July 22, 2008

Movie review: The Dark Knight

Is there a darker, more troubled comic-book superhero than Batman? I, for one, have always felt that Batman is the most complex, lonely, troubled and dark superhero of all. Aside from the unnecessary Robin, the only other person he has is Alfred. Superman has his Lois Lane and Spiderman is now married to MJ. Batman has a long list of both enemies and ex-lovers. Anyway. Bottom line, I love Batman. He is, and always will be my fav superhero and by far the most fascinating.
Most of the Batman movies, in keeping with the comic, have tried to portray the movies as dark (at least in lighting) as they could. You wouldn’t see too many day shots in a Batman movie. But with their plastic suits and target audience as kids, none of the Batman movies could become more than comic book characters come alive. Which is where Chris Nolan’s Batman movies differ. They have intelligent, involved storylines and strong emphasis on character. And strong performances as well.
Heath Ledger as the Joker is outstanding. Move aside all ye Jim Carreys and Jack Nicholsons. This Joker is here to stay as the most creepy, sinister and evil of all. Christian Bale portrays Batman as I think Batman should be – not making eyes at females or wearing his heart on his sleeve but a suave, seemingly-cold, playboy with extravagances that go hand in hand with being someone more interested in adding to his trust fund. But most of all, he plays it with a rigid control that sometimes explodes revealing the underlying, ever-present brutal violence and rage.
The storyline is involved and doesn’t depend upon making caricatures of the characters. The why-they-became-what-they-were Joker or Penguin angle in most of the Batman movies had been hashed and then hashed again ad nauseum. Nothing of that sort here. No Joker laughing maniacally, evilly. The evil arises from his sheer ruthlessness. The special effects are awesome and so are some of the stunts. This time, Gotham is not depicted to be in a land far far away, rather, it looks like present day New York. Also, this time around Batman has a posse of good guys on his side who actually help him and kick asses on their own and no, none of them are superheroes.
The first half of the movie is spectacular, gripping and fast paced. The second lags in pace (but only coz you can compare it to the slicker first half.). The plot-line has a series of sub-plots and none pulls the movie back. The cast, is great in their roles. Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordan, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent (will see more of him in the next installment of the movie), Micheal Caine reprising his role of Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Heath Ledger as the most chillingly murderous Joker ever, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes and above all Christian Bale as the most dishiest of Batmans (Batmen?? Nah that doesn’t sound right.) ever.
But the thing I like most, is the movie is devoid of marketing gimmicks or publicity gimmicks. Its USP would be its story, characters and stunts. If anything negative, I would say the director takes himself too seriously, but then if the results are so good, hey!! Though I wish they would consider chopping a bit of the 150+ minute running time. Might just be my favorite Batman movie ever. Unless the next one turns to be even better….

July 18, 2008

A belated Earth Day post

Warning – long, preachy kinda post. Actually, it’s a list of all that you, as an individual can do to lessen your carbon footprint and in the process save some money too. If one of your resolutions this year was adopting ways that would be more environmental-friendly (and if its not, well, it should be) then here are some pointers on how to go about it. Some of these I had started ages back and some are newly discovered ones. Hope this helps and hey if you know of any more – let me know….

1. Repeat after me: I will not buy a bulb ever again. A humble bulb, you say??? Duh, haven't been reading up on your resolution, have you? Ok, remedy: Google. Duh! Or goto BanTheBulb and sign their petition. And please don't end it at that, replace every bulb in your house, yes, including the one in your bathroom with a CFL. Yes, I know it costs more than a bulb does. But your electricity bill drops, so, it’s a great tradeoff.

2. Don't buy more paper than you can grow. This one is assuming that you do your bit, at least once a year, by planting at least 2-4 trees. You don’t? Well, I guess you know what I have to say to that. Get off your fat bottom and do it!! Oh, and there is environmental-friendly paper out there. There is a factory in Delhi that makes paper from elephant dung. No, I kid you not. Check it out, its called the elephant poo paper. Hey, don't snigger!! At least, someone is trying to make up for the crap you dole out in kilos every day.

3. In a city like Mumbai or Delhi, traveling by your own car is a luxury that you get addicted to before you can say 'Duh'. The public transport in both these cities, long distance at least, is good. No, I am not saying try to get into a over-crowded local train. That extreme is for morons like me ;). You guys can start out small by sharing a rickshaw (even if it is an LPG one), car pooling, making sure that you absolutely can't take the time to travel by train before choosing a airplane and small things like that. Yes, I know, it requires a little patience to wait for the eternally late guy to clamber into the car pool, but hey, you can do that much!! Compare that to the stress of driving yourself to work every day: exactly, the aggravating guy is peanuts!!

4. In Mumbai, there is a ban on handing out veggies and other supermarket stuff in plastic bags of a certain type. The other grade ones are expensive and not cost effective for the vegetable vendors and so they refuse to hand out plastics. They would rather you don't buy veggies from them than run the risk of incurring a huge fine. Yea!!! Please, oh please, invest in cloth bags. If you try, you will find nice looking ones too!!

5. Another way of reducing paper usage/wastage: gift wrapping paper. I feel very strongly about this – ever since my wedding. The amount of plastic and paper wrapping we had to discard was horrifying. Remedy: buy bright cheap cloth from your friendly wholesale guy the next time you go into town and use these for wrapping. They are reusable, washable and (here is the kicker) makes your gift stand out among the paper and plastic ones. Plus, when you hand the gift, it makes a great impression and you can tell them to pass the wrapping on.

6. Restrict yourself to a bucket of water for your bath or a five minute shower every weekday. This not only saves lots of water and time, it also makes your weekend baths a relaxing, luxurious affair.

7. Summer: open your windows to let in the sun and the wind. You won't require the fan or AC. Open your windows in the winter as well. A closed house is a cold house. Monsoons: Open your windows. The dull, damp feeling will vanish as soon as the wind brings in the smell of the wet earth. Grab that cup of tea and relax.

8. Don't leave the tv/dvd player/computer/set-top box in sleep mode. You are not using it, right? Switch off the mains as well. Yes, this does make a difference.

9. There is nothing different in a can of cola that the glass bottle doesn't have. Cool factor, you say?? Not only are you adding sugar to your bloodstream, you are adding to the non-biodegradable waste. And all for looking cool?? Sorry, the logic escapes me.

10. Use products that have the least packaging. Could you really tell the difference, between small bites of say, a Perk or a Kit-Kat?? I can't. So, every time, I feel like having either, I go for a Perk. It has only one layer of wrapping. Need I say more?

11. It is not going to be long (it’s already started actually) before buying stuff from companies that are famous for its environment-friendly procedures is actually fashionable and the norm. No, it’s not impractical. It’s along the same lines as not buying a product that has been tested on animals. Simple.

12. Another way to reduce your paper consumption. Talk to your bank, credit card and mobile service providers and tell them that you would prefer an e-bill to an actual hard copy. Almost every bank and mobile service provider has the facility of an e-bill and they will gladly process your request. It’s easier for them too, see.

13. Coffee break at office?? Try not to use the dreaded styrofoam cup or the disposable plastic one either. Your desk will look better if you keep a nice stone/china mug on it. Use it for you coffee and rinse it with plain water afterwards. The office boy will wash it for you if you want. Or else, talk to your office canteen/mess guy and talk him into washing your mug with the rest of his stuff.

14. If you live in a metro, the you can Recycle, recycle, recycle.

15. Live in an eternally sunny city? Rejoice: a solar water heater will reduce your power bill by half. Yes, the electric water heater is a power sucker!!

16. End of the post near. Whenever you leave your desk, after you press Ctrl+Alt+Del, do switch off the monitor. You will be amazed at how much power is saved if you do this everyday during your lunch and coffee breaks. At the end of the day, after shutting down your computer, turn off the main switch or your monitor will be on standby. (Hadn't realised this, had you?)

That’s it for now. Will add to this list, whenever I think of any more. Till then, do you know of more ways to save electricity, petrol or water?

July 9, 2008

Remember when...

..it was fun writing code, experimenting with various logic and seeking out new technologies?

..it was fun 'helping' your ma make pickles/papads/pharal?

..you used to sit in patch of warm sunlight, near a window looking out on a rainy day with the grass all green, with a steaming cup of chai and a delicious book in your hands?

..playing games on the pc was for fun. More fun if you finish it faster than your friend who is playing at his place? What if I finish this level earlier than him? Lets try. Fast fast fast. Finish this game fast. Wait, there could be a cheat for this!! Voila, found it!!

..riding on the bike just for the heck of it was the ultimate freedom high you could get? And the scene from atop the mountain, looking at the cow who seems like an ant now and musing how inconsequential it all seemed.

..you would wonder why the adults steamed ad infinitum about some incompetent guy/gal at work when they are trying to watch something on TV they ACTUALLY want to [and you have sacrificed your FRIENDS episode for]?

..you skipped home on a day when you had to stay back in school coz it was pouring and how the dew was soft and the wind cool on your face.

And I remember how I used to hate going to dance class on weekends. It was like having tons of homework on weekends or during holidays!!

Why do I remember this? Coz, today:

..if I have to write one more line of code / have to evaluate the feasibility of one more new technology, I would kill myself.

..even the thought of making pickles/pharal seems so tiring and ridiculously-eating-into-your-time that its difficult to comprehend why people do it 'now-a-days'

..I want to chuck work, and sit at home to play games. Praying after every level I finish, that they have enough levels left for me to escape into. [Is it just me, or are games nowadays shorter than they used to be?]

..the idea of riding a bike brings forth an image of sitting in front of a 15-year old diesel truck with zilch maintenance and a bigger carbon imprint than 10 families can make in 10 generations. Freedom?

..I hate the guy who jams the copier, the guy who sits next to A, the female who thinks that the whole corridor should listen to her talk to her boyfriend, the moron in my team who takes enough leave to declare him as a guest to our office....

..staggering home on a day when you had to sit back in office due to the incessant rain that you did not want to wade through and instead chose to stay back and complete the pending work.

Today, to me, dance seems to be the best way to channel aggression and release stress.

Don’t you miss those hazy, lazy days when the world was much simpler and life carefree? But some things remain same forever. Reading books, steaming cups of chai, the occasional cricket win, the consistently bland, unbelievable Bollywood movies. Thank God for these :)

July 6, 2008

It raining sales....

Yup, its that time of the season again... End of season. Which only means one thing to a shopaholic, bargain-hunter like me - it time to splurge!! Yea! Loosen those purse-strings, step into your most comfortable walking shoes coz once you enter a mall, you are going to need them!! Come next weekend and almost every shop is going to be sporting a Upto-xyz%-Sale board. And am a sucker for those. Earlier this friday, I open the paper and shriek, and hubby knows he is in for some heavy-duty coolie-giri. (Hey, don't feel sad for him, he gets his share of stuff too you know!!) What did I see in the paper? On a single page, vying for you attention are the Mango, Charles and Keith, Aldo sales. I am sorry, I didn't notice the others. I was already mentally calculating and at the same time dressing up. You see, the rationalization - at least for me- goes like this. You save for about three months and then splurge it all during the sale. The glow of the splurge will last you for the next three months, I guarantee you. And if it doesn't, well the marketing people come up with great ways in which you can spend without a guilt-attack at midnight. Or you could visit Colaba Causeway. But, once in a while, actually, once in a really long while you get a great deal. Like yesterday's Van Heusen's One Day Affair. This was one great offer and surprisingly, they didn't advertise in the papers. I got my invite online through various e-newsletters (yes, I actually subscribe and read them and that is why I was at the sale and you weren't ;)). Basically, whatever amount you spend on menswear, you get womenswear for that amount free. Steal!! And to add to it, I love Van Heusen stuff. So suffice to say, I am through my sale shopping this season, even before the sales started!! And that is a record if anything. I promise, that the next time I get one of these deals, will post it immediately.
Btw, the pic is of a clutch I picked up at Colaba Causeway last weekend. The craftsmanship is simply superb, the finishing is good enough to stand a cursory examination and hell, the interior is lined with satin. At 150 bucks, you can't ask for a better bargain. But, sadly, I didn't get what I actually was looking for - a Bottega Veneta knock-off. Couldn't find one. If you know which shops there I can get one in, please please let me know. Meanwhile, I have decided to post on all the great shopping places that I chance upon. And just so you know, I love the malls, the small around-the-corner-stores and the one-off quirky merchandise available online. So along with movie reviews, restaurant experiences you can now look forward to this bargain-hunter's steals. Hope you enjoy!!

Movie review: Jaane tu... ya jaane na

If you are in the mood for nostalgia, candyfloss, good laugh, clean entertainment and bollywood-esque movie climaxes, then this is the movie to watch. The movie engages you from the get go. The cast of fresh new faces and the veterans are marvelous and make the movie simply put, a must-watch. The movie has a fresh feel that the promotions had, the characters have, the locations - all Mumbai - are great but what you really latch onto is the narrative, which is superbly done.
The movie spools as a story-telling/reminiscing session in a group of friends and that in itself could have been terribly handled, but is superbly done. The characters are all one-dimensional - some incidents and character motivations completely illogical - but you don't realise this while you are enjoying this movie. The humour is ever-present, clean and peppered throughout the movie. I think we can all expect great movies from Abbas Tyrewala, he not only manages to elicit great performances from the veterans, but also gets effortless, unforced and sometimes completely frank performances from the newcomers. Both Genelia and Imran seemed like they just walked in front of the camera and played themselves - they both seemed that comfortable in front of the camera and with the lines. Performance-wise I think the best would have to be hands-down Ratna Pathak Shah who not only has a great character to play but does so with great aplomb. The roles of Naseeruddin Shah, Jayant Kriplani, Anuradha Patel, Paresh Rawal are not major ones but they are superbly cast and they do justice to their respective characters superbly. Cameos by Rajat Kapoor and Kitu Gidwani, Sohail Khan and Arbaaz Khan are nicely done and in the latter case, bring comic relief like no other. I am pleasantly surprised, looking back now, that not one actor seemed out of place or had overacted. The casting by Purbi is nothing short of brilliant. The music score is definitely young and hummable. The dialogue, scenes, stories, side-stories, movie settings, clothes are all superb.
The usual, cliched, over-the-top, jhisa-pita bollywood-ishtyle climax seems incongruous later, but in the movie seems completely keeping with the movie story. Interestingly, not even one scene is shot in any college classroom - indeed only one song gives you a glimpse of the college that the young actors attend. So this movie just catches the kids between classes, after classes, after college and between jobs.
But what really hooks you is the young, colleg-y feel of this movie that makes you reminisce fondly about your gang in college, your friends, your addas, your stories. It speaks to you because you are reminded of your own weird group of friends, the get-outta-here happenings and carefree time and picnics. You identify with the college kids so subconsciously that you start smiling at their jokes, personalities and feeling for their, well, feelings.
Enough outta me already, go watch.


Still updating the blog theme. Will get down to the blogrolling and all soon.

A bit of this and that | Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial License | Dandy Dandilion Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates