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Book Review: "300" by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley

Monday · 26 Mar 07 · 01:24 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: General

I can't wait to watch 300 — unfortunately, the movie hasn't been released in theatres in Chennai yet.  It is already out in other cities in India, and my brother's seen it.  Anyway, I definitely wanted to read the book before watching the movie, and I did that today.

Book Review: 300 [Frank Miller, Lynn Varley] — by Karthik

300 is a graphic novel published by Dark Horse Comics, written by Frank Miller, with art by Frank Miller and colours by Lynn Varley.  The book is set in 480 BC, where the Persians (led by their King Xerxes) are an unstoppable force, invading all of Greece.  However, Sparta refuses to yield, and King Leonidas leads his men into battle against the Persians.  This historical confrontation will take place at Thermopylae (the "Hot Gates"), a pass in the mountains where Leonidas's men would be able to push back the invaders.  But will 300 Spartans be able to win over the "hundred nations" of the Persians?

This book is a stunning work — originally published as a 5-part comic book series, it has since been collected into graphic novel format.  The book is entirely composed of double-page spreads, and has magnificent artwork by Miller.  Striking visuals of the both armies, locales from ancient Greece, shots of the characters are all beautifully presented, everything is well laid out and wonderfully paced.  The artwork is further enhanced by the gorgeous paint work by colourist Lynn Varley, who adds depth and atmosphere to every scene in the book.  The battle scenes are breathtaking and bloody, as they should be.

The visuals are not the only exceptional aspect of the book — the storytelling is also masterful.  The book does not have much dialogue or plot and exposition, but Miller manages to develop characters strongly, and convey lots of emotion and drama.  This is a story about heroes, honour, sacrifice and bloody combat, and is guaranteed to have you applauding by the time it ends.

Miller was supposedly inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans to create this work.  I am not sure how historically accurate this book is, but I read that Miller did take some liberties with the way certain things are presented.  This book was adapted into the 2007 film 300, directed by Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead [2004 Remake]), and I am eagerly looking forward to watching it.  Like the film adaptation of Miller's Sin City stories, 300 was created using the "digital backlot" technique (filming actors against a green or blue screen, and adding all backgrounds digitally).  While everything I've seen about the movie so far indicates that justice has been done to the visuals and the battle sequences, I am anxious to see how they fleshed out Miller's story and characters into a two-hour screenplay.  Looks like I'll have to wait for some more time, though!

As an additional note to this, Zack Snyder is going to adapt the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic book Watchmen (a project which was once under development by The Bourne Supremacy director Paul Greengrass).  Sometime back, AICN ran this very interesting article, which talked about a test image of Rorschach hidden in one of the trailers of 300!  I wasn't able to spot the image in the YouTube clip, fortunately, the article also has a high-resolution version put up.  Have a look!

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Announcing: Stygian_Nebula!

Sunday · 18 Mar 07 · 04:30 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Doom

The Doom Speedmap that I made a couple of weeks back was a welcome return to mapping after a very long time.  The completion of that map, however small, inspired me to start work on a proper-sized level, and I did so the very next day!  I don't usually announce that I'm working on a Doom level until I've got a major part of it completed (to ensure that I will actually release it once announced!) — by now, I feel enough work has been done on the map that I can officially announce it!

Stygian_Nebula — for Doom II by Karthik Abhiram, Coming_Soon!

The level has the cool-sounding title of Stygian_Nebula, and is currently undergoing construction.  It is going to be a small-to-medium sized level for Doom II, replacing MAP01.  I've set up a page for it, with a teaser poster I made, and the story I've written for the map.  Screenshots and more details on the level would be showing up on that page very soon.

Go to the Stygian_Nebula page to see the poster and the story, and feel free to hit back with your comments!

EDIT (23:44): Some more details added to the page, go and have a look!

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Year Zero

Thursday · 8 Mar 07 · 02:43 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: General

I'm probably going to regret doing this... making this post when I know I have to sleep and get up in another three hours and then go to work... but this is something that I just had to post about!  I just got to see the teaser trailer for the new Nine Inch Nails album called Year Zero, and man, is it spooky!  The album is going to be out in April, and the concept of Year Zero is that of a dystopic future.  The Wikipedia article contains a lot of background information on the album and the promotion that has been going on for it.  I read this, and then loaded up the trailer to watch.  I was expecting a short music excerpt from one of the songs (like in the With Teeth or Nine Inch Nails Live: Beside You In Time clips), but nothing could prepare me for what I saw!  The appearance of "the presence" really freaked me out for some reason.  There is also an article at Arrow in the Head, about a possible film being made as part of the Year Zero project.

I've started reading reviews for 300 and they're so overwhelmingly positive that I can't wait to see this movie!  Check out The Arrow's review and Tim Goernert's review at JoBlo (Tim gives this a 10/10, something which he hasn't done for any film in recent memory!).  This movie is going to be released on 16th in India it seems, and Varun was saying something about it getting into trouble with the censor board.  I can't imagine why, as I guess most of the "adult" content is depicted in a very artistic way.  Anyway, check out this battle clip from the movie at YouTube... a film filled with scenes like this is bound to be truly breathtaking!

Oh, and the latest version of DOSBox supports Blood, one of the games that I really missed playing as it wasn't compatible with Windows XP!

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Today's Speedmapping!

Monday · 5 Mar 07 · 02:33 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Doom

Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, I took part in the Speedmapping event organised by Sarge Baldy.  The theme for this session was "Create a map inspired by one of your favorite maps. You don't need to recreate the map; just try to give yours a similar theme and feel."

Today's Speedmap!

I picked Doom E3M5: Unholy Cathedral as my inspiration, and made a tiny map in 100 minutes.  Overall, I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, and though it's very small and easy (I think it'll only take around 30-40 seconds to play), it is pretty nice looking.  The green stone pillar, the flooring, the dark outdoors with the hellish symbols are the elements from the original that made it into this map.  I mailed Sarge Baldy the map sometime ago, and now I'm off to sleep!

I had a good time at this event and it was refreshing to make a Doom map after a long time...  I'm looking forward to seeing the compilation pack with all the maps from this session.  This should be a diverse set of levels, since each participant picked a different map for inspiration!

EDIT (06:29): The compilation is out!  Go to Sarge Baldy's Speedmapping page and download the file, my map is MAP01 in the pack.  MAP02 through MAP05 are by Torn, Zap610, DomRem and dr zin respectively.

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Sleight of Hand

Sunday · 4 Mar 07 · 07:21 PM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: General

Normally it is my brother Varun who makes videos and puts them up on his blog.  But last night, I tried my hand at making a video, and the result is available now for you to see!

Karthik in How to Make a Card Disappear

This video is called How to Make a Card Disappear and it stars... myself!  I was very inspired after watching the movie The Prestige, and so I looked up a few magic tricks on the net.  After a bit of practice, I can now make a card disappear, and that is what is shown in the video.  I recorded the video with my webcam and it is untouched except for the addition of the "aged film" effect in Windows Movie Maker.  The music track playing in the video is "Just Like You Imagined" by Nine Inch Nails.

Pick one of the following options to watch the video —

Do let me know what you think of the video!

Two more things before I finish this post — first, I added a movie review for The Covenant, which I watched yesterday.  It was a letdown, considering that it is a Renny Harlin film.  Anyway, the review is here.  Also, it has been quite some time since I released a Doom map, and it has been even longer since I took part in a Speedmapping exercise.  So, when Sarge Baldy announced that a Speedmapping event was scheduled today, I thought I would give it a shot.  1900 GMT is around 0030 for me, which is a little late, but I look forward to it anyway.  I hope the theme is something nice, and I hope I can contribute something worthwhile.

EDIT (20:39): For watching the video, I recommend VLC media player — it is an open source player that natively supports a variety of video formats on several platforms.

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Die Hard 4.0, Sunshine Posters and more

Friday · 2 Mar 07 · 01:32 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Movies

A couple of new movie posters have turned up recently, most notably, for the following two movies — Sunshine and Die Hard 4.0.  Those, and a few other interesting links are listed below —

  • has a large-resolution version of the first teaser poster for Die Hard 4.0.  Apparently, this film is going to be titled Live Free or Die Hard in the US only, and in other countries, it's going to be called Die Hard 4.0.
  • JoBlo has a look at the US poster for Sunshine here.  It is pretty interesting to look at, but somehow seems like the artwork for a direct-to-DVD release!
  • The UK version of the Sunshine poster is available (in both one-sheet and quad formats) over here, at SolaceinCinema.  This is far more impressive than the US poster (nice use of Helvetica here!).
  • Speaking of Helvetica, there is actually a documentary film called Helvetica that is going to be released soon.  The release of the film commemorates the 50th anniversary of this very elegant typeface.  Here is the official site for the film (with info, a trailer and some clips), and here is an article about the film at SolaceinCinema.
  • The same site has another interesting article about the company (called Foreign Office) that created the fictional advertising and other graphics used in the movie Children of Men.  At their site, there is an MOV clip that shows off the work they did, which is pretty amazing!  Here is a direct link to the MOV file (right-click and "Save As..."), which is around 14 MB in size.
  • IMPAwards has got a look at a banner for Grindhouse as well.

Seeing as how this post is largely about movie posters, have a look at the Wikipedia article, for more information about different poster formats.

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Dark Fate 2 is a singleplayer level for Doom II, replacing MAP01.  It's a small-sized hellish level — and there's a walkthrough video as well.

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The Author

Karthik Abhiram

27-year old Taurean (birthday 15-May-82), Assistant Manager - HR at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd in Hyderabad, India.  Previously, did Post Graduate Diploma in Management from T A Pai Management Institute (2003-05) and before that, Computer Science Engineering from Sree Nidhi Institute of Science and Technology (1999-2003).

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