Interstellar – Nolan Reaching for the Stars

InterstellarHumanity is on the verge of extinction and we have to look at the stars to secure our future. There are severe dust storms on a regular basis on Earth and we will suffocate, if we do not starve first.  McConaughey is recruited to pilot a spacecraft after some mysterious incidents lead him to NASA. A wormhole has appeared beside Saturn 48 years back and they must now venture through it in search of new worlds.

Nolan loves his toys. He toys around with the idea of relativity just as he did in his earlier movie, Interstellar. That said, Interstellar is perhaps his best work yet. There are flaws, but in the end, you will choose to just ignore them. This is sheer brilliance, the way Nolan and his team go about imagining new worlds. One issue that I always have with science fiction features is that they are not believable. I would love to watch such a movie that blends the vfx with the real in such a way that the brain can process it as rational. District 9 achieved that, and, needless to say, Interstellar passes the test with flying colors.
There’s not a single member in the cast who underperforms in the entirety of the almost 3 hour long movie. Interstellar in itself is a feast to eyes sore from watching unnecessary, foolishly-made sci-fi.

About the cast, Matthew Mcconaughey goes heavy on his accent now made famous with his outing in True Detective, but he really shines as the one taking the movie forward and giving meaning to several disjointed scenes. Mackenzie Foy as the young Murphy shines as the loving daughter who doesn’t care about anything and just wants her father by her side. Jessica Chastain as the grown-up Murphy is also very good and shines wherever she is placed. Michael Caine is wasted as he doesn’t get any definitive scenes and may, at times, seem repetitive saying the same poem again and again. Anne Hathaway is good as a supporting actor. She cries her way through the film. There’s one thing about her character that I disliked but more on that later. TARS as the robot accompanying them on their world-saving mission is lovable.

The movie slows down to a crawl in the middle and we hear Anne Hathaway lecture us on love and its infinite possibilities for a few minutes. That was really unexpected!

For the rest, however, you need to watch this movie, and trust me, you will not regret it!

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Inbox by GMail : A Review

It’s already November the 3rd here. The Android Lollipop update has not yet arrived on my Nexus 5, but Google was kind enough to send me an invite for their new app, Inbox by Gmail. And these last few days, I have been testing the app. Along with the app, you can also access inbox.google.com, the web interface, once you receive the invite. So here is what I think about it.

We all like updates and the new features/enhancements they bring with them. Changes in the background, performance tweaks, power enhancements – are all well and good, but these rarely are even noticed by the average phone user. However, if there are UI enhancements, a few drool-worthy new icons here, a new launch animation there, a new theme somewhere, and you have everyone hooked. That is what Android 5.0 Lollipop brings to the table. This is perhaps the biggest UI overhaul since Android was launched. We all are eagerly waiting for this update, but to keep us satiated, Google has been busy pushing updates to major Google apps for the last few weeks. Personally, I love the latest Play Music update, and I love the Inbox app as well.

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I don’t know how much smoother things will look with the 60fps animations of Lollipop, but the animations still look flawless and smooth on my Nexus 5 running Android 4.4.4 KitKat. Setting up the Inbox app is a breeze, and Google does all the heavy-lifting by itself, sorting all of your mails and grouping them, so that you get reminders of the next flight you got to take, the shipping of your package from your favourite etailer, and so on.

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If you need to mark the message as done, just slide from left-to-right. If you want to be reminded about the message, just slide from left-to-right and you can specify a time after which you will be reminded about the message again. Touching the big red ‘+’ button on the lower right of the screen presents several options, one of which is a reminder option. Yes, Google Keep still has its place, but I have stopped using Keep for reminders now!

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Pressing the 3 horizontal lines on the left side opens up another sliding menu which lists all the grouped headings. Also find a GooglePlus – esque background behind your profile picture! The app looks very polished, and I love running stock Android on my phone. Request an invite from http://www.google.com/inbox

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim

I started reading this book because I was reading many good things about it. And then I read a review of the book on Amazon where the reviewer had compared it with Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Millennium’ trilogy, not to mention that it was listed on the month’s top reads by Amazon. So, I was hooked. You see, I absolutely love Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, and, how cruel is that the author could not write any more before he went off, into the void, God rest his soul.

This book is not the edge-of-your-seat thriller as I thought it would be, but that’s my expectation, so forget it! You can work out everything before it happens and the plot seems to move from one set piece to another. You will always know what is coming next, and nothing happens that’s not expected. That being said, I enjoyed reading through the book. The end of the book seems to have been well thought out, as if the author had given much more thought to the ending than to the entire story, maybe to end the story on a peaceful note. There are things about the book that really irritated me. The protagonist is also known as ‘The Rider of the Blue’. Yes, sounds engaging? Good for you. I will ask you again after you have finished reading this book, because every time the Pilgrim wants to speak up or someone big in the storyline wants to talk about him, he refers to him as, you guessed it, ‘The Rider of the Blue’! So many times that it makes you wonder if the author just used the Find & Replace option too liberally. Please Mr. Hayes, if you ever read this, call him The Rider from next time onwards, for simple-minded people such as me. The author seems to love Scott Pilgrim and The Pilgrim is also known as Scott Murdoch most of the times. Scott and Pilgrim, you get it? Anyways, there is one other thing which I did not like about this supposed best agent in the whole damn world, he keeps saying things like ‘I should have thought of that, but I didn’t’. Yes, best agent, huh?

Scott Murdoch headed The Division, a super-secret organization that investigates corruption in other government organizations like the FBI and the CIA and many others. He and his agency get scrapped after the incidents of 9/11. But the secret life never leaves you behind, as Scott ruminates in the book, and other events unfold which ultimately puts the future of an entire nation in his hands. That about sums up the plot of the book. While I found a few things annoying about the book, it is worth a look, but Terry Hayes is no Stieg Larsson. Whoever wrote that review on Amazon, if you think so, go on, give The Millennium trilogy another read, your brain may have gone mushy reading too much Young Adult bull!

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian cover

Did you know Ridley Scott is adapting this book into a movie, due for 2015? Now that you definitely know, if you are thinking you would just wait for the movie and give the book a miss, think again! This book is one of the best books I have read in recent times. Yes, it’s not very philosophical, not filled with great quotes that you will like updating on your wall on your favourite social networking site, but it makes for great light reading, and Andy Weir has this flow which is so effortless, you will flow along with it.

The story starts when Mark Watney, an astronaut on the Ares 3 Mars mission, gets left behind on the planet, and the rest of the crew leave him behind on the MAV, the only vehicle capable of leaving Mars. So, he is basically left to die on the planet, well, until Earth finds out that he is alive on the planet… you see, they thought he was dead. But Watney doesn’t rely on Houston for survival, because he knows that they won’t be able to help him. So, can Watney live till the Ares 4 astronauts reach Mars? There is a problem, and it is that he doesn’t have enough food, and the equipment on which his survival depends, was made to last only around a month, and the Ares 4 still is a few years away from reaching Mars. Actually, they haven’t yet left Earth.

You have to go dive into the book for the rest, and believe me when I say this, it is something you won’t regret. You will start rooting for Watney along with the rest of the Earth. I did!

My 2014 Nexus Wishlist [UPDATED]

Nexus 5

[Update 10th November 2014]

The Nexus 6 has been announced and will be available from Google Play from the 12th of November, 2014. The phone sports a 5.9 inches 2560×1440 OLED display, runs on a Snapdragon 805 processor with 3 GB of RAM. The phone runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop out-of-the-box. It also sports a 13mp rear-facing camera with dual-LED flash.

[Update 17th Aug 2014]

A new benchmark on GFXBench indicates that the Motorola Shamu may come with a Snapdragon 801 and 1080p display.

The Nexus 5 is Great, with a capital G. Ask me, I have been using it for several months now. It doesn’t skip a beat, ever. But there are a few annoyances, and none of them subtle. This year we will, hopefully, get a look at the next Nexus, what with Sundar Pichai confirming in this year’s Google I/O that the Nexus line is to continue. So I wanted to make my wishlist known. As the title suggests, this post will keep on updating till the device releases.

First of all, what is known to us till now. Well, this year’s Nexus tablet (Nexus 8?) will be made by HTC and the smartphone(Nexus 6?) is being made by Motorola. The tablet is codenamed Flounder and the smartphone is codenamed Shamu. Both of these devices should be releasing with Android L out-of-the-box.

So, what can we expect to see in these devices? HTC is rather fond of their dual front speakers, so I hope that they do make an appearance on the tablet. Since Snapdragon 805 is due towards the end of this year, it should be on-board the smartphone. Snapdragon 805 will be the last 32bit processor from Qualcomm. There should be at least 3 GB of RAM.

Now, here goes my wishlist.

  1. A bigger battery…O come on, Google, you know this is a legitimate wish. The Nexus 5 battery is pathetic and the life you can squeeze out of a single charge is all over the place.
  2. Software improvements – Albeit this is not for the device, but I hate it how the N5 becomes noticeably hot, even when it is idle, and this blogger is just listening to some songs on Play Music. Also, this problem is also a concern with several Snapdragon processors, so really hoping Qualcomm pays some attention to this problem.
  3. The 2560 by 1440 2k display on the G3 is gorgeous but you can’t make out any pixels even on the N5’s 1080p 442ppi display. So, either way, we will be happy.
  4. Seeing as a 16 gig unit has so less free space left OOB, Google should churn out 32 & 64 gig units this time around, since I don’t think expandable storage will be making a comeback on a Nexus.
  5. Now, this is entirely personal. It rains a lot here and is very humid and hot all the year round. I would really love a dust and water-proof device this time around.
  6. Every other smartphone manufacturer is focusing heavily on the camera unit. The N5 has a pretty good 8mp shooter in the back, but Google should up the ante. No HTC, I am not talking about your puny 4mp UltraPixel cameras. And while we are at it, throw in a Zeiss lens or two like those gorgeous Lumias 😉

Well, that’s it for now! Will keep updating. Think I missed something? Why not add them below in the comments?

The Cuckoo’s Calling & The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike series

Did you know about the 2 Cormoran Strike books – The Cuckoo’s Calling & The Silkworm, before you came to know that JK Rowling had written the books and Robert Galbraith is actually her pseudonym? Chances are you did not!

Well, I have to make a confession before I continue. I am a huge Harry Potter fan. But Rowling just coming to the press and announcing to the world that Galbraith is really her seems to me to be no more than a lame attempt to increase the sales of her book. However, I also started reading the books after I heard that the books had been penned by Rowling. ‘The Silkworm’ was not yet out, and I started reading ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’. I was pleasantly surprised by the book. It was unlike Rowling and very unlike the only other book by her outside of the Harry Potter verse, ‘The Casual Vacancy’, and it is a compliment since I hated Vacancy. I stopped reading Vacancy after a few pages, but this was not the case with Calling. The book starts with the death of a supermodel and the world would have you believe that she committed suicide, but did she? Well, you can trust Cormoran Strike, with his sidekick Robin, to get to the bottom of it all and dig out the truth. Strike really ‘strikes’ you as a very unconventional detective, what with his limp due to the fact that he lost one of his legs in the war. You will not fall in love with the character, but you will sure appreciate the way Rowling builds him up in the book. By the time you finish the book, you will be able to imagine him as a man of flesh and blood.

The Silkworm picks up after Calling, and continues the story. I am really not fond of books where the author just keeps the protagonist the same and changes the rest and pretend that nothing happened. So, full marks there Rowling. Here we deal with the sudden disappearance of an author. His wife comes to Strike and asks him to find her husband. Strike accepts the case because he pities the wife. And we are on into another wonderful case.

The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth

Divergent

 

Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy (Divergent, Insurgent & Allegiant) has all the makings of a new superhit, and from the looks of how the Shailene Woodley starrer Divergent has fared at the box office, I guess when the last 2 books are adapted for the silver screen, they too will be a huge success for Summit Entertainment.

The books, however, seem to be a repeat of the dystopian future that we have often seen visited and revisited in the last few years in a dozen or so books/movies. The female protagonist, Beatrice, seems to be a direct copy off the Hunger Games trilogy, but there’s no love triangle playing out in Roth’s trilogy. The premise is the same, where the protagonist is unaware of the world she lives in and is on a path of discovery that will take her, and us readers, to new places. But one thing that cannot be denied to Roth is the way she handles the story, the first book at least.

There will be no spoilers in this review, but the first book is where the story really takes off. The last 2 books are just a continuation, and as such, do not seem too interesting. But we need to see where all of this is going, and what happens in the end, and hopefully, that will keep the readers hooked on to the books till the end.