Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Official Trailer

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is the 7th and the final chapter of the Harry Potter saga. The mega book is divided into 2 films and would be released within a span of 8 Months. The First one will be out in November 2010 with the final movie in July 2011. Here is a look at the official trailer of the movies.

Cannot wait for the movies to come.

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Books I Read – Theodore Boone

John Grisham has been writing legal thrillers for last 2o plus years. This is his first ‘legal thriller for kids’. The book is the first of a new series started by the author about a ‘kid lawyer’.

Theodore Boone is a 13 year old eighth grader in a small town America, whose only problem in life is that he cannot decide whether he wants to be a lawyer or a judge when he grows. He is a legal whiz kid who lives and breathes law, visits courthouse everyday, knows every lawyer, judge, policemen and legal clerk in the small town, has his own law office inside his parents law firm, advises his school friends on legal issues ranging from bankruptcy, drunk driving and parents divorce.

The first novel on the series features a big murder trial and Theo accidentally coming across a vital witness whose testimony could affect the outcome of the trial.

The plot is bit too simple and hardly has any twists. The story in the end does not fully conclude and will have some continuation in the next part of the series. The reader learns a lot about the American Legal system in a very simple language.

The novel is a very easy read and is carefully written in simple english, clearly targetting the younger age group. The author intends to publish further parts of this series very soon and perhaps one every year. The story reminds you more of a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys story than a John Grisham Legal Thriller.

My Ratings :  6.5/10 –  Grisham is never bad even when he writes for kids.

Toy Story 3 – Most Amazing Movie of the Year

Toy Story 3 is the most amazing movie of the year. The above line should be sufficient for one and sundry to rush to their nearest movie hall and catch the best movie to come out of Pixar studios. The name Pixar never disappoints and when they started with the first part of Toy Story more than 15 years back, people were amazed at the creativity, the animation skills, the wizardry of the artists etc. People continue to get amazed at all those things even now, with every new Pixar release.

Toy Story 3 continues from where the first 2 part were, but after a time-leap of few years. Andy, the original kid-owner of all the lovely toys has grown up and is movie to college and he decides to store the toys in his attic but the toys end up somehow at the local day-care center where they are played violently by young toddlers and bossed upon by an devilish  teddy bear and they all decide to escape to go back to be with Andy. The entire film is a big long adventure and you are nothing but in awe of all the wonderful characters, toys, settings, animations. Everything almost feels real and Woody and Buzz are as good as real life Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, who have given voice-overs to these toys right from the original movies.

Apart from the mind blowing animation, what Pixar does best is create wonderful stories. Stories that touch your heart and feels right out of your own childhood. Every kid has gone through with his toys what Andy goes through in the movie. The ending scene when Andy plays with his toys for the last time is heart-touching.

The movie is not only for the kids but also the kid within every Adult. It gets my vote for the best movie of the year in any language. Do Not miss it for anything in the world.

P.S. Do not miss the wonderfully created short film ‘Day and Night’ right at the beginning by the good folks at Pixar and do not miss the end credits of the movie, simply hilarious.

My Ratings: 10/10 –  Rush to the theaters and catch this movie.

FIFA 2010 Predictions – Updated After 1st Round

First round matches of FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup is over and last 16 have been decided. The last 16 features 6 European Teams, All 5 South American Teams, 2 Asians, 1 African and 2 North American Teams.
Going by the Draw we have Uruguay Vs. Korea and USA vs. Ghana – 1 out of these 4  will be in the semifinals. My bet is on Uruguay going through and USA could pull up a surprise. In the next quarter of the draw we have Holland taking on Slovakia and Brazil playing Chile. Brazil and Holland can have an exciting quarter finals and on current form Brazil would be the 2nd semifinalist.
The next half of draw features Argentina taking on Mexico and Germany invading England. One out of these 4 would make it through to the semifinals and my personal bet is on Argentina to do so. In the final quarter of the draw, Spain takes on Portugal and Japan meets Paraguay. Spain should go through the semis unless Crisitinao Ronaldo has other plans.
Thus my 4 semi finalists would be Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Spain. This differs from my original picks as I had picked France in place of Uruguay but the French have been disappointing. Here are my Original Picks

Lets see if teams like Holland, England, Germany or Portugal can pull up any surprises or not.

Blind Side is a good Tackle

‘The Blind Side’ did for Sandra Bullock, what Erin Brockovich did to Julia Roberts, it won her an Academy Award. The movie is a sports dram adapted from the book by the same name and is a story of Micheal Oher, the offensive tackle for NFL team Baltimore Ravens. The story follows the life of ‘Big Mike’, as he is called, from the streets of  Memphis, Tennessee who is then adopted by Leigh Anne Tuohy, played in the film by Sandra Bullock. He is admitted to Christian School and then guided to become a leading college football prospect. Her family treats him as one of their own and they hire a tutor to improve his academic performance so that he can qualify for Football Scholarship. He opts for University of Mississippi and shown to enter the college football arena. The film ends with him being selected by the Baltimore Ravnens in the NFL draft 2009 as their Offensive Tackle. He is also shown to be graduating from the college.

This story is a rags-to-riches story set in the sports world and specifically American College Football and NFL.Real life stories with sports background are always special to read about and see on screen. The movie has lot of Football action which are fun to see. The film overall is a decent watch and people who love sports dramas and American version of football will surely appreciate the film.

The movie was initially offered to Julia Roberts, who turned down the role and Sandra Bullock grabbed it by both hands. Acting by Sandra Bullock is top notch and also by Quinton Aaron who plays Micheal Oher in the film, although I personally dont think that Sandra Bullock deserved an Oscar for this role. Her role as the caring ‘mother’ and guardian of Big Mike was not much complex and quite a straight forward to handle.

The movie is surely one of the better sports drama to come out of Hollywood in recent times.

My Ratings: 6/10 –  Do watch it for the nice sports dram, fast football action and decent acting.

The Informant! – Good DVD Watch

The Informant! is a brilliant little dark comedy by Steven Soderbergh starring Matt Damon in the central role.

Matt Damon, known for his roles as super agent Jason Bourne in the Bourne series of movies, put on 30 pounds and wore weird looking wig for the role of Mark Whitacre, who decides to become an FBI informant against his own company ADM who used to fix prices of Lysine, an important component of our daily food. He gathers evidence by taping and recording secret meetings of company’s senior executives, including himself along with their international competitors for fixing price and volume of their production. Mark is secretly hoping to turn in his seniors and become the CEO of company while also doing a fraud and siphoning money in his swiss bank accounts. His lies catch up with him in the end and inspite of him making all sorts of accusations and telling far fetched stories, he is sentenced to prison for 9 years.

The film is based on true events and Matt Damon and the director have done a tremendous job in developing the little news articles into this film. Matt Damon has lived the character and you cannot imagine the film without him. Director Soderbergh has delivered many good films in past and some duds too but this one is right there amongst one of his good one and deserves to be seen. Transformation in Matt Damon is amazing and rather a brave job by a leading star of Hollywood to undergo such a drastic change in look and image for the  role. All kudos to him.

My Ratings:  7.5/10 Do Watch it for brilliant Matt Damon

Books I Read – And Thereby Hangs a Tale

Any Book by Jeffery Archer is highly anticipated. He is one of my favorite authors. Some of his past books like ‘Kane and Abel’, ‘Fourth Protocol’ , ‘Not a Penny More Not a Penny Less’ are in my all time favorite lists. His previous book ‘Paths of Glory’ and ‘A Prisoner by Birth’  were bestsellers as well. He is also known to write wonderful collection of short stories and this book is his sixth such collection.

This collection has 15 such short stories dealing with various anecdotes, episodes, tales in his life. Some of the stories are based on true facts as well. Jeffery Archer is known to create wonderful characters and build little stories around them.

I am not a big fan of short story genre, I feel they are far too short for my liking and they get over the moment they get interesting. But when its by Jeffery Archer one has to read them. In this collection some of the stories do touch your heart, even though most of the stories are not very simple . The little twists in tales he creates in the end are very interesting, most of the time, however they do get bit predictable as we progress. People familiar with his style of writing would immeidately guess what the twist in the tale would be or the suspense would be. Most of his stories are based in Britain and some in America and other parts of Europe however the last story in the book is about an Indian couple’s true love story set in Delhi. Some the stories do have real nice plot and suspense.

I wouldn’t rate this collection of his short stories as his best and frankly a bit disappointing from him after his wonderful last two books. This would in fact be one of his weakest book in some time. Hopefully he would write many more interesting tales.

My Ratings : 6/10 – Do read them, Archer is interesting even at his weakest.

Raavan is a Brave Attempt – Film Review

‘Raavan’ is a Mani Ratnam magnum opus starring Abhishek Bachchan,  Aishwarya Rai, Vikram, Govinda, Priyamani, Ravi Kissen. It is an unique interpretation of the oldest epic in Indian History, Ramayana. Incidentally the movie is shot simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil with different set of actors. It is also dubbed in Telugu.

We had ‘Rajneeti’ inspired from Mahabharata, 2 weeks back and now is the turn of another epic Ramayana. Raavan is adapted from an episode of Ramayana where Sita is abducted by Ravan and Ram searches for her with the help of Hanuman. Abhishek Bachchan plays Beera Munda, the tribal outlaw who kidnaps Ragini Sharma played by Aishwarya Rai, the wife of righteous police Inspector Dev Sharma posted in Lal Maati in central India,  played by Tamil star Vikram. Govinda plays role of  forest guard Sanjeevani who helps Dev in his hunt for Beera.

I had read all the negative reviews the whole day on various blogs, websites, tv channels etc and was expecting nothing much, which I think was the best thing to happen. Most critics had blasted the film left, right and centre. The same critics who loved master pieces like BLUE, KARZZ and HOUSEFULL had called it the Waterloo of Mani Ratnam or Mani Ratnam ki Aag.  I was expecting to get bored and sleepy but I did not. I never felt bored at all and in fact liked most of the movie. Its not a perfect movie but then nowadays which movie is ?

Firstly, the good parts. Visually the film is superlative. Each frame is brilliantly shot. The  music adds to every frame along with decent songs. Technically when you have Santosh Sivan, Mani Ratnam and  A R Rehman there could be no compromises. The film has possible the best production design and art direction for a film this year.  Definitely the best cinematography and brilliant background score.The picture perfect never before seen locations of Kerala are breathtakingly beautiful and you can feel the atmosphere in every frame of the film. You want to visit the locations and the film makes you feel that in parts. The Camera detailing and lighting would surely make this film a contender for technical awards next year.

The story is simple enough, however in the first half there are far too many disjointed scenes and dialogues, one continuous chase and the story doesn’t move much ahead. Characters are established a bit randomly using montages. The kidnapping is shot well, however Govinda’s entry is bit ridiculous. The 2nd half is much better, the flashback is well made and story does make more  sense, however the end is debatable but very well shot according to me.  Ravan not only doesn’t kill Sita but also saves Ram and Ram in turn kills him mercilessly, while using Sita as a pawn justifies the central theme of the film  that “there is Ram in every Raavan and Raavan in every Ram”.

Lots of action and killing and blood everywhere. The screenplay is good in parts but not the best. Certain sequences look quite unwanted in fact.  Frankly speaking the film is bit slow at times and bit predictable as we constantly have the Ramayana reference in our mind. The songs in 2nd half were a bit of a hindrance. Reputation of Mani Ratnam is such that we all were expecting a much much better film from the master director.

However the film is not bad as portrayed by most of the media, news channels and honorary critics. The film is definitely worth a watch. I do not know what were the critics expecting from this movie but if anyone had to make a different adaptation of Ramayana, this was the way to do it. Else Barjatyas adapted Ramayana for Hum Sath Sath Hain and so did Ramanand Sagar  for TV and Manoj Kumar for his Kalyug aur Ramayan. I think Mani Ratnam has taken a brave step especially by showing the ending shot when Sita screams for the dying Raavan.

Acting wise Abhishek as Beera plays his heart out and looks real intense, although does seem to go overboard at times, Beera looks a bit maniac at times rather than scary, but then that’s the demand of the role. I cant see any other top star portraying this role as effectively as he has done. Aishwarya looks good and she acts decent too, if only she could scream a bit less. Her eyes do convey a lot. Vikram is okeyish enough and has a straight forward role initially, which turns greyish by the end. He is probably the first South Indian star with almost no south Indian accent in his Hindi, which is a welcome thing. He does tend to go loud at times though.  Govinda and Ravi Kissen do well in small roles. Nikhil Dwivedi and Ajay Gehi are ok with smallish roles. Why did Tejaswini Kolhapure did the role she did, is a mystery though. Priyamani in a brief role is fine.

Overall not a perfect movie but not very bad either and surely merits a one-time watch.

My Ratings: 6.5/10 –  Watch it once , better interpretation of Ramayana then the Ramanand Sagar one.

Somebody BAN the VUVUZELA please !!!

Vuvuzela is killing it !!! The cheap plastic horns are killing the world cup soccer viewing experience. There are basically tuneless horns producing cacophony.

Watching the world cup matches on TV, all one hears is noise produced by thousands of tunelss vuvuzelas and nothing else. It was good the first time we heard it, almost a novelty but then one half into it and we knew it that this was the world cup killer, if not controlled. It just ruins the football watching atmosphere totally.

Instead of the ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ of the spectators engrossed in the game, what one hears is senseless trumpet noise which irritates your ears more than a Himesh Reshmmiya solo song. No slogans, no spontaneous reactions, no songs, no banter, no insults, nothing can be heard over this cacophony. I have realized, like many others, that the best and perhaps the only way to watch world cup football on TV is by muting the sound.

Somebody please BAN these stupid horns and save football world cup. FIFA are you listening???

Books I Read- The Betelnut Killers

“The Betelnut Killers” by Manisha Lakhe is a fictional, farcical, comical adventure of an NRI Gujarati family running a grocery store in Portland,Oregon.

The book is a light read and more written as a movie screenplay than a book where you can visualise most of the scenes taking place in the book. The book is about weird situation of the NRI Gujrati family hiring a ‘supari’ (betel nut) killer from India to kill their competitor grocery store owner. The book has a wafer thin plot and some of the happenings are almost unbelievable. The characters are very ‘bollywoodish’ and stereotype with vicious and aggressive wife, nerdy son, seductress daughter,  drug-addict relative, sexy rival shop owner, mad contract killer etc.. The writing is not so great and is confused at times. The story is linear mostly with almost predictable twists and turns.

The book is to be made into a low budget Bollywood movie, perhaps mostly with NRI actors. I would suggest to make it a Stage Drama instead, perhaps in Gujrati and it might just work.

Good for a one time read, when you have nothing better to read at hand or nothing better to do. Read it with zero expectations and you might just enjoy.

Ratings : 4/ 10