Thursday, July 31, 2008

Movie review - Kuselan (Tamil, 2008)

Kuselan is a poor attempt at remaking the malayalam classic. It neither satisfies the hardcore Rajni fan nor does it appeal to the classy folks interested in the aesthetics. In order to bridge the divide and cater to both segments, the movie comes across as forced, artificial and crass at times.

The story is quite straightforward. It relates the tale of a very successful actor (Rajnikanth) and his childhood friend (Pasupathy) who works as barber in a village. Pasupathy, though poor, is morally upright and rubs a few people the wrong way as a result of which receives no favour from people in a position to help. When Rajnikanth comes visiting his village to shoot for a film, the villagers on finding out that the actor is the barber's friend, take the extra effort in pleasing Pasupathy so that he can help them in gaining various favours from Rajnikanth.

This could have made for a wonderful movie which the original in malayalam was. The director (P. Vasu) cranks everything a notch higher thus making it unbearable. While the antics of Vadivelu in trying to get a photograph of himself with Rajnikanth are quite funny, they detract from the movie's emotional core.

Rajnikanth is present for roughly 30 minutes out of 3 hours. He does his part admirably. The movie though becomes an endurance exercise when he isn't on screen. Pasupathy was amazing in Veyil and Virumandi. In this movie, he does come across as a limited actor and appears quite wimpy and I think the fault lies with the director rather than the actor. Meena too overacts at times and looks out of place in the village milieu.

The technical aspects of the movie are below par and Nayanthara is absolutely wasted. The songs are adequate but none of them are hummable and once you leave the cinema hall, you hardly remember any of them.

A very poor attempt at remaking a classic. Stay away from the cinema and watch it on DVD (if you have to)!!!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Movie review - The dark knight (Batman) (English, 2008)

Could this movie be termed a superhero movie? I doubt that. The only person who is in complete control throughout the movie is the JOKER. And what a fabulous performance by Heath Ledger it is.

From the very beginning as he bumps off each of his colleagues, his performance is riveting. The make up, voice modulation, smacking of the lips and his gait all contribute to the making of possibly the greatest villain of all times. This is a performance that requires Heath to be over the top without making it goofy and he comes out with flying colours. There is a scene where he makes a pencil disappear using a magic trick. That scene is a must watch!!!

All super hero movies have a predictable arc in terms of story line where the hero always wins in the end. The director, Christopher Nolan, has taken immense care in fashioning a story that has all the trappings of a superhero movie while investing immensely in each of the characters and fleshing them out as real people. It's probably the only superhero movie where the superhero appears vulnerable and at times outwitted and outmatched. Batman, as portrayed by Christian Bale, is only a supporting role here which is very strange for a superhero movie. It has nothing to do with the performance of Bale except that the JOKER completely mesmerises everyone each time he appears on screen.

In this movie, Batman has truly met his match and has to deal with a lot of tricky situations where he questions himself and the need to stop being a vigilante anymore. The JOKER tests him continuously without a pause and you could clearly see the composure of Batman cracking. In one sequence, Batman has to make a choice as to whom he is going to save even though he is still going to lose at the end. The inherent complexity in the plot allows for audiences to be glued in even when there is no action taking place. This movie has a perfect balance of action pyrotechnics and story exposition to keep everyone satisfied.

There are numerous supporting characters and they all provide solid support. Special mention needs to be made of Aaron Echkart (who plays the DA), Sir Michael Caine (as the butler) and Morgan Freeman (as the head of Bruce Wayne enterprise). The movie has a bleak tone throughout and is interspersed with dark humour.

Sometimes, being a superhero isn't enough when you need to deal with someone completely evil whose actions aren't based on any logic or rational. The Joker says "This town needs a better class of criminal and I am going to provide it" and what a criminal he turns out to be. One thing that has come out of this movie is the unanimous appreciation for Heath's JOKER portrayal. The Oscar bells are already ringing and it's gonna take one helluva performance from someone else to top this.

The movie could have been trimmed a little towards the end as it does tend to flag and the audiences are left wanting more of JOKER's presence on the screen than Batman. How is that for a superhero movie??? Is this the best superhero movie ever? I am not so sure about that. Does JOKER rank as the best on screen villain ever? The answer to that is a resounding YES.

Don't miss this movie on any account. Go for it and get sucked into the JOKER's world and his own vision of Gotham city!!!

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kuselan Trailer - Tamil - High Quality

Every movie of Rajnikanth seems to be much awaited and Kuselan is no exception. Though the trailer doesn't seem as eye catching as Sivaji's, it pretty much explains the movie's story and introduces most of the characters. Enjoy the trailer!!!

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

A day out in Edinburgh ...

I am attending a workshop in Edinburgh. This is my first visit to the wonderful historic city. As I was making my way from the airport to the hotel, I was really impressed with the vast expansive greenery on sight and how beautiful the buildings looked. They have a very beautiful appeal and are very aesthetically pleasing. Even though, the skies were gloomy and it was raining all day long, I managed to squeeze in a walk through the town center at the end of day.

I walked along the famous Royal Mile. I didn't get a chance to see the castle as it was closed by the time I got there. Hopefully, if I do get some time off tomorrow, I may try and squeeze in a visit. This is my first travel visit without my camera. Hence, I resorted to using my camera on the mobile phone (which is a Sony Ericsson k800i). Though the camera limitations are exposed when you have to work in low light, it performs adequately in other conditions.

I was able to capture most of the sights around the city center in Edinburgh and here are a few for you guys to see.

Shop selling Scottish souvenir

A beautiful building


Narrow staircase path connection Market street and Cockburn street

Another beautiful building

I should be back in Cardiff tomorrow night and I truly intend to visit Edinburgh again on a leisurely note and spend some quality time here.


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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Movie Review - Aamir (Hindi, 2008)

For it's sheer ingenuity and fast paced narration, Aamir stands apart from almost all movies made so far this year. Top-notch acting and brilliant direction (Rajkumar Gupta) supported by wonderful cinematography (Alphonse Roy) and pulse-pounding soundtrack (Amit Trivedi) make this movie a must watch.

Rajeev Khandelwal plays Aamir, the protagonist. Returning to Mumbai from London (where he is employed as a Doctor) on a vacation, he is surprised not to find his family waiting for him at the airport. While making a call to his house (that goes unanswered), he is interrupted by a couple of guys and a mobile phone is thrust into his hand. Thus starts the movie and covers the next 6 hours in the lead character's life. Any further story elaboration would ruin the experience for the movie viewers.

It's almost incredible that most of the people associated with the movie are making their debut. Rajeev portrays the lead character with such finesse and surety and his dilemma and disgust at the same time are wonderfully captured. Exhibiting a range of emotions, this movie provides the kind of launch most debut actors would thirst for. The movie is shot in a realistic manner with no frills showing up at any point. Except for the lead actor, almost everyone appearing on the screen seems to have been picked off the road and this helps in capturing the real Mumbai. Most of the movie takes place in busy suburban Mumbai and the crowds all act naturally.

This is the kind of Mumbai one rarely encounters in Hindi cinema. Compared against this movie, even the Mumbai depicted in Satya looks glamorous. Cinematography deserves a very special mention. A lot of close-up shots are involved and the atmosphere of the grimy, slimy, dirty and bustling Mumbai is captured perfectly. It's quite possible that after watching this movie, one may not want to visit Mumbai any more. The movie deserves this kind of ambience and it's really heartening to note the production team didn't feel pressurised into showing everything in a glamorous manner.

Even though, it's a low budget movie, that doesn't hamper the movie aesthetics in any manner. I wasn't familiar with the movie soundtrack before watching the movie. I was pleasantly surprised to find the tracks pulse-pounding (literally speaking, in a good way). The narrative is aided by the wonderful use of appropriate sounds and some small snippets of songs are used appropriately to enhance and aid the visuals shown on the screen.

This movie definitely deserves a big success and it's a big thumbs up from me!!!

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Journal paper...

My first and only journal paper until now got published recently. I have a few conference papers to my name but nothing matches the sheer excitement of seeing your name on a journal paper. It was a joint effort with around 8 authors contributing. Here I am reproducing the abstract for the paper below.

Title: Simultaneous Trend Analysis for Evaluating Outcomes in Patient-Centred Health Monitoring Services

Abstract: The research aim underpinning the Healthcare@Home (HH) information system described here was to enable ‘near real time’ ethical risk analysis for disease early detection and prevention. To this end, we are implementing a family of prototype web services to ‘push’ or ‘pull’ individual’s health-related data via an ecosystem of clinical hubs, mobile communication devices and/or dedicated home-based network servers to one or more longitudinal data analysis engines. A semantically-consistent, consented data collation infrastructure is being created along the ‘patient path’ to evaluate individual’s disease progression risk in the light of clinical understanding of pathophysiological processes in diabetes and retinopathy. We describe the operational requirements for improved ‘scalability’ of multi-trends management, together with the logical and physical architecture requirements of the system. A Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) approach is used to maximise benefits from structured clinical evidence and computational models of disease progression exposed elsewhere on the SOA. The implications of this ‘closed loop ecosystem’ approach for improving intervention outcomes, patient safety, contextual decision support, objective measurement of service quality and data inputs for quantitative healthcare (predictive) modelling are discussed.

Keywords: web services; time series analysis routines; scalability; chronic disease management; portal technologies; risk monitoring; service-oriented architecture.

The full paper can be looked up here

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Places I have been to...

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