October 24, 2015

Book: Running In the Family by Michael Ondaatje

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:58 am

imageWe have reviewed some of Michael’s earlier works. (See the earlier reviews of The English Patient, Anil’s Ghost and Divisadero for details). But this book fundamentally is different from the others. The others are fiction – though with his style and penchant for complex formulation and narration, even his fiction is different from other authors – but this is simply a memoir of his early life in Sri Lanka.

It is interesting in parts. He uses the point where he returns to Sri Lanka with his family to revisit his early days as a vehicle for his memories. And his family certainly seems to have been colourful!

His dad seems to have been a wild spirit. Goes off and gets himself engaged to his sister’s best friend. Though unexpected, family welcomes it and then he goes off on another trip and comes back with a wife. No word to the fiancée who may be waiting!

Even after this marriage, he seems to have no intent to contact his earlier betrothed either, leaving the family to do damage control. As if all this is not enough excitement, he then goes off and enrols in Ceylon army suddenly. There has been no warning, no indication earlier to anyone.

In addition to being impulsive and wild, he also seems to have been irresponsible. He does not have a job, and on the occasions when he is forced to find one, does not keep it for long.

The family is a mix of Dutch and Sri Lankan blood and many of them seem to live a highly anglicized life in what was then Ceylon. Western manners, pastimes, music, dress. Interesting. This explains his name and his native country of Sri Lanka.

His father has been a maverick all his life, selling off family property that is not even his (written in a will to his children by his father). There are also very interesting strands of the family story, for example the one about how the original Dutch Ondaatje married a Sinhalese girl; and how his grandfather, who was very dark skinned, was a tyrant in his own family, with a submissive fair skinned mother and lots of children.

The main problem is coherence. Many of the pieces are interesting and many are boring, but they all seem so disjointed. Add to that a jumble of rambling descriptions, (for instance discussions of the Sinhalese alphabet – why the letters are curved ) and a lot of poems, many of which are disjointed as well, and you seem to get lost along the way and wonder if it is really worth putting all that effort to finishing the book.

They are collections of poetic graffiti from an oppressed people who wrote it before perishing from being hemmed into a building by the army and obliterated completely.

Everything feels like reading someone’s disjointed diary entries, which it may have been, really.

There are other interesting pieces – for instance,  the antics of his grandmother, a free spirit, refuses to compromise anything at all. Lives life on her own terms.

His dad is another lunatic who stops trains and fights with mom, another free spirit, when drunk. He made a train move back and forth, commandeering it, and created havoc.

Michael meets the (then) President, who, in the past, was struck senseless by his dad. They wander through the groves and the peacocks strutting nonchalantly inside the latter’s house.

Jumbled up narrations, confusing change of scenes, nothing major once you get past the eccentricity of the characters and the mix of Sinhalese and western genetic mix of the Ondaatjes. Reads like a family diary that you found lying around. Not up to the usual Ondaatje level you have come to expect.

I will award it a 3/10

– – Krishna


October 16, 2015

Book: From Ashes by Molly McAdams

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:22 pm

imageWell, it is a typical story aimed at girls. Let us dive into the story.

Ty and the narrator are good friends. The girl is abused by mom after father’s death, sinking into alcohol and beating her up. Her new husband also physically abuses her. Ty is the only solace she has. She moves to Texas with Ty and meets Gage, who is a male God in her eyes.

He feels powerfully attracted to her too, but Ty is in the way. Ty is in love with her but she does not know that. Ty is just a platonic friend for her. Gale sees it all and waits for her to come to him of her own volition.

He sees her abuse and seethes. Ty tells him to back off as Cassi is his girl and he has been waiting all her life for her. Gale seems to be puzzled by the relationship but yet powerless to resist Cassidy’s pull on him.

She hears from Ty  that Gage has told Ty that she should stay away from him and is shocked! This is Tyler being jealous and trying to split them up. When Gage tells him he has fallen for Cassi, he spins stories with both to keep them apart. They pine for each other in Gage’s ranch where she wins over his entire family. But Ty manages to split them up.

Ty forces himself onto Cassi. She asks for time. Gage comes back just to be a friend. When Cassi keeps refusing Ty, he locks her out in the cold and she almost dies, walking in sleet to Gage. Gage looks after her.

They realize Tyler’s treachery and get together. Tyler refuses to let go. Then when Gage is engaged in a fight, he accidentally knocks Cassi over and she is very afraid of any violence. Tyler persuades her to go back to California, telling that her parents’ house is on fire and her mom is dead. Tyler seems to have had a change of heart and Cassi inherits her mother’s considerable fortune and also learns the truth about the ‘fire accident’ that killed her parents.

She now threatens to fall for Connor Green. He is a cop and she suspects ulterior motives and then trusts him. At this point, you go ‘Wait, what? I thought she and Gage loved each other!’

The story just wanders on and on. It should have finished half way through.

The life travails of the couple are boring to the extreme. Epilogue is even more boring.

It does not deserve anything more than a 2/ 10

– – Krishna

Movie: Ant-Man (2015)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:10 pm

imageAnt man? Superhero the size of an ant? Are you kidding me?

Look at the cast. Paul Rudd? The one famous for threatening to legally change his name to  “Crapbag” in the final Friends season? And paired with him is the Lost heroine Evangeline Lilly?

Weird as it may seem, this thing works! Sure, there are corny scenes where Ant Man gives a nickname to one of his army of ants, a flying ant, and weeps when it dies. But overall, it is a fun movie to watch.

When Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglass) has invented a shrinking suit and wants a person to try it on, he lands on an unlikely candidate: an ex convicted felon Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). He quit in disgust from his post at SHIELD due to a disagreement with his deputy Hank Stanley, who is trying to copy his suit to use for military purposes, which he is against. His own daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) stays on in an apparent betrayal of her own father’s principles.

Hank is not so clever and has several funny episodes trying to shrink a sheep.

Scott is lured into “stealing” the “treasure” in a safe by Hank, and finds nothing but a suit sitting there. Disgusted, he tries on the suit and discovers the power.

The rest of the movie is a fun romp of the good vs evil fight, which is a lot of fun to watch, as I said. There is a yellow jacket suit that Hank is designing that seems to be much more powerful than the ant suit, but earmarked to be used for evil purposes.

There is also the side story of Scott’s love for his daughter and his wife’s and her new boyfriend’s disgust over Scott’s wayward lifestyle.

There are hilarious scenes of the shrinking gone in reverse, where a giant toy train and a giant toy tank figure nicely in the movie, not to mention a giant ant.

There is the interesting idea of how he controls an entire colony of ants to do his bidding and how he recruits them all in his fight against the evil.

There are scenes where he experiences the world in ant size, with everyday objects grown to giant proportions. The scene where he first experiments with the suit in a bathtub is fantastic, as is the scene where he runs along the top of a gun, which was moments ago pointed at him.

The story does not matter: it is all a jumble of improbable superhero stuff. The movie is well done, and has a slightly self-deprecating sense of humour running through it. The slow attraction of Hope and Scott is done well and a very cinematic threat from a supernatural Yellow Jacket man (Hank) threatening Scott’s family is cliché but cute.

It gets a surprisingly high 6/10

–  – Krishna

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