Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur

the-good-dinosaur-story

So last week a buddy and I went to see the latest Disney/Pixar kiddie flick, The Good Dinosaur, as a exams-are-done-yay! treat. In retrospect, I wish we’d picked Creed; while a fun enough movie, TGD didn’t really feel like it was worth the ticket price.

Ironically, the best and worst thing about TGD was the pre-show short that always precedes a Pixar movie. This time it was Sanjay’s Super Team, an adorable little animated film about a little boy who imagines his father’s Hindu deities as superheroes. Although I’m not religious myself, or particularly little, I LOVED it. Cuteness aside, this is almost the first time I’ve seen someone who looks like me (dark-skinned, even!) on the big animated screen.

Don’t get me wrong, The Good Dinosaur is a lovely albeit bog-standard Disney movie – a poor man’s Lion King for the CGI age, with a scheming Scar replaced with a feral human child. And, in true Disney style, there’s an adventure to be had, a lesson to be learned, and a happy ending to be enjoyed. All in all, a thoroughly inoffensive romp, with some entertaining side characters (Sam Elliot as tough-talkin’ cattleherdin’ T-Rex Butch is particularly fun.) Wait for the DVD, though.

 

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Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

UK cover of Divergent. Silhouette of a girl sitting on  a rock against a deep maroon background, three birds in flight on the top right. Text on top left: She turns to face the future in a world that's following apart. Title, bottom centre: New York Times Bestseller Divergent Veronica Roth.

 

 

Post The Hunger Games, it seems you can’t throw a stone in the YA section of the bookstore without hitting a dystopia of some sort. Considering the flood of vampire/werewolf fiction that came before it, I’m not complaining. Divergent by Veronica Roth is the latest of the bunch. 

From Amazon.com:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

 

Generally, I’m not a fan of dystopias, because I’m a big believer in Oscar Wilde’s line of thinking- “The good end happily, the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.” But I’d read and enjoyed Susan Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (for values of ‘enjoyed’ that included ‘sobbing my heart out on multiple occasions,’) so when I found a copy of Divergent in the bookstore only a few days after one of my favourite bloggers had raved about, it had seemed like Fate.

 

I’m very pleased with my impulse purchase. Although I generally avoid first person like the plague (too much bad fanfic, I suspect) it really works here- Tris feels real and relatable, and I enjoyed her development through the book. The other characters are also well drawn for a YA novel, Four and Al in particular. One of the things that struck me the most is how realistic the characters’ reaction to pressure is- having their backs against the wall, sometimes literally, brings out the best in some characters and the worst in others.

 

I have to admit, though, I was a little surprised by the way the violence suddenly ramped up close to the ending. I’m not sure why, since the first Hunger Games novel was definitely a gorier book overall (which, considering it’s a book about two dozen children fighting to the death…) I think it threw me because the vast majority of the book, while it does contain some level of violence and death (one of the characters dies before even entering the faction compound, for instance) and more focused on Tris’ psychological and emotional development and her reaction to the world changing around her. That said, while unexpected, it didn’t feel excessive or unnecessary. On reread, I think there are hints scattered all along, I just got so caught up in the story I missed them. Which made the climax both more heartbreaking and a lot better, in my opinion.

 

To my complete surprise, it turns out that Ms. Roth is younger than I am (23) and she wrote Divergent when she was in college. In retrospect, I’m very glad I found out only after reading the book. All issues of jealousy aside, if I had known before, I might have assumed things about her writing abilities given her youth (/cough/ChristopherPaolini/cough/) and not picked up Divergent, which would have been a crying shame.

 

In sum: Divergent is a fantastic book, well plotted, well paced, and very well written. I can’t wait for the sequel!

 

 

 

Book Review: Sex, Bombs and Burgers by Peter Nowak

Book Cover: Sex, Bombs and Burgers: How War, Pron and Fast Food Created Technology As We Know It, pink text on yellow background

 

Before y’all can cast any aspersions on my character or taste in books, this is a book I picked up at the Science Museum. Like it says on the cover, Sex, Bombs and Burgers: How War, Porn and Fast Food Created Technology As We Know It by Peter Nowak is a book on how technology developed over the course of the past century.

Like the title says, the book’s focus is three industries- the military, fast food, and pornography, and their role in pushing progress forward. The fact that ARPAnet, developed by the US military, is the precursor to the modern-day World Wide Web is well known, but did you know that the same group of scientists also developed the very first video games? Or that cameras (still and motion) were made cheaper and easier to use by the need to document battles and collect valuable intelligence during wartime? Or that NASA is responsible for a number of advances in processing and storing food because of all the research they did on how to feed astronauts going into space? (Fun fact: Rakesh Sharma had asli Indian khana when he went into space, courtesy of our own space research centre in Mysore.) Or that the porn industry is often the first to jump on new technology (the internet, 3D) in the hopes of increasing profit margins?

Sex, Bombs and Burgers is a great book, packed with information without being too dense, easily accesible and very well written. That said, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise simply because I already knew a lot of what was in the book. Such are the perils of being a bookworm! That said, it’s a fantastic entry-level book for anyone interested in the development of technology in the twentieth century and a stellar example of good science writing.

All in all? Five stars. 

 

 

Review: J. Edgar

J.Edgar promo poster

 

So last Sunday I had the chance to see J. Edgar, Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest biopic. Luckily, my local theatre had a showing of the original version rather than one dubbed in French, so that was the one I saw.

There’s a more detailed review after the jump, but long story short: Watch this movie. You won’t regret it.

Please note that this review contains spoilers, so click with caution.

 

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Project Potter Part One: The Magic Begins

OK, so since Marcus (my laptop) ate the first draft of the review I had for y’all, here’s take two.

Here’s my intro post for this series: I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good.

Okay. It’s been a while since I read the series, although with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone the time frame’s much shorter because I did my thesis on it. Which was fun, in its way, but as Lit students know, the quickest way to ruin the joy of something is to have to study it. So in a way this is really the first time in years that I’m rereading the books.

It feels a little silly to put a spoiler warning on a book that’s been out thirteen years, but just in case any of the people reading this post have been living under a rock the past decade and a half- there will be SPOILERS for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in this review. Please proceed with caution.

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I solemnly swear I am up to no good…

 

(Please note that this post contains SPOILERS for the first Deathly Hallows film. Proceed with caution!)

So J.K. Rowling’s recent announcement sent me off on a little trip down memory lane, about what HP fandom has meant to me… and a little project I’ve got planned for this summer.

Thirteen years ago, the British Council was a very different place. The childrens’ book section was a cozy little nook tucked away in one corner, with kid-size furniture and brightly coloured walls. It was one of my favourite places, and every week or so I begged my mother to take me there so I could pick up another of my beloved Enid Blytons or Roald Dahls.

On one of those trips I stumbled on an unassuming little book tucked away in a bottom shelf; it was a book by an author I’d never read before, with an old-fashioned steam train on the front and a man in a funny-looking suit on the back. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the cover said. Time was running out and someone had already checked out the copy of Roald Dahl’s Matilda I wanted, so I decided to give this book a try. What could it hurt?

To this day, I’m grateful to whoever it was that took out that last copy of Matilda. Because once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I read the book, then I read it again. And again. And again, unto the point where my mother bought me my own copy just so I wouldn’t keep checking it out of the library. A copy that is currently being held together by cello tape and prayers on account of how many times I read it. As they say in Tamil, padichu padichu kizhichen, literally.

And so began an obsession that spanned the better part of my adolescence. I bought every single book on the first day and devoured it post-haste. I spent hours debating the smallest minutiae with my equally Potter-obsessed friends. I read (and wrote) reams of fan fiction, both good and bad. I watched the movies and spent hours dissecting them (or trashing them, depending.) I scoured the internet for news, spoilers, anything to do with my beloved Harry.

At least, that’s how it was until book five. And then with book six, I don’t know. The magic just… disappeared. I read it, but only once, and it’s stayed on my bookshelf ever since. Ditto the seventh, which I only bought out of some kind of fannish devotion; I haven’t actually read it more than once. A far cry from my more involved days in fandom; my first three HP books have been cellotaped to within an inch of their lives, and the fourth had to be rebound because I cracked the binding from having read it so much. Five is in okay shape; six and seven look like I bought them yesterday.

And so life went on; I found other fandoms, other things to fangirl over. DC Comics, Superman, Batman, Numb3rs, White Collar. I made friends, read fanfic, obsessed over the canon. And I figured my love for Harry Potter was like a first crush; all-consuming passion that fades away into sweet memories over time.

But then a funny thing happened. I got talked into a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. And I went. And everything came flooding back. Why I loved this world, these characters. I gasped when the Death Eaters attacked Bill and Fleur’s wedding, bit my lip when the Trio snuck into the Ministry, cried when Dobby died. And just like that, it was like I was nine and discovering a whole new world.

Of course, grad school meant I only had time for the odd bit of HP fanfiction; for another, doing your Master’s thesis on Harry Potter means the last thing you want to see after the damned thing is done is your source material.

But now that I’ve had sufficient time to recover, I’m taking on a project I meant to start months ago: rereading the Harry Potter series. I’m excited; it’s going to be fun reading some of my favourite books with a more adult perspective; not to mention that it should get me good and excited for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which releases next month.

I’m going to be reviewing each book as I go. Hopefully going back to the source material will remind me of just why I love these books so much, and help me enjoy fandom as much as I once did.

movie review: thor

 

 

Went to see Thor yesterday, by sheer chance. Swati and I were at DLF Vasant Kunj, and I idly mentioned that it sucked that we weren’t going to be able to see Thor together, since as far as I knew, it was opening sometime next week. Ten seconds later, we passed the DT Star ticket booth, and what did I see but a Now Playing sign for Thor? Needless to say, tickets were bought on the spot. 😀

Spoiler-filled review under the jump.

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Movie Review: Avatar

So a friend and I went to see Avatar, after much hassle getting tickets (seriously, the thing’s sold out for like two weeks straight, and this in a country which is historically not that big a market for Indian movies.)

Does Avatar have problems? Absolutely. They’re written about in exhaustive detail here and here, better than I ever could, so I’m not going to bother rehashing them. tl;dr for the linkophobes: Avatar is racist dreck. Pretty, but racist dreck nevertheless.

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