bookspluslife

April 30, 2017

Movie : Rogue One (2016)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:40 pm

imageThis is a much anticipated side story on Star Wars and it does have its moments – like how the plans of the death star got into the hands of the rebels.

Just like the Disney reboot of the Star Wars : The Force Awakens, there is a cameo from Princess Leah herself in this movie. This is made more poignant by the fact that Carrie Fisher died after this movie’s release, so speculation is rife on whether the future cameos from her would be a digitally animated version or not.

I definitely have a beef with the casting on this one as well. The casting of both the central characters does not gel with my idea of a Star Wars world. But I am sure I am in a very small minority. The dialogs also do not seem to be powerful : yes, I realize that the original Star Wars also had some pretty sappy dialogs but having grown into a cult status and having control handed to a colossus like Disney, I guess I expected more.

 

The story starts well and has the adorable robot which seems to have disjointed spheres sticking beside each other. Other than that it is a complicated Star Wars tale. For instance we learn that the heroine Jyn’s mother is killed by the Imperial Force when the father refuses to go work for the Emperor but the father is forcibly taken and goes to ‘save his daughter’ who is in hiding at that time.

The rebel forces want to take out the father but Cassin lies to her and makes her take him to the father’s location. In the meanwhile they go to weird places and a blind warrior asks Jyn about the necklace given by her father before he went away. See? I told you it is a complicated story.

It is best to see this. I think that the story’s complexity take away from the simple enjoyment of the story. You are constantly trying to recall who is who. For instance, Saw, who saved Jyn earlier, turns up later with an oxygen mask and a prosthetic leg and they have an argument on why he abandoned her. A lot of characters come and go, and at the end of the movie, you feel as if you studied for an exam.

 

There are scenes where tensely the rebels extract the plans for the death star in what looks like pre 3-G circuitry.

 

All in all, I’d say a 5/ 10

–   – Krishna

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February 26, 2017

Movie: Arrival (2016)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:12 pm

imageI don’t know what to make of this movie. In one sense, it is not like many other alien movies, especially those of yesteryears (and some current movies) where the aliens are definitely humanoid and the problem in the earlier years could be really solved by having people wear suits. Done. And mostly the aliens speak English (or fudged by the statement that they communicate at a mental level, which seems like English to us humans).

 

As long as we are diverging in this preamble, I may also add that the one movie that was extremely impressive from yesteryears, based on Carl Sagan’s story, called Contact that came out in 1997, also sidestepped the issue of what aliens look like. The movie is beautiful in its own right, and if you have not seen it, I urge you to do so when you have a chance.

 

I am not claiming that this is this is the first movie I have seen that recognizes the fact that the aliens may not even look like us, not even a little bit, and their way of communication may be completely incomprehensible to us. Anyone who has seen the Aliens series can vouch for that. However, this takes the item in a different light. In Aliens series, for instance, people were not trying to understand what they were saying. In this one they do, and kudos to the team for that. Evolution can wreak wonders even in an isolated island in this world (witness the unique species in Australia and Madagascar, to name but two) and who knows what it would have wrought in other planets?

 

The reason for their arrival (the title of the film) is really interesting as well. The story is about Dr Louise Banks who is a language professor. We learn that she and her husband are separated and a daughter who grew up got a incurable disease and dies early. Seems unrelated to the main movie, because then you see her invited to help US when a spacecraft lands in US (and in many other parts of the world as well) since she is the best language expert in the world, but keep it in the back of your mind because it all connects later. She meets a theoretical physicist called Ian Donnelly.

 

The spacecraft is huge, oval, and seems flat as a cardboard and yet they all can get in and explore. The theories of language where they try to parse the alien speak is phenomenal. The daring Louise trying new things to understand the really strange beings is phenomenal and her exceptional gift, which is slowly revealed and that also helps in averting a catastrophe of epic proportions (when China refuses to listen to the aliens or make contact with them but threatens to nuke the spaceship that landed in their territory) is amazing.

 

The movie can be a bit confusing but all in all, it stands together, very intelligently crafted and the new emphasis on taking you backwards and forwards in time works well again in this movie.

Amy Banks and Jeremy Runner do a credible job in their roles.

 

To tell more would be to give away some of the interesting things about the movie.

 

I think it definitely is a 7/ 10

– – Krishna

December 27, 2015

Movie: The Martian (2015)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:24 pm

imageWell, the story can be told in a mini paragraph – an astronaut who was left behind in Mars due to an emergency evacuation survives against almost impossible odds until they plan a rescue (again against very improbable odds). Sounds trite and boring, right? How can you make a long movie out of this atom of a story? How can you make it interesting to boot?

 

If any one can, Ridley Scott and his crew can and he shows how. The movie is not just interesting, it is exciting to watch. Brilliantly shot and brilliantly planned, the movie keeps you completely absorbed until the end.

Well, this is not the first movie of its kind where they show miniature stories in a fantastic manner. Gravity has been there in 2013 and even earlier, Castaway did it in style, just to quote two examples. But still it does not take away from the fact that it is a story very well told, with sensitivity and humour to boot, and keeps you engaged till the very last minute from the very first minute.

 

The circumstances where the astronaut Mark Watney gets left behind are credible. They search for him until the very last minute, even putting the crew in some danger but realize that he is probably dead and have to leave anyway to save the rest of the crew. Matt Damon as Mark Watney is brilliant. In addition, you have to admire the variety of roles Jessica Chastain takes on. In this, she is the commander Melissa Lewis who has to make the difficult decision to leave  Mark behind. Compared to Zero Dark Thirty  or Crimson Peak,  this one could not be more different. It is also interesting. It is also interesting to see an older Jeff Daniels as NASA director.

But this movie is all about Matt Damon, and others just have bit parts in it. It is the story of his survival. How he gets water from the inhospitable Martian atmosphere, how he faces setbacks, how he plans his travel to the potential site of the next landing, how he realizes that almost everything he does may not be enough to save him are all fabulous.

In addition, there is a lot of humour in the story that make you smile while rooting for the intrepid astronaut.  He faces every adversity including waking up initially with an antenna stuck in him, with full determination.

There is no way to describe in detail the story, you just have to see it. But the moments there where he fixes an earlier, primitive, broken down communication equipment partially (only visuals) and how he manages to have a ‘two way’ communication are fascinating.  His failed efforts (initially) to create water and the “fertilizer” he uses to grow his potatoes all provide clever humour.

The efforts to resupply him also end in abject failure when the probe, due to an emergency decision to cut some safety checks, explodes just after leaving earth. These provide the drama in the story.

One incongruity is that to accept Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, the Indian member of the crew, you have to squint very hard.

Though the moments where they hatch a secret plan overriding the Director to rescue Mark are cinematic, and even though the rescue and the daring plan to hurtle through space hoping that the crew would be in position to catch him is even more cinematic, they do not take anything away from the visual and intellectual feast this movie provides to the viewer.

 

Really top class and I award it a 9/10

 

– – Krishna

 

 

June 27, 2015

Movie : Jurassic World (2015)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:54 pm

imageThis one was a grosser that broke all records, but the critics did not love it. The general consensus seemed to be – the graphics are better than ever, but it does not move the story forward. The same old thing you have seen in the previous Jurassic Park movies, so what else is new?

So who is right? Is it a great movie or is it the same old wine in a new bottle?

This is the way I see it : If you expect to see something positively new – yes, you will be disappointed. But if your only aim is to have a rollicking good time and not to worry about what ‘new’ twists the movie brings – and there are some of these too, as we will see later – then it is a darn good movie and is worth a visit.

The story is very simple.  Jurassic World opens after twenty two years after the closure of Jurassic Park (featured in the first movie with an excellent portrayal by Richard Attenborough, which was released in 1993, yes, twenty two years ago). The operations manager of the park is Claire Dearing (played by Bryce Dallas Howard, adequately if unspectacularly ). She is an ambitious lady and when her nephews Zach and Gray turn up as visitors, palms them off to her assistant Zara because she is too busy to spare time.

This park, though, has been in operation for close to ten years, and the excitement caused by the dinosaurs seems to have palled, and the crowd wants more. So, in order to keep the excitement up and to ensure that the money keeps pouring in, they engage scientists’ proficient with gene splicing technology to invent new dinosaurs to keep the interest up. Their latest and proud production is Indominus Rex, which has been kept in isolation with the greatest secrecy, and is about to be unveiled soon, to hopefully thunderous applause.

There are also sea monsters like Mosasaur, which is kept for a Sea World like exhibition, where it comes and grabs a giant chunk of meat from a crane suspended above a vast aquarium.

The entrepreneur who owns the whole show is Simon Masrani (played by the Bollywood actor Irfan Khan).

There is the expert Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) who is brought in to evaluate if the glass cases on one side of the Indominus Rex enclosure is firm enough for it. He disapproves of many things done in the creation of the new monster, including the isolation.

He seems to have a relationship with the velociraptors who are under his keep, and they consider him as one of them and also alpha male to boot and obey him – to the extent that these wild creatures can obey anyone.

Well, the story is about how Indominus Rex tricks them into letting it escape and how the chaos escalates when Rex breaks through several enclosures housing other creatures like the winged dinosaurs like pterosaurs. (How many of them are modelled on real dinosaurs and how many are imaginary? I wondered too. That is what Google is there for! I looked it up. Apparently, all the dinosaurs except the manufactured ones are modelled on real dinosaurs that existed, Nice.)

You see a lot of originally shown dinosaurs like the long necked, vegetarian Apatosaurus and also the probably most well-known of them all : Stegosaurus on the herbivorous side and the great Tyrannosaurus Rex on the carnivorous side.

The visuals are fantastic and are very well done. The battles and destruction are nice. The new modes of transport including the cool, ball like bubble car are good.

But there is a lot of predictable rubbish as well : the boys go recklessly into areas where they are not supposed to go, even after hearing the evacuation orders. Their surprise at the attacking Indominus Rex is comical rather than terrifying. The ditz of a secretary lets the boys go easily so that they can wander all over the park in a vehicle.

The vehicles are driven by the tourists, with no one else to control it, even when they are wandering among dangerous animals like dinosaurs. (Even the herbivores can trample one by mistake, can they not? )  Once you are into one vehicle that is it. It is free for all for you, you can go anywhere you please.

And of course, amid the death and destruction where dozens of people are killed every minute, the two boys and the two main characters escape not once but multiple times by the skin of their teeth and keep going.

Not enough nonsense? There is an evil guy with an evil plot. You wonder what the evil plot is? Simple: Use the velociraptors in a military setting so that US has a tremendous advantage over the enemies. What do you do when the sensible ones stop your evil plan? Steal them of course. Guess how he dies finally? No prizes for guessing that one!

In spite of all the silliness, it is a very satisfying end enjoyable movie. None of the scenes are wasted. The velociraptors, Owens relationship with them, the Sea World like display of Mosasaur all come together towards the end of the movie, which is nice.

If you see it with the right mindset, like I did, I think you will agree that it deserves a 6/10

– – Krishna

March 6, 2015

Book: Congo by Michael Crichton

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:29 pm

imagesMichael Crichton, of course, is the author of numerous thrillers based on latest scientific developments. He writes them not as a science author but a thriller writer, and is famous for his Jurassic Park and its sequels. We have reviewed his The Lost World, a sequel to Jurassic Park, before.

Congo is one of his earlier works. Let us talk about the story first.

Jan Kruger, the local expert is hired as a guide to lead the geological team of US into the densest of the Congo forests, the unexplored Virunga region.

It is funny how, in this book written in 1980, Chrichton says that ‘what used to be called Congo is now Zaire’!

They are after diamonds, not for their value, as they are so impure as to be worthless, but for their electrical properties. (They are geologists after all, not entrepreneurs or adventurers). The book starts explosively, with the “bone crusher” attacking and killing them all, but what did you expect in a Michael Crichton book?

Dr Peter Elliot is trying to teach Amy, a pet female gorilla, to communicate based on previous ( and what looks like real) evidence that they can learn. She has learned a modified version of the sign language and seems to be able to communicate her thoughts and wants.  When she “views” ancient ruins in Congo in a dream, he knows he has to take her there.

He convinces Ross, the researcher and the female interest in the story, to take him and Amy. The Consortium, a multinational competitor to Ross’s client who wants to find the beryllium mines before they do, are already on the move. They may even reach the site before Ross’s team (including Peter Elliot and Amy). They bid for Captain Munro with the Consortium right there in the room!

The team finds that the Consortium has been intercepting their data and that the “gorilla” that destroyed the previous camp could be a brand new species. Consortium’s effort to kidnap Amy  fails as Ross has put tracer inside it previously and finds it fast.

They are shot at in Congo and decide to jump out of the plane, Amy and all.

The old age of the plot shows. Think about this – A highly sophisticated computer with 189K memory! Those were simple times….

They visit a pygmy village where an ERTS old team member is met. Then they go through a white water rapids to reach their destination. They find people had been killed with their skulls crushed by a gorilla-like animal with an odd grey fur.

They find bodies crushed with stone paddles and come to the realization that there is a kind of gorilla “that is not gorilla” (Amy’s definition) that lurks there.

The grey gorillas launch a ferocious attack on the camp and are foiled the first night. When Elliot goes to capture one of them to learn their ‘language’ (since they seem intelligent) he falls in their midst and is saved in the nick of time by Amy.

The satellite communication fails due to solar flairs and they are left with no power of computers in US to back them up. They are almost overpowered and killed by the trained (to be killers) gorilla troop when the artificial warning Elliot had made studying their language makes them go away. They finally find the diamonds but Ross ignores and hides warning from her own base station to abort and return.

The mountain erupts and then, from that point on, the story seems to be written only to finish it, as if suddenly the author lost all interest in the subject and was unable to wait to finish it properly. Fairly annoying.

Not a bad story but a little bit too thinly woven. The sophistication in the later works like Jurassic Park is also somehow missing. Entertaining, but just that.

5/10

– – Krishna

December 19, 2014

Movie : Interstellar (2014)

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:35 pm

This movie was a big disappointment for me and I will tell you why.

Featured image

First, the movie had a buzz and was talked about in the same hushed tones that people use for movies like Inception and so I was expecting something fabulous in concept and execution, perhaps a worthy heir to the all time great movie The Matrix.

Second, after Matthew McConaughey cleaned up his boy toy roles and started doing fabulous movies and serious roles, I always wanted to see his recent movies and opted to see this first and expected to see his Oscar worthy performance in this film.

Both expectations were dashed very soon.

The movie revolves around earth rapidly approaching annihilation due to shortage of food to eat. The whole world seems to have turned agrarian, with people surviving on subsistence farming, and even then having a losing battle against dust storms, plant blights and other assorted pestilences that make it a challenge to grow a decent crop.

Cooper – played by Mathew McCounaughey –   is an old NASA pilot who misses the old days of space flights but is forced to farm as NASA had shut down long ago. Why? The world cannot afford such frivolous expenses as space travel and should focus on necessities like, well, farming. He lives with his son Tom and daughter Murph. Murph has got a scientific bent of mind while Tom loves and adores farming. Also with them is David, who is Cooper’s father – it is strange to see John Lithgow after his days in The Third Rock from the Sun days.

The story is weird. Based on some poltergeist act, they discover that some Morse code patters are there on the ground, and Cooper goes in search of it. Murph steals into his automobile, forcing him to take her too. They discover that NASA is not only still operational but have a plan to find a new planet that is habitable and transport the entire mankind from earth into that planet. The old Professor Bland, played by Michael Caine, sends a team to explore, including his daughter Amelia.

Three scientists were sent before Cooper but they seem to be sending signals still, which means there are three alternative planets to explore. Why the wormhole? Because mankind cannot travel to any inhabitable planet, even the nearest one, in any one person’s lifetime because it takes hundreds of light years to reach. A wormhole is a short cut. This at least seems to be the real scientific theory.

In the middle we come across a lot of bogus science about wormholes and black holes and some absurd visual representations of the same. They go close to a black hole and a planet seems to be surviving on the edge of it, and that is one of those that needs to be explored.

The story goes completely berserk where Cooper seems to be dead but is not and then even his body is found and revived! Amelia, when faced with a choice of which planet to visit (they can visit only one, after the fiasco with the first one they chose) elects to go to the third because of “love”. And love figures prominently as something that is even greater than any science. Wait, that sounds normal but in the movie, when they try to explain in science terms sounds completely absurd.

The whole movie is pointless. In fact, Michael Caine plays no big part in the movie and is just a prop for one of the bizarre twists. There is interminable and boring discussions on space stuff which has nothing to do with the movie that any average viewer can understand let alone appreciate and the movie goes completely weird again and again. David, the father and Tom the son, appear to do nothing significant – more props, as far as I can see. The movie does not move coherently from one to the other and even the floating scenes were done much better in Gravity, which is exhilarating compared to this.

Anne Hatheway is Amelia and except for crying and moaning a lot about love, does nothing either!

Now what about Mathew McCounaughey himself? I don’t know. He does not have a great scope in this because it is an adventure movie not an emotional one. On top of that, he keeps drawling his words out which seems out of place in this movie. I did not get a great vibe from this character in this movie.

The ending and the mystery of the Morse Code ghost are all confusing. The movie alternates between trying to be a science fiction and sudden emotional lurches about love being the great thing and falls between both platforms.

I know it got a fairly good review in the media but I have to only rate it as how I saw it.

Let us say a 3/10

  • – Krishna

August 17, 2014

Movie: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:06 am

imagesWhat a fabulous plot and what a beautiful execution! A very satisfying and expert presentation of a science fiction story.

Initially it does not seem like it would be a good story. The movie starts with a disaster story in the news of an alien invasion. The aliens are called Mimics, though you do not see them mimicking anything at all right till the end of the movie. Then there are tedious descriptions of France being the epicentre of battle and from England, the United Defence Forces from all countries is launching a final assault

Then the Mimics, when they come seem to ooze acid as blood and you go ‘Oh well, have we not seen this in the Alien Series?’

The movie drops some intriguing hints. The Mimics seem to be invincible and crushes human forces ruthlessly except for one lady called Rita (Emily Blunt), who seems to have a much bigger success than normal and is in Verdun, France. She is called the Angel of Verdun.

Then there is the unusual role for Tom Cruise. At least in the beginning. He comes as Major William Cage, who wants to just float around, not sullied by tedium of actual battle. He is a Major, for God’s sake!

When he meets General Brigham in London, his idea is that he will be in charge of PR and after the war, when the aliens have been vanquished, he would smoothly transition into a political career from his military one.

When Cage finds out that he is ordered into combat he tries to avoid it and threatens the General, getting himself arrested. He is bewildered, totally panicked, and is like a deer caught in headlights.

Cage is sent to combat under the command of Sergeant Farrell, who has been told, by General Brigham that Cage is a Private and a deserter, and also is fraudulently impersonating a General. He is taken into the battle in handcuffs. As they drop to the battle zone, the aircraft is hit and he almost missed the jump in panic.

He finds Mimics fully prepared against the so called surprise attack but is killed almost instantly, but not before blowing up on with a bomb and being covered in its blue acidic blood.

Now the movie gets fascinating. He wakes up in the same place as he woke up last time in handcuffs and sees that the whole scenario is played out. In the plane, he tries to scream to everyone that they are walking into a trap and that the plane will be hit, but everyone ignores him. He gets killed again in  a different way and wakes up again in the previous place the previous day. He dies repeatedly, slowly learning what to avoid and surviving longer and longer. But there seems to be no way to win, and he keeps getting killed. Why does he survive again to relive the same thing?

The explanation seems to be interesting.  The reason seems to do with the alien blood that drenched him. When he dies, the time shifts backwards and he starts again. In fact the Mimics have been also doing it for so long that they know all man’s plans once they experience it, shift back in time, and crush the strategy. This is why they have been invincible so far!

Rita once sees him being adept and realizes that he is in a time loop. She says ‘Find me and tell me about this when you wake up next time’ and they both get killed. When he wakes up again, he goes finds Rita and learns that she was in the same loop before. He also realizes that when her blood was transfused with new blood, she lost the ability to cycle.

She trains him to handle mimics over several lifetime cycles. It is really funny and fascinating at the same time.  They realize that this will end only when they find the super Mimic who is hiding somewhere and is linked to all Mimics in mind.

The movie has more interesting pieces where the vision that Cage received of the Super Mimic turns out to be a trap. Cage keeps killing himself when in danger of being captured so that he can start again. Finally they get a device that can track the Super Mimic if stuck into a soldier Mimic (called Alpha).  The Super Mimic is called Omega.

A lot of branches: in one “life” Cage decides the whole thing is pointless and walks out to spend time in a bar in London but learns that Mimics destroyed the forces and attacked London, killing him!

Before he can reach Omega, once he gets into an accident and before he can die, they infuse new blood into him. Now he does not have the power to go back and all Mimics are still alive!

To read this, it looks complicated but when seen in the story, it is brilliant. I agree that some of it is highly cinematic, but then that does not take away from the exciting venture that the movie carries you into and you do not see the passing of time at all.

Brilliant, and how a science fiction story should be told.

Let us give this one a 9/10

– – Krishna

December 20, 2013

Book: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:11 pm

imageThis is a science fiction that was very popular and spawned a series based on its success.
The story is like Star Wars set up. However, this book fundamentally seems to be a set of stories, with a common character in each (the evil villain, metal kind of thing, Shrike). The technique to weave together all these individual stories together is to have a diverse group of team members assigned to a common voyage tell the stories of what happened to them with Shrike and why they are here. That way, this book is a collection of short stories, each with a twist at the end.

 

The Council has asked the commander to go back to Hyperion. All Things has approved it.  Commander wakes up in the tree ship – an interesting analogy. Reminds one of Aliens or other Science Fiction movies.

 

There are six, chosen, who go to Hyperion. An oddball assortment, headed by Hans Matadeen the leader of the people. Each one is from a different profession, and, as already said, each has been chosen because they have had an encounter with the Shrike and has survived. There seems to be a revisit of Shrike in Hyperion and they are sent to stop further damage.

 

First is Father Hoyt, a priest, who goes in to find a missing father who found an ancient tribe who belong to the cross. He finds a cave full of crosses and a huge cross to boot and a cross is placed on his father which grows inside him and refuses to move. The twist? He himself has one and is still in pain. They discover this about him after he finished the story.

 

The next is a soldier called Kalahad, who has fought armies but in training finds a great girl in love with him. When he goes to fight Ousters and escapes, Shrike comes to help him and the girl he is in love with turns out to be a she Shrike with metal for body and all. Guaranteed twist is supplied!

 

Then there is a poet Silenus, who has lost everything and memory in a travel and, later,  gets it all back. Finds fame writing about Dying Earth and is a multi millionaire but his real works do not sell at all. He needs a muse to rekindle his imagination. Who is the muse? It is Shrike. Finally Sad King Billy (don’t ask) sacrifices self and burns all docs of Silenus, with Shrike helping. Silenus has another copy (remade) before he joins the motley crew. There is Benares, Parvati, also a lot of Judaism and Islam thrown in (New Mecca or Riyadh, I forget)

 

Then Sol Weinstein whose daughter, Rachel is caught in the Time Tide inside the tombs and starts growing younger (Like the Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Heavily Jewish and his angry conversations with God are a joke. Rachel regresses into childhood and his wife dies in an accident and so Sol is out on a Pilgrimage to the Hyperion Shrike Shrine. What is the twist? The child he always carried with him turns out to be Rachel herself!

 

The investigator is a girl – Brawn Lemna who has a Cybrid (John Keats) as a client and tries to determine who has tried to kill him. Discovers, after travelling into the datumplane with the help of hacker Bobo – who dies –  that  the web is not keen on Keats cancelling his trip to Hyperion. They hide from the world and also make love to each other several times. The cybrid gets killed but downloads all his info onto a bionic chip in her and she also discovers she is pregnant. Cybrid gets killed in an attempt to go to Shrike temple and it is indeed the Hegemony that is trying to “erase” the Cybrid. (Hegemony is the Council of Wise Men)

 

Finally comes the Consul’s own story. Consul time travels and meets with a girl in an outer world he is forbidden to go to . The girl’s name is Siri and he meets her in various ages, seventy at the end, when he is still very young due to time travel. It is interesting that the first time he meets her she is barely eighteen and they fall in love. Later she matures into a woman and grows old before his own eyes, while he stays the same age. He is still as deeply in love with her till the end. You get the story, but then the descriptions of their meetings and reunions is very confusing and not clearly laid out, in my opinion.

 

The Consul’s story has multiple twists like a labyrinth of crooked alleys that make your head spin. First, the man in the story, who you assumed was the Consul – because everyone else is narrating his or her own story – was not him at all but his grandfather. In an unrelated twist, shortly after, you find that the Consul is a double or triple agent, working also for the violent villain group called the Ousters. But wait, maybe not. He is playing the bad guy to get into the good graces of Ousters. Wait, what? I do not know!

 

The ending is abrupt and, in my opinion, bad. It kind of negates all your expectations set at the outset and you feel as if the storybook  you were reading was plucked away from you by someone abruptly before you could finish it.

I will give this one a  5/10

 

–        – Krishna

 

 

 

 

October 12, 2013

Book: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:20 pm

imageA classic that everyone has heard of, but how many have really read the book? If you are not into classical novels, the answer is very few.

 

It has throughout, an invented language. The language is based on Russian (or Slavic languages) but not entirely. It has mostly English words with viddy for “see”. It can be very irritating at first but you simply get used to it very soon. Let us see what the story is about.

 

Alex has three friends, Pete, Georgie and Dim. They are hooligans, enjoy terrorizing the neighbourhood and having gang wars just for fun. They are cruel, out of control and are feared even by their parents. Alex terrorizes a writer and his wife and tears up a story he is writing, called A Clockwork Orange. (Clever to name a story in a story with the title of the book itself)

 

When you viddy the slovos (words)  that the author chelloveck has written, you can’t believe your own glazzies and you wonder “Am I to figure out what this is in my gulliver all by my oddy knocky?’. Your rot drops and you grind your goobies  in frustration.

 

Did that make any sense? If you have this dictionary (viddy – see; slovo – word; chelloveck – fellow; galzzies – eyes; oddy knocky – myself; rot – mouth; goobies – teeth), then it makes sense. There is a glossary at the end of the book but it is more fun to read and guess. (I did not know it was there but by the time I found out, I had guessed most of it anyway and did not need it. But you, on the other hand, may feel more comfortable to check it out from the beginning)

 

Alex goes to a cat lady and accidentally knocks her on the head and she dies. He is arrogant and treats everyone with disdain and takes what he wants – including taking girls to his room and raping them. It is a kind of a futuristic society where the rule of the law has broken down and the police seem to be ineffective.  He insults his own cronies but they trap him with the lady and when the millicents, sorry, police come by, he is taken to jail, which turns really dire when the old lady dies.

 

Then they conceive of a medicine, which can make a person incapable of deceit, lying or cruelty. They decide that this is a better way to reform criminals and even hooligans, and that way, there is no need for jails or punishment. If you are caught for a crime, they can just ‘cure’ you and let you back in society, knowing that you will be incapable of being bad again thereby eliminating the problem of recidivism.

Alex is the gunea pig  for the  miracle medicine and made “good” but a lot of folks do not like it. He is “re-cured” and resumes a life of crime but his heart is not in it.

 

The explanation for why he loses interest in crime, though making for a satisfying ending to a book, is weak and unconvincing. I leave it to you to read it and either agree or disagree with my assessment.

 

But the book does indeed raise very interesting ethical questions. The most important one, I think, is this: If you were forced, as by medicine in this story, to choose good and are incapable of making a voluntary choice between good and evil, are you really good? Is not being a good person automatically imply choice to be good? Very interesting questions.

In essence, the story is interesting, and is well told, and the invented artificial language adds, in my view, and additional layer of enjoyment. It is not a profound book and does not move you very much, but still very readable.

 

I would give this book a 6/10

 

– –  Krishna

Movie: Gravity (2013)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:47 pm

imageYou have to hand it over to this movie for the visuals. I think it is very hard to make a movie in which there are only two characters throughout (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) – and okay, the Indian accented voice of a third person. But just like Castaway, you do not even notice the passage of time. In fact, this is like a Castaway in space, where two, not one, persons are adrift.

My God, the visuals! Watch this movie in 3D if you can. The visuals take you right there, and make you feel that you are right there with them (without the need for a space suit of course).  Even the view of the earth floating in the background (too big to be the pale blue dot famously alluded to by Carl Sagan but breathtakingly beautiful because of that) is awesome.

The story is a bit farfetched in parts.  The story is about two astronauts working on the Space Stations (and therefore close to earth in space than they would be if they were travelling to the moon) caught in a shrapnel storm of debris caused by Russia destroying one (or more?) of its satellites which are past the end of their life,. This operation goes out of control when these hit and destroy other space objects, creating yet more shrapnel in a parody of a macabre billiard game of impinging balls.

I wonder if the contraption George uses to float around in space is anywhere near reality. I doubt it, but it is kind of cool. George plays the part of a wisecracking, funny, sympathetic astronaut but this movie is all about Sandra Bullock.

Wonderful scenes of her fight for survival, and the conditions of weightlessness in space and inside the spacecraft are fantastically portrayed. Even her tears at one point will not fall to “the ground” but float all over the spacecraft!

The Hollywood unreality creeps in and it is kind of both good and bad in my opinion. Good because it makes for good drama and you forget the passage of time. If those were not there, this would have felt like a documentary. Bad because the whole thing is so improbable. First, you have this premise that the debris storm hit them at almost no warning, though they knew of the destroyed satellites long ago, when it happened. (“They underestimated the time that these people had” is the lame explanation).

Second, everything goes wrong. Well, in Castaway, that is a real probability: his boat making efforts fail and he fails to attract the attention of the passing ship etc. Could happen, really. Here? Come on, with all the care taken to build space ships, one thing after the other seems to go wrong, not only with her own ship systems but also with the other Chinese space ship that she eventually reaches.  Definitely improbable. But, like I said before, makes for good drama.

The ending? With the risk of giving a spoiler, I would say that she survives. Not much of a spoiler, it is almost de rigour for Hollywood movies. But the splashdown and the subsequent issues she faces is highly ridiculous. Again, taken to extreme for the sake of drama.

Finally, it is ironic that a Russian experiment caused the shrapnel and a Chinese spaceship played a part in the rescue while in reality, it is the Chinese who blew up, a year or so ago, one of their unused satellites in space, causing fear of space debris among the scientific community.

Improbable, it may be, highly dramatized, it may be, but the visuals are stunning, the movie races along without a moment of letting up, and keeps your eyes behind the 3D glasses glued to the screen at every moment. Also, it is not good to expect realism in a movie of this nature.

It is stunning to see, and definitely worth going to. I would give it a 7/10

 

— Krishna

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