bookspluslife

January 22, 2017

Book: Revival by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:29 pm

imageStephen’s ability to surprise with a totally different storyline never stops to impress. This book is unlike many others I have read from him and has its unique moments.

 

Of course, I may be biased because I have liked many of his books and reviewed many here. For a sample, see the reviews on Duma Key and Lisey’s Story in earlier entries.

 

A family of five kids, dad Richard and “Mom”. Jimmy Morton, Con(“rad”), Terry, Andy and the only sister, Claire.  Jimmy enjoys the toy army his sister gave him. He meets Charles Jacob, whose visit changes everything. Charles is the new young pastor who comes to the town to take over the duties when the older one died.

 

He shows the model town he has built with a motorized light sensor that can turn on the town’s miniature lights on and off. His wife is a bombshell and most boys in town have a crush on her and most girls on Charles, who is also good looking! His interest in science – especially electricity – and his unorthodox ways of preaching annoy the older people but young kids flock to his sermons.

 

His brother gets his voice impacted by a skiing accident and this causes a huge row between their dad and mom. Charles puts him in a contraption that passes (mild) electricity around his throat. It seems to cure him and bring his voice back!

 

A horrific accident where he loses both his wife and his little boy – involving a tractor with a vicious agricultural attachment and a driver who suffered a stroke at just the wrong time – seems to turn things for Charles. His next sermon is almost blasphemous and is forever called the Terrible Sermon and he is dismissed from his post.

 

Jamie goes to the Church basement to find out what present Charles left him and finds the mechanical Jesus. His faith shattered by then, he throws it on the wall and walks out.

 

He subsequently becomes interested in music and is chosen for a boy band. Astrid becomes his girlfriend. He drifts away from both and goes rapidly downhill, becoming a junkie fully and then meets Jacobs, who calls himself Dan Jacobs now and is a carnival artist. He offers to cure Jamie of his drug habit. When he passes electricity through Jamie (a special type) Jamie gets cured but has strange episodes of uncontrollable acts and nightmares. One of the people who participated in the act robs a jewellery shop in plain view of everyone in a state of fugue as well. There is something (“Something is happening!”) wrong with the treatment. Jacobs says goodbye and goes away and Jamie grows older by staying straight and working in a recording studio. The work was provided by introduction from Charles to a guy called Hugh and then Jamie discovers that Hugh was also one of those helped by Charles through the miracle of electricity.

 

When Jamie learns that Hugh was also one of Charlie’s clients with a side effect, they decide to go see Charles, who is now a ‘preacher man’ a televangelist. Jamie’s research with Bree, the daughter of Georgia, a coworker of theirs, turns up very disturbing rssults of Charlie’s miracle healing. He realizes that Dan Jacobs is not in it for benevolence or money but is in it for its own sake, not caring about what he does to whom.

 

He decides to stop him and travels to his hometown, where he now lives in a fabulous mansion, having made his money as a famous healer.

 

The story is interesting, but not one of the best of Stephen King’s. You wait for something serious to happen and it sort of happens now and then but the story drags a bit at times.

 

He learns that he has retired but asks Jamie to be his assistant. He refuses, goes back for a nostalgic trip to Maine and returns to Colorado, only to be emotionally blackmailed by Charles Jacobs into helping him.

 

When he returns for one last time, he learns that Jenny, a friend and lover of his Astrid, has been also roped in to help. The end is exhileratingly told, as only Stephen King can. Nice read, good book. But….

 

Yes. there is a but. I cannot but be disappointed. Stephen builds up Danny Jacobs and his lifelong obsession about secret electricity so much that when you finally find out what he is so obsessed about, you go ‘Wait… what?’. Not that it is not logical but it almost seems to be a let down compared to the build up. I don’t want to tell more in order not to spoil the story, but you tell me, after you read it, whether you agree with it or not.

 

Then there is Mother, who is like many of the Stephen King stories, is an elusive but horror inducing presence (Remember the Big Boy of Lisey’s Story?)  He is usually very good at the hinting of the horror – things left untold are scarier than clear descriptions, but here even the Mother’s description is kind of not up to his usual standards – at least in my mind. Still good story and the long epilog of what happens to Jamie Morton and all the characters we know in the book is interesting, for sure.

 

Let us give this a 6/10

 

  • – Krishna

 

Movie : Ouija: The Origin of Evil (2016)

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:14 pm

imageThis is a prequel to the popular movie called Ouija which came out in 2014.  For those of you who have seen it, this movie explains how Paulina Zander (“Lina”) who is seen in the mental asylum ends up there. Not that it is the main theme of the movie but the links are established here.

 

This movie is about a family that scams people into believing that they are talking to their dead relatives and makes money. They have elaborate rigged equipment to create ‘supernatural’ effects. The family, in addition to Lina, consists of their widowed mother Alice, and Lina’s younger sister Doris. Lina suggests that they incorporate an Ouija board in their scam to provide some variety and Alice gets one. Things, as they are wont to in horror movies, go downhill from there.  Alice makes contact with a sprit called Marcus and it begins to possess Doris, the youngest kid.

Alice, meanwhile believes she is talking to her dead husband. Even though a sceptic, she is convinced when the “husband” leads her to a place where there was money hidden so that they can escape the foreclosure notice she just received.

Doris changes weirdly, writing fluent Polish essays (she does not know Polish). Father Tom hears about it and arranges for a séance to talk to his dead wife Gloria. After several of the questions were answered by the board, he reveals that there was no wife called Gloria and that the entity was reading his thoughts and gave him exactly the answers he expected. Interesting concept, that.

There are some very truly unique and frightening moments in the movie. The one where Doris calmly describes to Lina’s boyfriend that she will kill him by asphyxiation if he did not stay away from Lina and also explaining calmly what it would feel like; her killing him when he disobeys and visits the house again.

When they finally realize the danger and get rid of the board, you can almost predict what is going to happen because that part, at least, is a cliché and a staple of horror movies.

Even though most of the cast does a credible, if not exceptional job, Lulu Wilson, who plays Doris, does an exceptional job. She has commanded critical acclaim at a tender age of 11. After seeing her performance in this movie, I think she deserves the praise she is getting.

A ton of rapid action scenes follow with most people not making it to the end. You already know that Lina makes it to the asylum so that is not something of a spoiler if I give that away.

Not a bad movie. Let us say 6/10

– – Krishna

January 1, 2017

Book: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:38 pm

image.jpgInteresting book from Steinbeck. Not what I expected.

 

A memoir-like description of a quaint Californian town depending on fisheries and the canning industry (hence the title). The story is not about the fishing or the very difficult conditions of work but about what happens after the factory closes down and the town comes into its own.

 

Populated by interesting characters like Lee Chong, a grocery shop owner to whom half the town owes money but who has a golden heart, Mack and his group of homeless folks, Dora Flood who runs the local brothel, the story is an interesting slice of American small town life.

 

The story of William who was the watchman before Alfred became the watchman and how he killed himself is interesting too. The thing about this book is that there is nothing that is earth shattering or game changing for the city. Small vignettes that could happen in any small town are strung together, almost like short stories linked to each other.

 

There is the mysterious Chinaman who does not talk to anyone and has an unvarying routine. There is Western Biologique which sells rare sea creatures. It is owned by Doc, a “half Christ half Satyr” faced man.

 

Because Doc is so nice the thugs decide to do something nice and after borrowing a broken down van from Lee Chong (against his preferences) and stealing a battery from another car, they go and find that it breaks down. When one of them goes to get some gas, he ends up in jail and does not return. They want to give Doc frogs, collect their fees and use the fees to give him a surprise party.

 

They meet a man who treats them well in his house and also shows them where they can get the frogs. In the meantime, Doc is fighting a kind of a pandemic of fever. He is not a medical doctor for humans (he is a vet) but tends to patients anyway.

 

In the well intentioned plot to give Doc a surprise party, Mack and the gang end up thrashing the entire laboratory!

 

There is good hearted brothel owner Dora, there is the town’s bouncer with a good heart really and many strange characters that populate the story. Like Mary Talbot, who likes to give parties at other people’s expense and to cats when she is alone.

 

It feels like sitting by the side of an old man from a small town and hear him listen to how it was in his city. But the problem is that there is nothing major that happened. It is a word picture of the town’s less fortunate residents in a poor town. Period.  No story beyond incidents narrated.

Perhaps a  4/10.

 

–    – Krishna

 

Movie: Dr Strange (2016)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:25 pm

imageLet me make a confession first : I went with some misgivings to this movie. First off, Dr Strange is not a major comic book here. I know that he had some dedicated fan following (which comic book hero does not?) but he is not as famous as the Spiderman, Superman, Batman trio. Even the movie makers seem to have turned to him after exhausting every other character – maybe with the exception of even more obscure characters like Plastic Man or She-Ra.  Even Wonder Woman came before him.

 

But sheer movie making can make a huge difference and change my mind and this movie has done exactly that. In fact, it has done this so effectively that I now consider this movie one of my favourites of recent times, even on par with that all time new wonder, Frozen.

The story starts spectacularly, with the battle between Kaecilius, a sorcerer, who steals some pages from a very powerful book chained to a shelf and The Ancient One, who pursues him. The style and the battles, and even the ‘weapons’ used by the Ancient Ones are breathtaking. The first scene sets such a high pace that the next few scenes were a major disappointment. The only other movie I can think of where the first scene is totally unbelievable is that all time classic ‘The Matrix’. Remember the heroine jumping from one tall building to another and the pursuers saying ‘But this is impossible!’?

The next few scenes were disappointing to me because I am hasty to judge and I judged wrong. I thought that the movie was going to go slow after that. It is about a doctor Dr Strange, a famous neurosurgeon who gets into an accident. The neurosurgeon was too ordinary and “normal”. I should have waited. It takes off, and you find how much of a perfect match is the man to the role.

I love how the story has been updated for the times. I have not read the comic books and so do not know what Dr. Strange’s original occupation was, but I am not sure it was a neurosurgeon and also am sure  that he would not be distracted by his cellphone when the accident happened as cell phones did not exist them. (In the TV movie of the same topic made earlier in 1978, Dr Strange is a psychiatry resident – close enough.)

Dr Christine Palmer, his colleague and it seems, a budding romantic interest, saves him but his hands have become useless. He is obsesses with getting his hands back so that he can be that famous and rich neurosurgeon again, he meets a man called Jonathan, who completely recovered from a paralysis from which  the doctors had given up on saving him  and is now well enough to play basketball. On his advice, he goes to Kathmandu, Nepal, in search of the woman who helped Jonathan.

He meets her after showing his stubborn tenaciousness and is slowly absorbed into her world. The story is brilliant, and in not taking itself seriously – with several seriously comic moments in the midst of amazingly tense storytelling (reminds one of the same trick they pulled with Olaf in Frozen). The scene where he is injured and comes as astral projection is an example. Christine, shocked to see his ‘ghost’ near his comatose body asking “What are you doing?”. He: “Using astral projection to help you save me”. Christine “Are you dead?” He : “No, but I soon will be, if you don’t follow my instructions”. And who can forget the fight between the two astral projections as she is focusing on saving him? Astounding.

In addition, the opening of the portals, the way it is portrayed, seems fresh and an entirely new approach to visual effects. It has become the trademark of the man, and I have no doubt that he will join the pantheon of heroes in   Avengers.

 

Right up to the ending, where he confronts the infinitely more powerful Dormammu who is bent on destroying the world and how he wins using his brains and “some accessories” is brilliantly told.

 

Before that, the scenes where everything goes backward in time while three of the heroes and a villain walk calmly forward in time is also a new concept. ( I realize it may not be that difficult to do with special effects of today but for the concept alone, it gets my full admiration)

 

Even tiny touches like the never smiling Wong trying to constantly admonish Dr Strange or how the cloak likes him enough to choose Strange as its new ‘owner’ are all superbly woven together.

 

A great movie, a very good entertainer. Definitely worth a 9/ 10

–  – Krishna

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