Saturday, October 31, 2009

Movie: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Connor Mead(Matthew McConaughey) is a successful photographer who is a womanizer. The women love him regardless of however badly he treats them. He does not believe in marriage as he thinks of it as a repressive institution. Connor has a sibling named Paul(Breckin Meyer). They both were orphaned in their childhood after their parents were killed in a car crash. After that, they were brought up their uncle, Wayne(Michael Douglas). Wayne died a few years back due to old age. Till the day he died, Wayne was a bachelor and a womanizer like Connor.

Paul is getting married to his girlfriend, Sandra. Connor travels to his family’s estate to attend the wedding. Connor turns up at the rehearsal dinner to the surprise of everyone present. Paul is happy to see him. The bridesmaids are excited to see Connor. Only one bridesmaid is uncomfortable to meet Connor. That is Jenny Perotti(Jennifer Garner). Jenny and Connor grew up together. They also dated briefly. Connor also meets Sandra’s parents – Sergeant Volkom(Robert Forster) and Vonda Volkom(Anne Archer).

After dinner, a drunken Connor is confronted by the ghost of Wayne. Wayne is disappointed at the way Connor is turning out even though Connor is becoming more like Wayne as time progresses. In order to give a second chance to Connor, he will be visited by three ghosts before morning. The ghost will show him a slice of life – past, present and future. Connor can decide what to do once he is given the tour by ghosts. Now, Connor is shaken and waits for the ghosts.

The rest of the story tells us about revelations about Connor’s life – past, present and future – and whether Connor changes his way of life!

Mark Waters directs this comedy which is based on Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Christmas has been replaced by a wedding in this adaptation. Although an interesting premise, this does not translate to an entertaining watch.

Of the cast, Michael Douglas shines in a small role and it is a delight to watch him perform. The rest of the cast do not leave an impression.

Avoid!

Language: English

Genre: Romance

Rating: *

Tags: Movies,Matthew McConaughey,Breckin Meyer,Michael Douglas,Jennifer Garner,Robert Forster,Anne Archer,Mark Waters,Romance

Movie: State of Play

A fleeing black man is killed by an assassin in an alley in Washington DC. A pizza delivery man, who witnessed this shooting, is also killed. Next day, reporter Cal McAffrey(Russell Crowe) for Washington Globe visits the site to get a lead on the story. While Cal is looking around in the crime scene, Sonia Baker is killed in the subway station when someone pushes her onto the railway track in front of an oncoming train.

Sonia was working for Congressman Stephen Collins(Ben Affleck) as a lead researcher on his staff. Stephen is leading a congressional hearing on the company named PointCorp, a private defense contractor. He hears the news before the hearing. At the hearing, Stephen cries while announcing the death of Sonia Baker. This sends the media into a frenzy as they suspect this to be a suicide after a disappointing romantic liaison between Sonia and Stephen.

Cal watches the whole event live on TV at the offices of Washington Globe. Soon, he is approached by the in-house blogger, Della Frye(Rachel McAdams) for information regarding Stephen. Cal and Stephen are estranged friends. When Cal refuses, he is persuaded by his editor, Cameron Lynne(Helen Mirren).

Stephen is advised to keep a low profile during the hearing by his senior colleague, Rep George Fergus(Jeff Daniels). That night, Stephen turns up at Cal’s place. Soon, Stephen confesses to Cal about Sonia Baker. Stephen and Sonia were having an affair and so, he does not believe in her alleged suicide. Then, Stephen backs this with a video message sent to him by Sonia.

Cal, driven by guilt due to a past incident involving Stephen and his wife, Anne(Robin Wright Penn), decides to help Stephen. For accomplishing this, he starts helping Della to uncover the truth.

The rest of the story tells us who was responsible for these killings and also reveals the dark secret between Cal, Stephen and Anne.

Kevin McDonald directs this thriller. He based this movie on the popular British television series of the same name. The story deals with investigative journalism using the backdrop of politics. He has also subtly touched upon the emergence of new media(online) and growing pressure on the newspaper industry to be profitable in this new age.

Although there are big names associated with this movie, the story telling overshadows the performance.

Good watch if you are looking for thrills.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

Tags: Movies,Russell Crowe,Ben Affleck,Rachel McAdams,Helen Mirren,Robin Wright Penn,Kevin McDonald,Thriller

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sunil (Mittal) strikes again!

Dear Sunil Mittal,

Following my letter detailing my experience at our offices in Koramangala, I earnestly believed that you have taken necessary action make lives of my kind better. For the past 7 months, there was almost no calls from our offices which strengthened my belief. But, yesterday at around 10 am, my life became more chaotic after a phone call from one of our family members.

The purpose of my visit to the office at Koramangala was to disconnect my Gurgaon number. At that time, I was informed the process would take one month. As I do my payments online, I logged on the following two months to pay the dues for a number I have ceased to use! On the third month, I was denied access to the account online! I attributed this to the closure of the account and moved on. With this regards, yesterday’s call was an eye opener.

The caller was Mr Yadav from Delhi. He was a lawyer representing you. Since I have not paid my dues for a number I have disconnected 7 months back, you had decided to pursue me in the court. As a result, you were filing the charges in the Delhi court at around 3 pm on the same day. Once the charges are filed, I will have to appear before the court in 3 days!

Before I could react, Mr Yadav continued. The court summons have already been forwarded to my Gurgaon address! The fact that I live in Bangalore and I have not received the summons yet did not make any difference to this well mannered, soft spoken and calm lawyer.

Mr Yadav was also very resourceful. Sensing my predicament, he also suggested the way out! I rush to the nearest Airtel office, pay the outstanding dues and fax the receipt to him. He will treat the matter to be settled out of court. He probably will move to the next defaulter while I continue my inconsequential existence.Overjoyed by this readymade solution, I went to our offices in Koramangala and settled the dues. I faxed the receipt to Mr Yadav who was happy to receive it.

The matter is settled now. But, there are so many unanswered questions! Why should I pay for a number that I have not used for 7 months and whose bill till March was settled? Why should I pay since I have denied access to my online account, my preferred mode of payment? Why should I pay you when you have not sent me the bills to me after March? Please don’t tell me that you continued to sent bills to my address in Gurgaon for I have opted electronic delivery of the bills!

Anxiously waiting for your reply,

Your truly,

N

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

Tags: Musings,Sunil Mittal,Airtel

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Movie: Stalag 17

Stalag 17 is a German prisoner camp situated along Danube river during World War II. One of the barracks is considered jinxed as there is a Nazi spy among the occupants. This become evident when two men are killed by the Nazis when they try to escape through a tunnel dug from the barracks to outside the perimeter. This worries the barracks security officer, Price(Peter Graves).

The occupants of the barrack suspects Sefton(William Holden) to be the spy. Sefton has been living a good life in the prison. He operates a black market within the barracks as he runs a gambling den and a distillery. He also has a telescope in the barracks which is rented out to prisoners to voyeur the nearby women prison camp. When the two prisoners tried to escape, Sefton had bet on these prisoners failing to break out free.When confronted, Sefton denies these charges. He also expresses his desire to stay low in the prison camp as he is not interested in the war.

Just before Christmas, the Germans confiscate an hidden radio from the barracks. Enraged by this, the prisoners attack Sefton thinking him to be the spy. Hurt badly in the attack, Sefton decides to uncover the identity of the spy. The rest of the movie reveals the identity of the spy.

Billy Wilder directs this movie. He tells us an interesting suspense story which is mostly set inside a barrack. He provides us a separate humor track involving two prisoners in order to provide distraction. He has concentrated on the building the drama and making us second guessing the events.

William Holden is a perfect fit as Sefton. Aided by his voice, he is able to convincingly establish Sefton as selfish, uncaring and self-centered who is only bothered about a good life for himself.

A classic whodunnit. If you are into “Black and White” gems from a previous era, watch this.

Language: English

Genre: War

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

Tags: Movies,William Holden,Peter Graves,Billy Wilder,War

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Movie: The Pink Panther 2

The Tornado, an infamous thief, comes out of retirement to carry out successive heists all over the world. The Tornado steals Magna Carta in London(UK), the Turin Shroud in Turin(Italy) and the Imperial Sword in Kyoto(Japan). In order to retrieve these priceless treasures, the respective governments assemble a team known as the Dream Team. The government of France also gets an invitation to join the team. To the disappointment of Chief Inspector Dreyfus(John Cleese), the French government decides to send Inspector Clouseau(Steve Martin).

Inspector Clouseau is assigned to traffic duty and is diligently handing out tickets for traffic violations in Paris. Clouseau is relieved from the traffic duty and asked to represent France as part of the dream team. But, Clouseau is reluctant as he feels the Tornado will steal the famous Pink Panther diamond from Paris if he leaves France. Eventually, Clouseau relents.

Clouseau is accompanied by his sidekick, Ponton(Jean Reno) to the airport. At the airport, Clouseau bids goodbye to Ponton and crosses the yellow line which indicates that Clouseau has officially left France. As soon as he steps across the yellow line, there is a newsflash on the TV. The Pink Panther diamond has been stolen!

Following the robbery, the dream team comes to Paris. The dream team consists of Pepperidge(Alfred Molina), Vincenzo(Andy Garzia), Kenji (Yuki Matsuzaki) and Sonia(Aishwarya Rai). While Pepperidge, Vincenzo and Kenji are detectives, Sonia is a researcher and criminology expert who knows modus operandi of the Tornado very well. Clouseau joins the dream team in Paris.

Before long, the rest of the dream team hates Clouseau and considers him to be an idiot. The rest of the movie deals with how Clouseau solves the case, uncovers the identity of the Tornado and also wins back his lady love, Nicole(Emily Mortimer), from Vincenzo.

Harald Zwart directs this movie and this is a sequel to the 2006 movie, the Pink Panther, through which this series was restarted after giving a facelift. Harald uses slapstick combined with exaggerated action sequences to invoke laughter and he succeeds.

Steve Martin is refreshingly good as Inspector Clouseau. Like the first part, Steve built his Clouseau on an French accent and quirky mannerisms. Both of these make us laugh.

This is guaranteed to deliver giggles.

Language: English

Genre: Comedy

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Movies,Steve Martin,John Cleese,Jean Reno,Alfred Molina,Andy Garzia,Aishwarya Rai,Emily Mortimer,Harald Zwart,Comedy

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Queues!

I was not intimidated on hearing queues for I have plenty of experience in this department. I have waited patiently in serpentine queues in front the booking counters of all the major cinemas in all the places I have lived. Ten years back, I have also waited in front of the US consulate before the break of dawn. On the day before appearing in front of the US consulate for stamping my H1 visa, the HR executive had briefed me. During the briefing, he emphasized on getting there as early as possible. 3 am in the morning was too late for him! But, I reached there after 4:30 am! A person who has gone through such varied experiences is not daunted by queues.

I was not intending to watch a movie or get a new visa. I was only going to get an application for my daughter to enroll her in kindergarten. So, why all this elaborate preparations? But my friend insisted on it! The school is famous for academics. The parents in Bangalore kill for an admission in this school. Last year, the school stopped issuing admission forms after couple of days! On top of it, the school also stopped stopped accepting completed admission forms after getting a stupendous response. So the key is to get the admission forms fast, complete it fast and drop it back fast.

In spite of all these warnings, I reached the school at 8:45 am! I saw the tail end of the queue as I approached the school. The school is a massive building surrounded by high walls. The queue extended outside the school alongside the walls onto the pedestrian pathway. While occupying my position at the tail end, I searched for the school gate. It was not visible from my vantage point. This is like the numerous queues I have been a part of! In order to kill boredom, I started watching other people and also to eavesdrop on conversations.

  • There was a family in front of me with two children standing in the sun. The children were getting restless. The mom was trying hard to comfort them.
  • A couple was discussing the age of their son. In order to enroll children, the school mandates the child to be aged 4 on June 2010. But their child was only going to be 3 years and 10 months. There were worried about their child will be starting academics one year too late versus 2 months too early!
  • A father received a call from his office. He was supposed to attend a meeting. But he is held up in the queue. He convinced his colleague that he was not a mandatory participant for the design review meeting and the rest of them can go ahead without him!
  • A pregnant mother waiting patiently in the scorching heat watching her son walking around the place.
  • A father narrating the bad experience when he tried transferring his daughter into this school. He ended the story with a sigh, “They are the best! So, they can do it and people will still wait in long queues!”. He was on the verge of cursing his fate!
  • A father loudly complaining about this process. He wants this automated through the internet. This will save everyone’s time!

The school selects around 50 children and the selection criteria is really weird. There preferences are siblings of existing students, children of their staff, children of central government employees, children of returning expatriates and then the general category! The same management runs more than 2 schools that are spread across Bangalore. The scene in front of any one of these schools are the same!

Finally, I did get the admission forms from two of the schools run by the same management. Even though the seats are limited, I did not want to take a chance! I’m increasing the probability of selection by taking the admission forms from two places. The fact that I belong to the general category and has very slim chances of getting my daughter selected into the school did not deter me!

In order to get the admission forms, I devoted two of my mornings. On each day, I went in at 8:45 am and got the form by 11 am. On the second day, after accomplishing the mission, I called my wife up and told her the news. Having a penchant for drama, I exaggerated the events. After listening to my narration, she calmly replied, “Good Job! Your daughter is going to be very proud of you - her sun tanned dad!”. Huh?

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

Tags: Musings,Daughter,School,Admission Forms

Monday, October 19, 2009

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare described this beautifully.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

I was not impressed when I heard it for the first later. Years later, I still remain unimpressed with this wordplay! It is very easy to describe a rose and distort the importance of the name. But tell it to me! I have name which is easily mistaken for a girl’s name!

It was not always like this! While in school and college, I was never mistaken for a girl. My name, being unique, was easy to remember! But, this only added to my woes! People remembered my name while I was not very good at remembering names. So, you are suddenly pulled into a conversation by a familiar face addressing you by your first name and you are busy remembering the name of the familiar face while trying to act interested in the conversation!

When I stepped into my professional life, the uniqueness of the name faded suddenly. A new problem cropped up. People imagined me to be a girl as soon as they heard my name! Once, when I introduced myself and started talking in a teleconference call, there was an uneasy silence. Later I realized, it was an awkward pause during which the people at the other end of the phone were frantically deconstructing the voice to check if it contained even a faint trace of a woman.

Another instance was when a rookie engineer was assigned to my team. After the resourcing manager assigned him to my team, he enthusiastically called me! As soon as I asked him to come over to my office, I sensed a wane in the enthusiasm curve. Later, when he became my good friend, he confessed the secret behind the enthusiasm and sudden deflation in it too!

Recently, a colleague told me with a nervous and shy smile, “Hearing your name, most of people think you are girl”. So, do you still think, “What’s in a name?”.

Picture Courtesy:  http://www.biblesociety.com.au/

Tags: Musings,Name

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Movie: Kerala Varma Pazhassiraja

During late 1700s in northern Kerala, Pazhassiraja(Mammootty) becomes increasingly dissatisfied by the rising interference of the British East India Company in the administration. Pazhassiraja had earlier sided with British against Tipu Sultan in order to gain independence for Malabar. But, now he feels cheated by the British. Pazhassiraja cannot comprehend how people who came to establish business can end up ruling a province!

Aided by Veeravarma(Thilakan), Pazhassiraja’s uncle, and, Pazhayamveedu Chanthu(Suman), Pazhassiraja’s protege, the British raids Pazhassiraja’s palace. Knowing about this move well in advance, Pazhassiraja’s wife, Kaitheri Maakkom(Kaniha) escapes with the help of her brother, Kaitheri Ambu(Suresh Krishna). But, a mishap during the escape leads to a miscarriage for Maakkom, which turns out to be a disappointment for Pazhassiraja and Maakkom as they have been childless for a long time.

The British plunders the Pazhassi’s palace. Enraged by this, Pazhassiraja decides to fight back. But he realizes British outnumbers him by might. So, he decides to wage guerilla warfare against the British in the dense jungles of Wyanad. The jungle will be a boon and a bane at the same time and he decides to enlist the tribals to wage an effective war. In order to wage the war, he assembles his trusted lieutenants, Edachena Kunkan(Sarathkumar) – a long time friend and a protege, Thalackal Chanthu(Manoj K Jayan) – a protege and a tribal leader and Katheri Ambu – his brother-in-law. Neeli(Padmapriya), Thalackal Chanthu’s fiancé, also joins the fight and leads the women. The farmers, who is disillusioned by the British rule because of the mounting taxes, also joins the army to fight against the British.

The rest of the movie chronicles the hardships faced by Pazhassiraja. Realizing it is difficult to wage a war with Pazhassiraja, the British agrees for a treaty. But the treaty does not last long and the war starts again. This time, Pazhassiraja have victories and also setbacks!

Hariharan directs this historical. It is not easy to portray the rise and fall of the Pazhassiraja without the numerous battles between his forces and British forces. The underlying story could be lost in between the action sequences. But Hariharan strikes a balance and is able to sustain the viewer’s attention while telling the story in 3 hours and 20 minutes. He focuses on the story and characters instead of the stars. However, the minus point of the movie is some of the techniques used in the action scenes. The rope and pulley method gives an unnatural feeling in many places. This could have been easily taken care of. In couple of scenes, the VFX is very evident especially Pazhassiraja watching the explosion of the British fort from a nearby hill and the Pazhassiraja appearing with the rising sun before the final confrontation with the British.

MT Vasudevan Nair pens the script for this movie. He comes out of hiatus as he has not penned any new script for any movies for a long time now. He is also in uncharted territory for him as he is chronicling the rise and fall of a ruler unlike emotions which is his forte. Even in this wide canvas, the anguish of Pazhassiraja is captured effectively using “MT”ish dialogues. The surprise elements in his script are Kaitheri Maakkom and Neeli. The women have a small but important part in the story and he has effectively highlighted the ferociousness and also resourcefulness of the women behind the men.

Mammootty is excellent as Pazhassiraja. It is impossible to think of anyone else essaying this role. He plays this role like a seasoned performer with restraint. Sarathkumar delivers a surprisingly good act in the second half. Coming with a background of Tamil movies, it is difficult to synchronize the dialogue and the body language in Malayalam. With this handicap, he gives a convincing act while garnering support of the Muslims for Pazhassiraja. Padmapriya’s Neeli is a departure from the roles she has portrayed so far. She is perfect and breathes fire during the action sequences. Manoj K Jayan is apt as Thalackal Chanthu which requires a lot of agility. But he could have been more convincing in some of the action sequences.

Resul Pookkutty has designed the sound. His craft is evident in the battle scenes. The theater rocks when the cannon is fired! Also, check out the mock fight between Pazhassiraja and Kunkan – swish of the swords and the sound of the shields striking against each other!

Go for this and make sure you watch it in a theater with good sound system.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Historical

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

Tags: Movies,Mammootty,Thilakan,Suman,Suresh Krishna,Sarathkumar,Manoj K Jayan,Padmapriya,Kaniha,Hariharan,MT Vasudevan Nair,Resul Pookkutty,Historical

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Finland and Broadband access

The media is screaming about Finland’s move to make the broadband access a birthright. The world is congratulating Finland to be the first in doing this. Although there are other countries who have made the internet access a legal right, it is Finland who has made broadband access a legal right. Right now, the “legal right” is limited to 1 MB and this “legal right” will be upgraded to 100 MB by 2015!

I was initially confused! Does this mean government is going to foot the bills? It does not seem so. The emphasis is on the access. There will be provisions for broadband access even in the remotest corner of the country. But you can avail this option, if you have money. This will definitely help the rich who stay miles away from civilization and depend on the satellites!

And another thing, why is broadband access a legal right? How is this going to help? What will change if this just remains the policy of the government?

Now that this is a legal right, can the citizens sue the government if there is no access?

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

Tags: Musings,Finland,Broadband Access

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Movie: Inglourious Basterds

During 1941, Hans Landa(Christoph Waltz) works as Colonel in the SS, a major Nazi organization under Adolf Hitler. He is nicknamed as the “Jew Hunter” since he specializes in tracking down Jewish families hiding from Nazi persecution. In the Nazi occupied France, Landa massacres a Jewish family hiding out in the basement of a French peasant’s house. But, the teenage daughter of the family, Shosanna Dreyfus, miraculously escapes.

Around the same time in US, 1st Lieutenant Aldo Raine(Brad Pitt) assembles a group of eight Jewish American soldiers for a mission. Their mission is to infiltrate into the enemy territory and inflict damage on the enemy thereby creating panic in the minds of the soldiers.

Now, in 1944, Raine has been very successful in his mission. Raine and his gang ambushes and scalps the Nazis. They extract vital information from the survivors. After extracting the information, Raine carves a swastika on their forehead and leaves them alive to spread the word of terror to the other Nazi soldiers. In spite of the best efforts to keep the fame of Raine under control, the Nazis are unsuccessful. Raine has two major elements of terror working for him. They are Staff Sergeant Donny Donowitz(Eli Roth), nicknamed as the “Bear Jew” for mercilessly clubbing Nazi officers with a baseball bat and Hugo Stiglitz(Til Schweiger), a former Nazi soldier whom Raine recruits after helping him to escape from a Nazi prison.

Meanwhile, Shosanna Dreyfus(Melanie Laurent) resides in Paris after taking a new name and is operating a small cinema. A German war hero, Frederick Zoller(Daniel Bruhl), is smitten by her. Zoller is currently acting in a propaganda movie and persuades Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to hold the premiere of his movie at Shosanna’s theater. Goebbels gives into Zoller and agrees. To Shosanna’s surprise, Landa will be in charge of the security. Together with Marcel, her black lover, she decides to burn the theater down on the night of the premiere.

At the same time, the British comes to know that Hitler might be attending the premiere personally. Winston Churchill(Rod Taylor) and General Ed Fenech(Mike Meyers) sends their man, Lt. Archie Hicox(Michael Fassbender) as a German film critic to the premiere in order to lead an attack on Hitler. In order to attend the premiere, Hicox enlists Raine’s help. Together, they meet a double agent and a German actress named Bridget von Hammersmark(Diane Kruger). The rest of the story tells us whether Raine or Shosanna succeed in their separate attempts to bring down Nazi leadership on the night of the premiere.

Quentin Tarantino directs this movie paying homage to the World War II and also spaghetti westerns. In his characteristic style, Quentin chooses to tell story in chapters. His characters engages in engrossingly long diatribes, sucking us right into the middle of the events while our emotions – surprise, revolt, laughter - changes with each fleeting second. Quentin uses the background music effectively to build the drama while paying homage to the popular movies of this genre. He has dug up tunes from old movies and used it as the background score at places. Quentin also builds the suspense effectively with sounds, the prominent being the introduction of the Bear Jew. You will not see him appearing on the screen for an awfully long time. But the sound of the baseball bat hitting the walls fills the movie hall and the audience is watching with anticipation. He has also used camera angles to pay homage to the genre. But Quentin displays his penchant using the camera in a most unusual way while Raine interrogates a German soldier after an ambush. Here, he points and shifts the camera on Raine, the captured German soldier and the map and forces the audience on focus on where he wants us to. Like a experienced story teller who goes on a small tangent to share anecdotes while telling stories, Quentin uses very brief flashbacks to establish the characters. Here again, the story Hugo Stiglitz is explained in a flashback which is an homage to the trailers of this genre. With this movie, Quentin also introduces talented actors from Europe to a wider audience.

Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa steals the show with his performance. Christoph’s Landa is a methodical, merciless and remorseless investigator. He uses his smile to give the audience a glimpse of the maniacal side of Landa. He also uses forced laughter to cover up an instant setback while pitted against an adversary. When the laughter ends, he proceeds in a different direction to extract the information he needs. Be it the interrogation of the French Peasant or an adult Shosanna or Bridget, Christoph ensures the audience is hooked on the scene watching every move he makes.

Brad Pitt delivers an interesting performance with a permanent scowl on his face and Tennessee accent. Til Schweiger is good as the cold blooded killer and Eli Roth is menacing as the Bear Jew.

Watch this! Don’t take your kids to this movie!

Language: English

Genre: War

Rating: ****

Tags: Movies,Christoph Waltz,Brad Pitt,Eli Roth,Til Schweiger,Melanie Laurent,Daniel Bruhl,Rod Taylor,Mike Myers,Michael Fassbender,Quentin Tarantino,War

Monday, October 12, 2009

Movie: Robinhood

Venki(Prithviraj) robs Automatic Teller Machine(ATM) using fake debit cards. He has been operating out of Kochi for the past three months and IBI bank is the target of all these robberies.

ACP Harris(Jayasurya) is in charge of the investigation. But the managing director of the bank, Nandakumar Menon(Biju Menon) is not happy with the way the investigations are proceeding as the cops have been harassing the existing customers. The bank authorities have ruled out a problem in their systems as the same system is used by other banks. The other banks are not yet a target. All the transactions done by the robber has been using a debit card. How did the thief get hold of the 4 digit pin numbers of the customers?

Nandakumar Menon decides to conduct investigation in parallel with the cops. So, he summons Alexander Felix(Narain). Felix is an unkempt young man who opted out of IPS. On the first day, he oversleeps on the train and does not get down at Kochi. But appearances are deceptive. Beneath the surface, Felix is a sharp investigator. In order to assist him, the bank also appoints a senior systems manager, Roopa(Bhavana). Felix and Roopa moves into the IBI guesthouse. The IBI guesthouse is right across Venki’s apartment. Slowly, the trio begins a friendship. The rest of the story focuses on what happens to the three friends, how Felix succeeds in finding the ATM thief and what is the story behind Venki’s hatred towards IBI!

Joshiy directs this movie and he fails to give us an interesting movie. He is handicapped with a weak script where nothing happens at all through out the movie. When something happens, it evokes a sense of déjà vu.  We have seen the same twists in countless movies! The action scenes suck especially since this comes in right after Puthiya Mugham!

Prithviraj stands out because of his screen presence. Narain tries to rise above the script. Bhavana has no scope to act and she looks tired! Jayasurya is miscast as the ACP.

Avoid this unless you are Prithviraj fan and ready to invest time for seeing Prithviraj walking in and out of ATMs!

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Thriller

Rating: *

Picture Courtesy: http://nowrunning.com/

Tags: Movies,Prithviraj,Narain,Jayasurya,Bhavana,Biju Menon,Joshiy,Thriller

Jai Ho Concert

A R Rahman hosted a concert to commemorate the completion of Phase I of Swarnabhoomi on 11th October 2009. Swarnabhoomi is an undertaking by Marg properties and a township that is located closer to Pondicherry. I have not heard of Marg properties and their township in the middle of nowhere invoked any interest in me. But on hearing about A R Rahman concert, I was ready to go!

Chennai is not far away from Bangalore. We reached Chennai in 6 hours. The connecting highway – NH 4 – is excellent! But the venue was around 80 kms from Chennai. So, we started off to the venue after picking up two friends from Chennai. The toll roads waived the toll for the concert goers. They were special buses for transporting to the venue of the concert. These special buses were adorned with “Jai Ho” posters. Seeing all these, our enthusiasm for the concert increased as we became closer to venue.

The organizers had deployed a lot of cops for the event. As we walked into the concert area, I couldn’t find any security checks, which made me uncomfortable. There were more than 50,000 people in the area. The concert featured well known and respected musicians in the whole country. But, there were no security checks!

After finding chairs and also a place to sit, we waited for the concert to start! The ads featured “6 pm onwards”, which was very convenient for the organizers! There were 4-5 screens to enable the viewers to see a close up of the artistes. This is a blessing as it was impossible to make out the artistes on the stage from where we sat. Around 7:30 pm, we were greeted with A R Rahman’s voice and suddenly, the stage lit up to reveal the maestro occupying the center stage.

Then, everything went south! The sound system was pathetic! Most of the famous singers just goofed up their lines although the young ones oozed energy! The TV focused on Rahman even when there were other artistes around! The local crowd were pissed off at Rahman for not having too many Tamil songs. Come to think of it, he has not worked much in Tamil for the past couple of years. The show ended up with a recital of Jai Ho and when Jai Ho ended, the fireworks lighted up the skies!

Hariharan, K S Chitra, Sivamani, Sadhana Sargam, Blaaze, Rashid Ali, Suzzanne D’Mello and Neeti Mohan sang during concert! The crowd went beserk when Neeti crooned “Mayya Mayya” and gyrated to it! Suzzanne made the crowd stand on their feet when she rendered “Aye Bachoo”.

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

Tags: Musings,A R Rahman,Marg Properties,Hariharan,K S Chitra,Sivamani,Sadhana Sargam,Blaaze,Rashid Ali,Suzzanne D’Mello,Neeti Mohan

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Underage Homeowners

They are barely old enough to buy liquor in US. But they have a home already! How did they manage it? Watch the video to find the story of siblings - Denise and Wilmer Tejada! Yes, their dad helped! But not financially!

Tags: Videos,People,Denise Tejada,Wilmer Tejada

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Movie: Inkheart

Mortimer “Mo” Folchart(Brendan Fraser) is a Silvertongue. A Silvertongue possesses the ability to bring the characters from a book to life by reading the story aloud. Mo is constantly on the move with his 12 year old daughter, Meggie(Elisa Bennett). Mo never stays in one place and he has been moving between European cities searching for something in book exhibitions and bookstores.

In a small European town, Mo comes across a book named “Inkheart” in an old bookstore. He immediately buys the book. When he steps outside the bookstore, he is confronted by Dustfinger(Paul Bettany) in front of Meggie. Dustfinger urges Mo to read him back into the book. To Meggie’s bewilderment, Mo escapes from Dustfinger with Meggie.

Then, Mo and Meggie travels to Italy to meet his aunt, Elinor Loredan(Helen Mirren). Elinor is a spinster and tries to keep Meggie at a distance. Elinor also blames Meggie’s mother Resa(Sienna Guillory) for abandoning Mo and Meggie. This irks Meggie.

That night, the trio gets a surprise visit from Dustfinger. Dustfinger informs Mo that he joined forces with Capricorn(Andy Serkis). So, he is now going to capture and present Mo to Capricorn.

The rest of the movie tells us the reason for Resa’s departure and why Capricorn and Dustfinger is interested in Mo. All of them are involved in an adventure that finally leads to Inkheart’s author, Beppe Finoglio(Jim Broadbent).

Iain Softley directs this fantasy based on a eponymous book by Cornelia Funke. More than the direction, it is the visuals that are interesting - be it the locations or the creatures created using the CG.

Paul Bettany impresses as Dustfinger. Dustfinger is not bad. But he is selfish. Paul is able to convey the conflicts successfully. In addition to Paul, it is the veterans – Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent – who make this movie interesting and watchable.

The author, Cornelia Funke, had Brendan Fraser in mind while writing Mo. Unfortunately, Brendan is miscast as Mo!

See this if you love Fantasy. You will not be bored.

Language: English

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Brendan Fraser,Elisa Bennett,Paul Bettany,Helen Mirren,Sienna Guillory,Andy Serkis,Jim Broadbent,Iain Softley,Cornelia Funke,Fantasy

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Movie: Frost/Nixon

President Richard Nixon(Frank Langella) resigns from White House on August 9, 1974. Prior to leaving the White House, Nixon speaks on the TV. His departure from the White House is televised. The whole drama unfolding on the television catches the attention of David Frost(Michael Sheen). Frost is a successful talk show host who is well known for his playboy image.

Sensing an opportunity by looking at the number of people who were glued onto the TV during the time of resignation, Frost enlists John Birt(Matthew Macfayden), his friend and a TV producer, for arranging an TV interview with Nixon. Frost and Birt finally gets consent from Nixon to interview by offering $600,000. After Nixon agrees for the interview, Frost hires two investigators Bob Zelnick(Oliver Platt) and James Reston Jr(Sam Rockwell).

What follows is a fictionalized peek behind the scenes of the interview. Nixon with the support of Jack Brennan(Kevin Bacon) is a formidable adversary for Frost in front of the camera. But, in spite of this, Frost manages to televised confession from Nixon.

Ron Howard directs this movie which is based on a play of the same name by Peter Morgan. Ron gives the movie a feeling of reminiscence. He achieves this by having the actors playing Birt, Zelnick, Reston and Brennan talking to the camera as if in an interview. The actors have an older look now. These shots are interspersed within the actual movie and act as a good prop to heighten the drama.

Frank Langella gives a marvelous performance as Nixon. He is very good while going on rambling in between the interview to throw Frost off balance Michael Sheen supports Frank ably. The rest of cast is okay.

Watch this for the drama. But do not mistake this for history.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Frank Langella,Michael Sheen, Matthew Macfayden,Oliver Platt,Sam Rockwell,Kevin Bacon,Ron Howard,Drama

Movie: True Grit

Frank Ross goes to Fort Smith, Arkansas for selling horses. He takes his hired hand, Tom Chaney(Jeff Corey) with him. Frank had hired Chaney in the recent past. After he got hired, Chaney has been living in the farm with the Ross family. At Fort Smith, Chaney kills Frank in a drunken outrage and flees.

Hearing her father’s demise, Mattie Ross(Kim Darby) arrives in Fort Smith. After witnessing a public hanging in the city, Mattie is determined to bring Chaney to justice. On enquiring about the right guy to do this job, she is directed to Rooster Cogburn(John Wayne), the one-eyed US Marshal who wears a permanent eye-patch.

Mattie investigates on the whereabouts of Chaney. She is informed that Chaney was last seen with Ned Pepper(Robert Duvall). Then, Mattie goes in search of Rooster. When she finds him, Rooster is not interested in this venture. Rooster is an aging gun who is drunk when he is not apprehending criminals. Determined to get assistance from Rooster, Mattie offers a reward for finding Chaney.

But, there is one more man who is planning to arrest Chaney. He is Le Boeuf(Glen Campbell), an young Texas Ranger. Chaney had fled Texas after murdering a senator. Now, Le Boeuf is on Chaney’s trail.

Soon, Rooster and Le Boeuf join forces to capture Chaney. They reluctantly take Mattie along with them on this mission as she is adamant in following them. The hunt for Chaney forms the rest of the story.

Henry Hathaway directs this Western, adapted from a novel of the same name by Charles Portis. Henry focuses on the preparation for the adventure and difficulties faced by the protagonists. Since the movie is an adaptation, the protagonists have more depth than the routine single dimensional ones that you find in a Western.

John Wayne plays the role in his characteristic style – that of a ruffian with a know-it-all attitude who always ready to preach. He has played similar roles countless times in the past. Still, it is fun to watch him play the aging gun. Although he won an Oscar for his performance in this movie, this is not his best performance.

You will also find a very young Dennis Hopper doing a small role in this movie as an outlaw named Moon.

Watch this for John Wayne.

Watch it also to see what westerns were before Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood.

Language: English

Genre: Western

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,John Wayne,Kim Darby,Glen Campbell,Robert Duvall,Dennis Hopper,Western

Monday, October 5, 2009

Moving away

When I decided to move away from home after getting a job in US, nobody was shocked! My family members were aware of the vacuum that will be created by my absence. But since our dad worked abroad for most of his life staying from family, this was something my family members were used to.

There was no resistance from any quarters. In fact, everyone were happy that I got this opportunity. There were jokes about settling down in the foreign country and marrying someone from that country. The jokes went overboard. But, emotions were always in control.

So, when I heard about a dad and son spending a few hours on the phone till 3 am in the morning discussing about a possible move to a different country, I was surprised! The son was planning to pursue higher education in US. But, is this a topic worth discussing for 4 hours over phone?

My inquisitive mind asked the son about this. There were two things the father was worried about.

  1. The son might decide to settle in US and might not come back to India except for vacations.
  2. The son might decide to marry an American.

Sensing a controversial topic, my face lit up in a beaming smile. Without waiting for my next question, the son replied, “I promised I will not marry an American”. There was something amiss. So, I waited.

After a dramatic pause, the son said, “Well, I promised him not to marry an American. But I still can have kids with an American and I can bring them home. He never asked me not to!”.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.younglivin.org.uk

Tags: Musings,Dad,Son

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Book: The Lost Symbol

Robert Langdon, the Harvard symbologist,  is invited to Washington DC to deliver a lecture by his mentor and friend, Peter Solomon. As Langdon is a last minute fill-in for another speaker, he is rushed to capital city on a private jet.

Meanwhile, a mysterious man named, Mal’akh walks into the US Capitol Building in a disguise. His body is covered with tattoos. But he has cleverly camouflaged the tattoos under makeup.

Katherine Solomon, Peter’s sister, visits her lab buried under the Smithsonian Museum and waits for the arrival of her brother. But, there is no sign of Peter!

Before long, Langdon chases a treasure that has been hidden for centuries. In order to save the lives of his friends, he has to unravel the coded messages and secrets buried by Freemasons.

Dan Brown, the author, traverses familiar territory of hidden messages and secret societies in this book. The mystery rhymes with his previous writings wherein Langdon is thrown into an unfamiliar environment,confronted by hostile characters. Langdon is not sure if these are friends or foes. But he always get help from unexpected quarters. Towards the end of the mystery, there is dialogue that questions your belief.

In spite of using the same pattern of story telling, Dan Brown successfully captures the reader’s attention. This is primarily because the reader wants to know the identity of the villain and the importance of the secret. As most of the readers are familiar with his previous works, they also know Dan reserves the crucial discussion (on belief) towards the end of the book.

The story unfolds at more than one place. So, Dan Brown devotes a chapter on the happening at one location. He shifts location when the story reaches a crucial point generating suspense and leaving the reader in a limbo. Most of the time, it works for the novel. But at some points, these chapters are so short that it irritates the reader.

Still, the Lost Symbol is a compulsive read.

Picture Courtesy: www.amazon.com

Tags: Books,Robert Langdon,Dan Brown

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Movie: Wake up Sid

Sid aka Siddharth(Ranbir Kapoor) is the only son of Ram Mehra(Anupam Kher) and Sarita(Supriya Pathak). Sid is a slacker with no plans or ambitions in life. He has two best friends – Laxmi(Shika Talsania) and Rishi(Namit Das).

In a party after the college examinations, Sid bumps into Aisha(Konkana Sen Sharma). Aisha is an aspiring writer who shifted to Mumbai in search of a job. It is her first day in an alien city. The two hit off pretty well and become friends. For Aisha, Sid is the first friend in this big city.

Since the exams are over, Ram wants Sid to take an active participation in running the family business. Sid, however, is not ready for any responsibility. In order to entice Sid into the family business, Ram strikes a deal with his son. Sid goes to office for 30 days and Ram will buy a Porsche SUV for Sid.

But, Sid is in for a surprise on his first day at office. Ram gives him a pile of books that has all the information related to the business. Sid has exactly one week to go through these documents and decide on the department to join.

Sid is saved from the boredom by an email from Aisha and soon, they start communicating with each other over email. Aisha has found a job with a magazine named Mumbai Beat. While Ram waits for a decision from his son, Sid slips away from the office and joins Aisha. Sid helps her in finding an apartment and also cleaning up the whole place.

As time flies, Sid and Aisha becomes good friends.The rest of the movie shows what happens in Sid’s life. Will Sid find his true interests? Will Sid become responsible?

Ayan Mukherji, the debutante, directs this coming off age movie. In addition to direction, Ayan is also credited with the story and screenplay. He has proved to an able director and story teller. The unusual but apt pairing of Ranbir-Konkana works in his favor. The songs are a collage of events that take the story forward and hence, it keeps the viewer engaged in the movie. The dialogues are minimal but effective. The drama and the romance are subtle and subdued. Still, it is endearing. The photography and editing complements the movie.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy provides the music and Amit Trivedi for one track. The music gels with the movie. The background score, although loud at certain points, elevates the experience.

Dharma Productions(read Karan Johar) produces this movie. Considering their previous movies, this is a far better product with respect to the script. This is not a badly written school skit like their previous movies - especially the one that dealt with extra-marital affairs and the other about two guys acting gay!

Ranbir Kapoor is almost perfect as Sid. He gives in an earnest performance succeeding in most of the scenes. Yet, there are scenes where his body language and also expressions betray him.  But, still, the performance is commendable.

Konkana Sen Sharma is played her part perfectly. Anupam Kher and Supriya Pathak are a delight to watch. The surprise package of this movie will Shika Talsania and Namit Das portraying Sid’s friends. You will also find Rahul Khanna and Kashmira Shah doing small roles in this movie.

Go for this!

Language: Hindi

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,Ranbir Kapoor,Anupam Kher,Supriya Pathak,Shika Talsania,Namit Das,Konkana Sen Sharma,Rahul Khanna,Kashmira Shah,Ayan Mukherji,Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy,Amit Trivedi,Dharma Productions,Drama

Friday, October 2, 2009

Movie: Daddy Cool

Anthony Simon(Mammootty) is a lazy police officer. He loves to hang out with his son, Adi(Master Dhananjay), idling away time. They are both cricket fans. A critical mission to trap a notorious gangster named BhimBhai(Ashish Vidhyarthi) goes wrong because of Anthony. Bhimbhai escapes because Anthony had moved away from his assigned location to watch a cricket match being telecasted on TV. As a result, he is suspended from service for 6 months.

However, Anthony is not affected by the suspension and he is happy to spend time with his son. This irritates his wife Annie(Richa Pallod), who walks out of the house leaving the dad and son alone. The dad-son duo enjoys this freedom to the maximum. In one of their escapades, they come across the famous cricket star, Srikanth, being roughed by a set of menacing looking guys. On Adi’s insistence, Anthony intervenes and helps Srikanth.

Another inspector(Biju Menon), who is a close friend of Anthony, uses this incident to get TV coverage for Anthony. This results in revoking the suspension and Anthony being inducted back into the service. What happens in Anthony’s life after this incident forms the rest of the story.

Aashiq Abu directs this light hearted comedy. They fail miserably in telling a good story. However, they succeed in giving us a movie with good production values. As they have nothing much to tell, most of the scenes are long. They are quite a few laughs. But they are drowned in the lengthy scenes. There is scope for performances in this movie. The biggest drawback of the movie is the lack of a strong villain to confront Anthony. Although the story has references to the past heroic antics of Anthony, it could have well established in the scene where Anthony saves Srikanth. But the director fails in this scene despite trying to do so.

Bijibal’s music is very pleasing. The title song also serves a thrilling background score. Without this, the movie would have fallen flat.

Mammootty evokes laughter at quite a few places. But he looks jaded in most scenes. He looks jaded and out of shape in most of the outfits. The major disappointment is the final scene when he arrives in a police officer’s uniform. Unfortunately, the age has caught up with him! Sadly, some of his dialogues are also double innuendos.

Master Dhananjay is okay. But he has been given bigger dialogues than he can handle! Biju Menon sleepwalks through another supporting role efficiently. Suraj Venjaramoodu is okay. But, Ashish Vidhyarthi and Daniel Balaji hams and disappoints.

Surprisingly, Vijayaraghavan and Baburaj provides the best laughs even though most of it are innuendos. It is not only their interaction with each other but also their interactions with other actors that provides genuine laughs.

Watch it on DVD.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Comedy

Rating: *

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

Tags: Movies,Mammootty,Dhananjay,Richa Pallod,Biju Menon,Aashiq Abu,Bijibal,Suraj Venjaramoodu,Daniel Balaji,Vijayaraghavan,Baburaj,Comedy

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