Sunday, December 30, 2007

Movie Review: Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilson's War - PosterMovie Title: Charlie Wilson's War
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Om Puri.
Directed by: Mike Nichols
Genre: Drama/Biography
My Rating: 8.5/10

Based on a novel, based on a true story, edited for movie content, and viola - you have this movie called Charlie Wilson's War. However, this movie was released at a time where most people care less about how Afghan people got anti-aircraft missiles and rocket launchers to kick the Soviets out of their country. All people care about these days is kicking ass and having less sympathy for Afghan and Arab people due to the unfortunate disasters occurred in the last 6+ years. However, I will keep my political commentary off this blog.

Hanks excels as Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, a morally gray and womanizing politician with a soft spot for Afghans suffering at the hands of invading Soviets in the early 1980's. Julia Roberts, in a wonderful and exceptional return, plays a former playmate centerfold who now runs a feminist group while living a millionaire lifestyle in Houston, TX. Along with a CIA outcast in Hoffman, they find backdoor methods of assisting poor Afghans fight back the Soviet Russians. In Hollywood, there's one simple rule: if a current or former country was a baddie once, they'll always be a baddie on-screen. A touching masterpiece based on facts set in the past and shows some light side of politicians is very likely to be an Oscar contender, and that's exactly where I see this piece heading. It already has Golden Globe nominations!

Due to the political sensitivity of the movie's subject, I'll jump to the praises in production and acting. This has to be Mike Nichols' best work till date, even though Closer wasn't a bad movie, it was carried mostly by the excellent actors. In Wilson's War, too, the movie was carried superbly by the lead and supporting actors. Besides the Oscar-worthy Hanks, Roberts and always promising Hoffman, Amy Adams acted very well as Hank's administrative secretary, the most dignified and least skimpy out of the rest of his young-woman-dominated workforce. The only surprise cameo was by British actress Emily Blunt who plays a lobbying sexual decoy, an odd role after she overshadowed the lead in The Devil Wears Prada. Indian actor Om Puri too excelled as the then Pakistani dictator-president Zia Ul Haq who took over presidency after staging a coup d'etat, which is common in that unfortunate nation. Puri surely deserves more recognition in Hollywood. He is already a successful actor in the UK and one of the most respected in his native India.

8.5/10. Countdown to the Oscars. Not for the narrow minded type. Keep an open mind about politics and history, you may just enjoy this masterpiece.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Movie Review: No Country For Old Men

Movie Title: No Country For Old Men
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Kelly MacDonald and Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Ethan Coen/Joel Coen
Genre: Drama/Thriller/Western
My Rating: 8.7/10.

I had heard a lot of rave reviews and hype about this movie before going to watch it, thus kept my expectations low. For most of the movie I could see why...

Set in the lonely countryside of southeast Texas circa 1980, welder Moss (Brolin) finds $2 million in a satchel and more than a handful of murdered drug-peddling Mexicans, during a hunt. Tired of his trailer park lifestyle and with hope to provide a good future to his wife (MacDonald) and himself, Moss decides to take away the money and run. Little did he expect an uber psychotic killer to be chasing him all over.

Enter Anton Chigurh (Bardem) at the start of the movie. A merciless killer with unorthodox weapons: cattle-gun to open up locked doors, auto-like muffler on a shotgun to reduce noise. To add to that, a very polite speaking demeanor and absurd set of principles. Chigurh is on the hunt for the money, killing anyone coming in the way, even cops.

Contrary to what one would expect in the Texas dessert, the ranger cops are shown to be horse-riding but not so gun-slinging. Tommy Lee Jones plays a retiring and aging sheriff who dreads killing, complicated FBI/DEA style investigations and has the greatest heart of all characters in the movie. Sheriff Bell's primary interests lie in the well being of his townsfolk, no matter how badly they screwed up. This philosophy, however, takes a toll on his aging self and thus the story has such a title.

The movie is a good quasi-western with great photography/cinematography of rural Texas. The acting and direction is very praiseworthy. Jones excelled one more time as a Texas ranger with brains and a heart. Spanish actor Bardem impresses for the first time on American mainstream. Brolin shows for the first time some acting skills while not playing baddie. Scottish actress Kelly MacDonald also did a decent job, while Woody Harrelson's cameo as a humerous bounty hunter who has encountered Chigurh before.

8.7/19. Great cinematography, brilliant acting and a good novel to adapt the screenplay from. Just a weird ending, which I won't spoil for you. Not weird, just un-cliched. Not everyone may appreciate this movie. I know I did, though.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

IM Integration: AiM on GMAIL chat now!

Google has invested about a billion bucks in AOL (yes, it still exists) and now has enhanced the already cool feature of chatting on GTALK via GMAIL. For those who don't know, you can chat with other GTALK contacts who are in your address book while checking your GMAIL on the same web page.

The latest innovation is integrating AOL Instant Messenger with GMAIL chat (GTALK). The simple requirements are:

  • Internet Explorer 7+ or Mozilla Firefox 2+ as your browser

  • Your GMAIL View set to Standard. Check the bottom of your GMAIL to ensure this.

  • With the above setting, you should have your chat contact list displayed to the left-center of your GMAIL window.

  • Below your name under Chat you'll find a dropdown box that'll allow you to change your status. In the same dropdown, you now have the option: Sign Into AIM.

  • Obviously, you'll need an AIM account to log into that :-)

With residential high-speed Internet having crushed AOL in the ISP market, it's Instant Messaging service is probably the only viable product under the AOL umbrella. AIM has a huge proportion in the market of Internet chatters (especially teens, just like facebook and myspace), Google probably thought this was a good idea in order to counter Microsoft and Yahoo!'s collaboration earlier this year. For those who do not know, you can also chat with Yahoo! users from Windows Live (formerly MSN) Messenger and likewise. However, when it comes to download-free, web-based, non-JAVA (but JavaScript) chatting, Google wins. A lot of my friends can only chat via GMAIL/GTALK while they're at work. A lot of employers disallow downloads of AIM/Yahoo Messengers and block JAVA to disable their web-based IM clients as well.

Way to go, big G. However, I think I'm going to continue using meebo at work and at home.

Click here for more info on AIM in GMAIL.