Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #439

Movie: Kumki (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: A staunchly traditional village is ravaged by a Tusker which is expected to kill more villagers during the harvest season. A temple elephant is forced to shadow the delay in arrival of a 'kumki' bodyguard elephant the villagers contract. When its mahout falls to love in first sight with a village damsel, the stay extends and brings sleepless nights!

What Works?
  • For the idea of trying to create an interesting love film around an unusual 'elephant guarded forest' sort of a setup, Prabu Solomon can be appreciated. But the execution? To that, later.
  • The role of debutant Vikram, Son of Prabhu is slightly sidelined. His is neither an impressive show nor a dud. Lakshmi Menon is pretty impressive and could do well to her fledgling career. The Villagers play their role well and Thambi Ramiah as usual performs the role of bringing bursts of laughter in us.
  • D.Imman's music (though it reminds of his earlier works) is appreciable in songs as well as re-recording.
  • The film is a visual spectacle thanks to some wonderful and strenuous camera work and choice of locations! CG work is adequate and whoever did it knew their limitations, which was good to see.
What Doesn't?
  • Execution disappoints! The film wavers between this and that; What starts off as a promising tale around an elephant moves to a romance tale (which is quite shoddily told).
  • The prime characters aren't defined well: The hero is shown selfish to the core for his 4-day love!(never shown to bother about the danger he puts his elephant into); The heroine, who is shown to come from such a community wouldn't fall for someone outside JUST LIKE THAT.
The first hour promises a lot! What follows lets you down.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #438

Movie: Neethaane En Ponvasantham (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: Varun and Nithya know each other since childhood. Simple and silly misunderstandings separate them on four occasions at the ages of 8, 16,20 and 24. Their love for each other stands taller than their ego in two occasions. Will it work a third time?

What Works?
  • Yet another attempt from Goutham Menon at telling a romance tale; Only this time, he doesn't go to foreign locales and adds extra gloss! The film is quite different in the sense that it moves not based on a lot of short scenes but based on sharp, incisive game changing conversations!
  • Jiiva looks the part in all the situations and so does Samantha. However, in acting terms, with his unperturbed yet impactful presence Jiiva shows he is way better than Sam who appears listless in some scenes thanks additionally to an artificial dubbing!
  • For Goutham, the feather on the cap are two defining scenes where the dialogues rule: The pre-interval scene in the terrace and the shore scene post Yennodu vaa vaa - The right questions asked with some nice answers there!
  • Ilaiyaraaja's mellifluous melodies have been given the respect and justice they deserve and are used as the apt background sounds as well. Camerawork of the candid style works too.
What Doesn't?
  • Goutham's ego needs some rest. Like KB, he brings in things from his earlier films and some of those send us into irritation. He is no KB. He's made just a handful of films.
  • The characterisation of the hero is selfish and the climax is a bit off that line.

A simple tale of romance, powered up musically ! Worth a watch.

Book Look - #40

Prime Characters: Mariam, Laila, Tariq, Aziza, Jalil, Rasheed.

Plot: Two Afghan women from different backgrounds are made to sail on the same boat when they get married to the same man in different periods under similar circumstances. How the bloody war and the suppressive Taliban around them become a blessing in disguise for the bonding that blooms between the women is told poetically!

  • Hosseini's mission with this novel was to show to the world the unfortunate tale of the true Afghans and the way the war had made the nation a nightmare for women is accomplished perfectly in this touching tale.
  • The picturesue quality of narration is in full flow when Mariam's story winds itself up; The oppressive ways of Taliban is expressed subtly in the Laila Mariam portions.
  • Mother-daughter sort of a bonding between two wives of the same person is such a bold thing to narrate and the delicate subject is handled with an expert's touch and one is made to feel when their sojourn together ends.
  • It touches you when the author explains the effects of Russian and American intervension in Afghanistan and how these had changed the country's values.
Remnants of a sex rampaged in the Afghan wars & their offshoot, Taliban!

Two Line Reviews - #437

Movie: Naduvula Konjam Pakatha Kaanom (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: A bridegroom-to-be slips while playing cricket a day before his marriage and goes into selective amnesia! When three of his friends try to hide the episode from others to carry the ceremony off smoothly, the victim becomes a menace to all their plans showing up his amnesia whenever he possibly can! Aporam?? 'Yennachu' dhaan!

What Works?
  • Balajee Tharaneetharan is a welcome addition to the list of new-age unorthodox directors who prove their substance in their first outing! It must have been mighty difficult to convert the one-line into a 150 minute script which he has done quite stunningly!
  • His choice of actors and crewmen has been impeccable - Most of them newbies, but that doesn't show up! The friends in particular have rocked!
  • Vijay Sethupathi, is quietly climbing the stardom staircase. His essayal here is probably among the most difficult as he has to give lifeless expressions when there is a riotous ruckus going on around him, because of him. He pulls it off quite easily!
  • The background score adds life, so do the witty explosive dialogues and the camera work in the pivotal scene at the start was especially good.
  • Some sequences remain memorable: The ones at 'Hairport' saloon & the Hospital for example!
What Doesn't?
At a point towards the end, the extreme comedy turns a bit arrogant on the audiences' senses!But normalcy resumes and it ends with a fitting tribute to the original story on which the film is based on.

A thoroughly enjoyable Laugh Riot!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #436

Movie: Life of Pi (2012)

A family owing zoo animals decides to move from their base in Pondicherry to the U.S.A. On its voyage with the animals, calamity strikes in a Pacific storm, wrecking the ship leaving only the younger son cast away in a small boat.Not alone though! He has a Zoo tiger for company! The peaks that the surival instincts of living beings can scale is what constitutes the rest of the tale.

What Works?
  • Firstly, Ang Lee is to be appreciated for adapting from a book whose contents are not the easiest to conceive and place on a film reel. With immense focus on graphics and advancements in visual technology, he manages that quite well!
  • Some of the scenes have been made tastefully and are magical! The scene where the boy Suraj Sharma (who has enacted his sturdy role pretty well) enjoys the storm, the small yet nice portion of his uncle's love for swimming, the scene where he communicates with the Tiger in the Mangrove are some examples.
  • VFX is stunning in places: the digitally created Tiger is a winner's label for 'technology in films'.
What Doesn't?
  • Background Narration that moves the story forward in places is weak, artificial and induces theatre-drama effect. Usage of Direct speech in narration is excessive.
  • At the end of it all, There isn't much impact: You don't get that feeling you get when Tom Hanks butchers his Wilson and breaks down in Cast Away!

Few technical aspects and the core idea of celebrating human perseverance are appreciable!

Book Look - #39

Prime Characters:
Howard Roark, Dominique Francon, Peter Keating, Gail Wynand, Elsworth Toohey

Plot: The tales of two fellows from an architecture school - one: the naturally ideal, the other: the ideal seen from the eyes of this artificial world, their ascend and fall, the way they influence and are influenced etc. are used by the author to explain how wrongly the world perceives selflessness.

  • Breathtaking, Admirable & Stunning are some of the words I would use to describe how well Rand has tried to gutsily alter the definitions of altruism and egotism!
  • She deserves all the plaudits for the facts that the book is so apt to the present even after having seen years pass & that the narrative doesn't bore you even when the technicalities in architecture discussed are a bit beyond the threshold.
  • Many of us would wish to be Roark when we are Keating; wish to be Keating when we can afford to do a Roark and the fact that we can relate to the main men makes this a winner.
  • Gail Wynand and Dominique's portrayals have their share of twists and wisdom but the Volume on Toohey is a bit of a dampener.
Powerful, Stunningly defies some fundamentals defined by Humans!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #435

Movie: Thuppaakki (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: An army officer comes home to Mumbai for vacation. Vacation time turns vocation time when he accidentally hits on a sleeper cell member and creates a plan to disrupt the terrorist group's plan. Things get riskier when he tries to find the instructor so that the sleeper cell network can be made dormant. In the middle of all this, there's time for some romance too!

What Works?
  • AR Murugadoss shows in places that he is indeed the guy who made Ramana and presents a simple story in a thrill-filled impactful & intense screenplay of the Q&A/cat-and-mouse format.Watch out for the pre-Interval scene!
  • I never wished I would say this someday but Vijay has finally shown he can deliver solid stuff without being preachy, angry or irkesomely kiddish (Something which you would see in almost all his films in the last decade). In specially designed outfits (especially those in the Aleikka song & the interval tuxedo he wears), with an ultra-fit body, spotless dubbing (English & Hindi as well!) and superb screen presence, he steals the show!
  • One never gets reminded of a camera being held somewhere to can the shots and that shows Santhosh Sivan's stellar work behind the lens. Sreekar Prasad's Editing meanders between good and bad (abrupt cuts at places).
  • Murugadoss has placed the action scenes where apt and the stunts have come out well. Vidyut Jamwal provides the thrills but for the climax. Sathyan's tiny presence doesn't go unnoticed.
What Doesn't?
  • Kajal Agarwal does what is expected of her but in an otherwise racy film her portions (and Jayaram's) are speed-breakers.
  • Climax could have been a lot better given what was promised before. Ghilli like act by Vijay to mend body damage was comical, atleast, for the 'not-so-fans'.
  • Harris Jeyaraj's songs fall flat. There's no hummable number except maybe Kutti puli kootam. His deja vu background score leaves hell of a lot to be desired!
Bullets from this Thuppaaki hit the target, more or less!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #434

Movie: Skyfall (2012)

Plot: Secret Agent 007 returns, this time to nab the terrorists who have access to the hard disk carrying the identities of MI6 agents working under cover in different terrorist organizations. On mission, Bond travels to Shanghai and back to Britain where he finds the villain who has a special dislike for their mutual boss M. Bond's identity and national loyalties get debated in this action-ride.

What Works?
  • Sam Mendes has taken a route less travelled thus far in the Bond Franchise and asks questions and delivers answers on some points worth considering. In that way, the game is interesting.
  • Daniel Craig's James Bond is pleasantly quite different from the suave and unperturbed ways of the previous Bonds. Here too, he performs death-defying stunts. The Turkey episode, even though it isn't as adrenaline-pumping as the Parkour episode in Casino Royale, is fun!
  • Javier Bardem has played the role of the Hopkins, Joker type villain and makes the second half of the film more solid. Judi Dench plays a meatier role than the ones she has had before!
  • Adele's title song and the famous Bond theme that gets played frequently in the latter half are worth mentioning as they keep us interested too.
What Doesn't?
  • The usual girl,martini & gadget routine is sorely missed (even though the compensation is refreshingly good!)
  • The basic story is as old as the hills; It takes Bond loyalty not to mock at the mission!
  • The issue on England & Scotland being Bond's home could have been dealt with off-the-screen!
One of the 'Villain-saves-the-ship' kind!

Two Line Reviews - #433

Movie: Erin Brokovich (2000)

Plot: A divorced mother of three small kids tries to get some job to make ends meet. After a stunning revelation, she chases down a huge firm responsible for bringing down an entire town in terms of its people's health. When the race intensifies, she has to make some personal sacrifices to cross the finishing line.

What Works?
  • For a film based on a true story, the presentation is quite entertaining thanks to Soderbergh's simplistic & old-school narrative.
  • Julai Roberts understands she is the bone and flesh of the film and comes up trumps in her role as the determined legal assistant.
  • Her scenes with her boss, played neatly by veteran Albert Finney, where she ends up screaming in temper are winners!
  • The angle that describes her parenting and the sacrifices she had to make is an inspiring story in itself.
Story of a determined sacrifice that is inspiring too!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bercy Indoors Preview!

When the words 'Paris' and 'Tennis' are heard together, connecting that with Roland Garros is inevitable for any tennis fan.

Quietly, in the shadows of RG, the BNP Paribas Paris Masters (Bercy) has been churning out champions for the past 40 years. A lot of big names in the past have won at Bercy but till last year, this was probably the biggest tournament on whose silverware neither 'Roger Federer' nor 'Rafael Nadal' had never been etched. Thankfully for the tournament, Roger took off that oddity by winning it in 2011, for, if he had not, the streak would have continued this year as well as both Roger and Rafa have opted out of the event.

What's in stake?

Leading the line-up of stars is Novak Djokovic, the World No.2 this week and No.1 next week - irrespective of what happens here. Apart from proving his authority and stylishly getting back atop the rankings chart, the 2009 champion has nothing much to prove. For Andy Murray, vital points collected here can help him set his sight on the No.2 which he would happily accept if he can get there by the year end or in time for the Australian Open 2013. For other top stars like Berdych, Tsonga, last week's victors Ferrer and delPotro, wins against one another in the later stages of the tournament could give the much needed confidence ahead of their clashes-to-be at the O2 arena in London next week. The last berth for the World Tour Finals is up for grabs and the likely contenders Tipsarevic and Gasquet would be inspired to take a deep plunge into the draw. Never rule out the Outsiders like Raonic & Almagro who can mathematically still make it to the World Tour Finals. For the rest of the field, a good performance at the last event of the year would give them some nice confidence for the season ahead.

What's the draw like?

Top Half:

Victor Hanescu is the lucky loser who replaces Federer after the latter's last minute withdrawal. He is a lucky lucky loser as he gets a bye directly into round 2. Murray and Berdych are the top seeds in the top half. Murray has a tough one on paper. He has to contend with PHM, the man who had a good last week at Basel, in round 2 and has to go past Cilic in round 3 if he wants to help himself and Gasquet's chances in a potential quarter final match with Tipsarevic.
For Berdych, a  round-3 clash with Gasquet is in the offing, for which Gasquet needs to overcome either the brazilian left-hander Bellucci who has an uncanny knack to play well against top players or the South African giant Kevin Anderson! Going by the draw, if you were to choose between Tipsarevic and Gasquet on who'l buy tickets to London, choosing the Serbian would be a better thing to do.

A good first round match to look for in this half would be the one between the new father in the circuit,Baghdatis and home boy Gilles Simon. Whoever wins there can fancy his chance of reaching the last 16/last 8 thanks to Federer's withdrawal.

Bottom Half:
There are a lot of potential mouth-watering clashes in this half as well. With Novak pitted to face Raonic in round 3 and delPotro in his quarters , he has his hands full! For delPotro who, with a staggering 17-1 indoors this season,is looking for a third title in three straight weeks, Isner might offer some resistance if they are to meet in round 3. In other possible match-ups, it would be nice to see if Wawrinka can realise his potential if and  when he takes on the in-form Ferrer in a round 3 clash. For the 2008 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the quarter appears good as he has to contend with men like Troicki/Almagro against who he has the power and skill to dominate. If Benneteau can get inspired like he did when he upset Roger at this event in 2009, it would help the french crowd see an all French clash in Tsonga vs Benneteau.

A good first round match from this half would be the one between Llodra and Stepanek. For people fed up with the baseline slugfests, this could be one match to look for as the two are known for their liking to finish off points one way or the other from the net!

In all, a lot of promising match-ups and a pleasantly vociferous Paris crowd, we can expect quite a few fireworks in the last regular event of the year. If that is not enough, here's a trivia. Since 2003, the event has seen different men win different editions and this year, one man has the skill and form to end that streak. Novak Djokovic, of Serbia. There is a Scot practising somewhere in Bercy who would want to let the streak continue! We'l see how it pans out!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #432

Movie: Pizza (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: It is business as usual for a Pizza delivery man who goes for delivery to a bungalow. When he is about to get the job done, things get creepy and he gets to see 1, then 2 and then 3..murders in the house alongside events unfolding in mysterious circumstances. More happens before he escapes and after a brief period of recovery, the suspense finally shows up!

What Works?
  • It's been long since we had a gripping horror-thriller in Thamizh & it is to be welcome with utmost pleasure that a debutant director (not even coming out after being an assistant) Karthik Subbaraj could break the routine & quite convincingly too!
  • The creepy, at times psychic narration, works brilliantly sending the viewer into anxiety and the setup (home & pizza place) with limited characters helps the film stay brisky throughout.
  • Performance-wise, the hero Vijay Sethupathi has a nice role and his expressions and dubbing have been realistic. Giving him nice company are his Pizza place colleagues and lover, played by Ramya Nambeesan.
  • Music by Santhosh is apt and experimental at the same time (western symphony type notes) & songs are good too. Ninaithadhai has the European jazz flavour oft seen in title cards in Woody Allen films.
  • A lot of the film happens in dark and indoors. So, the camera work which is easy on the eye deserves a special pat for being so good; Some nice editing makes this crispy too!
What Doesn't?
  • The twist, though not easily predictable lacks the punch giving a short-film effect; The climax, though, makes up for it!
Spicy, Tasty & Creepy - Pizza that is served Hot & Pizza that's worth the price!

Two Line Reviews - #431

Movie: Cloud Atlas (2012)

Plot: Six Stories of people belonging to different centuries, different countries & different lifestyles are shown in parallel to show how the idea of time - the idea of past,present & future - isn't as independent as we think it is!In short, Butterfly effect where karma replaces time.

What Works?
  • A very very gutsy and ingenious story this raising questions on a subject for which neither Science nor Religion has an answer - Even though adapted from a book,the Wachowski brothers -yet again- are at it & succeed in sending the point across!
  • Screenplay makes the viewer busy but doesn't confuse him wantedly and that's a nice thing. Tom Tykwer's influence is evident as the film moves between Run Lola Run's style & Perfume's style!
  • Tom Hanks is at the film's core and revels in some of the roles such as that of Isaac, Dermot & Zachry! Halle Berry follows him closely in terms of the number of roles but only her Luisa stays in your mind.
  • Ben Whishaw shows some class thanks to a meaty role & his scenes with the composer have some powerful and sparkling exchanges!
  • Cavendish portion offers some moments for laughs in an otherwise highly-intense film.
What Doesn't?
  • One core story-The Asian portion that is futuristic, imaginative sci-fi - isn't that impressive, except for some nice dialogues.
  • Some roles end up as mere caricatures (Hanks roles as the Hotel Manager, the on-scree Cavendish etc.; People like Susan Sarandon & Hugh Grant come in insignificant flash-and-go roles!) 
 P.S.: This is one such film where a second viewing is required to get the answers for all your questions.

Thought-provoking; Offers a nice perspective to the after-life!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vika - The Lady Djokovic!

Is Azarenka the new Djokovic? Will get to that question later in the piece.

While the ATP players are fighting it out at Basel and Valencia to secure the much-coveted final few berths left to play the year end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, the creme de la creme of the WTA circuit are already set to find who's who in the year end championships at Istanbul,Turkey. After 2 days of action in the ongoing round robin phase, there have not been any upsets: Top seeds Azarenka, Maria & Serena are progressing unscathed; With a win and a loss against her name, Radwanska is close on the heels of the top 3. Even after a valiant attempt against Vika (in one of the matches of the year), German Championships debutant Angelique Kerber is staring down the barrel after 2 defeats. Errani, Li Na & defending champion Kvitova are yet to open their 'win account' in their groups.The actions today and tomorrow will heat things up and let us see if one/more of the second-4 can dash the hopes of atleast one top-4!

Now, to the match of the tournament and later,a digression towards focusing on the Lady Match Point Saver Victoria Azarenka!

In her first match of the championships this year, World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, fresh from titles at Linz and Beijing, played a marathon 3-setter against Kerber. After losing the first set tiebreaker at a 11-13 and at 4-5 15-40 she faced two match points! Taking cue from her 'M.P.-save-in-vain' in the Istanbul final last year against Kvitova and a leaf out of Nole's book (titled..perhaps 'How to save match points?'!?!), she saved both match points she faced, won the second set breaker a convincing 7-2 and furthered her authority on the year end No.1 ranking position. She now needs one more win at Istanbul to guarantee herself the stay at the rankings pent-house irrespective of how World No.2 Maria Sharapova fares in the reminder of her matches.

Back to back titles, dancing and enjoying at the trophy ceremony, year end No.1-to-be, saver of match points : Do all these points not take your minds to another Tennis Player of another gender from another country playing, perhaps like he's from another planet?! The guy named Novak Djokovic? A closer look at not just the recent past but at a 1-2 year time frame shows a lot more striking similarities Vika and Nole's careers have had. Here are some:
  • Both Nole & Vika have had their first Grand Slam Triumph at the Rod Laver Arena, Australian Open!
  • Both have saved match points against past champions at Flushing Meadows sending the crowd into frenzy at the U.S. Open (Nole in '10 & '11 against Federer; Vika in '12 against Stosur)
  • Both have had some good streaks in the past 2 years (Nole with his 41 match streak in '11; Vika with her 26 match streak in '12)
  • Both are crowd-pleasers and have had their share of famous post-victory celebrations!
  • Both reside in the princely and picturesque tax haven Monte-Carlo!
  • Both are popular twitterbugs on the social networking site & regularly post their Hotel,Airport pics!They give a slice of their private lives to their fans!
  • Both have had Olympic singles medals (Nole with a Silver in '08; Vika with a Bronze in '12)
  • Both are dubious for their record in terms of withdrawals/Retirements from matches citing injuries/ailments (Nole was; Vika still is!)
  • More than all these, the trollers on social network have tried proving how similar the facial features of the two are!
Looks like the two are made for each other! I'm sorry..'Made Like Each Other, Not For'.Note the correction Ristic and Bubka Jr.!

Here's hoping that Azarenka breaks the shackles in her lop-sided H2H against Serena, comes up trumps in their coming encounters and lightens up the WTA circuit to make it shine even brighter just like Nole did reversing his trend against Rafa in 2011!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Look - #38

THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (translated to English by Constance Garnett)

Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov has three sons Dmitry, Ivan and Alexei. Father and one son fall for a beautiful Grushenka. A three thousand roubles and egoistic tussles create commotion leading to the murder of the father. An investigation follows where all the evidence is stacked up against one son and the presence of more than one suspect makes this work of philosophy work as a thriller too!

  • I am in no position to review this book for two reasons: 1. The book has so many levels and needs quite a lot of literature expertise to unravel all that it tries to express. 2. There are still quite a few chapters, the significance of which, I haven't been able to fathom yet.
  • It teaches stuff for sure. The initial portions about Alyosha and the Elder Zosima evoke respect on to the monkhood and shows how simple and uncomplicated life can be for those who can see it.
  • The portions surrounding Ivan, Dmitry, Grushenka and Ivanovna vividly capture the 1800s Russia and offer the commercial angle to the tale.The author's audacity to hit at the Russian mentality of his time through the Karamazov family is worth some reverence!
  • The final leg involving the trial in the court with the prosecutor and defendant advocates' speeches make the reader submit his own self to the book and its author!
An amazing piece of writing; At 1000 pages of complex thoughts, it's huge but is definitely an Experience worth taking!

Two Line Reviews - #430

Movie: Sin Nombre (or) Nameless (Spanish, 2009)

Plot: A local Mexican gang chief plays with one of his gangsters' girlfriend. A girl from Honduras is on her way through Mexico to get into the borders of U.S.A. When the chief repeats his attempt with this girl, the bereaved gangs-man murders him! The saved and the saviour form a kinship on their journey even as the others in the gang are in the lookout for the killer!

What Works?

  • This may not be a very intelligent film; May not be path-breaking; But, the simplicity of the narration, the treatment bowl you over. Cary Fukunaga presents it in South American style, so typical and loveable!
  • The performance of the guy Edgar Flores who plays Casper is very realistic and heroic! Giving reasons for a pleasurable watch are also the performance and cute looks and costumes of Paulina Gaitan who plays Sayra.
  • The tale's perfect mix of action and feelings along with carefully placed background score is reminescent of Un Oso Rojo!
  • The gang, its rituals and the new kid on the block add to the terrorising effect!
Simple, yet Marvellous! Artistic!

Two Line Reviews - #429

Movie: Tesis (or) Thesis (Spanish, 1996)

Plot: A visual media student who has a specific liking for gory movies finds herself in the midst of action when she and her friend accidentally get their hands on a snuff video recording a murder. When they get close on the heels of who they think the murderer is, sudden questions appear as to understanding who the real murderer was!

What Works?

  • The suspense begins when the film begins, it keeps us interested all the way through, lets us make guesses and proves us false at times - Typical elements of a suspense thriller: all checked!
  • Alejandro Amenabar presents it in a fine screenplay with limited prominent characters.
  • Ana Torrent is pretty expressive, giving her good support is Fele Martinez as Chema and the man cast to play Bosco is as apt as the role would deserve!
Suspense that works, pretty nicely!

Two Line Reviews - #428

Movie: Thaandavam (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: A blind man with a secret identity lives in London to avenge his wife's brutal death in a bomb blast. The perpetrators are being helped by someone he knows. He gets them all and gets to the known helper in this predictable thriller.

What Works?
  • A disappointment of sorts, given the potential of the men who have handled the film (Vikram, A Vijay etc.). If I had to list some positives, they have got to be the picturisation of Oru Padhi Kadhavu & the tunes of that and some other songs by GV Prakash.
  • The flashback back at home had its moments, though wasn't all that refreshing.

What Doesn't?
  • The film doesn't have any surprising twists one would expect from a thriller.
  • Top RAW official travelling to London seeking a couriered pen-drive: may have been convincing in early 2000 but it ends up a joke given the timeframe of the film!
  • There isn't much scope for performances too; Vikram and Santhanam somehow delay the sinking of the ship.
Yawn inducing predictable thriller.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Who wins the Cliff-hanger sets?!

It’s a known fact that since Safin’s ceremonious Australian Open victory in 2005, the quartet of Roger, Rafa, Nole and Andy have won 30 of the 31 grand slams contested since 2005 (Though Djokovic comes into the picture only in 2008 and Murray only in 2012!). They are considered by many former players, legends like McEnroe included, to be part of the best top-4 in any era of Men’s tennis. One reason for such domination is the way they have been able to handle pressure in situations that were demanding.
Who wins the cliffhangers?!
 The ethereal beauty of the sport that tennis is, has been the fact that in tough contests, the player who wins the important points, more often than not, wins a match. More of this in the last paragraph of this article! A lot of such important points pop-up in what is known as the business end of sets. This piece takes a look at how these 4 players, when playing among themselves, have handled situations after set scores have read 5-5! Against other lower ranked opponents, all 4 have been mightily successful in finishing sets off when push comes to shove at a 5-5 or a 6-6. Here, we’ll see who has been the most dominant of the top-4 in the 7-5, 7-6 cliffhangers played among themselves!

Here’s a matrix showing the number of tie-break sets the 4 have played against one another.

Federer and Nadal have played 38 TB sets (a staggering 20 TB sets between themselves!), almost twice the number of TB sets Murray has played against the other three! Big guys like some thrill, eh? No wonder most of the Federer Nadal sagas turn out to be epics.

When it comes to the 7-5 sets, here’s the matrix showing the number of such sets these players have played among themselves.

Nadal (23) separates himself from Federer (32) here; If Nadal gets to 5-5, it is almost certain that the set is to go to a Tie Breaker. He doesn’t like them 7-5 sets!  Djokovic, meanwhile, has a special liking for 7-5 sets, it seems. He tops this list with 35 sets! Federer-Djokovic matches are bound to have a lot of 7-5 sets; The duo account for 15 of the 54 7-5 sets held within the 4! The Murray-Nadal duels, (they are less in number compared to the Federer-Djokovic encounters) account for only 2 of the 54 7-5 sets in question!

Now to a list of how the 7-6 and 7-5 sets have influenced the outcome of matches!
Unsurprisingly, the numbers are skewed in favour of the winners. Still, there are some interesting insights one could gather from this list. Look at the Federer vs Nadal row! Among the 20 TB sets they have played, 12 have been won by the winner and the loser comes close winning 8 of them! Mentally, the two are rock solid and do not get as bogged down as say, Djokovic, when they face off! The Federer-Djokovic row tells a nice little story that men who bet for a living would be interested in. 23 off 28 such sets have gone to the winner!

Now, a little more deep-diving. Let us see how each of them have performed against one another in terms of a ratio of sets won to sets played.
Tiebreakers first!

The men who have held tennis duopoly for about 7 years have never gone below 50% in any of their tie-break match-ups with the other 3 (Their numbers are all green – over 50% success rate). Djokovic’s record (all in Red) is dubious; That too for someone who is considered to be currently,the best returner in the sport! He doesn’t have even a 50% success in tie-breakers when he plays the others in the 3. So, for the other 3, one goal when they face off Djokovic would be to somehow hold serve and get the set to a tie-break from where they could seek history’s help! On the other hand, for all the criticism the Nadal serve has taken (supposedly the weakest part of his game), he has the best record of them all in Tiebreakers: a game which supposedly favours the big servers! ‘Nerves first, Serves next!’ seems to be the unsaid truth regarding tie-breakers from what we see in the table here.
7-5 sets now!

Here, Federer loses the stranglehold he otherwise held in the other stats so far. He has a below par record against Murray and Nadal and only slightly, edges past Djokovic, who again, is the worst of the lot! In all matches Murray has played against the other 3, never has the match loser won a set 7-5! Again, a stat for the betters and superstitious to watch out for. Rafa dominates the other 3 here as well, with winning %s of 7-5 sets won!

Now for the result!
If one needed to choose just one hero for the cliffhanger tale, just the one who handles pressure best in match-ups of top-4, all stats point to one name – Rafael Nadal! No wonder he has a winning record against the other 3! Another myth that this busts is that Djokovic, with a super serve and a super return and a will to save match points and win contests, is not at his best when it comes to tight sets against his beloved top-runners!
If you still feel the 7-5 7-6 sets are not any more important than other sets in deciding match outcomes, here’s something. Federer had won more points than Nadal in both the Rome final of 2006 and the Australian Open final of 2009. But Rafa pulled off 4 of the 5 ’7-5 7-6′ sets contested in these matches and won both the encounters!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #427

Movie: Platoon (1986)

The Charlie Regiment in Vietnam War has more than the NVA opponents to handle. The film traces the travails of the Nam Soldiers and how a difference and division in opinion can cause havoc even within a regiment supposed to be united to save each others' lives!

What Works?
  • There have been many films on Nam. Every one of them deals with different aspects of the war! In terms of showing the torn inner psyche of warriors, this Oliver Stone venture pips others in style.
  • The casting is fine. Seeing Charlie Sheen, Whitaker and Depp in their youth is a pleasure.
  • The character of Elias is heroic and earns respect. If not for the polar opposite characterisation of Barnes, Elias would never have looked that way. Beauty of creating superb contrasting characters!
  • The massacre at the village is one terrific scene for the decade!
  • The background score and camera work are of grand quality. Dialogues arouse at certain important moments!
Soldier's psyche - Intensely captured!

Two Line Reviews - #426

Movie: Wages of Fear (or) Le salaire de la peur (French & Spanish, 1953)

Plot: Somewhere in South America, a town reeks of unemployment. so much so that a damn risky nitro-transport job offered by an U.S.A. based Oil Company for $2000 appears unimaginably attractive. Four of them make the cut and the film takes us through the tense moments of their drive!

What Works?

  • This film must be among the path-breaking ones to have come in the 50s. The guts of director Henri-Georges Clouzot for daring to make such a narrowly plotted travel tale deserves appreciation.
  • Not just the idea, the execution is also king in this case! It takes some time for the characters to get set, but once they are in, the moments that follow are gripping.
  • The bridge scene, rock-blast scene etc are effortlessly elegant.
  • The actors do a fine job, the hero & the cement-worker duo's being the best; The character of the old-once-was man is nicely carved! Grand sets and believable artworks add class too.
What Doesn't?
If I were to choose one minute to alter,I would pick the last minute of the film.

A pulsating Path-breaker of a movie!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #425

Movie: Barfi!(Hindi, 2012)

Plot: Barfi is a lively, deaf-and-dumb Chaplinesque character who wins the heart of a girl who ends up marrying a man who she was engaged to. After 6 years when she meets him, Barfi is seen to have become the protector of his autistic childhood friend. This is followed by a seris of incidents that separate them. How the pacts got formed, how they separate and do they re-unite? These are told in a timeline jump style interlaced with humour!

What Works?

  • The freshness in treatment hits you! So do the locations! So do the prime characters! The man behind it, Anurag Basu, deserves the applause! Foreign language films have had this treatment; First of sorts for an Indian film!
  • Ranbir Kapoor - How big this guy is turning out to be! He does the tough job of emoting without dialogues and comes up trumps! Priyanka Chopra's performance is realistic and lives up to expectations!
  • The real surprise package was Ileana. Her delivery of expressions, subtleties are a slap to all film-makers from the South who have used hour-glass girls like her just for the dancing portions in films!
  • Pritam's songs are responsible for creating the lovely setup that the camera and the story capture. Darjeeling is captured very well by Ravi Varman's lenses!
What Doesn't?
  • A film of this type didn't need twists and a non-linear narration. That somehow reduces the impact in the climax.
Barfi! is sweet, fresh and the taste lingers for a while!

Two Line Reviews - #424

Movie: Rudy (1993)

Plot: A 'Notredame' fan wants to somehow live his dream of playing for the team he followed all his life. He has neither the physical frame to get into the team nor the brains to get a seat in a the institutions. With relentless determination, he breaks through these barricades in this usurping American football tale.

What Works?
  • This doesn't come across as a normal sports film on a sports team. It is about an individual who can't practically play ball. In that sense, the film offers some fresh air!
  • Sean Astin as 'Rudy' Ruettiger is compact in size terms, not so in acting terms. He does a very fine job by getting into the skin of the character he plays.
  • The angles of the father, the groundsman, uno coach, priest etc. offer scenes and a reason to smile.
  • Music orchestrated by Jerry Goldsmith makes its mark and the aerial shots craned by Oliver Wood are grand.
  • Climax scene offers pulsating experience!
Rudy - A big heart triumphs over anything, small size including!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #423

Movie: Mugamoodi (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: To win his lady's heart, a jobless jack good at martial arts masks himself up and enacts a night-guard's tale. He gets mixed up with a burglar gang who have been a menace to the city for months. His kung-fu expertise helps him nab one, and in due course lets him help the police force, win his love and save people at the end to make him a masked superhero!

What Works?

  • Mysskin's treatment of a subject is never a matter of 'will he?'. Here, even though he tries a relatively new premise, his style adoring the chinese, japanese traditions is admirable as always.
  • The portions after the  villain and hero get on each others' line are good; Action scenes have been conceived remarkably well!
  • Jiiva, Nasser, Girish(doing a Dark Knight's Michael Caine?) have roles that appeal.
  • The night sequences are proof enough for the good work behind the lens by Sathya;
  • K's Zimmer-style background score stays apt and lets the action on screen be what it should feel like. Naatula namma veetula is the winner among songs!
  • Gabriella Wilkins's costumes haven't gone over the board and that's appreciable.
What Doesn't?
  • The love portions have been dealt with poorly; It takes too much of the film's running time and isn't that serious too.
  • The above line makes Pooja Hegde a liability; Narain's climax act is childish and the screenplay gets spolit towards the end; The burglar group's main mission goes out of line!
'Like' for the Superhero attempt; 'Thumbs down' for the love & climax letdowns!

Two Line Reviews - #422

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

Plot: Harry and others are set to find the remaining horcruxes to destroy them. In the process, they learn quite a few things about Dumbledore, Snape and his parents among others. When he destroys what is thought to be the final horcrux, he understands a tough truth and a twist ends Voldemort and the HP Saga!

What Works?

  • The film starts with the same momentum at which HP 7 ends and the gradual unwinding of some closely kept secrets makes this a special edition. Yates, as usual, doesn't tamper much with Rowling's work.
  • The final logic explaining the existence of Harry even after Voldemort's spell is solid - convincing for sure.
  • Scenes inside Hogwarts have been decorated artistically and the graphics work,again, is commendable.
  • Background score of Alexandre Desplat is a winner; The music is grand and pleasing.
What Doesn't?
  • Expected a lot more on the presentation of the Snape & Albus stories; Wasn't upto the three brothers depiction.
  • Same could be said of the Dragon scene at the dungeon.
A fitting end to a huge, magnificent series of films!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #421

Movie: Naan (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: A student coming out of Juvenile school forges his way rush-fully into a medical college assuming a false identity. One of his close friends at college comes to know of his impersonation and wants to use this against him to score over a ruckus he had created earlier. Things turn dirty as the hero is made to bring more of his impersonation skills to the fore.

What Works?
  • A music director makes his debut as an actor & producer, so does a director doubling up as a cinematographer as well. Considering this, the premise and the narration have been bold!
  • The story offers scope for engaging sequences, of which good use has been made.
  • The visuals are neat with pretty faces and decent performances; background music is noteworthy and the songs aren't speed-breakers!
  • Director's smart usage of Vijay Antony by masking his lack of ability to act with oft-repeated 'thiruttu muzhi looks' and short 'sir' dialogues work!
What Doesn't?
  • The very purpose behind the hero's attempt to impersonate to start off with is not dealt with at all!
  • After building the character respectfully, the director takes a u-turn after the interval. So, his attempt at trying to justify the character at the end falls flat.
  • Huge holes in the script are being hastefully filled with convenient plugs that are Unconvincing in logic!
A good premise; Could have been made better!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

EPL 2011-12: Data analysis from the season that was (Part 1)

An open drive by the Manchester City Football Club to crowd-source ideas on the use of season data for predictions and insights has been a boost for the use of analytics in sports. As someone who follows football but is not that much passionate about the sport, I was able to come up with a few preliminary insights on the season that was – 2011 EPL, thanks to the complete Opta Sports data set that MCFC Analytics provided access to as a part of their MCFC Analytics drive.
Let us start with the eye-ball catchers. The ones that even pedestrian football followers can relate to – The Strikers! We know that Robin van Persie scored the maximum no. of goals in the season. But was he the most successful converter of shots to goals? No! The scatter shown below pits players against each other in terms of their shots to goals conversion.
It is significant to note that Papiss Demba Cissé has the best conversion rate scoring 13 goals off 35 shots at a staggering 37%.
To their credit, RVP and Rooney have decent conversion rates of 21% and 22.5% respectively considering they scored a lot more goals. It is also interesting to note that Torres and Suarez were not trolled for no reason. Their conversion rates are a meagre 12% and 10% respectively.

The non-open play goals come next. Though goals are often scored by most teams when on open play, some of the crucial game changers come via corners, penalties and the likes. Here’s a visual to show how the top 5 teams scored such goals.
Points worth noting are that Manchester City are the strongest from corners. Manchester United scored more than twice the number of goals via penalties than their nearest competitors. No wonder supporters of other clubs consider referees to be United-friendly! Chelsea have been pretty good by scoring through set plays.

Do fouls matter when it comes to topping the table? A close look doesn’t show so. Here’s a stack of top teams and Swansea (who’ ve been the neatest in terms of fouls).
All the top teams have conceded more fouls than Swansea (check the blue baseline in the graph) and have won a lot less fouls than Swansea! (The rankings of teams in net fouls won is shown in the bracket by the side of teams’ names). The topping clubs from Manchester: City and United, ranked 13th and 9th are among the most deviant from Swansea – showing neat play is not all that significant. The yellow line indicates the number of penalties each of these teams have won in the season by fouls committed by opposition. This clearly shows what I said above. The yellow line shoots up more than twice its height at the United Skyscraper!

What’s football without the Goal-keepers? Here is a chart depicting the number of saves the top goalies have made during the 2011-12 EPL season.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Wanderers’ Hennessey has top honours of saving the most shots. Being the goalkeeper of a weak team is a huge responsibility, ain’t it?! Goalkeepers of top teams are somewhere in the middle among those towers. The red line running across the towers indicates the % of saves each of those goalkeepers has made from inside the box. The squares for top teams are highlighted. One look at it shows, among keepers of top teams, Arsenal’s Szczesny had to bear the brunt of saving a much higher % of goals from inside the box than his counterparts at Tottenham, Chelsea and the Manchester Clubs.

That leaves us with the midfielders. How well have teams tackled their way through in the league last year? Here’s a look of a scatter of tackles made to tackles won by defenders/midfielders with more than 40 tackles in the season.
The likes of Lescott, Bosingwa, Formica and Fellaini come up trumps in tackle percentage whereas a relentless tackler like Cabaye hasn’t been all that successful with his tackles. Stoke City’s Whelan has been the inefficient of prime tacklers and at 66% success rate, Arsenal’s Ramsey has not done all that well. One major highlight for City this season was the combination of Lescott, Kompany & Toure all of who had tackling success of more than 80%: 91%, 80% and 82% respectively.

Some of the more interesting patterns emerged as I tried pitting style of play of teams against different teams and looked at Home & Away patterns. More of that will follow as I progress further. In the meanwhile, comments and suggestions for angles to look at are welcome! To get access to the full data-set for yourself , follow the instructions on Manchester City’s Analytics webpage here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #420

Movie: Fire in Babylon (2010)

Plot: A documentary that traces the formative and dominant years of the famous deadly West Indian team of the 70-80s: One of the most dominant sports teams ever to have existed! It isn't just cricket; It shows how they won against odds and defeated their masters in their own invention and proved that skin-colour means not a thing!

What Works?
  • True Story; Pace Bowlers; Deadly pace bowlers; Sir Viv Richards; Inspiring tale - Need I say more?!
  • The story of Channel 9's Kerry Packer and his World Series cricket making the windies heroes Rebels and how it made them even stronger is such a nice revelation!
  • To see the heroes of the past speak about how they gave the medicine of Lillie and Thompson back to Australia and how they felt they were only doing their job was great - Their honesty (Roberts especially) bowls you over!
  • Viv Richards' attitude and Lloyd's tenacity : There's just one word for them. RESPECT.
Fiery Rage against Suppression! With a stitched-red rubber and a bat!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #419

Movie: A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982)

Plot: A crazy inventor and his wife have a problematic period. That's when they invite two couples for a weekend at their summer house. The 3 pairs get entangled in many different ways causing a lot of riotous comedy in the process!

What Works?
  • When Woody Allen handles subjects on relationships and infidelity, you can safely assume the film's going to be enjoyable and this one too is!
  • The character of this film, apart from Woody obviously, is the Old Professor Leopold! His mannerisms and expressions of disdain score!
  • Allen, Mia Farrow, Tony Robers, Steenburgen and Julie Hagerty as the peculiarly voiced nurse offer credible support!
  • Allen's crazy flying machine and his crystal ball invention give a sense of the man's liking for parody!
Hilarious show of a raucously romantic summer weekend!

Two Line Reviews - #418

Movie: Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Plot: Two Cowboy youngsters take up to rearing sheep in the uninhabited Brokeback Hill. The isolation and monotony of their work make them beat their sexual preferences. When they part ways, the memories haunt them. They battle through their years between their married lives and the secret relationship they share!

What Works?
  • For Ang Lee, this is an unusual territory. With a more-than-deft handling of such a delicate subject, he scores gloriously!
  • The lover boys Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal need to be praised as much for their efforts as for their guts. Ledger, with an even deeper role, outshines Jake by a thin margin.
  • Gustavo Santaolalla's score and the picturesque mountains offer strength to the narration!
  • Michele Williams as Del Mar's wife plays a nice little role to pip Anne Hathaway's routine.
A delicate tale, Masterfully crafted!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #417

Movie: Topaz (1969)

Plot: During the cold war, a neutral French spy tries to help the Americans in understanding what the Russians are up to in Cuba. In the process, he jeopardises his family-life, his estranged love and his own life. Operation 'Topaz' reveals much more than what he had sought!

What Works?
  • This Hitchcock film, in its own right, deserves as much recognition as some of his other spy classics have got. It is gripping, full of interesting twists!
  • The actors are unknown to me, but they deliver in sheer Hitchcock-actors style. The characters such as the florist, the Cuban comrade, the Russian agent, the crippled-french are typical HC surprises!
  • The passionate intimacy between the hero and the Cuban informer works brilliantly! So does the 'Don''s like background theme.
  • The muted scene when the florist approaches the comrade's assistant, the final few scenes are novel and classy!

As sharp as the 'Topaz' stone!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #416

Movie: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Eight years after Harvey Dent's death, search is On for the Batman. Bruce Wayne comes out of his self-imposed exile to take on Bane, a forceful opponent who operates from underground who has an eye on the Nuclear energy project of the Wayne Enterprise and a hand on the 'truth' behind Batman.

What Works?

  • After the superhero films that came this year, Christopher Nolan's efforts to idolise the Batman for a third time comes as a relief and offers what superhero films are expected to offer - sensible and intense entertainment!
  • Tom Hardy, as Bane, has a brilliant role and his rugged portrayal with his one-liners and ruthless vengeance is terrific! He comes quite close to Joker and that is a big enough compliment!
  • Christian Bale carries off the Wayne and Batman parts as expected, Gordon Levitt promises to keep the saga going, and both the lead ladies in the film have neatly fitting roles.
  • Bringing in Ra's Al Ghul from part I and tying it up with a gripping portion in this part has worked superbly.
  • Hans Zimmer's prolific background score is pulsating!
What Doesn't?
  • A particular casting decision makes a thing or two predictable.
  • The police going into the dungeon are made to look like fools!
Entertainment Guaranteed; Honestly, not any less & not much more!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #415

Movie: Stranger than Fiction (2006)

Plot: A taxman who leads a near-perfect routine life experiences a strange voice narrating and describing him. It starts conquering his thoughts and actions and when it says he would die soon, it engulfs him. With the help of an author, he traces the voice's owner and tries to change his destiny!

What Works?

  • As the title suggests, this story is stranger than fiction & is more engrossing than many works of fiction have been! Credits should go to Zach Helm, the writer of this marvel, and its director Marc Forster.
  • Will Ferrell portrays the brilliantly etched character of Harold to perfection! Emma Thompson's action gives him stiff competition!
  • For Dustin Hoffman, the role he plays is a cake walk; So it is for Maggie Gyllenhaal & the assistant of Karen has a nice role too!
  • The execution with beautiful scenes put together is taut; The climax is something one would enjoy!
Much stronger than many a fiction!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #414

Movie: The Gods Must Be Crazy (English & Afrikaans, 1980)
Plot: Bushmen living in Kalahari-an Africa who know nothing on the existence of fellow beings elsewhere get introduced to feelings such as competition, fight etc.thanks to a 'Coke' bottle that lands in their midst .Their leader decides to travel to earth's end to throw the 'evil thing' away. On his way, he is helped by a scientist when he lands in trouble, who he promptly returns the favour to, by saving his girl and school children held captive by a terrorist outfit!

What Works?
  • The movie is magical! Its comedy sparkles, its characters captivate, its treatment is interesting & its message is BIG! So, cheers to Jamie Uys, its maker.
  • The bushman N!xau gives a picture of how human race would be if societies hadn 't got a chance to interact! He is adorable!
  • The scenes between Steyn and the teacher Ms. Thompson is a laugh riot! Adding to the humour is the bearded aide of Steyn.
  • The narrative works & the hyper-speed visuals shown at times works too!
  • Crazy scenes such as the Jeep taking to the tree, the tree bending when a Lion tries to get the bearded man are sure to get a laugh out of the stern-faced too!
A treat, for the crazy person inside every human!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #413

Movie: Family Plot (1976)

Plot: A phony spiritualist and her boyfriend try to track a person upon success of which they are bound to get $10,000 from a woman who seeks the person for making him heir to her property. The guy they are after happens to be a kidnapper/diamond smuggler. When they successfuly chase him down for the right reasons, he understands they are behind him for the wrong reasons and it gets them into deep trouble!

What Works?
  • A typical plot that has loads of suspense and action has been handled impeccably again by Alfred Hitchcock - 40 years after he started making films and his touch hasn't been lost!
  • The actors - the con-woman, her reluctant cab driver friend, the cunning smuggler, his aides have all performed aplaudably well.
  • The suspense around the buried Eddy Shoebridge and the tracking of it via Maloney is the best block of the lot!
  • John Williams' music is haunting enough and the camera work is of top quality making it a superb thriller to watch.
In his last Hurrah, Hitchcock doesn't fail to impress!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #412

Movie: Billa 2 (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: David Billa, a refugee from Sri Lanka waltzes his way through to becoming a Don by rising against all odds displaying ruthless, murderous attitude.

What Works?
  • The line toed in following the idea of tracing the life of Billa's past has been good.
  • To some extent, Ajith's fierce body language and screen presence work.
  • Yuvan's background score is revelling at points, at least good at others! RD Rajasekar's camera work has also been good.
  • The effects in the initial title card and Unakkulle Mirugam song are praiseworthy!
  • The main villains do well and the handling of their roles has been pretty good.

What Doesn't?
  • The film's screenplay is as bland as it can get.The sensibilities are completely absent. It is action, gore, murder all the way and creates no impact at all. For an Indian audience, this Latino treatment doesn't work at all.
  • The paunch that Ajith carries, his stoic expressions, gun-mania need to come to a halt, it has gone past the limit! The heroine(who at all?) is a complete joke.
  • The scenes with dialogues come and go like incomplete conversations.
  • Chakri Toleti's direction is amateurish - proof: Pre-interval scene and predictable scenes lifted from the likes of Scarface and The Godfather.
Deja vu Don, this Bland Billa is!

Two Line Reviews - #411

Movie: Torn Curtain(1966)

Plot: An American scientist goes to East Germany to get details on the revelations a German scientist has done on Nuclear power before the Russians buy him out. He goes into the iron curtain posing as an impostor but before he gets out, his true intentions are known making it difficult for him to come out of the curtain.

What Works?

  • An Alfred Hitchcock film, it seems, never fails to impress with the suspense it promises to deliver.
  • Paul Newman faithfully follows the Hitchcock hero grace earlier shown by the likes of Cary Grant & Stewart.
  • The iron-will of his girl aide Sarah is another winner; The beautiful Julie Andrews is adorable.
  • Characters such as Lindt, Kromer & the Polish lady stay in memory for long.

Super Suspense!

Monday, July 2, 2012

In search of the 'Next Big Thing' in Men's Tennis

Rafa made ‘HIS7ORY’ with his 7th triumph at Roland Garros. It is quite likely that he will do ‘H17tory’ with his 17th slam by 2014. Despite a shuddering exit for Rafa at Wimbledon this year, it is likely that we  see a lot more Rafa – Nole heavyweight tussles in Grand Slam finals in the coming years.

If we look at tennis by decades, the decade when Bjorn Borg was accumulating Grand slam silverware, Newcombe & Connors shared much of the remaining spoils. Then came the enigmatic McEnroe only to get his glory cut short by Wilander and Lendl. They were then succeeded by Edberg & Becker. Then came the era of Sampras and Agassi who were perturbed only slightly by the likes of Courier and Rafter. When the baton was passed from Pistol Pete to a feisty Federer, it was Hewitt and Roddick who were hogging the limelight before Federer could bloom into the champion he went on to become. Federer was not even 24 years old when the ‘freak from Majorca’ (as Agassi once said) started competing for Grand Slam glory. When Rafa was around 25, Djokovic was handing out to Nadal what Nadal was handing out to Federer: trouble! A close observation on all these top-level transitions would reveal the emergence of the next big thing. With the current scenario however, it doesn’t appear that this pattern at the top is going to continue. The top-2 are set to rule the roost. Evidence below.

Rafa is 26, Djokovic is 25 and the most likely slam contenders are Murray (come on, give him a chance, at least on paper!) who’s 25, Del Potro who’s 23 (his doctors might not agree) and maybe the likes of Tsonga (his level of play in the quarters at RG gets him the space here) who is 26 again! Where are the 20-21 year olds? Are there any champions likely to emerge? Will 2012-13 be a breakthrough season? The answer to these questions, looking at performances, is pretty straight-forward – ‘not likely’. We see the ‘big four’ close to being unreachable at the top. A pattern that seems to be emerging is that the ‘next four’ are getting pretty consistent too. They appear unreachable too. This means the same Ferrer, Tsonga, Berdych, Del Potros of the world are the ones to bite the dust in the quarters against the big four. Much worse, those who appear to threaten them too are the Tipsarevics, the Almagros and the Isners of the world. And these players that have been mentioned are not getting any younger either.

That shows us why the first line of the article is not some impractical babbling. Do we see any young out-of-their-teen threats in the top 20? The first name that would cross one’s mind is probably Milos Raonic, who is actually just outside the top-20. (Unless you are an Australian who upon reading this piece is furious for not mentioning Bernard Tomic). Raonic is good, yes. His serves are almost impenetrable, yes. But can he handle the Rafa – Djoker slug-fests if he were to meet them on the second week in a Grand Slam? Common sense would say, ‘probably not’. And to the flag-bearers of Tomic – I’m sorry. He loses to relative unknowns in early rounds of the tournaments and he needs a much better arsenal than his fusion of 70s-2000s tennis to trouble the top players. To the Americans who place their bets on Ryan Harrison, the only words I can think of are ‘keep hoping’. For people who feel ‘The Dog’ has it in him to breakthrough, his performances over the past few months is all I will put on the platter.

The only contenders who can break the beastly duopoly of Djoko-Rafa are either 23 or 25 years old (no prizes for guessing the two); Am I forgetting someone.. Oh, Yeah. There is one more. If a certain gentleman from Switzerland can re-surge for one last hurrah, the first statement tI have made becomes null and void. With due respect to Stanislas, no, I’m not talking about him here; not about Chiudinelli either.

Second Monday beckons at SW19. Let us see if that yet to be known ‘out-of-the-teens’ slam champion emerges at the sacred church of the sport. There have been occasions when such things have happened. If not at Wimbledon, where else to expect?

Two Line Reviews - #410

Movie: The Mist (2007)

Plot: There is a mystery in the mist that shrouds a little town. Many of the townsmen are held up in a super market and all hell breaks loose when a store boy gets eaten up by what appears to be a tentacle of an unknown being! Upon severe distress, many turn fanatically religious and the escape plans of the rational few fall on deaf ears - What follows is utterly calamitous!

What Works?
  • It has definitely got to be the imagination on how a clueless life threatening situation can take the civilised man back to his barbarian roots; The film based on Stephen King's novel presents an interesting premise to dwell on that topic!
  • The portions inside the supermarket with the multiple views and the dreadful events are gripping.
  • The hero & his kid, the super-store assistant manager, the teacher, the old man and the biblical lady have prominent roles to essay.
  • The anti-climax is bloody ironic and touchy and the eerie music for this portion is a good fit.
What Doesn't?
The reason that is told for the mist and the deadly creature is weak to a point of being ridiculous.

When calamity strikes, beware of 'Mankind' - Well told!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #409

Movie: The Next Three Days (2010)

Plot: A family is devastated when the wife gets charged for the murder of her boss. After a suicide attempt by her, the husband decides on a plan to let her free and works meticulously for three years to make the 3 day execution successful. Amidst all this he has to take care of their kid and the watch-dog policemen!

What Works?
  • The film has a crooked plot but not something a common man made to face an uncommon situation cannot relate to! So, there gets established the connection.
  • Russell Crowe's stoic expressions are apt for the role he plays here and the family form a good threesome.
  • The background music helps; the twists in the chase are enjoyable & action blocks(specifically the scene where the wife tries to get off the car!) are gripping.
What Doesn't?
The very idea on which Crowe works based on the inputs from Liam Neeson who plays a cameo is a bit impractical!

A racy serving of uncommon action.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #408

Movie: Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

Plot: A very young kid is abundantly talented in Chess that he is compared by the biggies to Bobby Fischer, who disappeared after becoming the first world champion from U.S.A. He is mentored by a chess author who wants to see Fischer in him; He is also trained by a park-side speed chess specialist. Caught between the two and an unexpected contender, fear sets in the kid's mind and he loses focus. His parents work their way out to get back him back on track!

What Works?
  • As a film that's partly fictional and partly based on a true story, the right mix of both worlds makes it tick! Steve Zaillian's work needs appreciations for that.
  • The game of chess is shown in all its glory to such an extent that not having known to play it would hurt (not the viewing as the film is completely understandable)!
  • The mental battle that champions need to face at the zenith and the methods to tackle it are brought forth brilliantly.
  • The kid, being the pivot, plays a superb role - and offering different equally good dimensions around him are his parents, parents' friend & child, Ben Kingsley and Fishburne!
Champions' stuff, for the champions in every one of us!

Two Line Reviews - #407

Movie: Dazed and Confused (1993)

Plot: In 1976, a batch leaves High School and a junior batch gets in. The after school 'last day' parties go on and on as the drug and alcohol induced fun get limitless as night breaks into dawn!

What Works?
  • The film is set in the 70s and stays true to the time. Generates the overall feel perfectly!
  • The funny gigs students of the outgoing batch put to show are enjoyable.
  • The babbles of the drug-sters and the conversations of the nerdish trio provide the needed impetus for laughter.
  • The resolve of 'Pink' Mr.Floyd and his junior successor please too! Not to forget the amazing soundtracks!
As 'high' on content & style as the drug-sters in it!