.
They don’t try to save them and perform CPR.

Episode 20:
Naoya can’t feel that ‘mind control’ is at play when his brother is shown scary visuals.
It’s also normal for the brothers to sit down with murderers and manipulators to have coffee and do chit-chat.

Remember X-Men First Class, near the end, where Charles Xavier was mind
controlling the former Nazi, Sebastian Shaw and Magneto was passing
a coin through his head. Xavier could have let Shaw go. But he
didn’t. He controlled his mind till the end and let him die.
And while doing that, Charles was screaming. I didn’t get that part too.

Episode 21:
It takes Naoya a whole day to come to the conclusion to save the girl.
They reach the house at night (even though no one told them where the girl lived)
Naoto could have punctured the wheel of the car, to stop the ‘Ark’ rep
from taking the girl. The girl is very important in the destruction of the
world. It seems the brothers somehow suffer amnesia at this critical moment
and forget this.

Episode 22:
Instead of taking his brother to a hospital, Naoya takes him back to the hotel
where they are staying. Naoto is not waking up and is probably in a coma.
Naoto gains the power of telepathy after he ‘dies’ (-_-).
Naoya gains the power of giving back life.

Episode 24: (Final episode)
This episode raises so many questions. This is typical when people
are quickly wrapping up an anime. There are bound to be loose ends.

–Naoto stops the scientist from telling the media that an earth quake will happen. He forces him to go back. But when there is a chance that a huge earth quake will happen and the scientist again decides to tell the city council, Naoto doesn’t stop him. Why?

–The mark on the map, made by the little girl in Russia, is over the water/sea
near Japan. But in the episode it shifts to a forest near a theme park. Why?

–When the scientist hurts his shoulder, Naoya heals him. But when his own brother passes out. He just takes him to a hotel (we don’t know how that happened) and waits for Naoto to wake up. Why?

–In the starting episodes, Naoto saved a woman from falling off a building in when she was thrown. But when the lights of the stage are falling on the good scientist, who saved millions of people, Naoto doesn’t save him. Why?

–The good scientist had 2 daughters. The elder daughter leaves her little sister (with complete strangers) to go to the research site on the hill after her father’s recent death. Why?

I don’t recommend this anime, but it is watchable.

Anime Review : Monster (2004 – 2005)

Monster  is an anime of 74 episodes. If you’re planning to watch this anime then don’t.
There is no issue with the animation quality of the anime. The plot is intense and keeps you on the edge for many episodes.  However, in episodes 37 & 38, it turns to crap.
Don’t waste your time. Don’t be misled by the super positive reviews given on IMDb and other anime review sites. I watched it. The anime was doing great till episode 37 and 38.

I’ll tell you the reason why I started disliking this anime without spoiling it for you.
In episode 37, the main character (the hero) couldn’t pull the trigger at the villain (this villain, by the way, killed people that the protagonist knew and respected. This villain didn’t even leave kids, women, men and old people). And if this villain was not stopped (read killed), we are told, he will cause more destruction and more deaths.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely DO NOT condone violence in any form.

But this is an anime. Not real life. It is supposed to have a plot.
The hero takes training for 6 months to shoot. Builds his stamina by skipping ropes like a little girl and running through the forest. He goes from city to city, all over Germany, in search of this villain.
In episode 37, the hero has one chance to shoot.
In episode 38, he has two chances to shoot.
He suffers from some illogical internal dilemma and does not shoot. There is a girl who tries to shoot. He orders her not to shoot and she doesn’t shoot. Oh and the girl I just mentioned had also taken 5 or 6 months training (separately) and has been following ‘The Monster’ throughout Germany.

There are a few flaws in the anime in this episode (Episode # 38) that made me wish I didn’t watch it.
There is a library that is set to receive a huge donation of books from some important businessman and security is requested (vehemently) to be beefed up. The library is set on fire. And the doors are locked. Amazingly, there are no latches on the inside or the outside to open the doors (as you will see if you watch the episode, people who came to help couldn’t open from the outside and people stuck in the library couldn’t open it from the inside).

The fire was set by a woman who happened to be there in the library carrying a can filled with gasoline. Wow! There is no security outside the library. Because no one opens the door from the outside. Everyone is inside and the library is burning.

Now one would say, “Hey. Come on. The hero may not have wanted to shoot. May be he had a change of heart.” I understand if you think like that. But the guy (hero) does shoot another accomplice of the villain, first in the shoulder and then in the chest.

What was bad was not that the hero didn’t shoot the gun (he had a sniper rifle and a perfect shot). The problem was that the anime took us from one innocent’s death to another. And we were made to believe that this villain was a monster (if the name of the anime couldn’t be obvious enough). We were told during the anime that this villain was no ordinary bad guy. He had a messed up head. So anime logic implies that this bad guy would not be stopped by traditional means. Because he had evaded the police for 9-12 YEARS committing many murders. So now when the anime should have come to an end, the villain disappears into the smoke of fire in the library. Great!

But I knew the villain won’t be shot from the start. It’s obvious if you think about it. If the villain died in episode 38 what would they show from episode 39 to 74.
If there was something logical that caused the villain to escape then I would have appreciated the effort by the writer to have discussed this script with someone who could have pointed out the flaws.

This anime was a let down. They got us interested in this psychological thriller. And then they just made an episode to disappoint us.

I stopped watching the anime after finishing episode 38.
Some say this anime ends without any conclusion. So much for happy endings.