Saturday, September 29, 2012

Now Playing: Expendables 2

In our continuing quest to spend a ginormous amount of AMC coupons before December 31, Jadek and I took in a weeknight show of Expendables 2.  Like the last one, the movie was really just a bunch of action scenes stitched together with bad dialogue. 

And I do mean bad.  Hoo-ey!  There were some stinkers in there - but really?  That didn't bother me as much as the missed opportunities.  There's this great exchange between Stallone and Van Damme (who is actually billed as Vilain - no, seriously):
VD: You gonna hurt me?
SS: "I'm not gonna hurt you… I'm gonna take your life."
...really?  Is this a Rambo reference?  If it is, it's obscure; if it isn't, they should have gone with:  "I'm not gonna hurt you… I'm gonna kill you."
There was all sorts of clunkers in there:
Schwarzeneggar: I'll be back.
Willis: You've been back enough.  I'll be back.
Schwarzeneggar: Yippee ki-yay.
...really?  I wish they had given the script to some hardcore action nerds.  With all the interaction between these mega-stars, there should have been gold in every exchange.

Okay, I hear you. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Now Playing: Resident Evil: Retribution

So I'm back from Japan and what's the first movie I see?  Resident Evil: Retribution.  If you haven't watched the previous four movies starring the perfectly preserved Milla Jovovich, you should really start from the beginning.  Long-time followers are well rewarded in the fifth instalment, with cameos and references and reimaginings (oh my!).

The action sequences are really really great.  The first few minutes has ALICE in a white tunnel, devoid of much (except the infected and guns) - it was clean and beautiful to watch her execute at least forty baddies using more than just bullets.  I think that's what really sold the movie for me: the sequences are so well planned, it explains how a few "professionals" can take out hundreds of shamblers.  ALICE herself just gets more and more badass as time wears on - clearly her adaptive programming is working to its fullest potential.  Honestly, this may have been my favourite of the franchise.  4 out of 5 stars.

Oh, and one more thing: I was clearly biased from the get-go.  .  You know how commercials always precede the previews?  Well, they positioned the Retribution trailer between the two - you can see how effective that was (despite the obvious and glaring schilling for Sony).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga

September’s Book Club pick was Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger; having already read it, I decided to tackle Adiga’s followup, Between the Assassinations.  Having just gone from an admittedly light and fluffy read to Assassinations was, well, jarring to say the least. Still: loved it.

Set up as a series of short stories all taking place in tiny port town Kittur, the entire book is almost a character sketch of place instead of people.  Which makes sense, as each chapter begins with a tongue-in-cheek travel-brochure introduction to a part of the town.  It spans the time period between the assassination of Indira Gandhi and her son Rajeev, serving up weighted book ends for quick glimpses into Indian life.  The characters weave in and out of the stories, sometimes having a direct impact and sometimes a mere spot of colour for the background.  And what characters they are!  Covering from young to the old, rich to destitute, malicious to officious to na├»ve, it’s a true ensemble.  There are no neat and tidy endings, each story serving as a literal snapshot instead, capturing what is happening in that moment alone. 

I think some people judge a book by how much they like the characters they’re reading about; if that’s you, don’t read this. There are no “likeable” characters to be found; only compelling ones. Even the one I cheer for at the start makes me rethink my assessment of his character by the end. If you like White Tiger at all, you’ll like Between the Assassinations, despite the different format and delivery.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

koibumi to Japan

Mount Fuji, from Otsuki Station
It was a glorious twelve days in Japan, full of sights and sounds and smells and tastes and wonderment. I have been sitting on this post for weeks now, trying my hardest to encapsulate what was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Mostly, I've been coming up short. So, in typical copout fashion, I came up with a list; my only consolation is that I think my Japanese friends will appreciate the format.

Organisation: so, it’s no secret that the Japanese are uber-organised. Everything has its place, every cubby labelled and every action accompanied by a little note (or a paper crane, whatever). I guess it’s the motivation behind this organisation that surprises me: comfort. Despite not knowing the language (like, at all) or the customs, I found that the signs and symbols and sometimes downright meticulous instructions were a big help to me. There were arrows on stairs to tell us which way to walk up in crowded places, tiles on the floor to tell us where our train car would be and how to line up, detailed breakdowns on Ryokan etiquette (how to tie your yukata, take a bath, wear your shoes)… I know. I know, it sounds crazy. But let me tell you, it made it so easy to navigate.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hawai'i

Turtle Beach, North Shore, Hawai'i
People say Hawai’i is paradise and we all sort of roll our eyes. It’s a tourist trap in the middle of the Pacific, more like. Until you get there. And then you realise that it really is paradise. Here’s the thing about Hawai’i: it’s perfect. The weather rarely strays from the 19°C-25°C range, with a light breeze that blows almost non-stop; the people, who embrace their reliance on tourism and yet who are first-world citizens as Americans, are friendly and customer-service specialists; and the scenery … well, it’s spectacular. From lazy turtle-strewn beaches to seething volcanoes, from peaceful sunrise to striking sunset, from crazy Waikiki to the sedate North Shore… O'ahu feels like a peaceful dream, from which you never wish to wake. Few places merit a second visit. This is is one of them.

AnCe and I spent a week on the Hawaiian Islands. Our first full day was spent on the North Shore, swimming with sand sharks (and one very intimidating barracuda). It was a lovely day, spent driving about the island with the top down in our red Mustang convertible, wearing bathing suits and sunglasses. Typical. That sunset was so surreal, it felt like a movie. We spent the next three days on various tours, exploring O'ahu and spending a day on the Big Island, walking about Volcano National Park. That was amazing (note to self: buy book on Hawaiian legends). If I do go back, I think I’ll spend some time hiking the volcanic floor. On Thursday, we rented another car and drove the circumference of the Oahu, even venturing Farrington highway until it ended, enjoying the crash of the surf that was oh, so close. Friday we boarded our flight and said aloha.

***

A note about Customer Service.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

September’s Book Club pick! (So, if you’re a SociaLit, stop reading.)

I was a disappointed in Alexander McCall Smith’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Though I found the characters charming I find them to be slightly flat. With the exception of Precious, who surprised me twice, the people in the stories seem to be easily manipulated and lacking in any real bite (even the sinister ones). Precious and her relationship with Note really threw me. I did not expect that at all.

The real drawback for me were the plots. Perhaps I think too much while reading or perhaps this is not meant to be a hardcore whodunit – either way, I “solved” most of the mysteries within a paragraph or two. And the ones that were more about proving than solving, I found stretched my suspension of disbelief far too much. In real life, I think Precious would have been killed or silenced.