Monday, December 24, 2012

A bot from the blue

My favourite scene where Charlie actually talks to Atom!
This is how the cookie crumbles. Not really cookies, but between mouthfuls of gooey donuts and fun filled food walks around the city, I did find time to watch a movie now and then. And, when I do find a few more hours at hand, I’ve been busy watching the Big Bang Theory. So, when I watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, I really, I mean, reaaaalllyyyyyy wanted to blog about it. One, because it seemed so much like all those times in my head, where I had imagined myself in impressionist Europe and Victorian England. And two, because I love everything that Paris stands for – art, music, fashion, literature and of course, the four course, fine dining tradition! But somehow, Midnight in Paris is not really meant for a detailed analysis. It is only to be savoured slowly, getting lost in time, memories and nostalgia.

But, I did come across another film that truly, truly is a clear winner and an underdog at that. To be honest, I LOVE robots and I think that they’re pretty awesome! And, I confess that I had spent a larger part of my childhood, in front of the television, watching the WWE championships, nonstop. So the conversation at home was always peppered with ‘Oh, did you see how Shawn Michaels (yes, back then) took out the Hitman? And until recently, it was ‘Did you catch the cage match between The Undertaker (yes, the last time I checked that guy was still around) and Kane?’ Phew! And, when I did get around to watching Real Steel, it was one of the very best films I’ve seen in recent times. Only because, a) it is about robots and b) it is about boxing. Bring the two elements together, throw in a hunk like Hugh Jackman (I’m a big fan!) and a punky kid teaming up for THE Ultimate Championship, and you’ve a winner!

No, Real Steel doesn’t have the potential for even an Academy Award nomination. But it does have pure entertainment. The magic is in the minutiae and this flick has a lot of it – the loveable underdog, the clueless ex-boxer-father Charlie (Jackman is cut out for this) and abandoned son Max (Dakota Goyo) re-connecting after a long time, an unbeaten robot, Zeus that’s all steel, loads of money and no heart and finally, stacking up against the odds with their bot, Atom, a hastily patched-up robot salvaged from the junkyard. It’s about taking that leap of faith!

There’s plenty of action, awkwardness turning into familiarity, as the boxing champion gets into the groove and fights the last battle for his bot, Atom, against the gizmo-riddled Zeus in the Real Steel championship. Phew. What do we say… You just have to give it to the bots! They steel (pun intended) this show!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

You like to move it, move it?

Okay, I admit it! I can do a pretty good impersonation of King Julien. King Who, you ask? Well, if you’ve been following the franchise like me, you’d fall in love with Madagascar 3 Europe’s Most Wanted. Or, at least find it a very cute movie to watch with its motley crew of lovable animals and their witty repertoire.

This time, it’s not the balmy Madagascar or wild, wild Africa. Breaking with tradition, Alex, the lion (roaaaaar, remember?) and his friends, Marty (the Zebra with black on white stripes), Melman (the Giraffe who is also a doctor) and Gloria (the very stylish hippo) are now in Central Europe and not in a very good situation. With the evil Animal Control officer Captain Chantel DuBois (complete with blood red lipstick and ze French accent) close to their heels, it’s a mad rush to New York, the place they call home.

Jumping into the circus train, they meet Stefano (a sea lion who can make you go awwww), Gia (the oh-so-sexy Jaguar) and Vitaly (the tiger, a disillusioned genius) and their crew of weird (yes!) animals. Alex and Co have to win their trust, perform to impress the promoter and get the US contract – their passport to Rome, errr, home (eventually). And how they do it!

Between swapping extra virgin olive oil for hair conditioner (which smells like peaches, BTW) and shedding tears (which are real, FYI) and doing trapeze Americano style, it is a reiteration of the simple fact of life – that passion can make the impossible happen. And during those moments of pure passion, lo behold, we’re animals!

So, while the colourful hairdo comes into view and all you can see are the million balloons given out to the children of the world, it is a warm fuzzy feeling. And you fall in love again, with the simplicity of it all. Ben Stiller as Alex is brilliant! And so are the others – Chris Rock (Marty), Jada Pinkett Smith (Gloria), David Schwimmer (Melman) and yeah, Sacha Baron Cohen who makes King Julien a force to reckon with.

When Kowalski gets into action and Phil signs off as the King of Versailles, it is a jungle out there (literally!). And as the circus unfolds, it’s a magic tapestry of candy pop colours, spirals rising into the night and the beauty of team work as it comes alive in a series of somersaults, furry cannon balls zooming in vivid flashes and of course, falling in love – Melman and Gloria, Alex and Gia and who can forget, King Julien who throws his crown away for Sonya, the bear (watch the couple ride into the sunset on a Ducati, truly an ROFL moment). And the 3D effect just takes this joyride to the next level, perfectly in sync with Hans Zimmer’s background score.

When King Julien sings ‘I like to move it, move it’ and Alex takes lead (as always), it is a signal to let loose. And, oh! Well done, boys! It’s ice cold sushi for breakfast!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Biryani anyone?

The other day, F was mentioning that Friday is one of her favourite days. She had her reasons. She was born on a Friday. And of course, she said, all good things happen on a Friday.

Talking about good days, Friday topped my list of favourite days. I still remember that I would wait eagerly for school to finish and rush home. Yeah, it was also the beginning of the weekend (or holiday, as most children think). But for me, it was the steaming hot biryani which my mother would make for lunch on Fridays. I think that was the point where, in my mind, good times are always synonymous with meticulously cooked, perfectly ‘dum’d biryani.

Now after all these years, I still go back to that moment where I wait eagerly for mom to make biryani. It is no secret. My mom makes the best biryani in this world. She can whip up a wicked biryani, with enough power to make you do anything she wants (I’d know!). Ask anybody who has been raised on a staple diet of biryani (read as Muslims) and they would tell you that their mother makes the best biryani. And, they are right! What makes biryani special is the fact that each person adds their unique touch to the creation, making it their very own masterpiece. And for me, nothing goes beyond my mother’s perfect melange of flavours, the tender cooked meat and the way in which it goes beyond perfection, each and every time.

Each community has their version of this versatile culinary import. And, each version is a winner. So, if you want to learn how to cook biryani, the Tamil Muslim style, simply head to the Great Biryani Cookout by Chennai Food Guide. This workshop definitely sounds interesting and the best part is that the organizers have gone beyond biryani and have included some of the other classic accompaniments. So, you get a shot at Chicken 65 (biryani is incomplete without this), Raitha (a must), brinjal thokku (who ever thought that brinjals could taste this good?) and bread halwa (for sweet endings). And, the participants can get into the groove right from chopping veggies to the art of getting that perfect ‘dum’. If I were to believe the inside information, this workshop would be conducted by Rajab, a traditional cook who has been cooking the Tamil Muslim style biryani (at weddings and other ceremonies) for more than 15 years. Click here to register and be a part of this fest.

So, if you love biryani and want to add your own spin to this classic favourite, you know where to go!