film reviews (#5 and #6)

23 January 2013

Once again, since I have a three day weekend (today being the last) I have had more time to watch films! One was really good,  and one ok-ish, and the other: not so much. The one I didn't like very much was Little Buddha starring Keanu Reeves who plays Siddartha. It was just...not very good. The one I love is a Korean film called Punch.

#5: Punch

title: Punch
director: Han Lee
release date: December 2011
studio: CJ Entertainment

17-year old Wan-Deuk comes from a poor family and his grades in school are equally poor. He is rebellious and troubled student, but unrivalled when it comes to fistfights. Wan-Deuk's life takes a turn when he gets to know his annoying and weird teacher Dong-Joo. Dong-Joo gradually changes from an enemy to a friend as the two get to know each other. Learning to express his anger at the world by taking on kickboxing, the unlikely hero experiences emotional growth and what it means to have a dream. (summary from Rotten Tomatoes)

My thoughts: 
At first, I was shocked at the cold brutality of the film was. Wan-Deuk's father gets beat up at a market, cruelly too, which is worse because the father is crippled with a hunchback. A bit freaked out, I still felt tempted to continue and was rewarded grandly. Wan-Deuk was honest and sincere, but a massive failure in studies. The relationship between him and his Dong-Joo is absolutely charming to watch and I loved them both very much.

Wan-Deuk is different from other Koreans in that he has a Filipino mother. She later becomes quite important, as she had left when Wan-Deuk was a child. Eager to meet her son again, the two rekindle in a beautifully emotional, honest way. Watching their hesitant relationship blossom really made my heart melt, and became one of the main reasons why I loved this film.

This is one of those coming-of-age teenage hero films that's just simple, yet emotional, and very enjoyable.

And now onto #6 (another Asian film)
title: I'm A Cyborg, but that's OK
director: Chan-wook Park
release date: 2006
studio: 57

"The film takes place mostly in a mental institution filled with an eclectic menagerie of patients. Young-goon, a young woman working in a factory constructing radios and who believes herself to be a cyborg, is institutionalised after cutting her wrist and connecting it with a power cord to a wall outlet in an attempt to "recharge" herself, an act that is interpreted as a suicide attempt. Her delusion is characterised by refusing to eat (she instead licks batteries and attempts to administer electric shocks to herself), conversing almost solely with machines and electrical appliances and obsessively listening to her transistor radio at night for instruction on how to become a better cyborg. Her apathetic mother is interviewed by the institute's head doctor, to determine the roots of Young-goon's psychosis; despite claiming ignorances of her daughter's delusion (it is later learnt she knew but was too busy to make her seek help), she reveals that Young-goon's mentally-ill grandmother had previously been institutionalised for delusions of being a mouse, a trauma that sparks Young-goon's own lapses from reality. As a result, she fantasizes frequently of finding her grandmother and seeking revenge on the "men in white" who took her away."

My thoughts:
First of all, this is not the obvious romantic comedy one might think of it as. It's quirky, odd and just plain weird at times. But I love how the relationships develop, and each character's unique issues and solutions. It's a simple film, a bit confusing at times, but all in all something that's kid friendly (except for the beginning, I cringed and skipped ahead).

Once again, these are all on Netflix if you'd like to watch them on Instant Play! Or through some other outlet :) A little update: I have barely been reading due to the immense amount of homework I have each day. My next review will definitely be a book one, however. I promise! Hasta luego!

review: night

12 January 2013

book info:
ages 15 and up
grades: 9-10 and up
years: 11 and up
on sale: now
copy from: public library
pages: 120

title: Night
author: Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel

Night A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family...the death of his innocence...and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again. (read more)

My thoughts:
When I got this, and many of my other books that I've been reading, I found it in the classics section and checked it out. Many people have talked about how they had read this for school, and I do remember some English classes reading this at my school, but that didn't particularly affect my decision to read it.

I think this, like all Holocaust survival stories, is raw and emotional and somewhat detached, as if all were some horrid dream.
The book starts off with a brutally honest preface where Wiesel talks about his books, his reasons and his memories. "For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences" (Wiesel, xv)

The story starts off with a strange old homeless man called Moishe the Beedle, who taught Wiesel about God and religion. Elie wants to learn the Kabblah, a disciple derived from Judaism and Moishe teaches it to him. Throughout the story, Elie questions religion as he suffers.  They lived in a fairly rural area called Sighet and in less than a few pages, the Holocast begins. At first, it's just news heard on a radio. No one believes it will come to them, they are safe. It's something I understand too: whenever there are hurricanes about to hit the east coast, my parents always reassure me. It's safe, we won't get hit. They've said it for every hurricane and have been right, so I've forgotten to feel fear about hurricanes now. But unluckily, the same doesn't follow for Wiesel and his family.

Stories like this do not need detailed descriptions or large, elaborate words. Wiesel's short words and honest account left me feeling haunted and sad. What I loved most was Elie's relationship with his father, and how they stuck together and how they cooperated. In the most darkest of times, it's comforting to have family.

The horrors of what happened are not...glorified. They are told as it happened, and that's just that. Sons killing fathers for a bit of bread, humans being killed for stealing a bit of soup, exhausted bodies being told to run for miles in freezing snow...But this isn't just an account of the Holocaust: it's a memoir of Wiesel as a young boy. I am amazed at how an older Wiesel wrote himself as a boy. I saw and heard an innocent boy and his mind working in the pages of this book. If I were to write about my childhood, I would have used big words and would have laughed at myself. But Wiesel succeeds in writing like the young boy he was and that's what makes this book incredibly real. The honesty, his views on humanity and the world forever altered and reading it as it happens...

Some part of me feels cruel for thinking that I enjoyed this book because the horrible events actually occurred  Things like this are hard for someone to make up, are hard to believe and gruesome to imagine. The darker side of human nature...but all this is what made me love this book. The Holocaust was the darkest moment of modern history and I absolutely hope that people will learn more about what happened. This book receives for trees, and I would recommend it to teenagers and adults alike to read.

review: i hunt killers

06 January 2013

book info:
ages: 16 and up
grades: 10-11 and up
years: 12 and up
on sale: now
copy from: library

title: I Hunt Killers
author: Barry Lyga


What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad?

Jasper "Jazz" Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal's point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows? (goodreads)

My thoughts:
Ohmygoodness, this is an amazing book. Just finished reading it moments ago, woke up from my reading daze and saw that it is 11:30. A book like this: how can I not read it in less than a day? This book can only be described as a Sherlock/Serial Killer twist book. I could not put I Hunt Killers down, and I'm surprised that this book is classified as young adult. A lot of this material is pretty dark and gruesome, and quite adult-themed.

Jazz Dent is incredibly likeable. Reading from the male POV was refreshing, and especially with Jazz's dark, humorous and raw character. He faces questions many teens face, like who he is, and questions a lot about himself: except unlike a normal teens, his problems are much more convoluted, twisted and messed-up. What I love more about his character is that he is intelligent, and like Sherlock Holmes, fantastically good at working through crimes. The sheriff of the town, and one that Jazz has a unique relationship with, reminds me of a Watson/typical police insider type. But Lyga doesn't make him a bumbling, fat fool. G. William is a capable adult, one who isn't just a flat character, but has problems of his own. Jazz, however, isn't just the good guy, and isn't just being dramatic with his fear of becoming a serial killer. He gets scary sometimes, and one can honestly think he will snap when reading and hurt someone...and I know you may think "He won't do it. He can't" but the thing is, is that Jazz is trained (by his father) in the art of killing: he is incredibly capable of killing. He could easily kill someone and THIS has been is fear throughout the book. His character is absolutely enthralling, I love him! As Cassandra Clare puts it: "Jazz is...chillingly charming"

Jazz's mantra, that he has to remind himself everytime his thoughts stray: "People matter. People are real. People matter..." (39)

A lovely and much needed comic-relief character comes in the form of Howie, a type A hemophilliac who bleeds easily (ironic that his best friend is a serial killer's son) Blood is a recurrent theme in this book, I've noticed, and one would except Howie to be serious and sad about his condition. But he pokes fun of it all the time and I absolutely loved his character. The unconditional relationship he has with Jazz, and their interaction with each other, is a beautiful, brotherly relationship.

Now Connie, Jazz's African-American girlfriend (YAY Diversity!), bothered me. Jazz loves her so much, she keeps him sane and grounded and he's always thinking "Connie's safe". Yet she was the typical comforting girlfriend who would always comfort him in an annoying fashion, cuddling and telling him what he needed to hear. Yet she's got a spunky attitude that's OK, I guess...she's Jazz's rock, I know but...I don't like her.

Now Jazz's crazy grandmother was absolutely twisted. Old and going insane, she brings out the darker side of Jazz that's really freaky to read about. I hate her as much as Jazz does, but she's absolutely necessary.

Lyga's creepy descriptions of murders and killings are what made this book memorable. "Just like cutting chicken": a fragmented memory of Billy (Jazz's serial killer father) teaching Jazz how to use a knife to cut. Cut flesh? My nose twitched and my senses became more alert when reading, and that is a literary accomplishment! But Lyga doesn't overuse the descriptions, and adds just the right amount to get the desired effect from the reader. It's so easy to read his writing, his dark, addictingly-good writing.

SO for one of the most thrilling books I've read: four and a half trees!

 (P.S. If you read the hardback version, take off the just jacket and look at what's underneath :D)

review: the picture of dorian gray

04 January 2013

book info:
ages: 15 and up (recommended, 13 and 14 is OK but...elder teens are preferred)
grades: 9-10 and up
years: 11 and up
on sale: now
copy from: library
pages: 248

title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
author: Oscar Wilde (introduction and notes by Camille Canti)


Oscar Wilde brings his enormous gifts for astute social observation and sparkling prose to The Picture of Dorian Gray, his dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. This dandy, who remains forever unchanged; petulant, hedonistic, vain, and amoral; while a painting of him ages and grows increasingly hideous with the years, has been horrifying, enchanting, obsessing, even corrupting readers for more than a hundred years.
Taking the reader in and out of London drawing rooms, to the heights of aestheticism, and to the depths of decadence, The Picture of Dorian Gray is not only a melodrama about moral corruption. Laced with bon mots and vivid depictions of upper-class refinement, it is also a fascinating look at the milieu of Wilde’s fin-de-siècle world and a manifesto of the creed “Art for Art’s Sake.”

The ever-quotable Wilde, who once delighted London with his scintillating plays, scandalized readers with this, his only novel. Upon publication, Dorian was condemned as dangerous, poisonous, stupid, vulgar, and immoral, and Wilde as a “driveling pedant.” The novel, in fact, was used against Wilde at his much-publicized trials for “gross indecency,” which led to his imprisonment and exile on the European continent. Even so, The Picture of Dorian Gray firmly established Wilde as one of the great voices of the Aesthetic movement, and endures as a classic that is as timeless as its hero. (goodreads)

Before I start: I'd like to say the picture on the cover of my copy is quite wrong. I was deceived. In fact, Wilde describes Dorian as having gold hair and blue eyes, and also referred to him as Adonis, god of beauty and desire in Greek mythology. So I should like to introduce a more accurate picture:


The first one is a painting of Adonis, who looks in that painting, very similar to Tom Hiddleston. I added the one of Tom Hiddleston, because I imagined the young, innocent Dorian to be very much like the glorious, sweet Tom Hiddleston who, unlike Mr Gray, is untarnished and still just as beautiful :)

My thoughts:
Ahem. Sorry for that little fan girl moment.
I read The Picture of Doran Gray because my close friend highly recommended it. However, she warned me that I would become corrupted, so I delayed reading it for as long as I could. I read the first quarter of the book and put it down. However, I couldn't stop thinking of it, and knew that I had to finish it.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is about a youthful, young lad by that very name, who is one day having his portrait taken by a close friend, Basil. Basil's friend, Lord Henry, visits and becomes interested in Dorian and insists, much to Basil's reluctance, on meeting him. Now, Dorian is the most beautiful, enchanting "boy" (teenager, I think) I've ever read about. Yet he has been flattered all his life. Lord Henry says one of his famous sayings: "Because you have the most marvelous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having". Lord Henry is the one that corrupts, and is often said to be the "wicked" one. He is the main cause of Dorian's decline into moral corruption Their meeting sparks the whole story, a story sparked by a discussion of beauty.

What I thought at first was that Oscar Wilde was just writing this book to fill it up with quotable material, mainly in the dialogue of Lord Henry. But later I realised the theme: beauty. There are other philosophical mentions like Lord Henry's take on many topics like marriage and such. I usually find many classics rambly and pointless. People blabbering so it sounds like "Oh but it was such a lovely flower! I loved it so! what a lovely red colour!" . Yet I enjoyed truly the theme of The Picture of Dorian Gray and was fascinated by his transformation, and the influence of a single, cynical Lord. I learned to look at life from a different perspective, to understand Dorian and to delve into his mind and that of Lord Henry's. I felt the thrill of an action novel when really I was reading a psychological one, where Wilde plays with philosophy and the human condition and explores deep topics in an effective way. It was a short book and easy to read and eye-opening.

Don't worry, though, I did not get as corrupted as I thought I would be. (Ironically, Dorian gets further corrupted by a book Lord Henry lends him). I actually disagreed with many of Henry's cynical teachings. For example, when Henry "Harry" talks of beauty, he says that it only lasts when one is youthful and that age is ugly. I was protesting quite a lot on this matter. I think his view is one-sided and narrow-minded and that he has a very shallow view. Beauty is about perspective, and with age comes the not so "obvious" beauty like smooth skin and youthful appearance, but a different type of beauty. Wrinkles tell a story, speak of maturity and are like the lines of one's life and experience. A friend I know, how is in her fifties, complains about how vein-filled and wrinkled her hands are. But I thought it was beautiful. Lord Henry would laugh and toss aside that explanation. I didn't like him very much, but I think that his influence of Dorian is what's most interesting. What I read is that there was homosexuality in this book, and I thought "Between Dorian and Henry?" but it wasn't obvious...

What I didn't like was that after a certain time, Dorian shuts himself up and starts to read a lot and collect pretty things. And in the matter of a few pages, years has passed by. It was poorly done and I thought "Wait, how much time has passed? Was it a few weeks? What happened?": alas, not so. Dorian goes from being young, in his twenties, to suddenly becoming forty. I felt out of touch with him, when at the beginning, I felt like I connected with his character. From then on, the story became a bit boring. The ending, however, was romantic (in the sense that it was fitting to what the whole story was about).

All in all, I enjoyed this deep, thought-provoking book and am eager to read more mind-teasing classics. I'm having a hard time trying to find interesting-sounding classics though. I might have to look of Romanticism-type books.

So four trees to an intriguing read. Recommended for elder teens!

mini film reviews (film review #2, #3, and #4)

02 January 2013

Lately, I've been watching a lot of films on Netflix, and I've watched quite a bit over winter break, and thought that I'd recommend them to you some of you Netflix users! And if you haven't got Netflix, they'll just be plain old film reviews :)

Film Reviews

#1: The Beautiful Person (La Belle Personne) Foreign Film-->French

After transferring to a new high school, beautiful Junie (Léa Seydoux) starts dating fellow student Otto (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), but she soon finds herself falling for Nemours (Louis Garrel), an Italian teacher already entangled in secret affairs with a pupil and colleague. Loosely based on Madame de Lafayette's novel La Princesse de Clèves, this French drama explores the great pain that often accompanies love. (from Netflix)

my thoughts: I watched this with a friend of mine, Deniz (those you follow Voyage will know she's "The Mysterious Turkish Girl") on her laptop. It looked interesting, mainly because of the forbidden romance with a teacher!
The entire time, we were talking. It's a quiet film. And what were we talking about? The oddness and weirdness of French custom. Some of the questions we asked was "He's dating two people? And they know about each other?" and "Is this common in French culture?" and "They all look so pale! And what's with that hair?". I think it's enjoyable if you watch it with someone else, because this extra commentary on both Deniz and I's part was what made this special for me. If you're watching it alone: don't. It's quite boring, and the characterisation is horrid. Junie is just a blob, Nemours is a player (I was actually fond of him from the middle to end of the film. At the start, I was just streaming out curses), and Otto was poorly characterised (we called him "The Angel" of the film, as he's the only good one in there). I've often heard that French films have no plot, and with this, I saw first-hand the truth to that statement.

(here's the cute teacher <3 data-blogger-escaped="data-blogger-escaped" p="p">
Two and half trees to this one. 
#2: Blood: The Last Vampire (Rasuto buraddo)
A top-secret government agency sends a 16-year-old half-vampire to an American military base to ferret out a powerful demon who's masquerading as a student in this live-action version of the 2001 anime film of the same name.

My thoughts: A more accurate summary:
Saya is the last of her kind, a mix between vampire and human. She fights for a government agency on the deal that they provide her with vampires, and she kills them. Saya is highly skilled and the only one that can do such a difficult task. But her main goal, what she's wanted for centuries, is to kill Onegan, the vampire that killed her father. She is sent to an American military base surrounded by suspicious Americans, to a high school, disguising herself as a 16-year-old Japanese student.

I can easily tell this was based off a manga. All the fighting scenes, Saya's back-story, the American friend that Saya meets that's the typical sweet, innocent (but becomes a bit more daring) American teenager, and the twists. I didn't like it because of the poor special affects, the brevity that didn't allow for a more in-deph look into what's a promising story line, and well....that: the lack of deph. I wasn't left with a lingering feeling, or a deep question to ponder. The film is really purely action.

Two and a half trees again.
Now on to the documentaries, which have a more promising outlook!
#3: Children Underground
This Oscar-nominated documentary explores the tragic policy decision by Romanian dictator Nicolei Ceaucescu to outlaw the use of contraceptives and encourage his impoverished populace to have more children. Thousands of children were born to broken or dysfunctional families in a nation mired in political and economic instability, resulting in a large and rapidly growing population of homeless children in the city of Bucharest.

My thoughts: At first, I had low expectations for this one. The length is about an hour and a half, and for the first fifteen minutes, all there was was dialogue between a bunch of poor, random chidlren. It's a bit low to start, but through a silent power, this documentary really impacted me. I recently just finished watching it and I must say, I cannot promise a happy ending. This is the harsh reality of these tragic children. I actually spilled tears watching this, it's heartbreaking. I fell in love with these kids, especially Mihai. However, I wonder why the director didn't do anything? It was just filmed and honestly, the children didn't benefit at all. I would think that in the "one year later", the director would have used some influence to improve their lives, but did he? (no, no he didn't) It could've been an artistic decision, to portray the reality of many other children who share the same fate, or because he didn't want to. Anyhoo: I would recommend watching it, when you have a lot of time, of course!
#4: The Unmistaken Child
Filmmaker Nati Baratz follows the spellbinding journey of Tibetan Buddhist monk Tenzin Zopa as he travels far and wide to identify the child who is the reincarnation of his deceased master, Lama Konchog. Acting on instructions from the Dalai Lama, the shy Zopa relies on astrology, dreams and other signs to locate the child, knowing that if he succeeds, he must also convince the boy's parents to release their child into his care.

My thoughts:
It's quite long...but I really liked this one for some reason. There wasn't much speaking, just beautiful scenery and a glimpse into the lives of a very peaceful, quiet, rural Nepal. Of course, I did begin to question my love of Buddhism. Religion is based on the unknown, on belief. But that Tenzin Zopa relies on vague, insubstantial advice and's a bit disbelieving, but also warmed my soul. I really love the boy that you see on the cover. The last few minutes touched me. The entire film did. I really liked this....and I can't explain why. It's beautiful in a silent, gentle and hopeful way.
I may change my mind later, but for now: four trees too! Unlike "Children Underground", I was left with a happy, beautiful feeling after watching this. I promise you, if you watch this, you will smile!

A Conclusion
My upcoming film reviews are bound to be documentaries more than anything. I love documentaries, but I haven't seen ones like "Children Underground" and "The Unmistaken Child", more like the ones on The History Channel and the Science Channel, about how Rome or Egypt was engineered, or how the universe works and such. I quite like the social/political/religious documentaries more. I'm currently watching one called "China's Lost Girls" done my National Geographic that's similar to "Children Underground". Don't give me that look :D It was in the suggested videos, so I accepted! 

If you've watched some films recently and would like to make a recommendation, I'm always open! Let me know what you think about these films here :)

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