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.