movie review, Multimedia Mondays

Multimedia Monday: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie review

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, and Andy Serkis; featuring Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, and Christopher Lee.

Every year or two, I take a day to watch the entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended editions, of course), back-to-back-to-back, immersing myself completely in its vast, beautiful, bleak, bright world. From its epic battles to its fleshed-out characters, its deep wells of emotion and its timeless themes, I think they’re wonderful adaptations that deftly cut and rework the source material to make strong films.

I was excited when The Hobbit was first announced, but apprehensive at the news that the film would be split into first two and then three films. The Hobbit, after all, is about half the length of each of the volumes of the Rings cycle. It doesn’t have a whole lot of source material to draw from for three films.

Certainly, An Unexpected Journey starts out promisingly, with Ian Holm reprising his role as the elder Bilbo on the day of his eleventy-first birthday party. Continue reading “Multimedia Monday: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie review”

Multimedia Mondays

Multimedia Monday: Requiem for the whimsical world of Glitch

Glitch autumn

Sometimes, a thing grabs you and doesn’t let go. For me it’s usually a book (“I must read more about this Harry Potter kid!”) or a TV show (“But if the Cigarette-Smoking Man is behind it all, how will Mulder and Scully ever reveal the truth?!”). I tend to just give myself over to whatever the thing is and let it occupy more of my brainspace than is probably healthy, enjoying every moment of my mini-obsession until its object ends or my attention drifts onward to the next thing.

For a really long time 11 Giants walked around
They thought of funny things until their thinking came alive.
And that’s what this game is. You’re inside their thoughts.
Go and make them bigger and we’ll play for a long while.

glitch giants

And with that little song, I fell in love with a game called Glitch. I’m not a gamer by nature. I enjoy watching my partner play narrative-driven video games but I’ve just never been a pick-up-the-controller-and-play kind of person. That changed in September, when I saw a strange trailer for a game full of beautiful landscapes where little humanoid things came about because 11 Lovecraftian Giants imagined them into existence. The characters, or Glitchen (singular: Glitch), exist in an imagined world called Ur and their mandate, first and foremost, is to frolic. This game was like living a highly imaginative choose-your-own-adventure novel, and so terribly sadly, it came to an end yesterday.


Continue reading “Multimedia Monday: Requiem for the whimsical world of Glitch”

ballet review, Multimedia Mondays

Multimedia Monday: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ballet review

Elena Lobsanova as Alice in the National Ballet’s 2012 production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Photo: Bruce Zinger.

Few books have been adapted as many times in as many forms as Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. From TV to movies to comic books to theatrical productions, from narratives that focus on the real-life relationship between Carroll and Alice Lidell to ones that are purely about the story itself, Alice has seen many iterations (just take a look at its Wikipedia page).

As source material for the wordless medium of ballet, this book might seem a difficult choice. After all, it is a work that defines nonsense literature and plays with words and with logic throughout. The National Ballet of Canada’s production is more than up to the task.

Continue reading “Multimedia Monday: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ballet review”

book review

Is that a tiger in your lifeboat or are you just happy to see me? Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, is a classic, blockbuster, prize-winning, internationally renowned book that came out a decade ago. So why am I reviewing it? To answer the question “Should I read this book?”

“The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?”

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, is a classic, blockbuster, prize-winning, internationally renowned book that came out a decade ago. So why am I reviewing it? To answer the question “Should I read this book?”

I, like a few other souls out there, had not read this book when it first came out. This was for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that the longer I went without reading it, the firmer I had an idea of what the book “was” in my mind. I’d heard enough people, mostly those who didn’t like it, say things like “oh, the entire thing is about some kid and a talking tiger in a rowboat.” Sounded boring, and pretentious, and capital-w Writerly to me, so I took a pass. But with the upcoming film release (which I review here), coupled with the fact that I quite liked Martel’s Beatrice & Virgil, I decided this summer that it was time to give Life of Pi a try.

Continue reading “Is that a tiger in your lifeboat or are you just happy to see me? Life of Pi, by Yann Martel”

movie review, Multimedia Mondays

Multimedia Monday: The dreamy, terrifying world of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi movie review

Starring Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Shravanthi Sainath, Vibish Sivakumar, and Gérard Depardieu.

Opening November 21st, 2012

Read the review of Life of Pi, the novel, here.

Certain books are considered unadaptable to film.  Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, always been one of them. Two thirds of the book take place in a lifeboat, after all, following the survival of young Pi Patel and the tiger he is trapped with after a shipwreck claims the lives of his entire family and a host of zoo animals. Taking on the Everestian challenge to adapt the book because it is there to be adapted is director Ang Lee, possessed of remarkable vision and intuitive grasp of the nature and importance of storytelling. And what an incredible story he tells.

Lee maintains the novel’s narrative framework, introducing a nameless writer (Martel himself, in the book) who has been trying (and failing) to write a novel in India. He arrives at the home of Pi Patel on the advice of a friend he made in Pondicherry: if the writer wants a story, the friend promises that his nephew in Montreal has one that will make the writer believe in God. As Pi fixes lunch, he tells his tale. He begins with the origin of his name, adventures from his childhood, his growing fascination with world religions, and life as the youngest son of a zookeeper.

Continue reading “Multimedia Monday: The dreamy, terrifying world of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi movie review”

interview, Saturday Sundries

Saturday Sundries: An interview with Wild Girls’ Mary Stewart Atwell

I recently had a chance to sit down with Mary Stewart Atwell, whose debut novel Wild Girls is an incendiary coming-of-age tale like no other. . .

Where did this idea come from? What inspired you to write about the wild girls, this difference between “the secret darker self” and “the daylight self” of girls?

I was teaching at my old boarding school, in my twenties, thinking about my own adolescence. So I wrote a realistic novel about boarding-school life and I wasn’t very happy with it.  I came back to it a couple of years later. I’d never written anything  with any magical realistic elements, but  I started thinking about girls acting out in a metaphorical way.  It really clicked for me  and said something true about my own  adolescence: while it doesn’t happen to everyone, for me, I became a different person  for that time.

I can look back at myself at 15 and 16, and I just don’t relate now to who I was at all, so to me, it seems more true in an everyday way, to really explore what happens if we took those feelings to an extreme in metaphor. What would that look like?

I like that idea of truth in magical realism. The supernatural element is actually something that took me by surprise. I expected a psychological outburst from the wild girls, but to see what actually happens to these girls took me aback. Can you see this sort of story working without the supernatural element?

To me, it was what brought it alive: If you write about female adolescence from a realistic perspective, it’s a story we’ve heard so many times. Giving those girls power that in a realistic situation they could never possibly have is what made it click for me. Power is what they’re missing, so at those times they have more power than anyone in the community.

wild-girls

Continue reading “Saturday Sundries: An interview with Wild Girls’ Mary Stewart Atwell”

book review, short stories

Absences and memories: a review of Dear Life by Alice Munro

This review has taken a long time to write. How do you review Alice Munro? It’s akin to being an art critic who looks at the Mona Lisa in order to write a review—only this is a brand new work, not an age-old classic.

 “People were always saying that this town was like a funeral, but in fact when there was a real funeral it put on its best show of liveliness. She was reminded of that when she saw, from a block away, the funeral-goers coming out of the church doors, stopping to chat and ease themselves out of solemnity.”

 “Corrie,” from Dear Life, by Alice Munro

This review has taken a long time to write. How do you review Alice Munro? The task is akin to being an art critic who looks at the Mona Lisa in order to write a review—only this is a brand new work, not an age-old classic.

I’m always a bit twitchy when a new work comes out from an author I love. What if it doesn’t live up to my expectations? (See, for example, J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. I may review that book here if I ever force myself to finish slogging through it.) I needn’t have worried, though. In her latest collection, Dear Life, Munro surpasses herself. This is a gathering of stories set mostly in rural Ontario (“Munroland”), mostly in the not-too-distant past, that are as much about what is remembered by the narrator as what isn’t, as much about what is left out of the story as what is brought into it. This book is a work about the shifting nature of memory and the way we build and rebuild our own narratives.

Continue reading “Absences and memories: a review of Dear Life by Alice Munro”