The Last King Movie Review

last_king_dvd_2d.jpgI put on The Last King/ Birkebeinerne on a whim. I just needed some background noise. However, when the film opened up with the allegation that it was in fact based upon some real life events, I knew that it would no longer just be background noise. I’m a huge history fan so my interest was fully piqued.

Basically, the background history is this: from around 1130-1240, Norway underwent a series of civil wars. Prior to this, Norway had often been ruled under a power-sharing agreement wherein 2 kings or so would agree to govern together. This was done so because Norway had vague kingship laws. As long as a pretender had a claim to the throne (regardless of his legitimate/ illegitimate status), they could partake in the sharing of power. However, over time, some kings broke their oaths (i.e. to not claim the throne until someone’s reign was over) or attempted to usurp all power. Inciting these power struggles, were the neighbouring kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark, who would periodically pledge their support to various leaders. As such, various civil wars began. It is important to note that the civil wars weren’t always between the same two groups, as agreements and alliances shifted. However, by 1177, a faction known as Birkebeiner (birchbark leggers), gained power and elected Sverre Sigurdsson (Sverre of Norway) as King in 1184. However, Sverre’s kingship wasn’t peaceful as a number of pretenders challenged his throne. By 1197, the Norwegian Catholic Church also fell into conflict with Sverre, and as a result, backed another faction: the Baglers. Unlike the Birkebeiner who were mostly made up of poorer peasants (hence their name – they could only afford birckbark to wrap their shoes), the Baglers consisted of the richer merchants, noblemen, and clergymen. Eventually, the Baglers and Birkebeiner emerged as the two main factions. Yet, despite the challenges, Sverre managed to hold onto power, until he died in 1202. His son Haakon Sverresson was made king after his death, but Haakon died in 1204, after less than 2 years on the throne. Desperate for a leader, the Birkebeiner put Inge Bardsson, a nobleman, on the throne. On the other hand, the Baglers saw this as the perfect opportunity to strengthen their claim to the throne and began fighting intensely. Amidst this struggle, it became known that Haakon Sverresson had actually fathered a son – thereby strengthening the claim of the Birkebeiner. However, the son, Haakon Haakonsson, was born within Bagler territory, thereby putting his life in danger as the Baglers were determined to kill him to strengthen their claim.

This is where the movie begins (1205/1206). Two Birkebeiner, Torstein (played by Kristofer Hivju) and Skjervald (played by Jakob Oftebro), manage to sneak into Bagler territory and pick up the infant Haakon Haakonsson and his mother. While enroute to a safehouse, they are spotted by Bagler troops. Hence, Torstein and Skjervald take the baby and flee, promising to deliver the child to safety. After a couple of cool skiing sequences (the birkebeiner carried the child while skiing in order to escape), they manage to find shelter for the night and deliver the child to the safehouse. Skjervald then decides to go home to his wife and child. Unfortunately, the Baglers get to his house and kill both his wife and child in their pursuit to find baby Haakon. Skjervald manages to escape and skis to the safehouse to warn Torstein and other Birkebeiner that the Baglers are still on their tail.

Meanwhile, back at the Birkebeiner stronghold, Nidaros, one of Haakon Sverresson’s loyal men, Inge (played by Thorbjorn Harr), is framed for his murder. Behind this conspiracy, is his younger brother, Gisle (played by Pal Sverre Hagen), who wants the throne for himself. It is shown that he indulged in an affair with Queen Margaret of Sweden, the widow of King Sverre, and convinced her to poison Haakon Sverresson. After administering the poison, she flees to Sweden, with the promise that Gisle will become king and then power will be theirs. However, Gisle betrays her and instead attempts to marry her daughter, Christina Sverresdatter (played by Thea Sofie Loch Naess), in order to secure his claim to the throne and gain the backing of the Birkebeiner. However, Christina is loyal to the throne (Birkebeiner) and Inge, so she attempts to betray Gisle and free Inge from jail. Unfortunately, she does not succeed.

Concurrently, the Birkebeiner ready themselves for battle to protect baby Haakon from the Baglers. Again, Torstein and Skjervald ski with the baby. The rest of the film deals with the two conflicts. Spoiler alert: Inge gets freed and reigns as regent for the young Haakon, who manages to reach Nidaros safely.

If you’re wary about watching this film without knowing about Norway’s history, I’d tell you to not worry. You actually don’t need to know the history behind the film in order to enjoy it. From a thematic point of view, the movie itself is very well made. Although it is historical in nature, the writers managed to adapt it to the big screen well as the story is (relatively) easy to follow onscreen. Of course you don’t get the nitty gritty details, such as who exactly the Baglers are, why the two (Baglers and Birkebeiner) are fighting, etc. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to know every single detail in order to enjoy the movie. Visually, it’s pretty cool to watch, especially the skiing action scenes (I’d probably call them the highlight of the movie). Plus, there are some nice emotional cute scenes with the baby. If anything, I’d say a prior knowledge of Norway’s history would probably allow you to appreciate the movie more, but again, I don’t think it’s necessary to know to enjoy.

The only big negative for the film, in my point of view, is that the film is not completely historically accurate. First off, from what I’ve been able to gather, Inge and other Birkebeiner actually did not know about Haakon Haakonsson’s existence until after Inge had been chosen to be the next king. So movie-Inge declaring himself to be regent until Haakon came of age is wrong. Secondly, Inge is never really framed for Haakon Sverresson’s murder. Suspicion falls upon Margaret of Sweden who actually does fail a trial and flees to Sweden. Inge is chosen to become the next Birkebeiner King. So movie-Inge being jailed is wrong. Thirdly, the character of Gisle doesn’t really exist in history. Inge did have a younger brother, but his name was Skule and he actually was the ruler of Norway, but after Inge’s death and he technically functioned as Haakon’s regent rather than Inge. So the whole plot of Gisle attempting to usurp power by framing Inge – no idea where that came from. On top of that, Gisle is implied to be a secret Bagler and is semi-supported by the Bagler’s as well. Given that information, it seems like Gisle’s character was partially inspired by the real life Bagler king, Philip Simonssen. Which is interesting, because the real life Christina Sverresdatter actually married Philip Simonssen. All of which implies that Gisle is a made up character, representing Skule and Philip together? I mean, if I squint, I can see why the writers chose to do that. However, as a history lover, I’m not impressed with it. Nonetheless, it’s a decent enough movie.

My rating: watch it if you’re a history lover, knowledgeable of Norwegian history, and/or if you want to watch cool skiing sequences.

 

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My Little Baby Korean TV Show Review

My-Little-Baby-Poster1There’s just something about Korean dramas that makes them so addicting. Maybe it’s the actors? Or the story? Or the special effects? I’m not quite sure. Whatever it is, whenever I find a good k-drama, I tend to go crazy and just binge-watch it. Which is kind of out of character for me, because I’m not much of a binge-watcher. Yet, despite my adoration for k-dramas, I find it so difficult to find good ones. If you remember, I talked about how it was so difficult for me to find good K-dramas in my Falling for Innocence review. Sadly, things have not changed much and after watching that show, my expectations were even higher. So it was difficult for me to find one that I enjoyed. I sampled so many dramas, only to end up disappointed. Hence when I chanced upon My Little Baby, I didn’t expect much. Yet to my surprise, I ended up quite enjoying My Little Baby, to the point where the binge-watching returned!

Basically, My Little Baby is about police detective Cha Jung-Han (played by Oh Ji-ho) who is suddenly thrust into the role of a parent. Prior to the show beginning, Jung Han was a bachelor dedicated to fighting crime and devoting his entire time to his career. However, with the sudden death of his sister and brother-in-law, along with his brother-in-law’s mother’s waiving her parental rights, Jung-Han is forced to take responsibility for his sister’s 6 month old baby girl, Eun Ae. Since he focused entirely on his career, Jung-Han has absolutely no idea how to care for a baby. So he decides to take some time off work to get the hang of raising his niece. His friend and former police trainee/ current coffee cafe owner, Yoon Min (played by Kim Min-jae), moves in with him to help him out. The two move into a community for young children and the show deals with the struggles Jung-Han faces while raising Eun-Ae and living at the community.

At the community, it turns out that the administrator is actually Jung-Han’s former corporal officer, Jo Ji-Young (played by Jung Soo-Young). The two share bad blood because four years ago, on a police stakeout, Jung-Han had to actually deliver her baby. Jung-Han is upset that he had to witness Ji-Young in such an intimate way (he had told her to stay home due to her pregnancy), as is Ji-Young. Worried that Jung-Han will blurt out their shared past to the other mothers who live in the community, she conspires to make Jung-Han’s life miserable so he moves out of the community. On top of that, also in the community, is Jung-Han’s first girlfriend and first love, Han Ye-Seul (played by Lee Soo-Kyung). However, now she’s the secretly divorced (no one in the community knows except for her, her sister and Jung-Han), single mother of a four year old boy. Jung-Han attempts to rekindle their romantic relationship, while trying to gauge her feelings and dodging Ji-Young malicious machinations.

Supporting all these characters, are some other mothers from the community, 40 year old first time mother Yoon-Sook (played by Go Soo-Hee) and 20 year old first time mother Kim Bo-Mi (played by Joo Sae-Byuk). They, along with Ji-Young, form the core trio of the community mothers and are the main ones Jung-Han interacts with. In the process, they also end up becoming good friends to Jung-Han, especially Yoon-Sook. Also in the main credits is Nam Ji-Hyun, and she plays the role of Ye-Seul’s sister and the baby yoga teacher of the baby yoga class the mothers and Jung-Han attend. She actually doesn’t feature in the show that heavily so I’m not quite sure why she’s in the main credits.

The main story-line itself, if you can guess from the write-up, is actually quite sweet. Jung-Han is a pretty loveable character (or maybe it’s the actor LOL) and is a really decent guy. He’s willing to forgo his reputation in order to secure what is best for Eun-Ae, but also sticks to his principles. On top of that, he’s literally so dense when it comes to raising a child/ understanding the ways of parenting, that’s it’s actually hilarious. In fact, the entire show itself is super sweet and light-hearted. It does briefly delve into some serious problems, such as a father hiding his job demotion from his wife and struggling to provide for his family, but those problems aren’t really part of the main plot or really focused upon for a long time. For example, for the prior example, it was the main point for one of the mom’s for an episode or two, but after that, it’s just mentioned in passing remarks by other characters. Similarly, the show also touches upon the difficulties of parenting and being mothers. However, again, the difficulties aren’t really elaborated upon and are sort of *solved* by the time the episode(s) end.

However, I don’t think that this is detrimental for the show because it’s still quite enjoyable. I think this is a show to just enjoy for what it is. It’s light-hearted, sweet, and funny. Nothing more and nothing less. The only real negative point I can think of for the drama, is that it’s actually quite unrealistic. To give you an example, there’s a whole subplot of how Eun-Ae’s step-grandmother attempted to usurp Eun-Ae from Jung-Han in an effort to get her custody and therefore be privy to the large fortune Eun-Ae is set to inherit.  I mean, it’s so obviously a manufactured story-line for drama and completely unrealistic. Yet, since the show is so light-hearted, this conflict isn’t terribly dramatic and is still sprinkled with moments of comedy. Similarly, some of the action sequences were hilariously fake as well. However, they were easy enough to ignore because there wasn’t too many of them.

That said, the show is definitely uncomfortable to watch at first, because of the baby playing Eun-Ae. When the show begins, Jung-Han is obviously supposed to be unfamiliar with handling a baby, so I guess the actor was doing his job. However, the poor little girl playing Eun-Ae seemed to be terrified in the initial episodes. All she did, was cry and look scared. I felt so horrible for her, it actually did mar some of the viewing experience. However, as the show went on, she was more smiley (because I assume she got more comfortable with the actors and with filming in general) and the viewing experience was consistently enjoyable. Yet even then, part of me still felt bad for the little girl.

Moving on, let’s talk about the acting and characters. I’m not really familiar with Oh Ji-ho or his acting, but I really, really enjoyed him in this drama. He acted quite well and is super good looking. In fact, I have a small suspicion that his good looks made me feel far more favourable to his character’s actions than I would have been otherwise. He has the most adorable dimpled smile. Plus he had fantastic chemistry with his onscreen roomie, played by Kim Min-jae. While Ji-ho is good-looking in the popular “tall, dark, and handsome” trope, Min-jae is good-looking in the cute, well-dressed and witty way (I don’t know, is there a specific description for a guy like that?).Together, not only did the two play off of each other, but they also existed as foils. While Jung-Han is clueless (especially in regards to raising a baby and some social manners LOL), Yoon-Min is incredibly smart and resilient with everyday life things (Jung-Han is a good detective though). Lee Soo-Kyung is also quite good as Jung-Han’s girlfriend Ye-Seul. She actually brought this really cute charm to Ye-Seul. What’s also quite hilarious, is that she’s almost as naive and clueless as Jung-Han (LOL). She falls victim to pranks easily and isn’t as obsessed with being a mom as the other women in the community are, as she is busy being a working mother. However, she never plays the working mother as too harsh or strict. She really just comes across as any other mom trying to raise a kid alone, while still an incredibly sweet (if not judgemental sometimes) person.

On that topic, the whole mommy community in the show was a little intense. There was actually a subplot about how the mommy community literally had nothing else to do besides bring their babies everywhere and gossip with other mothers (LOL). The community depiction itself is also pretty unrealistic (or at least I think so). Yet, despite that, they were still generally enjoyable to watch and all three main mothers had distinct personality traits. That said, I will say that Ji-Young’s character could get a little too mean and annoying. She actually served as the main antagonist for most of the show and while she wasn’t exactly evil, she could be incredibly spiteful and selfish. Thankfully, she was balanced out by Yoon-Sook, who was incredibly sweet and good-natured (aside from complaining about how much her butt hurt because of childbirth LOL). In general, the acting was pretty solid across the board.

Cinematography was also good for this show (again, pretty convinced that this is a staple of all Korean dramas, regardless of content quality) as was directing (a lot of tricky camera shots to convince the viewers!).

My rating: watch it to enjoy a light-hearted, sweet and funny show about child-rearing, friendship and love.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story Movie Review

47980728Movies about depression are always iffy for me. A lot of the time, I either find them too optimistic or I find them too dramatic. Maybe I haven’t seen enough of them. That’s why I was a little hesitant to begin It’s Kind of a Funny Story, as I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Basically, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (IKoaFS), is about high school teenager Craig (played by Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself into the psych ward due to his fear of him committing suicide. However, the teen ward is closed for renovations, so he is instead admitted to the adult psych ward. In the adult psych ward, he meets with a number of people and forms bonds with them. There’s his mentor, dealing with his own problems, Bobby (played by Zach Galifianakis), the nice and pretty Noelle who struggles with self-harm (played by Emma Roberts), his bed-ridden roommate Muqtata (played by Bernard White), and his psychiatrist Dr. Minerva (played by Viola Davis). Craig stays in the ward for about a week and the film deals with his life. Although, the supporting characters do get some great work to do, particularly Bobby.

What I liked about the film, was how relatable Craig was. Craig was an incredibly anxious, stressed out, depressed and suicidal teenager. He felt like an outsider among his peers, his friends, and even with his family. The pressure of performing well in school, of thinking of about his future in terms of academics, or even asking out a girl, all seemed to mount on him, until he had difficulty coping. Although I’m not a teenager anymore, I could definitely relate to Craig. In fact, a couple of times, I had to do a double take because some of the things he said/ thought actually reminded me of when I was still in school. He feels like an incredibly realistic character.

I also really enjoyed the take on depression this movie had. Although Craig’s story-line left a lot to be desired, I liked how it was contrasted with others. Craig’s storyline actually slightly related to one of my annoyances about movies about depression. Craig stayed in the psychiatric ward for a total of five days and left the facility feeling happier and less depressed than before. According to his final voiceover, it taught him a lot about his life, about the things he had that he could look forward too. While it’s a good message, I also felt that it was a tad too optimistic. I wish the movie had maybe pointed out how his meds were also a reason why he felt better (it was implied slightly), rather than him just learning to be appreciative for the things he had in life.

That said, the other takes on depression in this film were fantastic. One of them was Craig’s roommate Muqtata. Although we weren’t ever given a backstory for Muqtata, he spent most of his time at the facility in bed. He was too depressed to even get out of bed. He did attempt to walk out of his room, once or twice. However, he’d always lose his nerve and go back to bed. It was only through Craig’s interference (he brought music that Muqtata liked), that Muqtata finally found something to get him out of his bed/ room. I thought it was nice of the writers to show how depression effects people differently. In Craig’s case, it manifested as anxiety and eventually evolved to fuel his suicidal tendencies. With Muqtata, on the other hand, it manifested as a debilitating melancholy that made it difficult for him to even get out of bed.

The other take on depression, was Craig’s mentor, Bobby. Like Muqtata, we weren’t given a backstory for Bobby. However, we did see the effect Bobby’s depression had on his family, the depth of his depression, and his struggle to get better. In fact, I think Bobby’s story was actually the most emotional of them all (it probably also helps that Zach Galifianakis acted really well). Despite Bobby’s easygoing demeanour and his attempts to help Craig with his depression, Bobby himself suffered keenly from depression; having attempted to commit suicide six times before. We were also shown the struggles Bobby went through, with finding housing after his release from the facility, with finding a job to support himself, and with his wife’s constant belittling of him and attempts at eliminating his daughter’s relationship with him. It’s an incredibly depressing, but also realistic look at the way depression can really seem to take over your life. It’s not just about dealing with it in facilities, it also affects your everyday life. Plus, it doesn’t always end with a happy ending. In one of my favourite moments, during Craig’s last night at the facility, he throws a pizza party for everyone. Bobby refrains from participating, despite the fact that he is also being released the next day. The audience is shown that Bobby was unsuccessful in landing a job and securing housing. Although it isn’t necessarily spelled out or even explicit, the next morning, when Craig asks for Bobby (just to see him one last time), it’s implied that Bobby killed himself. Although it’s incredibly sad, the movie handles it really well, just hinting at it and showing how depression isn’t just a simple issue; its complex.

On that note, the movie does have some unlikeable elements. There’s this semi-love-triangle thing that happens between Craig, Noelle, and Craig’s former crush, Nia. Although thankfully this story-line isn’t stretched too far, I also felt it was sort of unnecessary? I just wasn’t a fan and didn’t see its need. I’e already mentioned how I didn’t like how the movie was seemingly so optimistic towards depression recovery. It only hints at struggles (through Bobby for example) rather than providing an in depth look at them. I also thought it was a little odd how Craig seemed to be so incredibly talented at drawing and singing when he claimed to not be. It wasn’t bad per se, but just odd. Actually, while talking about that, I liked the animations in the movie when depicting Craig’s maps. I thought they were cool.

Anyways, moving onto the acting. If it’s not clear, the acting was pretty good across the board. All the actors were believable. I’d say a special mention probably goes to Zach Galifianakis, just because of how great his Bobby was. But then again, he is a good actor; it just gets hard to remember that because of how many comedies he chooses to do. Also, I think props also go to Keir Gilchrist who makes Craig so relatable. I haven’t really seen him in other things before, but he was really good in the movie and managed to carry most of it on his shoulders. Similarly, directing was great as well. Also, this is probably not the best place to mention it (my bad in not planning out this review better), but this movie was actually based upon the book of the same name, written by Ned Vizzini, who actually spent a few days in a psychiatric facility. So it’s actually semi-autobiographical I believe. Unfortunately, Ned died in 2013 after his own intense battle with depression.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a light but good look at the way depression can manifest itself differently in people, but don’t expect to be blown away.

Quote of the Week

Today marks the one year anniversary of my blog. Although it has not quite turned out to be everything I imagined it would be, it’s still pretty cool and I’m still quite proud of myself. I’m also pretty thankful to all of those who read my posts, commented on them, or even followed me. Y’all are awesome.

In order to mark the one year anniversary, I’ve decided to share one of my favourite quotes on this blog. I hope it brightens your life as it has mine.

So plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.”    — Jorge Luis Borges

The Wave Movie Review

92a84ca10642fc94a905a44af57a1c8eI feel like everyone likes a good disaster movie. In my experience, it’s been the single type of film that people watch without fussing. So when my family sat down to do a movie night and I recognized The Wave, after hearing good things about it, I figured it would be a good bet. And, turned out, it was. So let’s get into the review.

In essence, The Wave is about just that, a huge tsunami wave in Norway. Apparently, the Akernes crevasse is due for an avalanche sometime soon, and it is expected that this avalanche will trigger a huge tsunami wave. This wave is expected to hit a few closeby cities, such as Geiranger, where this movie takes place. This event actually hasn’t happened yet, so this movie is sort of a guess as to how it will happen/ what it’ll be like.

Anyways, the movie focuses on geologist Kristian (played by Kristoffer Joner). After working in Geiranger, on the Akernes crevasse for years, he decides to take a job in Stavanger, Norway and move his family. His wife Idun (played by Ane Dahl Torp) seems to be the only one excited, as Kristian, his son Sondre (played by Hoff Oftebro) and young daughter Julia (played by Edith Haagenrud-Sande), are not as happy. During his retirement party, some of the sensors monitoring the crevasse show groundwater disappearing. Kristian is worried but his coworkers (who are all also working on the crevasse), assure him that everything is fine and that he can leave free of worry. However, Kristian is still worried and feels that the groundwater disappearing is the beginning sign of the avalanche. While driving to the ferry with his kids to go to Stavanger, he has an epiphany and instead drives to his old workplace. There, he explains his theory of how groundwater doesn’t disappear and how instead it’s moving through the rocks. Which also implies that the rocks themselves are shifting and thereby an avalanche is upcoming. His coworkers refuse to believe him but he flies to the crevasse with a coworker, and it turns out that their wires have broken. By this time, Kristian is convinced that the avalanche is coming, along with a tsunami, and that the town must be evacuated. His boss, Arvid (played by Fridtjov Saheim), is not as convinced, although he agrees to closely monitor the mountain 24/7.

Meanwhile, after getting tired of waiting for their father, his kids call their mother. Idun has a few days of work left (she works in a hotel), so she didn’t leave for the ferry with them. When she finds out that Kristian never took the ferry and instead is at his old workplace, she is angry and has the kids come to the hotel she works at. When Kristian arrives at the hotel, Idun and Sondre are still quite angry at him and decide to stay overnight in the hotel, instead of going back to their house. His daughter Julia, however, agrees to go back to their old empty home with him and spend one last night there. As Julia sleeps during the night, Sondre feels bored and wanders to the hotel basement to skateboard and puts on his headphones. During the night, Arvid and another coworker sense some problems with the sensors and go to the crevasse. Over there, the rocks begin shifting, thereby signifying that the tsunami is nigh. Similarly, after doing further research, Kristian also realizes this and quickly calls his coworkers to let them know. During this time, Arvid actually ends up dying because of the shifting rocks and one of their coworkers finally sounds out the tsunami alarm. At first, the people of Geiranger are confused, but then they quickly start evacuating and attempting to get to high ground. However, at the hotel, because of his headphones, Sondre doesn’t hear the alarm and does not show up at the hotel evacuation bus. Idun gets worried and leaves the bus to look for him in the hotel. Kristian also realizes that his wife and son are in danger, so after securing Julia’s safety, he goes to rescue them. The rest of the movie deals with their survival.

The movie itself is actually quite interesting and has fantastic visuals. Norway is an absolutely beautiful place and the movie definitely takes advantage of this by adding in some great landscape shots. Similarly, the tsunami is filmed in a decent manner as well. It’s not the imposing and impressive display that was in The Impossible, but it is decent and enjoyable enough. That said, I would’ve probably liked some more scenes of destruction, but that’s just my personal opinion and doesn’t really reflect badly on the movie.

Additionally, coming to the acting, it was decent as well. Kristoffer Joner is a fantastic actor and I actually have seen him in some other things, so I wasn’t too surprised. A large portion of the movie focuses on him and he manages to hold the audience’s attention. Ane Dahl Torp was also quite good as Idun. The only actor I was iffy about, was Hoff Oftebro, and I think it might have something to do with his character.

On that note, I thought Sondre’s character was SO unlikeable. Seriously. First he’s upset with his dad for moving them across the country. Which okay, makes sense. But still, Julia was so much younger and she acted more mature than him. Secondly, it was because of his idiotic need to skateboard with headphones that his mother and some guests missed the bus. In fact, he’s actually indirectly responsible for the death of around 3 (or even more if you count the hotel guests who had to wait for him initially) people. On top of that, he is just so whiny when it comes to survival. His parents have to literally coax him to hold on for a little longer and his father almost dies trying to rescue him. The only redeeming scene he has I guess, is when he saves his father. But even that is marred for me by the fact that the reason his father basically died was because he gave his oxygen to Sondre. I just found him so unlikeable and annoying. I think part of the reason why was because of Hoff Oftebro. Sondre’s actions would’ve been more palatable if he was around 12 years of age or so. However, Hoff looks like he’s around 18 and so instead of feeling sympathy for his character, I just felt annoyed. Like grow up man. Plus, Hoff just looked snobby and whiny through the movie that I had a difficult time connecting with his character. Honestly, he was probably the worst part of the movie for me.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a decent disaster film and to enjoy Norway’s great visuals.

Comet Movie Review

comet-movie-poster-2014-1020771449I first heard of the movie Comet in 2015 and I was immediately hooked. The trailer, music, mood, cinematography all seemed so intriguing. Unfortunately, it was not playing at any theatres near me, and nor could I find it online. Hence I assumed that it would fall into the ‘movies I might watch years later’ category, like Proof did. My assumption was right, but I was off by the number of years, as I was able to watch it just three years after it was first released.

Comet is about two individuals, pessimistic, anxious, super-smart Dell (played by Justin Long) and his girlfriend Kimberly (played by Emmy Rossum). The opening scene alleges that this movie takes place over six years in parallel universes. As such, we’re treated to five different scenes of Dell and Kimberly. Among them, are when they first met, which was during a comet shower where Kimberly saved Dell’s life and Dell managed to talk/ distract Kimberly from her date and convince her into going out with him. We also get their “reunion” scene on a train where they presumably get back together after breaking things off, preventing Kimberly from getting with a new guy. There’s also a scene of them breaking up in Paris, where Dell is attempting to propose while Kimberly talks about her dissatisfaction with their relationship and breaks up with him. Similarly, there’s another break-up scene where Dell is in Los Angeles and Kimberly is in New York and the two are on a phone call where it is revealed that Kimberly’s been texting an old flame (the guy she was seeing during the train sequence) and Dell decides that they should break up. Finally, there’s a scene where Dell comes to meet Kimberly after they’ve been presumably broken up for years, but Kimberly’s in a relationship with the old flame this time.

These events don’t take place in chronological order and the movie flashes back and forth between them. So for example, we’d get one scene of Dell and Kimberly talking during the comet shower and then abruptly flash to Dell following Kimberly to a train. Once on the train, we’d flashback to the two of them in the Paris apartment before flashing back to the comet shower scene. Although the events seem to take place in one universe, the movie alleges that they took place in parallel universes. Building on this feeling (I guess), is the fact that the outside scenery sometimes changes during scenes. For example, while Dell and Kimberly are sitting together on the train, the train window appears to be showing a spot of space vs. the actual route of the train. Furthermore, the scenes sometimes break up weirdly. There’s static during some transition scenes, and even during some scenes in general.

On that topic, it’s also revealed that Dell’s been having dreams of the scenes we’ve been shown. This fact is actually revealed near the middle/end when Dell is in Kimberly’s apartment, where she lives with her boyfriend. Therefore, Kimberly posits the idea that maybe Dell is still dreaming (and dreamed all those scenes we witnessed as well) and kissing her will wake him up (because his dream ended before they kissed). This is supported by the fact that when Dell picks up Kimberly’s thesis book, all the words are gibberish, which is commonly assumed to happen in dreams (can’t read stuff in dreams). She also postulates that perhaps Dell died during the first scene (where he and Kimberly met, during the comet shower), and all the scenes Dell’s been dreaming of/ that we’ve been shown, are in fact those “life flashes right before you die” things. In fact, the ending scene seems to sort of echo this, as when Kimberly and Dell are talking on the roof of her apartment, there are two suns rising and the two suns could perhaps be the lights of the car hitting Dell? Or maybe the two suns are signs of the parallel universes that the movie implies?

Furthermore, the end scene itself presents a number of confusing interpretations. I’ve already mentioned the two suns rising theory (car vs. parallel universe). However, the scene itself also presents vague implications for their love story. On the roof, Dell confesses his love for her and asks her to come back to him, but she reveals that she’s pregnant with her boyfriend’s child. However, in the beginning of the movie, Dell told Kimberly that all relationships have a lie. He already confessed his lie to her in the beginning of the movie and told her to tell him a lie that he would believe when he was vulnerable. So maybe Kimberly’s pregnancy announcement was her lie to him? This is supported by the fact that while Dell ponders her pregnancy announcement, his hand touches his stomach, he pauses and then looks back at her and then walks toward her determinedly. Thereby, the assumption is that he realized that she lied and that he kissed her. Or maybe, he didn’t kiss her at all and decided to finally let her go? Or maybe, none of this even happened?

If you can’t tell already (LOL), this is a very confusing movie. However, the confusion actually works really well for this movie, at least in my opinion. Earlier in the movie, Kimberly had expressed a desire for time to cease existing and instead viewing life as a painting, with no discernible beginning, middle or end (“it’s just there”). Thus, one can view the entirety of the movie as that of a painting. We’re not really shown the chronological movements of their relationships (hell it’s not even clear if what we’re shown is the truth or not LOL), but we are shown moments. And I think the beauty of the movie lies in just that; the moments in their relationship. They just feel so real, despite the fact that the entire film is just so surreal (with the background scenery and musical score).

On that note, the acting was just absolutely phenomenal in this movie, especially Justin Long. He knocked it out of the park spectacularly. His quick-talking Dell was so great. On paper (Kimberly actually mentions this too LOL), Dell is a pretty horrible character. He’s selfish (he claims that he loves Kimberly because she loves him), cynical, and rude (he actually stalked her on the train). Yet, Justin Long makes him somewhat likeable. You actually feel for Dell and root for him. You want him to get his happy ending with Kimberly. On top of that, the entire movie basically rests on his shoulders. There’s really no other actors besides him and Emmy Rossum. Coming to talk about her, she was fantastic as well! Although Kimberly didn’t have much to do, other than reflecting Dell’s thoughts, Emmy still managed to imbue her with charm.

That’s actually a negative for this film though. It’s not visible immediately, but on reflection, it was quite obvious. Kimberly is really not fleshed out as a person. We don’t know much about her, especially compared to Dell. All we know, is that she used to be superficial when dating guys, wrote her thesis on the “Art of Science,” goes to a gun-range, and wasn’t a fan of MTV. That’s it really. She’s just a collection of random traits and thoughts. Whereas Dell is more of a cohesive character with a more distinctive background. For example, we know that he’s super smart, works in pharmaceuticals, created a wonder drug that “cured” his mother’s cancer, goes to therapy, has a motor mouth that gets him into trouble, is self-destructive, etc. In fact, a lot of the dialogue in the movie is mostly just Dell sprouting his thoughts and Kimberly reacting to it.

Yet, even with this critique (which is actually quite significant if I’m being honest), I still really like this movie. Not only are the performances fantastic, but the entire movie itself is really great, especially some of the quotes. Plus, the surreal feel and soundtrack are a treat to feel and watch too.

My rating: watch to enjoy a surreal drama about relationships and to enjoy Justin Long and Emmy Rossum’s acting prowess.

The Night Circus Book Review

NightCircus.final_.2The Night Circus is a book that my friend recommended. Well, perhaps recommend is not the right word, as she did not like the book (you can read her review here). However, she wanted another opinion on the book so she suggested that I read it. I was immediately intrigued by the cover and black and white colour scheme, plus as a fantasy fan, it seemed to be right up my alley. So I agreed and here we are today to review it.

Basically, The Night Circus, is about magic. Two magic masters, one favouring innate talent and chaos and the other favouring control, select players who compete in a “game.” The game is played at a venue (the circus being the venue in this book) and the players aren’t told much about the game; just that they are a competitor. In the end, whichever competitor remains standing, wins the game, and therefore is considered a win for the type of magical training each master favours. The two masters, Prospero the Enchanter and Mr. A. H, each select two players, Celia and Marco, respectively, and train them for years. The game begins once the two begin working for The Night Circus, which is also in fact created for the game itself and is a part of it. Once the game begins, everyone in the circus actually becomes trapped, and every move of Celia and Marco’s has repercussions for everyone involved. However, contrary to plan, once Celia and Marco discover each other, instead of competing to win, they begin collaborating with their magic and fall passionately in love in the process. The rest of the book deals with a number of things, among them: how the game between Celia and Marco ends.

As my friend didn’t really enjoy reading this book, I figured that I would be lukewarm towards it as well. However, once I began reading, I just could not put it down! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and thought that it was fantastically good! In fact, I’m having some trouble deciding which category I should placed this review, as I like it far more than other items in the “Liked” category, but have not quite reached “Loved” status yet. Nonetheless, let’s continue with the review!

In my opinion, the best thing about this entire book, is the writing! Erin Morgenstern is so incredibly talented with words and it really shows in this book! She manages to weave such a mesmerizing magical ambience around the story; I really felt as if I was reading a fairytale! Not the mention the beautiful imagery she evoked! I had a good time trying to imagine everything (the Ice Garden was one of my favourites!). Although I will mention that she did have the tendency to embellish things slightly too much at times. It got to the point where I had difficulty picturing everything during my initial read and had to go back and reread it.

Her love story between the two leads (competitors) was really great too! It actually felt epic during some moments, which was surprise because I did not expect that. That said, the love story did falter at times, or at least the epic feeling of it did. Actually, on second thought, I think it wasn’t so much that the love story between the leads was so great, but rather the writing that was so stellar. Because, you actually don’t really spend enough amount of time developing a connecting with the characters. The third person narration keeps you a little distant, as do the characters themselves. For example, even though we get scenes of Celia, she remains partially elusive throughout the story.

That’s actually another thing. The book is written in third person narration and actually possess multiple point-of-views (POVs). So along with some scenes of Marco, Celia, Prospero, and Mr. A. H, we also get POVs from other people in the circus, For example, we get the POV of the guy who came up with the idea of the circus, Mr. Chandresh, Marco’s ex-girlfriend Isobel, a die-hard fan of the circus, Mr. Theissen, a seemingly random boy, Bailey, etc.

However, the multiple POVs also present as a con for the book. Each chapter consisted of a POV and thus was very fragmented. On top of that, the chapters and POVs themselves were not in chronological order. Thus, you could have one entry talking about an event that happened in 1902, while the next chapter would talk about an event than happened in 1887. Furthermore, sometimes there were multiple POVs of the exact same event, that happened during the exact same time, but even then, those POVs would be separated by various entries of other dates. It was so confusing. Plus, it sucked having to go back to the previous chapter, when beginning a new one, just to figure out the time/ chronological frame of events and how it fit into the timeline. It got a little less annoying as the book grew more interesting, but even then, it was still supremely annoying.

Similarly, the over-arching story itself left a lot to be desired. I mentioned earlier how it was basically about chaos vs. control. However, this story never really got solved (perhaps that was intentional?) and there’s not much background information given on it either. It kind of just fades into the background as the book instead chooses to focus on the display of magical feats by Celia/Marco, the various events that happen in the Circus, people involved with the Circus, etc. Additionally, it is also worth pointing out that the book itself is super slow moving. It could get very boring and in the middle, it sometimes felt like a chore to continue. Although it does pick up, quite quickly in fact, near the end.

That’s actually another thing. The description of the book cover is quite misleading. There’s no grand battle of magical feats or anything. As mentioned earlier, the book itself is quite fairy tale-like. It’s mellow and possess a dream-like feeling as you read. It isn’t action-y at all, despite the fact that there are some action scenes. It’s a very slow story, but I definitely enjoyed it. There’s this very dreamy feel to it.

That said, I definitely think that this book is for a specific type of reader. Those who like hard action scenes with quick mental work probably won’t like this book, because it is just so slow and dreamy. It’s more like a puzzle you work through, that takes a while for everything to connect (and everything does connect at the end).

My rating: read it to enjoy a fantastically picturesque fairy tale with grand feats of magic and beautiful writing!

Silver Linings Playbook Movie Review

silver_linings_playbookI was actually quite excited to watch Silver Linings Playbook as I had heard that Jennifer Lawrence won an award for her acting in it. Plus, the synopsis for the movie seemed interesting enough.

At its core, Silver Linings Playbook is about a man, Pat Solitano Jr (played by Bradley Cooper), who suffers from bipolar disorder. Prior to being diagnosed, Pat nearly beat a man to death. It was actually this incident that put him in a psychiatric facility and caused his wife to leave him. After 8 months in the facility, his mother manages to get him released, against the wishes of his doctors. As his wife is gone, Pat moves in with his parents. In an effort to win back his wife, he begins reading her classroom reading list (she’s a teacher), and begins exercising in an effort to “take care” of himself (including mentally). He also adapts the strategy of “excelsior,” or looking for the silver lining in stuff that happens to him. During this time, he also ends up meeting Tiffany (played by Jennifer Lawrence), who is the grieving, widowed sister-in-law of his best friend Ronnie (played by Ronnie Ortiz).

A lot of other things happen in the movie as well. However, instead of writing out a long summary post (as I tend to do), I’ll just discuss the general story-line and acting.

Coming to the story-line, it was okay. It actually wasn’t all that realistic (save for a few scenes) and featured quite a few cliches (the end dance scene being one of them). Plus, there was also this gambling (?) subplot that I felt was really boring. If anything, the gambling plot itself probably caused quite a few cliches. Hence, it wasn’t the most creative or unique story out there. That said, I will say that there were a few really nice elements, like the focus on ‘excelsior,’ for example, that elevate the movie beyond trite romantic comedies. Additionally, it was also quite entertaining as a whole (if you could get pass the cliches). However, I think the acting may have had something to do with that.

On that note, let’s move into discussing the acting. I’d already mentioned that I knew that Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for her performance in this movie. So I think I watched her performance with a more attentive eye than usual. In my opinion, Oscar worthy performances are those in which a) not only do the actors challenge themselves and their acting chops, but b) they end up disappearing into the role. Also implied in the winning of an Oscar, is that the performance itself is practically perfect. Coming to this movie and her performance, I actually don’t think her acting was worthy of an Oscar. She definitely had quite a few fantastic scenes where she hit the nail on the head, but she also had other moments where she was just there. She didn’t particularly stand out, and that was my problem. It felt like a run of the mill type of role that any young actress could’ve done. I mean, compare Lawrence’s Tiffany to Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan or even Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. She just doesn’t live up, at least not in this performance.

Plus, her looks didn’t help either. She just looked so incredibly young in the movie. It was especially jarring when contrasted with Bradley Cooper. If I’m not mistaken, they have an over 10 years gap, and it was quite visible in this movie. Her young looks really detracted from some scenes in the movie. I would’ve definitely preferred an older looking actress. But that’s probably not her fault; it’s the fault of the director and casting director.

In my opinion, the real star of the movie was really Bradley Cooper. As the main lead, his character was far more fleshed out than the others. As a result, Cooper got to show off a lot of his range, all while staying within a singular character. Not only did he manage to nail that, but he also went beyond and made Pat quite a likeable character. Even when Pat does some truly bad things, you still feel for him. If anything, I felt as if Bradley Cooper disappeared into his character far more seamlessly and completely than Jennifer Lawrence did. You rooted for Pat, felt his pain and frustration, and could even relate to him sometimes. It was a fantastic performance.

Actually, now that I reflect back on it, the acting in the movie was quite good on the whole. Robert Di Nero was fantastic as Pat’s dad, along with Jacki Weaver as the mother (although she didn’t have much to do). Same goes for Anupam Kher as Dr. Patel, Chris Tucker as Danny, and John Ortiz as Ronnie. In fact, some of the best scenes in the movie were ensemble scenes, wherein all the actors would be the scene together. One highlight, for example, is the gambling scene in the lower half of the movie (Pat’s father bets double or nothing for Eagles winning and Pat and Tiffany scoring a 5). Hence, I think the highlight of the movie was really the acting from the cast of actors. The directing and cinematography just supported them by being good as well.

My rating: watch it if you’d like to watch a happy romantic comedy and witness Bradley Cooper’s phenomenal acting.