Shot Caller

Another offering from Netflix but this one was definitely high up in my recommendations. Shot Caller is a riveting tale of the lead man with dual identities pre and posts his crime and the trials and tribulations along the way. In other words, our leading man Nicolaj Coster-Waldau as Jacob/Money is a white collar professional who inadvertently commits a crime and is sentenced to prison for a considerable time. How his outlook is shaped in prison keeps you glued eventually forcing him to commit a major crime in order to keep his family safe is the general plot ably supported by Job Bernthal.

Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Jon Bernthal, Prison Drama, Action
Shot Caller

If you get your kicks with Action and Drama then rest assured, you can sit back with your popcorn and Pepsi and enjoy this intense prison drama with a respectable rating of 7.3 on IMDB which is a significant achievement in itself and worth it.
Shot Caller is directed by Ric Roman Waugh whose previous work was the switch starring Dwayne Johnson but is a far better tale in production values, compelling storytelling, direction and a more than convincing role play of the lead actor who eases into the part of the Caucasian man who has to show the way along some mind-blowing scenes, acute acting and a twisted climax.
Worth spending your time on.

The Kingdom

This movie was released in 2007 and this is one of the offerings by Netflix to keep you hooked to the platform even though I found it uninteresting. The movie starts with an animated portrayal of the whys and the wherefores in the world, how contemporary (read American)  perspective has been formulated vis-a-vis the middle east, specifically the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which I found more fascinating and riveting compared to the whole movie but that’s a different story altogether. The movie stars Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Garner as the lead actors in the roles of FBI agents and interesting trivia to note courtesy IMDB is that Jennifer Garner actually fainted a couple of time in Phoenix while shooting because the temperature was 115F.

Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, FBI, Terrorism, Drama, Action
The Kingdom

The movie is about an FBI field operative who is killed in an American housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and how an FBI team is able to get access “on the ground” for five days in order to investigate and hopefully get clues to solve the heinous crime that costs American lives.

The world is a lot more paranoid with terrorism creating a whole new dimension after 9/11 but somehow the movie is not able to capitalize on the relevance by being impactful in an obvious manner. It is too slick, too Hollywoodesque to appeal to the senses and the critics alike. This movie also plays into the geopolitics of the region because of America’s proximity of Israel, the only other tangent more important is the bonhomie and symbiotic relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. It is not too hard to fathom the reasons for coming up with a screenplay such as this considering the underlying equations between nations and the movie caters to a global audience without too much noise. Conventional storytelling with not too much room for guesswork describes this movie in two words- Time Pass.

The Gambler

Jim Bennett is your atypical gambler who is a literature professor by day who raises a debt with his mom and a loan shark to feed his gambling cravings and risks it all. He is also in a relationship with one of his students so what does happen in the movie? Does our protagonist played by the intense Mark Wahlberg able to save the day? Does his relationship with his student played by Brie Larson reach a happy ending? Is Jim able to reconcile with his mother? What are the dynamics of the loan shark? All this and much more from one of my favourite actors who was also the highest paid in 2017 comes a movie by the writer, William Monahan, who gave us The Departed, Body of Lies and other films of note. The tagline is also catchy by stating,” the only way out is all in.”

Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson, Jim Bennett, William Monahan, John Goodman
The Gambler

Jim Bennett is his own worst enemy because of his gambling addiction which leads to a tumultuous personal and professional outlook and herein lies the genius behind the character because it is Mr Wahlberg who lends a credibility and a class coupled with his brooding good looks that make this movie engaging and worth a watch. This was an offering by Netflix and IMDB gives it a rating of six though it deserves more according to me.

The Gambler is a remake of the 1974 original of the same name and has some eye-catching performances by the lead actors including Jessica Lange as the distressed mother and John Goodman’s convincing portrayal of a loan shark who takes an affinity for Jim. The movie has enough in it to keep you engrossed and is your quintessential Hollywood flick to be enjoyed without applying too many tangents.

Melodrama Inc.

This post is close to my heart because it is about the dichotomy that exists in my country and the kind of current affairs that is dished out in the name of news and the complete impunity with which news channels function with utter disregard for public sensibilities and only caring about the sensationalism. Today, I was stupefied with what was on offer on one of the Hindi news channels and couldn’t hold back. The news was about two murders that have recently taken place in Mumbai because there was a paucity of toilets and a couple of unfortunate souls couldn’t make it in time.

Hindi News, Sensationalism, Trying to make it to the toilet in time
Melodrama

Why would anyone with a sane head on their shoulders try and portray “trying to make it to the toilet in time” and look for eyeballs and TRPs (Television Rating Points) which is exactly what a news correspondent did by showcasing that it indeed took somewhere between 15-30 minutes in a melee to make it for a dump by carrying your share of water to flush the toilet.

With all due respect to the hinterland and the not so privileged countrymen, these things are a daily occurrence for the majority and there are innumerable hardships involved but for God sake, to stoop so low for the limelight. Travel in any major metropolitan, a developed city in India and there would be plenty defecating in the open and pissing in the wind, pun unintended. Westerners have a hard time trying to reconcile with the reality but that’s the way it is. I even have another post on it, “to pee or not to pee” and how it affects the human psyche.
My intention is not to browbeat but give perspective to a real third world problem and something that I am not ashamed of. It happens only in India.

Red Sparrow

After overdosing on Netflix and Amazon Prime rather not really finding a flick which I wanted to see, I finally opened my YouTube movie account by paying for Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton and Jeremy Irons. The film is about a ballerina Dominika who is recruited into “Sparrow School”, a Russian Intelligence facility where recruits are trained in the art of seduction and how to use their bodies. Dominica on her first assignment is sent to target an FBI agent and how the security of the two nations is compromised by their actions. Going by IMDB estimates, the box office collection for the movie was a flop in the US but more than made up for it with its worldwide gross.

Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons, YouTube movie
Red Sparrow

Any movie that delves into spy, espionage genre is something that does not require an invitation and not to mention a certain Jennifer Lawrence in the guise of a spy trained as a “player” is compelling viewing. The movie is based on a book by Jason Matthews and for me, it was a one time watch going by the star cast alone. Since my wife and kid have gone out of town for a few days, Alicia Vikander in Ex machina and now Jennifer Lawrence give me a renewed belief in girl-power without sounding sexist.

Ex Machina

Masterpiece, a work of art is how I would describe Ex Machina as a film because Alex Garland would not be able to outdo himself with what he has offered through this. Science fiction as a genre is something that I prefer to stay away from as a matter of choice but I would definitely recommend Ex Machina because it is a must watch.

Alicia Vikander, Alex Garland, Oscar Isaac, AI, Trivia
Ex Machina

The story revolves around Caleb played by Domhnall Gleeson who wins a competition and is selected to go to a retreat in order to participate in an intriguing experiment about a humanoid robot functioning on AI through his CEO. The nuances in the film have been expertly handled and the contrast in terms of the characters and the locales is mesmerising. Alicia Vikander nails the portrayal of the humanoid as is convincing in the character.

Such instances as depicted in the movie may not be too far-fetched or might just begin to happen in the not too distant future given the world that we are living in. I’d like to leave you with some interesting trivia about AI or Artificial Intelligence.
The primary protagonists in the AI race are Elon Musk, the embattled head of Tesla and SpaceX who believes that AI like every form of technology should be regulated as it has been since humans started mass production from cars, movies etc. On the other hand, we have Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Facebook who believes that AI should not be regulated given that his chat bots based on AI are regulating what we interact on it. Now, Facebook had to shut their AI chatbots because they started conversing in a language that humans could not understand and there lies the conundrum.
Similarly, the movie raises pertinent points which make you ponder and you linger on the subject long after the movie has finished.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fck

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fck, a counterintuitive approach to living a good life, is the first book by blogger and author Mark Manson and it was a breeze with a lot of long-forgotten stories, liberal doses of advising considering the former dating guru were giving some pointers and a weird mixture of John Gray/ Paulo Coelho to give a self-help book par excellence. It is not too hard to imagine why Mark Manson was a superstar blogger and why the book was a natural progression to his proclivities.

Mark Manson, Harper One, book review, Non-fiction
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fck

The book was published by HarperOne, a part of the Harper Collins publishers in 2016 and has gone to get worldwide popularity with the ease of writing and the fact that the liberal font size and spacing do not make it too laborious a read. The reason why I wanted to read it is that it was the rage in the office with a few of my colleagues raving about it and I had to get my hands on it. 

The writer definitely has a flair for writing but also because he can relay advise which does not preach and is relatable to a millennial growing up in an age where they can video calls before they can say gaga, pun unintended. 
Definite read over the weekend and something that can be done with no strings attached or a feeling of guilt.

Operation Finale

This is a Netflix original film about the true story of the architect of the “Final Solution” Adolph Eichmann and how he was apprehended by Mossad agents in Buenos Aires, Argentina around 1960. Given the plot was Holocaust, the film could have been so much more but lacks in the pace and the overall effect that could have been nailed to the “T.”

Final Solution, Adolph Eichmann, Ben Kingsley, Osacar Isaac, Netflix original film
Operation Finale

This movie is in a steady stream of topics related to the Holocaust following on from The Resistance Banker and has accomplished actors led by Ben Kingsley as Adolph Eichmann who is the arch-enemy of the Mossad agent Peter Malkin played  by Oscar Isaac but the movie is badly let down by Director Chris Weitz considering the complexity of the plot, the fact that it is true and the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis has left an indelible mark on the conscious.

Turned out to be a damp squib and an opportunity lost on a sensitive topic.

Hyena Road

This is a movie review of Hyena Road which I saw on Amazon Prime and trust me, it is nothing to write home, pun intended. It is a Canadian war movie about forces on the ground trying to stage reconstruction works in war-torn, read Kandahar, Afghanistan with an interplay of characters from the armed forces and how it all pans out. No way am I trying to disrespect the Canadian narrative but the US box office collection according to IMDB is an abysmal $1,430. Yes, you read that right. I mean, I saw the movie a month back and how hard could it be to write something about it, correct?

Amazon Prime, Canadian War Movie
Hyena Road

Indian readers would do well to remember that Kandahar is the same godforsaken place where the hijacked IC-814 was taken to in 1999 and in exchange of the safety of the passengers, we had to let go three of the most dreaded terrorists who are creating “noise” till today.

You have a romantic subplot between a sniper and an officer, there is a dire situation where the combatants have to take refuge in a village wherein they are saved by an Afghan legend, pun intended, intelligence officer wants to meet the legend, kidnapping of local girls, a fatality, get the drift? For me, it was more of a jamboree since it did not have the usual chutzpah of a Hollywood propaganda flick. Pardon my perspective, no intention to be demeaning. Watch it, if only you have to.

The Dictator

Another movie in the Amazon Prime fold is The Dictator starring the irreplaceable Sacha Baron Cohen as Aladeen/ Efawadh but frankly, I did not enjoy one bit. The movie did not elicit a single laugh or even a smirk since I am hardly into slapstick comedy and a play on puns and cliches across cultural boundaries. The plot is plain and simple wherein The Republic of Wadiya dictator Hafez Aladeen attends the UN general assembly in New York when the trip goes awry.

Sacha Baron Cohen, Republic of Wadiya, Ali G, Borat, Ben Kingsley
The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen is no doubt a funny man and he first made an impression with his roleplay of Ali G and I can never forget the sense of humour on display when he interviewed David and Victoria Beckham. Borat was his attempt to be on the mainstream having conquered the wits on the telly and the Dictator builds on that legacy but for me, it is a dying art form. However, my friends would beg to differ considering the majority of them swear by what is on offer in the movie and they find it genuinely funny. Really?

Gone Girl

This movie was again a “Prime” offering and is based on a novel by Gillian Flynn of the same name. The movie stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne and Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne and the first scene is a coincidence between the reel and the real life considering Nick is drinking at his sister’s bar while Ben has recently admitted to his trials and tribulations with alcohol addiction. No harm intended.

Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Gillian Flynn, Prime
Gone Girl

The cast has done a fabulous job in doing justice to the characters etched out in the novel even though I haven’t read it but it is my assumption. The story revolves around Nick Dunne’s wife Amy reported missing on their fifth anniversary and through the twists and turns you begin to wonder if Nick has indeed killed her. I’d like to go out on a limb by stating that Rosamund Pike has given a career-defining performance and she wouldn’t get a similar woman-oriented subject anytime soon. Ben Affleck is breezy as the husband in the doldrums looking at a doomsday scenario while the direction is crisp. Definitely worth a watch considering the movie is based on a best-seller and was a worldwide hit according to IMDB.

The Dark Tower

The biggest advantage that Amazon Prime has over Netflix is that it caters to the masses by doling out movies with popular cast and characters and sure enough. The Dark Tower falls in that category. It has a superstar cast with Idris Elba playing Roland and Mathew McConaughey playing the Black Man. The movie is based on the Dark Tower series of novels by Stephen King and he is synonymous with eerie settings, to put it mildly.  I have heard so much about the novelist and the horror that he dishes out that a collection of novels that I am reading currently, Stephen King’s The Shining is the last one that I am hoping to complete considering the feedback I’ve got from people.

Idris Elba, Mathew McConaughey, Stephen King
The Dark Tower

Brace yourself since the picturization has a dark theme to it against a backdrop of a plain and simple good vs evil plot between Roland and The Black Man in order to save the world. Going by IMDB estimates, the movie was a flop since the returns even on a worldwide scale were not enough to salvage the case which is a pity since I watched it alone for the stars. Not to mention Idris Elba who might be the next Bond going by his controversial tweet after Daniel Craig which remains to be seen. However, Mr Elba has made it to the big league and this movie shouldn’t act as a spanner in the works. One time watch. 

Sully

Amonsgt the numerous Clint Eastwood movies that I have watched such as Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby, American Sniper, Unforgiven and now Sully, most of the movies have common traits such as taut storyline, direction par excellence, riveting acting and it was no different this time around. Sully is about Chesley Sullenberger, a commercial airline pilot, who performed the “miracle on the Hudson” by landing his aeroplane on a water body and as a consequnce saved the lives of the passengers and crew.

Tom Hanks, Miracle on the Hudson, Air Crash Investigation, Clint Eastwood, Chesley Sullenberger
Sully

The happening in itself created ripples, pardon the pun, across frontiers and was aptly titled as the “Miracle on the Hudson” but the movie also delves into the aftermath of assigning accountability rather than get carried away at the moment. Mention of the movie cannot be complete without assigning credit to the acting prowess of Tom Hanks who leaves little to the imagination by bringing alive the real-life hero Chesley Sullenberger ably supported by his co-pilot played by Aaron Eckhart. Thumbs up to the movie and definitely worth a watch.

Century and Counting

Ta Ta Tara, Ta Ta Tara… Couldn’t have come up with a better rendition than to celebrate my century of posts with Fall Out Boy’s cover of Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner by the name of Century for a more contemporary feel. Been writing blogs since 2010 and boy has it taken a long time coming for me to accomplish 100 posts. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then so to speak. If you’ve been following my blog then you’d know what I’m talking about. Let me rewind. Running away from the house for 54 days, the curse of the Olimelt and other antipsychotic drugs, not doing too well in my business venture and then eventually getting caught in the rat race. Hopefully, the next 100 would be a breeze in comparison because blogging gives a vent to my creative juices and even when I advertised my blog on Google and was spending from my own pocket for people to read the blog, not once did I repent or had second thoughts because when you are creating something, the mass adulation and the liking of your work is secondary. More importantly, it is about trying to reach the widest audience, not for acceptance but to know and realize the power of your tool and utilize it for the better across boundaries and timelines. This reminds me of the dialogue in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility” or you can tweak 50 Cent’s album name by stating “Get busy or Die trying.”

Century, Suzanne Vega-Tom's Diner, Fall Out Boy- Century, 50 Cent, 100 Blog Posts
Fall Out Boy-Century

At the cost of sounding philosophical, being opinionated also helps with a gift of the gab to hold forth on varied topics and without sounding pompous, justify. Worse case scenario could be something to leave my child to remember me by and learn from my writings or the freedom to express the wholeheartedly. Ultimately, this is what matters, the family is what binds us and that is what we live for. The rest is secondary. Within a few years, I would be staring at my mid-life crisis or a whole new existential ball game but like my Dad likes to say,” Life is not what it should be, life is what it is”

Project Tattoo

It all started one night in a call centre when one of my friends started talking about his cousin who was a tattoo artist and who could do the entire arm for a pittance. There was no stopping my imagination after that because the seed had been sown and there was no turning back. I immersed myself into getting my entire arm done by first convincing my better half that it was OK while she said that it was the influence of the crowd and that I wasn’t thinking straight. One of the perks of being married is I didn’t have to bring my parents into confidence.
C'est La Vie, Tattoo, Birthday Celebration
Tattoo

The bicep would be my infant son’s face on a graduating man replete with coat and cap while the inner portion would depict a family tree without any names in it, more as symbolism. The forearm would have pride of place for the Manchester United Devil symbol across most of it. There would be sayings as well such as Cest La Vie(That’s Life) and Carpe Diem(Seize the Day). The arm would have a tablet to denote my life which cannot be governed without ingesting one and also the symbol for Ethereum or Ether, the cryptocurrency. Took me a good six months of diligent research and what I actually wanted and something that I wouldn’t regret for the rest of my life.
D-Day arrived which was my 36th birthday and I went to the tattoo artist’s studio in the neighbourhood who had become a good friend by that time trying to understand the reasoning and intricacies involved in what he had to deliver. Hygiene-Check; Needles-Check, Rotor-Check.
Should have been smooth sailing, right, having planned to the “T”. Not quite.
Whenever you get a tattoo done then always start with a small work so that one can gauge how the body reacts and act accordingly. So, we started with Cest La Vie but nothing in the whole wide world prepared me for the irritant pain and the process to ink took me 150 minutes which was excruciatingly slow. Not to mention the maintenance part by washing the blood off with Dettol and applying Sophramycin regularly for the next three days. Also, got up with a headache the next day and with that ended my whole arm tattoo dream because it spoiled my long weekend and I didn’t want to undergo this painstakingly laborious process.
When I think of it, I was attracted to the glamour of getting a tattoo rather than make up my mind and “get it done”. Still, no regrets, I am quite glad the way it turned out and have put a full stop to any such future plan. Lo and behold

Jason Bourne

Man oh man I love this franchise. Trust me, even if Jason Bourne was peeling onions for a living, I would still watch it. It is that good even though IMDB gives it a rating of 6.6 for your action thriller genre replete with an awesome star cast consisting of Matt Damon, reprising his role, like Jason Bourne, Tommy Lee Jones as the head of the CIA, Alicia Vikander as another CIA operative and Julia Stiles as Nikki Parsons.

Jason Bourne, Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander
Jason Bourne

Nikki Parsons downloads the Black Ops files containing information about Jason Bourne which the CIA gets to know and they hunt for Ms Parsons cos she works for a whistleblower and Jason Bourne joins the melee. Simple, yeah?

Haven’t missed a single instalment of the franchise and wouldn’t make an exception starting with this one. It is every adult man’s fantasy come alive with hot chicks, guns and vengeance on the mind. The more I think about Alicia Vikander, the more I fall for her. Daniel Craig is to James Bond what Matt Damon is to Jason Bourne and I am not complaining. Watch it without a care in the world.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

According to the grapevine, the movie was supposed to be named What The F**k but was considered too offensive for the public at large. Nevertheless, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a laugh riot and a must watch because it is a true story of Kim Baker enacted by the competent Tina Fey in war-torn Afghanistan in 2003 and what it entails from a woman’s perspective when you have the local population in the backdrop in Hijabs and typical Islamic sensibilities.

Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, War in Afghanistan, Kim Baker
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

The war in Afghanistan has many narratives but this is unique considering the mela (Indian Carnival) of a life that the journalists led and are leading till now in the backdrop of bombs and guns going off fearing for their lives and how in the midst one can have a hookah, wedding, meal, off the record scandals, kidnapping, affairs pretty much similar to the developed world aka New York. Tina Fey probably made Ms Baker proud with her acting prowess while I was blown away, not so much by the acting prowess, by Margot Robbie who is a star in the making just like Kirsten Stewart or Jennifer Lawrence. 

The movie has everything that would expect and not so much from a war theatre but what wins hands down is the sense of humour and poise on display. Certainly, some of the things are least expected in such a scenario but you can forget about slapstick or stand up while watching this. Sorry, Kevin Hart.

Race

The only genre that Netflix falls short on is the fact that it does not cater to the sports aficionado with sport-centric films in its kitty. However, Race is an exception to the rule because it is a true story based on the life and times of Jesse or JC Owens. Wheat or Rice is the staple food in a diet and similarly, 100m is the staple of any track and field event having been brought up in a sorta-kinda generation teeming with superstars such as the indomitable Carl Lewis, the infamy of Ben Johnson, the fast Maurice Green, the faster still and superlative Usain Bolt, the 400m champ Michael Johnson to name a few. This is about the original superstar of the early part of the 20th century mired in world war two competing against Hitler’s vision of Aryan Supremacy. Not to forget the sacrifices and the hard work that Mr Owens had to put growing up to be the athlete he envisioned.

Jesse Owens, Aryan Supremacy, World War two, Munich 1936, Olympics
Race

The movie shows the trials and tribulations that Jesse Owens has to go through earning a living and being a student eventually culminating in The Munich Olympics of 1936 with both Hitler and Jesse at the peak of their powers. The movie also delves into the social commentary of the times with racial segregation putting a blot on a champion sprinter for no fault of his but the personality of the individual takes everything in his stride and is a role model in his life for young and old alike. 

I would suggest a watch considering a dearth of options and a hero worth remembering just in case you forgot about a Mr Lance Armstrong or watch the movie Icarus which shows the systematic doping prevalent in Russian sports and how they can circumvent an entire system.

The Wall

One of the “prime” reasons why Amazon and Netflix is a lopsided contest is because the fare on offer on Amazon Prime is limited and segregated for the geography rather than creating its own niche and The Wall is a case in point. Average, abysmal, sorry are the words I would use to describe the movie starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena in a blink and you miss my role, not to forget an invisible sniper with the vocal chords of Mick Jagger and an aim akin to a laser.

Amazon Prime, John Cena, US Marines, Sniper
The Wall

The story revolves around US Marines taking on an Iraqi sniper par excellence and the less said the better about the acting prowess of B-Grade Dwayne Johnson, sorry, John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Sad state of affairs is what the movie is all about considering the plot and what it could have been akin to Phonebooth starring Colin Farrell. Shoddy work throughout and before I can muster more adjectives, I’d like to rest my case. Never again. Period.

The Kite Runner- Movie

Streaming service in India is witnessing a war like no other with Amazon and Netflix jostling for space and other players fast catching up. So, it was no surprise when I saw The Kite Runner as an offering on Amazon Prime having read the paperback already and an unabashed fan of Khaled Hosseini, the writer. It is my personal preference and I might be wrong that the literal medium is far superior to the visual medium given the intricacies, imagination, nuances and the eventual adaptation to screen seldom does justice to the subject matter in detail. My favourite adaptations were The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola and Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell left nothing to the imagination and were worthy adaptations of the novel. The Kite Runner, being such a major influence in the literary world and such a compelling story had to be enacted but I would still prefer the book unless you are lazy and want to take the movie shortcut.

Khalid Abdalla, Marc Forster, Afghanistan, Pashtun, Hazara, Amir
Movie – The Kite Runner

Khalid Abdalla as the Pushtun protagonist Amir is believable but sort of underplays the character given the complexity involved since Amir is someone you need to love and loathe at the same time which is missing from the movie. Some poignant scenes are depicted between Hasan and Amir but the friendship, camaraderie, bonhomie and bond between the “friends” are missing. The locales are believable as a depiction of Afghanistan and what it means for an outsider but given the constraints of a runtime of 128 minutes fails to depict the subtleties in question. The movie depicts the story of Amir who has spent a number of years in the US, returns to his homeland in order help out Hazara Hassan’s son who is in trouble with the Taliban. Decent direction by Marc Forster but I loved the novel and couldn’t ignore the movie so feel free to take your pick.

A Prayer Before Dawn

This is a true story of Billy Moore who is a boxer addicted to Ya Ba and how he is arrested and sent to one of the most notorious Thai prisons, Chiang Mai, and how he fights in Muay Tai tournaments to survive and eventually gain his freedom. This has also been expressed in a novel of the same name and currently, Billy is in the U.K tending to other addicts and helping them get back on track after getting a presidential pardon.

Billy Moore, Muay Tai, Chiang Mai, Prison
A Prayer Before Dawn
The story is well told and talking from personal experiences having been there and done that in terms of the drugs, more often than not, stories about the struggle for existence in the backdrop of addiction creates a compelling storyline since it shows the pits or the depths to which we can go to get our fix. Perke(my son), if you ever read this then try everything but the day you get addicted is when you lose the battle. Life in a prison and that too on foreign soil makes it hard even for the most hardened criminals given them proclivities but the film is worth a watch albeit on the slow side.

Safe House

Safe House is your quintessential Hollywood potboiler replete with an all-star star cast, heavy action at a fast-paced clip. This is about Matt Weston(Ryan Reynolds) manning a safe house in South Africa when a wanted ex-spy Tobin Frost(Denzel Washington) is brought in and how they have to save themselves from mercenaries till they get to the next safe destination. One time watch, period.

Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Safe House, CIA
Safe House

The characterization is slick going with the theme that if you work for the CIA then you need to have the brains and the brawn. Interesting storyline and acting which is par for the course for an actor of the calibre of Denzel Washington while Ryan Reynolds in his pre-Deadpool avatar ekes out a decent portrayal or just about manages to hold his own. The direction by Daniel Espinosa justifies the film’s billing while the locales in South Africa add to to the chutzpah. Another one from the stable of Netflix but my only grouse is why can’t we get something more contemporary and recent. Why the lag of six years?

On My Skin

This is the incredible true story of Stefano Cucchi set in Italy where he died as a part of a spate of extra-judicial killings even though he was a suspected drug dealer. The movie is slow and unless of course, one has a soft corner for peddlers or a fondness for drugs, you like true story depiction told in Italy, my humble suggestion is to not watch it.

Stefano Cucchi, Italy, Netflix
On My Skin

The reason why I wouldn’t recommend the movie is simply that eliciting confessions by torturing is par for the course in the Indian subcontinent. For this to happen the way it did given the severity of the situation brought the topic in the national subconsciousness of the Italians who probably had more than they bargained for after Silvio Berlusconi’s escapades with prostitutes. Jokes aside, the movie tries to trace the last days of Stefano Cocchi behind the bars and the events leading him to it and there were a few times I wanted to switch off, pun intended since the true stories have their own charm and an ending to boot but unfortunately the movie was lacking on several fronts. It wasn’t worth my time but if you have to watch it then watch it on your own peril.

The Angel

With the power play in the middle east always on a boil which is a never-ending saga, this is a movie review of The Angel or Ashraf Marwan, an Egyptian spy who was the son-in-law of President Nasser and whose life is celebrated across Egypt and Israel. The story, if it was actually enacted the way it is in the movie is simple enough but for a man to carry the hopes of two nations in the backdrop of an impending war as well as one that had been fought quite recently in those days is truly amazing and hats off to the makers and Netflix to bring it out for the public consumption.

Ashraf Marwan, Egypt-Israel conflict, The Angel, Mossad
The Angel

The film is based on one of my favourite topics of espionage, spy games, counterintelligence and action. In today’s world no matter how much a world leader might proclaim his/her nation’s intelligence but when it comes to intelligence gathering, then Mossad is arguably the benchmark. The tagline of the movie is also pretty apt by stating,” In the shadow of war, one man fought for peace.” The performance of the actors is top notch and the actors leave no stone unturned in helping depict a true story in every sense of the term. I was also left with my share of the doubts considering if it actually happened the way it did, then there was so much riding on one man and forsworn enemies(read countries) to put everything on the line based on a man’s word is also worth pondering over.
Since this was one of my more watchable topics, I would recommend a weekend watch by leaving everything aside for a couple of hours and immerse yourself in this epic journey.

The Resistance Banker

This is another addition in the Netflix fold in recent times where the audience at large is gifted a plethora of options in terms of world cinema. This film is a true story of the Dutch resistance against the Nazi occupation in which a large part was played by the Van Hall brothers by running an undercover banking operation for funding purposes. The story is well told and is ably supported by the lead cast and it is a one time watch for sure.

Dutch Resistance in World War Two, Undercover Banking Operation, Nazi
The Resistance Banker

The story is set in The Netherlands and the characters speak in Dutch but their inexperience or lack of popularity is hardly noticed given their able performances. Holocaust as a subject has given us innumerable stories such as Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful, The Pianist, Waltz With Bashir, Defiance etc. of courage and fortitude gave the odds at the time. The period in question is created with aplomb and there is a sense of realism in the portrayal. Even though the story is real, it took the Dutch a long time to eventually recognize the heroes(Van Hall brothers) of the war. A story well told and something I would recommend to my audience. Don’t go expecting the moon and you won’t be disappointed.  

Laissez Affair

There are seldom instances in my life that I look back on and regret but given my average Joe looks and the disproportionate vibes I am getting from all the ladies and sundry, I have begun to wander and wonder at the same time. Sure, being married keeps me grounded and is par for the course every time I get back from work but I’d like a peek into the unknown in my Nostradamus shoes.

Extra-marital affair, Office Affair, Married
Laissez Affair

Needless to add that it is every man’s eternal desire and want to get in a woman’s, lady’s or girl’s pants with no strings attached. It is not an everyday occurrence that you get a promiscuous girl like that and so the gossip caught on like wildfire that the lady in question was doing it in the parking lot with a married man and he, in turn, did not leave any stone unturned to add fuel to the fire by proclaiming she adores sex, she likes to take it anal and there is not a single strand of hair anywhere because she “waxes” eloquently. Forget the ants in the pants for a second because what gets every other(pun intended) man’s goat is when he knows that she likes to spread her legs with anybody. Now, there was no stopping my tangents and for the last couple of days, she was a constant companion in my thoughts and it was overbearing. My imagination went to such an extent that I could foresee her doing it with everybody in the office and I am the last man standing. What a predicament!

Never have I participated in the frolicking but have instead enjoyed all the gossip associated with it and so is the case this time as well. In fact, I passed it onto my better half and she came up with an instant but stern reply without blinking an eyelid and she said, “Sochna bhi mut(Don’t even think about it) !” which brought me back to square one. There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip so I won’t jump the gun with a proclamation or two but instead post an update on my confessional tale again.
Ps- With the Supreme Court passing a judgement that adultery by a woman doesn’t constitute a crime, the office is my playground or did I say too much? Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Mad Max Fury Road

First time in a long time did I watch a Tom Hardy movie but he was overshadowed by the Charlize Theron character Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road which was released in 2015 and written and directed by George Miller. The movie enjoys a rating of 8.1 on IMDB but if it was up to me then it would be nothing short of 11 on 10 considering it is an action-adventure extravaganza with a post-apocalyptical world as a backdrop and wild car chases to boot.

Mad Max Fury Road, Max Rockatansky, Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Movie review
Mad Max Fury Road

This is the fourth movie of the franchise made evergreen by Mel Gibson but this movie has an abundance of feminism with a majority of characters vying for your attention and the girls put the debate to rest when it comes to outshining boys. The characterizations are a welcome change considering I hadn’t watched any prior installments and one cannot go too wrong with an overbearing villain in pursuit of lovely ladies, scarce quantities of water and petrol making caricatures of individuals, mind-blowing action, splendid cinematography and Tom Hardy. An unabashed fan of Mr Hardy ever since his mind-numbing portrayal of Bane in the Dark Knight Rises.

Would recommend the movie for repetitive watching so that you can identify the fun that I am writing about.

True Story

As far as movie reviews go, one is immediately taken aback with the ingenuity of the title itself because if ever there was a pictorial representation of the word pun then this would be it. True Story is a real-life tale a death row inmate Christian Longo and how in his trials and tribulations does his world collide with Michael Finkel, a recently fired journalist from the New York Times. I am taking a leaf out of the American Capitalist Book by commenting on Mr Longo even though he is waiting to be hanged, there has been a book and a movie on the same topic. Just for the record, the book had to be bought from the Amazon World store which made it exorbitant and a convincing No read.

True Story, Pun, Amazon Prime, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Michael Finkel, New York Times, Movie review, Felicity Jones, Christian Longo
True Story

The movie has power packed performances from the main protagonists with James Franco playing the murderer and Jonah Hill playing the journalist. There is a deft interplay between the characters as Christian Longo has to own up to his crime, the shame associated with it, the sheer remorse/ realization of having committed such a deplorable sin, his history of having committed petty crimes culminating in a horrific spectacle duly taken up in the course of proceedings while  Michael Finkel hits a goldmine with “his story”, forming a weird sense of attachment getting into close proximity with a felon, trying to redeem himself of the fabrication in “another world”, trying to capitalize on the jackpot at play/ unfold right in front of his eyes. All in all, a story well told with real-world ramifications of what they went through. A story so profound that it was not just lapped up by a thirsty audience but also capitalized in every form. 

Was it a dearth of content, was it the proximity that the two shared, was it Christian Longo’s redemption/ comeuppance? There is many a slip between the cup and the lip because of no matter how much I speculate or gossip or critique, the fact remains that the tangents that were carried by Michael Finkel and Christian Longo can only be redressed if you absorb the entire package(book and movie)
Ps- Should be a feast for the eyes of Mom who ODs every day on “Crime Patrol” & “Savdhan India” Much recommended Mom.

Smoke And Mirrors

T.V  is passed since the comforts of being a couch potato can easily be enjoyed with the comforts and convenience of your house/device through streaming services on the telly using your Amazon Firestick or Google Chromecast. In a recent study of TRPs, one of the head honchos a television network in the Indian subcontext was privy to such nuances by referring to the Netflix/Prime phenomena as the “White elephant in the room”. So without further ado, this is a movie review of El Hombre De Las Mil Caras or Smoke and Mirrors in its English avatar.

Netflix, Smoke and Mirrors, Spanish Movie, English Subtitles, Spy,
Smoke And Mirrors

The plot is intriguing considering it is about a spy who is well past his sell-by date and how he manages to flummox his countrymen in one of the most daring con acts of recent times. Just don’t get carried away by the slow pace of the movie by shutting shop but try and overlook that part and you’d be a happy bunny. If I add to this then it would be a poor choice on my part because you don’t want to cry over spilt milk, do you? Recent times has seen the addition of movies which can be a part of world cinema rather than your quintessential Hollywood flick with its razzmatazz. I have pending movie reviews which are an enormous task given the sheer number I have to come up with but hopefully, this would make me more consistent in my writing and expression for my audience(41 views in the last month) which makes me stoked. 

Allez Les Bleus

This is my second blog on the current world cup which has drawn to a close with France running out deserved winners but it also has something to do with a bias that I have towards the French considering I learnt the language as part of my schooling even though I wasn’t supporting them. With an occasion involving Heads of state, the finale to four years of hard work and luck, billions as viewers and almost the entire planet coming to a standstill to watch who comes out the winner has to be written about.

Football World Cup Winners 2018, France, World Cup Final 2018 Russia, Antoine Griezman, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe
Allez Les Bleus

Its taken 20 years for the “Noir-Blanc-Beur” or the assimilation of the French to get hold of the most coveted trophy in football. If it was Zinedine Zidane’s charisma and finishing skills against Brazil in 1998 then it was the marquee signings of the French led by Antoine Griezman, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe who were ruling the Luznikhi Stadium in Moscow with their deft touches and powerful finishing. The match involved had all the ingredients of a potboiler because the goals came from every conceivable possibility such as an own goal, a VAR assisted penalty, a howler or blooper by the goalkeeper and some majestic finishing from the players.
Both teams started with the preferred formation of 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 and it was France that had the better exchanges initially by keeping less possession but more shots on the goal. France went into halftime leading by an odd goal in three but clearly, the French had the firepower and more quality compared to the Croats who were worthy opponents. Emmanuel Macaron, the French President was in attendance along with The Croat President Kolinda Grabar-Kitorovic and they also had Vladimir Putin, The Russian President, for the company. Football was the eventual winner since we as spectators were a witness to a game that bordered towards a larger than life theme and was duly fulfilled by the characters in question.

Raazi

A weekend has gone by seeing a world cup final had six goals and then Raazi to top it off, couldn’t have been better. No comparisons to moot in terms of a sporting spectacle and a feature film but couldn’t resist typing on the movie Raazi since I was impressed. The tagline on the poster says, A woman, A daughter, A spy which aptly sums up the movie since it is a power packed performance by the protagonist played by Alia Bhatt, the heroine.

Raazi movie review, Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Meghna Gulzar, Calling Sehmat
Raazi

The movie ticks all the boxes which make you engrossed in its every scene since the story is a refreshing change with a historical context and logic that you can relate to, albeit a generation late. The direction speaks louder than words as Meghna Gulzar as the Director pulls out all stops to make it as riveting as they come, not to forget her lineage. Vicky Kaushal, as Iqbal Sayed, plays a restrained character of  Pakistani Major without the shenanigans and brouhaha. I guess it couldn’t have been any other way because of the production houses, namely Dharma Productions and Junglee Pictures where they’ve played for the masses, not missing an opportunity to take forth the Indian narrative. The show stealer is undoubtedly Ali Bhatt who delivers a performance with equal bravado and aplomb and makes the character believable and identifiable as a Delhi University student who is married of to a Pakistani Army officer knowing well that her priorities lie with her nation. The film celebrates the unsung contribution of umpteen individuals who have kept the peace between the warmongering that goes along the Indo-Pak divide.
The movie is based on the novel by Harinder S. Sikka called Calling Sehmat and does justice to it which is seldom the case when a movie is adpated from a paperback. Go watch it, its worth it.

Disgrace

This is another book review by the same name by J.M Coetzee who won the Man Booker Prize in 1999 and won The Nobel Prize for literature in the year 2003. With a negative title such as Disgrace, the author stays true to the spirit by not just justifying but outshining everything in his path. The novel was a breeze while I read it but there was nothing pleasant about it. Negativity never looked so good. A welcome change, pun unintended.
Disgrace, J.M Coetzee, Book review, Dog, South Africa
Disgrace by J.M Coetzee

J.M Coetzee is one of the finest writers from South Africa with the ease of storytelling and even carrying the narration with aplomb even though there are a lot of negative connotations. The book is a stark contrast to the protagonist shifting from a respectable job to the farm with his daughter and eventually what transpires. It is also a stark reminder of racial prejudices that exist in the land and how to come to terms with it albeit fictionally. David Lurie encounters one disgraceful situation from the other and eventually enters a negative abyss but the fine line between characters whether it is his daughter or his student characterises him into his own. Dogs also play an important role during the flow as the book cover would suggest providing a dark backdrop to the narrative. Highly recommended as a next level but you forget about the feel-good factor.

Men are from Mars & Women are from Venus

Since the last few months, I have a voracious appetite for reading books not because it helps me sleep better but hopefully some years down the line, I can pass on the reading bug to my son who might enjoy it as much, if not more, than I do. Without further ado, this is a book review of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray which comes in the non-fiction category.

Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray, Book review, Critique, Sexist
Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray

This is a completely personal preference and to each his own but I somehow do not enjoy non-fiction as much as I enjoy fiction primarily because the narrative can be a drag and it can resemble a sermon than to use your own intelligence. Majority of what you read on the web about the book can give you polarized views because it is a man’s perspective about how relationships unfold and how men and women are different, separate individuals. Some of the ladies have come online and called the author sexist. Strong words, but something I do not intend to follow because frankly speaking, it was from my dad’s collection and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. It is not as contemporary from that stand-point. There are a few(I can count them on my fingers) pages that do tend to get your fancy but the majority of what comes across is hopefully preaching and a guide to how one must react within a couple’s dynamics.

My intention is not to spark an ethnic debate but there was a surprising find while doing my research for this blog. India is the tomato in the sandwich or the two bread portions can be the western world and middle east. Sure, there is a lot of violence in India and I have written quite a bit on it but there was a site for the book reviews and men and women had posted their reviews on the first web page itself. Out of the first ten reviews, 70% were women who had written extensively, in Urdu or Arabic and were downright condescending. Even the men did not spare the author in English by giving the book only a couple of stars out of five. With such a divisive audience, I cannot imagine how the book has managed to get a grip on the audience still. Not to take anything away from John Gray who stays true to his style and keeps on writing. Another reason why I did read it though was that I thought that it would give me pointers about being a better husband and it helped to some extent in terms of being an eye-opener but it petered down like a new year resolution wherein I thought about it but didn’t put it to practice.

Belle Peeps

The Context-
Just a disclaimer before I begin that this post is dedicated to my imagination, sixth sense and not my paranoia. Read between the lines or with a pinch of salt, hell! Make pickle for all I care. Anyways, I did my engineering as a B.E in Electrical and Electronics from a reputable institute but unfortunately finished with the course in seven years and not in the stipulated four which means that for the said duration I was not at my house except for celebrating the end of semesters as and when I found the time. Trouble started in 2008 when I got back with constant prying eyes of the neighbours giving credence to something amiss. Push came to a shove when the neighbour upstairs brings a hacker who is able to hack my TV. What happens when a TV is hacked. Matters were also not helped when I announced to all and sundry that I get conscious.

The Problem-
Believe me when I say this that the intended hacker can see through the TV into your living room and you wouldn’t know it unless somebody tells you or makes you aware and also take over the controls. There was something added to the whole scenario by showing me the frequency that appears on the screen by moving it according to ‘their’ whims and fancies. Reminds me of Phoebe from Friends in one of the episodes. Ok, let me give you an example, what if a person can control the alphanumeric frequency that appears during a digital transmission on the TV screen from your set-top-box by moving it around on the X-Y axis. Capiche? Edward Snowden, Lt. Manning, Julian Assange are some of the examples who have let it out but believe you me, come to India and “The Lives of Others” is another dimension worth contemplating. Prime Minister Vajpayee while in the office gave a potent example when trying to build bridges with Pakistan when he said,” You can change your enemies but not your neighbours”
The Solution-Keep watching voyeurs, need I say more?

Voyeurs, peeps, TV Hack, See through TV, Hacker
Belle Peeps

Fifa World Cup 2018 Russia

The first post that I ever wrote was about the World Cup in 1994 and we’re banging in the middle of another one with the start of the round of 16 and what a cracker of a game it was!!! Commiserations to the Argentinians, two assists by Messi but it wasn’t meant to be. Allez Les Bleus! I’d also like to point out the fact that I am writing after a long time due to a combination of factors such as heavy workload, obsession with Netflix content(movies or otherwise) and my collection of best-sellers.

Right now, ‘watching’ Uruguay V Portugal as I write with Cavani scoring in the seventh minute with a sumptuous cross from Louis Suarez. The raging debate amongst football circles is who is G.O.A.T or “The Greatest of All Time” with the two protagonists being Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.  More seriously, even though my preferences lie with Messi, there is no shame in admitting that Ronaldo is as good if not better and he also has a goatee to drive home the point being the character that he is.  As far as my football understanding goes, I am pretty sure, the two of them would never be in the pantheons of greats a.k.a Pele and Maradona considering they have not won a world cup yet.

My first world cup was Italia ’90 final where I didn’t understand much considering my eternal favourites, Brazil, were not playing and I saw Maradona sobbing on giving away a penalty in the final and eventually losing. Started following religiously circa 1994 and have been hooked on ever since. If the selecao is what has remained a constant than a second nation that I am rooting for is England but the English never cease to disappoint, always managing to go out whether, on penalties, red cards or just plain football, you can take your pick. The advent of the premier league in India since the turn of the millennium has given me further impetus to support them but let’s see. To be on the lighter side I’d much rather discuss the hotness quotient of their partners than discuss footballing prowess.

Fifa is rolling in the moolah with an estimated earning of 3.9 billion dollars from the organization until the closing ceremony and plaudits also have to be given to Russia and Gianni Infantino for being such impeccable hosts which reminds me of the only anomaly that I can think of. As present hosts, Russia and the next hosts, Qatar, would never be a part of the footballing extravaganza since they are not good enough to qualify which also goes to show that economic clout of nations takes precedence over football. Consider the U.S, Mexico and Canada as tri-hosts for the 2026 World Cup. I do not want to crib, whinge and whine ala Francesco Totti while playing so let me just go ahead and enjoy. May the best team win.

Fifa World Cup 2018, Russia, Brazil, England, Football
Fifa World Cup 2018, Russia