Movie Double Review: Gulliver’s Travels 3D & The Mechanic

It has been a while since I have been to the theatre and I know why: there’s really nothing truly worth of value at the moment. I will not be verbose in my reviews as it is not truly necessary.

Gulliver’s Travels 3D

The movie is less than decent and effectively ruined the story I loved back in my childhood days. There were some moments of dry humour but the overall production values were a jumble; some scenes looked good enough and the rest were disappointing. It’s 2011 and somehow camera manipulation between giant and midgets is inexplicably disastrous. I also fail to see why the movie advertises itself in 3D as apparently there is nothing 3D-ish about it. As for the story… a used condom has more interesting travel tales to tell. View trailer here.

The Mechanic

Movie is average; better than the one above for sure but has an uneven pace. It starts off slowly, a prominent guy gets killed without much character development for you to care about, and eventually picks up into lots of explosions and shooting. Story is predictable with absolutely no twist whatsoever. View trailer here.


Book Review: M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

I am a sucker for short stories, with my ever-dwindling attention span, and I’m also a bigger sucker for Neil Gaiman for his wild and imaginative stories. So for me, another short story book is a perfect summer read.

Like most other short story books by any author, you get a mixed bag of good and not-so-good stories, but the positive side of things is that you can always skip the ones you do not like. With M is for Magic, unfortunately, I did skip many stories – many were already included in previous collections I have read, and others did not trigger my interest.

However, there were three notable stories I particularly liked. The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds is quite an interesting take on Humpty Dumpty, turning the whole story into an in-depth criminal investigation. The second story I liked was Troll Bridge, which tells a tale of the relationship between a kid and a troll. At face value it is a decent enough story, but with a little bit of a creative effort on your part you can project the scenario into your adult life.

The piece I particularly loved the most was Sunbird, primarily due to its nature: food. It is the story about a group of very rich friends who have eaten everything possibly edible (with over zealous descriptions), except the elusive Sunbird. I found the story particularly fascinating. Again, I was probably hungry.

Overall, M is for Magic is a good book, however, if you want a better collection of short stories I would recommend Fragile Things by the very same Neil Gaiman,

Movie Review: The Social Network

Having been dragged to watch The Social Network was quite an ordeal by itself. As if the world needed yet another dose of Social Media Crack, we are now presented with a film narrating the (real?) story behind one of the most successful social platforms, Facebook.

Mind you I am not against the medium. Believe it or not I actually do work in a media agency that has a strong social media function. However I do not find the need to be part of the 80% of people who claim to be a Social Media Adjective and some Legendary Entrepreneur because I retweet Mashable and think that opening an online scarf shop is the next big thing (if it really is, though, well done on becoming an entrepreneur at that stage).

The Social Network

Back to the film: It’s surprisingly good. Not that I thought for a minute I would be very interested in knowing how Facebook came about – this is a Hollywood film afterall and is bound to be full of fiction – but it is because of the story telling and the plethora of interesting and funny actors.

While we tend to think the geniuses behind the big websites we use are a bunch of basement dwelling robots (and maybe, they are, and that is their choice if they’re happy with it), the film narrates the story of the personal struggles of the main characters with coping with the idea that they’re on to something. You can truly feel the zest and energy of the film as The Next Big Thing on the way happens.

However fictional the story is, it did a great job in creating a believable tale of intimate human relationships filled with humour. For a “drama” documentary it felt like a two hour sitcom. And I don’t see why not; if you’re going to add some fiction around someone’s life you might as well make it sweet and funny rather than bitter and grim – especially that Mark is still alive and kicking, something which I found an odd thing to do but someone had to jump on the social media bandwagon.

The Social Network

If you take out the fact that we’re talking about Mark and Facebook and social media then you end up with a regular weekend comedy in home pizza night with the friends type of movie. And quite frankly I think this is what the aim of the film really is.

Book Review: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A warm summer afternoon in Damascus demands no less than losing oneself to the pages of a book. I stretched out on the balcony, amidst a light breeze and under the golden glow of the sun, to read The Angel’s Game, the new masterpiece by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of Shadow of the Wind, a book that held me captive to its timeless tale a few years back.

The sound of car horns and traffic gradually faded away as I was absorbed into the world of David Martín, a writer amidst the turbulent and gothic 1920’s Barcelona, the mysterious circumstances, his house, and the sinister and playful characters around him.

Like Shadow of the Wind, the centerpiece puzzle of the story is in a book that has been retrieved from The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a hidden, secret library that is home to a labyrinth of books that would have otherwise been destroyed and forgotten. Unlike Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game is a far more sinister and mysteriously interesting read.

The cleverly written plot, told in the first person from David’s perspective, crosses the lines between what is real and what is perceptually feasible, and even metaphysically impossible. The encounters with Andreas Corelli, the unusual antagonist – for the lack of a better term – are peculiarly intense, often filled with philosophical and theological arguments that would further change the course of the story, and David’s psyche, which, I believe, is the main antagonist. These chilling, schizophrenic stretches of narration are split by a troubled (and frightening) love story, interesting well-developed relationships with other characters, and a very endearing friendship between David and Isabella, his apprentice, which form the bulk of the much needed comedy.

As the story progresses, it becomes impossible to put down – I had to finish the book in three sittings, across three days, out of fear of forgetting the minute details that make the story’s convoluted plot. Relationships, people, events, and even Shadow of the Wind (though no prior reading is required, the final puzzle piece snaps in if you did) all seemingly irrelevant and scattered, become intertwined, either in David’s mind or in reality – one could not tell until the very last paragraph of the book – all set against a beautiful yet morbidly dark Barcelona.

It’s a book that’s certainly should not be missed.

Movie Review: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

I was very excited when I stumbled upon the trailer by accident on YouTube. One of my all time favourite Disney films, finally remastered into 3D, with Depp as one of the main characters.

But I was in for some surprises.

The movie is not a re-imagination of the story, and though as much as Tim claims it is not a sequel, it’s not a self-contained story either. It’s taken for granted that any human being who is likely to go watch the movie has prior knowledge of Alice and all the characters that are involved in the story, so the 2010 film does very little in re-introducing the characters and does even less in character development, except for Alice, the Red Queen, and the Hatter.

Alice in Wonderland

As far as the story goes, Alice this time around is older and, odd marriage theme aside, has to slay the Red Queen’s pet the Jabberwocky and return the crown to the White Queen. It’s literally as simple as that, but the journey is still entertaining though there are some questionable design elements. The gore, specifically, is an odd addition to the story. Though there is no blood, you will get to see chopped heads, chopped fingers, and pins thrust into eyeballs – several times. These elements contrast heavily with the humour derived from the former Disney’s flick as well as the humorous character designs.

The new Underland is a wasteland of its former self, but the art direction is truly fantastic. It’s quite clear that the overall tone of the film is more mature than the cartoon, especially the Red Queen’s struggle of being ugly but has the need to be loved. In all honesty I felt terribly sorry for her, and the story goes all the way of punishing her for that (but of course she was doing it in the wrong way).

Alice in Wonderland

The movie, however, is a bit better than the sum of its parts, and while some elements don’t really add up, it’s taken for granted that the familiarity with the characters, the nostalgia, the art direction and seeing Cheshire Cat’s grin again is what you will likely be taking with you out of the movie by the time it ends.