Tag: Movies

A Timeless Tale of Beauty and Nostalgia.

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Recently in Malaysia, the movie Beauty and the Beast had garnered negative attention when the Censorship Board spotted what they interpreted as a gay moment during the song and dance between the pompous Gaston, his sidekick LeFou and the townspeople. Apparently said “gay moment” occurred when LeFou lifted up his shirt to show the love bite that Gaston left on his tummy! Local cinema-goers (and I) beg to differ and tell you that at the very least, it was the adoration that LeFou had for Gaston.

Thankfully, the movie was given the green light to proceed with all scenes intact.

I, too, had the opportunity of watching the movie earlier today, courtesy of the company she works in as a reward to the sales department for hitting their targets. And I thought the movie was brilliant! It was wonderful! It was lovely! It was pretty damn amazing and As a child, I had been a big fan of Disney (and I still am until today), I’m pleased that they didn’t futz it up or butcher it like so many other movie producers and directors had done to other film adaptations.

The musically-inclined in me lapped up every tune, every lyric and every verse belted out by each and every character in the movie. And each song sung during each scene brought me back to my childhood days which I spent watching, Disney cartoons and pretending I was an ordinary girl waiting to meet her Prince Charming. Although that didn’t actually happen but it was still a dream for little ol’ me. Songs like Be Our Guest and Tale As Old As Time took me back almost 20 years ago… It was purely nostalgic!

Director Bill Condon and screenplay writers Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos made sure that every part of the movie fitted like a perfect jigsaw puzzle to the original cartoon. They even found the right actors and actresses to play each of their respective parts!

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Here are some of the characters that I can still recall from watching the movie:

Dan Stevens played the Prince who had been cursed by a witch for turning her away when she sought shelter at his castle during a snowstorm. He was turned into a hideous beast whose spell can only be broken by true love. His servants were not spared either; they had been turned into various objects and furniture with a life and the ability to speak. It’s a pity that neither cartoon nor film had a name for this rugged looking prince. Out of all the Disney cartoons, this prince looks like a manly man. The princes in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella looked more like pretty boys than manly men.

Emma Watson outgrew her adolescence in the Harry Potter series as Hermione Granger to play Belle, the book-reading, adventure-seeking, fearless young woman who defies Gaston’s request to marry him, goes in search for her elderly father in the dark forest, takes his place in the cursed castle, and learns to love and live with someone completely out of her league. Ironically, she plays a young woman who was born in Paris, France before her father took her away to save her from catching the plague that killed her mother. Watson herself was born as Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson in Paris, France to English parents, Chris Watson and Jacqueline Luesby, both lawyers by profession!

Luke Evans is well-known for his roles as Owen Shaw in Fast & Furious 7 and Bard in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Gaston was a deliciously evil man! Who can resist the bad boy charms of a muscular French man riding through town on a large black horse? He was relentless in his pursuits and efforts to make Belle his wife, right until the very end of the movie.

Josh Gad did a good imitation of LeFou, the short, squat sidekick of Gaston. Although, in the cartoon, he looked a lot more daft than he did in the movie. But both versions of LeFou had a vast amount of adoration for Gaston. The other celebrities I did not imagine seeing in the movie were Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Stanley Tucci as Maestro, Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts. Of course, there were other stars whom I did not recognise as well.

Again, I’ll say that the movie was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I liked that it brought back such fond memories 20 years ago. I’m not that old considering that I’ve only hit the big 3-0 but taking 20 years off my current age is a big deal! I sat there as the credits rolled after the movie ended, with a tear or two in my eyes. I just couldn’t take my eyes off the screen from start to finish. It was so amazing that I would bring my husband to watch it with me, even if it means watching it for the second time. And this time, I’ll try to focus on the scenes that I might have missed the first time I saw it. I love it so much and I’d love to say more. But I think I will stop here in case I spoil the movie for those who have yet to watch the movie.

The Never-Ending Debate of Books vs Movies.

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It was a peaceful Saturday sit-in yesterday for my husband and I. We kicked off the day with some music from the 80s on YouTube and ended with The Bodyguard starring Kevin Costner as the titular character and Whitney Houston as singer-actress Rachel Marron, the client whom Costner’s character was paid to protect.

After the movie (which we watched for free on Yes Movies), I remembered that I wanted to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as well. Actually, I was supposed to watch that movie immediately after reading the book. But I completely forgot all about it and to be honest, if I did watch it now, I wouldn’t remember the storyline much as I had finished the book last year. But still, it wouldn’t hurt to watch it anyway.

So I did.

But I stopped halfway through the movie.

Because I realised that the movie had not followed much of the book at all! Granted most movies don’t actually follow the book word for word, but there were no proper transitions at all between each scene and the early parts of the movie had not properly explained who each character was and why they had decided to go to India. Whereas in the book, there were chapters that were dedicated to describing each character and his or her purpose in the story.

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Which brings us to this never-ending debate of whether books are still better than movies or vice versa. Of course, it depends on whose side you’re on and what sort of person you are. If you’re like me, an avid reader who swears by the novels she reads and doesn’t let e-books get in the way of your paperback relationship, then books will always triumph over movies. If you’re hardly a reader and prefers to have comic books as your bed-side choice, then movies will be your source of joy and happiness.

It is undeniable that a book always takes the cake over its movie version. Movies will never ever replace the power of imagination that a book has for you through its pages. With books, you can close your eyes and pretend that you’re arm-wrestling with cowboys on the moon with Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star on Robot Pirate Island. You can already hear the mechanical sounds in your ears. That’s what imagination does to you and to think that Spongebob and Patrick didn’t even need a book!

But wait, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Not all movie adaptations are evil. Some are pretty good even if it meant that they had to be clipped to fit the standard duration. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter franchise and the Chronicles of Narnia were pretty decent movie adaptations.

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Movies can do a lot of things, like making us see a lot of things. They can bring whole new worlds to life before our eyes and turn characters into living and breathing bodies. Movies leave us on the edge of our seats as nail-biting battle scenes are being fought in front of us, or leave us heartbroken and in tears over a death, or smiling with joy at a birth of a newborn child.

Books require complete silence and are a pure, undiluted form of escape, there’s nothing like sitting in a cinema with only the lights streaming from the big screen in front of you, devoid of any other distraction (save for the errant ping of an ignorant cinema-goer) and your attention is paid only on the story playing on the screen.

Movies are amazing creations but they don’t have the same kind of magic that books have. With movies, you’re merely an observer. You don’t feel the emotions that the character feels; you aren’t reading every single one of their innermost thoughts, their doubts, fears and hopes. Movies also have the bad habit of leaving us with this thought, “That’s not how I pictured it to be!” Just like the movie that I watched last night. The book and the movie did not match at all, with what seemed like missing key characters or characters thrown into the mix just for the sake of being there. It’s kind of like fluff-writing where you add in unnecessary items just to plump up the plot and make it seem longer.

But with books, you feel everything, you know everything and you live everything! You can be the saviour of the world; you can be the girl who battles a life-changing disease; you can be a demigod, an alien, an angel, a god, a villain or a hero. You can be anything and everything. There are no limits to who you want to be. There is no limited storytelling time with books compared to movies. Movies have to be condensed to the point of removing or deleting parts which also leads to what I call as mis-transitions. Changes of scenes that have no rhyme or reason of being there. That’s because movies have to be done and over with within a maximum of 3 hours. Any longer and your cinema-goers might just nod off in their seats.

Books don’t need the power of visuals to allow readers to put the story together with the elements in their minds. The stories that you read in books will stay with you forever. Just like music and vinyl, and writing and books. Movies don’t have much to offer except for the scenes that you have seen with your eyes.

That is why books for me will always be better. When you read a book, nothing else exists around you and you can be that whole other person in a completely new and amazing world. You can be someone else, live that person’s life, be free of your own troubles, even if it’s only for a few hundred pages. Books are the medicine for your mind, the magic for your imagination. Which is why I stopped halfway through The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie and preferred to maintain the pristine image of the story in my head since I’ve read the book. Which is why for me, movies may be great but books will always be greater.

Book Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais.

the-hundred-foot-journey-by-richard-c-moraisNo. of pages: 284 pages

Date published: 2014 by Alma Books (first published 2008)

Setting: Mumbai (India), London, Lumiere and Paris (France)

Original Title: The Hundred-Foot Journey

Because I’ve seen the movie, I knew what the story was about. At least, the story that was told in and by the movie. So when I saw the book being sold at the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale at the end of last year, I simply knew I had to buy it. I wanted to read the book and compare it with the movie. Since many readers like myself, if you are a true reader, you can tell when the movie is being honest with you or not. True enough, the movie had changed many parts of the book, including the surname of Hassan’s family. In the book, they were known as the Haji family but in the movie, they were given the name Kadam. Thankfully, they still left India to move to France.

The movie of the same name was directed by Lasse Hallstrom and produced by none other than Oprah Winfrey, the great and famous talk show host and celebrity, with Dame Helen Mirren as Madame Gertrude Mallory, Om Puri as Abbas Haji (Kadam), Manish Dayal as Hassan, and Charlotte Le Bon as Marguerite. Hassan came from a family of chefs with his parents and grandparents being involved in the food business when he was young. But one day, they upped and left India and travelled to France where they opened their own eatery called Maison Mumbai, which happened to be a hundred feet away and directly across the road from Le Saule Pleureur, Madame Mallory’s Michelin-starred eatery.

And then trouble began.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Hundred-Foot Journey is the story of Hassan Haji, a boy from Mumbai who embarks, along with his boisterous family, on a picaresque journey first to London and then across Europe, before they ultimately open a restaurant opposite a famous chef, Madame Mallory, in the remote French village of Lumière. A culinary war ensues, pitting Hassan’s Mumbai-toughened father against the imperious Michelin-starred cordon bleu, until Madame Mallory realizes that Hassan is a cook with natural talents far superior to her own.

Full of eccentric characters, hilarious cultural mishaps, vivid settings and delicious meals described in rich, sensuous detail, Hassan’s charming account lays bare the inner workings of the elite world of French haute cuisine and provides a life-affirming and poignant coming-of-age tale.

The first few chapters left me in a hot and stifling city of Mumbai where the trains are so crowded that commuters had to store their tiffin lunch boxes in a separate compartment. However, a series of unfortunate incidents and hilarious cultural mishaps later led Hassan and his family from the dust-covered streets and clustered homes of Mumbai to London before they arrived at a charming little village called Lumiere in France. Hassan’s father decides to open his own restaurant called Maison Mumbai, with complete disregard for and much to the chagrin and disgust of Madame Gertrude Mallory, whose Michelin-starred restaurant, the elegant and refined Le Saule Pleureur was just on the other side of the road.

However, just as Ligaya Mishan had said in the review of The Hundred-Foot Journey in the New York Times, don’t let the title fool you as there was obviously a lot more ground that was covered in Richard C. Morais’ novel. It was close to at least 25 million feet by the reviewer’s count considering that the family had started out from India to England before reaching France with the last leg of the journey made via a convoy of Mercedes Benzes through much of Western Europe.

The story focused on two restaurants: A two-Michelin star traditional French eatery called Le Saule Pleureur and Maison Mumbai, a bawdy Indian establishment newly opened across the street from each other. Madame Mallory’s disgust for the family was great and she tried her best to drive them away and out of her sight. Yet, despite all her attempts and for all her stubbornness, she had to admit there was potential in Hassan and asked him to join her at her restaurant as an apprentice and allow her to give him French chef training and turn him into one of the greatest chefs in France. The author’s endless epicurean and vivid descriptions in the book had left my mouth watering and I had only enough restraint to stop myself from taking a bite out of my book. He layered his narrative with just enough colours, flavours, sounds, smells and textures that tantalised all five senses of mine to no end. Not to mention, the author’s use of words to describe the sunsets: mango sorbet and saffron. Wow.

The Hundred-Foot Journey was both about the food and the tale of a clash of cultures from the first page right up to the last. What I really loved about the book was that it isn’t often I find a book that could be described as a sumptuous and tasty morsel but that was precisely what the book – a tasty and delicious morsel. I devoured it all in a matter of days. It was simply a marvellous and amazing book. The differences between the book and the movie are pretty obvious but it’s still making me want to watch the movie again. I really must make the time to do so. And you know what? I really recommend this book to anyone who has a big heart (and stomach) for the culinary arts!

Book Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach.

the-best-exotic-marigold-hotel-by-deborah-moggachNo. of pages: 281 pages

Date published: February 16, 2012 (first published January 1, 2004)

Setting: Britain, Bangalore (India)

Original Title: These Foolish Things

When I first saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach at the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale, I thought, “Wow, this must be the most eccentric book title I’ve ever seen!” Still, it was enough to pique my interest to drop it into my overflowing basket of books. I paid for it along with all the other books and happily skipped home to start reading them. I chose this book out of all the other books that I bought at the end of last year and I haven’t looked back since. It has also been turned into a major motion picture of the same name in 2011 by director John Madden, with some of the biggest names in its cast, such as Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench and Bill Nighy. The synopsis of the film and book are similar: a group of senior British citizens make their way to India to take up residence in what they believe to be a newly-restored hotel. Unbeknownst to them, the place was much less luxurious than advertised and the disappointment was quite obvious when they arrived at the hotel. Despite the obstacles, the Marigold Hotel began to slowly charm each and every resident in unexpected ways.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When Ravi Kapoor, an over-worked London doctor, is driven beyond endurance by his obnoxious father-in-law, he asks his wife: ‘Can’t we just send him away somewhere? Somewhere far, far away.’ His prayer seems to have been answered when his entrepreneurial cousin, Sonny, sets up a retirement home, recreating a lost corner of England in a converted guesthouse in Bangalore. Travel and set-up are inexpensive, staff willing and plentiful – and the British pensioners can enjoy the hot weather and take mango juice with their gin.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a brilliant comedy of manners, mixing acute observation with a deeper message about how different cultures cope in the modern world.

The book introduces us to Dr. Ravi Kapoor, a man of Indian heritage but considers himself English, who is married to Pauline, an English woman. The house they live in is shared with her widowed father, Norman, who keeps getting the boot from other nursing homes as a result of his foul mouth and lecherous behaviour. Due to Ravi’s desperation to get rid of his unbearable father-in-law, he teams up with his cousin, Sonny (played by Dev Patel) and eventually the two decide to open a retirement home in Bangalore which they plan to run specifically for the elderly English people. Ravi uses Norman’s obsession with sex to entice him to make the move to India with the rest of the other elderly folk moving along for their own reasons. Racist bigot Muriel Donnelly moves as well, although her reasons for moving are not made clear until well into the novel.

They are quite a combination of characters, so to speak, from the newly-widowed Evelyn Greenslade (played by Judi Dench), wheelchair-bound Muriel Donnelly (played by Maggie Smith), single High Court judge Graham Dashwood (played by Tom Wilkinson), Douglas and Jean Ainslie (played by Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, respectively) who are a couple disillusioned with one another, vivacious gold-digger Madge Hardcastle (played by Celia Imrie) and lonely Lothario with a foul and lecherous mouth, Norman Cousins (played by Ronald Pickup).

It is a seemingly predictable plot from the start, in a sense that not all of them will survive, that new relationships will begin while the old ones will fracture and wither away. There will surely be secrets, lies and discoveries where everyone will eventually learn about as long as they are living there. This is actually a lot for one book to handle, with many of the scenes overlapping each other.

What I like about the book is its exploration into the difficulties faced by the elderly folk in a modern society. For the most part, however, the issues that they deal with on a daily basis are fairly undemanding. Most of the characters are afraid in a way and their worries are very well portrayed by the author. What I didn’t like, though, was Norman’s never-ending obsession with sex and his impotence, which all began to get a little tiresome and repetitive. This might come off sounding a little wrong and evil to you, but I was kind of relieved when the author killed him off.

But it still was an interesting story and quite an entertaining one too. Though, I often did wonder how were the British pensioners ever going to find solace and comfort in a shabby and desolate hotel that has been turned into a retirement home for old folks (for the reason of profiteering I’m sure in Sonny’s eyes if things had gone his way). Also, the culture and communities in India must have been an eye-opener to some of the folks who has never seen beggars at every corner of an area!

Book Review: Odysseus: The Oath by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.

odysseus-the-oath-by-valerio-massimo-manfredi-goodreadsType: Paperback, 372 pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan, October 1, 2013 (first published in November 6, 2012)

Original Title: Il mio nome è Nessuno: Il giuramento

Odysseus: The Oath was written by Valerio Massimo Manfredi and translated into English by his wife, Christine Feddersen-Manfredi. The Oath is the first book in a three-part series which also include the second book, Odysseus: The Return and the third and last book, Odysseus: The Oracle. The author of the books, Signor Manfredi, is an Italian historian, writer, essayist, archaeologist and journalist. Valerio’s wife, Christine, had been behind the translation of the books from Italian to English, and here I am, with the English-translated version.

The book kicked off with Odysseus’ childhood and life in Ithaca, where a legend was born. Odysseus was his name, being a great tactician with one of the most curious minds and a calm demeanor was his game. His legendary soul came part and parcel of something grave and so huge that it will remain etched forever in the minds of countless generations. His legacy had been tied up with the others who swore by his name and blood, alongside some of the greatest sons of the Greek soil.

Valerio Manfredi’s take on his titular hero couldn’t be any stronger and more loyal, despite the fact that the 10-year battle in Troy which led to the fall of the prosperous city and its impenetrable walls with the Trojan Horse also focused on the abduction of Helen of Sparta by Prince Paris of Troy, the exploits of Prince Hector, Paris’ older brother and King Priam’s eldest son, as well as the legendary Greek warrior, Achilles.

Synopsis by Goodreads:

The extraordinary story of a legendary hero…

As a young boy in Ithaca, Odysseus listens in wonder to his grandfather Autolykos – a ruthless fighter and a man feared by many across the land. He learns of his heritage and a lifelong passion is sparked: to become an adventurer and warrior.

In Mycenae, he meets King Eurystheus and learns the terrible story of Hercules – the man with god-like strength who slaughtered his family and as punishment was forced by the King to undertake impossible tasks to earn absolution. But is Eurystheus the man he says he is? When a child comes to Odysseus in the middle of the night, with another, very disturbing version of events, Odysseus embarks on the first of his extraordinary quests…

So begins the epic story of Odysseus, in the first of two volumes: an adventure of love, war, courage and heroism that weaves from a small Greek island, to the mighty fall of Troy.

I have watched the movie, Troy, before which starred Eric Bana as Prince Hector, Orlando Bloom as Prince Paris, Diane Kruger as Helen of Sparta, Sean Bean as Odysseus, and Brad Pitt as Achilles, and I have to say, the storylines for both the movie and the book were so very different. I’ve always known that watching a movie and reading the book were two different things. The movie left me no room for imagination. The book, however, gave me the opportunity to imagine all that were described and explained, page after page. It was a beautiful feeling indeed. Either the producer for the movie wanted something a little less prejudiced for movie-goers or the author of the book wanted to leave his readers feeling more sympathetic and empathic for Odysseus. The only way of finding out is if you went to do your own research on the history of Ancient Greece and its legendary warriors.

That aside, I did enjoy reading the book. After all, Ancient Greek history is one of my favourite history subjects and having been able to read it in a different angle had piqued my interest. Piqued it enough to log into Book Depository to buy the second book and am now waiting for the book to arrive. Reading this book made me relive the movie Troy all over again anyway, regardless of its differences with the book. I was reminded when Helen was wooed over by Prince Paris, when Prince Hector was forced to duel with Achilles and died heroically because his brother Paris was too much of a wimp to fight, when Troy was besieged and burned by a giant wooden horse on wheels pretending to be a gift from the enemy.

Imagine, all it took for the battle to begin was the reckless act of one young selfish prince. That itself had set off a thousand ships with fifty thousand men to come knocking at your front door, demanding that one’s wife be returned or forever mourn the loss of everyone and everything. All this bloodshed and glorified murder for the sake of the wounded pride and ego of one man whose wife had left him for another man. The Trojans became victims of the Achaeans. No doubt the Achaeans themselves had lost many men too, many great and courageous men.

Which is why I said it depends entirely on how you perceive the plot in the book. Because I saw it as how arrogant and proud the Trojans were. How sure they were of themselves that they could keep Helen of Sparta and emerge victorious in the impending battle that took almost 10 years as well as the many lives of the warriors. How would you have seen it?