bookspluslife

January 27, 2012

Book: The BarryTown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:01 pm

I decided to treat the entire three book collection (Trilogy) as a
single item for review because I did not want to bombard you with
separate descriptions of three books by the same author on the same
subject.
You have to like the books that generally win the Booker Prizes to
appreciate Roddy Doyle. This trilogy is set in Southern Dublin part
of Ireland and mirrors the life of a typical average lower income
group family there. The first of the books, called `Commitment’
tracks the humorous efforts of a group of boys to form a band. It is
funny and has the delicious taste of the language and the ambience of
the place captured very well. The second book called the `Snapper’
focuses on the sister and talks about her getting pregnant due to
a `technical rape’ while being only semi conscious (alcohol being the
reason). In spite of the heavy subject, the story has an easy
narration and oscillates between the poignant and hilarious moments.
The Van is another lovely portrayal of the same family, this time the
dad and his friends getting together to start a business of vending
fast food from a van.

The stories are excellent and often uproariously funny, but it is a
kind of humour that does not appeal to all. The Commitment was made
into a movie (old) which is also very funny.

I would have no hesitation in giving a generous 8/10 for these books.

— Krishna

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January 25, 2012

Movie : The Bourne Identity (2002)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:57 am

The Bourne Identity is one of Robert Ludlum’s best known books and is full of unpredictable turns and twists that he is justly famous far. But it is hard to imagine how you can bring that tension and that atmosphere in a movie.

This movie, though, shows that it can be done! Not only that, even if you have never read the book, it shows you how a movie can be made that takes off and keeps the tension till the very end. Brilliantly made, the action scenes are breathtaking. The movie keeps the broad strokes of the book but does not fully follow it but visually is a treat to watch.

Of course Matt Damon excels as Bourne, which is why this became a series like the Batman or the Harry Potter in Hollywood. This is the first in the series and is a very well made movie.

A man is rescued from the sea near death with bullet wounds in his body and is nursed back to health. He wakes up not knowing who he is or how he was there at sea. But he is troubled and astounded to find that he has many skills of a professional killer and the super instincts of a trained commando. He is disturbed that in the past life which he did not remember, he could have been a murderer.  He slowly learns that his name is Jason Bourne but has many passports and currencies in a briefcase belonging to him in what should be his house.

He is even more troubled to see that a really powerful organization or gang is after him to kill him, again for he knows not what. With an innocent girl called Marie Helena unwittingly caught in this intrigue just because she agreed to give him a ride for some money she needed for studies, he keeps ahead of the relentlessly pursuing gang – but only just.

The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game where Jason finds that his own country’s intelligence agency (CIA) is out to eliminate him, in addition to a gang of criminals who try to assassinate him. Only his superb skills and past training that he does not remember the details of keep him alive and ahead of the game.

The reason for the killing and how he learns of his immediate past before his being discovered at sea is the rest of the story.

A lovely movie, a treat to watch, and excellent portrayal by Matt Damon.

This movie deserves a 9/10

— Krishna

Book: The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks by Robertson Davies

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:39 am

Robertson Davies is a Canadian author well known in Canada. But I do not know if he is known outside Canada, like for instance, Stephen Leacock, another Canadian author, is.  Is he?

or this one, you certainly need to be a fan of the English language. Being interested in Etymology (origin of words and phrases) I found that this book is a treat. It is the funniest books I have read of Robertson Davies but you probably need a dictionary by your side if you want to understand the full import of what he is saying.

It is indeed like an everyday diary from the life of this ‘Marchbanks’. Despite the weak attempt in the epilog to ‘prove’
that a Samuel Marchbanks really exists, it is very clear that the notings are too close to Davies’ own personality for it to be anything other than an autobiographical ‘fiction’. But the everyday life is the life and times when people still had a furnace in their basement that took tons of coal stocks to keep it fed, for instance.  And one in which everyone who was anyone grew a respectable beard (like Davies himself had).

If you approach it with the right frame of mind, it is an outstanding book. So, despite my warnings that it may not be for all
of you, I give it a resounding 7/10

— Krishna

January 23, 2012

Book: Son of a Circus by John Irwing.

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:17 pm

I apologize in advance for all those Irwing fans, and the review of this book is not intended as the review of all of John Irwing’s work. Now, on to the review.

Not an excellent book.

The plot has its possibilities, with the story of twin brothers,
American, one an eccentric priest and another a Bombay star called
Inspector Dhar. Add to it Dr Dharuwalla who can be neither Canadian
nor Indian because of his life at various places. Consider his
Viennese wife, Julia.

A subplot involves Nancy, an American hippie who marries Inspector
Patel. Also in the background is Rahul, a cruel killer and a trans-
sexual. The story is entwined with the elite Duckworth Club of Bombay.

What marred the story for me is the very artificial telling. Irwing
is known for his ‘Ciderhouse Rules’ and other stories but I had not
read any of his books.

I found that the situations were contrived and the storytelling very
superficial.

I would give no more than 2/10.
— Krishna

Tamil Movie: Naan Mahan Alla

Filed under: Tamil Movies — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:58 am

The hero is Sivakumar’s son Karthi? Interesting. He came to prominence in Paruthi Veeran.

The story is definitely interesting, with teasers of a murdered girl and another story that seemingly has no relation to the gruesome scenes shown. Karthi is Jeeva, a man who has no responsibility, cannot keep a job due to his excessive compassion and is close to her sister. During his sister’s marriage, he meets the love of her life, Priya (played by the cute Kajal Aggarwal). His father is against the match and the boldness of Jeeva in asking for her hand in marriage while admitting that he has no job and prospect does not endear him to the father. In order to dissuade Jeeva, he seeks the help of a mobster boss. Turns out that the boss is admired by Jeeva and becomes a close friend.

Jeeva vows to get a good job and does, but when everything is set to go, a murder attempt on Jeeva’s dad changes everything. It turns out that the father was an unwitting witness to an elopement attempt of a girl with her boyfriend, which ends in a girl’s rape by a group of bad men. They try to eliminate the only witness who may track the crime to them, and succeed in the second attempt.

Jeeva goes on a revenge rampage.

Well, it looks like we are watching two different movies. The first half is a romantic comedy and the second is a gory revenge story. The romance occupies almost two thirds of the film and so the story of the rest seems quite short. The central theme seems tagged on to an elaborately long story about a girl’s love for the hero.

Not a bad ending, though a bit gruesome. The story could have been developed with a lot more tension, and could have been made into a great movie. Since the director seemed unable to decide where to focus, it appears a bit disjointed.

The action was adequate but nothing stands out as exceptional.

Let us say a 5/10

— Krishna

Book : The Sky is Falling by Sydney Sheldon

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:42 am

Well, another typical Sydney Sheldon. After losing some of his verve
(mental block?) in novels after his peak, (witness the sequel to
Other Side of Midnight and Sands of Time), Sheldon seems to be back
doing what he does best from the Best Laid Plans onwards! He
has ‘done it again’ in this thriller and is sure to delight die-hard
fans of Sheldon (I am not one).

The story is a typical ‘woman triumphs against all odds’ story and
is another in the successful formula perfected by Sheldon. This time,
a reporter is on to the planned murders of a political family and
tracks it down with a pit-bull like tenacity that is the hallmark of
any of his heroines. It is unfortunate that you start to suspect the
most unlikely characters because you are trained to, having read all
his earlier books but still the fun is all there.

If you are looking for another Sheldon in the typical mould, go
ahead and read this. You will not be disappointed.

Let’s say a 7/10, shall we?

— Krishna

January 22, 2012

Movie: The Big Labowski

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:36 am

This one is a lark. From the time the goons come into the house of Jeff Bridges to trash it and ruin his new carpet, for something he does not understand, the movie takes off. Labowski, “the dude” is a bowling loving deadbeat. He learns that the money required by the goons in fact is owed by the Big Labowski, a retired businessman, rich enough to pay them for whatever reason they want the money. He figures that this man has money enough to pay him for the rug that they ruined in the process of threatening him, and goes there with a plea to pay him for the ruined rug. His close pals John Goodman, an impetuous man who does not always think through the results of his action. (He pulls a gun in anger at another man, right in public view in their haunt, the bowling alley. ) The adventure begins there.

In fact, it is watchable if not always funny, and the humour and the curiosity continue. The plot where he is supposed to pay ransom to rescue the wife of the real Labowski goes awry with his great pal John Goodman coming up with a plot to throw away a fake suitcase in its place and “keep the money” on the hunch that the girl is herself planning the kidnapping from some fickle clues and a patch of inept detective reasoning by Goodman. The story is interesting, alternating between a bowling alley and other locations and following three deadbeat friends in their quest to get reparations for the ruined carpet of the first scene.

The movie gets attention and Jeff is convincing as the mistaken Labowski.  Their shaking off serious involvement with possible gangs and stuff over their heads with an absolute blind conviction that things will work out is hilarious.

This is not one of the non stop laugh riots that you find in comedy sometimes but leaves you feeling that you saw a good movie overall.

Let us say a 7/10

— Krishna

Book: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:22 am

The memoirs of growing up in Ireland, extremely poor with a long
suffering mother and an irresponsible father told in an alternately
funny and heart-wrenching style.

The book oscillates between poignant and farcical and sometimes
descends into a maudlin, emotional, oversimplification.

But these instances are few and mostly it manages to impress. The
family shrinking with the death of three children and then growing to
4 is told is a casual style.

The father’s weakness for drink even in the face of family starvation
comes through with heart wrenching simplicity. The hope of the family
repeatedly in the face of disappointments in the past is moving.

Why is it titled Angela’s Ashes? A mystery that is (to me at least)
unexplained.

An excellent read.

I would give an overall 9/10 for this one.

January 19, 2012

Tamil Move : Ilaignan

Filed under: Tamil Movies — Tags: , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:15 am

Man, where do I begin? Imagine for a moment that there is a shipbuilding yard. Imagine that the employer has locked them up – not just them but their entire families because everyone lives within a conveniently small area so that a high wall can be raised to imprison them. Imagine also that anyone who wants to leave will be shot by the dictatorial and evil company boss.

By now you probably fell off your chair or think that I have gone bonkers. No, no, this is how the movie starts! And goes downhill from there totally. Imagine such iron control and then in one scene, much later in the movie, Pa Vijay beats up one of the superintendents (“Kangani”) of the evil empire. This starts logically enough (at least the logic of movies) where he puts a bag over the superintendent’s face after he sneaks in from behind and you say ‘Great, the superintendent does not know who he is’. Halfway through the fight, off comes the bag and our intrepid hero is also not masked or disguised in any way.

The next scene is weird because everyone including the hero and superintendent carry on as usual in their respective roles, he submissive and the superintendent insulting and crowing. You say ‘What the hell happened? Did I imagine the whole last scene?’

It is surprising that even in this day and age this movie is written like the communist propaganda of Soviet Russia and so since the story is so outrageous, you neither feel empathy for anyone nor view this as a great movie. In fact, it is fully propaganda of the ‘Workers of the World Unite’ type.

The humour by Vadivelu and company is a pathetic misnomer, and I doubt that even a three year old child will find it funny. Again, this whole movie would have been classified as boring even if made in 1970s, at the height of communist propaganda. The fact that Indian states still have communist parties notwithstanding, I think that the Red Banner allure has faded everywhere.

The villain looks like a paper tiger and the dialogs are insipid, the story is unbelievable and does not retain interest. I am surprised at the fact that big names like Karunanidhi were involved in this dismal effort.

As for acting, Nasser does a phenomenal job and it is sad to see this great portrayal wasted in this movie.

None of the songs were memorable to me at least, after the movie ended.

Sadly, I would rate it as a 2/10

January 8, 2012

The hard choice for people in general

Filed under: Uncategorized — krishnafromtoronto @ 2:54 am

This is a dilemma in today’s world. Which way should people vote? I have a deep empathy for poor people of the world and definitely want the government to provide them with the means to live with dignity by way of social services. Yet, I find myself opposed to many of the leftist platforms and pledges, be they Democratic in US or Liberals or NDP in Canada. Why? Here is why.

They come bundled with inefficient subsidies, refusal to rein in the public sector unions, and other ills. Voting for some of  their policies implies giving assent to all the bundle and the conservative bundle (no, not the US version, but the Canadian version at least) sounds better, even though there is some stuff there that I abhor as well. The US? It is a different horror story there. You have to sign up for no gay, yes guns, yes God in the strictest interpretation for the term, no immigration before they will even accept that you have conservative leanings.

The argument that the government should not be running business except minimally (no airlines, no life insurance as in India, no Oil companies) appeals to me. Government has never run anything efficiently. Look at the mess of the telephones with the government monopolies in both Canada and India for a long time and what transformation liberalization wrought within a few years! The job protection for the public sector in the face of vicious unemployment in the private sector and the best retirement pensions is not enough for the trade unions and they disrupt services frequently for further pay rises and protection of unaffordable retirement pension benefits.

The choice is tough because, like television cable subscriptions, you have to choose a bundle with stuff you don’t like for that one thing you like.

What do you think?

 

— Krishna

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