Monday, January 23, 2006

A couple of movies I recently saw....

Rounders is a movie about Poker. It starts off with Mike(Matt Damon) losing miserably in a game against a Frenchman "KGB"(John Malkovich) and thereafter vowing never to play again. But the guy's a genius. He comments he can even defeat a group of judges at Poker blindfolded, after having figured out the exact hands each one was playing. His friend Lester(Edward Norton) , having just gotten out of jail, is shocked to find his old friend has quit. But soon, the two friends start playing together, after Lester insinuatingly persuades Mike to start up again. But, Mike soon finds out Lester is ripping him off and ends up owing $15,000 to KGB. Meanwhile, his girlfriend's left him when she finds out he's started gambling again. This is not an underdog story. You don't feel ecstatic at the end of the movie ; you feel comforted and satisfied, after having seen Mike suffer for something that's not even his fault and finally overcoming it, by playing an unbelievable last game against KGB. You cannot get away from what you are, no matter how hard you try - that seems to be the moral of this movie. And it's stylish ; Matt Damon excels in his scattered monologue and can really deliver that I-don't-give-a-damn-I'm-a-genius character, that he played in Good Will Hunting. The movie had some appealing visuals too and overall, was entertaining. Definitely worth watching.

eXistenZ is a movie about virtual reality(VR) - Reality being simulated in a game. Allegra (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a game designer, who's spent the last 5 years developing a 38 million-dollar game. The interface to all such VR games is a bio-port - A hole at the back of the spine into which a cord is attached. The other end of the cord goes to a game-controller ; which is actually an organism, with its own neural system, built from parts of various animals and engineered to simulate reality. Everything goes haywire from the very beginning. An assassination attempt on Allegra leads her and Ted(Jude Law), a PR guy for the company promoting the game, to go into hiding. They soon plug into the game Allegra developed - "eXistenZ", and start playing. Some interesting observations are then realised. The game has a start-point, where a character tells you what you should do next. From there, you're on your own. Your character has it's own motions and instincts, which are displayed as the game progresses. An ingame character goes into a loop, if not confronted with the right dialogue. A loop is similar to a program loop, where the character blindly moves his eyes up and down and stares, dumbfounded at the floor or the ceiling. Soon, Ted cannot distinguish from the game-world and the real-world. They all seem the same ; the same texture and ambience rots through everything he sees. Even after pausing the game and returning to the real world, he still feels it's a game. How do you know where you are, if you can't tell the difference between what's real and what's not? Simple, you cannot. Having looked closely, I realized that eXistenZ can itself simulate another game environment and set up VR games from within itself. Forget VR controllers simulating reality ; this is VR simulating VR. And you can go as deep as you can, you can have a VR game running from within a VR, which is under another VR environment. The movie depicts exactly this, and saying anything more would give away the ending. I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone, even though the visuals are forgettable at best and the acting just so-so.

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