Straight Shooter

Reflections, Views, Reviews and Moves

Up the Slope

From far away,
You see the horizon on the bay,
You move towards it,
As you don't like to just sit

You cross the hills,
Which crop up at will,
You navigate the river,
At which the ordinary would quiver

You stumble and fall,
But you don't give up,
You walk tall,
And face the slip up

You learn from the wise,
That life is not a game of dice,
You learn the trick,
That there are no tricks

You take the long road,
You know it's right,
As the seeds you sow,
Blossom with righteous might

But When you think,
Your journey is on the brink,
The great horizon on the bay,
Has just moved away

You start again,
You Take it slow,
Your Life has hope,
It makes you go,
All the way,
Up the slope.


Enthiran: The Unbiased Review

Statutory warning: Die-hard Rajni fans may experience fits of extreme joy and anger in quick succession on reading this post.

My Rajni Creds: I have seen over 95% of all Rajni movies, and 100% of his 20 most recent movies. I absolutely loved Dalapathi, Baasha, Arunachalam and Padayappa. I did not like Baba and Chandramukhi. I was ambivalent towards Sivaji. I paid 24 dollars to watch this movie on the second day of its release.

There are 2 reasons to like a movie. One is when the story/screenplay/acting blows you away. The other is when the rest are average but are presented in an incredibly opulent manner. And then there is the Rajni mania which defies all logic like the man himself. Enthiran falls into the 2nd category of opulence for most of the movie. Doubtless to say, though this movie can actually have any actor play Rajni's part (Rajni die-hards, you have already been warned!), the movie warrants a box office magnet, i.e Rajni, to return handsome profits. 

The movie is technically sound for most parts ( except the 'Nueral' schema, a ridiculous mosquito conversation and an unwarranted cheesy bit of visual effect when Chitti throws the baby up in the air) , a feather in the director Shankar's cap, but the true credit goes more to the late Sujatha for his brilliant foresight more than 20 years ago. Shankar seems to have gone off track in his ability to hit the bull's eye in his erstwhile forte - a taut and intelligent screenplay, and instead tried to stretch the limits of his grandiose ideas. Rajni carries the movie on his shoulders completely, which was expected of him from the beginning, but really never needs to showcase his acting skills. Having no ultra-praising song introduction, the movie begins with great expectations. The first major let down was the very poor usage of the film's most powerful song, "Pudhiya Manitha" which SPB and ARR had crafted beautifully. The point where the change to the powerful beats begin  is completely lost as the song plays in the background and is overshadowed by some juvenile comedy by Karunas and Santhanam.

 The first half is a breeze with random encounters, the robot impressing several people, Aishwarya Rai showing off her dancing skills (very graceful and beautiful, I must say) and with some light hearted comedy. Towards the end of the first half, a poignant phase where the Robot's lack of emotion costs a life is impressive. The second half drags for most parts. Chitti developing a love for Sana is totally expected and so are the events that unfold. The villain is really boring and there is the overload of machines. I totally hated Transformers due to its non existent storyline and the second half somehow gave me the feeling that I was watching another one of those. Add to that, the songs were  real speed breakers. As always for Shankar, my least favorite song has been visualized in the most breathtaking fashion (Kilimanjaro). The visual effects in the climax are truly world class( Stan Winston studios of course, sadly no Indians here) , but I was searching for the 'it' factor which was sorely missing. It felt more like a rehash of several Hollywood blockbusters. Most importantly, visual effects are mere eye candy if not backed by an intelligent storyline. ARR, inspite of having done his best for a Rajini movie in terms of the songs, was major let down with the background music, especially when Chitti v2.0 goes on a rampage. "Two point O" sounds like the soundtrack of a cartoon, not at all apt for a very serious carnage going on in front of our eyes. The plot gets very predictable and I was only only held to my seat trying to find faults in the CGI. Rajini has some scope in playing the villain robot, but honestly, comparisons to his legendary performances in "Nettikkan" or "16 Vayathilinile" are uncalled for. It is alright at best, maybe dragged down by the very same predicability. 

Wins for this movie are that Rajini has played his part as a director's actor, with little gimmicks. I cannot quite still believe his scientist character, but that is a good attempt showcasing a human character prone to errors. the movie just gives a feeling that Rajini needs heavy backup from all places, be it makeup (kudos!) , visual effects or even his voice over - I miss the Rajini from Baasha and Dhalapathy.  Overall, the movie is much better than Sivaji and a good box office victory for Rajni, but I have no regrets in Kamal Hassan not playing the titular role.



Well well well! Anyone who is reading this post deserve my thanks and are proof to the fact that gtalk status messages and constant spamming does work! Apart from not really having enough enthusiasm to continue blogging , many of the topics just did not qualify into the public realm. Ironical as it sounds, a majority of amateur blogs are written out of limited social interaction and hence the need to be heard. Comments and read counts are huge motivators to continue blogging. When I see many newbie bloggers I personally know joining the bandwagon, it is time..

Coming back to blog
Ain't such a slog

What's the aim
It's gettin attention
There is only yourself to blame
For the writer's tension

Just find words that rhyme
Take your time
No flowery phrases
Coz I only see blank faces

The mundane bloggin train
Is about to take a turn
Typin in the iPhone is a pain,
But you know, its coz iReturn!


The IPL Addiction
When the Indian Premier League began, there was huge fanfare and celebrations all around, announcing the clout of India in world cricket and cricket itself as a money spinner. The first edition went on to be a huge success with Lalit Modi's idea becoming a case study in many business schools worldwide.

The second edition has now begun, strangely not in India. This year has not been without its controversies - despite the global economic recession, new players were snapped up with record bids; the BCCI wasn't willing to reschedule the IPL so that it doesn't clash with the national elections; extended breaks were introduced between overs to rake in more moolah.

But the IPL has done a lot to me on a personal front. When many question the support to their 'home teams', when the home team hardly plays any local lads and it is the star hires who may be Indian or overseas who hog the limelight, there has been an acceptance of the English Premier League (Football) - kind of support to these teams.

What takes this support to an even more granular level is the introduction of the Fantasy IPL game. Cricinfo, the definitive news and analysis provider for cricket, has a game whereby one can register and create a team, picking players from multiple teams. Each player has a 'cost', and 11 of them have to be drafted in within the 'budget'. So one can have players from teams all over, which results in support of those specific players and not for the entire team. One has 20 transfers for the entire series to move players in and out. There are also 'leagues' where teams of different players can compete for good fun. Last year, there were only 3 of us in our league and it went out pretty well.

When IPLv2 has not taken off to that grand a start, and there is less talk about it than last year, the fantasy leagues have reached an all new level. This time there are more players and those who have analyzed the players and matches to an unimaginable level (there may have been such people last time too, but this time, I actually know them!).

This fantasy cricket has created such a level of activity in me that I am addicted to it. My normal activities are totally driven by the matches - I wake up many hours earlier to change by 'Trump Player', I waste time refreshing the Cricinfo scorecard even after the match has finished to know who was the 'Man of the Match', and I stunningly rejoice when my home team goes down by a bowler who is in my fantasy team. The performance of the teams in the league has been such huge point of discussion. I know many who are seriously concerned that they may not have enough time to complete their studies in time for the exams, and yet have time to curse when a player in their fantasy team does not play in the real match. I myself went to new lengths, to spend a whole hour in my office (post working hours ofcourse!) perfecting my team.

The level of excitement that is created in these games is huge, and it reaches greater heights with the fantasy teams thrown in. Many a time I think about the time I waste in an effort which has no monetary or professional gain. Is this even worth it?

And yet I cannot stop. What the IPL and the fantasy game has done to me, it has done to my other league mates too. We have become closer together, discussing strategies and exchanging ridicules at each others bad player picks. Whatever may be the time spent in this, it will still remain a memorable part of my life in New York City, when cricket more so the IPL, is the single most strongest glue that binds us friends together in our otherwise mechanical and stressful lives. Fantasy IPL is fun. Period.

What a movie!
'The World's Fastest Indian' is the incredible true story of Burt Munro, a motorcyclist from New Zealand who achieves his 25 year dream of breaking the land speed record. Anthony Hopkins is superb as Burt, a character whose determination is beyond the ordinary, going to extraordinary lengths to achieve his dream. He travels to America from a little known town in New Zealand, and his affable character always helps him make friends and earn the admiration of complete strangers.
It is so wonderful to see such a feel good movie, with very moving and inspiring dialogues. With his Indian Scout motorcycle failing all most all the necessary safety inspections, it is Burt's tireless determination that makes the race authorities to empathize with him and bend the rules to give him a chance to ride. This is a heartwarming story of a man, who battles a weak prostrate and a failing heart, whose grit and never say die attitude is epitomised in this one dialogue : 'Everyone wants us old buggers to curl up in some quiet corner and die... well Burt Munro is not ready to finish that I ll tell ya mate'. This is a true inspiration.


Watch your time

To start with, 'Watchmen' disappointed me. The movie deals with a bunch of superheroes, with no special powers except for one, trying to come to terms with their own lives and trying to save the world from nuclear annihilation. The characters are too many, and just each of their introductions take a substantial amount of time. When the narrator Rorschach starts with his diary, the movie gives the impression something huge is in the line. Its self-reverence is its biggest folly. None of the characters are the anchors, and there is great difficulty in relating let alone respecting any of them.

Zach Snyder has been touted as the 'visionary director' of 300, and he has taken the gore to a whole new level - nonsensical. The graphic violence does not justify any part of the story line, with some scenes clearly forced into the movie just for the gore. It does start off well, with the initial action scenes, but it gets boring with its incongruous usage of the 'freeze-motion' for even trivial motions such as the movement of hair when turning rapidly. Special effects are excellent no doubt, but they heavily distract the viewer from an already unnecessarily complicated storyline.

163 minutes is definitely an attempt to cover all aspects of the comic but several scenes show that this novel could do better as a sitcom than a movie - I ended up making up getting up thrice from my seat thinking the movie was over. I really do not understand the point of Dr.Manhattan being shown full frontal naked all the time, there is no necessity for that. The stone faced actors do not help at all, as the shades of grey are unable to be empathized with. The ending could have been much more simpler rather than the convoluted form it was in. With such a huge cast of characters, the movie is more of an introduction of what is more to come in its probable sequels.

The concept of nuclear war looked more like a joke and the efforts taken in the end by the 'heroes' felt totally ridiculous, especially the 'justification' in the end. There was no huge surprise in the end of who was behind the 'mystery killings'. Overall the movie is a difficult watch, and if this was the best way it could be shown on-screen the novel is truly un-filmable and should have stayed that way. Watch your time when you are in this movie -  I just pray that a sequel is better. I wait for the answer to the question when I leave the movie hall thinking - "What's the point?".

My Rating : 2/5


Great Inspiration
'The Great Debaters' is a worthy watch. It showcases the struggle,will power and courage of 1935 African Americans via an extraordinary debate team from little known Wesley College in Texas. Denzel Washington's second directorial venture brings together a talented cast, spearheaded by himself and Forest Whitaker. Each of the three main characters in the debate team have their own idosyncrasies, and Nate Parker and Denzel Whitaker shine. The movie is a wonderful example of using non violence to exemplify the disadvantages that existed , with clear and meaningful incidents that can be empathized with. Some of the dialogues are extremely powerful, especially the closing debate argument by Denzel Whitaker. The movie will make one cheer in the end.

My Rating : 3/5

Grand Eastwood
Gran Torino is one of the best movies I have seen. Clint Eastwood has excelled as an actor and a director. Portraying a disgruntled Korean war veteran with a racist attitude, he portrays the poignant transformation to a tough yet caring mentor to his Hmong neighbour, Tao. It is not what you see in run of the mill movies, where he becomes the good guy all of a sudden. Eastwood excellently personifies a character who found more commonality with his Asian neighbours than his own blood relatives, and begins to show care without changing his hard exterior. I honestly doubt if anyone else could have pulled this off better. His sheer screen presence has an electrifying effect, corroborating the cult status he has been bestowed. There are several notable dialogues in the movie, and the last 15 minutes move the viewer ever so. Eastwood is as good as it gets, and 78 years seems too less for a man who is at his peak.

My Rating : 3.5/5


Well Wall-E...
After reading reviews heaping praise on 'Wall-E' and being stunned by IMDB ratings of close to 9.0, I was intrigued about the movie. I managed to watch it yesterday, and I am still not able to fully comprehend the reason behind the stupendous reviews it has received. Agreed, its a nice movie. But not the best or one of the best. The following are the possible reasons I have come up with for the movie's rave reviews :

1. It wasn't a human character which played the lead role.
2. The obsession with artificial intelligence, here taken to the next level with limitless animation.
3.  The reference to waste accumulation and the damage caused to the earth by humans, juxtaposed well with a love story. You must have a love story, if its only the 'waste' part, it wont be such a hit.
4. A robot having a character, very expressive eyes (good work!) ,a timid helpful attitude with a yearning for company - can be empathized with very well.
5. Fat and useless humans - we love to laugh at ourselves dont we.
6. Innovative character names, (WALL-E , EVA) and the other 'mad robots'. I loved the dirt cleaner and it was mad only about cleanliness.

It was a good movie, but dont go in with any expectations. It will definitely exceed expectations then.

My Rating : 3/5

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Worth every penny
'Dasavatharam' is a movie which can be executed only by a person of Kamal Hassan's calibre. The actor has donned 10 roles taking tremendous strains and effort. Firstly, all the talk about the story being poor is completely baseless. It has an excellent story handling very controversial issues such as religious faith, biochemical weapons and environmental issues with elan. It is only for the educated and not for the masses. The movie has a good dose of comedy with the 'Balram Naidu' character having you in splits almost every time - such an excellent portrayal of how a Telugu officer would speak Tamil. The ex-CIA assassin Fletcher is stone cold and looks cool. Mallika Sherawat has been wasted. 'Ramanujar' in the early scenes leaves a lasting impression though he appears for just close to 10 minutes. The Japanese Zen master's role is just for a fight though the makeup is very good. Vincent Bhoovaragan as the Dalit environmentalist is another victory for the makeup crew and the role itself ends in a more 'Anbe Sivam' mode. Each role has been given meaning and importance, with probably the George Bush character (which is hilarious no doubt), the 'Krishnaveni patti' character and the 'Kalifullah Khan' characters a little boring at times. But hats off to Kamal who has given his life for this movie, right from the script, screenplay and variation in the characters which cannot be even emulated. The film is not a perfect one, the CG is pretty shabby at parts, some scenes look to be extended a little longer and Asin's role as Andal is annoying at most times. It was quite a stunning when Avtar Singh's throat cancer gets cured by a bullet! Kamal was definitely taking a dig at someone I felt. Knowing the songs were not really that great, Devi Sri Prasad's re-recording was a kind of a let down. It is Kamal all the way and K.S.Ravikumar deserves credit for his good direction in sync with a very coherent screenplay. The climax scene is very thoughtful and gives a whole new perspective in looking at a disaster. Kudos for a dedicated,brave and intelligent effort to the entire team, notably Kamal Hassan. I had a feeling of having watched a complete movie after a good while. This movie is definitely a milestone in Kamal's career and is worth every penny the watch( I use 'penny' as this is the first Tamil movie I have seen in a theatre in the USA). I can see how difficult it is for him to work on 10 roles, when the collage I created below took me a few hours! Well.. Its worth it!



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