Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Book Review: Day For Night

Title: Day For Night
Author: Frederick Reiken
Year Published: 2010
Genre: Drama, General fiction

Day For Night will make you reflect on the purpose of the story told by the characters and their link to each other.

Every chapter is written in the view of a different character. Every character tells a specific story about their life. All the stories are small and feel insignificant but yet there’s a lingering importance surrounding it. Frederick Reiken links a tiny thread through all of these stories to bring the truth, which was lost, from the past back to the characters lives.

The main storyline is simple. A middle-aged woman, Beverly, decides to seek the truth of what happened to her father. Beverly, her mother and father fled Poland to Lithuania during World War II. Beverly and her mother managed to leave Lithuania and eventually found a life in America. He father was less fortunate, and had remained in Lithuania and is said to have died.

The majority of this book is based in 1984. The time line is hard to follow as everyone’s story starts at different times in their lives, therefore different years.
There are many different and unique characters in the book. All their stories, besides from coincidental meetings, did not seem to relate until further in the book. This novel is not straight forward. It requires some quiet thinking. It conveys how a stranger's life can be entwine with others who they have never met or spoken to. By the end, every time a chapter was finished, I would pause and reflect on what happened and how is it related to the main plot.    

This book does more than tell a story. It is a book that opens your mind to everything and everyone around you. The many possibilities that can or have occurred with your unintended interaction.

I only had one small issue. With the number of characters in this book, it is difficult to conclude all their stories. Frederick Reiken has done a great job finishing them; however, there are two “loose ends”. These “loose ends” are not small either. They tell an interesting story and makes me beg the question “what happens in their story?”.

With a steady pace, this book will be enjoyed by those who, after reading, put the book down and “ponder” about the meaning behind it. It is not a light read but a deep thoughtful novel written by someone who takes care in telling a simple story through the interactions of many.   

Terri’s Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Movie Review: Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Title: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
Director: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
Year released: 2012
Running Time: 86 mins
Classification: PG
Genre: Comedy, Kids and Family, Animation

Before watching this movie I had no idea what it was about. I knew it had to do with a boy, a small orange creature that I assume was The Lorax, and trees that have fairy floss like tops. And because it was taken from Dr. Seuss’, I expected a lot of rhyming. 

Quick overview of the movie.
The Lorax is a animation released by Illumination Entertainment, who also did Despicable Me.
It is about a boy name Ted who, to impress a girl, seeks out to find a living tree. He meets The Once-Ler who tells Ted the story of what happened to the trees. 

I’m a huge fan of kids’ movies that have morals. The Lorax has an obvious moral and it is enjoyable. The storyline is simple and the ‘teaching’ of the moral made simple for anyone to understand. The rhyming is made minimal but without losing Dr. Seuss’ ness (I know it’s not a word) of the film. 

I have never read Dr. Seuss before so I do not know if this movie was true to the book. What the movie did do was place this particular book in a future world that resembles a lot like ours. IE. Cars, streets, fake grass. I’m not saying it’s exactly the same and we will end up buying fresh air, but it’s enough to make kids imagination come alive and see the path we might be on. 

The animation was unique enough to the movie without it looking like an extension of a previous movie made by Illumination Entertainment. Although I just want to note down that Mr. O’Hare, the villain in the movie, looks a lot like a certain ‘superhero outfit designer’ in another kids’ animation.
I love the deep contrast between the town behind the wall, and the dead land surrounding it. The colours were bright, attention grabbing. The voice actors did well considering a lot were first timers and the songs (yes they sang in this movie) were relevant and easy on the ears.  

I really like this movie. It is not the funniest of kids’ films but enjoyable. Adults I believe would enjoy this movie too. If you are not into kids' movies at least rent it for your kids. They will love it and stay out of your way for an hour and a bit.

Terri’s Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Movie Review: Mirror Mirror

Title: Mirror Mirror
Director: Tarsem Singh
Year released: 2012
Running Time: 106 mins
Classification: PG
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Adventure, Kids and Family, Fantasy, Romance

This new adaption to snow white stars Julia Roberts as the evil queen and Lily Collins as Snow White. It might be one of the latest adaptions but definitely not the best.

The storyline is pretty much the same with some minor changes from the Disney version of Snow White. The 7 dwarves are thieves that wear stilts, a dragon creature lives in the dark forest, and the kingdom is set in a land of snow.

Let’s start.

I like Julia Roberts. I think she’s a respectable actress but her portrayal of the Evil Queen was … poor. Instead of an Evil Queen, Julia Roberts came across as a pathetic Queen. 
Generally I would blame this on the writer or directer, but this Evil Queen was all Julia Roberts. 
I understand this movie is a comedy, but the point of an EVIL Queen is for her to be EVIL. She can be funny but at least have some aspects where the audience can believe she is ruthless. All I saw was a pathetic Queen obsessed with her looks who happens to have a magic mirror.

Snow White is meant to be innocent, sweet and altogether wholesome. I get it. This Snow White was also timid. I honestly did not believe she could do everything she did. The transition was poorly done. She went from an innocent girl to a woman able to stand up to the Evil Queen unconvincingly.

The part I hate the most is the end. The Queen is defeated. Everyone’s happy. Snow White turns evil? (Okay, she does not turn evil). But her facial expression, rather than a triumphant look, was a sly “I beat you Queen, now face the consequences and die”. So much for innocent, sweet and wholesome. (Unconvincing transition).

But the worse bit is the song. I'm not a fan of happy la la songs at the end of a movie when it's not a musical. After the Queen dies, Snow White breaks into a song. Not any song. A Bollywood style song. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Bollywood but if you're going to put a song in the end, put something more relevant to the genre of movie. 

However I did like the twist behind the King's disappearance. Visually, the costumes are definitely unique, not in a bad way, except for the large bow on Snow White’s dress at the end of the film. The costumes and stage set gives the movie a fairy tale quality which is perfect for this film.
I really liked the animation at the start of the film. I think I would have preferred the whole movie as the animation.

If you are looking for a good fairy tale, don’t bother with this movie. It is definitely a kids' film and to be enjoyed by kids, not by anyone over the age of 8. Make sure the kid likes princess films too. 

Terri's Rating: 1/5

**Extra mini-review by Alex** Oh my. I enjoyed this film! It was a big ham-fest all the way and it was fun, if a little predictable. I actually prefer this to Snow White and the Huntsman - the dwarves at least were distinguishable from one another and the romance here is more convincing, even though the Prince (Armie Hammer) is just beefcake (though this says more about SWatH, really). I agree about the costumes (only King Sean Bean looks uncomfortable) and I also liked how things looked in general. Tarsem Singh is known for stunning visuals, and here there is a fantastical hyper-saturated look which really works for the movie. I also agree that Snow White's character seemed a bit inconsistent, but this is more of a problem if you think about it. My solution: don't think. I'd leave my brain at home and just enjoy the pretty. Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Book Review: Wizard's First Rule

Title: Wizard's First Rule (first in the 11 book Sword of Truth series)
Author: Terry Goodkind
Year Published: 1994
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

I've been meaning to start this series for some time, and now that I have, I don't see what the fuss is all about. I mean sure, it's enjoyable, but it's also one of the most derivative books I have ever read. Wizard's First Rule is the epitome of trash fantasy – you name a cliché, and it's probably in this book. Seriously. The titles clue you in to the wizards and magic swords, but there are also things like a talking dragon, babes in tight leather and a quest to save the world. You get the idea.

The story begins when Richard (our hero and humble woods guide) rescues a beautiful and mysterious woman named Kahlan. Together, they embark on a quest to save the world from the evil Darken Rahl, who will become all-powerful if he manages to get all three Boxes of Orden. Now, while this might sound groan-inducing, I have to say that the plot was one of the better aspects of the book. No, it's not particularly original, but it was written and paced in a way that made it easy to read and addictive from scene to scene and chapter to chapter.

That is not to say the writing is great. Though it's accessible and flows well, it's pretty uninspired. There are point of view issues and an over-abundance of exposition-via-dialogue, which is tedious but (thankfully) not hard to get through given the breeziness of the writing. Unfortunately, moral and philosophical issues are similarly discussed in a repetitive and lecturing ways, sucking the power out of what could have been an intriguing facet of the book; the reader is told what the “right” answer should be rather than left to decide for themselves. Incidentally, Goodkind is a fan of Ayn Rand and it shows (I hear this only gets more obvious in subsequent books).

The world-building is fairly decent and allows you to immerse yourself in the story. Both Richard and Kahlan are likeable (if generic) protagonists, but my favourite is probably Zedd (even though his main personality trait appears to be “hungry”). The best way to read this book is quickly – let yourself be carried away by the characters and the plot, and don't think too much. Though I tried to do this, I could not help but notice things like how quickly Richard accepted the quest and how he and Kahlan became immediate BFFs after having just met. The latter aspect in particular is a problem you can't help but notice, considering how so much of the book is devoted to Richard and Kahlan's ~forbidden attraction~ (so much so that I feel it warrants the “Romance” label). If you're the type that needs your characters to act realistically and consistently, this book will probably annoy you.

One last thing bears mentioning, and that is the adult content (minor spoilers in the paragraph ahead). There is violence, gore, torture and and sexual assault (but no sex) aplenty – it's not for the faint of heart. Most of the time, this is justified in the context of the plot. However, at other instances, the inclusion of such elements smacked of lazy writing – for example, introducing a villain as a paedophile to show that he is evil. Near the end of the book, I was blindsided by a BDSM sexual torture sub-plot that literally came out of nowhere. Its appearance was jarring and it read like some kind of fanboy's fantasy.

Though it's the start of a series, it works as a standalone, with things being resolved in a satisfying way. There are too many problems in the content and the writing for me to recommend this to anyone not already inclined to doorstopper fantasies. I liked it, but it didn't blow my socks off – I probably won't pick up the sequel unless I have nothing better to read. It's easy, fun and addictive, but certainly not for everyone.

Alex's Rating: 3.5/5