Friday, June 18, 2010

Raavan - Movie Review

Vidit Bhargava
Director : Mani Ratnam
Produced by: Madras Talkies
Actors: Vikram Kennedy, Nikhil Dwivedi, Govinda, Priyamuni, Ravi Kishan, Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan

I've been excited to right this review. Critics have just given bad reviews. To start with, i went today to the Big Cinemas Odeon (one of the best movie theaters in Delhi) great hall and great sound. Good setting to watch the movie anyday.

Let's begin then, the movie's plot is known by virtually every Indian and some indonesian's and south asian's also. The Ramayan remember? Unlike Raajneeti which was just partially based on Mahabharatha (Another Epic, involving Pandavas and kauravs...) Nothing has changed much. Except for a few twists that come later in the movie.

You can imagine the shock i received when in a setting of Kerala the characters started speaking a north Indian Hindi Dialect (aparantly though shot in Kerala, the movie had always been set in North-Eastern Parts)

The movie began with one of the most thrilling starts, I've ever seen in recent movies. That couldn't last more than 10 minutes. The movie from then starts the downwards steep slope of the pace. It slugs and bores you. The only things then left is the other world, the world of the troop led by the Ram (i.e. Dev) of the movie, Vikram Kennedy, where they do have a few interesting sequences. That pace the movie began at, is restored by the end of the first half. So you are not leaving the theater then anyway.

However, there are other things in the first half which keep you in the seats. First the scenic beauty of the whole rural setting of the movie. Second the acting of Vikram Kennedy and Nikhil Dwivedi (See I didn't mention the 'Raavan' himself anywhere.) and the last is Govinda himself who plays the part of the forest guard and with his wity dialogues and good acting.

The second half is much more entertaining and much more gripping than the first one. The director here has carefully shuffled through the parts of the past. The last half an hour full of action and twists and turns is also the best part of the movie. The whole part of the story of 'Beera's' Sister has also been done well.

The background score of the movie, throughout is very good. A.R. Rahman is back with one of his better compositions. So that helps the movie a great deal.

The director as said before gets a twist. He tries from the beginning to give sympathy to our Raavan (Beera). The cruelty of Raavan has vanquished. The good side is only visible. And as my brother puts it "Beera is too vegetarian to be called Raavan".After all you just don't become evil by being called evil (that's what's done in the movie) And when the title of the movie is Raavan you don't expect that. The acting of Abhishek Bachchan is also only average.

The acting is one of the major parts in any film. Actors Vikram Kennedy, Nikhil Dwivedi, Govinda, Ravi Kisan (who by the way is playing 'beera's' brother) and Aishwariya Rai Bachchan do their roles very well. Abhishek Bachchan is average. Priyamuni is good in the small cameo she gets to play.

Overall, Although the movie has a sluggish pace in some parts and the Raavan himself is not that cruel to be called one. The movie is watchable. And provides some good entertainment. I can recommend this one, its not very bad. However, its not Mani Ratnam's best movie. There have been worse movies in the recent past this one is surely far above them.

Rating: *** Stars [Good]

Death in the Clouds - Review

Vidit Bhargava
Written by: Agatha Christie
Genre: Detective Novel, Mystery
Method of Murder: Poison

I post this one before the review of the much anticipated 'Raavan'. Won't spill the beans just now. :) (that review comes in a few hours). Eh Bien lets get to the point, 'The review of Death in the Clouds'

Plot: On a flight to London from Paris, a sleepy Hercule Poirot awakes to find fellow passenger Madame Giselle murdered by a poisoned dart. The murderer must be one of the ten passengers and two stewards aboard the flight, but when the facts lead Poirot nowhere fast, he realises that there is a real danger the case may never be solved.

The book is third person narration, so you'll find the focus hopping from one person to another. Poirot doesn't play much of a part in the first half of the book. The second though, is Poirot and Poirot himself.

The book has a steady start where its not that interesting as some of Christie's other books (Lord Edgware Dies one example) The interest actually builds when Poirot takes to solve the whole thing himself with the help of Japp and Fournier. It keeps you hooked from mid-way to the end.

The major part of the mystery is how does one kill a person, in a plane of 10 passengers (+2 stewards) without being seen by anyone. And when Poirot tries out using a blowpipe, in front of a plane full of people was very funny.

Last time when my brother read "The ABC Murders" he actually solved the mystery. That according to me was very ingenious of him. This time I tried the method which my brother used. The result disappointing. Christie outwitted me ever so convincingly. I was left with my mouth open, and so stunned by the climax, that even now (after a 4 days of reading the book) it forces me to think did he/she actually do it? And then I remember like always : Certain points gave the murderer away.

On the whole, its jaw dropping, mouth opening, and thrilling to read such a book. I wonder why it never featured as a must read? Bien, its a must read for my side at least.

Rating: **** [Awesome]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The New MAC Mini

Vidit Bhargava
Apple just yesterday launched the new MAC MINI. They've updated the whole thing quite a lot. For they've updated the design to a uni-body Aluminium enclosure. The specs have been upgraded and 'there is' an option to manually upgrade the RAM.

So what is this 'MAC mini'? Apple itself doesn't provide computers like we have, either they have an All in one iMac range or they have the MAC Pro which is for the server people. Mac Mini is a mini CPU of sorts. Of Course its branded so you cannot customize much. This is how a MAC Mini looks:

Lets get to some technical specifications.

2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo2GB memory320GB hard drive8x double-layer SuperDriveNVIDIA GeForce 320M graphicsMac OS X Snow Leopard$699 (nearly 35K in India)

The specifications are good. The only concerns are the Processors and the 2GB RAM. The Core 2 Duo Processor is good but when you can get the Core i3, i5 or i7 why not add to the mini? The 2GB RAM is also just par. A 3 or 4GB RAM would have been excellent. Also a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are there and that adds to the + points.

The new Addition to the MAC mini is the Rotatable Lid at the bottom, it opens up to reveal the CPU, and then we can change 'only' the RAM. So if you're unhappy with the RAM config just get hold of a Mac ram and replace it. (Supports upto 8GB only). Other things like the Graphics card and the fan are only for viewing, you can't change them.

At the back of the MAC mini you now get a black panel, which includes:
Power On and of switch, A power plug (no bulky power supplies this time!), 1 Ethernet and Firewire Port, 4 USB 2.0 Ports, SD Card Slot, Headphone and Mic Jacks, A mini -display Port and an HDMI port.

So everything is fine when it comes to the back panel.
Overall, the Device Technically has improved a Ton. However, these are all on the paper, I dont have the actual device.

So now we can ask the question, whether to buy a PC or MAC Mini?

Talking of the Price first:An assembled CPU of the same configuration as of MAC Mini with the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and others will cost around : Rs. 25K/- (approximately $600). Now we add the software to that : Windows 7 ultimate original for : Rs. 11,000 (i use the original price to make a comparison of equals, pirated versions do come but since I am comparing the two, it will be unfair to use pirated prices) and you would want the latest Office suite : that comes for Rs. 7,000 (again original prices quoted.). So The total Price of the CPU and the Software included comes around : Rs. 40,000/-

Now to the MAC Mini : iLife and OS X come inbuilt in the $699 package which in India after all the duties and taxes will come for nearly : Rs. 38,000 (I may be wrong but this is what I believe going to be the price). You need an iWork Suite which is another : Rs. 4700.
Total Price: Rs. 42,700/-

So the competition in the prices is very close. Other things include the big debate of MAC and PCS. (For me the MAC wins)

The verdict :The new MAC mini update is awesome I like it and to the question of whether a MAC Mini or an assembled PC. The competition is close. Its up to you to decide, which one do you want. The price matters very little here.

Image Credit : Apple
P.S. There were other big announcements this week : Project Natal (Microsoft Kinect), Nintendo 3DS, PS Move and all the E3 Games. A post on that coming soon! (once the E3 is ove)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

iPhone 4 - Revealed

Vidit Bhargava
Brace yourself There is much to talk about
The much anticipated WWDC 2010 - Event finished a while ago. WWDC was specially kept for the iPhone. No Updates on any other devices. (The iPad an exception.). And since it was mainly on one topic iPhone & Apps, we are sure to have the new iPhone and it is called the iPhone 4.

1st up, the iPhone that gizmodo leaked was real. It was the actual thing! Looking at what new does the iPhone offer to us, lets go in the order they told it to us.

Design: Steve Jobs at the WWDC made a remark "Stop me, if you've seen this before!... believe me you ain't seen this! *followed by heavy roars* ". By this he first addressed the Gizmodo leak and then told the audience that just getting the outer look they didn't spill all the beans. Apple Still managed to surprise us.

They've ripped apart the curves. Its flat and at the back there is no plastic, its glass (the same glass at the front and back). But doesn't that make it fragile? Well, here is the first blower! The glass they've made is 30 times stronger than normal plastic (atleast, they say so.) . It is of the same material as of helicopter windshields. Also, Apple has made a Stainless Steel alloy rim around the phone. The glass back is not only for design, It provides network signals to flow better. Making the 'Phone' even better.

The biggest thing here is the retina Display. When iPhone 3GS, Nexus One and EVO 4G sat together, iPhone's screen was the dullest. They've corrected that. They've introduced this cool Retina Display with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. And the pixels go quite small in size, only 78 micrometers across. So the pixelated text we see (only sometimes) is much better and much smoother. Like the iPad they've added the IPS panel. All this makes this display by far the best. (dunno how fast the rivals catch up but certainly not in the near future.).

And when Steve was showing how bright the web looked! The wifi went off... puff... Have you seen that before?

Other enhancements include Front Facing Camera. 5 megapixel back camera with LED flash. Extra mic for Noise Cancellation and yes, not to forget the Micro-Sim tray. For which if you want to use your existing sim. You'll need a mechanical SIM Cutter. And the iPhone is even more thinner than the previous ones. Making it the thinnest smartphone ever.

A Gyroscope. Yes A gyroscope has also been added to the list of sensors. Making this term simpler, The Apple Website explains "More motion gestures and greater precision for an even better gaming experience."

Honestly speaking when the Gizmodo leaked it, I wasn't impressed with the design. It looked raw, to say the least. But now, knowing the technical things in this phone. It looks better. It looks more technically right and technically sound.

2. Coming to the inside hardware: They've added the great A4 chip. This is bound to make it 'fly'. The battery life has also increased: 7 hours on 3G, 14 on 2G, 300 hours on Standby; 40 hours of music ... whew! what else do you want?

3. Software: If Froyo was 'tasty' this is bound to melt it! Packed with iOS 4.0 features, iPhone 4 also has in addition iMovie and 720p video recording. With all that, and the Gyro, and RD added. The iOS 4.0 on iPhone makes Froyo look ordinary.

4. For The Photographers: Nothing new about the 5 megapixel + LED Flash camera with 720p recording. But there is something new also "The backside Illumination Sensors." No grainy Pics! Not even in the Dark! That is what I would say 'cool' enough.

5. The one more thing: FaceTime: Just when our minds where questioning why is there a front facing camera with no video calling. Jobs, announced this. Its the same video calling thing from the front facing camera and what's new? You can go to the rear cam to show what others are doing. Its great but there is just one hiccup. It is currently Wi-Fi only and only for iPhone 4 - iPhone 4 surely, we need that corrected (Apple's working on that) or its waste of good technology.

Pricing? It remains the same for Contract users 'AT&T' $199 for 16GB and $299 for 32GB. That's great, but I've heard from my friends in the US the AT&T plan is exorbitantly priced and their service is poor. For that you can give $499 (16GB) and $599 (32GB) to get the iPhone 4 without contract. That's good.

How can I get it in India? iPhone 4 comes in September in India. Here Airtel and Vodafone will sell the device, by then 3G 'will' be available with these careers and probably they'll correct the video calling thing and history reveals its gonna be above 30K (in Rs.).

If you are one of the impatient ones and have a friend in US. you can get this contract free version and use it in India. ($499 is roughly 23.5-25K).

First Impression: The iPhone has a reputation of providing the 'best touch screen display' and with all these new features things look brighter. Lately, phones probably better than the iPhone 3GS were introduced (Nexus One, EVO 4G, blah blah). iPhone 4 is a solid answer to that and once launched these phones are ready to be knocked out in a single kick!

Here's the launch

P.S. Feel free to comment, and do tell how this Extra Long post of mine was (921 words for a fact!). Do tell if I missed something.