Up

Up

[ Trailer ]

Rating: 4/4 (A solid Pixar creation. 3 parts emo, 1 part funny)

Up had one of the least informative (read boring) trailers ever! An old man who ties a gazillion balloons to his house and floats away. Not very interesting! Add to that the ridiculously late release of this movie in Singapore (3 months late), and I had lost all interest in checking it out. But, I ended watching it with friends and was made to eat my preconceived opinions!

Up opens with a very young Carl Fredricksen, who falls in love with Ellie, they are brought together by their common interest in an explorer named Charles Munz. They dream of one day having a home beside the Paradise Falls, in South America. Real life takes over, Carl works as a balloon vendor and Ellie as a zookeeper, and their dream never gets fulfilled. Childless and old, Ellie too passes away, Carl grows grumpy with age and soon one day the bulldozers arrive to knock over his house.

It is at this point that Carl decides to turn to the skies and fulfill his deceased wife’s fantasy. He flies away to Paradise Falls in his house, which is held afloat by a thousand helium balloons. He is irked when he discovers that Russell, a boy scout has also scampered onto his aerial journey to South America. Not to give much away, Carl and Russell have a funny, and sometimes goofy adventure in South America that involves a rainbow colored quacking bird, speaking dogs and the explorer Charles Munz.

I found Up to be emotional, a couple of sections left me misty eyed in fact. The beginning, where Carl and Ellie fall in love and grow old, and the end, when Carl (re)discovers his wife’s scrapbook, these are sure to tug at one’s heart. That begs the question, why does not Pixar go ahead and make a proper mature movie for adults? I strongly believe that they have both the story telling capability and the visual skills needed for this. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to see Up. The rest of the movie is okay-funny and is meant for the kids. (The entry of a large rainbow colored quacking bird is a honking big indication that this section of the movie is for the kids! 🙂 ) I watched Up in Dolby 3D, and the experience was surprisingly good, far better than the dull colors in Monsters vs. Aliens! Up is another solid Pixar creation, 3 parts emo, 1 part funny.

PS: Up follows the Pixar tradition of showing a short before the movie, the one in this case is called Partly Cloudy. This funny piece features clouds which make babies and hand them over to storks to deliver to Earth. One of the clouds can (sadly) only make troublesome creatures, and one stork has the misfortune of delivering them.

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Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone

Rating: 4/4 (A great start to a magical journey!)

I started on Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone having decided that I should reread the entire Harry Potter series before the release of the final 2 movies (which are based on the last book.) Though I had read this book a long time ago, it turned out to be a refreshing experience thanks to the ravages of time on my memory and the influence of the Harry Potter movies on my imagination. J. K. Rowling opens the book with the aftermath of a calamity in the world of magic. Voldemort, the super villain wizard has been vanquished while trying to kill infant Harry Potter. Harry is left to grow in the human (muggle) world at his uncle’s home, where he is subjected to years of bad treatment. Finally, when he comes of age, he is invited to the world of magic to study at Hogwarts, the school of magic. At Hogwarts, Harry forms strong friendships with Hermione and Ron. He studies the various forms of magic, learns to fly, to play the wizard sport of Quidditch and has plenty of adventures. Finally, the search for a secret philosopher’s stone pits Harry against his nemesis Voldemort in an epic battle.

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone

I love beginnings, both in books and movies. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone is a delightful read, for the dreamy world of magic and wizards it throws open to the reader. Rowling shows great finesse in creating compelling characters like Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore and Snape. The school aspects of the book remind me of the Malory Towers and St. Clare’s series of books by Enid Blyton. In her own unique approachable style, Rowling explores aspects of justice, fairness, racism and discrimination in the book. Now that I know what happens in the later books in this series, it is quite satisfying to note the various plot elements that Rowling has thrown into her first book for later use. (Scabbers, the strangely behaving mouse owned by Ron is one example.) The book is a short quick read (I was left wishing it was longer) and is full of humour from cover to cover. Though written for children, the book was a great read and I am eagerly looking forward to rereading the rest of the series.

A bit of trivia:

“Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus”, the Latin motto seen below the Hogwarts coat of arms (seen on the title page of the book) means “Never tickle a sleeping dragon” 😉

Kickboxer

Kickboxer

Rating: 3/4 (Super clichéd, yet good fun!)

Every Bollywood movie viewer must be familiar to death with a story that goes like this: 2 brothers who dearly love each other. Elder brother gets hurt in a duel with a badass fighter. Younger brother decides to take revenge on his behalf. He finds a teacher who stays in the middle of nowhere who trains him. Throw in a girl for the hero’s love interest. The plot is boiling now, let us add in a few more baddies for the hero to fight with. To get the hero even more roiled up, let the badass villain now rape his girl. Hero is fuming now at the right temperature, put him to a duel with the baddie, so he can defeat him in the climax. That in essence is the plot of Kickboxer. It should have been a forgettable movie, but surprisingly it is not.

This is one of the earliest movies of Jean-Claude Van Damme, who has real martial arts background in karate. Kurt Sloane (Van Damme) and his older brother land in Bangkok, Thailand for a Muay Thai fight. The local champion Tiger Tong Po is a baddie and beats the pulp out of the older bro. While his brother recovers in a hospital, Kurt finds an old teacher in the hills to teach him Muay Thai to take revenge. The training is very reminiscent of movies like The Karate Kid. Some of the training takes place in the middle of some spectacular Wat ruins, which the teacher calls Stone City. (I could not identify what place in Thailand this is.) Kurt also falls in love with his teacher’s beautiful niece. The predictable climactic fight turns bloody as the players fight with hands wrapped in broken glass.

As I said before there are no surprises, yet the movie is a good watch. For one, it is shot well and on location in Bangkok and other places in Thailand. There are no CGI and special effects, so it is thrilling to see real fighters and real action. I cannot stand Van Damme in his older movies, here he is very comfortable in the role of a pure martial arts fighter. Many times during the movie he demonstrates that he can do the splits, which for a man of his massive build is quite something. His martial arts moves and training routines are a delight to watch. Muay Thai fights here are actually more interesting than the typical boxing fights in say the Rocky series since the legs are involved. Lastly, the music in this movie is very good. Some of the 80s beats and the Western-Asian fusion music that plays a lot in the background are all very notable. All in all, Kickboxer is super clichéd, yet good fun!

David Copperfield

David Copperfield

Rating: 4/4 (A journey of a lifetime!)

Are all the great literary works of man already written? That is what I was left wondering after closing the final page of David Copperfield. This semi-autobiographical novel by Charles Dickens took me several failed attempts before I finally acquired the taste for it and tore through it. It was written and published towards the middle of his writing career in the form of 19 serial installments. It is the bildungsroman of the protagonist David Copperfield, following him from birth, through his hard life filled with colorful characters of all shades.

David Copperfield illustration by Phiz

[ A bedraggled David appears at his aunt’s garden. Illustration by Phiz. ]

David Copperfield is born to a young widow who has no pecuniary problems. He is brought up with love by her and his nurse Peggotty. But, his mother remarries and Murdstone, his stepfather turns his rosy life into hell. He is sent off to a horrible boarding school where he befriends Steerforth, the top student.  After his mother’s tragic demise, David is removed from school and put to menial work in London. Sick of this, he runs away to find his great aunt Betsy Trotwood, who takes him in. She helps him finish his schooling, while he boards at the house of Wickfield. Agnes, the daughter of Wickfield becomes his close friend. After education he joins as an intern at a firm of proctors. David soon falls madly in love with Dora, the daughter of his boss. Just when David’s life is reaching its zenith of happiness, everything he has in his life is taken away, people he knew turn evil and he is tested. David and his good friends together emerge from all these setbacks to a happy ending.

David Copperfield

[ The cheap Penguin Popular Classics edition which I read. ]

David Copperfield is a long, but fantastic read. Hats off to the master of prose that is Charles Dickens. I had previously read several of his works only as abridged editions, which I now think do no justice to the originals! Dickens has an extremely close eye for detail, with which he creates his myriad characters, places and situations. Much like The Adventures Of Oliver Twist, David Copperfield will be remembered for its well etched characters who span the spectrum from funny to honest to plain evil. It is hard to not be repulsed by a character like Uriah Heep or not to fall in love with Agnes (who I felt was like Betty in Archie Comics). An adult reader is sure to relive his entire life while turning the pages on that of David Copperfield. Written in 1849, the book plunges the reader into a world before the advent of electricity, automobiles or wireless media. People rely on post, travel by horse driven wagons and ships and spend nights by candle light. It is mindblowing how vividly Dickens is capable of pulling the reader into the world of his creation. David Copperfield takes the reader on a journey of a lifetime!

Related:

  • List of characters: Due to the sheer number of characters and my bad memory, I prepared this list while reading the book. It proved to be useful whevever old characters reappeared.
  • The Phiz Illustrations of David Copperfield: Phiz was the original illustrator when David Copperfield was first published as serials. I wish my Penguin edition had included these beautiful illustrations, which put a face on the characters.