300 : Rise Of An Empire

300 : Rise Of An Empire is a 2014 fantasy war/action movie and is a sort of sequel to 2007’s 300 in that the events of this film happen before, during & after the events of the previous film. It is based on the as-yet-unreleased Frank Miller graphic novel Xerxes. Zack Snyder, who directed and co-wrote the original film, acts as writer and producer on Rise of an Empire. The cast includes Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, David Wenham, Andrew Tiernan, Andrew Pleavin and Peter Mensah reprising their roles from the first film, alongside Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, and Jack O’Connell.

The film, narrated by Queen Gorgo of Sparta, shows how the Persian king Darius was fatally inured by general Themistocles of Athens as the Persians tried to invade Athens at the Battle of Marathon. Themistocles regretted not killing the future king, Xerses, then a young prince who witnessed the death of his father. Before dying Darius advices not to continue the war as the Greeks can only be killed by the gods. Darius’ faithful naval commander Artemisia, tells Xerses that it is a challenge and tells him to go to a mystic cave and bathes in an otherwordly liquid (??) and when he emerges he turns from a normal Persian man with a beard and hair to that hairless wonder or whatever it is with jewels from the Mr. T rejection pile! Artemisia is actually a Greek woman who defected to Persia as her family was raped and murdered by Greek hoplites and she was taken as a sex slave to the Greeks, who left her for dead in the streets. She was rescued and adopted by the Persians. Her lust for vengeance gained the attention of King Darius and he made her a naval commander after she killed many of his enemies.

Themeistocles alerted by his friend Scyllas, who was spying on the Persians, about their advancement travels to Sparta to ask King Leonaidas for help but as the King is consulting with the Oracle, Gorgo is reluctant for the Spartans to join Athens. Themistocles and his men win the first battle by ramming their ship against a Persian one and attacking them in ambushes and impresses Artemisia so much that she invites him over to talk. On her ship she ties to uses sex to influence him to defect to her side and become her second in command but when he refuses she pushes his aside. The Greeks are caught off guard the next day when the Persians spill tar into the sea and then use torches to ignite the fire, causing several ships to explode. Scyllas is also killed while the army is depleted down. While they rest they learn of the death of Leonidas and his 300 men. Themeistocles visits Gorgo in Sparta while she is mourning Leonidas to ask for her help, but she is too overcome with grief. Before leaving, Themistocles returns Leonidas’ sword, which he took from Ephialtes, who had earlier stolen it, and urges Gorgo to avenge Leonidas.

Athen is destroyed by Xerses while Artemisia learns that Themistocles is still alive and prepares to attack again, against Xerses wishes. The Greek ships crash into the Persians ships, and the two armies battle, beginning the decisive Battle of Salamis. Themistocles and Artemisia fight, which ends in a stalemate with both receiving injuries. However Gorgo has arrived with the Spartan army and allied with the rest of the Greek soldiers from other cities outnumbering the Persians. Themistocles gives Artemisia a chance to surrender before killing her and the Greeks go on to destroy the Persians.

Honestly, I couldn’t stand all that cartoonish blood flowing freely and thought that the story felt tame. Action sequences are great but it really is fantasy more than anything. Mystic otherwordly liquid turns a man into a muscular effeminate mountain? Eva Green is hawt in that sex scene! 6.5 outta 10 for me!

2014 World Cup Commences

So, the greatest show on planet earth, watched by more humans (and some animals too) than any other event, started last night (for Indians) with a grand opening ceremony. Said opening ceremony lost a lot of glitter as it took place during the day time and would have looked a lot more spectacular had it been held in the later hours of the day. Nevertheless even as the anti-tournament protested continued their demonstrations the event took place in front of an appreciative stadium crowd as well as a huge global audience. And ofcourse that stupid, simplistic & corny song sung (and I use that term loosely) by Pitbull & 2 Stray Street dogs was performed with JLo looking like she was about to bare her chest to the entire world. I have no idea who the Brazilian bimbo with them was.

A while later the opening match took place with hosts Brazil taking on Croatia. A brace by Neymar cancelled an own goal by defender Marcelo as a resilient Croatian side attacked on the counter and troubled the Samba boys for a while. However it would still be Brazil’s day although the Japanese referee had dubious officiating that seemed to favour the host side. Oscar finished things up by poking home a third at the death.

So here’s hoping for a great tournament and some exciting matches.Ole!

This Used To Be My Town

Thrikkakara was my hometown. I’ve lived there for 19 years from the time my family moved back to India in the summer of 1987 till 2006 when we sold the large house which we called home and moved to the city area. I hadn’t been back there since then – well, except for a couple of late night rides in a company cab coming back home from work and one time passing by late in the evening heading to an office party. I didn’t want to go back there at all especially because we had had to sell our family house to pay off debts that my dad’s business had incurred. Not wanting to sell your house but having to sell it as it would get you a lot of money with which you can pay off your debt and still have enough left over to buy a small apartment and have some money left, was a relief to us and hence we did it. But it made me not want to see the house again after we handed over the keys and I avoided the small suburban town like the plague.

That changed two days ago. I was my mother as she had to go to the AIMS hospital and after having her knee scanned we had a long wait to get the report. And as it was lunch time we took a taxi to my mother’s brother’s house – which is two doors away from my old house – and bought some food along the way. I got to see Thrikkakara properly in the day light and was surprised by the rogress that I saw. From a dull deary town that had almost no shops (we had to go 3 kms to do most of our shopping, even basic stuff) and very few buildings, Thrikkakara is now a bustling little town. Lots of buildings have popped up, even a few apartment complexes. Lots of shops and stores so now the residents can basically walk to get to stores that have all their needs met. Some offices, supermarkets and hotels have popped up too. This little town is all grown up. I stopped at a small hotel to buy some biriyani for lunch.

We spent almost 2 hours at my uncle’s house and I stepped out to the backyard and took a peek at the back of my old house. Not really wanting to see the former home, I just looked at the terrace at the back where the new owner has setup a kind of sitout with an asbestos or aluminum sheet so that people can have some shade and protection from the hot sun or the rains and still enjoy the outdoors. And I saw part of a bedroom – that’s it. Mom & I purposely avoided looking at our old house just so we won’t get pangs of nostalgia and some pain that will go with it. Still I was happy that I visited Thrikkakara and left with a smile on my face. I will come again soon.

Winning Formula For Making Hit Malayalam TV Serials

I’ve come up with the winning formula for a hit Malayalam tv serial/soap opera series. Let’s take it that an episode is 30 minutes long. I have narrowed it down to:

  • 30 minutes in total out of which 6 minutes is for commercials.
  • Remaining 24 minutes of actual show is split up into :
  • 7 minutes staring & looking around as dramatic music is played after a revelation is said.
  • Said dramatic music should be a mix of classical music with Latin sounding chants.
  • 7 minutes for actors glaring at each other – with more dramatic music.
  • 5 minutes of slow motion where characters are either staring and moving their eyes about or walking.
  • 3 minutes for women crying!
  • 2 minutes for credits!

Done deal! I have a hit! Now I need actors who can stare and glare and actresses who can cry at the drop of a hat!

2002 World Cup In South Korea & Japan

I remember quite a few things about the 2002 World Cup, the first to be held on Asian soil. And fittingly Japan was one of the nations that co-hosted the tournament along with South Korea. Shock of the tournament was defending champions France losing in the opening match to Senegal. Yes….to Senegal! Even more shocking they were eliminated at the group stage itself as they drew their next game against Uruguay and then lost to Denmark with the dubious dishonour of being chucked out of the world cup without even scoring a single goal!

Argentina too failed to move past the group stage while Irish legend Roy Keane was sent home well before the tournament started after he had a public quarrel with manager Mick McCarthy. Germany thrashed Saudi Arabia 8-0 while Spain & Brazil impressed early on by winning all their 3 games in the group stages. The two co-hosts would qualify to the next stage bringing pride & joy to their respective fans. Senegal would be a big surprise of the tournament beating Sweden in the round of 16 to make it to the quarter-finals. Turkey was another, beating Japan in the round of 16 and then ending fellow surprise package Senagal’s run in the quaters. South Korea were the biggest surprise beating Italy 2-1 in sudden death extra time! They would go on to beat Spain but their impressive Cinderella run came to a halt when they were beaten 0-1 by Germany in the semi-finals. The Koreans finished 4th as the lost the 3rd place match to Turkey.

The final saw Brazil win 2-0 over Germany – a match I watched in Trivandrum with a cousin who had traveled with me while we were staying at another cousin’s house along with some of the latter’s friends. We had whiskey, porottas and lamb curry with goat brains and fried eggs! But what I most remember of this particular World cup was the going to Calicut early in the morning with another cousin and our uncle to attend yet another uncle’s housewarming. On the way we pass through Malappuram as well and the entire district had football & world cup decorations, hoardings & posters all over the streets as well as effigies of famous players! Flags of Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Spain were all over the place as well. The same thing could be seen in the city of Calicut as well. After lunch at my uncle’s house a huge gathering of older folks – men & women in their 60s & 70s watched the Brazil vs England quarterfinal match and they were very knowledgeable about the game & players as well. That was a huge & pleasant surprise for me and my cousin as we don’t get to see that in the rest of the state.

Also that same world cup, I was watching a lot of games at my uncle’s house – just 2 houses next to where I lived back then – and my grandmother would join us in the afternoon and evenings to sit with us as we watched some of the matches. She was on medication (as well as being unwell she had also just lost a son less than a year ago) and liked sitting with us. It was fun and we would joke with her just to keep  her in high spirits. That is a cherished memory that I am unlikely to ever forget.

Food Review Video #9

For my 9th food review video I went to Subway & enjoyed a nice Turkey Sub at the newly inaugurated Subway outlet in Center Mall (Kochi). Although there’s been a Subway in the city for a couple of years now, this is the first time that I am trying out one of their sandwiches. So this video & review is very special to me because this is the first time I’ve ever been to a Subway and had a Subway sandwich, this is also the first time I’ve had turkey meat and also the first Diet Coke I’ve ever had!

Devil’s Knot

I have seen 4 documentaries on the West Memphis 3 case; 3 teenagers who were convicted for killing three young boys and subsequently sentenced to life in prison. However in 2013 a feature film was also made about it although it focuses mostly on the initial case, trial and sentencing leaving a lot of the story untold. This movie is Devil’s Knot directed by award winning director Atom Egoyan and starring Reese Witherspoon, Mireille Enos, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan, Kevin Durand, Bruce Greenwood, Stephen Moyer, Elias Koteas, Amy Ryan, and Alessandro Nivola.

What can the movie offer that the 4 well made documentaries haven’t already provided to viewers? Although I am a fan of director Egoyan and several of the actors are top class as well the movie seems like it could have best been avoided. Especially because since it’s mostly seen from the angle of the mother of one of the 8 year old boys who was brutally murdered and the private investigator helping the defendants’ lawyers with their case. Granted the documentaries focused more on the WM3 and the surroundings of the cases and that Devil’s Knot is based on the 2002 book of the same name by Mara Leveritt. In 2002 the WM3 were still in prison. Anyways the movie shows the reaction of the families, especially that of Pamela Hobbs and her second husband Terry Hobbs who was step-father to Stevie Branch, one of the murder victims.

However the movie then goes a bit more of the emotional route with focus on Pam having dreams and visions of Stevie leading to her finding her son’s pocket knife among Terry’s belongings and her suspecting him. That’s a bit of a stretch and strays from known facts about the case. I did like the portrayal of most of the actors who were in the movie – Kevin Durand was almost hilarious as  the notorious John Mark Byers, Adoptive father of victim Christopher Byers. However Colin Firth’s role as the investigator Ron Lax and focus on him in a restaurant watching the case on tv is just unnecessary. I wish they would have focused more on the victims families other than Pam, Terry & Byers and also shown more about the WM3 – more on their lives. Instead we have what seems like clips of things happening in the case that are collected without much cohesion.

I’d give this movie a 6.5 outta 10 but I hope that anyone who watches this will also go and check out the 4 documentaries that were able to go into much greater depth & detail on the case of the West Memphis 3.

Reliance’s Poor, Pathetic Attempts At Customer Care

They have done it again. Just when I think that Reliance Broadband’s customer care service cannot get any worse – they surprise me and become even more pathetic! My internet connection went down on Friday afternoon at around 1pm or so. I called up Reliance’s customer care at around 1:30 pm to make a complaint but the line kept getting disconnected. Finally I had to call the local tech guy’s office and have them register a complaint on my behalf, using the online tool. But 24 hours later – no contact from Reliance. Fail #1! So I called the call center on Saturday evening and asked what happened . Agent says “No idea” so I asked to get transferred to a floor supervisor. This guy listened to me for 20 minutes and promised me a call back, after checking with the technical department, either later that night or  by Sunday afternoon. And guess what – he does not call me back! Fail #2!

So a senior customer care representative promises a call back to a customer and he does not deliver! Wow, that is bad. But wait there’s more. On Sunday I called their call center again by the afternoon and spoke to a young lady- she too, after checking the status of the complaint – said that I would get a call back from a technical employee if the connection is not restored by 6pm. 6pm came and went and no call back and no internet connection – Fail # 3! I called the call center at night and spoke to an agent and for 1 hour he tried to transfer my call to a supervisor on my request. No supervisor was available to take my call and yet they did not call me back either – Fail #4!

On Monday, I called the appellate complaint desk and raised a separate complaint and told the guy that picked up all that had happened. He too promised me a call back by 4pm-5pm that day – it did not materialize and so Fail #5! So I called the appellate desk again later that day and asked the lady who picked up what the delay was all about and why was I not given a call back. She replied “Problem might take upto 4 days to resolve sir, and call back was not mentioned in the comments by the previous person!” WHAT THE FUCK!!

Finally today, while I was away at the hospital, some jerk from their technical section calls me up and says “Has the problem been resolved?” NO hello, no introduction – just a demand to know if the problem is resolved! I told him that I was away so he said he will call back later in the afternoon. By 3pm they came to my apartment and were let in by my dad and apparently the problem was resolved because, hey I am typing this on my home system.

This is the lousiest, most ridiculous and pathetic attempt at customer care service provided by any company in my experience!

1998 World Cup In France

The 1998 world cup was another really memorable and enjoyable one for me. Perhaps no other world cup was an enjoyable and as exciting for me personally. I was 21, not yet 22, studying at NIIT and despite most of the matches ending late at night, like 1am-2am, I would watch all of them and get up at 5 am 4 days in a week to get to the 7 am class at NIIT. Me and the other guys would be in class, eyes red as hell and guzzling down loads of hot black coffee to stay awake while the ladies looked at us as if we were insane. Once the classroom and lab sessions were over (usually at around 11 am) we would spend the next 2 & a 1/2 hours discussing the matches that we had seen the previous night. At 1:30 pm we would leave for lunch and head back home.

I would sleep for awhile and in the late evenings read all the match reports and analysis of the matches played and rest up for that night’s matches. This was a fun time. I never discussed so much football in one place ever. There were so many good squads. Norway & Denmark represented Scandinavia with Sweden having failed to qualify and both teams entertained, especially Denmark with the final time that we would see the Laudrup brothers playing on a big stage together. Chile & Italy gave us a good match but Nigeria were the big surprises in the group stage, qualifying at the top of their group which included Paraguay – who also qualified – along with Spain & Bulgaria who didn’t! The Netherlands started slowly drawing 2 games and thrashing South Korea. By the way, this was also the first time that I saw my favourite utility player of all time Philip Cocu play. He was an unheralded hero playing defender, wing back, midfielder, winger & striker in different matches throughout the tournament.

Romania also showed some early flair finishing top of their group that also included England & Columbia, while Argentina looked the strongest during the group stage winning all 3 of their group stage matches in style. The big game in the round of 16 was ofcourse England vs Argentina and drama ensued. David Beckham was red carded for kicking at Diego Simone after being fouled by the Argentine in a fit of rage. Argentina went on to win the game via penalty shootout. In the quaterfinals Brazil vs Denmark and Argentina vs Netherlands were two exciting affairs and it was a shame that both Denmark & Argentina had to lose at that stage. Brazil would face off against the Netherlands in the semis and won via penalties. The other quarterfinals were between France & Italy with France winning in the shootout while a big surprise was up with the Cindrella team of the tournament with Croatia beating Germany 3-0. France would then beat Croatia and go onto beat Brazil 3-0 under the brilliance of Zinedine Zidane, give the French their first ever World Cup. Davor Suker won the golden boot with 6 goals and led Croatia to the 3rd place, beating Netherlands 2-1.

2014 Stanley Cup Finals

Not the final I wanted to see. It’s Broadway vs LA or Broadway vs Hollywood! I had hoped for a Chicago vs Montreal final with the Habs winning their first Cup since 1993. Even a Blackhawks win would have been fine with me if Montreal had not lost to New York. But there its, the two big cities of the United States (yes I know that Chicago is the second biggest city) – Los Angeles vs New York City. Who’s gonna win?

Leaving Mother Earth Behind

You are on a mission to Mars. Because of the length of of the journey, you will never be able to return to Earth. What about our blue planet will you miss the most?

I’d miss mother Earth a whole lot. She is my home, she is our home and the only planet we have know so far. So suppose I’d be leaving on a space mission, say to Mars, like the prompt says and I can never return to Earth due to the duration of the journey and work to be done on Mars, I’d miss a whole bunch of things like:

The food, the variety and the taste. The women – of so many different colours and ethnicity. Ah the women. I’d miss the colours of the planet and the trees, plants and flowers. I’d miss the oceans and the seas, the lakes and the rivers and the fountains. I’d miss the birds high up on the trees and flying in the sky and their sweet bird songs. I’d miss the cats and the kittens and the dogs and the puppies. I’d miss all the animals that I can see on a regular basis and ones that I get to see on a not so regular basis. I’d miss the clouds and the rain – oh I’d so miss the rain. I’d miss the breeze and the rainbows and sunsets and sunrises.

I’ll miss the music, the movies, the tv shows, the sports events and the internet. I’d miss the various drinks – alcoholic & non-alcoholic – and the buildings and the mountains and the hills and the valleys and the greenery. Heck I’ll miss almost everything about the earth. The only things I won’t miss are bad weather, insects and mosquitoes and the fucked up assholes who try and ruin it for others. And ofcourse stupid, idiotic people in power and especially religious fools. I won’t miss those. But I’ll miss everything else.

Prompt from the Daily Post at WordPress.com.

Mandela : Long Walk To Freedom

Mandela : Long Walk To Freedom is a 2013 British-South African biographical film based on the 1995 autobiographical book Long Walk to Freedom by anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African President Nelson Mandela. The movie stars Idris Elba and Naomi Harris as Nelson & Winnie Mandela respectively and is directed by Justin Chadwick.

The film focuses on Mandela’s life, showing snippets of his life as a young boy and then a lawyer in the black society of South Africa under apartheid. His first marriage failed due to his infidelities and his wife left him and took their only son with them. Later he met and fell in love with Winnie while he started getting recognized as an anti-apartheid activist and she would soon pick up the fight for freedom as well. The movie shows several scenes of white brutality over the black majority starting with the police beating up of a young man, who was returning home drunk from a bar and didn’t have his papers with him, leading to his death.

Mandela becomes a leader for his people and is looked upon for his guidance and knowledge of the law. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie in which he is able to get a case of thievery dismissed for his client because the white mistress she was working for refused to answer the questions from a black attorney. Mandela is seen as preferring a non-violent movement against the injustice and apartheid but the ANC resorts to blowing up offices and buildings in retaliation for several acts of brutality from the authorities. The last straw was when the police fired guns killing several unarmed protestors who were burning the mandatory passports for all black Africans in South Africa. In 1963 Mandela was arrested along with other ANC leaders and post a trial is sentenced to life imprisonment in Robben Island where the jailors initially told him that he would never leave. The prison conditions are pathetic and inhumane, Mandela’s tall frame is assigned a cramped bed on the floor too short for him. The ANC leaders spend several years in jail there, doing hard manual labour but still protesting as much as possible. Winnie comes to see him and much later, after she turns 16, so does his elder daughter. He was only allowed one visitor and one letter every 6 months.

The movie also focuses on Winnie’s life after Mandela was imprisoned. Thrown into politics by circumstances she continues her husband’s work and is arrested, tortured and made to suffer long durations of isolated confinement in jails. She reacts violently when the cops search her bedroom and takes her away from her children and her path for the freedom struggle is a different one. Whereas Mandela still preached non-violence, toward the later part of the movie we see Winnie supporting the people’s anger and need to display that by fighting back with guns and other weapons and in one case, the beating and torture of blacks who they consider to be collaborators. Mandela’s stature as a political leader manages to grow even during the years in prison and the government under F W De Klerk is forced to negotiate with him. Mandela is granted a more lenient imprisonment, taken to a house to meet with some men and later with De Klerk. He and his fellow ANC leaders are taken to a newer & cleaner prison on the main land where they can be in the same large cell but it is also a means for the government to spy on them and listen to their conversations. Refusing to just get a share of the power, Mandela is later allowed to live in a home with relative comfort and a cook to prepare his meals in 1988 and he was allowed to be visited by his extended family.

In 1990, after 27 years, he was finally a free man but his relationship with Winnie had clearly been stained to the point of no return. She had become a powerful figure herself but was more angry and leaned toward retaliation with weapons. They separated in 1992 due to their differences as well as her having taken other lovers (shown in the movie as only photographs of her going out with another man) and divorced in 1996. The movie ends with Mandela’s electoral victory and being sworn in as president in 1994. The movie fails to ignite much emotion and reaction from the viewers. I did not like the pacing of the film and felt that they needed to focus on less events. I also am not a big fan of Idris Elba and did not like his delivery style which sounded odd. Naomi Harris is however superb as Winnie and delivers a passionate and fiery performance. I can see why the movie failed to do well at the box office. I’d give it a 7 outta 10!

Unsafe Containers

Which emotion(s) — joy, envy, rage, pity, or something else — do you find to be the hardest to contain?

I can hide my envy and any pity that I might have for someone or something pretty well. As a result of the pity – I hate to say pity, it’s more like sympathy and empathy, I will feel for those people or animals and act as much as possible to help them out. I cannot hide the sympathy & empathy that I feel though. Unless ofcourse it isn’t a very sad situation.

Rage is however another thing altogether. I find it harder and harder to hide it and I must show it or allow it to come to the surface or else I’m afraid that I will burst. I must let out that anger & frustration somehow or the other and in most cases an alternate outlet will suffice. But sometimes I must vent and once it is out things normally tend to calm down.

The same with joy. I like to be happy and my face cannot control my smile and my eyes light up when I am happy. My poker face – didn’t know that I had one – fails and I go into a grin and everyone around me knows that I am joyful about something or the other. And I like to radiate that joy onto others. Cause who doesn’t like to smile & be happy?

Prompt from the Daily Post at WordPress.com.

Climate Controls This Man

The idea that the weather and people’s moods are connected is quite old. Do you agree? If yes, how does the weather affect your mood?

When it’s hot and humid (like it has been since mid January and gradually increasing till June) I get upset more often, lose my temper a lot and generally feel like I wanna fuck up things so badly. When the power goes out on a particularly hot & humid day, as it usually does, I feel like I could just about tear a new asshole for the universe if it’s not too careful. I get angry and heat does not make me happy! So watch out.

When things are cooler and breezier I am my regular charming, sweet & funny self. I crack jokes, make people laugh, I get along with everybody and I am helpful and a delight to be around. And when it rains and it’s windy as well, I get romantic, recite poetry and generally am at my seductive best. I bring roses and chocolates and a flamenco guitar and its time to ‘Ole”!

Just don’t get me on the hot & humid days. When I am this close (about an inch) to taking a razor and shaving all the hair on my body and head!

Prompt from the Daily Post by WordPress.com.