NIRAJASTAN || blog

angry brown man, do not provoke!

Archive for the ‘movies and television’ Category

The Punisher and Gun Control

without comments

Is Marvel/Netflix series The Punisher about gun control – should it be about gun control?

From A.V. Club:

But the thing that sets this Marvel Netflix iteration of The Punisher apart from those other gun-filled franchises is that it isn’t aiming to be a heightened, escapist action series. It’s aiming to be a grounded show about real-world issues, including the question of when and if violence is ever justified. If The Punisher wanted to be just a thrilling shoot-em-up, I would happily engage with the show on those terms. But it clearly wants to be more than just mindless action fun, so I think it’s fair to hold The Punisher to the standard it sets for itself.

Even Jon Bernthal, who plays the Punisher, says the series should start a discussion on gun control.

The Punisher is not—and never was—a poster child for gun control. Those that see the Punisher through this distorted lens seem to be missing the point. The Punisher is a gun-toting vigilante, to be sure, but they are mere tools in his trade. And he doesn’t acquire his guns through legal means. The Punisher, the Netflix series at least, seems more grounded than the comic book. It wants to know what made Frank Castle The Punisher. It’s not because he’s a gun nut. What motivates him is revenge rooted in injustice.

But vigilantism is not the core theme of the series. It’s clear to anyone watching with a discerning eye that the series is about soldiers, especially those who have actively served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Both Curtis and Lewis — former soldiers —  suffer from PTSD but handle it in vastly different ways

Curtis has come to term with his PTSD and is dealing with it in his own way: working a regular job, starting a support group for veterans, trying to live on an even keel. Lewis, on the other hand, is a completely lost soul, wandering in the wilderness, trying to deal with his PTSD. He tries to enlist as a mercenary but is rejected because he’s considered mentally unsound. This rejection eventually leads him to a self-destructive path.

Not to say gun control is not discussed. The issue is touched upon in later episodes, if only in a ham-fisted way. It’s just that the issue of gun control has little relevance with the Punisher. It’s about something else entirely.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

December 9th, 2017 at 9:39 am

Tales by Light

without comments

My current love on Netflix is the documentary series Tales by Light.

Originally produced for National Geographic, Tales by Light examines the art of adventure and nature photography through some of its finest craftsmen (and craftswomen!). It’s an arresting piece of work that is visually stunning: the landscapes, the wildlife, the people. All in vivid detail.

Some say photography is a lesser art due to the ubiquity of digital technology which makes almost anyone and everyone an amateur photogprapher, but this is not the case. Just because we live in a world saturated with images, doesn’t mean there is no art in it. And even with the capability to take pictures through our smartphones doesn’t mean we are — or can be — photographers. The difference between a dilettante and a professional is the passion and dedication to the craft; and it’s displayed in spades in this documentary series.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

December 27th, 2016 at 10:51 am

Stranger Things: An 80’s Flashback…

without comments

stranger-things-title-625x335

Netflix’s sci-fi/horror series Stranger Things is great storytelling that is both visually pleasing and visceral – it literally scares the shit out of you. Synopsis of the story can be found here. But the purpose of this post is not about Stranger Things, but it’s depiction of a decade whose milieu no longer exists but still endures for those that experienced it.

For me, Stranger Things is simply an ode to 80’s goodness.

The Cold War had an overarching presence during the 80’s. It permeated almost every aspect of our lives, from politics to media. Pop culture was not immune and it manifested itself in two major ways: the idea that the Russians, a.k.a. the commies, were out to get us; or, for the more conspiratorial, the U.S. government, through its sinister agent, the CIA. There were often fantastic claims made about the CIA. Experiments from creating super soldiers to developing mind-control techniques. Naturally, such paranoia was fodder for Hollywood: that monster lurking in the dark or that alien from another planet, all out to get you. These same tropes are being used in Stranger Things to great effect.

The Duffer Brothers, creators and executive producers, as well as writers and directors, have created an atmosphere in almost every detail: from clothes to cars, down to hair styles. This was before the internet, cell phones, personal computers, or even cordless phones. There was television, of course, but cable and VCRs were yet to be ubiquitous.

Stranger Things is filled with numerous references to 80’s pop culture. Too many to mention here, of course, but Star Wars – the gold standard — does get a mention as does Dungeons & Dragons, a game whose popularity was always a mystery to me. There is even a nice reference to the 1980s horror movie Poltergeist too. And let’s not forget the soundtrack, which is filled with memorable 80’s tunes. It lends both an authenticity and credibility to the show.

These references made me nostalgic and is reason enough to watch Stranger Things. However, even if you don’t give a hoot about the 80’s, it’s still a damn good show.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

October 2nd, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Jessica Jones: Dark, Surly, and often Drunk

without comments

Jessica-Jones-1-1200x674

If I had to reduce Jessica Jones, a new Netflix series from Marvel Comics, to one word, it is cynicism. Like Daredevil, Jessica Jones is dark– perhaps even darker. Prepare to be brutalized and have fun in the process.

Jessica Jones is a surly alcoholic private detective with superpowers she knows she has but is reluctant to use (hint: she hasn’t totally mastered them). Jessica is fixated on stopping Kilgrave, a man she has a history with, and who has the ability to control minds of people around him. Kilgrave is played brilliantly, with great wit and charm, by British actor David Tennant. The dynamics between the two is the crux of the series, but there are other characters who play vital roles in helping Jessica to take on Kilgrave: Jessica’s childhood friend Patsy; Hogarth, a crooked lawyer; a mysterious cop named Simpson; and a drug-addled neighbor named Malcolm. Luke Cage, another Marvel Comics character, plays Jessica’s love interest.

It’s interesting to note the dynamic between Jessica Jones and Kilgrave and the cat-and-mouse game they play. Kilgrave is a sociopath who uses his power capriciously. He will not hesitate to kill people if it meets his whimsical fancy. Yet he is madly in love with Jessica and wants her to love him, but she repeatedly spurns him. Kilgrave could force Jessica to love him, I suppose, but that wouldn’t be love, now would it? Nevertheless, Kilgrave persists even to the point of disregarding his instincts for self-reservation. He could just kill Jessica, and had many opportunities but doesn’t do so in the vain hope she still has feelings for him. In this futile attempt at love makes Kilgrave come off as a hopeless romantic.

Unlike Daredevil, which is bright and colorful as neon, Jessica Jones is muted: a persistent color of grey. The pacing of the series is almost glacial. Add a jazz-infused score and it makes Jessica Jones an almost a hard-boiled, neo-noir affair. But it works.

Jessica Jones is second in a series of four Marvel Comics-based storylines. There is the aforementioned Daredevil, and upcoming Luke Cage and Iron Fists. All four characters will then reprise their roles in the series The Defenders. In addition, Jessica Jones has been renewed for a second season. Which is good news.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

April 7th, 2016 at 7:54 pm

Deadwood Movie On the Way…

without comments

There will be a Deadwood movie! TVLine writes:

HBO programming president Michael Lombardo confirmed to TVLine that he personally gave series creator David Milch the green light to resurrect the acclaimed yet painfully short-lived Western.

Not only was it damn short, but it was damn good too. I’m of the opinion Deadwood should’ve been given at least one more season to wrap things up, especially the unresolved father-son issues between Al Swearingen and Seth Bullock. No doubt this will be the focal point in the movie.

I would also like to know how rest of the cast, presuming they all return, will fit into the movie. I’m also guessing the movie will take several years after we last saw them, so it will be interesting to see how this passing of time is taken into account.

Given the complexities of a television drama, with its multitude of characters and story arcs, a movie is totally inadequate, in my opinion. It would be unsatisfying. I believe a proper send-off for Deadwood would be a mini-series.

Regardless, I can’t wait to see it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

January 17th, 2016 at 7:42 pm

Rey Looks So Damn Fine…But Why?

without comments

I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens as any rational human should, fan or not, film lover or not. Naturally, it was awesome. It’s a great ode to the past while looking ahead to the future, which is hard to do with any franchise, especially one beloved as Star Wars.

Nevertheless, I have one observation—for now—that is bothering me.

It’s about Rey, the titular character in this latest epic. For a poor scavenger living on the barren, forsaken planet of Jakku, I find it interesting how great she looks. Did you notice how great Rey’s teeth look and her beautiful, unblemished skin?

Daisy-Ridley-as-Rey-in-The-Force-Awakens

Compared to other jamokes Rey shares the planet with, she looks fabulous, quite dishy in fact. Her athletic frame, adorned with perfectly fitting clothes, moves smoothly across the screen. Luke Skywalker gave off the same impression when we first meet him, but he worked on a farm, which clearly puts him in a higher income bracket than Rey, hence we are not surprised he has style. He had the cash. Not Rey.

It’s not a big deal and doesn’t take away from the narrative one iota. Hollywood is just strange this way—you can be poor and still be hot!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

January 8th, 2016 at 8:03 pm

Tarantino’s Ode to Ultra Panavision 70

without comments

In the opening credits of Hateful Eight, Tarantino does an unusual thing: he gives credit to Ultra Panavision 70, the camera used to shoot the film.

Hateful-8-Grab-9

Credit for camera equipment and film is normally reserved for tail end of closing credits, where it’s mostly ignored by the audience. Tarantino gives the camera its due respect—he puts it right up front where no can miss it. Always thought the camera was unheralded. In a way, it’s a star in its own right.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

January 6th, 2016 at 9:47 pm

Thoughts on the Oscars

without comments

Totally agree with Key & Peele’s (transmitted through as William Sherman and Marshwan Lynch) take on the Oscars.

Shouldn’t those films nominated for best director be automatically nominated for best picture? And if there are ten slots for best picture, shouldn’t there be ten films and not just eight?

For me the whole process of how the Oscars are selected is screwed-up. Many members of the “Academy” don’t even bother to watch all the films that are nominated, often picking films based on some personal agenda, political or otherwise.

I think it’s all bullshit. This is why I stopped watching the Oscars in the first place.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

February 22nd, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in movies and television

Tagged with ,

Justified: More Then a Crime Drama

with 2 comments

The Federalist has written a great post about one of my favorite television shows, Justified. It talks about the show’s literary qualities, that it’s just not some hardboiled crime drama set in the backwoods of Kentucky, but has “novelistic” intentions and philosophical undercurrents.

The show is filled with multiple arcs and plots, both small are large, but the most overarching theme is the conflict between Raylan Givens, titular lawman, complete with Marshall’s badge and ten-gallon hat; and Boyd Crowder, the villain, who is both ruthless and charming. Both are mirrors of each other.

…Boyd is no more a villain than Raylan is a hero; each man is a kind of shadow of the other, ill-suited to their assigned roles and unfit for the wider world. Cold and remorseless, justified in all his killings, Raylan is knotted up with anger and violence. His moral conscience amounts to allying himself with the law, though he ignores it when it’s convenient and flouts it openly to protect an ex-wife he loves but refuses to be with.

By contrast, Boyd exudes a kind of joie de vivre amid his many depredations while betraying a moral sensitivity far more developed than Raylan’s. He does wrong but doesn’t try to justify it to his conscience.

Raylan is not really a likable character. He’s rough around the edge, a bit of an outlaw who brandishes his own brand of justice: the kind where you shoot first and ask questions later. The man is filled with moral ambiguity from top to bottom. Even his cowboy hat—neither white or black, but beige – describes the man as an unlikable anti-hero. He has no friends or family to speak of except an estranged ex-wife. The only thing he has – and the only thing he really needs – is his job and his unyielding quest to put Boyd Crowder behind bars for good.

Boyd Crowder, murdering thug that he is, seems more likable than Raylan ever hopes to be. Smart, charming, Boyd is keen on maintaining relationships while Raylan is not. Oddly bookish, Boyd likes to talk in long-winded paragraphs, each like a soliloquy, like he’s a character from a Shakespeare play. And unlike Raylan, Boyd accepts who he is. He has a code, but there’s no moral ambiguity to him. And let’s admit it: We all like Boyd.

That we feel this way about the main characters proves to me how good Justified really is.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

February 17th, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer Thoughts

without comments

The teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out. Everybody – and their mother and grandmother – has seen it.

It looks awesome. Great combination of old and new, where it came from and where it’s going. It contains John Williams iconic score, of course, and whenever I hear it, it never fails to send a tingle up and down my spine.

I see there’s a new light saber, which I’m sure will makes many Star Wars fanboys (and fangirls) quite upset. I say get over it. In order for Star Wars to survive as a franchise, it must evolve. Sticking to the past is a sure path to extinction.

Can’t wait to see it!

Unfortunately, it won’t be released until December 2015, eschewing a traditional summer release. Great! I’ll be tortured till then.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

December 9th, 2014 at 12:36 pm