bookspluslife

April 30, 2013

Movie: Side Effects (2013)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:05 pm

imagesA delightful movie, a complete surprise. If in Cowboys and Aliens, you wonder if the movie could be bad with such megastars in it, only to be disappointed, you go to this movie wondering if a Jude Law movie can be truly entertaining, given his recent string of disappointments.  (Hugo, slow, and Repo Man etc) and this movie is far better than you expect!

The story is told very well, slowly escalating tension, taking you in one direction where you feel sympathy for the helpless victim before abruptly turning the story around in an unbelievable twist. While you digest it, there begins another game of cat and mouse, with each party trying to outwit the other, and it becomes a fascinating story of unexpected twists.

The story revolves around Emily Banks (Roony Mara), a housewife who falls in love with a rich investment banker Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum) and is teleported to a rich world beyond her imagination. Just when she is beginning to enjoy a perfect life, her husband is arrested for insider trading, and is about to lose all his money, and her world comes crashing down around her.

He comes back to her but life is not the same ever. The trauma affects her mind and the first indication of it is an attempt by her to crash her car against the office garage wall. She is injured but survives. She is now assigned to Dr Jonathan Banks, a psychiatrist.  (Beautifully underplayed for the most part by a very different, interesting, Jude Law) Conventional therapy does not work.  Regular SSRIs do not do the trick.

Emily sinks into depression. When Jonathan counsels Emily, he comes to find that she was seeing another psychiatrist,  Dr Victoria Siebert, and she abruptly dropped her. Emily refuses to tell him why, and intrigued, Dr Banks goes to see Victoria (A very different Catherine Zeta-Jones minus the glamour and looking, as the part demands, considerably older!) She does not know why Emily left her either. In conversation, she says that she was planning to start Emily on a new experimental drug called Ablixa. Dr Banks is skeptical. However, when Emily has another episode where she is about to walk into the railway tracks in another attempt at suicide, he tries the drug in desperation more than anything else.

It seems to work miraculously. Emily is happy and fully recovered. There is this unanticipated side effect of sleepwalking.

In the meanwhile Dr Banks has his practice flourishing. He becomes a spokesperson for another drug company, which brings in money and has a lot of retainer  arrangements to make him extra money.

All that disappears in a scandal when, during one of the sleepwalking episodes, Emily kills her husband and goes to prison. Banks valiantly tries to save her, giving expert witness to prove that she was not conscious when she did it, and gets her admitted to an asylum for treatment, instead of to jail.

When the bad publicity (bad judgment in prescribing experimental drugs) threatens his career, he goes investigating to prove his and Emily’s innocence. There he stumbles upon some facts that disturb him. She buckled herself with a seat belt before crashing into the wall; why? Does not seem like an act of a suicidal person. She made sure that the security was watching her before ‘trying to walk into the path of an oncoming train’. Why?

There starts one of the several twists in the story. Was Emily faking the suicides? He decides to find out by administering her a truth serum upon objections from colleagues and against all ethical methods. When she just slurs her speech but admits nothing, his suspicions get confirmed, mainly because his truth serum was a ‘placebo’ and should not have caused any effect on a guiltless person!

He goes to find out what is really going on and in the process his family life is destroyed, his kids and wife leave him, he loses all his agency deals and is fired from his professional office. His determination only intensifies.

A brilliant story. To tell you the rest would only give away the great ending and further twists.

I would not hesitate to give it a 8/10

 

— Krishna

 

 

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April 27, 2013

Book: If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:52 pm

imagesIf you think the title is odd, wait until you read the book!

The book starts oddly. It begins with the author telling you about the fact that you have heard of a new novel by Italo Calvino called ‘If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller’ and you decide to go and buy that book. Then follows a description of all the books in the library and how you resist temptations to succumb to other books to get to this book. And then this is about you, the Reader. And On and On. The Reader becomes a character and meets the Other Reader, Ludmilla, a woman who – guess what? – likes to read.

The whole book is about the pleasure of reading, authorship and weird gyrations of the same two or three people in different stories. It is about you (I am not kidding!) wanting to read a book and every time you open ‘the book’ you want to read, you get a different story, unwittingly. Now you want to read that story, and it gets snatched away from you and when you thought you found it again, you get another story. Unlike Cloud Atlas, a brilliant juxtaposition of different stories, these are only half stories, dropped in the middle, never to be taken up again. And they span all genres, including the last few where the singular male lusts after women, often very young, and always unresisting.

The story goes crazy and makes no sense. It is all about writing or not being able to write and page after page of boring musings about what the author would like to write and what the reader would like to read and all kinds of roundabout stuff. To make it even more annoying, one of the writers thinks of writing a book with just beginnings of stories and not the endings!

It is a great test to your endurance. I was sorely tempted to abandon reading many times, but only a perseverence to see how bad it could get kept me going, and it was tripe, as I expected.

Ludmilla keeps coming up in various guises in various stories, always fond of books and having insipid conversations with insipid men thinking insipid thoughts. People do not even behave like ordinary people, they keep having random thoughts and even more random actions.

A complete waste of time.

 

I would give it a 1/10

 

— Krishna

 

Movie: Cowboys and Aliens (2011)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:27 pm

imagesLet us face it. The title should have warned me off. I decided to see it anyway. You assume that whatever the title, a movie that has both Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig ought to be good, if not great, right?

Wrong.

Come on, even ‘Snakes on the Plane’ was a stupid title but the movie worked at a comic level, so this should be viewed as comedy, and then it is kind of funny, right?

Wrong again.

Even discounting Daniel Craig, just having Harrison Ford should have been enough. Now, there is an actor who chooses his roles with care, and can, on occasion, carry an otherwise mediocre movie on his shoulders and elevate it to an ‘interesting movie’ level. Even he cannot save this mess.

As an aside, his latest role in “42” is a surprise, and I am told it works very well. Proof again of his normal intuitiveness in choosing roles and movies.  For a carpenter in the sets who wandered into the movies via Star Wars series, it is a great achievement!

Back to ‘our’ movie. The movie starts with Daniel Craig waking up alone in a desert, with a weird looking bracelet on his arm and no other papers, and his memory totally gone. He does not know who he is, or how he got there.

It is the Wild West and he wanders into a loner town into a bar (really) and stands up to a bully when he is identified as a wanted outlaw Jake. The bully, unfortunately, is the son of an evil man who rules that town, Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) and he seeks revenge. Just as these two main heroes are about to face off, the aliens come in and attack them.

From there the movie rapidly goes downhill with alien hunting and implausible themes and all kinds of ridiculous crap. The explanation for Jake waking up with the bracelet, which is a deadly weapon against huge animatronic machines of the aliens is this. (Consider this a sample of what the film logic is).

Jake was abducted, and while in the ship, one of the alien (doctor I guess) left his bracelet conveniently by the side of the gurney where Jake was lying unconscious and then left the room, without any other guard or other supervision. Jake woke up and accidentally let his hand drop and his hand dropped exactly on the bracelet, which obligingly snapped shut, snug against his wrists. Easy to explain, right?

Needless to say, the two heroes team up against the greater menace and come to respect each other.

Don’t waste your time going to this movie, there is nothing in there to see.

Let us say, a generous 2/10

 

— Krishna

April 5, 2013

Book: The Empty Chair by Jeffrey Deaver

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:39 pm

imagesThis is my first Jeffrey Deaver. It will not be my last, if his books are anything like this. The plots and subplots, the turns and the twists make for interesting reading.

 

This is not the Dan Brown kind of twist; if you expect a book changing twist, you will be disappointed. However, this book has multiple twists within itself and is very interesting to read. At one point, you go ‘come on; this is one too many twist’ but the storytelling and the plot carries you along and you forget that it was a twisted plot like the crooked house the crooked man lived in.

 

The story revolves around a boy who is obsessed with insects – Garret, who is strange, distant and seemingly violent. They believe he kidnapped a girl called Mary Beth and raped her. In the process he also killed Billy, who tried to come to Mary Beth’s help. When another nurse, Lydia, a nurse who is plump and lonely, who went to lay flowers at Mary Beth’s grave was also kidnapped before the very eyes of the inspectors, the police get angry. Roland Bell, who has worked with the criminologist genius Lincoln Rhyme, who is crippled and paralyzed and is in a wheelchair learns of Lincoln’s visit to a small North Carolina town for surgery with his assistant and partner in both his work and life, Amelia Sachs and calls up the police chief, his cousin Jim Bell. Jim pays a visit to Lincoln and asks him to help find Garret, who seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth with the girls.

 

  The boy also was believed to be involved in gruesome deaths by stinging of wasps of two others before.

 

 When he tracks and arrests the boy, Lincoln believes he can continue with his surgery in peace but Amelia escapes with the boy, convinced that he is innocent, and that he has been framed. Lincoln is furious, and is concerned that her life is in danger.

 

The story involves Jesse, a cop who is infatuated with Amelia, Lucy Kipps, a lady cop, the town thugs, a seemingly impetuous and angry cop Mason who wants to kill Garrett before he escapes from prison, and a lot of criminological investigations.

 

The prose is not as elegant as a Wilbur Smith but adequate. The scenes are interesting. The people do not have great depth and behave in a cartoonish way sometimes but the plot is well done and fascinating.


Think of it as a fluff novel to spend some fun time with, and I will give it a 7/10 because it is well written in what it aims to do, which is unabashed entertainment without a lot of brainpower needed to read it.

 

— Krishna

Movie: Unknown (2011)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:30 pm

imagesLiam Neeson has established a particular brand of character that he plays well.  Taken and then Taken 2 are some examples of the story. In this movie, he does a very similar character but with a twist in the story.

He plays Dr Martin Harris, a scientist, who is in Germany for a conference. His wife Liz is also a fellow scientist and is in for the same conference. When he lands and unloads his cart into the taxi, he forgets to take a briefcase and he therefore takes a cab back to the airport to retrieve it. Unfortunately, on the way, his cab has an accident and falls into a river. He is rescued but at the hospital, revives from a coma, having lost most of his memory about himself.

Things turn weirder because, he remembers at least his wife and the conference. He goes back to the hotel only to realize that his wife is a stranger to him and she has a Dr Martin Harris, a husband who is a totally different man, and he is completely confused.

His rescuer from the river is a girl called Gina. He meets with her again and finds that when he is in Gina’s apartment, a person was sent there to kill him! Gina manages to kill that person and he escapes with her, constantly pursued by unidentified killers, who want him dead for some strange reason that he does not know, having lost most of his memory.

When Martin gets the briefcase back, he is astounded by what he finds inside. Several fake passports for him in different names belonging to different countries, and also a lot of euros in cold, hard cash. Who is he really? Why does he need all these identities? He realizes that the answers lie in the conference that he came to attend, and decides to investigate. Armed security is really not going to stop him, now, is it?

He is kidnapped by the chief and let to die, but Gina, who he believed had left him, comes to save him. He now remembers everything and goes to the conference to stop the disasters

The denouement (reason why this was all planned) is amateurish, like a graphic novel of the seventies. Liam is Liam, and does what he does passably well.  The twists are interesting, but the story, for some reason is not taut, as in Taken. You always stay a few paces away, watching in a detached way, rather than being immersed into the story.

All in all, a fairly good movie and let us say a 6/10

 

— Krishna

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