The Rajini movie experience and a short spoiler-free review of Kabali

Thanks to the Bay Area Rajini Fans Facebook group, I got the opportunity to go see Superstar Rajinikanth’s latest blockbuster, Kabali at the premiere show in Towne 3 Cinemas in San Jose, CA. Here are my late night, sleep addled thoughts on it.

The Rajini movie experience is something unique that has to be experienced to be believed. It is unlike anything else. Across the world, I would argue that Rajinikanth is the only star who commands an almost religious following, especially on the eve of his movie releases. His movies are so few and far in-between that fans eagerly await every morsel of information from that rare original poster during the shooting of the movie to the launch of the soundtrack and then the trailer. Irrespective of how the movies fare, the experience itself is a celebration of the unabashed love the crores of fans have for their beloved superstar.

As a huge transplanted fan of the super star, I often long for the experience of watching a Rajini movie on the first day- something I had the luxury of growing up, year after year. The last time I watched a Rajini movie on the first day, it was the incredibly enjoyable Enthiran (Robot). I could not make it to Lingaa and wasn’t keen on watching Kochadaiyaan. Which brings me to Kabali.

kabali

Kabali got me excited from the get-go. I have not seen Pa.Ranjith’s movies. So I was unaware of what he brings to the table. But the prospect of Rajini playing his age alone is worth the price of admission ($25, no less). Leading up to today, the incredible fans have kept the expectation sky-high. A stylishly cut trailer with an excellent BGM also helped the cause. A few committed folks took great pains to organize the showing, printed unique commemorative tickets and had a streamlined process for fans to be part of the experience. Hats off to their organization. It was super well done.

Bay Area experienceI got to the theater, an hour or so before the show. There were a bunch of festivities planned and it was super fun watching folks just let it go! Never the one to dive in to a dance unfortunately, I was content being part of it and watching so many fans have the time of their lives. If you havent been part of a Rajini movie premiere show festivities, you truly have missed something. Endhiran 2.0 is on its way. That would be an excellent opportunity to make that happen. This one was fantastic and so much fun to watch in person and take in the thrill of the Rajini experience.

 

Kabali

I have penned down a short and simple spoiler-free review of the movie below if you are interested. I will tell you this- if you can watch it in the theater, just go for it. It is worth it. I am not sure how many more opportunities we will get to watch a new Rajini movie on the silver screen. While we have that privilege, I would encourage one and all to experience the Rajini magic on screen.

Kabali experience

Spoiler-free mini review of Kabali
Here is my super short, spoiler free review of the movie. Let us get the broad feedback out of the way.

The movie is pretty good. I enjoyed it and don’t regret one bit paying $25 and heading to the theater on a busy work weekday.  It is not what I expected and it is definitely not your classic Rajini movie in many ways. Yes, it has his signature style in old and new ways. And his charisma continues to thrill as it did, 30 years ago. But this is a movie driven by a lot of emotional underpinnings and Rajini emotes, more so that I have ever seen him do. And he does a fantastic job. He is ably supported by a bunch of character actors none of whom has a standout role but has something to contribute to the plot. Overall, it is a movie worth watching. I typically watch 1-2 Indian movies every year, if that. Using that slot for Kabali was a good decision. Rajini continues to appeal to the child in me.

The good stuff

  • Rajinikanth – this man can do it all and in a way that so many others try and fail miserably.
  • A bunch of supporting characters who move the story along.
  • An actual plot. Yes, it is not deep or complex but there is a story to keep things moving along.
  • Watching it in a theater filled with screaming fans.
  • Being part of the excitement leading up to the movie, thanks again to the BayArea Rajini Fans Facebook group.

The not-so-good stuff

  • The pacing sags for about 30 minutes midway through the movie- leading up to and during the India segment. This segment could have been trimmed by 20 or so minutes.
  • Every once in a while, the screenplay needs a little push to keep rolling. The director definitely should have tightened it.
  • The violence. It is the bloodiest movie of Rajini I have ever seen and that part disturbs me. As a parent in these dark times, I abhor violence, even in movies. Yes, I understand that a gangster movie leans towards gore as part of its realism pitch but still too much blood.
  • This is not a movie to take kids. Most certainly not. I have never recommended an Indian movie for kids and this movie will miss that bar by a large margin.

Rajinikanth matters. Here is why.

rajini
rajini

As many of my regular readers would have observed by now, some of my recent posts have taken on quite a bit of nostalgia. This is not a blatant attempt at capturing attention and thus page views. I do not make money when you click the link and see my post. As the world starts changing rapidly, nostalgia offers an umbrella of solace to those not completely at home with the new. Now I understand why my father and uncles live so much in the past when it comes to music and cinema. The cinema of our childhood offers an innocence that we believe is lost today. With every change of guard, a little bit of that innocence gets chipped away. It is with that perspective that I write about a very integral part of my childhood memories, Thalaivar and the only Superstar I will ever know, Rajinikanth. What better time than on the eve of his birthday (Dec 12).

So where do I start?. My earliest memory of Rajinikanth was “Podhuvaga en manasu” from Murattu Kalai. The song was a big hit and I was 3 at that time. An age when larger than life role models are easy to pick up. In hind sight, this was the beginning of Rajini the Superstar. Until then, he was supposedly a director’s actor. An infinitely moldable character who brought a searing intensity be it as a hero or as a villain.

Here is Rajini, the romantic hero.

And here he is, the consummate villain.

I was always a MGR kinda guy. Less drama. More action and fun. Rajini represented all that and more. After Murattu Kalai, Rajini the actor morphed into Rajini, the Star and soon to be Superstar. There are those who argue that a great actor’s skill was shoved to the background in this process of this transformation. But I disagree. For pure histrionics, we had and will always have the multifaceted and multitalented Kamalhassan. Kamal will always be the master of the art. Rajini will be remember as the one who took the art to the common man and made him believe he too could be a star.

Rajini offered the masses clean cinema with a strong sense of what was right. But he was careful not to cultivate MGR’s holier than thou image in cinema. Instead he was the original rebel. The dude who cared a damn but still mattered. His style will warrant its own post. And there are tons of Youtube videos dedicated to that. Ill point you to a three part collection in Youtube that captures some of Rajini’s best moments in cinema. Feel free to search for more.

Over the years, Rajini has excelled in delivering family friendly cinema with the right dose of humor, enough thrills and spills and more importantly, a treasure trove of punch dialogues that are enshrined in the annals of Tamil cinema. Every movie of Rajini is filled with its share of punch dialogues that at their time fueled the public imagination to dramatic heights. You have to have experienced it to believe it. Case to point, Alex Pandian in Moondru Mugam.

Rarely are Rajini’s movies boring or dull. Even some of his less popular ones are watchable because of his sense of comedic timing and dialogue delivery. He chooses his directors and scripts in a way that played to his strengths. He represents the essense of cinema as a medium of entertainment. And continues to do so. His most recent release Enthiran shattered box office records, all of 37 years after his first movie. And he plays the hero in Enthiran. In his 2007 release, Sivaji he enthralls as a bald headed alter ego for which he shaved completely- something most stars today would dare not do. And it all stems from his respect for the medium and what it has given him. Most stars today think of themselves as superstars before they are 10 movies old. Rajini after over 150 movies continues to be a director’s actor driven by his humility and respect for the art.


What Rajinikanth also gives me are milestones to my school and college life. His movies define major events in my life. Every Rajinikanth movie to me and to countless fans are associated with times in their life. And his movies make for great life bookmarks. I remember standing in a massive line to get tickets to Dalapathi at Archana-Darsana. I remember watching Veera multiple times because I fell in love with “Madathile“. One of those times was after lying through my teeth to family and heading to Jyothi in Mount Road, Chennai where a massive 30 feet billboard welcomed me to the movie. I remember howling in laughter for Mannan and screaming when Rajini says “Adhu seri, adhu seri” in “Adikudhu Kuliru“. And then there was Annamalai. Scene after scene filled with punch dialogues echoing in my head even today. Who can forget “Dey Ashok” or the auction scene or the unforgettable association election scene. The association election scene oozes style unparalleled that I feel like whistling as I watch it today on youtube.

And for most stars, Annamalai would be their ultimate style statement. In the case of Rajinikanth, he one upped it with Baasha in 1995. I was in my 11th standard and remember the hype and hysteria for the movie. And the experience is something remarkable in the theater. When the goons bash up Baasha’s family outside his house and the man reveals himself, the entire theater erupts. No actor can and will ever deliver that kind of feeling in a theater. Who can forget the scenes between Padayappa and Ramya Krishnan as a brilliant Neelambhari in Padayappa?


Even today, Enthiran and Sivaji pack more muscle and fun than any other offering from today’s crop of superstars. The Rajini aura continues unabated. And on his birthday, I am reminded of how much he matters to me and to millions of fans around the world. To all of us, he is the simple star. The one who can do no wrong and who makes the world easier to live in. And as long as he is around, things just seem perfect.

As a parting video, watch Rajini at his villainous best.

Happy Birthday Thalaiva.

 

The Dark Knight Rises and the Avengers

DC vs. MarvelThis post contains no spoilers for the Dark Knight Rises or the Avengers. So feel free to read on, even if you havent seen the two movies. This is not a full on review. It is about the two movies but not as much about the plot.

I managed to see “The Dark Knight Rises” on Saturday on IMAX. I was expectedly thrilled by it. It was the epic finish to the trilogy I hoped it would be. As a credit to Chris Nolan, I now expect to be blown away in every one of his movies. He is 41 and has a long career  ahead of him. Looks like I am going to be watching every one of his releases (and yes, I have seen all his directorial ventures till date). I also got to watch the Avengers earlier in the year and loved it for being a fun movie- one that did full justice to the comic books without getting bogged down by the semantics. This post is not about which movie is better- that is for the fanboys to do. This is about how they contrast with each other and how it worked for me.

The Avengers

The Avengers is a great summer movie and the perfect definition of a blockbuster. It has a great cast of actors working with a comic book fan’s dream of a director in Joss Wheadon to come up with an utterly entertaining actioner. The characters are well defined and the actors deliver their lines as well as they could. Robert Downey Jr. shines as Iron Man while the rest of the superhero cast do their bit to make the movie a whole lot of fun. Marvel has always done a bang up job in treating its properties with the utmost care and this is no different. The action is big, plot is bigger and Wheadon still manages to make it as intimate an affair as it can be. Overall, very much recommended as a fun movie to watch with friends.

The Dark Knight Rises is the concluding part of the Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan. Suffice to say like Nolan’s two other Batman movies, this one is brilliant. I will use hyperbole and say that this is quite possibly one of the most epic superhero movies I have ever seen. And the most ironic part about it is that it is one of the least likely superhero movies. Yes, it is a Batman movie but you’d be hard pressed to find the dark knight in very many frames performing your typical superhero stunts. This movie is all about the characters. Be it Bane or Selena Kyle (Catwoman) or Alfred or Lucius Fox, each character is flushed out and given their moment in the sun. And therein lies Nolan’s genius.

Batman

For all the action in the movie and there is quite a bit of it, at its heart, this movie is and feels like the concluding part of a sweeping epic drama. And that really is its difference with the Avengers. The Avengers offers light and breezy summer thrills. Yes, the world has to be saved but isnt that almost always the case in most superhero movies?. In the Dark Knight Rises, the world’s survival is not in question. It is all about Gotham. And rightfully so. Batman has and always will be the son of Gotham and fittingly the action revolves around the city.  Every scene is heavy in anticipation and dread of what lies ahead. Humor is a rare commodity. The gravity of the situation is weighing down on everyone and you, the audience can feel it. The spectacular music adds to the emotion taking you along for the ride. And what a ride it is. As a standalone movie, the Dark Knight is probably more climactic but as a human drama, the Dark Knight Rises excels.

The Avengers is fun and cool. You know the superheroes are going to save the world. It is just a matter of how spectacularly they do it. The Dark Knight Rises is deep and emotional. You feel the pain. And you know that everything has a price. And Nolan gives you a ringside view. Hans Zimmer delivers an epic score worthy of the saga.

I loved both movies for what they are. I didn’t feel compelled to write about the Avengers after I walked out of the theater. I have been itching to write this since I walked out of the theater 48 or so hours ago. That is the impact Nolan’s movie has. I cant wait to see it again- maybe a back to back to back trilogy viewing marathon. There is so much awesomeness oozing in Nolan’s Dark Knight saga. Watch it. You won’t regret it. And if you haven’t seen the first two, try to see them before you watch the conclusion.

 

Man watching Movies 02- March 2012

For my earlier reviews for the year, see here – January, February.

This month, due to a hectic work schedule and the arrival of family for a 2 month trip, I watched fewer movies than in the past two months. As a really rare event, I did watch a movie in theater, John Carter. I thoroughly enjoyed it and reviewed it here. Here is my brief review of all the other movies I watched in March.

J.Edgar

 

 

 

 

 

 

J.Edgar:I will cut to the chase here. This was a disappointment. I am a big fan of Clint’s movies and also a big fan of Leo’s recent movie outings. I am also a sucker for political thrillers/dramas. J.Edgar promised a heady mix of all three. I was at one point contemplating a trip to the theater to watch this. Instead I ended up watching it on VOD. It was disappointing. My primary complaint was the pacing of the movie. Events unfold at a fairly quick pace given the eventful life of J.Edgar Hoover but the movie doesn’t reflect the dynamic nature of the protagonist. Leo does his best in getting into the skin of the polarizing figure that was J.Edgar. Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts and Judi Dench pitch in with some good acting but the movie feels flat. Even the dramatic climax ends up being less of a climax and more of an eventuality.

Rating: 6/10

Watch it hereon Amazon Instant Video.

 

Columbiana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Columbiana:Just as J.Edgar was an unexpected disappointment, Columbiana was an unexpected cheap thrill. It was on sale on Amazon Instant Video for 99c and promised start to finish action. My two past outings with Zoe Saldana were both pleasant- Avatar and Star Trek. So I had reasonable confidence in her turn as the prime protagonist here. I ended up enjoying this quite a bit. It is a revenge tale that feels very much Indian really. Zoe Saldana turns in a pretty nice role that requires her to display her action chops. The action is non-stop and gets fairly bloody at times. If you are looking for a good time pass action movie, I definitely recommend this one.

Rating: 7.5/10.

Watch it hereon Amazon Instant Video.

Fast Five

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast Five:I had enjoyed the first two outings of the Fast and Furious franchise and was hoping the thrills were all done with the second. Apparently not. There was a forgettable third and middling forth, both of which I thankfully skipped. The return of much of the original cast including Paul Walker and Vin Diesel got my interested in the fifth. I was not disappointed. The plot was harebrained and the acting was pretty lousy. The action most certainly compensated for them though. From start to end, there is non stop driving thrills to be had on this one. Keep your brains at the bedside table and enjoy the ride.

Rating: 7.5/10.

 

tower heist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tower Heist: I had minimal expectations from this movie. It was supposed to be a heist caper, a genre I am quite fond of. Brett Ratner, of Rush Hour fame is known to make decent masala action comedies. This was supposed to be one such. Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matt Broderick and Alan Alda have all done reasonably well in comedies so there was some hope. The movie turned out to be a damp squib. It was pretty boring and the comic caper was neither funny or a decent caper. Pretty average fare, really.

Rating: 5.5/10.

Watch it hereon Amazon Instant Video.

 

Larry Crowne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larry Crowne:I started with the review of a disappointing movie and I will wrap up with one. The pitch was irresistible- Tom Hanks (acting and directing), Julia Roberts, and topical plot of job loss and its aftermath in today’s economy. What was not to get excited about?. If there was one actor whose chick flick outings were pleasant it was Tom Hanks’. He has a sense of believability of your everyday American that is rare. I went into this thinking I would get a funny yet introspective look at a middle aged man losing the only job he knows and how he copes with it. What I got instead was a cliche ridden, almost unrealistic and saccharine story that had no semblance of logic or a cohesive plot. Definitely disappointing. Hope Hanks can get back his mojo again. His last few movies have been pretty boring and unexciting to say the least.

Rating: 6/10.

Watch it hereon Amazon Instant Video.

 

John Carter- Movie Review

A Princess of Mars

Thanks to two birthday parties to attend on a wet and messy Saturday, I had the evening to myself and nothing to do but to go and watch John Carter (of Mars). Ever since the movie was announced, I have been following it closely. I am a big fan of sci-fi books and the Burroughs material is the inspiration for many a space sage including Star Wars. Add to it the directorial talent of Andrew Stanton, Pixar alum of Finding Nemo and Wall-E, and it was a match made in heaven.

john carter movie poster

I parked myself at the local Cinemark and waited for the saga to unfold. I was not disappointed. Andrew Stanton dazzles. Utah makes for a great Barsoom. Special effects are expectedly spectacular. The Tharks are as natural as you’d think they ought to be. Taylor Kitsch as Captian John Carter fits the role. And Lynn Collins makes for a gorgeous Dejah Thoris. Burroughs describes Thoris as someone who is endowed with spectacular beauty and Lynn Collins does not disappoint.

The wars feel real and every detail of Barsoom comes to life in a visual spectacle. But at heart, as goes the book, John Carter is an old style action adventure. A space romance set in the deserts of Mars. A tale of love, politics and battle. To all of which Andrew Stanton does full justice.

Ignore the popular media reviews. Go watch it for a rollicking time.

 

Man watching Movies 01- Feb 2012

I did manage to sneak in a few more movies in the last few weeks since my previous review package. Here they go.

the adjustment bureau

The Adjustment Bureau:I wasn’t expecting the world from this movie. But given that it stars Emily Blunt and Mat Damon, I had some expectations going in. I was disappointed. The movie starts off great. The premise is intriguing but the story starts meandering mid-way through the movie and never makes its way back. By the time the main plot point is revealed, it sounds more ludicrous than one would want it to. Overall, very average fare.

Rating: 5.5/10.

margin call

Margin Call:This was one heck of a movie. Set in a fictitious hedge fund and happening over 24 hours of tumult during the financial crisis, it is a tension packed ride from the start to finish. It boasts of an all-star cast and a stellar screenplay. Over 95% of the movie occurs within a single set piece. The tension is palpable. The climax is believable. All in all, a great watch. Loved it.

Rating: 7.75/10.

too big to fail

Too Big to Fail:This is really not a movie as much as a TV movie. It was produced for HBO and shown almost a year ago. It is still not out on DVD. I caught it on a HBO rerun and was spellbound. For people familiar with the source material, the namesake bestseller by Andrew Ross Sorkin, it is a fantastic ride through some of the darkest days of 2008 when much of New York was in a tailspin. Boasting an all-star cast of brilliant performers, the real-life saga hits very close to home. Must watch especially if you want to give a human face to Hank Paulson.

Rating: 8.5/10.

The Ides of March

The Ides of March:As a big fan of Clooney the director and actor, I went into this movie with a lot of expectations. Also, as a fan of political thrillers, I was hoping this would be an interesting perspective coming from the extremely political Clooney. I was treated to an excellent thriller steeped in politics but just as intelligent outside of it. While Clooney rocks as always, the scene stealer is Ryan Gosling who absolutely rocks in his role as a campaign staffer. Great, great movie.

Rating: 8.25/10.

contagion

Contagion:I watched this on a late Friday night and went back to bed at 1 am. I could her my wife coughing in the next room. I could not sleep much that night. Contagion is really a horror movie – one whose tale can happen any moment today or tomorrow. It is harrowing and unflinching. It boasts a big cast but let that not give you the false impression of an uplifting tale. This one is brutal. I had a water cooler argument with some colleagues over the pacing and documentary style structure of the movie. To me, it is that style and treatment that made the movie all so real. Recommended for the not so faint of heart.

Rating: 8/10.

drive

Drive:A few days after watching “The Ides of March”, I sat down to watch “The Drive”. For someone who had never seen a Ryan Gosling movie until this month, two of his starrers within a span of one week was indeed surprising. But unique no more. Gosling delivers a bravura performance in this bloody, silent noirish thriller that is as stylish as they get. Gosling is stunning as much as he is quiet in this engrossing gangster tale set in LA. Every set piece and scene drips in style and much of the movie turns out to be one memorable ride. Highly recommended for the Tarantino fan.

Rating: 8/10.

rise of the planet of the apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes:The Mark Wahlberg Apes outing from a few years ago had left a bad taste in my mouth. I had very low expectations from this one. I knew that it had a good run at the box-office last summer but then again, so did the “Clash of the Titans”. With that mindset, I started watching this San Francisco based movie. Twenty minutes into the movie, I was intrigued. An hour in, I was starting to get a nice summer blockbustery feel about it. When the credits rolled, I had a smile on my face. While the movie uses every single blockbuster cliche one would expect from a summer release, it still manages to keep the viewers interest and intellect level fairly high. The real hero of the movie is the special effects front ended by the always awesome Andy Serkis. Overall, surprisingly enjoyable.

Rating: 7.5/10.

friends with benefits

Friends with Benefits:I am not a big fan of the chick flick. Yes, I have seen my share with my then girlfriend, now wife. But you know how that goes. I had picked up this movie for 99c on Amazon VOD and it was expiring last weekend. I had to see it or lose it. The wife was busy with work to take it up. I ended up watching it for the 99c. Given all that, the first 45 minutes of the movie is actually interesting and fun. The movie starts off wanting to desperately be the un-chick chick flick. But soon enough it starts heading to its familiar grounds and before you know it, the movie is what it aims to make a parody of. A pleasant star cast is otherwise wasted. Skip it unless you really have nothing else.

Rating: 5.5/10.

 

The joy of movie trailers

Long long ago, so long ago, I have forgotten how long ago, it was just me and my wife. Before that it was just us, unmarried, but that was really long ago. Anyways, when we were married with no little guy to enchant us, all day, all night, my wife and I watched movies. Lots of them. Rom-coms for her. Sci-fi, fantasy and action adventure for me. Every Friday in the summer and winter. Every other weekend for the rest of the year. We saw good movies, bad movies. Smart movies, utterly stupid movies. And everything in between. So where am I going with this post. Its a Friday night. So give me a little leeway.

Anyways, once the little guy was born, the two of us kinda stopped watching movies. Initially it was that we never had time. Then, just no patience. We could think of a million things to do rather than watch a long movie. And if English movies felt long, what about Indian movies you ask?. Well, that part of me completely died. I cannot sit through a single Indian movie with the exception of anything with Rajinikanth in it. That last part is for the child in me who will never die. I stopped caring for Indian movies.

The last few months, I have slowly but steadily started ramping up my Hollywood movie quota. Thanks to wonder of Redbox and Amazon VOD, I catch one or two movies every weekend on my laptop. But in these four years, one thing has stayed constant. My appetite for movie trailers.Movie trailer

You see, I am hopelessly addicted to movie trailers. Not the movies themselves. But the trailers. Every weekend for as long as I have known they have existed on the Internet, I have watched movie trailers. These days, I get my fix on Apple Quicktime Trailers, Yahoo! Movies, ComingSoon.net or IMDB itself. I see corny trailers like The Vow or slick ones like The Avengers. I have seen John Carter’s trailer a dozen times just as I enjoyed the trailer for a documentary about a road trip to Ladakh. The explosion of colors in the trailer for The Lorax blew me away as if to tell me, Dr.Seuss was personally supervising the color selection. I could go on and on. You get the vibe. Trailers bring out the kid in me. Even the worst of movies carry cool trailers. It is almost as if they chose 2:31 of the best in the movie and put it in a trailer. In the rare occasions that I get to the movie theater, I make it a point to get there on time for the trailers. And yes, I have seen trailers of movies from the past, the ones that are rated as classic. Not the movies. Just the trailers.

Check this, this , this and of course, this. Now chances are you have seen some, most or all of these movies. But try to forget that. Imagine as if you have never seen the movie or the trailer, or for that matter, ever heard of these movies, ever. Now see the trailers. You’ll get it.

So if you are like me and love trailers, lets find some time for a cup of coffee, shall we?. Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to catch my week’s quota of trailers. Happy trailer watching!

Man watching Movies 00 – Jan 2012

One of my long term goals was to enable movie oriented content in this blog. Now that I have started watching movies again thanks to Amazon Instant Video, Redbox and Netflix, I can share some notes on the movies I watch. Instead of writing long reviews which you can otherwise find in IMDB, Yahoo Movies, MetaCritic or RottenTomatoes, I will just write a couple of lines about the movie with a Recommendation. I’ll try to do it once a month. So here is the first edition.

adventures of tintin

Adventures of Tintin: I grew up reading Tintin. Haddock was my hero. The books opened up the world to me. So I was eager to watch Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s take on the reporter’s antics. The movie was fun with a caveat. Folks who have read the book(s) will enjoy it a lot. For those unfamiliar of the characters, it might be an OK movie. There is less of the Spielberg stamp here than you would expect.

The Rajini Punch: “Tintin late a vandhalum, latest a varan.”

Rating: 7.5/10. Go for Spielberg, stay for the ride.

MI4: Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible 4: The Ghost Protocol: I am a big action movie buff. Loved the first MI movie. Liked the second and third. I also happen to be a huge Brad Bird fan. So I was expecting something different and fun with MI4. I was not disappointed. There is nothing unique with the story itself but Bird’s handling of the action is remarkable. And yes, the scenes in Dubai have to be seen to be believed. Cruise, Renner, Patton and Pegg make a fun group.

The Rajini Punch: “Andha Kozhandaikitta Ethan Hunt’nnu sonna, innoru kayyala avan amma vaayayum moodum.”

Rating: 8.5/10. Loved it. Non-stop action. Will leave you breathless.

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris: I am not a big fan of chick flicks. But I had read enough about Woody Allen’s love poem to Paris that I had to watch it. And I did not regret it. It is as much a love poem to Paris as it is to literature. And the movie shines how. Romance in this movie is between the writer, Paris and the written word. Suffice to say, the movie is one of the better romantic movies I have seen in a long time.

The Rajini Punch:  “Howizit?. Sooper.”

Rating: 8.5/10. Just beautiful.

cowboys and aliens

Cowboys and Aliens: I like Jon Favreau’s take on Iron Man. I enjoy watching Daniel Craig- he does a stoic do-gooder better than many others. Plus there was Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde. The movie was a big disappointment. The story ambled. While there are some cool scenes with good special effects, overall the movie was boring. Expected more from everyone concerned.

The Rajini Punch: “Alien solran. Yaarum seyyala.”

Rating: 6/10. Disappointing.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2: Po was a surprisingly fun character in the very fun Kung Fu Panda that came out a few years ago. I had heard good things about this one and finally got down to seeing it. I wasn’t disappointed. The movie continues to be a gentle but respectful satire on all the kung fu movies of the past and also serve as a wonderful tale on friendship and family. I loved it. Unfortunately, I  can’t recommend it for younger kids given the violence in the movie.

The Rajini Punch: “Po, Suthi Suthi Adikaran. Parandhu Paandhu Adikaran.”

Rating: 8.5/10. Lot of fun. Great animation.

moneyball

Moneyball: For baseball lovers like me, sabermetrics, Bill James and Billy Beane mean something special. Michael Lewis wrote a wonderful book on Billy Beane’s unique money ball approach to making the small market Oakland Athletics compete against the big spending Yankees and RedSox. The movie is fantastic. Beyond the perspective on baseball, it is a tome on a very human approach to changing the guard in a game steeped in its own ways for over a century. Brad Pitt hits one out of the park as do Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art and Jonah Hill as the fictitious Peter Brand. Loved, loved it.

The Rajini Punch: “Billy Beane vazhi, thani vazhi.”

Rating: 8.75/10. Fantastic rendition of  a fun book and an homage to a great sport.

Book Review: A.R.Rahman-Spirit of Music

Spirit of Music

I managed to get my hands on a copy of the recently released authorized biography of music maestro A.R.Rahman titled “A.R.Rahman- Spirit of Music”. Here is a short review of the same.

The book was extensively publicized and launched early this year by Mani Ratnam. NDTV had a nice launch interview with ARR that can be found here.

I finished the book in a few sittings with a toddler doing his best to disrupt my rhythm almost every time I sat down with the book. The primary reason was that the book is a short read which may or may not appeal to the audience. The book is a set of interviews between the author and the music maestro and feels like a single long interview. Credit to the author for keeping the flow consistent across multiple sittings with ARR. Nasreen Munni Kabir, the author comes to the book with impressive movie biography credentials and it shows in her knowledge of the domain and its current and past players. Her understanding of music across multiple Indian languages also lends credibility to the text.

Spirit of Music

The book has some interesting and rare photos of ARR with different collaborators and his family. The family shots are truly rare given the media shy personality that ARR is (the book has some interesting tidbits on why he chooses to be media shy). Also interesting is his thoughts and experiences collaborating with diverse masters ranging from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Manirathnam, from Gulzar to Danny Boyle and from Shankar to Ashutosh Gowariker.

The best part about the book in my opinion is ARR’s struggle to the top and how his family supported him through the process. It is a remarkable journey of a boy with the burden of his family at a young age but also their support through his lean years.

A bonus to the book is a CD that comes with some early and some experimental music from ARR’s vast archives.

CD

Other reviews of the book can be found here, here and here.

I liked the book and recommend it.

Spirit of Music

Movie Review: Waiting for Superman

Poster

For a long time I believed that the only purpose of cinema was to provide entertainment. I avoided tragedys and dramas. I lapped up comedies, heist movies, fantasy, superhero sagas and sci-fi genres as quickly as they made them. Then I became a dad.

Along with the total lack of time to watch anything, came a need to understand things better, a need to be savvy and educated in a lot of areas left unexplored. Thus happened my love with documentaries. I am now an avid documentary lover and unabashedly so. Here is my second documentary review for my blog on a remarkable piece of work I saw recently- Waiting for superman.

“Waiting for Superman” is a documentary on the state of education in United States today. It follows the lives of a few kids from different parts of the country and how the education system is not helping them achieve their goals. Specifically it talks about how there is a widening rift between the “great” schools which typically support affluent neighborhoods with the best teachers and the “dropout factories” across much of lower and middle class neighborhoods in America. Kids with potential are being supressed by the lack of good teaching and facilities that less capable but more fortunate kids get. The stories are hearbreaking and the situation is dire.

Davis Guggenheim, who helmed the climate wakeup call “An Inconvenient Truth” handles something more personal and more immediate here. The state of education in this country is something that affects all of us and is captured in a way that makes you want to do more. Private schools are not for everyone. And good education must be something that is available to everyone. The documentary makes a great case for that.

“Waiting for Superman” also highlights the political nature of the teaching system, its all powerful unions and how it affects the kind of teachers that our kids get to learn from. There is a lot to worry and not much hope in things changing for the better in this regard. While charter schools are championed in the documentary, the limited number of them coupled with the increasing budget cuts that they are subjected to, makes them less available to everyone. Some specific schools that offer a unique approach to education like Summit Prep in Redwood City, CA are also highlighted.

Overall, the documentary is an eye-opener. One that I very strongly recommend everyone to see and learn from. Irrespective of your political leanings and opinions, this is a view of the state of education in a country which prides itself in being one of the most advanced nations in the world.

I would recommend that you atleast watch the trailer. There a lot of other reviews in imdb if you are interested. The official website is now a trove of information and suggested ideas of how to change the education system in the US. The Bluray/DVD is available for sale and on Netflix.

On a parting note, if you do enjoy the documentary, a few others on the same topic are recommended thus. I am yet to watch these, just so you know.

1. The Cartel

2. The Lottery