Tag Archives: Reviews

The Truman Show

The Truman Show is worth a watch for its premise alone. Imagine your whole world is actually a carefully constructed artificial reality all revolving around you, and that this “reality” is broadcast to millions of viewers. It is hard to fathom, but the more that I think about it, this fascinating premise is not really so far removed from the things we see (or at least the implicit principles) in our culture.

Truman, played by Jim Carrey (who is always brimming with optimism and energy), has been raised from birth as the star of a massive scale reality show. Yet unlike the Kardashians of the world, Truman is unaware that his life is a source of entertainment for scores of ordinary people. In his mind, he is one of these ordinary people himself; that is, until a peculiar series of events leads him to doubt the truth of everything he has ever known and the authenticity of all of his personal relationships.

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The Two Towers

Throughout the whole of its rather lengthy running time, The Two Towers is utterly compelling. It has been said many times, I’m sure, but these films are truly masterpieces. They convey such a vast range of emotional depth and follow the many threads of the story deftly and with great compassion for the characters. And of course, the films are visual splendours, feats of cinematography and special effects that were, at the time, groundbreaking and extremely influential for the future course of film.

I left off my review of The Fellowship of the Ring by discussing Merry and Pippin and the value that is ascribed to their lives, despite their weaknesses and failings. In the second movie, after a close escape from those repulsively horrendous orcs, the two hobbits spend most of their time riding through the forest with Treebeard and providing some comic relief. And yet, unexpectedly, from this seemingly “insignificant” subplot comes an event with extremely significant ramifications for the battle for Middle Earth: the fall of Isengard. Merry and Pippin bring about this victory for their side, not by strength or strenuousness of intellectual argument in convincing the trees to join the fight, but through their cleverness and the innovative idea to lead Treebeard towards Saruman. The direct encounter with the death of his kinsmen which follows speaks louder than any rallying cry towards battle ever could.

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Mr. Holmes

As mentioned in my post on BBC’s Sherlock, countless portrayals of Sherlock Holmes and his super sleuthing ways have appeared on our screens since Conan Doyle’s creation of the classic character. Although “Mr. Holmes” could have been just another movie to add to the pile, I think it sees the story and the person of Sherlock Holmes in an entirely new way, and as a result is very deserving of recognition.

The film focuses on an elderly Sherlock, who has removed himself from his former crime-solving career, retiring to an isolated house in the English countryside where he lives with his housekeeper and her adorable (and adorably inquisitive) son, Roger. The cinematography in the movie is breathtaking, with sweeping shots of ocean and cliff that lend an atmosphere of serenity to Sherlock’s chosen abode for his final days. But inside Sherlock’s brilliant (though deteriorating mind), there is neither serenity nor peace, so haunted is he by the unresolved case that prompted him to leave his profession.

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What to Read this Week: Thomas Hardy and the Titanic

Let’s play the word association game with Thomas Hardy! If anything comes springing to mind, it is most likely his classic novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, his most widely known work. Tess of the D’Urbervilles is certainly an excellent novel- in fact, I adore this novel and will probably write a review of it at some point in the future. Yet, interestingly, Hardy’s primary passion was not for the novelistic form but for poetry. Indeed, Hardy desired to be a poet and saw himself as a poet first and foremost. He set about writing novels to support himself financially, and then focused on poetry when he was better off.

Today Thomas Hardy is mainly remembered for his novels. This recognition is well-deserved, since, as I mentioned above, Hardy is a master craftsman when it comes to the novel. However, he is also a master poet, one of the best of the Victorian era, and it is his poetry that I want to recommend in this post, specifically the poem, “The Convergence of the Twain.” This poem, which you can read here, is about the ill-fated Titanic.

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The Fellowship of the Ring

Before this summer, I had never seen the Lord of the Rings. I hope I haven’t shocked you too much with this admission, and that you will keep reading, instead of closing the page with disgust. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to watch them, but perhaps it can be explained by my habitual lack of interest in fantasy and action. However, as time went on, I understood that Tolkien’s work is so much more than this, that it transcends these genre boundaries and certainly any prejudice against them. I understood this and found that I wanted to explore Middle Earth, but as with many things where one is so far “behind” the cultural pace, the opportunity never seemed to arise, or, more likely, I held onto the idea that it was just too late for me to “join the club.”

And yet I finally made the plunge, after reading The Hobbit in a Children’s Literature course, and then with the encouragement of my brother, whom I consider quite an expert in the area of Tolkien. I confess I haven’t yet read the books (and apologize for this blasphemy), but they are now placed firmly on my to-read list for the imminent future. The point of all these ramblings is that I have finally watched The Lord of the Rings, and what follows is my review of the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring.

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The Return of the Prodigal Son

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri J.M. Nouwen is a short and beautiful book, a clear and profound exploration of a story that has become to so many of us familiar and perhaps even weary, perhaps even emptied of meaning.

The parable of the prodigal son is simple: the son leaves home after prematurely demanding and obtaining his inheritance. When things go poorly and he (the younger son) finds himself destitute and desperately unhappy, he returns to the home of his father to beg for forgiveness and employment as a servant in the household. This forgiveness is freely given by the loving and overjoyed father, along with complete restoration of the boy’s identity as his beloved son. Yet refusing to partake in the grand feast prepared for the returned son is his brother, the elder son who resents the favour received by one who did wrong when he, conversely, stayed home, worked hard and did “right.”

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What to Watch this Week: Sherlock

There is certainly no shortage of adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes saga. But, in my mind, few have been as successful as BBC’s Sherlock, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Three seasons in to this excellent show (with two more written and, albeit slowly, on the way), it is not lacking in popularity. It probably does not need my recommendation, yet I will give it freely anyways, for what it’s worth. In a culture where the trend leans toward the transient, to television series and movies designed to be consumed in vast proportions and then promptly forgotten, Sherlock stands out.

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Inside Out

I was not expecting to like “Inside Out.”

That’s not to say that I didn’t expect it to be good. Pixar films are consistently high quality and I assumed that this one would be similarly well-done, also considering the things I had heard about Inside Out specifically. I expected it to be good. But I didn’t really expect to like it.

This pre-judgement stems, I would say, from two reasons. First, I will freely admit that I am a tad prejudiced towards animated movies. I don’t know what it is about them (actually, I guess it would be that there are no real people, only cartoon characters), but I am often reluctant and only minimally excited going into animated movies, perhaps with an implicit skepticism about such a film’s ability to provide real emotional depth. Yet, as quality animated films have proved to me time and time again, this assumption is an oversight and, indeed, a simplification of emotional depth and meaning in the world of film.

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What to Listen to this Week: The National

One of my favourite bands is the indie rock group, The National. This week (as well as most weeks) I’ll be listening to them, and I think their music is of the kind that you can keep listening and continually discovering new depth and richness to it. Their songs are polished and perfectly sculpted, and what stands out above all is the uniquely deep voice of lead singer, Matt Berninger (you’ll know what I mean if you listen).

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Book Review: Middlemarch

middlemarch

Middlemarch, by George Eliot, is considered by many to be the greatest English novel ever written, and I can’t say I take issue with this sweeping statement. It is a masterful work, but this high praise, these assertions of greatness, do not need to be something that scares us away from reading a book like Middlemarch. Great novels such as this, especially when they are removed from us by past, may seem more difficult or like they require too much effort. However, they are not inaccessible; in fact, Middlemarch is very enjoyable to read, and the efforts that are put into reading and appreciating the book will be richly rewarded.

At the centre of Middlemarch are the issues of progress and change. Middlemarch itself is a provincial town in England, and the book is set just before the first Reform Bill, which passed in 1832. Along with the Reform Bill came many changes in the law and in the way that things were done and understood, but in the novel the possibility of such changes is regarded with suspicion by many of the townspeople. Yet Middlemarch, the novel, is not merely focused on the political tension preceding change, but on relationships, on love and on marriage.

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