Friday, July 31, 2009

Movie: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Professor Bloom(John Hurt) explains the legend of the Golden Army to his foster son, Hellboy, on a cold night in 1955. In a battle between humans and elves, the master of goblin blacksmiths build a golden army of mechanical creatures for King Balor, king of elves. Prince Nuada(Luke Goss), son of King Balor, was instrumental in the influencing King Balor. In the next battle with humans, the golden army destroys the humans without mercy. Seeing the destruction, King Balor repents over his decision and agrees on a truce with human. As part of the truce, Prince Nuada is exiled and the magical crown that controls the golden army is broken into three pieces. One of the piece is given to humans and the others kept with elves. Now, the golden army is put to sleep and will only be awakened when the crown is pieced together.

In the present time, Prince Nuada steals the piece of the crown that belongs to humans from a museum with the help of tooth fairies. Then, Prince Nuada kills his father King Balor and retrieves the second piece of the crown. But before he could get the third piece of the crown, his twin sister, Princess Nuala escapes with the third piece.

Hellboy(Ron Perlman), his live-in girlfriend Liz(Selma Blair), Abe Sapien(Doug Jones) and Dr Manning(Jeffrey Tambor) are brought in by Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense(BPRD) after the carnage in the museum. During this mission, Hellboy reveals himself to the world thereby creating trouble for Dr Manning. So, a new BPRD agent, Johann Krauss, is sent to take charge from Dr Manning.

The BPRD team tracks down the tooth fairies to a troll market under Brooklyn bridge. Here, Hellboy and team saves Princess Nuala from being captured by Prince Nuada. In order to save Nuala, Hellboy fights two of Nuada’s sidekicks – a troll named Wink and a forest god named Elemental. After losing the fight, Nuada creates confusion in Hellboy’s mind as to which side he should belong! Nuada escapes.

Nuala is taken to the BPRD compound. Over there, while Hellboy is busy sorting out the relationship issue with Liz and Abe is slowly falling in love with Nuala, Prince Nuada plans to strike.

This movie is the sequel to the movie, Hellboy and is also directed by Guillermo del Torro like the predecessor.Guillermo is good in depicting the abstract and is in familiar territory with this story of demons, elves and strange creatures. However, the movie lacks the novelty of the first part. The audience is thrown into a dizzy with the mumbo-jumbo associated with the Golden Army and the scenes depicting the epilogue is long drawn.

This is an action movie. So, there are no performances to mention about. Among the action scenes, all the ones executed by Prince Nuada is similar to Matrix style action. Two actions scenes are worth mentioning and this is part of the climax – Hellboy and Krauss fighting the Golden Army and final fight between Hellboy and Nuada on a giant rotor.

If you are not an comic book person, then this is not for you!

Genre: Action

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Hellboy,John Hurt,Ron Perlman,Luke Goss,Selma Blair,Doug Jones,Jeffrey Tambor,Guillermo del Torro,Action

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cost-Benefit Analysis on AIDS

Emily Oster, the American economist, takes a look at AIDS. Roughly 25 million people in Africa are affected with AIDS and this is a disease of poverty. So, the widely popular belief is that the disease can be contained by curbing poverty. Uganda is the only African country successful in decreasing the prevalence of AIDS through an educational campaign. With the help of her extensive research, Emily challenges the all of the above.

In a place where there is a lot of AIDS, there is really significant cost of sex. So, people should have less sex in those areas. But this is not the case in Africa! Emily argues that people would have abstained from the costly act if there were enough benefits. But in Africa, the benefits are less because of short life expectancy.

Picture Courtesy: http://bpp.wharton.upenn.edu

Tags: Musings,Emily Oster,Cost-Benefit Analysis,AIDS,Africa

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cleaning an aquarium!

I’m not a “pet” person. So, I do not have an aquarium at home. If you do have an one, then be careful while cleaning it up. Why do people clean their aquarium? The aquarium is an abode for fishes (and other aquatic animals?!). So are ponds, rivers,  seas and oceans. Nobody cleans these! In fact, we keep dumping all sorts of things into these water bodies. Aren’t they supposed to be the reservoir for our unwanted and imperishable stuff? Coming back to the original question, if we don’t clean up these water bodies, why do we clean aquariums?

Fine with me, if you still want to clean it up. But take a look at what happened to my colleague’s husband. He was cleaning their aquarium. It fell down and broke. His sorrows did not end there. On the way down, the broken glass piece left a deep cut on his wrist severing the tendons. He rushed to the hospital immediately. At the hospital, the people who were supposed to be giving him medical care was more concerned on the reason behind the cut. Was this a botched-up attempt at suicide? Finally, he managed to get the medical attention. After 5 stitches, the situation is under control.

But imagine the pain, his wife is going through. There are several accusations leveled at her!

  • Not only does she drive us crazy, she also drives her husband mad to the point of suicide.
  • She has to appear before the cops. So, she left early from work yesterday.

All this for cleaning an aquarium?

Picture Courtesy: http://www.petsmart.com

Blogger Labels: Musings,Colleague,Aquarium,Suicide

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Movie: Dasvidaniya

Amar Kaul(Vinay Pathak) is an hardworking professional. He is 37 years old, still unmarried and lives with his mother(Sarita Joshi). His brother, Vivek Kaul(Gaurav Gera), lives separately after his marriage. The marriage was opposed by their mother.

Amar is very methodical and prepares a “To do” list before starting the day. At work, his boss(Saurabh Shukla) and colleagues have no concern for his thoughts or well being. He is usually taken for a ride.

After a medical checkup resulting from a troubled stomach, Amar is informed about the advanced stage of cancer. He has only three months to live. With no medical history of similar problem in his family, Amar finds it difficult to believe that he has a fatal disease.

Once he comes to term with his imminent death, he decides to live his rest of the life fulfilling all his dreams. He gradually goes into his past and writes down ten things he wanted to do.

Amar slowly starts to realize what is written down in his list. He confronts his boss, buys a new car, learns guitar and expresses his love to his old classmate, Neha(Neha Dhupia). He also flies to a foreign country to meet his best friend, Rajiv(Rajat Kapoor).

Directed by debutante director Shashant Shah, this plot of movie has a striking resemblance to The Bucket List. The similarity ends at the list of ten things to do before dying. While The Bucket List had two protagonists with vast resources to achieve all the things they wanted to do, Dasvidaniya has a common man who achieves the difficult tasks with his resourceful planning.

Vinay Pathak excels as Amar. He is earnest when he expresses his desire to learn to play the theme song of “Kal Ho Na Ho” to the guitar maestro. This is one scene that evokes laughter and sympathy. Watch Vinay’s expressions changes from happiness to disappointment to sorrow in many scenes.

Of the supporting cast, Sarita Joshi stands out as Amar’s eccentric mother.

Although the pace in the second half slackens, this is a must watch!

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,Dasvidaniya,Vinay Pathak,Sarita Joshi,Gaurav Gera,Saurabh Shukla,Neha Dhupia,Rajat Kapoor,Shashant Shah,Drama

Friday, July 24, 2009

Jack & Jill causes havoc

Yeah! Two little kids! They went up the hill and got into trouble. No matter what the naughty wants you to believe, the true story is different. They went up to fetch a pail of water. They were unsuccessful in their mission. Jack fell down and Jill came tumbling down.

Upon reading this, you have realized the perils a pail of water can put you in. Earlier this month, I went through a lot of trouble to get this pail of water for my home! Yesterday, a group of grown-ups at work went through humiliation because of Jack and Jill.

This group was in a conference room. Our conferences are colorful affair. We have people from different locations, culture and also accents joining in the call. In the middle of solving a problem, one of them began to hum “Jack & Jill”. Since the song is contagious, others joined in.

Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a …

And at this line, there were stuck. Jack and Jill were fetching water. But what were they carrying? Bucket? Like a corrupted audio CD, the tracks begin to skip and the chorus was interrupted. After trying out the various available options, they starting consulting with their friends in other cubicles.

I was also woken up from my pretense (of working) and was asked the same question. Pat came the reply, “a pail of water”. None of them believed me! So I had to recite it for them from start to finish. The intelligent bunch did not notice that I have bungled about Jill tumbling down in my recital! The ungrateful bunch sliced the situation and came up with their inference.

“You have a kid who goes to school!”

Come on! Give me some respect!

PS: I remembered this from my daughter’s school books. Still, why can’t I get some respect?

Picture Courtesy: http://www.jellybabys.co.uk

Tags: Musings,Jack and Jill,At Work,Respect

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Movie: Tropic Thunder

John “Four Leaf” Tayback(Nick Nolte) fought in the Vietnam war and lost two hands in a bloody battle with the Viet Cong. He has published a book based on his experiences in the war. Now, a major movie studio has bought the rights for the book and is filming the movie.

The major characters of this movie are being played by Tugg Speedman(Ben Stiller), Jeff Portnoy(Jack Black), Alpa Chino(Brandon T Jackson), Kevin Sandursky(Jay Baruchel) and Kirk Lazarus(Robert Downey Jr). Speedman is a fading action superstar and is desperately trying to salvage his career. Portnoy is a comedy star who has a successful career by portraying disgusting characters. Chino is a rapper. Sandursky is a newbie. Lazarus is a method actor!

The project is helmed by a British director named Damien Cockburn(Steve Coogan) and Cody(Danny McBride) joins him as the pyrotechnics expert. With a cast who is always conflicted on how to play and demanding rewrites of the script, the project is already delayed. As a result, the studio head Les Grossman(Tom Cruise) berates Damien on a video conference call.

Feeling low after the verbal abuse by Grossman, Damien is persuaded by Four Leaf to use guerilla style filming where hidden cameras will be used. He also suggests strongly to put all his lead actors inside the real jungle in order to instill fear in them to get the right emotions.

So, Damien puts all of his lead actors in the middle of jungle and explains them the plan. Unbeknownst to them, Damien has put the lead actors in the Flaming Dragon territory. Flaming Dragon is one of the world’s largest supplier of drugs. After explaining the situation to his actors, Damien accidentally steps into a land mine and is blown to pieces. But the lead actors think Damien is pulling a fast one.

They trek out of the jungle with the map supplied by Damien. But before long, conflicts arise between the team members. Speedman is separated from other and captured by members of Flaming Dragon.

Ben Stiller has written and directed this movie. He has also produced this movie along with others. This a comedy movie set in the backdrop of war and drugs.

As one of the lead actors, Ben Stiller adopts his characteristic style of looking earnest and innocent while saying the dumbest dialogues. The performance will remind you of his many previous roles. Ben has tried to expose the inner working of the movie industry by poking fun at them. You get to see what goes behind a studio, an agent and an actor in a satirical way.

Robert Downey Jr stands out with his hilarious take on method acting. He plays a black man and stays in character even when the camera is not rolling. Tom Cruise is unrecognizable with a bald plate, a beard and fake large hands. But the role is a good take on the studio head who controls the creative freedom of his subordinates. Mathew McConaughey acts as Speedman’s agent. You will catch a glimpse of many other well known actors as this movie has a lot of cameos.

The movie has a few laughs.

Genre: Comedy

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo Movies!

Tags: Movies,Tropic Thunder,Nick Nolte,Ben Stiller,Jack Black,Brandon T Jackson,Jay Baruchel,Robert Downey Jr,Steve Coogan,Danny McBride,Tom Cruise,Mathew McConaughey,Comedy

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tale of a beer lover

He was apprehensive after his marriage! After catering to the demands of the competitive world, he occasionally winds up his day with a bottle of beer. But he is not an addict! He doesn’t search for occasions to get drunk. Instead he picks up a bottle when he is really tired.

He was not sure about his wife’s conviction. During the initial days of the marriage, he was relieved to find his wife did not object to drinking. Her dad drinks occasionally too.

Armed with confidence, he bought a bottle of beer home. He checked his wife’s reaction while putting the bottle into the refrigerator. He was happy for not finding a disapproving look.

After a while, he took the chilled bottle out of the refrigerator. He took a beer mug and poured the beer into it. Then, he sat in front of the TV before taking the first sip.

To his surprise, his wife was towering over him when his lips touched the glass. She exclaimed, “What are you doing? You are impossible! You are an addict. My father dilutes his drink with water before drinking. He pours only a small amount of alcohol. You are consuming this as it is!”.

Picture Courtesy: www.theubgroup.com

Tags: Musings,Beer,Marriage

Monday, July 20, 2009

Signs

I came across the video when one of my friends posted this on Facebook. The purpose of short film to promote Schweppes.  Schweppes is placed subtly in the movie and also the key adword is used by one of the protagonists.

Watch it to see an amazing love story unfold with only signs and an amazing background score!

Tags: Videos,Signs,Schweppes

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can You Reproduce?

“Can you reproduce?”. When I heard the question, I was puzzled. When I realized it was a woman’s voice, my jaws dropped and embarrassment quickly sunk in. I was about to defend my abilities by saying, “I could! My daughter is a living proof!”. But I muffled the rebounding remark when I realized the question was directed at  someone else.

My colleagues were talking loudly in the adjacent cubicle. Why would a girl question a boy on the subject of procreation? I refer to these individuals as a girl and a boy because they are very young – in the early twenties! I was curious! So, in order to quench my intense desire to know more, I sat up and listened to the conversation in progress.

Girl: Can you reproduce?

Boy: *Silence*

Girl: *in a louder tone* Hey! Can you reproduce?

Boy: Yes, I can. Do you want me to show it to you?

Girl: Yes

As this was getting out of control, I intervened before things got worse.

Me: Wow, wow, wow! Hold it! What is happening?

Boy: Nothing!

Me: Really?

Boy: I have noticed a bug in the software! She wants me to reproduce the same error in another system and show it to her. She is ready to fix the error if I reproduce it!

I let out a sigh of relief. Indeed, everything is under control!

Picture Courtesy: www.inmagine.com

Tags: Musings,Procreation,Reproduce

Movie: The International

Louis Salinger(Clive Owen), an Interpol agent, waits for his friend in front of a railway station in Berlin. His friend, Thomas Schumer, is in conversation with an unidentified person sitting inside a car parked in the railway station. Schumer is coaxing this unidentified person to divulge information. The unidentified person agrees to think about it and concludes the conversation. After this, Schumer gets out of the car and walks towards Salinger who stands on the other side of the road. Before he crosses the road, Schumer starts vomiting and dies after collapsing. Seeing this, Salinger rushes across the road and is hit by a passing van. After a while, Salinger wakes up in a hospital. Not caring about the medical aid, he rushes to the morgue to check Schumer’s dead body. At the morgue, he discovers that a lesion on the body of Schumer indicating murder.

In order to talk to the Berlin authorities about the murder and also importance of their investigation, Salinger asks Manhattan District Attorney Eleanor Whitman(Naomi Watts) to come down to Berlin. In Berlin, Salinger and Whitman reveals the nature of their case to the authorities. They have been trying to uncover the shady dealings of International Bank of Business and Credit(IBBC). As part of their investigation, Schumer contacted one of the top officials in IBBC who could be a potential witness and implicate IBBC.

On the next day, Salinger discovers a news article about an IBBC top official, Andre Clement, losing his life in an accident. Seeing the picture in the newspaper, Salinger discovers their potential witness was Andre Clement. In the same news article, he finds a statement by the head of IBBC, Jonas Skarssen(Ulrich Thomsen). Salinger notices a discrepancy in the timings mentioned in the new article which could be used to implicate Skarssen. But he is unsuccessful. Soon, Salinger discovers microphones hidden in his house and also in his boss’s house.

While Salinger is pursuing Skarssen, Whitman contacts Clement’s widow. After a bit of persuasion, Clement’s widow text messages Whitman asking her to contact Umberto Calvini(Luca Barbareschi). Calvini is contesting in the Italian elections for prime minister. Salinger and Whitman meets Calvini during a political rally. Calvini explains the evil design of IBBC and agrees to talk more after the rally. But, Calvini is assassinated in the rally. While unraveling the mystery, Salinger and Whitman comes across The Consultant(Brian O Bryne). They are convinced about IBBC using the Consultant on many occasions. So, if they can get the Consultant, then they can link IBBC to the Consultant and also bring them to the books. the Consultant is handled by Wexler(Armin Mueller-Stahl), who works for IBBC.

This thriller, directed by Tom Tykwer, unravels in different cities - Berlin, Milan, New York and Turkey. The locations are carefully chosen to show various characters as pawns and the lead actors are often dwarfed by the surroundings. The movie relies on long shots thereby enhancing the look of the scene and loneliness of the lead protagonists in their struggle against the villain. The director, Tom Tykwer, and the writer, Eric Warren Singer, has chosen an international bank as the villain thereby bringing in a freshness and also curiosity to the plot.

There are two scenes worth mentioning. The first is the shootout at the Guggenheim museum. Although there is too many bullets flying and blood spurting out, this is an excellent scene. The final scene where Salinger follows the main villain through the bazaars in Turkey and culminating in the rooftop is excellently shot.

Clive Owen looks tired and overworked, inline with the character he plays. He plays the obsessed detective, determined to bring down his longtime enemy, to perfection. The rest of the cast is able.

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,The International,Clive Owen,Naomi Watts,Ulrich Thomsen,Luca Barbareschi,Brian 0 Bryne,Armin Mueller-Stahl,Tom Tykwer,Eric Warren Singer,Thriller

Friday, July 17, 2009

Free Enterprise

This is an old video on Free Enterprise. The duration is under 9 minutes.

Tags: Videos,Free Enterprise

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And a Boss Reports…

Boss is the most revered and also feared person in the world! What if you have your boss reporting to you for a day? Does this sound like a fantasy?

There are many instances where a boss has ended up as a reportee to his reportee. When we started on a project with an esteemed client a couple of years back, our reporting manager at the client’s organization was an ex-colleague of one of my team mates. In their previous organization, the present reporting manager was reporting my team mate! Were they embarrassed? Frankly, I do not know!

At present, I’m living out this fantasy. In the past few days, my boss is reporting to me. I’m overjoyed to the point of being ecstatic. Boy! I do feel powerful. Wait! There is a catch! But, I’m still reporting to my boss.

Yes, I’m reporting to my boss and my boss is reporting to me. We are entangled in a circular relationship! Obviously, somebody at the backend has issued a wrong update triggering the start of this unique relationship. While the joy might not last for long, I still intend to make most of it.

I’m cancelling all his leaves and he is not getting cash claims!

Picture Courtesy: www.images.com

Tags: Musings,And a Boss Reports,Boss,Fantasy,Reportee

Movie: 8x10 Tasveer

Jai(Akshay Kumar) wakes from a bad dream to receive a phone call. He works for an environment agency and is summoned to hunt down a poacher. When he returns to his office after arresting poacher, Jai finds two women waiting for him. One of the woman is an old acquaintance and Jai had helped her in finding her daughter. Now, the woman requests Jai to help her friend. Her friend had lost her husband when they went on sightseeing trip.

Jai accompanies the women. Once reaching their home, he looks at the last picture of the man taken using a cell phone. Jai also starts a stop-watch to measure the time. Jai stares at the photo of the lost husband and in a short time, he is transported to the time when the photo was taken. Now, he sees the events from the eyes of the lost husband. The lost husband had slipped and fell off the cliff. Now, he is injured and waiting to be rescued. After finding all the necessary information, Jai wakes up tired and weak. The police is informed while Jai recovers.

Jai has the unique ability to see the events that had happened by looking at the photos taken. But he cannot be looking at the events (or be in the photo) for a very long time as this exercise drains him out of energy. This exercise also leaves him tired and weak.

When Jai returns back after helping the women, his girlfriend, Sheela(Ayesha Takia), intercepts him. Jai’s father, Jatin(Benjamin Gilani), suffered an accident while on a boating trip. Jatin went on a fishing trip along with his wife, Savitri(Sharmila Tagore) and his three friends – Anil(Girish Karnad), Sundar(Anant Mahadevan) and Adit(Rushad Rana). While they were touring, Jatin slipped from the boat and fell into the water.

Jatin dies soon. Jai and Savitri mourns his death. After the death, Savitri receives all of Jatin’s properties. Savitri tells Jai about his dad’s last wish. Jatin wanted to leave the entire estate for Jai’s environmental agency. But he did not get sufficient time to change his will. Jai had been living an estranged life and had cut himself away from Jatin a while back. On the day of accident, Jatin visited Jai and requested him to accompany him on the boat as this was a very important day. Jai was not too keen and he repents it now.

Soon, Jai gets a visit from Happi(Jaaved Jaffrey). Happi is a detective with weird traits. He forgets things easily and is also bad at communicating. Happi suspects foul play in Jatin’s accident and subsequent death. Jatin does not believe it. But, Happi also informs Savitri’s decision against an autopsy on Jatin!

Now, Jai wants to get to the bottom of this mystery. He uses his powers dangerously which takes him to close to death many a time. He is also not sure on whom to trust.

Nagesh Kukunoor has directed this movie. He has succeeded in delivering an engrossing movie with superior technical finesse. CG has been used extensively to show the “picture gazing” scenes and it has been handled well. Nagesh succeeds in telling the story in an interesting manner although he uses a slow pace, which is characteristic to his movies. He disappoints us slightly when the killer is revealed.

Akshay fits the role of Jai as the role requires athletic agility. He succeeds in bringing the energy required for the role. But as a son who is searching for the truth behind his dad’s death putting his on life in danger, he fails to emote well on many occasions.

The eccentric detective played by Jaaved is a departure from his other portrayals of eccentric characters. Here, the director has reined in his buffoonery.

Overall, the pace of the movie is slow. But still, this is a good thriller to watch.

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,8x10 Tasveer,Akshay Kumar,Ayesha Takia,Benjamin Gilani,Sharmila Tagore,Girish Karnad,Anant Mahadevan,Rushad Rana,Jaaved Jaffrey,Nagesh Kukunoor,Thriller

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Memories of a return trip!

Over the weekend, I visited my mom in Ernakulam. The trains to Kerala are limited and always are filled up months in advance. So, the tickets were bought almost two months in advance. I had a confirmed ticket for the onward journey. But, the return ticket was not confirmed and I was the first person on the waiting list. In spite of being discomforted by the thought of spending 12 hours in a general compartment, I consoled myself by saying there might be last minute cancellations which will get my ticket confirmed! So, I did not look for an alternate mode of transport.

On the day of return trip, Sunday, I decided to board the train from Ernakulam to Thrissur. I was planning to catch up with old friends in the city. I boarded a bus from Ernakulam and reached Thrissur by 12:30 am. My train reaches Thrissur at around 8 pm. So I had a good seven hours to catch up with my friends.

Around 3 pm, when I checked my ticket status, I was shocked to find my ticket was not confirmed. The final chart had been prepared and I wasn’t on it. So, my ticket is cancelled automatically by the railway booking system and money paid back to the credit card used for booking the ticket! Now, if I wanted to travel on the train, I had to purchase an ordinary ticket. If I wanted to travel comfortably, then I will have to persuade the Train Ticket Examiner(TTE) to give me an upgrade.

I did not want to postpone my return trip as I had an important meeting on Monday. So I immediately rushed through the narrow and circular roads of Thrissur to the part of the city hosting numerous travel organizations. I found the place with the help of a friendly autorickshaw driver. But, being Sunday, all the buses were full.

To my relief, they were having “special” buses because of the demand. The special buses are additional buses added on real time based on demand. But, the special buses travel to Bangalore via Mysore. The last time I travelled via Mysore, I was late and reached office during midday. Having no other option, I bought the ticket from the travel agent.

After buying the ticket, I returned to my friends. In between the revelry, I was working on the report that was to be presented on Monday. The cancelled ticket and my new travel arrangement had jeopardized my plan. I had initially planned to work on this report after reaching Bangalore. If the train option was feasible, I would have been at my home by 6:30 am. This gives me a good hour to work on the report. Now, if everything went according to what was promised by the travel agent, I would reach home at 9 am.

After bidding farewell to my friends, I reached the boarding point at 6:30 pm. The bus was scheduled to arrive at 7:45 pm. While checking the status of the bus, I also requested for a change if there are any other options. Since I had another hour to kill, I walked across the road to the famous Safire Hotel for an early dinner. The ambience was pathetic. But the tasty food compensated for the ambience.

I reached back at the boarding point by 7:15 pm. Around 7:35 pm, the travel agent informed me of availability of another bus which goes directly to Bangalore. He transferred me to that bus. I boarded the bus at 8 pm. I reached home at 5:45 am on Monday. If I had taken the train, I would have waited for another hour to reach home!

Picture Courtesy: www.kalladatravels.com

Tags: Travel,Bus,Train,Kerala,Ernakulam,Thrissur

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Movie: Ee Pattanathil Bhootham

Satheedran(Mahadevan), a sorcerer, hunts down a good genie, who is hiding away fearing entrapment, and locks the genie in a bottle. Meanwhile, in another part of the town, Ancy(Kavya Madhavan) comes home for the final rites of her dad, Philipose(Janardhanan). Philipose was running a circus and he was murdered on the opening night. She is consoled by Robins(Suresh Krishna), Korah(Rajan P Dev) and Suzy(Bindu Panicker). The cops have arrested Jimmy, the foster son of Krishnan(Innocent) for the murder.

Krishnan was an old friend of Philipose. Being a good man, he takes up children from the street and takes care of them. Jimmy is also one of them. Krishnan has Sisupalan(Suraj Venjarammood) and a bunch of kids with him. The entire gang is ill treated by the circus folks.

Meanwhile, because of the escapades of Inspector Parakkum Madhavan, Satheendran loses the bottle in which genie is locked. The bottle ends up in the circus camp. The genie is released by Krishnan, Sisupalan and his gang. At the request of the kids, the genie takes up the appearance of Jimmy(Mammootty). Slowly, the genie helps the kids from their predicament. He also saves Ancy from an accident.

Now, Ancy trust the genie. After repeated demands from Ancy and also due to Krishnan’s persuasion, the genie appears before Ancy. Ancy is surprised to find resemblance of Jimmy. Krishnan explains Jimmy’s innocence. Philipose had requested Jimmy’s presence on the opening night. After a successful show, Jimmy went to his original camp for the night. But the next day, Philipose was found dead. Just when the genie helps them to identify the killer, Satheendran appears and also traps the genie.

Now, Ancy, Krishnan and gang is helpless since the two of their trusted people are in confinement. The rest of the story forms how they bring Jimmy out of the jail, how the life of genie and Jimmy are entwined and finally solving the mystery behind Philipose’s murder.

Johnny Antony, the director, aims at providing wholesome entertainment to the kids. He is aided by the writers Sibi K Thomas and Udayakrishna, who has shown their slapstick skills in earlier movies too. The audience is supposed to leave their brains behind at home and forget logic. There are few moments which evoke laughter. But on the whole, the film lacks technical finesse and also good jokes! The graphics used is very amateurish, which acts against the movie.

Suraj Venjarammood cracks the funniest lines and also performs his mimicry bit. Although he plays the role of a side-kick, he outshines everyone else. Salim Kumar provides us with funny moments as the bumbling Inspector. But he still indulges in innuendos putting family audience to discomfort.

Mammootty disappoints this time. His earlier outing with Johnny Antony(Thruppu Gulan) provided us a lot to laughs. This time around, there aren’t any funny dialogues for Mammootty. He tries to be different and childlike as the genie. But the voice used works against him. He has used the same voice modulation as the character he enacted in Mrugaya years ago.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Comedy

Rating: *

Picture: Courtesy: www.nowrunning.com

Tags: Movies,Ee Pattanathil Bhootham,Mammootty,Mahadevan,Kavya Madhavan,Janardhanan,Suresh Krishna,Rajan P Dev,Bindu Panicker,Innocent,Suraj Venjarammood,Salim Kumar, Johnny Antony,Sibi K Thomas,Udayakrishna,Malayalam,Comedy

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Four children – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy – are moved to the countryside during the bombing of London in World War II. They stay with a very old professor in a huge mansion. In the huge mansion, they haven’t much to do and boredom sets in. They keep playing and exploring the mansion.

Lucy, the youngest, comes across a wardrobe in one of the rooms. In an attempt to hide from the rest of the children, she gets into the wardrobe. But, once inside the wardrobe, she finds herself in the middle of a snow-clad forest. She gropes in the darkness and finds light after walking for a while. She finds a lamp post in the middle of the forest.

In front of the lamppost, Lucy meets a fawn, Tumnus. He is delighted find Lucy and refers to her as daughter of Eve. Lucy learns the name of the place from the fawn. She is in Narnia. Tumnus invites Lucy to his house for tea. Over the tea, Tumnus breaks down and confesses of trapping Lucy for the White Witch. The witch has cast a spell over Narnia. Because of this spell, Narnia is always covered with snow and there is no Christmas! Tumnus helps Lucy get back to her world.

In the real world, nobody believes Lucy. When Lucy attempts to show everyone Narnia by getting into the wardrobe, it doesn’t work! The older children, bothered by Lucy’s “delirium”, takes her to the professor. The professor listens patiently and advises everyone against teasing Lucy. Lucy might be telling the truth.

While playing, Lucy along with Edmund enters the wardrobe again and ends up in Narnia. In Narnia, they go separate ways. Edmund meets White Witch. The witch presents Edmund with Turkish Delight. She also promises to Edmund make him the king if he brings in brother and sisters to Narnia. After bidding goodbye to the witch, Edmund finds Lucy and they go back to their world together.

Once back, Edmund completely disowns Lucy in front of Peter and Susan. Edmund says Narnia to be a figment of Lucy’s imagination. Lucy is disappointed. But life continues. Once again, during one of their games, all the four children get into the wardrobe. Now, all four of them ends up in Narnia. Edmund turns out be a liar in front of others.

Lucy takes all of them to Tumnus. There, they find his house destroyed by the witch. Lost in Narnia, they are led forward by birds to Mr & Mrs Beaver. Beaver educates them about Narnia – the spell of the witch and the savior, Aslan, the Lion. While Beaver is narrating these stories about Narnia, Edmund slips away to the witch. Betrayed by Edmund, everyone is in for a surprise. Father Christmas visits Narnia. The spell is breaking and Aslan is on the move. Now, all three children and the Beavers embarks on a journey to meet Aslan. Meanwhile, the witch is enraged in finding Edmund alone and orders an hunting party for the other kids.

The rest of the books tells us how Aslan saves Narnia and what happens to the four children. They grow from being children to shoulder the responsibility of Narnia.

This is a book for children and hence the author, C S Lewis, uses a simple style. The style resembles an older person reciting a story for a group of children sitting besides the fire. In between the narrative, C S Lewis, pauses to explain a difficult concept to the young reader and then proceeds. Very often, these explanations are something which the young reader can relate to. The books has illustrations which help the young reader to have a visual image of fawns, centaurs etc. This is ideally recommended for young readers who wants to break away from comic books but cannot do away with comic book like illustrations completely.

Picture Courtesy: Amazon

Tags: Books,The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,Wardrobe,C S Lewis

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What matters?

 

Today, I listened to a friend pouring out his heart in distress! Being a good friend of mine, his predicament left an emotional imprint on me too. He has a girlfriend and they have been going around for more than a year. On many occasions, she has bailed him out of economic dire straits! On second thoughts, it is a very callous statement. To rephrase, she gifted him the expensive watch on his hand. The cell phone was also a gift! I will stop there.

Recently, they decided to take the relationship to the next step. Being a dutiful son and a daughter respectively, they decided to inform their parents. They intended to proceed through the “proper” channel. The girl’s parents were skeptical before relenting. The boy’s parents are still opposing the match on three grounds!

The first and the foremost came in the form of religion. They are both Hindus. But they belong to different sects!

The second is the horoscope or the kundli. The soothsayer was consulted and the fan in the room stopped working when he started on this task. Obviously, this was not a good omen! When comparing the horoscope, death is certain for one of them if the union is solemnized!

The third is the age factor. The girl is older by one year!

Right now, the boy’s parents are adamant and he has reasoned with them without success. The past six months has been a struggle for the boy. After coercing his parents logically, emotionally and stubbornly, he was able to get to the level of showing the girl’s photo to his parents!

Why do we give so much importance to religion, horoscope and age? Does this form a basis of a good marriage?

Picture Courtesy: www.dreamstime.com, www.landofflights.net, www.zmescience.com

Tags: Musings,Relationship,Religion,Horoscope,Age,Marriage

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An Economist Views the World

Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist, was interviewed on Planet Money last week. Both, Planet Money and Tim Harford, form a perfect pair. Planet Money has a blogs (and podcasts) for making the economy simpler for the common man and Tim Harford writes about economics in layman’s language. Tim also writes a column, Dear Economist, for Financial Times.

The interview starts with extramarital affairs. After the uproar against South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford for flying to Argentina to meet his mistress, this topic is contemporary. But it is strange to pose this question to an economist! Tim is unperturbed and quotes a fellow economist Ray Fair and his paper, “A Theory of Extramarital Affairs”. In this paper, Ray explains the rationale behind decision on having an affair. It solely depends on the amount of time you have! In order to explain this further, Tim argues it would have been difficult for Mark Sanford to clear his schedules and make time for his Argentinean mistress!

In addition to time, Tim also brings in the topic of preferences. For any economist, there work on preferences. But all the preferences may be satisfied because of the constraints. So you choose the preferences that will maximize your happiness. This is how you rationalize your choices. So, having an affair also depends on how happy you are with that person.

In the show, the hosts also read out three questions that appeared on Tim’s column, Dear Economist.

The first question was from a person who was dating using a popular site. This person wanted to pick and choose from multiple dates before zeroing in on his ideal choice. Tim explains the supplier theory. This is an ideal situation when you have two or more suppliers. You keep all of them interested in order to identify the best!

The second question was from a lady who suspects her husband having an affair. Tim agrees the situation is bad and friends keep mum about this in spite of having knowledge of a liaison. So, he explains information markets to ferret out the information. In order to determine the value of a product or performance of the company, the companies like Google, HP set up a information market. The company places a bond or a bet about a decision on the information market and the employees vote anonymously on this. Depending on the performance of the bond or bet, the company can make an informed decision and the employees are not worried about telling the bad news. So, Tim asks the lady to set up a information market and asks her friends to buy a bond for/against her husband getting caught in an affair. Depending on the what the friends vote, the lady can make an informed decision. The friends will vote for getting caught if he is really having an affair!

The third question was from an unattractive young man. He asks, “Why am I unappealing as a singleton and hot property when with a stunning girlfriend?”.

The entire podcast is around 20 minutes and the interview lasts a little less than 18 minutes. Download the podcast here. You can go to the podcast page by clicking here.

Picture Courtesy: www.timharford.com, Fran Monks(photographer)

Tags: Audios,An Economist Views the World,Tim Harford,The Undercover Economist,Planet Money,Economics,Dear Economist,Mark Sanford,Ray Fair

Sunday, July 5, 2009

At the well

AttheWell I slept peacefully till 9 am today. After an emergency call which ended up in me staying in the office way past midnight yesterday, I was happy to sleep without any interruption.  Today, I wanted to chill out at home. Everything was working for me till 10 am in the morning! That is when the most precious resource ran out.

The water stopped and the taps ran dry! For the past few days, this has been a regular phenomenon. So, my wife strode nonchalantly to the balcony and called for the guard to start the motor. She was in for the first surprise of the day! The motor has failed.

We have water stored in a huge tank dug under the garage. From there, the water is pumped into another tank on the balcony. From this tank up above all of us, we get our daily doze of the precious resource. Today morning, the motor died. There was smoke around the motor indicating probable self-immolation.

There is no dearth of good Samaritans when you live in a good community. So, I waited for the Samaritans to kick into action. After an hour of wait, my dry taps still refused to give me water. So, I went looking for the Samaritans. I found all of them huddled in the garage.

The Samaritans also were helpless. The machine has breathed it’s last. There are only two options – repair the motor or get a new motor. Being Sunday, there are no shops open. So, repairing will take 2 days and a new motor can be bought only on Monday. The hunt for a temporary replacement did not yield any results. I was happy and sad at the same time. It is not lack of trying but fate conspiring against us.

So, now we have to carry our buckets to the storage tank in the garage. Tie a rope on one of the buckets. Lower it down into the tank. Fill the bucket with water. Raise it up. Empty the water into the other buckets. Carry them upstairs. This task is made easier as the elevators are very close to the tank.

As we are a civilized bunch, there isn’t any rush in front of the tank!

Tags: Musings,At the Well,Precious Resource,Wife

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Movie: Bob le Flambeur

In the quiet town of Montmartre, Bob Montagne(Roger Duchesne) spends the early hours of the dawn gambling in the seedy institutions. Bob is middle aged and spends a quiet life now after coming out of prison for a robbery. He also has a friend in Inspector Ledru(Guy Decomble). Years ago, Bob had pushed a man who was about to shoot Ledru, thereby saving the latter’s life. Inspector Ledru has not still identified the reason behind Bob saving his life. According to him, it could either be saving the shooter from a long prison sentence or saving Ledru from death!

Bob find two young people during his nocturnal visits and their life gets entangled with his. The first is an young girl, Anne(Isabelle Corey). She is approached by a pimp. Bob warns the pimp as he knows the pimp treats the girls badly. The second is a wannabe gambler, Paulo(Daniel Cauchy), who is like Bob in his younger days. Bob becomes his mentor. Anne and Paulo gets romantically inclined and Paulo becomes emotionally attached to Anne.

One day, he loses all his money while gambling. Pushed to a corner, Bob plans a final heist on a casino in Deauville. While he is planning the heist, Inspector Ledru gets to know about this plan from his informers.

This movie was released in 1956 and is directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. The emphasis is on the dilemmas – presence and absence – of the various characters.

This is a good watch on a lazy afternoon.

Genre: Crime

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Bob le Flambeur,Roger Duchesne,Guy Decomble,Isabelle Corey,Daniel Cauchy,Jean-Pierre Melville,Crime

Movie: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

As Hurricane Katrina approaches New Orleans in 2005, Daisy(Cate Blanchett) lies on her deathbed in an hospital in the city. Her daughter, Caroline(Julia Ormond), is by her bed taking care of her. Daisy narrates a story of a blind clockmaker, Monsier Gateau(Elias Koteas) who made a clock that displays time backwards, to remember the young boys like his son who lost their lives in the World War I. After narrating this story, Daisy asks Caroline to open a box containing letters and postcards. Daisy, then, asks Caroline to read from the letters. As Caroline starts reading the letters, she comes to know these are letters written by Benjamin Button(Brad Pitt) to her mom.

Benjamin was born to Thomas Button(Jason Flemyng) and his wife at end of World War I. His mother dies at the childbirth. Thomas is shocked as the baby has the skin structure and other diseases(cataract) associated with the old men. Thinking the baby to be a freak, Thomas abandons him at the doorsteps of a nursing home. Queenie(Taraji P Henson) and Tizzy, a couple who works in the nursing home, takes up the baby as their own and names him Benjamin.

As Benjamin grows older, he becomes younger. At first, he is not able to walk. But Queenie takes him to a faith healer who make Benjamin to get up from his wheel chair. As years passes by, Benjamin meets Daisy, granddaughter of an inmate at the nursing home. Daisy likes older men and hence likes Benjamin. Although they are attracted to each other, nothing really happens in that age.

As time grows older, Benjamin grows younger and Queenie delivers a baby girl. Slowly, Benjamin ventures out into the open world and takes up a job with a tugboat. The captain of the tugboat, Captain Mike(Jared Harris), develops a liking for Benjamin and introduces him to the pleasures of the world. During a visit to a local house of pleasure, Thomas Button bumps into them. Thomas invites Benjamin for a drink.

When the World War II breaks out, Benjamin goes to Europe with Captain Mike on the tugboat. He keeps sending postcards to Daisy from all the places. He ends up in Russia. Here, he meets Elizabeth Abbott(Tilda Swinton), an older women with respect to Benjamin’s age, and begins a torrid affair. He also writes to Daisy about Elizabeth. As the war approaches an end, Elizabeth moves out of Europe leaving a thank-you note for Benjamin.

On a salvage mission towards the end of the war, Captain Mike’s tugboat gets destroyed. But Benjamin miraculously survives. When he comes back to Queenie after the war, she is happy to have him back. But, at the same time, she is surprised to see him getting younger. As Daisy is in New York pursuing a career in ballet, Benjamin drops in to surprise her. Benjamin is disappointed to find that she has a boyfriend and the earlier magic is not existing now.

The rest of the story traces Benjamin’s life and curious phenomenon of reverse-aging. Life is full of surprises and most of his loved ones come to terms with it.

This movie is an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story by the same name. This is directed by David Fincher. The subject is a clear departure from his earlier subjects which are usually darker than this theme. Although this is an ideal candidate for a performance driven movie, the visuals take over the performances. The narrative style and presentation of the story takes your attention away from the performances. Brad Pitt is older at the beginning of the movie and is also shown as a teenager at the end of the movie. It makes you wonder how they did it.

Of the performances, Taraji P Henson overshadows everyone else as Benjamin’s foster mother. Her anger after Thomas informs Benjamin of his lineage is excellent. She is also genuinely happy when Benjamin says “Your are my mother” at Thomas’s funeral.

This curious case is also an interesting case.

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,Cate Blanchett,Julia Ormond,Elias Koteas,Brad Pitt,Jason Flemyng,Taraji P Henson,Jared Harris,Tilda Swinton,F Scott Fitzgerald,David Fincher,Drama

Friday, July 3, 2009

Paying Off the Mortgage

What happens when you have paid off your home loan? Let out a sigh of relief. Is that what you will be doing? The Americans call for a party and then burn the mortgage papers in a ritualistic manner to mark the end of a mortgage. After carrying the burden for 30 years, it makes sense to celebrate the debt free moment and the sense of real ownership. But, when are we going to be free of the burden of home loan? Has anyone successfully paid it off?

A few years back, there was a California home rush in 1999-2000. Everyone wanted a home. It is not only the married but also the singles were shopping for a home. In fact, a friend of mine invited me to join his group and buy a home in Sunnyvale. The mortgage payment will be higher than the present rent. But the individual share will lesser than our individual contribution to the present rent. On a later date, we can sell out the home earning a neat profit. I was not interested because a bigger group brought in varied outlooks and getting consensus on anything becomes a laborious process.

During that time, a conversation with a friend(who is older and wiser) steered into the subject of “homes”. Both of us were working as consultants for a networking company in San Jose. After work, I stopped over at his place on occasions. He made the best coffee and always supplemented it with snacks. He always stocked his house with the latest editions of Filmfare and CineBlitz. If there were any good movies available, I could watch it on his TV and Bose sound system! My friend never agreed on the term “investment” for buying a home. We lived in the home. Most of us sell our home either to get a bigger one or to move into another locality. This will always costs us more than the value of the present home. So, technically, you are again spending. But, now, you may have a shot at buying something of bigger value!

So, when do we get to chance to burn the mortgage papers? Or are we burning one and then signing on a fresh one?

Picture Courtesy: http://www.hip-consultant.co.uk/

Tags: Musings,Mortgage,Home,Debt,California,Sunnyvale,San Jose,1999,2000

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Modern Greek Hero

Harry Markopolos is a modern Greek Hero. Although the title might seem preposterous, Markopolos indicates Greek lineage and Harry has been crying wolf about Bernie Madoff for a long time. So, with a tiny suspension of disbelief, the modern Greek hero title suits for Harry.

When asked by Frank Casey to design a scheme similar to Madoff scheme, it took only 5 minutes for Harry to figure out this was a fraud. Frank Casey worked with Harry and was amazed at the money Madoff was raking in. Harry without hesitation pointed this to be a Ponzi scheme. Harry pursued Madoff for the next 10 years until the day Madoff gave up.

How can this plain and simple to an individual? Why was the rest of the world running in the other direction? How can someone fight for so long without any material benefits?

Now that Madoff is sentenced to 150 years behind bars, Harry can relax. The entire life savings of many were washed away. But many more were rescued from making bad judgements.

150 years of sentence? Isn’t that ridiculous? Is the life expectancy more in US? What is the rationale behind for such kind of sentencing?

Picture Courtesy: www.boston.com

Tags: People,Musings,Harry Markopolos,Bernie Madoff,Frank Casey,Ponzi

Movie: The Bicycle Thief

In post World War II Rome, Antonio Ricci is trying hard to make a living. He gets selected for a job for sticking posters in the city. But the job requires him to have a bicycle. Though he does not own one, he tells his employer that he has one. In reality, he had pawned his bicycle a few days back. He goes back home and convinces his wife about the job. The job is well paid and will set their life. So, his wife pawns the bed covers and raises the money to get the bicycle back from the pawnshop.

But, misfortune strikes again. The bicycle is stolen from Antonio on the first day of his job. The next day, Antonio along with son, Bruno searches for the bicycle. They have limited time before the bicycle is dismantled and sold in the market. So, Antonio and Bruno searches the entire Rome for the stolen bicycle.

This is a black and white Italian movie directed by Vittorio de Sica. The monochromatic tone of the movie accentuates the plight of the protagonists. The movie develops like a short story. Although the technology was nascent in 1948 at the time of the release, de Sica is able to capture the tension and urgency of protagonists by showing them moving – walking, running or riding - all the time.

The lead characters – Antonio and Bruno – are played by unknown actors. But the casting is apt. The story focuses on the white, grey and dark sides of Antonio.

The search for the bicycle thief is riveting and surprising.

Language: Italian

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,The Bicycle Thief,Vittorio de Sica,Italian,Drama
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