Friday, 28 October 2011

Friday Links 10


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Movies Seen Recently - Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, Fantastic Mr. Fox

I was expecting an in-depth look at the evolution of metal. This was more of a general look at some of the major characteristics of some metal genres. Well made and interesting to watch.

Superb animation. Fantastic music. Interesting narrative style. Average story.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Avengers Predictions

My predictions for the next Avengers movie:

Expect 2 main similarities to the 2006 animated film Ultimate Avengers - aliens & inter group conflict.

Loki is on Earth & has the 'cosmic cube'.

He uses it to summon an army of aliens to take over/destroy Earth, his objectives being power/revenge.

These aliens will be either Skrulls or Chitauri (Ultimate Skrulls).

If they're aligned to Loki and brought to Earth by him it's unlikely that they will have had any connection to the Nazi war effort or Red Skull, as seen in previous story lines.

The Avengers will spend most of the film fighting Loki's army.

With the majority of the film's running time being spent on the Avengers fighting Loki, it might skip the Avengers' recruitment parts and go straight to the inter group conflict stage.

The first half hour of the film will be spent in the story's premise i.e setting up the Loki conflict, and establishing tensions between various characters.

Expect the more independent Avengers, Iron Man and Thor, to have trouble fitting in as team players. They want to do their own thing. 

This frustrates Captain America, their field leader, who also considers going it alone, until they in turn impress him with changes in character, sacrificing their egos to all work together as a team.

The Avengers will battle the Hulk at some point.

At the end of the film, Loki is defeated but not killed. He probably has an escape route planned in the possibility of failure. He's powerless, but still has his mind. Expect more appearances in sequels, where he plays his enemies against each other.

The after-credits scene will either feature Loki, or a new Avenger (Black Panther?).


Friday, 21 October 2011

Friday Links 9


Monday, 17 October 2011

Movies Seen Recently - Jesus: The Real Story, Megastructures: World Island Wonder, The Runaways, Fading of the Cries, An American Tail

3 part documentary on the historical context in which the biblical stories of Jesus took place. Interesting.

Interesting documentary describing Dubai's World Island project and the challenges in its construction - finding the right sand for the islands, the irony of not being able to use desert sand, building a tide break to protect the islands from erosion, arranging adequate water flow so it doesn't turn into a swamp, and planning an efficient water transportation network once the islands are populated. Informative and well made.

A film about the 1970's all girl band, as experienced through the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Not bad.

A waste of everyone's time. Avoid.

A Don Bluth classic. Good for kids. Not sure if it ages well.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Book Review - 'Live from London' by Parinda Joshi

A first time book by someone who works in analytics in the entertainment industry, and is a columnist and photographer.

The story is simple - college grad Nishi Gupta looks for and finds a job in the entertainment industry, falls in love, gets hurt, and recovers.

I'm sure that Parinda Joshi is a wonderful person and is very good at what she does. But her book leaves a lot to be desired.

The main character is simply not likable. While that may be a personal thing, the author doesn't really give us a chance to like her. Or any of the other characters for that matter. Nishi and her friends - Nick, Sarah, Riya and Zac - are simply not fleshed out enough, and are reduced to caricatures, and not in a funny but an irritating way.

You don't even know how they look. There are very few physical descriptions of them. The only likable characters with any interesting personalities in the book are the parents.

Other characters come and go. Not describing a persons physical traits is fine, as long as you give your readers something else to work with. Describe the characters' quirks, their relative positions of importance with respect to the main character, and do this well. Don't just assume that the reader is going to assume everything you want them to.

The story meanders. It's supposed to be a romance along the lines of Bridget Jones, but ends up being a damp squib. We've seen the story many times before. Working girl with stars in her eyes falls in love with a playboy and gets hurt. Nothing wrong with the plot if it's done well. But in this book, it's a mess.

The narrative is flimsy. You're not sure why people do the things they do; you don't know enough about them to question their motivations.

You're just following the events as they happen, there's very little emotional involvement in the characters themselves. You've stopped caring about what happens to them.

The paragraphs and chapters that make up the current narrative and the ones that make up flashbacks aren't split up adequately, making the narrative confusing. You go from flashback to current in one sentence, after whole chapters of flashbacks.

What are probably most irritating about the book are the grammatical errors and disjointed prose throughout.

I'm not sure if it's the author who's responsible for these grammatical mistakes, or the editors at Rupa & Co (the same people who gave us such gems as Chetan Bhagat). Even if it was the author, the editors should have found and fixed these basic errors. Confusing 'since' and 'for' is unacceptable. You use 'since' to refer to a point of time in the past. You use 'for' to describe a length of time.

The disjointed prose, on the other hand, simply cannot be fixed by an editor, no matter how skilled, not without re-writing the entire book. The sentence structure is clunky & heavy. It's a lost cause.

None of the characters are endearing. This combined with the poor prose & grammar, made me want to throw the book away after reading a few pages. But I soldiered on. I had a review to write.

This review is a part of the" target="_blank">Book Reviews Program at"> Participate now to get free books!


Friday, 14 October 2011

Friday Links 8


The first Indian to cross the Gobi desert -


Social living is not a prerequisite for social learning , at least for red-footed tortoises -


Steven Pinker on the decline of violence -


They dissolved their Nobel prizes -

The Wick Effect explains Spontaneous Human Combustion -


Review of new book about John Hanning Speke and Richard Francis Burton, the men who searched for the source of the Nile, among other things -


Christopher Hitchens recommends books to an 8 year old -


World's deepest known animal discovered -


Kees van Dijkhuizen's YouTube feed -


Friday, 7 October 2011

Friday Links 7


On whether we all need Personal Coaching -

The 'Periodic Table' table -

Summary of  the 21st annual Ig Nobel prize ceremony -


Smuggler caught with birds in pants -

X-rays of weird stuff pets swallowed -

Animal Behaviour primer -


How Psychology solved a WW2 shipwreck mystery -


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Indian Movies I've seen

I don't watch a lot of Indian or Bollywood or Hindi movies. In the last 10 years, these are all that I've seen.

Jhankaar Beats (2003) - Not bad.

Black (2005) - Terrible. Had excellent potential, but too many things turned out wrong.

Delhi 6 (2009) - Brilliant first half. Disappointing second.

Dil Bole Hadippa (2009) - It is what it is. Infantile, implausible and fun.

Break ke Baad (2010) - Very campy. Seen the story a million times before. Its saving grace is that it's short.

Rock On!! (2008) - Average. A few jarring storytelling gaps prevented this from being a great film.

Aisha (2010) - Too many jarring storytelling gaps prevented this from ever being a good film.

Udaan (2010) - Very very good. Highly recommended.

The Great Indian Butterfly (2007) - Not bad.


Monday, 3 October 2011

Movies Seen Recently - Batman: Under the Red Hood, Peyote to LSD, Nostradamus Decoded, How to Train your Dragon, Fracture, Batman & Mr Freeze

Shades of maturity throughout the film. Excellent opening credits too. Like a few other DC universe films I've seen, this one also includes ensemble villains, which is kind of a plus here. The joker is modeled more after the the new Heath Ledger character, rather than any of the previous ones, another plus. Though his role is central to the story, most of the events revolve around Red Hood and Black Mask. 

However, strong censorship and over the top action distract from these fine elements.

Extremely detailed historical documentary on the spread of popularity of LSD, with particular focus on the anthropological significance of Peyote among Native American tribes, and the work of Richard Evans Schultes.

Discovery Channel documentary that doesn't really offer anything new, apart from evidence of a few coincidences that can be seen in different perspectives.

Like most DreamWorks films, not exactly cinematic excellence, but fun. Much better in every respect than some of their other recent films. Great in a conventional way. Would look excellent on a large screen.

Fracture (2007)

It seems like Anthony Hopkins alternates between extreme greatness and extreme creepiness in each film role he takes up. This film is sort of conventional. The performances are good, but the narrative has gaps, and the story is more or less predictable.

Kind of like The Lincoln Lawyer, but with better lighting. While The Lincoln Lawyer resembled Shaft, the videography in Fracture gives it a classy look. That and the performances keep you interested.

A follow-on to the animated series, and what seems like one very long episode of the series. We've come to expect more.