Argo- My Review (SPOILER ALERT)

Let me start by saying Argo is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. It was the potent combination of gripping drama, arresting story line and excellent performance.

We are in 1980 Iran, after the revolution and Iranians were filled with anger against US for sheltering their evil dictator. The Iranian student army wanted their dictator to be brought back to US and tried, and stormed the US army, taking hostages to blackmail the government. 6 of the staff escape by the back exit and take shelter in the Canadian embassy. The CIA is brought in to rescue the 6 escapees before the Iranians figure out they are missing. Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, comes up with the idea that he will go to Iran as a sci-fi fantasy movie producer, scouting for locations and bring the escapees back as his crew. He works on making his film legit- he gets an office, script, director, costume designer, fake Canadian passport, even a trailer of the movie.  The rest of the movie is the nail biting drama of executing the plan in Iran.

The movie is based on a real rescue effort- nerd that I am, I tried comparing it with the real story. There were quiet a few inaccuracies- the role of Canada was trivialized, Tony really traveled with a fellow CIA agent, he received his Iranian visa in Germany not Turkey, the movie showed Tony separated from his wife but in reality his wife was the one who drove him to the airport, the airport escape was as smooth as silk in reality compared to the drama filled final scenes in the movie. When it was shown in Toronto film festival, Canadians criticized that the role of Ambassador Taylor in the escape was minimized, especially towards the end where it was stated that Canada was credited since the operation was classified. Personally, I believe it focused entirely on the rule of CIA, trivializing US’s mistake of supporting a sadistic and evil dictator, making that a 2 second introduction, and focused instead on the mob anger and violence- the mob had suffered decades of abuse, so their anger was justified.

But all the inaccuracies notwithstanding, Ben Affleck has directed an unforgettable movie, constantly moving and rarely predictable. The performance by each of the actors are incredible. Ben Affleck was amazing in movie, understated and brilliant as Tony Mendez!

Verdict: MUST SEE!

Questions to Christopher Nolan about Dark Knight Rises ending

  1. Will there be another Dark Knight movie?
  2. If Bruce installed the auto pilot, why was Batman still piloting the plane?
  3. How did Batman get off the plane in the 5 seconds before the crash, and yet not be affected by the nuclear radiation in the 6 mile radius? Did he swim to shore to be reunited with Selina Kyle?
  4. Is John Blake the new Batman, or as you very cleverly inserted towards the end- Robin?
  5. Or was sweet old Alfred clearly delusional with grief and reliving his favorite dream?

 

The Ides of March: Movie Review

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, and more…

Directed by: George Clooney

Rated: R

Story: Political drama, on the two weeks leading up to the Democratic primary race. Without giving too much away, the democratic primary is a close race, and the story is in the eyes of Stephen Myers, the assistant campaign manager, played by Ryan Gosling. He works for Governor Morris, played by George Clooney, who doesn’t enjoy the political circus. Stephen believes in Morris and his ideals, but as he gets deeper in to the campaign, he uncovers more dirt. The story is a political thriller, where one innocent mistake sets things in motion, and everything heads downhill. Everyone involved is not clean, from media reporting to the hidden side of politics.

Strengths:

  • Brilliant performances by all actors. George Clooney and Ryan Gosling are exceptional!
  • Strong plot, with  loads of twists and shocking moments, keeping viewers on the edge.
Weaknesses: 
  • For once, I would like a political movie that has hope, that has a “happily ever after”. While it is thought provoking, I would love to see that just for once, politics doesn’t have to be dirty, and a politician can win keeping his morals and ethics intact!
TOTALLY WORTH A WATCH!

Ra One Movie Review

I went to watch Ra One yesterday, and the movie really disappointed me. The promos and marketing was so extensive, it was touted as one of the most expensive movies ever made in Bollywood. I went in with really high expectations. I appreciate the effort by Shah Rukh Khan to go beyond his typical role, and enter the realm of science fiction. But a huge problem with science fiction in Bollywood-too unreal and no plot!

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Ramphal, Armaan Verma

Directed by: Anubhav Sinha

Review: The first weakness of the movie is the lack of a strong story plot. As a nerdy Tamilian Shekhar Subramaniam, Shah Rukh Khan was utterly cringe worthy, reaching for every stereotype about Tamilians like eating noodles with curd using hands. I am sure the director assumed it would be funny, but such humor is really not funny. His wife Sonia, played by Kareena Kapoor is working on a thesis on re-coining swear words. The only adorable part of the first half, is their son Prateek, who is embarrassed by his father’s antics and dreams of his dad being a hero. In order to fulfill his son’s wishes, Shekhar designs a game with the ultimate super villian-Ra-One (Ravan) and a hero G-One who looks a lot like himself!  Its Artificial Intelligence meets Terminator, where the villain can change form and learn more moves. After Prateek beats Ra-One and has to leave the game mid-way, the blood thirsty villain follows him to finish the game. The movie’s second half is full of Matrix-style fight sequences, cat and mouse chases leading to the ultimate fight between good and evil.

Strengths:

  • Ultimate super villian- Arjun Ramphal. He looks incredibly hot,although his role is very superficial
  • Prateek- The adorable kid Armaan Verma is endearing and touches your heart with his sincerity
  • Kareena looks incredible in all her scenes
Weaknesses:
  • Dialogues- The story is full of crass and vulgar jokes, even though the market is targeted for a younger audience
  •  Screenplay- The story is weak and inconsistent, it starts off with a long tacky dream sequence with cameos by Priyanka Chopra and Sanjay Dutt. Some scenes are unbelievable, like G-one trying to understand about Karva Chauth and God.
  • The sci-fi scenes looked far-fetched, especially the Matrix style sequences
  • Shah Rukh Khan looks all over the place. It is hard to watch him act as a nerdy Tamilian.
I have always enjoyed watching Shah Rukh Khan movies, but this movie fails in so many places. I wasn’t a fan of Robot (which is remarkably similar), but the cameo by Rajnikanth as Chitti reminds you of how sci-fi movies should really be done.
NOT WORTH A WATCH!

My review: Little Bee

I finally got out of my books drought, and picked a book to read on my flight to Colorado. And by all the luck in the world, the book was a great one.

The book touches a topic that you rarely read about–refugees.Without giving too much away, the book is a heartwarming and brutal story of a Nigerian refugee Little Bee, in her early teens, who is now in United Kingdom and just out of deplorable detention center where the women have to go so far as to complete a series of paperwork to obtain a sanitary napkin.

She reaches the door of Sarah O’Rourke and her husband, whom she met on a beach in Nigeria on a fateful night that changed all their lives. Little Bee reaches Sarah’s door at the most tragic time, the day of her husband’s funeral. As Sarah deals with tragedy in her own life, her only hope is Little Bee. Each of them find the will to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward.

What is truly amazing about this book is how it captures both Little Bee’s view point and Sarah’s by writing one chapter in Little Bee’s voice, followed by the next one in Sarah’s voice. Little Bee, who has seen horrific atrocities in her young life, still had a girlish innocence describing how her life would be better as a British pound coin.  She tries to find solace in the only person who showed her some kindness.

Sarah, who was unfaithful and neglected her husband’s depression, was selfless in trying to protect Little Bee and her sister.

Sarah’s son Charlie, always dressed up as Batman, is touching, as a child who always wants to find out if you are a baddie or a goodie and is the ray of hope Little Bee needs to move forward.

A must read book, although the book reminds us of an unfortunate reality–there is no refuge for refugees.

Raines Law Room: Review

My latest New York discovery: Raines Law Room!

It is a speakeasy bar, that captures the mood of bars during the prohibition period, the bars don’t have sign boards and flashy entrances. The bar’s name refers to a prohibition passed by the New York City Legislature in 1896, which prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday (crucial for six-day working men) except in hotels. This bar is one of the most popular speakeasy bars, with a wait for a couple of hours. The bar is unmarked, you ring the doorbell and the maitre’d will attend to you.You can’t make reservations, just put your name on a list and wait. But believe me, the interiors, experience, and drinks are totally worth the wait!

The interiors are like an old English townhouse, with three distinct areas: drawing room with leather chairs, parlor with booths that have velvety sofas and red curtains, and kitchen area where the drinks are made. The booths have little doorbell buttons, which correspond to a number that lights up in the kitchen, where the drinks are made.

The drinks are made in the kitchen, made from scratch and takes about 10 minutes. The bartenders make the drinks with such precision, its a treat to watch! They are a bit pricey at $13 a cocktail. They have drinks that are either the “Tall & Fizzy Cocktails” and the “Short & Shaken Cocktails”.

Overall, great interiors, good drinks, a pity they don’t take reservations, the waiting time is often a couple of hours! Go there to get the New York experience!

Dhobi Ghat- A review

I wanted to write reviews about things that touched me, and one of the best movies I have seen in the last few months has been Dhobi Ghat. They got my attention because the movie was based on my favorite city, my hometown.As one of the character Arun says in the movie “to Mumbai… my muse, my whore, my beloved!” The movie is follows 4 characters, who are all linked. Munna is a dhobi from Bihar, who aspires to be an actor. Arun is an artist, a loner who is looking for inspiration. Shai from New York, is on a sabbatical to follower her passion for photography and looking is looking to explore the city. Yasmin moves to Bombay after her marriage, and is recording her view of the city to show it to her brother.

The story actually weaves together as all the characters interact. The movie’s focus is on the characters, their emotions and flaws. Without giving too much away, according to me, some of the most brilliant parts of the movie was Arun’s obsession and new muse. Aamir Khan’s performance as Arun is brilliant, and it showcases his angst and raw emotions. Yasmin captures the innocence of someone who is in the big city for the first time, and is endearing.

In one of the scenes, Munna comes to Shai’s house, Shai invites his to sit on the couch, and after much hesitation he sits down. Shai’s maid serves him tea in a glass instead of a cup, which embarasses Shai. Kiran Rao captures subtle nuances of Bombay’s cultural framework, like the class divide.

The movie is not for everyone, it is at a slow pace, and leaves lots of gaps for your imagination. For a Bollywood loyalist, watching this movie would feel like nothing actually happens, no drama and no happy ending. But if you are looking for an art movie that moves your heart, this one is just for you!

Gently falls the Bakula- A review

SPOILER ALERT!

I stumbled across this book at a bookstore in the airport, and I was intrigued. The book is written by someone who is respect and admire, Sudha Murthy. The book hooks you from the first page, with all the framework and background of the central characters. The writing style is simple and uncomplicated.

The story is based on Shrimathi and Shrikanth,who are from warring neighbor families, and go to the same school. One of the most beautiful things is the parallel that she draws between the bakula flower and the lead character Shrimathi, which explains the title– both are simple, not extraordinarily beautiful but has a lingering fragrance. They are both brilliant, and are often pitted against each other and teased by friends in the war on whether men or women are more intelligent. But as they grow up, their relationship blossoms in to one of friendship and love. They write letters when Shrikanth goes to college, and one of the key facts that stands out in the first half of the book is that Shrimathi had a real passion for Indian history and she is extremely bright. Once they get married, they move to Bombay, and while Shrikanth is working away in building a career, Shrimathi is content in supporting him and putting her ambitions on the back burner. She is willing to take on a job that is not worth her qualifications to send money to his mother, she moves to US with him when his career demands it. But as he progresses, he moves further and further away from who he was, from being a compassionate and caring husband who values his wife’s intelligence, he moves to a self-centered, overly ambitious man who does not notice when his wife is ill and hospitalized. When Shrimathi notices a vacuum in her life, she wants children, but he doesn’t want one. Finally, Shrimathi reaches a breaking point, and finally realizes that she is not living with the man she married and decides to move to US to pursue her PhD.

One of the most poignant parts of the book is when Shrimathi leaves, Shrikanth realizes how he ignores her, how he does not value the sacrifices she made, and how he treated her as just a secretary or arm-accessory. But he also recognizes that he might is not willing to change, so he cannot stop her from leaving.

Another interesting point is there is a hidden issue between Shrikanth and Shrimathi which manifested at the end. She was first in school when they were in the 12th grade exam, while Shrikanth came second. He was ashamed about it, but was glad she did not gloat. But I think he never forgot that, years later when a friend sent a letter to Shrikanth that Shrimathi was smarter than all of them for following her passion, he chose to not respond to the letter. When Shrimathi tries to talk to him about her frustrations, he says that she is the smarter one, who would know whats best for her. This just brought out an insecurity that was a part of his personality for all the years of their relationship.

I loved the book (I am sure anyone who reads this post can tell!) because I can almost feel the pain that Shrimathi has been through. Sudha Murthy had shown the pressure of current work styles and the impact it has on relationships and the transition of personalities who live under the pressure.  It also showcases the emotional struggle for a woman to choose between her ambitions and marriage.

MUST READ!

Social Network- my review

I watched the much-talked about movie Social Network, and I was blown away by the performances by the main characters. While the verdict is still out on whether the story is fact or fiction, some characters are rumored to be very close to the original people.  I just felt it dragged a bit towards the end.

Jess Eisenberg’s portrayal as Marc is compelling, he plays a character you would love to hate, especially after he thinks of comparing women to farm animals in a drunk state. But he isn’t the bad guy, just an a__hole, who is responsible for creating the most popular website on earth!
One of my favorite characters was the Winklewass twins, played by Armie Hammer, is not just easy on the eye, he played the role of twins with such ease. Girls you have to check him out!
Andrew Garfield is endearing as Eduardo Saverin, Marc’s friend and co-founder of Facebok, although the aside about his crazy girlfriend was a tab out of place!
I have been reading about Oscar buzz about Justin Timberlake, who plays Sean Parker, the creator of Napster. He was really good in the movie as the guy who draws Marc in to a world of sex, drugs and crazy parties. But for some reason, JT, I don’t know if it is was intended for the role.

Watch out for: Brilliant performances
Bah-hum parts: Towards the end, its a bit stretched
Overall verdict: Totally worth a watch!

Peepli Live- My review

I went to watch the movie with a bit of apprehension, primarily because of the subject of the movie – farmers’ suicide.  I was a little stressed with the daily grind, and I just wanted an escape, not something too depressing.  But instead the movie dealt with the subject with a dose of humour, and yet highlighted the plight of the farmers.  Natha was endearing in the portrayal of a farmer, torn between his commitment to his family, and being egged on by his brother, and still being afraid of the prospect of death.  Natha’s wife and mother’s arguments are hilarious, and the portrayal of farmers and their lives is realistic without looking desolate and depressing.  But the highlight of the movie was the depiction of the media, in the age of sensationalism and breaking news syndrome.  The furore in covering Natha’s decision to commit suicide and the political spins to the story are the absolute star point.

The movie has a strong social theme, and when you leave the theatre, you go home thinking about the plight of the farmers, and the state of agriculture in the country, the corruption and the politics.. But when you think of the movie, you have a smile!