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Thoughts on Jurassic World

By on Jun 14, 2015 in Reviews | 2 comments

I went to see Jurassic World yesterday, I movie I’d been highly anticipating for a while. Normally I don’t get time for any blogging these days, but this is such an exception. Thoughts… Jurassic Park was one of my favourite movies as a kid. It used to come on Star Movies all the time, practically every week. (The first two movies I ever saw were, if I remember correctly, Independence Day and Godzilla Roland Emmerich version.) I was completely fascinated by dinosaurs like any kid would. My favourite dinosaur was a triceratops, also because one of my favourite characters on the animated cartoon show DuckTales was Tootsie the Triceratops. Holy guacamole Batman, there’s more product placement in Jurassic World than a Michael Bay movie. And of course there’s a fucking Starbucks while trying to look at dinosaurs. Is that a ’92 Jeep Wrangler? Of course it is, because a character fucking tells you that it is. Is the ambulance a Mercedes-Benz? Of course it is. Having said that, they also know how to take the piss. This is where the director – who did one of my fave movies Safety Not Guaranteed earlier – shines. They can work in blatant product placement like “Verizon Wireless presents Indominus Rex” and still make it sound genuine. So many great actors from beloved indie TV shows. Similarly, when describing the new genetic hybrid dinosaur Indominus Rex, one of the characters says how “audiences aren’t wowed by dinosaurs any more; they want them bigger, faster, and crueler” it seems very self-aware and directed the audience of the movie. It’s touches like that throughout of self-awareness that make this film great. It’s basically a kaiju film, in how the film ends. I like the inspiration taken from Michael Crichton’s novels on the characteristics of Indominus Rex (warning: spoilers on that link). First, The Amazing Spiderman and now this…Irrfan Khan truly is Hollywood’s go-to actor for playing an Indian executive in a corporation that gets swatted at by giant reptiles. Which is a very specific niche to be pigeon-holed into. Speaking of corporations, how exactly does Ingen (the corporation that owns the genetic rights of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic universe) keep coming back from bankruptcy? Instead of owning theme parks, in the real world they’d probably become a patent troll existing on life support, using their patents to sue companies making genetically modified Basmati rice. Because there’s only so many “mishaps” at theme parks Wall Street can withstand. Having said all of that, go watch the movie! It’s a worthy successor to the Jurassic...

The Lego Movie / The Grand Budapest Hotel

By on Mar 9, 2014 in Reviews | 2 comments

The Lego Movie   I admit that I was sceptical going in to watch The Lego Movie whether it would be actually good, or a merchandising ploy to turn toys into a movie gone too far – like the 2012 critical flop Battleship. I tend to dislike animated films in general because I often find them simplistic in terms of themes, with changeable “characters” (toys, cars, sea life) made with an eye towards the merchandising rights. Given that context, The Lego Movie was a pleasant surprise. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller use their tried technique of making smart contemporary pop culture references from their previous effort 21 Jump Street and tell it through charming, retro-style animation afforded by using Lego characters. I was very impressed by how smartly the casting was done to pick up actors who are big in Internet pop cultures: Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreations, Will Arnett from Arrested Development, Alison Brie from Community, Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Elizabeth Banks from The Hunger Games trilogy. If that top billing of voice actors with niche and rabid fan bases online doesn’t get you interested, there’s also Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, and Liam Neeson among top Hollywood actors – each, again, who are favourites of the Internet crowd. This self-aware casting is what elevates the dialogue in The Lego Movie from just the jokes they are in the screenplay to in-joke pop culture references, adding another dimension to the film. I reckon that these will be jokes only the older viewers will be able to recognise and appreciate. The retro animation style captures the fascination kids have with Lego toys and is sure to make anyone who enjoyed playing with them in childhood reminisce. It’s overall a very cheerful and uplifting film, but the scenes which show father-son bonding moved me to tears – of sadness – because of the troubled relationship that I have with my own family. Besides that, there are also undercurrents of commentary about capitalist culture and mental health issues; perhaps that was me projecting my own views on to the film, but much in the way of Lego pieces, the film’s plot gives you the canvas to interpret scenes in your own way. Rating: 4 / 5 *** The Grand Budapest Hotel As a self-confessed Wes Anderson fan, I had been looking forward to the release of The Grand Budapest Hotel for a long time. What I wasn’t expecting – when I caught it at the Odeon in Guildford on première weekend – was to find a completely packed theatre. Somehow, I never thought Guildford would be a place full of Wes Anderson fans! Let me take a step back here. If you’ve never heard of Wes Anderson, he known for such films as The Darjeeling Limited, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou – and, my personal favourite – Moonrise Kingdom. His films are critically renowned for their unique visual style, deadpan dialogue, and ensemble casts (often) featuring Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe. What sets Anderson apart for me is his ability to dive into deep, emotional topics of life and representing them in a visually striking fashion. The Grand Budapest Hotel, unlike many of his previous films, is loosely inspired by the real-life events of Stefan Zweig – a famous German writer. The story is set during World War II, with Ralph Fiennes leading the cast as M. Gustave, the manager of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Gustave is a womaniser who loves “pleasuring” his elderly women guests, and through that, ends up being bequeathed a famous painting. It’s a story of murder, prison break, and troubled families – far more bloody and gory than Anderson’s previous work, but perhaps fitting with the theme of the times during WWII. The plot is decidedly less quirky and employs less of the tracking shots between different locations that Anderson is so famous for. Little-known actor Tony Revolori as the lobby boy Zero plays the foil and protegé to Fiennes’ character with aplomb. Fiennes himself is assuredly funny even in bleak situations; he slips so perfectly into the character of a British hotel manager. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a genuinely well-crafted film which I would recommend without hesitation to fans of indie cinema and / or Wes Anderson. I’m not sure whether the average punter would enjoy it though, because the film is not “accessible” in the same sense that, say, Moonrise Kingdom was. Rating: 3.5 /...

Anoushka Shankar’s “Traces of You” India tour

By on Dec 15, 2013 in Reviews | 1 comment

Anoushka Shankar’s “Traces of You” India tour

The Pot Belly / What A Comic Show reviews

By on Nov 28, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

My trip to The Pot Belly Cafe was mildly adventurous. Since I got a new Nokia Lumia phone, I decided to check out how accurate its HERE Transit app is with Delhi transport. I started off from my house near Moti Bagh and took a bus to AIIMS. At this point, the app kept telling me either to take a 465EXT route bus – which never arrived despite being listed multiple times – or to take route 540 from South Extension, 500 metres away. I thought, “500 metres ain’t too bad” so I started walking towards South Ex from AIIMS. At first there was a usable (in Delhi!) footpath, which soon narrowed down to a single-brick wide pathway alongside a busy highway. It was at this point that two guys on a motorcycle alighted next me. Now, it was dark – around 8pm – and I expected they’d either mug me or ask for directions. The mystery was soon resolved when one of the guys approached me and asked me whether I wanted to buy a Nokia Lumia 920 for “a reasonable price”. I politely declined and reached my destination eventually by bus. I learned later that it’s a common scam in Delhi to be approached by people pretending to sell you a phone at a seemingly bargain price, and then swap the phone with a dummy when the transaction takes place. I was headed to Shahpur Jat – a “ghetto version of Hauz Khas Village”, as a friend described it. I was little prepared for the shock when I entered the “village” from the incorrect entrance and had to navigate narrow alley after another to get to my destination. (Directions on Zomato or Google Maps weren’t helpful.) Karmanya may have been scared to get shanked in HKV, but on this occasion I felt that was an actual possibility. The closest parallel I can draw to what the general vibe is when I’ve had to visit relatives in Katwaria Sarai. Anyway, I finally did reach my destination, The Pot Belly Cafe. Not a particularly upscale option as it specialises in Bihari cuisine, which was part of the attraction to me since it would be something different. This place had been picked on Prateek‘s recommendation (a foodie who runs an amazing food blog over at Belly Centric); I was also meeting up with other Twitter-friends – Souvik, Apoorv, and Karan. The interiors look like a fancy dhaba. We started off with baskets of meat and vegetable pakoras for starters. Pakoras are fairly typical and our group was still hungry so we decided to order more starters. The next set of starters we ordered were “phish phingers” – cylindrical fish sticks with crispy potatoes of the kind you get at Yo! China – along with the Bihari staple of litti chokha. Litti is basically roasted chickpea which is stuffed into a fried jacket, like a jacket potato, served with (on this occasion) with chana dal. My impression of litti chokha from litti juices that I’ve drunk earlier wasn’t particularly amazing, so I was quite surprised that this was tasty! Bihari burger with mutton Maithili Thali Champaran-style mutton For the main course, we chose three dishes. Bihari burger turned out to be a cross between a normal burger and a pav bhaaji, with a mutton patty and filling in super-sized pav bhaaji buns – enough for two people if you aren’t feeling peckish. Champaran-style mutton was boneless, tender mutton served with paranthas and raita. And lastly, Maithili thali was a puri dish with diced paneer. The portions were good enough for sharing among the five of us. Somewhat out-of-the-way, The Pot Belly Cafe is an excellent choice if you want to try out Indian cuisine that’s typically not classified as “sexy” among eating-out choices or easily available. Make sure you figure out where it is first though! It’s very easy to miss. (Slice of Italy / The Coffee Garage are good landmarks in case you need to seek directions.) Rating: 8 / 10 *** SDA Market (opposite IIT Delhi) isn’t my usual choice for venue for a meal due to the lack of choice in cuisines. Not much space in such a tiny market anyway. However, I had noticed signs for a new establishment called What A Comic Show, and I was intrigued by it because I assumed it would be a comedy club. I wanted to give an Indian comedy club that supported local comedians a shot. It wasn’t until I met up with Bhavika for dinner yesterday there that I realised that What A Comic Show is a restaurant – hence the name, rather than a comedy club. The restaurant is stocked with comic book memorabilia (with scary “no touching!” signs) on all shelves, with custom comic book graphic art poster for each table top. The menu, too, is a cardboard slab with comic book action font. What A Comic Show primarily serves Asian and Continental cuisine. The Asian section, to be honest, is quite disappointing serving what passes off as Chinese cuisine in India. The Continental menu, on the other hand, is loaded with many interesting choices. We ordered the mix bell pepper bruschetta and mushroom toast for starters. The quantity was overkill for a starer, since each portion is quite large for two people with four pieces each. For mains, I ate their signature “All Flavour Burger” – a delicious...

Garage, Inc (Hauz Khas Village) / The Blue Door (Khan Market) reviews

By on Nov 24, 2013 in Reviews | 3 comments

My friend Karmanya and I have been searching for a good burger in Delhi the past week. With that in mind, I went to two places to see how the burgers were. *** Garage, Inc in Hauz Khas Village bills itself as an American diner. Naturally, the bare minimum expectation of an American diner is it should serve good burgers. A flight of stairs through the cacophony of construction that seem to be perpetually going on HKV leads to this restaurant. (Karmanya thought he was about to shanked because of how shady the construction site looked.) A heavy iron door – the kind you’d expect for a bank vault, but not really – opens into the restaurant which seems to be aiming for the biker look on everything except for its menu. To be honest, nothing stands out in the decor except for a seemingly-unused foosball table right in front of the door. For starters we ordered cheesy fries with pork, which had some description of shredded meat similar to beef chilli (but supposedly pork). Oh well. I had better hope from their burgers, so I ordered a chicken grease burger with bacon while Karmanya ordered a bacon and beef burger. Now, the concept of “rare” or “medium rare” seems to be non-existent in India, despite specifically making a request for a medium rare burger, the patty in the one Karmanya got was charred. Mine was slightly better, but that’s not saying much since the buns seemed to be too cheap / badly stored and fell apart within seconds. The coleslaw, too, was stale (and upset my stomach later in the day). I was looking forward to dessert since I’d looked up on Zomato that they did deep-fried Mars bar, a Scottish abomination that I haven’t eaten for a while. It’s a standard Mars bar, deep-fried in batter to create a Frankensteinian calorie monster that makes you regret eating it the moment you do. BUT IT IS SO WORTH IT. Now, the thing about a deep-fried Mars bar is that isn’t supposed to be a fine dining experience – because that’s not what the deep-fried Southern American cuisine style is about. It’s supposed to greasy, dirty, sweet, and loaded on calories. Yet the dessert that was presented was dainty, with chocolate sauce dressing, a scoop of ice cream, and to make it worse a “fun” size Mars bar rather than a normal one. The ambience and food at Garage, Inc is terrible. Give this place a miss. Rating: 3 / 10 *** I’ve walked passed the sign for The Blue Door Cafe in Khan Market many times, always giving it a miss because the sign looks. so. shit. The sign is tacky as fuck, more along the line of an upscale dhaba that attempts to do European cuisine. Still, on Karmanya’s recommendation – and since my choice of Garage, Inc had been so crap – we decided to give this place a go. We went in for lunch, although they seem to specialise in breakfasts and crepes. I ordered a burger again with a brownie shake – the latter of which they promptly forgot until I prompted them for it an hour later. Apart from that hitch, the service was on the ball. Speaking of the burger itself, it was done medium rare-ish without even asking for it, showing that the place cares about its meat. The salad was fresh, the chips were chunky, and buns too tasted fresh without falling apart. The shake, well, shakes are good in their own right but given enough whipped cream anything tastes good, to the point that anyone who claims a milkshake they had was “heavenly” now just gets a shrug from me. I need to go back to this place another day to try their breakfast, because properly-cooked bacon is hard to get in Delhi. The Blue Door Cafe is an excellent place for the price you pay. Rating: 7.5 /...