Tag Archive: reviews



Better late than never, right?

Can I just say I was delightedly surprised at Anne Hathaway’s performance as Catwoman in TKDR. I read in an old issue of Entertainment Weekly that originally, she had agreed to meet with Chris Nolan with the intention of playing some other female character from the comics, because she felt like Michelle Pfeiffer did such an iconic job with Catwoman. That’s when I started to think about how daunting this role must have been for her, not least because she didn’t really have the reputation for it. It would’ve been a lot to take on for any actress, and I think she and the writers did wonderfully.

On to the film. It was good. The only other Batman movies I’ve ever watched are the two in this trilogy (fixing that ASAP!) so I can’t speak for how it compares, but I liked that Bane’s origin story was included, as opposed to us never finding out how The Joker got his scars in The Dark Knight. At the same time, I definitely prefer Heath Ledger’s Joker to Tom Hardy’s Bane. I know they’re not supposed to be similar villains, and this could just be my soft spot for Heath Ledger talking, but The Joker freaked me out more (which is a good thing). He’s completely psychotic and just wants to watch the world burn without any rhyme or reason. Bane, on the other hand, is calculating, has every T crossed and I dotted, and comes off as oddly rational (only, you know, not.) For some reason this logical approach was more reassuring to me, and consequently, I wasn’t gripping the edge of my seat in fear. Plus his voice bugged me. I didn’t understand half of what he was saying. I get that it was supposed to be that way, and I think the incredibly loud volume in my theater might have had something to do with it…either way, it kinda lost me.

Christian Bale was awesome, as always…I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie of his that I didn’t like (although I haven’t seen very many). I liked that we got to see more of Bruce Wayne than Batman in this film. The part where he climbed out of the prison – I forget what it was called – was a really obvious metaphor, but I cheered along with a bunch of other people in the theater anyway. His on-screen chemistry with Anne Hathaway was pretty good, too. They worked well together and looked super doing it. I dunno what was going on with the fight scenes, though. They weren’t as good as the previous movies. But my god, that ending!!! It was perfect. Perfect.

Overall, I would for sure watch this again. In theaters, even. When it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray, I’m for sure having a marathon party in my apartment!

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Memento


I’m a huge fan of Chris Nolan’s work in general, but Memento is in my opinion one of the best movies ever to come into existence. IMdB and Rotten Tomatoes both agree. It’s so good that I’m putting a trailer below instead of just a picture so that you poor souls who haven’t seen it yet can get an idea of what I’m talking about.

This spectacularly made film is based on a short story by Jonathan Nolan. The movie, in turn, has inspired a number of later plots (some more obviously stolen from Chris Nolan’s masterpiece than others). These include everything from The Vow to Ghajini (a Bollywood ripoff). None of them even come close to being as good as Memento.

I’ve already shown the trailer so I’m not going to include too many spoilers…I’ll just say that watching this movie is not a passive experience. It has a terse grittiness to it, and the story progresses in reverse chronological order, so you’ll be lost if you zone out even for a few minutes. That’s what I love best about Chris Nolan’s movies. Every shot, every detail means something. It’s the perfect approach for a film about a man who loses his short-term memory every 10 minutes.

The entire cast (particularly Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss) delivers world-class performances, and the editing is amazingly done (I don’t normally pay very much attention to that, but in this case I kinda have to). I’m still wondering who deserves more credit. Was the footage shot chronologically and later edited to make it seem like it was going backwards, or did the actors somehow have to make the order work throughout filming?

Yeah, I’m not just talking a lot of flashbacks here. I mean that every single scene ends where the last one began. It’s a really complex film – not Inception status (you’ll understand the story the first time you watch it), but just enough to keep the audience engaged in every moment. What’s even more impressive is that there’s a parallel storyline and flashbacks actually are incorporated to show us something that happened even further in the past than the next scene. Am I even making sense anymore?

Okay, I’m getting a headache trying to write about it. Just trust me on this one. Memento is available to stream on Netflix, so go watch it already. Then watch it again in wonderment. You’re welcome 🙂


The book: No one I’ve talked to so far likes what I have to say about this book. I was not impressed. I’ll admit that a combination of distrust in anything that caused such giddy fanaticism in so many preteen/teenage readers and lukewarm feelings about what I knew of the plot had me skeptical from the beginning, but I tried my best to put that aside as I read. The plot was not bad. There could have been more done with it, but I have an inkling that the storyline becomes more compelling in the second book. No, my real problem with it was the way it was written. I can’t fault Collins for adopting a less than sophisticated tone, given that her target audience has embraced Twilight like something Shakespearean. It’s not even about developing the characters a little bit more so that their relationships are more complex than one standing in the way of another’s survival. It’s that this book is so obviously written for production. I feel like it was intended to become a movie and not to contribute to the pleasure of reading, and for some reason that just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s the blatant attempt to milk the idea for way more than it’s worth by having a book and a movie…or maybe it’s that the book is written with such a heavy hand that there are very few elements that can’t be conveyed to their fullest impact on screen.

That said, I really like that Collins has created a strong female character. The bow and arrow bit has been done to death, but hey, it did the job. Also, the book’s darker, more sober themes don’t entirely overshadow typical teenage concerns. I think this is probably why it did so well with the middle- and high-school crowd. Overall, I thought the book was more imaginative than what’s become the average and it definitely elicited some reaction from me. Not a bad read, but way too many things are done just for dramatic effect, and I don’t like that that’s the point.

Also. The only black kids in the movie came from the district where everyone works on a plantation? Does that sound, erm, nostalgic to anyone else? I understand that everyone is pretty much treated like a slave, but that’s a flimsy excuse and you just cannot ignore such significant real-life historical context in that way. I can’t tell if that was done on purpose to highlight how much society has regressed in this new world, or if it should be cause for controversy. The distinction should have been made VERY clear and that’s a pretty heavy strike against Collins in my book. No writer has any business touching such a sensitive period in human history if they don’t intend to address it.

The movie: The cast all did a wonderful job. The book translated well onto the silver screen, but then again, the entire structure of the plot doesn’t make that very difficult. The graphics and cinematography were well done, but there was nothing stellar about them and to be honest, I kind of expected it because Suzanne Collins all but put out shots for the director. There was nothing overly witty or creative about the dialogue and I don’t remember seeing anything beyond what I expect every time I go to the movies. It was entertaining, but they were cheap, transparent thrills and overall, I found the movie largely unremarkable.

What I really want to talk about in relation to the film is this.

This is not Suzanne Collins’ fault. Nothing she – or anyone else – writes can do anything about the utter depravity that led those children to make those comments. I just wonder how she feels about inadvertently exposing this repulsive truth. I wonder if she feels any disappointment in the fans who have supported her. I would.


Lisbeth Salander, ladies and gentlemen. And she’s outdone herself this time. I feel myself turning into a fangirl quicker than this summer will turn into fall. I can already tell that this blog will be very dragon tattoo-heavy.

I was not a happy reader during the two and a half days it took me to finish this book. I stayed up long into the wee hours to finish just one more chapter (and then just one more, and then just this one last one), and even when I did sleep, I got nightmares. From a book. I haven’t even seen the Swedish film yet. This has never, ever happened to me before.

There is this one scene where Larsson describes one of the supporting characters seeing a creature in the woods. It’s never fully explained and for some reason has stuck with me even though I’ve seen my share of gory horror films. I can’t do any better than he did at describing it, so I’m just going to include the passage:

“He could not imagine why anyone would want to spend their free time in such an isolated place. He felt suddenly uncomfortable when he shut the car door behind him. The forest seemed threatening, as if it were closing in around him. He sensed that he was being watched. He started towards the cabin, but he heard a rustling that made him stop short.

He stared into the woods. It was dusk, silent with no wind. He stood there for two minutes with his nerves on full alert before, seeing it out of the corner of his eye, he realized that a figure was silently, slowly moving in the trees. When his eyes focused, he saw that the figure was standing perfectly still about thirty yards into the forest, staring at him. 

He felt a vague panic. He tried to make out details. He saw a dark, bony face. It appeared to be a dwarf, no more than half his own size, and dressed in something that looked like a tunic of pine branches and moss. A forest troll? A leprechaun? 

He held his breath. He felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. 

Then he blinked six times and shook his head. When he looked again the creature had moved about ten yards to the right. There was nobody there.”

The irony of this passage is that it’s just a manifestation of this character’s fear of ghosts, the dark, and basically all things unknown. When you consider the fact that he is a seven-foot-tall blond giant with a plethora of genetic abnormalities that block all pain and give him the ability to throw punches like the Hulk, these fears should seem childish and laughable, but they actually turn out to be a huge part of his character.

This is the guy who almost kills Lisbeth near the end of the novel. He even buries her, and then loses his mind completely when she appears out of nowhere covered in blood and dirt to get her revenge. He knows that the creature in the forest was never real, but now here she is, seemingly back from the dead and about to hack him to pieces. Does it take a lot to imagine how terrified this dude would be? This aspect of his character serves a practical function by saving his life because Lisbeth realizes that he has some kind of mental illness and stops herself from killing him, but it also gives a whole new dimension to the encounter that I’ve never seen before.

Larsson portrays every other character – and there are probably close to two dozen in this book – with the same meticulous, rich detail. The plot is just as intricate and many-layered. And Salander is a total badass. I absolutely loved this book.

Again, I’ll remind you that this is a very adult series and you’ll have a miserable time reading it if you don’t have the required maturity yet or are just looking to be entertained. It gets deeper into some of the themes that came up in the previous book (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and introduces some more compelling world issues as well. It’s fantastic, but it’s not light reading. Oh, and think about having the final book by your side as you finish this one up. You’re going to want it.


Girl/Dragon Tattoo bookThis is without a doubt the most intense book I have ever read (with the possible exception of the rest of the series, since I haven’t finished them all yet). No kidding. I have to say I sincerely regret that Stieg Larsson passed away before his trilogy got the recognition it deserves. There are many bestselling authors who could have learned a lot from him (ahem, I’m talking to you, Stephenie Meyer).

Nevertheless, the acclaim this book has received recently has been well-deserved. I bought it in the winter of 2011 at the airport on the way to Canada, started reading on the plane, and wasn’t able to tear my eyes away the entire time I was in the great white north. More than half a year later, it’s as unforgettable in my mind as the Harry Potter series for a number of reasons.

Let’s start with the journalist, Mikael Blomkvist. He’s one of the central characters and his characterization alone is more complex than the Twilight series in its entirety. He comes off as the meddling do-gooder – and he certainly does have a moral compass that would be the envy of many real-life journalists today – but there are so many more aspects to his personality than that. This in itself is refreshing and quite an accomplishment since it has become so common to create conflict simply by having single-faceted characters who continually clash with each other. He’s openly described as an unscrupulous ladies’ man whose marriage fell apart because he couldn’t keep his hands off one Erika Berger (a married woman herself) who also happens to be his boss. The book begins with his being sentenced to two months in prison for libel, which he completes without a word to his teenage daughter Pernilla, who later surfaces to provide a vital clue to the investigation Blomkvist has taken on and is never thought of again. All this is more than enough to make you raise your eyebrow, yet Larsson writes him in such a way that you can’t help but be enamoured with the man.

Larsson uses the same ability to make Lisbeth Salander (the title character) the most enthralling heroine for a long time to come. Almost immediately upon her introduction, you know that she is not your friend. She is not someone most people can relate to in the slightest, nor someone you would ever want to be. All the usual avenues to making a character stick in a reader’s mind are closed. I could say that her appeal lies in the reader’s hearing more of  her thoughts, knowing more about her dark and horrendous reality than any of the other characters, but that’s only a part of it. Maybe this just means that I haven’t read enough, but I don’t remember the last time I came across a female character as incredibly strong and complicated as this skinny twenty-four-year-old who looks fourteen and acts completely insane. She antagonizes anything and anyone she comes across to some degree, which has earned her a formidable criminal record and a psychiatric evaluation totally at odds with what she really is. But she is so ridiculously skilled and possesses so many talents without thinking twice about them that I can’t bring myself to say a word against her. That’s the special thing about Salander. As a reader, you’re not forced into liking her out of pity and respect for the fact that she’s still alive and taking care of herself in spite of all she’s been through. There is not a single scrap of victim mentality in her. Instead, she not only steamrollers everything in her path to survive, but continues being many times more brilliant than anyone around her with very few people (other than Blomkvist, eventually) ever realizing it.

That’s the other unique thing about Salander. Usually when characters have even one of the rare talents she does, it’s a package deal with a bloated sense of entitlement and self-importance. Salander’s secretive about hers, even embarrassed when Blomkvist finds out about one of them (a photographic memory). That’s not to say she doesn’t use them in questionable ways, though – at the end of the book, her excellence as a hacker allows her to steal millions from a fraudulent financier (Hans-Erik Wennerstrom, Mikael’s mortal enemy and the reason for his imprisonment) as she exposes him and indirectly brings about his death.

The book is fraught with such contradictions and dilemmas. I’ve barely skimmed the surface and haven’t even touched on the main plot, primarily because I don’t want to ruin the whole book and also because writing everything I have to say about this masterpiece would probably take me, like, a week.  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo deals with misogyny, religion, journalistic ethics, the evils of bureaucracy, open and gay/lesbian relationships, and many other themes in an admirably un-preachy way, while offering a thoroughly engrossing murder mystery to boot. This is probably one of many posts I will write about the trilogy. I would not recommend anyone under seventeen to read it, just because it will probably give you nightmares and I don’t even think you’d enjoy it, but if you’re a true-blue adult, here’s some summer reading for you. Go buy the book, rent it, check it out from your local library, whatever (and no, watching one or both of the movies is not the same thing) and then come talk to me. I’d love to discuss it with someone who’s read it.