The A-Team movie review

June 13, 2010 Leave a comment
Movies like the A-team don’t require elaborate reviews. One glimpse at the trailer is enough to tell you what the move is going to be about… 
When you want something done, you contact the A-team, coz they are the best and they specialize in the ridiculous. That just about sums up the 4 guys who are part of the A TEAM. Some excerpts from the movie…. Shooting aircraft drones from a tank thats falling from 30,000 feet. Then trying to ‘fly’ (or navigate, if you will) the tank so it lands in a lake. If you like this kind of stuff, then The A-team is just right for you. If you dont like just the action, there is also plenty of jokes and a good storyline in the movie. I liked it. Enjoyable fare this movie is. 2.5/5 That being said, the final action scene was not that great at all…. Could have been better. Still a good fun one time watch.

Movie Review: Iron Man 2

May 20, 2010 6 comments

Robert Downey Jr. is back with a bang as Tony Stark in Iron Man 2. In tow are Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes / War Machine, Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman / Natasha Romanoff, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko (Whiplash), Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, John Slattery as Howard Stark, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan (also the director it Iron Man 2), Paul Bettany as Jarvis (voice), Kate Mara as U.S. Marshal, Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart, Garry Shandling as Senator Stern, Christiane Amanpour as herself.

Director Jon Favreau does a good job of showing a dying Stark who decides to have a little fun as the US Govt. wants to take the Iron Man suit from him for national security. The device in his chest, meant to purify the metal in his bloodstream is keeping up with the contamination level in his bloodstream and Stark is running out of replacement ‘cores’ for the device. While Stark is having fun, a Russian, Ivan Vanko is plotting revenge to avenge the wrongs done to his father by Stark Industries.

The casting of Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko could not have been better. He is the perfect counter-balance to Stark’s larger than life ego. The scene in the beginning of the movie where Vanko cuts Stark to size is one of the coolest scenes in the movie. Rourke plays the perfect bad-ass villain and looks menacing with tattoos, metal teeth, confident evil laughter and of course, the energy whips.

Both Stark and Vanko are shown to be highly intelligent and innovative. Vanko’s character has been shown very nicely and at one point I even felt that its Stark who is the villain as Vanko was merely trying to avenge the wrongdoings done to his father. Unlike bad-ass characters in other movies, Vanko had a purpose where as in the middle of the movie, Stark almost loses it.

As far as the “WOW” effect goes, Iron Man (2008) was certainly more impressive.  In Iron man 2, Stark’s character is more evolved. The flamboyance shown by Tony Stark in the 2nd movie is used more like a mask to hide his true feelings from Pepper Potts and from the rest of the world. The chemistry between Stark and Potts is awesome which makes their banter that much more enjoyable. The difference between Scarlett and Gwyneth is – the former is a star, the latter an actress. While Gwyneth can easily act like a star, Scarlett has a long way to go before she shines as an actress. Till then she can be content with being eye candy.

While many are gushing over the leather clad Scarlett as Natasha Romanoff, she didn’t quite do it for me. She was quite unbelievable in the suit, and I don’t mean that in a complimentary way. As far as leather clad babes go, her character in Iron Man 2 ranks wayyy after Rhona Mitra (Doomsday and Rise of the Lycans), Trinity (Matrix), Kate Beckinsale (Underworld Evolution), Jennifer Garner (Elektra) – all clad in a leather body suit and Mila Jovovich (Resident Evil series). Ms Johansson needs to get a lot more dirtier and tough to impress me. In this movie, ScarJo’s  ‘too perfect’ sexiness works against her character in the movie.

So far the Iron man series has better made movies than the Spiderman series, but it is not as good as the new Batman movies. Somewhere in between. It’s tough to produce a good act. It is tougher to follow it. Iron Man 2 maintains the momentum. Its exciting, its fun, its innovative. Watch it for RDJ, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow and the direction of Jon Favreau. Watch it for heart pounding action sequences of fights choreographed to the superb music by AC/DC. My rating – 7.5/10.

Watched it already… Did you like it?

All pics from http://www.comicbookmovie.com/iron_man/iron_man_2/pictures/

No, I did not forget about Samuel L. Jackson. Its just that I felt his precence was somewhat unwanted in the movie. Chop off those scenes and Iron Man 2 is shortened by a good 10-15 minutes. Perhaps Marvel is trying to run a common thread in all its superhero movies, but really, it is seems quite unnecessary and superfluous to the actual story unless, there is a movie on the agency monitoring the superheroes, a la Watchmen.

Who holding my money again?

March 23, 2010 5 comments

The weekend had me having lunch with my friend from an earlier assignment and we discussed what’s happening with bank mergers. The client got taken over by another bank during the financial crisis of 2008. Turns out, the bank that’s taking over did not lose money during the crisis and hence, they bought out the larger bank that was in trouble. Now, that would be a good thing, but the conversation over dinner revealed something that was very shocking to me.

The bank taking over did not lose money in the real-estate business, not because it made smart investments when other banks were handing out home-loans left, right and center. It did not lose money because it was banned from doing business in real-estate by the Feds for a few years. The bank was caught with accounting irregularities by the Feds who slapped a penalty on the bank barring it from dealing in Real Estate business – which was a very lucrative business at that time. In hind sight, the Feds ban turned into a boon for the bank as it did not lose money when Real estate went bust ; as a result of which this bank was sitting rich in cash while other banks were tethering at the brink of failure. By any standards, this cash rich bank is not a Smart bank as it did not incur losses because of smart investment choices. The only reason it did not lose money is because it was not allowed to do business in that sector because of accounting errors made by the bank. Had it been allowed to do business in real-estate, it would probably have lost more money than the bank it is now taking over – my reason for such a conclusion? If a bank cannot keep proper accounts of its transactions, how good a bank it is?

Here are a few more golden nuggets that were unearthed from the conversation –

The bank also does not want to do any work offshore because of its conservative mindset. This will translate into higher running cost for this combined entity because they are not willing to adapt to what is the current industry-wide practice.

The richer bank also has older technology and they are now forcing the other bank to go backwards to technology that’s obsolete. Why? – Just so the richer bank’s management does not have to go thru a learning curve and their managers the balance of power. If business decisions are made for such self-serving purposes, I shudder to think about the chances of the bank surviving for a long time in future… Money in the hands of such banks will only mean they will be reluctant to hand out re-financing loans to people because the bank has a conservative mindset and they do not even have the expertise to make the decisions to separate out the good loans from bad.

What’s worse? The richer bank not only has its own clients, it also acquired more clients from the larger bank that went bankrupt as the latter had a larger customer base than the former…

Reminds me of a quote… “Business models should be so simple, that fools should be able to run it… because someday, a fool will eventually end up running the business”. Only difference being… banking is not a simple business…

I’m now checking my bank balance and transactions almost everyday… oh what Joy to know my money is in safe hands!!

Haiti struggles to recover as American Baptist group caught trafficking children

February 1, 2010 5 comments

As Haiti tries to recover from the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, an American Baptist group is detained trying to smuggle children out of the country.

Here are some startling revelations from the news…

1) A cop suspects that the children were to be sold for $10,000 each.

2) One girl was not even an orphan and thought she was being taken for a vacation by friendly people from America and the Dominican Republic…!

3) A 40 year old woman “didnt think it was naive to cross a border without proper documentation for the children”… (I wonder how she would react if it was her own child that someone took for a ‘joy ride’ without telling her about it! How can such irresponsibly naive people be allowed to go and help children is a question that baffles me!)

Whats particularly sickening about the episode is that inspite of the growing threat of child trafficking, the poor people of Haiti have no choice but to continue to seek outside help. And for those children who are really orphaned, the option to be adopted has been cut off because the Government, overwhelmed by the quake, has put a halt to adoption in response to the growing threat of child trafficking!

Here is an excerpt from an article on msnbc.

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Tension among religious groups

As the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti is in a difficult spot — it needs aid, but deeply resents foreign meddling. Many have an uneasy relationship with American evangelical Christian groups that funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into their missions in Haiti.

Since Haiti became the world’s first black republic in 1804, its people have seen several U.S. military occupations, was wrongly blamed for the spread of AIDS and has been vilified for the Voodoo traditions brought from West Africa. Voodoo is one of Haiti’s two constitutionally recognized religions, along with Roman Catholicism, and two-thirds of Haiti’s 9 million people are said to worship its spirits.

One Voodoo leader said the Idaho group’s plan — to give each child “new life in Christ” while facilitating their adoptions by “loving Christian families” in the United States — is deeply offensive.

“There are many who come here with religious ideas that belong more in the time of the inquisition,” said Max Beauvoir, head of Haiti’s Voodoo Priest’s Association, which represents thousands of priests and priestesses. “These types of people believe they need to save our souls and our bodies from ourelves. We need compassion, not proselytizing now, and we need aid — not just aid going to people of the Christian faith.”

–x–x–x—-x–x–x—-x–x–x–

The last line of this article strikes a familiar chord and reminds me of something similar that happened in wake of the tsunami that stuck India and south-asia in 2004. During that period of crisis, some relief organizations received aid from the Indian Government and were found to be using the aid money to convert the poor and desperate people to Christianity.

1) Many fisher-folk had lost their boats during the tsunami and the organizations gave aid readily to those who were willing to convert to Christianity. Those who did not convert were left without a boat as their applications were buried in bureaucratic red tape.

2) The organizations dug up so called “christian wells” where people who were either following Christianity or had adopted it were allowed to draw water from it. Those who did not convert had to walk 5-6 Kms EVERY DAY to fetch a pot of drinking water.

Such incidents really irk me because while it is bad to manipulate uneducated and poor people even in normal circumstances; it is extremely unethical to do it in times of duress and natural disasters.

1) What choice does a poor person have when faced with the option of choosing a particular religion over seeing his family go hungry or thirsty?

2) How ethical is it to offer “selective” help to people in times of a calamity? It is an extremely bad form of racism in my books.

Personally speaking, I find it hurtful when religion is used to manipulate people and dupe them when they are already undergoing a hard time.

In the Indian context, the poor fisherman whose daily meal is provided by the boat that he just lost… The already poor  person has been left hungry, thirsty and helpless and is eager for any form of help and relief… What a vile, cunning, low-life approach is it to offer aid to such a vulnerable individual by giving him the option : convert -or- die a slow and painful, inhuman death!

In case of Haiti, the poor children, many of them genuine orphans, who have already lost their parents, have been buried under rubble, who have gone hungry, thirsty for days, were lucky to be rescued from the hands of pedophiles who could potentially torture, molest, rape, enslave these unsuspecting kids!

The article on this news can be read here and here.

The incident raises some questions in my mind about religion and religious beliefs –

Shouldn’t religion be a way to be helpful to people and make life better for everyone?

When all religions preach the same basic values, why do we try to indulge in chest-thumping and claim that “only my way is the right way to God” and everyone else will be doomed?

Why is it so difficult to appreciate the good in other religions and accept them as equally good ways on the path to God?

Are religious leaders really afraid that their sect will diminish if they give people the option to choose?

Do they think that inducing fear in the minds of people is the “only” way to prevent them from joining a different group?

Do you think it is right for religious groups to manipulate people and use such calamities to increase their membership?

Do let me know your thoughts and view points below….

Happy New Year 2010 !!

December 31, 2009 16 comments

Hello friends – Wish you all an early happy new year 2010…

Urs truly is super excited to kick start the new year in the Sin City – Las vegas!

The weekend mood was given a double boost upon winning 2 champagne bottles @ a charity auction in the office. Always wanted to pop open a champagne bottle, and what could be more fun than to do it in vegas!

What are your new year plans… ? And yes, what happens in vegas, stays in vegas 😉

The king makes a comeback!

December 23, 2009 10 comments

Its official, Michael Schumacher is back… A lot of tifosi will be converted overnight to Mercedes fans! Mercedes and Brawn made a killing by buying instant fame and fan support for 7 million euros!

The 2010 season just became 7 times more exciting as the strategic brains of Ross Brawn and the skills of Michael Schumacher combine once again. This is where it started and there could not be a better place to reunite or make a comeback.

I call it a nice slap on Motezemollo’s face for unceremoniously ousting Schumacher in 2006 for an idiot like Kimi! Now Ferrari is left with cry baby Alonso as Kimi runs away from F1. Its Ferrari’s loss and Brawn’s gain (Mercedes) Love it, Love it, Love it!

Thank you Schumi for making a comeback! Formula 1 was never the same without you!

With Tiger Woods out of reckoning, it should not be too difficult for Schumi to be the highest paid sports personality once again in 2010!

It will be interesting to see Schumi duke it out with Hamilton, Massa, Rosberg, Vettel and Willi Webber’s latest find – Nico Hulkenberg. A battle of skills, stamina, age and tactics! may the best driver win!!!!! Its already a victory for Formula 1 and its fans.

Avatar movie review

December 20, 2009 11 comments

I loved it…! This is James Cameron’s labour of love and it was worth the hype for me.  Brilliant movie to be enjoyed in 3-D IMAX. 5/5….

Will grab most number of oscars easily!

best movie, best animation, best animated character, best screenplay, best art decoration. Mr Cameron delivers and how!!

Will easily be the highest grossing movie till date… poetry in motion…!