Friday, December 30, 2016

Ben - Hur (1959)

Since I saw the remake of "Ben Hur" a 1959 movie in 2016 that too in 3D, I always wanted to watch the original one not for the comparison sake but because I saw the original in early 2000 as a part of film festival in a cinema at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. Today was the day I finally saw it and what a mesmerizing experience it was - my humble 40" LED Television and a 2.1 channel home theater was a no match to this movies giant wide camera shots and to that awesome background score. It didn't even made me go breathless teary eyed so many times that I lost count as those haunting scenes came rushing back to me from my memory - the fantastically handsome "Charlton Heston" as Juda Ben Hur was one heck of a site, I can imagine what kind of fan following this guy must have back then when this movie got released. No doubt it ended up sweeping 11 Academy Awards, a record which got broken only after 37 years by a movie of "Titanic's" caliber.
WOW!! look at the camera work, expressions of the cast, thrilling scenes, excellent cinematography, even by today's standard - it will be very tough to match this movie's class. It deserves all the accolades and a standing ovation even today when I noted after it ended that I actually watched a 3 and a half hour long classic in one shot without a break and still I was asking for a little more. How life screws Juda Ben Hur when his best friend turns a foe out of no reason still he fights back and gets his due. Loses everything, his family, friends, country, almost on the verge of death but he is destined a revenge that he gets in the end and how - is one heck of an experience.
It is actually the story of Life of Jesus yet the son of god gets three minor shots but even that is enough to call him a her by the way he steals the movie even after getting no close up and you don't even get to look who played the awesome character. My hands are actually shaking in mentioning the three important scenes he makes an entry, One were Ben Hur gets arrested and is being sent out to serve as a slave, as he falls thirsty - Jesus comes to his rescue and offers the fallen a glass of water - a background shot of Jesus - his flowing curly hair and that amazing aura he had - I so much prayed that he will turn but he doesn't - yet its breathtaking and I missed a couple of heartbeats. Second time when Juda Ben Hur comes back and he is told that the child has grown into a man and is healing people and you see the Son of God again on top of a hill in White robe - a shot from quite a distance yet you see him very clearly among a mob of followers in tatters. Third and the best scene of the movie - as Jesus carries his cross on his shoulders and falls while walking - Juda Ben Hur lifts the man and offers him water - with a million dollar look in his eyes he thinks "I know this man" - Classic, Unbelievable stuff - I am sure if you have seen the movie you will agree with me.
No ways that I can miss to mention the grand finale Chariot race - although it still is way way better then the chase scenes we see in today's time - shot in one solid way, straight it sent me to the edge of my chair even after knowing how it ends - it still was amazing to see one more time, although it is visible that a lot of it was in fast forward mode still it works and what a superb ending.
They just don't make those movies any more. And this is one Iconic movie which will remain in my memory till the end of time. If you haven't seen the original yet - you are a criminal in my eye :) please do not like or comment my post till you see it - I refuse to get your like and I request you to leave my post alone.
A movie which is too good to get a rating.
If I have to - I will give it a 5/5 with two thumbs up and a standing ovation.
A movie which needs to be watched every year.

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (Book)

101/100 of #100bookpact

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

This book and the review is dedicated to my very close friend Deepak :) for pushing me do more then just a 100 this year as this will be the last for the year and what I have now picked up will end only in 2017.

My last book from the pen of Dan Brown and I must say - this should be his one of the best works (I am undecided between "Angels and Demons" and this one) so far and for now I am done with all his books. Of-course looking forward to his next book whenever that comes. Unfortunately as far as Robert Langdon is concerned - his central character of the series - he is now getting type-casted. All the books are almost similar in concept with him running behind some sort of a mystery, with one female lead and some knowledgeable people for his help and one of them will definitely turn out to be a traitor before it all ends. But even then they are all engrossing, thrilling, almost equal to an edge of a seat thrillers with superb easy going narrative which keeps the reader hooked to the most part. Robert Langdon fortunately is one character that I just simply cant not like rather I love him very much especially when it is played on-screen by one of my all time favorite actors - Tom Hanks. This one too is no different with one of the most powerful secret to be revealed, one that the Church doesn't want to come out, a priory (Ancient Brotherhood) guarding the secret waiting for the right time to come before they open it up to the world. What is the secret and how it effects the church, the world and who all the people with it, for it and against it - is the entire novel.

The way Dan Brown narrates the story - he makes it too hard for the readers to even hate the villain. Like in this one - the main villain who is doing everything negative under the orders of his supreme boss "The Teacher" - I just couldn't hate the Albino - Silas, I rather had my sympathy with him and I wanted him to live. All his books are a great lesson in the history and architecture mostly Paris, Italy, Florence, a little Venice here and a little London there too. I like the way he enrolls the Church in all his stories - although its authenticity is subjective but if you take it as a work of fiction (which it is) it all works in the favor of the book and the Author. So far, I have no complaints with Mr. Dan Brown and I will definitely remain his fan and follower as long as he keeps writing. This one I will recommend very highly as one of his best works and a breeze to read - not to be missed by thriller lovers with special interest in History.

Movie Adaptation: Saw the movie today too and let me say this - this is one of those very few well made movies which covers the book almost in totality. They did twist it a little here and there but mostly able to satisfy me. What I totally loved about this movie with the book is the Immaculate casting - Superb! Each character looks like handpicked and a perfect fit. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Sellout - Paul Beatty (Book)


100/100 of #100bookpact
The Sellout - Paul Beatty
Mission Accomplished :)!!
Speech Time - As the year and the target was coming to a close, I wanted to make it special by reading a special book and one of my very good friend hijacked my special book - so I picked up the second best - yet it worked out to be one of the best I have / had ever read in the past. This or rather these (Booker Books) came highly recommended from a very close Non Reliable Indian (NRI) friend and even I wanted to explore the winners as well as nominee's for quite a while. Fortunately this is the first American book and writer ever to win a Man Booker Prize hence it was special in lots of ways. Also, I've been a Quentin Tarantino fan for my entire life, love the black humor (may not get it 100% but whatever) and I love "Samuel L Jackson" kind of stuff - this book in its entirety is full of that - I did lose the count after first two chapters as how many times he indeed used the word "Nigger". This book is actually a great example of "How to call a spade a spade". On your face truth told in a most blatant way possible with no care in the world - I am sure he didn't write this to garner the kind of attention he actually got with this book but as I finished the first couple of chapters - I can very well assume where it was going and it is indeed MIND-BLOWING. And I have no doubts in saying that It must have made a lot of sense to Americans specially the Black Americans of todays time and last few generations to others like us - its a journey that we have seen and heard of quite times but is still fantastic in a new light.
A very simple story of a Nigger whisperer (a person who talks to a black man in distress for no reward or return) and his son who again becomes a Nigger whisperer when the original is shot and left to die. Neither the dad nor the son has ever done anything wrong in their lives - other then the things a black does and is not considered wrong like weed, dope, pot, live in a ghetto, sex and those pointless things, yet they pay the price - the father does by losing his life for no reason and son is about get screwed in the Supreme Court of US of A - The Charge? keeping a slave in 21st century. It all happens in a small town of "Dickens" near LA (California) when suddenly the town vanishes from the world map and is no more considered an incorporated city. How life is in Dickens of mostly black people and how they have come out of slavery for so many decades yet are they really out of it? makes up for the rest of the story. I totally loved the way it is narrated, totally awesome eye popping references that they actually took me at least two to three decades back in life. I cant claim that all the references worked for me as I hardly know anything about the American culture but yes one or the other kept popping which did made a lot of sense to me. The movies, artists, cartoons (who haven't seen "The Little Rascals" - it covers a major part of the story). Why the title and the lead character is called "The Sellout" too is a story in itself - check it out.
If I had read this book before it got the Booker - I would have surely said that it ain't gonna get it based on its language and uses of words and references to various human body parts in a typical Nigger way. I am sure the full-time critics may have found it offensive too but as I said earlier - it is what it is so why pretend to be something else? Also, this is one of those very few books that I have read in the recent past which sets up the things in the very initial stages in such a way that you are actually hooked to it - the ending isn't unpredictable and I could very well guess it but it isn't a suspense thriller anyways. With hardly a little more then 200 pages - it isn't a easy read but a breeze I will say specially the way it progresses.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lord of The Rings - The Two Towers - J R R Tolkien (Book)

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Lord of The Rings - The Two Towers - J R R Tolkien
As I mentioned in my first LOTR book review that it wasn't that great as per my expectations (I have recently finished the Harry Potter books) and I just couldn't love it the way I thought I am going to. But the second book of the series I must say changes my opinion about the series for sure - Boy - was it good? It was simply Superb and Mind-blowing stuff I will say. Again Unputdownable book for sure and it ends at such a point that I actually wanted to pick up the third of the series before even writing this review on it, just imagine. It was clearly mentioned in the introduction in the first book itself that this series was never written with an intention of three books - rather one and that I felt too with the way story goes forward. Almost till the half point or a little more then that there is no mention of Frodo the Hobbit who carries the Ring to its destination. I was little surprised by finding no mention of the hero but had no issues as the story was moving with a thrilling pace with his best friends Merry and Pip in lead. Heart breaking was the moment when they lose Gandalf The Grey in first book - I kept praying that he must make an entry in this one - somehow I wanted him to come alive with bated breath I was kept waiting :) you've got to read the book to know if he comes back and if you have already read - I am sure you must be smiling ear to ear just like me :).
The Fellowship of the Ring breaks at the end of the first part when they lose two of its very important members in two awesome chase and killing / chilling sequences. But the story has to go forward and Frodo as the chosen one - the Ring bearer goes forward with his best friend Samwise Gamgee (one of my favorite now from the series). This part covers his as well as his friends from the fellowship's journey to the tough times. Introduction of some new superbly awesome characters like Treebeard and Oliphaunts with great details on Orcs, the Dark Lord, the Two Towers, and so many other important characters that its totally hooking but still at ease to keep up with the story going forward. The way Tolkien has visualized the whole thing is simply outstanding - his imagination, explanation and detailing is simply amazing, it was like so much keeps running in the back of your mind as you keep going deeper with the story, it keeps getting interesting. I guess after this terrific second outing there is no looking back for the reader - it is indeed poised for a superb grand finale. I can predict a war of the worlds between the two sides and am unable keep the third book away from myself. Wish I could finish it over the X Mass weekend and watch the three terrific movies back to back after I am done reading the third book.
J R R Tolkien has truly changed my opinion about the series with this second book and I am sure that I will be hooked to the series once I am done with the third part. Do let me know how and what you felt if you have read it but if not - its high time that you got em and read em back to back. You have no idea what you are missing.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson (Book)

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Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
Since the year as well as the target is coming to an end - I decided to pick up a challenging book thrown my way by a very close friend. As the title suggests - its a 1140 page book written by a geek who has written all kinds of Science Fiction related stuff (read very heavy stuff) and is looked up big time by the Science Fiction Fraternity (if anything of that sorts exists). His novels have been categorized as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, postcyberpunk, and baroque. Stephenson's work explores subjects such as mathematics, cryptography, linguistics, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. So basically I got a little hang of it from Wiki that what I was getting into, had no idea how far I will go as it looked like a challenging subject and book to me. But I had no idea before I started reading this one that it could be so freaking mindbogglingly amazing work - simply unputdownable after you have read the first chapter or even the introduction. How and why I got this book? My friend saw my review(s) of Dan Brown and told me that this will open up more avenues as well as simplify Dan's works when I read this masterpiece on Cryptography and I simply got hooked to it as this guy looks like the Daddy of Dan Brown (personal opinion) as he is way ahead of his own time.
It is written in two parallel tracks with first one (the most interesting one) happening during the course of second world war between 1942-1945 and the second one (the more interesting one) happening in current time. One thing that kept a smile on my face almost throughout the narrative is the characters as going by their last names its pretty clear that what the grandfathers were doing in WWII is going to get their grandsons and daughters rewarded in a huge way. Amazing is the way it is written with so much science, maths and cryptography yet at no point of time it becomes confusing or not so clear to someone who has any deep knowledge of the subjects, rather it is very interestingly told. I have seen so many war movies in the past specially World War epics and this one reminded me at least of half a dozen movies based on that era. Like the action taking place inside a Submarine reminded me big time of "U-571" that tells exactly the same story. Also the most recent critically acclaimed movie "The Imitation Game" and its main character "Alan Turing" is one of the main characters of this book too with two of his esteemed colleagues from Princeton who are responsible for the whole "Cryptonomicon" drama and the making of the Crypt with all the codes. They are the best of the best code breakers from WWII as well as makers and how they use their knowledge to change the course as well as outcome of the war makes up for one heck of a supreme story.
Although it is a Science Fiction but there is no way I can believe that it isn't based on the real happenings from that time when the author has named so many real time people in such a humorous and interesting way. The making of the Crypt (Worlds first data haven) and the making of the bunker at the same time (but in the past) is totally thrilling. The way story keeps going in the past with every chapter and keeps coming back in current time - and the way it all leads to the finale is simply mind-blowing. The way it covers the WWII and The Pearl Harbor attack is simply outstanding as I kept reading the book - my mind kept throwing me the visuals of the same seen in so many movies in the past - it was too good. It is indeed unbelievable to know what kind of research will be required to come out with this kind of a detailed story which leaves nothing unturned - kept me impressed throughout. The love stories in between, the hilarious sex life of the geeks, thrilling interactions with the enemies of new kinds, Fictional countries with their own kinds and their agendas. It actually covers so much in such great and minute details that you don't mind the size of the book. Even after reading 1100+ pages I will call it a book with a very abrupt and heartbreaking ending, I was actually looking to so much more when it all ends but its one heck of an ending - no doubt on that (Perfect).
Its a must must read for all science fiction and war story lovers - totally hooking stuff.
I will definitely look forward to his other works now.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Fifth Mountain - Paulo Coelho (Book)


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The Fifth Mountain - Paulo Coelho

The first bouncer of the year comes pretty late in the year, almost at the very ending unfortunately from one of my all time favorite writers. You see sometimes life can be so cruel - I have much loved his other works but this one totally didn't work for me, not even like a story. Although it had some good glimpses from the history and even crosses the path with his own "The Alchemist" that was the high point of the book as per me - otherwise it was a total bouncer. May be I need to know a bit more about other religions to get a grasp of this particular book or story or may be I will give it a try sometime soon again to see if that changes anything about my opinion on this book. This is what Wiki has to say about the book: For a considerable portion of the story Elijah is very compliant, obeying everything God's angels say. Eventually he realizes that his destiny is not being chosen by him but by God and ultimately, he decides to abide by his own desires and will. In this way Coelho suggests that Elijah was able to reach an ultimate level of spiritual awareness and have the most powerful relationship with God.

I will edit or may be re-write my take after my second reading of the book (soon). 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Lord of The Rings (The Fellowship of The Ring) - J R R Tolkien (Book)


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Lord of The Rings (The Fellowship of The Ring) - J R R Tolkien

What do you do right after you finish a Book Series that you end up loving big time? You just cannot pick it up again from the very start and re read - do you? I guess the only solution is to pick up an equally good or may be a better series (not sure of that yet) and read it. In my personal opinion no other series could have come any closer to what I finished (Harry Potter) recently which I may end up loving big time just like the other (that I expected). With those thoughts I picked up "Lord of The Rings" Trilogy, hoping it works for me the way it has worked for my friends. Long back I had seen the three movies based on the three books and loved them big time, I can still not forget some extra ordinary visuals. Now after a decade with hardly any memory of them on my mind (barring those awesome action sequences and Gandalf) I sat up to read this one. These are three fat books - the bigger the better it is for us readers, almost 600 or more pages per book, written in stages between 1937 and 1949 (Unbelievable). Totally excited. 

First book is basically the introduction of all the characters and the background on "The Ring", how and where it came from with what powers (not in great details). Totally loved the Hobbit world details, their way of life, those awesome birthday parties celebrating 100+ years, imagine a Hobbit becomes an adult only after he crosses the mid 30's, they live up more then 100+ years. Frodo Baggins the Ring bearer is told by Gandalf the Grey about extraordinary powers of The Ring and what they should do with it before the Dark Lord gets it back from these guys. Gandalf kept reminding me of Dumbledore - dunno why but I guess others too will connect with his character in the same way I believe. The treacherous journey of Frodo the hobbit with his close friends especially Sam Gamgee and his mule (Bill) is hilarious and keeps the reader entertained throughout (the lackluster narrative). Unfrotunately it didnt work the way I expected it will although it kept me glued to it but this is one book that I am definitely not reading again that I knew right after I had hit the half way. I wont call it boring but nothing great either. It does sets up the introduction but takes too much time in coming to the point. By the time the reader is introduced with all the creatures, some who are with Frodo and others who are in their pursuit to get the Ring. There indeed came a time when I actually kept the book aside but as I have never left a book unread (midways) I picked it up again and finished it (and I am glad I did it). 

By the time the first book ends, it loses quite a few of great characters (I so much wish at least one of them makes a re-entry and you know who) as Frodo's journey continues to an unknown unseen mountains to put an end to Ring's powers. Hats off Tolkien's wild imagination for all those characters, creatures, places, mountains, rivers, valleys, warriors and wars etc and all that - unfortunately its a little too much to keep a track of (as per me) or may be this is just a start and I may be judging it too early. As I pick up the second book again with great expectations that everything will start falling in place now - lets see how it turns out to be. 

If you have read the series and liked it - do let me know if I am the only odd man out to feel this way or you too had the same feelings? Did it work for you?