Wednesday, 26 February 2014

''Her'' (2013 movie)- Review

Directed by: Spike Jonze
Released: 2013
Country: United States

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara

Genres: Sci-Fi Romantic drama

Released: 4.5 out of 5


Often we come across such films that are so beautiful that they absolutely leave us speechless, that are so impressive that we feel that we must recommend them to everybody. ''Her'' is exactly such a film.

A feel-good, beautiful, extremely touching love story, ''Her'' is certainly one of the most unforgettable, one of the most moving films that I have watched recently.

The very first thing that we see is the face of our protagonist,Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix. He says something that makes us think that he is expressing his love to his long-time wife, but very soon we come to know that it's his job to compose personal letters for the lovers who cannot express their feelings easily, and he was orally composing such a love letter in the beginning of the film.

''Her'' is set in a near future, at a time when people are able to run a computer just by the power of their voice. Our protagonst, Theodore, is a lonely man, going through the procedures of divorce. He used to love his wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara) deeply, and he is haunted by his memories with Catherine.

One day, he comes across a kind of operating system that can understand human emotions. This kinds of OS will not only be able to keep tracks of his emails, but also give him company. He purchases an OS, and starts communicating with it. His OS names herself Samantha (voice by Scarlett Johansson).  Talking to him everyday, Samantha teaches him to laugh heartily again, to start enjoying his life again. Their friendship starts getting deeper, and soon it turns into love. Though they know that it's not very normal, as he is a human and Samantha is an OS, they do not pay much attention to this... But will it last?

This film was so powerful, gentle, yet so emotionally overpowering! This is a film that will remain unforgettable, that will probably touch everybody. It was so beautiful, so emotionally intense! The relation that develops between Theodore and Samantha was so sweet, so beautiful.

Joaquin Phoenix as our protagonist, Theodore, gives an excellent performance. We only hear Scarlett Johansson's voice, but this voice, that is, her character (Samantha), is so touching! And then there is Amy Adams, Theodore's friend who is also friends with an OS.

The concept of this film is wonderful, the screenplay is excellent, and the cinematography is beautiful. The way it is presented, it's definitely beautiful and so very touching, sad, sweet, captivating I absolutely loved this film, and this is one of those films that I'll recommend to anybody.

4.5 out of 5


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

''12 Years a Slave'' and ''American Hustle''- Short reviews

12 Years a Slave (2013 movie)

Directed by: Steve McQueen
Released: 2013
Country: United States, United Kingdom

Genres: Historical drama

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'O, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Short review: ''12 Years a Slave'' is a heartbreaking, emotionally-intense adaptation of the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man. who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery. The film is set in the 1840s and 1850s. Solomon, played by Chitwetel Eliofor, was an efficient violinist, respected by the whites. He gets a job proposal from two white men, which requires him to travel with them. However, these people actually intend to kidnap him, and to illegally sold him into slavery. He wakes up one day, only to find himself in chains. A flashback reveals that he was tricked and drugged by those two men. He is soon sold, and has to work hard as a slave, having been renamed ''Platt'' and warned never to tell anybody that he is actually a free man, and that he can read and write...

This is the story of a man who, having been a free man all his life, is suddenly made a slave, has to suffer from this cruel system. He witnesses a lot of things while he is a slave; he himself is treated horribly, and he witnesses the cruel treatment of his fellow slaves. One of his fellow slaves, Patsy (Lupita Nyong'O) gets much emphasis in the film. She is a sad young woman and the subject to the Mistress's repeated tortures, which get unbearable. One of the very first scenes in which we see her is the scene where she sits in the field, humming to herself and making a doll. This scene is so very sweet and also it is painful when we think about it later, because over the course of the film she becomes the subject to intense torture, from both the Master and the Mistress. Nyong'O gives a very emotionally-charged performance, and she has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Michael Fassbender as the cruel master gives an excellent performance. The screenplay is excellent, and the whole film is painful,  bleak, emotionally-intense, with a wonderful screenplay and an excellent performances from Ejiofor and Nyong'O.

American Hustle (2013 movie)

Directed by: David O. Russell
Released: 2013
Country: United States

Genres: Crime, Comedy-drama

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Paul Renner
Released: 3 out of 5

Short review: I didn't hate or dislike ''American Hustle''. But that doesn't mean that I liked it. Rather, I think it was something between like and dislike. First of all, I didn't really think that the major plot, which was about two conmen working with an FBI agent to expose a corrupt mayor, was interesting. I couldn't follow much of the plot. What I liked about this film is the strong performances from Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. I felt more interest in the personal relations between these characters than the main plot itself (that doesn't mean that I cared for any of these characters). However, all four of them are excellent in their roles, and while David O'Russell's direction is really good and the screenplay is good and the (that's why I'm giving it a 3, in spite of not admiring the film), this is a well-made film, but I couldn't like the main plot enough to like the overall film.

3 out of 5

Thursday, 20 February 2014

''Blue Jasmine'' (2013 movie)- Review

Directed by: Woody Allen
Released: 2013
Country: United States

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay

Genre: Comedy-drama

Rating: 4 out of 5


By the end of ''Blue Jasmine'', it did feel really sad. Cate Blanchett's character, Jasmine, comes to a conclusion so sad that we keep wondering whether this is more her fault or the fault of the circumstances around her. We can't help feeling sorry for the protagonist, and on the other hand, if we think in depth about the story, it can be realized that the  conclusion that she comes to is perhaps the fault of the circumstances around her, and some faults are of her own.

Jasmine arrives in San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Jasmine once used to be a socialite but has now lost all her money. Ginger kindly takes her in. Ginger's ex-husband asks her why she is being so kind to Jasmine. When Jasmine had money, she never really paid much attention to Ginger. Ginger doesn't, however, pay heed to the past, and takes care of Jasmine. It was really impressing the way Ginger took care of Jasmine, it felt really sweet. To Jasmine, Ginger devotes much of her attention.

Jasmine wants to learn interior decoration, but can't afford to go to a college. She decides that she will learn online, but for that, she has to learn how to use a computer. She gets into computer classes, and takes a part-time job as a receptionist. Supported by Ginger, who even starts to give less attention to her boyfriend for Jasmine's sake, she works hard to learn computer, but faces a lot of obstacles. Meanwhile, Jasmine starts convincing Ginger that she (Ginger) can have a better life if she doesn't get involved with messed-up men like her current boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). 

Sure, Jasmine's intention might be good, but her interfering into other people's lives and relationships ultimately mess up their lives, and it especially starts messing up her life. She apparently suffers from mental illness, as she often talks to herself. I really find it difficult to describe the character. She loses friends and supporters over the course of the film, and it's really a sad thing. As such, the journey of the protagonist over the course of the film is quite depressing. The flashbacks show us Jasmine's past as a socialite, how her husband Hal had been cheating on her, and what it resulted in. While Jasmine tries to start a new life, but the obstacles that she faces, mixed with the past and present incidences, repeatedly make things more difficult for her, ultimately culminating in a sad ending.

Everybody is saying that this is one of the better Woody Allen films in the last few years, but I'm afraid I can't say anything like it because I haven't seen many Woody Allen films (I know, I know, I need to watch more). Anyway, the screenplay is brilliant, and both Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins give remarkable performances. This is a film that starts as a light comedy-drama but over the course becomes serious, emotional, though the lightness somewhat remains throughout the film.

4 out of 5

Friday, 14 February 2014

''The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'' (2013 movie)- Review

Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Released: 2013
Country: United States

Genres: Adventure, Action, Thriller

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Lynn Cohen

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Often, film adaptations don't have the charm of the original book. Film adaptations often leave out many elements from the book, elements that were quite essential for the development of the storyline and the characters. ''The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'' is not that kind of adaptation at all; not only is it as beautiful and deep as the original book, but it is  also a better, much better film than the predecessor, ''The Hunger Games''.  A word to sum it up: EXCELLENT film!

I first saw Jennifer Lawrence in the predecessor, ''The Hunger Games''. I had really liked the film, and the thing that perhaps remained most memorable to me was Lawrence's performance. She is such an extraordinarily talented actress, one of the most talented actresses today. In ''The Hunger Games'', Lawrence's performance in several scenes, for example, in Rue's death scene, was so extremely memorable, and in ''Catching Fire'', Lawrence perhaps delivers an even better performance. Her performance is one of the things that makes this an excellent film, that makes this such an emotional, intense film.

Katniss Everdeen has returned to District 12 after the 74th Hunger Games. She and Peeta now live in the Victor's Village. Katniss still has nightmares about those dreadful days of the Hunger Games.

One day, Katniss has an unexpected guest in her house: President Snow. Snow tells her that many people from the different districts thought that her poison-berry act was a sign of defiance against the Capitol, and there is a possibility of an uprising against the unjust Capitol. Snow tells Katniss that it is only she who can now prevent a possible uprising: she has to convince the people of the districts that she is madly in love with Peeta, and for this reason, she did that poisoned berry act in the last Hunger Games. And if Katniss doesn't convince the people, her family members would be harmed.

The victors of the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta, are on a tour in the 12 districts. Though they try their best to convince the people that they are madly in love, it's not convincing enough, and many people start preparing for an uprising, and look up to Katniss as a leader of their uprisings.

President Snow thinks that something needs to be done about this, and with this purpose, he makes a new rule for the 75th Hunger Games: the tributes will be chosen from the existing pool of victors from the districts, that is... Katniss and Peeta have to go back to the arena for the 75th Hunger Games...

This film astounded me! It was really so very good, so well-made, well-acted, well-written; it was even much better than it's excellent predecessor. This sequel touches a vast variety of things, like more emotions of the characters, and the injustice of the Capitol towards the districts and the hatred of the people towards the Capitol are well-portrayed.

Very few scenes had taken place in District 12 in the first film. In ''Catching Fire'', half of the story takes place in the District 12. The bleakness of the District is really well-portrayed. 

All of the actors, be it in a major or a supporting role, give excellent performances. Jennifer Lawrence remains the most memorable, and her performance in many of the scenes, like her speech remembering Rue in District 11, really makes the audience emotional. The way in which she became emotional after seeing Rue's photo in District 11. Her scenes with Peeta, Gale, Prim, and Haymitch. Her performance remains really unforgettable.

Josh Hutcherson is excellent in his role as Peeta as well. Like many of the other characters present in the predecessor, his character  also gets more emphasis in this film. Liam Hemsworth is present as Katniss's friend, Gale, in the scenes set in the District 12. 

Others who remain memorable are Woody Harleson as Haymitch, Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Sam Claflin as Finnick, Jena Malone as Johanna, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, and Donald Sutherland as President Snow. Finnick is an important supporting character and Katniss and Peeta's major ally in the arena, and Claflin is excellent in this role. Jena Malone, as Johanna, is fascinating (her outburst, during her interview with Caeser Flickerman, was amazing!).

 Elizabeth Banks's character, Effie, which remained a little irritating character in the first film, is so sympathetically portrayed in this film! She really gets sad when Katniss and Peeta are selected as the tributes; because she had started to love them. I really liked her ''We are a team'' parts. (She says that Katniss has a golden mockingjay pin as her token, she {Effie} has her golden hair, and Haymitch and Peeta also need something golden because they four are a team.) Was this part in the book? I can't recall, but I don't think so. Effie thus remains one of the most memorable characters in this film.

One of my most favorite scenes from the book was the 12 tributes holding hands. In the film, this film is powerfully portrayed as well. The scenes set in the District 12 are bleak, while those set in the arena are dark, and filled with revelations and dangers.

Overall, ''The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'' remains a memorable film, an extremely excellently-directed and acted film, and one of the few films that are not only as deep as the original book, but also better than it's predecessor. 

4.5 out of 5

Thursday, 13 February 2014

''Captain Phillips'' (2013 movie)- Review

Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Released: 2013
Country: United States

Genre: Thriller, Action, Drama

Rating: 4 out of 5


''Captain Phillips'' tells the true story of how Captain Richard Phillips had been held hostage by Somalian pirates. Brilliantly written and acted, powerful and intense, it is certainly a really good film.

Captain Phillips is the captain of a cargo ship, ''MV Maresk Alabama''. The ship soon becomes the target of Somali pirates, and though Captain Phillips and his crew manage to outrun the pirates when they try to attack first, the pirates become successful in their second attempt. The Somali pirates are not satisfied by only taking the money, but they also take Captain Phillips hostage.

Attempts are made to rescue to Captain Phillips...

Tom Hanks gives a performance so good that it is really  surprising  that he hasn't been nominated by the Academy this year. His performance throughout the film is brilliant, especially during the last few scenes he is really very excellent. Barkhad Abdi, in his role as Abduwali Muse, also gives a good performance. This is Abdi's film debut, and he has been nominated for the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, and Golden Globe Award, among others.

Captain Phillips's constant feeling of uncertainty, danger, and fear, thinking that he might  never be able to see his family again- all these are very well portrayed, quite brought to life. Tom Hanks's performance, along with the screenplay and Paul Greengrass's direction, are excellent.

I'm not actually fond of this kind of action-thriller films, but it cannot be denied that ''Captain Phillips'' is a brilliantly-made, very well-written and excellently-acted film. It'll not probably be one of my favorite films from 2013, but it's an intense, powerful film.

4 out of 5

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

''The Pale Horse''- Book review

 Author: Agatha Christie
Published: 1961

Genres: Novel, Mystery, Crime

Rating: 4 out of 5


''The Pale Horse'' is not a great mystery novel, but the concept, the narration, and atm0sphere are so good that the book is hard to put down! I really enjoyed this novel. It had such a wonderful atmosphere and the narration by Mark Easterbrook is very engrossing.

''The Pale Horse'' is mostly narrated by Mark Easterbrook. He is a historian. Well, I guess this story will be a bit difficult to summarize. But the main thing about the story is, Father Gorman was recently found murdered, and a paper was found in his shoe, and it seems that the murderer wanted this paper. There are names of some people written in this paper--- and the people whose names are written have all died recently, of natural causes. Detective Inspector Lejune is puzzled.

Mark Easterbrook comes to know about the case from Dr Corrigan, who had been his friend at university. Mark is visiting a village, Much Deeping, where his cousin, Rhoda, and her husband, resides. Rhoda takes Mark and some other visitors to a pub, The Pale Horse, run by three strange women: Thyrza, Sybil and Bella. These three women are said to practice black magic. Most residents of the village think that it's nothing serious. 

Thyrza takes Mark to the library of the pub, and tells him about a strange and mysterious way of death--- that she can send death rays that can eventually kill a person from natural causes. Mark is puzzled, and several incidences lead him to think about the connection of Pale Horse and case about which he heard from Corrigan. Something wicked and mysterious is certainly going on, and Mark teams up with Ginger, a woman who was also a guest in Rhoda's house, to solve the case.

It was a very puzzling novel, and it kept me guessing. Especially from the time Mark and Ginger take the initiative to solve the case, to know what is actually going on, the novel really gets exciting. It's not that it's a very great mystery novel, but it was really a puzzling, entertaining read, and I really liked the clever Ginger who comes up with such clever plans. Some of the things were a bit predictable but still this novel was absolutely entertaining and engrossing.

There are quite a lot of characters present in this novel. Ariadne Oliver, the famous novelist, appears in this one. I first read about Ariadne Oliver in the Hercule Poirot novel, ''Cards on the Table''. Though Mrs Oliver is a minor supporting character in ''The Pale Horse'', her appearances were still very memorable.

Overall, I really, really, really liked this book. It was very entertaining and very enjoyable. It's a good mystery novel, cleverly written and a smooth read.

P.S: The cover of this book is beautiful! 

4 out of 5

Sunday, 9 February 2014

''The Sea of Monsters''- Book Review

Author: Rick Riordan
Published: 2006

Genres: Novel, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


The Sea of Monsters is the second book in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series.

I read the first book in this series, ''The Lightening Thief'', a few weeks ago, and I had really liked it. I also liked ''The Sea of Monsters'', perhaps not as much as the first book in the series, but enough to recommend it.

''The Sea of Monsters'' starts with Percy and his mother living happily, after the incidences of the first book. Percy has weird nightmares about his satyr friend, Grover, and one day, guesses that something wrong, something bad is happening at Camp Half Blood. His mother doesn't  tell him anything clearly, but however, after reaching Camp Half Blood, he gets to learn that the camp's security charm has broken, as the tree of Thalia, that had protected the camp, has been mysteriously poisoned.

Percy learns through his friend that his satyr friend, Grover, has been imprisoned by the Cyclops Polyphemus. He also gets to know that Polyphemus has the Golden Fleece, the only thing that can cure Thalia's tree and bring back the camp's security. Along with Annabeth, and his newly-made friend Tyson (who is a good Cyclops and a son of Poseidon), Percy sets off in an adventure to rescue Grover and the Golden Fleece.

A lot (well, most of the) of the characters from the first book return in this book, and those that get important roles are: Annabeth, Chiron, Grover, Clarisse in supporting roles, and Luke in a negative role. Luke is the primary antagonist of this novel. A few new characters are also introduced, and remarkable among them is Tyson, a homeless boy whom Percy befriends in his school. Tyson turns out to be a Cyclops and a son of Poseidon; thus, the half-brother of Percy.

The book had interesting twists and turns and humor, and often startling revelations. There are several things that I liked about this book: the flow, Rick Riordan's storytelling, the characters, the twists, the humor. I also found the references to mythology extremely fascinating! Among the humorous parts, I found Polyphemus's wedding plans really amusing; they made me burst into laughter. 

Overall, I liked this book. It was charming and entertaining; maybe not as much as it's predecessor, but still, it was good enough.

3.5 out of 5

Friday, 7 February 2014

Feature and Follow Friday

Question: If you could read a book for the “first time” again, which book would it be? Why?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

I still vividly remember my experience when I first read Jane Eyre. Since then, I've reread this book a lot of times. This is one of those books that made me fall in love with reading.

When I first read Jane Eyre, I experienced a lot of emotions: satisfaction, sorrow, fear. I felt extremely emotional when Helen Burns died. I felt scared during the scary scenes (the mystery of the screams from the attic). I felt extremely satisfied when the protagonist, Jane finally found happiness. The love story of Jane and Mr Rochester has always touched me, and always will. This novel is a perfect combination of romance, mystery, and suspense.

But I'm extrellmely nostalgic for the days when I first read this book. Though reading this book still is a wonderful experience, it's obvious that I'm already aware of the twists and incidences. When you reread the book, you're already aware of the whole story. Though I still become emotional while reading Jane Eyre, I wish I could read this book for the first time again, I wish I could newly discover the story again, feel thrilled during those suspenseful scenes, become emotional by the beautiful love story of Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester, and keep guessing how the story would conclude.

Nevertheless, I will always love Jane Eyre. Though I'll never get the opportunity of reading this book for the first time again, I'll reread this book again and again, because I love the characters, I love the storyline, I love the atmosphere, I love the variety of feelings that I get while reading this book.

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

''Requiem for a Dream'' (2001 movie)- Review

Directed by:  Darren Aronofsky
Released: 2001
Country: United States

Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans

Genre: Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Watching ''Requiem for a Dream'' was perhaps quite an unforgettable experience. After watching it, it kept me thinking about it, pondering about it- it's one of the most depressing, one of the most unsettling, disturbing and intense films I have ever watched. This was not an easy film to watch- I had to look away several times because it was really graphic at times- and after watching it, I felt really depressed.

What will I say about this film? Did I ''like'' it? This is certainly one of the most intense and depressing films I have ever watched, and it is actually a great film. Unsettling, disturbing and depressing, it's a very powerful film.

The story is about four people. An elderly woman, Sara, who, as described by her son, is a ''TV junkie''. She has always wanted to be on TV. The character is played by Ellen Burstyn, who delivers an extremely powerful performance. Sara's son is Harry (played by Jared Leto). Hary's girlfriend is Marion (played by Jennifer Connelly of ''A Beautiful Mind''), the daughter of rich parents, and the other character in this film is Tyrone, Harry's friend, played by Marlon Wayans.

Sara gets a phone call informing her that she has been chosen as a contestant in a game show. Sara wants to get her youthful appearance back. She starts to follow a certain diet plan- but the thought of ''No sugar'' ''No dressing'' disappoints her. So she starts taking some pills to lose weight and to get a youthful appearance, and soon she starts increasing the dose of the pills she takes.

On the other hand, Harry, Marion and Tyrone start an illegal drug business, and they themselves are addicted...

The film tells the story how the dreams--- and the lives--- of these four people are completely shattered because of addiction.

Ellen Burstyn gives a powerful performance. Her character, Sara, is perhaps the most powerful character of this film. Her hallucinations, loneliness, and shattered dreams--- everything was presented so bleakly, so powerfully and painfully. Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans are good as well. The cinematography and the background music were beautiful, and the editing was wonderful.

As I mentioned before, this is certainly among the most disturbing films I have ever watched. The horror of drug addiction is powerfully explored in this movie. As the four characters start getting drastically affected by the drugs, the film takes an intense turn, starting a disturbing journey that ends in a painful, depressing, powerful ending. There are several graphic scenes--- some scenes so disturbing that I couldn't bear looking--- and the overall film was so beautiful and powerful and intense and sad... it kept haunting me for a long time after I had finished watching it.

4.5 out of 5

Monday, 3 February 2014

''Saving Mr. Banks'' (2013 movie)- Review

Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Released: 2013
Country: United States, United Kingdom, Australia

Genre: Historical comedy-drama

Cast: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, B. J. Novak

Rating: 4 out of 5


''Saving Mr. Banks'' tells the story of P. L. Travers, the author of ''Mary Poppins'', and her problematic relations and disagreements with the filmmaker while the book was being adapted to film.

Travers, played by Emma Thompson, has been having financial problems, and the only way she can now get rid of the problem is by letting Walt Disney adapt her book, ''Mary Poppins''. She travels to Los Angeles, and meets Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks). She is shocked by many of the things that Disney wants to include in the film, such as the fact that the film is intended to be a musical. She, however, reluctantly agrees to the film being musical, but however, she has more disagreements with Disney and the screenplay.

While these happen, there are flashbacks of Travers's childhood, showing her childhood and relation with her father, who was a loving father yet alcoholic and depressed, and the incidents that had inspired Travers to create the character of Mary Poppins.

''Saving Mr Banks'' is such a film that may leave you moist-eyed yet with a happy film. It's a charming film filled with excellent performances from the two leads, Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, and also wonderful performances from the supporting cast, especially Colin Farrell, who plays Travers's father.

There are many memorable, sweet, emotional scenes, like several scenes from Travers's childhood. Another very memorable scene was the one where Travers and the other dance, singing ''Let's Go Fly a Kite''.

Overall, ''Saving Mr Banks'' is a sweet little film, a charming and gentle film.

4 out of 5