Monday, 29 December 2014

''High Noon'' (1952 movie)- Review

Directed by: Fred Zinnemann
Released: 1952
Country: United States

Genres: Western, Drama, Thriller

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


In ''High Noon'', Gary Cooper plays Marshal Will Kane. The film tells a story that spans just a few hours- and within these few hours, a lot of things happen: tension, disappointment, fear, thrills, apprehension. It is a western thriller full of thrills and tension- and one that I would highly recommend. 

 Marshal Will Kane marries Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), but just a few minutes after their marriage, they get a terrible news: a man, Frank Miller, whom Will had sent to prison, has been released, and is coming back to take revenge on Will. Everybody advises Will to get out of the town before Frank arrives, and Will initially agrees, but soon returns to the town. Amy is furious at him: she wants him to leave the town with her, but when he disagrees, she decides to leave the town on her own. She waits at a hotel near the station, waiting for the train. On the other hand, some friends of Frank are waiting for him at the station, ready to welcome him back. Will starts looking for help, looking for people who would help him face Frank. But nobody agrees to help him: some out of fear, and some because of their dislike for Will (ironically, the only people who want to help Will are a one-eyed man and a teenager). And as the minutes fly by, Frank's train keeps approaching...

One of the things I loved about this film is it's simplicity: it tells the story that spans just a few hours, and within those few hours, the characters go through such incidents, such fear, such thrills, such tension. Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly are definitely excellent in their respective roles, and I should also mention Katy Jurado, who plays Helen Ramirez, who had been the lovers of both Frank and Will. 

''High Noon'' is a thrilling film with excellent screenplay and performances. I'd highly recommend it.

4.5 out of 5


Saturday, 27 December 2014

''Modern Times'' (1936 movie)- Review

Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Released: 1936
Country: United States

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Stanley Sandford, Chester Conklin

Genres: Comedy, Romantic comedy, Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


Charlie Chaplin's ''Modern Times'' is set during the Great Depression. It tells the story of a tramp, who, with the help of an orphaned young woman, dreams of a better life, a life without hunger and poverty, and struggles hard for it. ''Modern Times'' is really very funny like other Charlie Chaplin films, but it is also really sweet, it also has an excellent emotional depth, and yes, it is heartwarming and inspirational.

Charlie Chaplin plays a factory worker who starts suffering from mental depression that ultimately causes him to lose his job and go to a hospital for some days. After he is discharged from the hospital, he is left without a job, a home, and means to support himself. Circumstances cause him to meet a Gamin (played by Paulette Goddard), whose father died recently. Her younger siblings were taken to an orphanage, but she ran away from the authorities as she didn't want to be in an orphanage. Chaplin's character and the Gamin become great friends, and decide to get a better life, a home, to get rid of the poverty and difficulty they have to face because of the Great Depression.

''Modern Times'' reminded me how much I actually love silent films. The film is mostly silent, but there are scenes where there are spoken dialogues, and a song that Chaplin's character sings near the end of the film.

''Modern Times'' is hilarious and funny. It kept me laughing. But at the same time, it is no mindless comedy film. Instead, it deals with a very serious subject matter: poverty, sufferings of the poor people, dreams and hopes for a better life, and the struggle for it. While it is definitely a funny film, it is, at the same time, heartwarming, emotional, and beautiful. Charlie Chaplin's performance is definitely excellent, and Paulette Goddard, as the Gamine, is beautiful and equally amazing. My favorite scenes from the film are those in which Chaplin's character is released from the prison, and the Gamine is waiting for him outside the prison, and when they are meet, they look so happy, and the looks on their faces and their smiles and their reactions  are so beautiful, so heartwarming! The final scene is also really very beautiful.

Overall, '"Modern Times'' is an excellent film, definitely recommended. It is funny, it is sweet, it is cute, it is emotional, it can make you smile, laugh, and cry. It is a beautiful film.

5 out of 5

Friday, 26 December 2014

''Allegiant''- Book Review

Published: 2013
Author: Veronica Roth

Genres: Novel, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


''Allegiant'' is the final book in the ''Divergent'' trilogy.

After the death of Jeanine Matthews and the victory of the factionless, Evelyn takes up the duty of leading the city and the people, and abolishes the faction system, much to the displeasure of many people. Evelyn also declares that nobody will be allowed to go outside the city, defying the instructions found in the Edith Prior video at the end of ''Insurgent''. However, members of a rebel group, led by Cara and Tori, known as ''Allegiant'', defy the tyrant Evelyn's authority. Instead, they plan to go outside the city and discover how the people outside the city's borders need their help. Tris, Tobias, Christina, Peter, Caleb, Cara, Uriah and Tori decide to go outside the city's border, and they manage to do so. Outside the city, they come across shocking revelations: the greatest secrets about their entire lives, about their city. They come to know that what they had seen, their lifestyles all along were nothing but lies and made-up things. Throughout their lives they had believed, they had known certain things, but after leaving their city, they come across such strange revelations that makes them realize the truth behind everything, the truth behind the city, the confinement, the factions, and above all, the truth about themselves.

''Allegiant'' contains revelations, extremely important revelations. We come to learn the backgrounds of everything in the series in this novel. We come to know about the background of the city, the background and history of the things in the trilogy.

''Allegiant'' is indeed a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. While I really liked it, I didn't exactly love it in the way I loved it's predecessors. There are important revelations in this one, and it was wonderful to know get an insight on the past of the city, the real reason the city was formed, and the truth behind the faction system. The romance between Tris and Tobias is great in this one as well, with nothing becoming sappy, but is really emotional. The character development is excellent like it's predecessors. 

I have loved the ''Divergent'' series. I really admired the storytelling, the character development, the excellent emotional depth, the endless secrets and mysteries and the revelations! The ending of ''Allegiant'' was really good- I was in tears several times while reading the book. Overall, it is a good conclusion to the wonderful series. I really liked it.

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, 20 December 2014

''Harold and Maude'' (1971 movie)- Review

Directed by: Hal Ashby
Released: 1971
Country: United States

Genres: Romantic comedy, Dark comedy, Drama

Cast: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Charles Tyner

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


''Harold and Maude'', directed by Hal Ashby, has it all: feel-good romantic comedy elements, extremely dark humor, hilarity, as well as emotional depth. It is a hilarious, witty, darkly humorous, romantic, (sometimes) mischievous and sweet film.

Harold Chasen (Bud Cort), in his early 20s, is obsessed with deaths and funerals. One of his favorite hobbies is to fake his own suicide. He has done it so many times that it does not scare his mother (played by Vivian Pickles) anymore. During his visits to funerals, he often notices an elderly lady (Ruth Gordon), and one day, the woman approaches him. She introduces herself as Maude. She is 79. Maude is happy-go-lucky, and lives life to the fullest. Mischiveous, extremely lively, and defying her age, she often gets into cars that don't belong to her and drive off. Her actions, undoubtedly, surprise Harold. With the passage of time, Harold and Maude become really close. When it comes to characteristics and lifestyle, Harold and Maude are exactly opposite: while Harold finds life hopeless and not worth living, the 79-year-old Maude loves her life, lives life to the fullest. Gradually, Maude teaches Harold that life is worth living, that life has to be enjoyed. Harold finds himself falling in love with Maude- and it is genuine, pure love.

''Harold and Maude'' is sometimes extremely funny, extremely hilarious, yet sometimes really touching, really very sweet. Both Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon give perfectly amazing performances. Ruth Gordon is so cute, so sweet! She is perfect in her role as the happy-go-lucky and mischievous Maude. Similarly, Bud Cort also gives an excellent performance. Vivian Pickles, as Harold's mother, is really good as well. I should also mention Ellen Geer, who plays Sunshine. Harold's mother arranges dates between Harold and three different woman, as she wants Harold to get married and settle down. One of these three women is Sunshine, an actress. Harold tries to scare her off, like he had scared the two previous women, but Sunshine, a talented actress, remains unmoved by Harold's trick, and instead peforms such a trick that manages to shock- if not scare- Harold. Ellen Geer's role is short, but really very amusing.

While there are sweet moments of romance, there are darkly witty moments as well. The very first scene of the film comes as a surprise. We see Harold hanging himself. His mother enters the room, and we naturally expect her to scream. But instead, she doesn't even react. We look at her, surprised. Only then do we realize that she is used to seeing this: Harold often fakes suicides, and his mother has seen him faking suicides so many times that she is now quite used to it. The thing he did at the very beginning of the film is such an example of his fake suicides.

To sum it up, ''Harold and Maude'' has humor, romance, and emotional depth. There were scenes that made me laugh and laugh and laugh, and still make me laugh when I think of them, and there are scenes that are really touching. It is a wonderful little film.

4.5 out of 5


Thursday, 18 December 2014

''The Book Thief''- Book Review

Author: Markus Zusak
Published: 2006

Genres: Novel, Historical fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5


By the time I finished reading ''The Book Thief'', my face was drenched with tears. This book is... unique. It's so powerful. So astounding. It sparked in me my deepest emotions. This novel made me cry, it made me deeply attached to the characters. ''The Book Thief'' made me go through the same emotions that the characters were going through. It made me cry with the characters, it made me laugh with the characters, it made me feel relieved when the characters were relieved.  ''The Book Thief'' was a heartbreaking novel; it was extremely powerful and emotionally intense, and it also had humor. It is a book reading which I felt happy, I felt sad, and I felt devastated. 

The novel is narrated by Death. Yes, Death. The story is set in Nazi Germany, during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Liesel Meminger is a young girl who is taken to Molching where she has to live with foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. While she was on her way to Munich, her infant brother had died on the train.At the home of her foster parents, Liesel misses her dead brother, and also her real mother, who, being a Communist, had to leave her with foster parents. Liesel has nightmares everyday. Her foster father, whom she refers to as ''Papa'', comforts her. Her Papa decides to teach her how to read and write. Helped by Hans, Liesel learns to read, and soon, she develops a fascination with books, with words. She falls in love with books, with words. On one occassion, when the Nazis are burning books by Jewish authors or with Jewish subjects, or books that deal with subjects that oppose the Nazi idealogies, Liesel steals a book that managed to escape unburnt. Our narrator, Death, refers to Liesel as ''The Book Thief''. 

The Second World War takes away the smoothness and happiness from their lives. There is poverty, there are wants. And there is also another danger. The Hubermanns hide a Jew, Max Vandenburg, in their basement. If the Gestapos find out about this, then they will all be in grave peril. Meanwhile, Liesel and Max become great friends, amidst all the dangers and fears and poverty.

Throughout the novel, Death noticed Liesel, the book thief, three times. This is what the narrator announces at the very beginning of the novel. Death briefly discusses the situations under which he noticed the book thief.

''The Book Thief'' is driven by it's plot, it's characters, and it's words. The words are simply so powerful, I really, really, really loved the way the story is told. The storytelling is simply beautiful, simply powerful. There were characters I started to love. I got deeply attached to the characters. Liesel. Hans. Rosa. Max. Rudy Steiner, Liesel's best friend. Ilsa Hermann, the Mayor's wife. These characters were so powerful, so excellently-developed. Excellent character development is one of the reasons I absolutely fell in love with this novel. 

Bond between people. The bond between Liesel and Hans. Liesel and Max. Liesel and Rudy. Liesel and Ilsa. All these bonds were so beautifully developed.

The storytelling. It's so emotionally intense. I ended up with tears in my eyes, with a lump in my throat, not once, but numerous times while reading this book. How powerful and intense this book is! It is really beautiful, it really is.

The horrors and devastation of wars are really well explored in this novel. The poverty and the misery that wars can bring. The fears, the horrors. The deaths, the tragedy. All these are deeply explored in this book.

''The Book Thief'' is an extraordinarily powerful novel that I will recommend to everybody. It is so deep, so beautiful. The characters are so wonderfully developed. The storytelling is beautiful.  It is a beautiful and extremely powerful book that I simply loved.

5 out of 5

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

''The Maltese Falcon'' (1941 movie)- Short review

Directed by: John Huston
Released: 1941
Country: United States

Genre: Film noir, Mystery, Drama, Crime

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook, Jr., Lee Patrick

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Short review

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) is a detective, who is approached by a certain Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor), who asks him to keep an eye on a certain man, Floyd Thursby. Spade's partner, Miles Archer, follows Thursby, but Miles is mysteriously killed, and, within a short time, Thursby is also killed. Who could have killed them? What was the motive? This incident sparks events that leads Miles to discover that Miss Wonderly is not actually the person who she claims to be, and it further leads him to problems regarding a certain, precious, expensive, historical statuatte of falcon, which is somehow related to the crimes. He comes across Joel Cairo and Kasper Gutman, criminals who desperately want the falcon.

''The Maltese Falcon'' is an excellent, twisted mystery film. Humphrey Bogart's performance is excellent, and Mary Astor is brilliant as well. Sydney Greenstreet is also great in his role as Kasper Gutman. Lee Patrick is similarly brilliant as Spade's loyal secretary. The climax, which takes place in the same room and lasts perhaps for thirty minutes and is full of shocking twists, is really very memorable. The cinematography is beautiful, the screenplay is excellent, the performances are brilliant, ''The Maltese Falcon'' is indeed an excellent film.

4.5 out of 5


Monday, 15 December 2014

''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland''- Book Review

Author: Lewis Carroll
Published: 1865

Genre:  Novel, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Oh well. Who doesn't know about this book? When I was little the story of Alice in Wonderland was read to me, and when I got a bit older- perhaps when I was seven or eight years old- I read the abridged version of the novel. I have always enjoyed the story, and read the abridged version a lot of times. This is the first time, however, that I have read the original novel, ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland''.

As a child, when I used to read the different abridged versions, I used to think that ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' is simply a children's fantasy novel. I didn't know it is this nonsensical, this weird, this fantastical until I read the original novel! ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' is quirky, it is weird, it is strange. It has got many funny and interesting characters like the white rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Hatter, the March Hare, the Gryphon, and the Queen of Hearts, among others. And there is little Alice, who finds herself amidst such quirky and interesting characters when she reaches the Wonderland after following a Rabbit into a rabbit hole. Many things happen there, many strange things that simply make no sense, and this is the fun of it, isn't it? I  The characters, the things they say, their stories, their poems and songs- are all so hilarious, so captivating!  loved this one!

4.5 out of 5

Saturday, 13 December 2014

''Still Alice'' (2014 movie)- Review

Directed by: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Released: 2014
Country: United States

Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish

Genre: Drama

Rating: 3 out of 5


''Still Alice'' tells the story of an intelligent linguistics professor's descent into the depths and horrors of Alzheimer's disease. We see her losing the ability to find the right words, we see her losing the ability to express herself, we see her losing her memory, her words. Julianne Moore's excellent performance brings into life the pains and horrors that the protagonist, Dr Alice Howland, has to go through. 

Dr Alice Howland is a successful linguistics professor. When she finds that she often forgets the words through which she wants to express herself, she consults a neurologist, who finds out that Alice is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. As days pass, she starts forgetting things, and the disease skeeps worsening. But what she has are loving family members who take care of her, help her to deal with the pains as her condition keeps worsening.

''Still Alice'' is yet another film that portrays the horrors of Alzheimer's disease. We go through so many experiences, happy experiences, sad experiences. We cherish the memories. And it is painful for people if they discover that they have lost the ability to express themselves, the ability to recall things, the ability to remember their achievements and success, the ability to recognize their dear ones. These are the things ''Still Alice'' deals with. 

I found ''Still Alice'' a realistic and sad little film. Julianne Moore's performance is excellent, and Kristen Stewart, as Alice's daughter, is really good as well. The film is quite captivating. I really felt sad and shocked seeing the protagonist's struggles, her slow descent into the horrifying depths of the Alzheimer's disease. While it is a realistic portrait of how Alzheimer's disease can change everything, how Alzheimer's disease takes away a person's ability to express himself/herself, his/her ability to recognize even his/her most dear ones, I wouldn't say it is a great or unforgettable film because it definitely isn't. The film did move me into tears (I had tears in my eyes when Alice delivered her speech, it was such an emotional scene),  I was satisfied with it. It was moving, it was captivating, and Julianne Moore's performance is really great. But the film itself, in spite of being realistic, moving and having strong performances, is nothing great, it is not unforgettable, but yet it is recommendable because I am sure it is an impressive and touching little film that very realistically portrays the horrors of Alzheimer's disease.

3 out of 5


Friday, 12 December 2014

''The Night of the Hunter'' (1955 movie)- Review

Directed by: Charles Laughton
Released: 1955
Country: United States

Cast: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, Billy Chaplin, Evelyn Warden, Peter Graves, Sally Jane Bruce

Genres: Thriller, Crime, Drama, Film noir

Rating: 5 out of 5


There are probably very few villains whom I hated in the way I hated Harry Powell, the antagonist of the film ''The Night of the Hunter''. And, there are very few films that I loved as much as I loved ''The Night of the Hunter''. Scary, thrilling, suspenseful, and at the same time, gorgeous and magnificent, this is one of the greatest films I have ever watched.

What is the most memorable thing about this film? The storyline, the scary plot and the suspenseful and extremely frightening moments? The beautiful cinematography? The beautiful backgrounds and settings? The excellent performance from the talented cast? Everything is memorable, everything is unforgettable. It is the combination of all these that makes it one of the films that you can never forget. While it is one of the most thrilling and suspenseful films I have ever watched, it is also one of the most sublimely beautiful and captivating films I have ever watched.

Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is secretly a serial killer while claiming himself to be a preacher. He is arrested as he was driving a stolen car. In the prison, he happens to meet Ben Harper (Peter Graves), a man who, in order to financially support his wife and two young children, robbed a bank, and had to kill two people. Harper tells Powell that he had hid the stolen money, and that his two young children are the only people who know where the money is hidden. Harper is hanged. Soon, Powell is released. He plans to get hold of the money by persuading Harper's children to tell him where the money is actually hidden. He goes to the little village where Harper's widow and two children live, and using his charm and amiable behavior he manages to impress everybody and ultimately persuades Harper's widow, Willa, to marry him... But his true intention is to get hold of the money, and when the children refuse to tell him the location of the hidden money, he gets violent, he reveals his terrifying true colors, bringing in bloodshed and torture... He will go to any length to get hold of the money, even if he has to kill or torture people for that..  How will the two little children get rid of his torture, of the horror of his mere presence? 

Oh, what a magnificent gem of a film it was! It is definitely one of the scariest films I have ever watched. It indeed is. And oh, the antagonist, Harry Powell. He is definitely one of the villains whom I hated with all my heart. He is one of the scariest villains I have ever come across. Robert Mitchum gives a powerful performance that definitely remains unforgettable.

Lillian Gish plays Rachel Cooper, an elderly woman who provides John and Pearl with shelter after they run away, and does her best to protect the two children. Thirty-six years before the film was made, this very woman played a helpless girl who was oppressed by her father in one of the most heartbreaking films I have ever watched, ''Broken Blossoms''. Thirty-six years after ''Broken Blossoms'', this woman gave a powerful performance in ''The Night of the Hunter''. This time she played a powerful and righteous woman who stands up against all injustices, all oppressions.

And yes, the two children, Billy Chaplin and Sally Jane Bruce, are excellent and powerful in their roles as John and Pearl, respectively.

And oh, the cinematography. The beautiful images. These make the film so atmospheric, so beautiful-looking, these give the film nearly a Gothic, dark, and sublime atmosphere. There are scenes that are unforgettable because of their beauty, their excellent atmosphere, their beautiful cinematography. I must mention those scenes where we see John and Pearl rowing, amidst the darkness of the night. The water, their boat, and all the animals watching them (frogs, foxes, etc.) all these make these scenes so beautiful. There is a scene where Pearl sings a song on the boat, while John is deep asleep, and we get glimpses of the water, the frogs that are watching them. Sublime. Magnificent. These two words easily sum up my thoughts about the cinematography.

One of the greatest films I have ever watched, ''The Night of the Hunter'' is frightening, it is beautiful, it is magnificent. A scary and atmospheric  film with excellent cinematography, excellent performances and great screenplay, it is a must watch.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

''Insurgent''- Book Review

Author: Veronica Roth
Published: 2012

Genres: Novel, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Romance, Mystery

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Insurgent, the sequel to ''Divergent'', begins the very moment it's predecessor ended. Tris, Tobias (Four), Caleb, Marcus and Peter are on their way to the Amity compounds. They hope that the peaceful Amity will protect them- and help them during this extremely dangerous time. Though they are welcomed by the Amity, they have to leave the Amity compounds within days for certain reasons. They then take shelter with the factionless- and they come to know that the factionless are now organized against the injustice and tyranny of the Erudite. The once-organized factions have now fallen apart: Abnegation has been destroyed, with only a few members still living. Half of the Dauntless support the Erudite, and are known as ''Dauntless traitors''. The other half, not having been instigated by the Erudite, is residing with the Candor. The factionless, supported by the loyal Dauntless, are planning to take down the Erudite authority.

Tris has faced many tragedies. She has lost her parents. She had to kill one of her best friends, Will, in order to save herself. She does not know if Christina will ever forgive her. Tris has to face many more struggles, many more choices, many more difficult situations, many more hardships. Jeanine Matthews, leader of the Erudite, is hunting for the Divergents. And then there is a big secret, a big mystery: according to Marcus, there had been a certain information  that the Abnegation had been protecting, information that sheds light on the mysterious things that are beyond the city. Jeanine Matthews now possesses the information. This information is so vital, so important that it can change everything...

Oh well. What an exciting ride ''Insurgent'' was! I really loved it. Just like I had loved it's predecessor. It is action-packed, exciting, and with numerous twists and turns. And like it's predecessor, it also has everything: emotional intensity, great character development, romance, adventures, secrets, mysteries, revelations.

One of the things I am simply loving about this series is the great character development. There are simply so many memorable characters. Tris, Tobias, Christina. Tris is a remarkable heroine. She indeed is. Selfless, brave, and in spite of going through so much sufferings she fights on. An unforgettable heroine she is. I really liked the chemistry between Tris and Tobias.

And there are characters whose true colors are revealed in ''Insurgent''. There are characters who played minor roles in the first novel but play important roles in this one. I admired the excellent characterization.

In the previous novel, the main focus was on Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite, and in this one, Candor and Amity are well-explored as well.

There are twists and turns in this novel, culminating in an amazing cliffhanger ending. There are many secrets, many revelations in this one. Overall, with excellent characterization, mysteries, revelations and twists, ''Insurgent'' is an excellent sequel to ''Divergent''!

4.5 out of 5

Sunday, 7 December 2014

''Howards End''- Book Review

Author: E. M. Forster
Published: 1910


Rating: 3.5 out of 5


The protagonists of E. M. Forster's ''Howards End'' are sisters Margaret Schlegel and Helen Schlegel. They are half-German, and belong to the privileged middle class. The Schlegel sisters have a decent income, and they live a comfortable and elegant life with literature and the arts. They grew up with literature, and they find pleasure in reading and attending cultural programs. The Schlegels soon become acquainted with the Wilcox family, and Helen is soon invited to spend some time with the Wilcoxes in their country house, Howards End. There, Helen has a short affair with Paul Wilcox- the younger son of Henry and Ruth Wilcox. However, the affair ends soon, and after returning to London, Helen and Margaret decide not to remember the affair. However, circumstances cause them to get involved with the Wilcoxes again, as the latter family take a house in London. Margaret develops a friendship with Ruth Wilcox. After Mrs Wilcox's sudden death, the Wilcoxes discover that she left her most valued possession- Howards End itself- to Margaret. They decide not to inform this to Margaret or anyone else, thus disobeying the late Mrs Wilcox's wish. 

Time passes, but circumstances bring the Schlegels and Wilcoxes across each other again and again. On the other hand, Margaret and Helen befriend Leonard Bast, a lower middle class clerk who wants to ''improve'' himself, that is, gain a social status, through reading more and trying to become interested in the arts. Leonard is stuck in an unhappy marriage, and then there is his financial problem. The Schlegel sisters get determined to help Leonard.

The story involves these three families: the wealthy, economically and socially prejudiced Wilcoxes; the well-read, intellectual, knowledgeable, middle class Schlegel sisters, who believe in equality among the different class;  and the lower middle class Basts (Leonard and his wife Jacky). The novel explores the lifestyle, the way of thinking of the different classes during the Edwardian era. Somehow, the fates of the Schlegels, Basts and Wilcoxes get interconnected- bringing a lot of changes in their lives...

The book explores the class structure of the Edwardian England, the thoughts, views and ideals of different classes, class conflicts and differences. It also explores industrialization and urbanization (among other things), as the population of London keeps increasing, leading to further urbanization.

The reason I am giving Howards End a 3.5 out of 5- in spite of, more or less, loving it- is because I found the first part of the novel too slow-paced. During the first many chapters of the novel I found it difficult to fully understand the characters. It was slow-paced- very slow-paced, and though the story was interesting, the first many chapters was too slow-paced to be enjoyed properly. But then. Really very suddenly. The novel gets really fast paced and lively. Really. Especially from the stage where Margaret receives the marriage proposal. From then it gets really very fast-paced, really enjoyable. It was then that the story picked up a good speed, a nice pace. And with that I picked up a pace as well. I flew from a page to the next, with curious eyes, eagerly waiting for the surprises, for the things that would happen next. I was excited and engrossed, I could then easily understand the characters, identify them properly, identify their emotions.  It was at that stage that I started loving this novel. It is during these middle and final chapters of the novel that I found the characters to be greatly developed, greatly understandable. I found the story lively and excitingduring these middle and final chapters. And needless to say, I finished reading the book with great satisfaction. I was glad- more than glad, to be precise- for having read the book.

 Well I think my feelings about this book can be summed up by this: I really, really, really admired this novel. During the first chapters I couldn't enjoy it, because I couldn't appreciate, or feel attached to the characters. It was a bit too slow paced. But then when the novel picked up it's pace, I really started admiring it. I disliked some characters because of their thoughts. And I loved some characters. I loved it how Margaret stood up for herself, stood up again injustice. I loved how Margaret and Helen understand each other.  There were times when I felt sad because of the unfair behavior shown towards certain characters. 

Overall I am happy with this book, I really am. I loved the way E. M. Forster told the story, I admired the richly developed characters, I loved the all the drama and fast-paced incidents towards the end of the novel.    

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, 6 December 2014

''Notes on a Scandal'' (2006 movie)- Review

Directed by: Richard Eyre
Released: 2006
Country: United Kingdom

Cast: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson

Genres: Drama, Psychological thriller

Rating: 4 out of 5


I was overwhelmed with a wide variety of emotions while watching ''Notes on a Scandal''. I felt pity.  I was shocked. Horrified. Sad. ''Notes on a Scandal'' is a powerful film about obsession, an overwhelming and intense film that remains so memorable, so intense because of the extraordinarily brilliant performances of the two actresses, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. Judi Dench herself is probably the reason for which this film can never be forgotten. Dench's amazingly powerful performance is definitely one of those performances which you can never forget about.

Dench plays Barbara, an elderly schoolteacher. Barbara is strict and feared by her students, but in her personal life, she is extremely lonely, her sole companion being her diary. Secretly a lesbian, she longs for company, for a person with whom she can spend the rest of her life. Soon, she finds herself obsessed with Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), the new art teacher of the school. Sheba becomes good friends with Barbara. Barbara, on the other hand, discovers that Sheba is also a lonely person. Married to a man who is years older than her, Sheba is lonely, and Barbara makes up her mind that Sheba is not happy with her marriage and family life. Becoming terribly obsessed with Sheba, Barbara starts thinking that she will help Sheba get rid of this miserable family life. She thinks it would be nice if she and Sheba could live together, could live like inseparable companions for the rest of their lives. 

Barbara soon comes across a shocking discovery: Sheba is having an affair with one of her students. Barbara confronts Sheba, but however, says that she will not report Sheba to the school authorities, and through this, Barbara aims to strengthen her grip and influence over Sheba. Sheba is thankful, treats Barbara as a very good friend, but Barbara's views and intentions are different. She wants to possess Sheba. Barbara's obsession and possessive attitude  leads to such consequences that ultimately cause damage to both of them...

Why does this film remain simply so memorable? Why is it so overpowering? That is because it is simply so intense, such a powerful and captivating film. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are simply excellent in their roles. Judi Dench's performances as the psychotic Barbara can never be forgotten. She is simply so powerful in her role. This is definitely one of her best performances. At the very beginning of the film we see her only as a lonely and bitter spinster. But this loneliness and bitterness lead to a much more dreadful thing: obsession. An illogical obsession with something that she can never possess. Over the course of the film we see her descending to serious mental disorders, caused by her obsession with Sheba, and this ultimately messes up her life. And it messes up the life of Sheba. The situation that we see them in is simply terrible. Pathetic. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are amazing in their roles.

To sum it up, ''Notes on a Scandal'' is a brilliant little film, a powerful, captivating, shocking, saddening film, with a great screenplay, a great story and two unforgettable performances.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

''Wild Strawberries'' (1957 film)- Review

Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Released: 1957
Country: Sweden
Genre: Drama

Cast:  Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Jullan Kindahl, Folke Sundquist, Björn Bjelfvenstam

 Rating: 5 out of 5


Isolation. Emptiness. Loneliness. How much can isolaion impact somebody's life? It is quite obvious that isolation can cause emptiness, it causes loneliness. Where does selfishness, antisocial attitude lead us to? How long can somebody remain satisfied if he keeps himself isolated, if he dislikes social interactions? Can somebody change himself if he understands the true meaning of life? Through the dreams and reminiscences of the protagonist Professor Borg, ''Wild Strawberries'' poses these questions. It is a remarkable story of self-discovery.

Our 78-year-old protagonist, Professor Isak Borg, had a successful career as a physician and bacteriologist. We get a glimpse of his life in the very first scenes of the film: he leads a very lonely life, with only a housekeeper to take care of him. His wife died years ago; his son rarely contacts him; his mother, though still living, lives far away. He has to go to Lund to receive an honorary doctorate degree. He decides to drive to Lund, and his daughter-in-law Marianne, who has been living with him for some time, having apparently had some problems with her husband, decides to accompany him. She wants to meet Evald, her husband (and Isak's son) in Lund. On their way to Lund, Isak has such experiences, strange dreams, reminiscences, thoughts, that ultimately lead him to realize how emptiness can affect somebody's life, how small things can deeply affect someone's life, how isolation can leave a terrible impact in somebody's life, and all these ultimately lead him to self-discovery, and make him determined to change his way of life, to learn how to love and appreciate people, to leave the life of selfishness and social aloofness.

Over the course of the film, Professor Borg learns to identify himself, he learns to identify how meaningless an empty and lonely life can be. It is definitely one of the most beautiful and emotionally impacting films about self-discovery.

The dream sequences, the flashbacks are so beautiful that it's impossible to forget them. The amazing cinematography, background scores- these are unforgettable. The dream sequences and the memory sequences are beautifully executed.

The performances are, of course, excellent. Victor Sjöström, as Isak Borg, is amazing throughout the film. Ingrid Thulin plays Marianne, Isak's daughter-in-law who initially dislikes Isak but over the course of the journey gets closer to him and starts liking him. There are two characters named Sara and they are played by the same actress, Bibi Andersson. The first Sara is the woman to whom Isak was ''secretly engaged'', but later she had married Isak's brother. We see her in flashbacks. The second Sara is a young girl who (along with two friends) joins Isak and Marianne in their journey. The three young people remain with Isak and Marianne throughout the journey, and these spirited, cheerful young people help Isak self-discovery as well.

''Wild Strawberries'' is a hauntingly beautiful film. It is emotional, it is beautiful, it is thought-provoking. It is definitely one of the best films about self-discovery, and about the very meaning of life, ever made.

5 out of 5

Sunday, 30 November 2014

''Manhattan'' (1979 movie)- Review

Directed by: Woody Allen
Released: 1979
Country: United States

Genres: Romantic comedy, Drama

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep, Anne Byrne

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 


''Manhattan'' tells the story of Isaac Davis (Woody Allen), a man in his early 40s. He is divorced, and is having an affair with Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), who is only 17. The other people present in the story are Isaac's friend Yale Pollack (Michael Murphy) and his wife Emily (Anne Byrne). Yale is secretly having an affair with Mary (Diane Keaton), and soon informs Isaac about this. Isaac finds this hard to believe, as he always thought Yale and Emily to be a perfect couple.

While Isaac wants Tracy not to take their affair seriously because of their huge age difference, Tracy sincerely loves Isaac. She wants to be important in Isaac's life. On the other hand,  Yale cannot possibly spare enough time for Mary, as he is already married and has other responsibilities. After he breaks up with Mary, she (Mary) becomes very close to Isaac and that leads to a relationship. Things get difficult: Tracy loves Isaac. She is heartbroken to know that Isaac has fallen for someone else. Yale is struggling with a marriage he is not happy with. Where will these lead to?

There is another interesting woman in this film, and she is played by none other than the magnificent Meryl Streep. She plays Jill, Isaac's ex-wife, who turned out to be a lesbian, divorced Isaac, and moved in with her girlfriend, and is currently writing a book where she will discuss those days when she was married to Isaac, a project Isaac is not quite happy with. 

Now ''Manhattan'' was indeed something wonderful! It was really very witty, really very funny. The circumstances and the story were not funny at all, of course. But the dialogues. The script. The entire film was presented in such a humorous, light way. The light and witty atmosphere kept me smiling and it often made me laugh! In addition, the characters are so interesting. Sure, they act immaturely throughout the film. That is, Isaac, Mary and Yale. They cannot decide whom they actually love. They cannot sort out their priorities.  I would say Tracy was way better than these three 40-year old-characters. Sure, Tracy's decisions  and emotions for Isaac were rather immature, they were sure to hurt herself. But. She loved Isaac truly. She loved him and wanted to be important in his life. She did not suffer from dilemma like the older, ''matured'' people do. She was too dedicated to Isaac. That was rather a negative aspect. But she loved him truly. Throughout the film she remained loyal to Isaac. That is actually the thing that matters. But in spite of the dilemmas and ever-changing decisions of the three older characters, they were funny, they were interesting, they were likeable and cute (especially Isaac and Mary). Isaac and Mary looked quite sweet together as well.

Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy- they were excellent. And Mariel Hemingway- playing the young Tracy- was unforgettable.  And Meryl Streep, who remains memorable though playing a small role.

 Filmed in brilliant black-and-white, the film looks really good! Several scenes were really memorable as they were really good looking! There were some really beautiful scenes with Isaac and Mary.

''Manhattan'' is really an excellent film, it indeed is. Personally, I thought it was the best Woody Allen film I have watched till now. But that being said, I have watched seven or eight Woody Allen films (I know I need to watch more). Overall, it was an excellently-directed, excellently-written, excellently-acted film that was funny and witty and had a good mixture of funny and romantic elements along with occasional emotional moments.

4.5 out of 5




Wednesday, 26 November 2014

''Mildred Pierce'' (1945 movie)- Review

Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Released: 1945
Country: United States

Genres: Drama, Film-noir, Mystery, Crime

Cast: Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Ann Blyth, Bruce Bennett

Rating: 5 out of 5


Mildred, our protagonist
Mildred Pierce. A heartbreaking, hauntingly sad film. To begin with, it's one of the strongest, one of the most overpowering films I have ever watched. It is, indeed.  Joan Crawford's performance is one of the strongest performances I have ever come across. A puzzling beginning leads to a melodramatic, suspenseful, painful film. It is a film that is not be missed, it is a must-watch.

The film opens as the titular character's husband, Monty Baragon, is shot dead. We do not see who shoots him. Our protagonist, Mildred Pierce Baragon (Joan Crawford), is called to the police station, where she is informed that the murder was committed by Bert Pierce, Mildred's ex-husband. Mildred refuses to believe so, and when she is asked why, she begins to tell her story, and through flashbacks, we come to know about her life, about the circumstances preceding this incidence, about everything that ultimately led to this day, this incident.

When Mildred was married to Bert Pierce, she was just an ordinary homemaker, baking cakes and pies, looking after her two daughters, Veda and Kay, doing everything to arrange the best education and upbringing for them. Her husband lost his job, started an extra-marital affair, that destroyed the peace of the family, ultimately leading to their separation. Mildred had no money, but she was determined. She wanted to provide everything for her daughters. She did not want her two daughters to have a working class upbringing. She started working as a waitress, and soon earned enough money that could afford piano lessons for Veda, that could afford expensive ballet lessons for Kay, that could afford a maidservant, that could afford a comfortable peaceful life.

But can things actually remain this simple? Veda (Ann Blythe), Mildred's elder daughter, didn't like the fact that Mildred worked as a waitress. She wanted a much better, a much happier life. A life with no wants, no poverty. Veda was ambitious, she was ungrateful, she was spoiled rotten. She wanted to have a lavish, respected life. She wanted everything. Mildred couldn't please Veda. No matter how she tried, she could not win Veda's affection. But she led her life, she did everything, just for the sake of her children. After Kay suddenly died, Mildred decided to dedicate her life for the comfortable upbringing of Veda. She was determined to do everything for Vera's happiness. She started her own restaurant chain- and soon became a successful and wealthy businesswoman- earning a lot of money, working hard- all for Veda's sake. The sole purpose of her hard work was Veda. The sole purpose of her life was Veda.  But Veda could never be satisfied. Never. She never showed any gratitude for anything her mother did for her- she wanted more, she did not remain satisfied with all the things her mother did for her. She did not show any gratitude, nor did she return her mother's life.

Where did Mildred's efforts lead everybody to? How did Mildred's affection, her determination to do everything for her daughter, and Veda's view to life, mess up everybody's life?

''Mildred Pierce'' has a wonderful mixture of emotional drama, heartbreaking moments, mystery, suspense, noir elements. There were times I forgot that this was actually a mystery film; I focused so much on Mildred, her sacrifices, her determination. Mildred is imperfect, she is completely flawed. But she is a mother, after all. The things that she does throughout the film are not unrealistic, because she is a mother. It becomes pathetic, the way she continues to forgive Veda. It is stupid, it is pathetic, but it is not illogical. The way she continues to forgive her daughter is logical yet stupid, because a mother can never get indifferent to her children, no matter how ungrateful, how horrible her children are. I felt pity for her, she is such a pathetic, yet such a strong character. Joan Crawford's performance is definitely unforgettable. Ada (Eve Arden), a confidant of Mildred, says,"Personally, Veda's convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young." In this case, I think, it's definitely logical. I was shocked at Veda's behavior. How can somebody possibly be so ungrateful, so horrible? How can somebody be so nasty? How can somebody be so indifferent to all the things her mother did for her? She is evil, and Ann Blythe does give a brilliant, extremely praiseworthy performance.

Suspense is aplenty, as we keep on waiting eagerly to discover what actually led to the event at the beginning of the film. With excellent noir elements and suspense, it works as a wonderful mystery film mixed with melodrama, great emotional depth, tragedy.

I loved this film, I really did. It is a film with an excellent depth, filled with melodramatic and suspenseful elements. It has got strong performances. The characters are all flawed but have excellent depth. It is heartbreaking, tragic, suspenseful film, an unforgettable gem of a film.

5 out of 5 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

''Divergent''- Book Review

Author: Veronica Roth
Published: 2011

Genres: Novel, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5


So I have finally read it. Finally. And I was simply so overwhelmed- needless to say, I LOVED ''Divergent'', I really, really, really loved it. While reading it I was like, ''Why did it take me such a long time to start reading this!?'' ''Divergent'' is a book that made me thrilled, that made me smile, that made me think, that brought tears to my eyes. It was an intense, emotional, thrilling, action-packed ride, it was! I would easily recommend it to anyone! 

A dystopian novel, ''Divergent'' is set in a post-apocalyptic future where Chicago is divided into five different factions having different characteristics. Years ago, these factions were formed to protect humans from their adverse qualities that lead them to their destruction. The factions were formed to make sure that human stick to the good qualities only: the selfless people belong Abnegation, the truthful and honest people belong to Candor, Erudite consists of people who value knowledge above all, Amity consists of peace-loving people, while Dauntless consists of dauntless, brave people. Every person should choose a faction once he/she reaches the age of sixteen. After choosing, the people need to stick to the values and qualities of the faction they have chosen.

The protagonist and narrator, Beatrice Prior, was born to parents belonging to Abnegation. Her father is one of the people entrusted with the task of running the city: most of the people running the city belong to Abnegation for their selfless nature. Beatrice just cannot accept the Abnegation lifestyle. She cannot think of spending the rest of her life making compromises and sacrifices and sticking to selflessness. The time has come for Beatrice and her brother, Caleb to choose the faction in which they will spend the rest of their lives. They have to go through an apitutude test, where it will be tested which faction is suitable for them. Beatrice's reports are problematic: the person who conducted the test, Tori, explains to Beatrice that she possesses the characteristics of being in Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. Such a person who can belong in different factions are known as ''Divergent''. Tori explains that being a divergent is a dangerous, extremely dangerous thing. She does not explain why, and erases the result of Beatrice's test.

 Beatrice is faced with a difficult dilemma: she does not want to spend the rest of her life being selfless and making sacrifices, but she feels hesitant to leave her parents. On the other hand, she is attracted to the brave lifestyle of the Dauntless faction.  In the Choosing Ceremony, however, she ultimately chooses Dauntless, thereby abandoning her parents.

Beatrice, along with the other initiators, has to go through three training phases- three difficult, extremely difficult and torturous phases. To Beatrice, these seem cruel. These seem dangerous. These seem extremely cruel and torturous. But at the end of the third phase, only ten initiators will be allowed to be Dauntless, all the other initiators will become factionless and live terrible lives in the streets. Beatrice, who renames herself as Tris, has to go through all these phases, all these cruelties. Slowly, she comes to appreciate, she comes to love the Dauntless way of life. It is a hard life, it is a difficult way, but she comes to appreciate it, she wants to belong in it. But for that she has to survive the difficult phases...

And she falls in love with one of her trainers, Four...

And there is a danger, an unknown conspiracy lurking behind...

Words will not be enough to describe how much I loved ''Divergent''. It was fascinating.  I couldn't put it down. It kept me reading, it kept me expecting, it kept me thrilled, it kept me predicting what might happen next. I loved the storytelling and the character development. I loved the setting, I really did. I loved Tris. I loved Four. And I appreciated all the other characters, their development. There were parts in which I cheered for Tris. I was overjoyed when Tris achieved something. There were emotional scenes in which I cried with Tris. There were scenes that made my heart pound, that made me anxious. 

I would like to conclude saying that ''Divergent'' is a must-read for everybody. You want dystopia? Sci-Fi? An adventure-filled and action-packed novel? Romance? A novel filled with thrilling as well as heartbreaking and emotional moments? ''Divergent'' has it all. For me, it was a wonderful ride, a wonderful, thrilling, emotional, beautiful, heart pounding ride. I look forward to rereading this one soon! 

5 out of 5



Saturday, 22 November 2014

''Sparkling Cyanide''- Book Review

Author: Agatha Christie
Published: 1945

Genres: Novel, Crime, Mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5


...Rosemary, that's for remembrance.

Memories of Rosemary Barton haunt the six people who had been witnesses to a tragedy a year ago- Rosemary Barton, a beautiful, bubbly socialite, apparently committed suicide taking potassium cyanide, during her birthday party. A year has passed, but the memories of Rosemary- and those of that dreadful evening- haunt these six people. There is Iris, Rosemary's younger sister. There is George Barton, Rosemary's middle-aged husband. There is Ruth Lessing, George's secretary. Anthony Browne, one of the many men Rosemary was friends with. And finally we have Stephen Farraday and his wife Lady Alexandra Farraday. These six people think of Rosemary, and their associations with the high-spirited, beautiful, brainless woman. Rosemary is dead, but her memory, her very presence, clings on to them.

George Barton receives anonymous letters stating that Rosemary had actually been murdered- that it had not actually been a suicide. Being restless, George gets determined to find out the person who had murdered his wife. And the murderer must be one of the six people present in the birthday party.

Who had a motive for Rosemary's murder? Insights into the minds and thoughts of the six people give light to more possibilities, more motives, more complex circumstances. And when a second murder takes place, things seem to get way complicated...

The first part of this book was rather slow paced, and it was absolutely necessary, as we get insights into the minds of the six major characters, their backgrounds, their thoughts. We come to know what they thought about Rosemary. The characters are really well developed.

Psychologically intense, complex, and quite unpredictable- I really enjoyed this novel. I really did. It is definitely not the one of the best Agatha Christie novels I have read, but it was definitely fascinating, complex and unpredictable.

 4 out of 5