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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Disappointment


*Spoiler Alert*

I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogies; both the written as well as the movie versions. I’ve read the books at least five times each and seen the movies about twice as that. So of course, I was looking forward to ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ with a great deal of enthusiasm. Richard Armitage and Benedict Cumberbatch were just plain bonuses.

Yes, the movie let me down. The beginning was too slow for a book that had an adventure on almost every page. I was flabbergasted when it took 40 minutes for the dwarves and Bilbo and Gandalf to start on their journey! Sure, it was great to see Elijah Wood as Frodo once again, but there is such a thing as too much nostalgia. I suppose the movie-makers had to put in extra stuff, otherwise how will they ever make a trilogy out of a 210 page book? And that’s another thing–I had no idea this was supposed to be a trilogy! Maybe that’s one of the reasons for my disappointment.

Another reason was the non-appearance of Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug the Dragon. Ever since ‘Sherlock’, I’ve been madly in love with him. Benedict Cumberbatch, I mean, not Smaug the Dragon. Although I’m sure he’s wonderful too. Ahem. Anyway, even though Cumberbatch only has a voice role in the movie, I’d been awaiting it fervently. So imagine my shock–and remember, I hadn’t the slightest clue it was the first of three films–when the movie came to an abrupt, anticlimactic end! And no Cumberbatch. I could only curse the movie makers to the deepest pits of heck, and berate myself for being so dense as not to guess the to-be-continued nature of the movie, even after 2.5 hours!

Thankfully, the movie had some good things too. Ian McKellen was his own incomparable self as Gandalf, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins was convincingly self-deprecating and–comfortable, that’s how I keep thinking of him. Richard Armitage was as gorgeous as I remembered him from BBC’s ‘North and South’; never again will I view Middle Earth dwarves in quite the same manner.

The movie, unlike the book, tells us about the motivation behind the dwarves’ journey to the Lonely Mountain (which, I think, comes from ‘The Quest of Erebor’, published posthumously by JRR Tolkien’s son). This back story was one of the saving graces of the movie, apart from Richard Armitage and the cinematography.

All this talk of good-looking actors has mellowed me down. Once again, I become a traitor to my own views, and eagerly await the next installment of this movie, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’.

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Bridges of Madison County Revisited


‘The Bridges of Madison County’, written by Robert James Waller, has always been one of my favourite books. Some time back, I started reading it again (actually, re-reading it again). But this time as I turned the pages, just one thought kept running in my head–this is not extraordinary! I wondered what had made me feel this book was so special. Probably I had become a cynic. Probably, as Robert Kincaid says, analysis had destroyed the magic.

Then came the day–in the story–when Robert Kincaid parted ways with Francesca Johnson, but in a geographical sense only. That was when my tears started to flow, and did not stop till the last letter of the last word of the last chapter. And I realized that the romantic in me is still alive.

It’s not really the story that holds us, not even the characters by themselves. It’s the words. The book is almost a poem in prose. The descriptions, the dialogues are beautifully poignant. In the end, they are what stayed with me and will compel me to read the book again, and I will once again forget about the disappointing beginning and the mediocre portions.

My favorite phrases from this book:

“I am the highway and a peregrine and all the sails that ever went to sea.”

“I live with dust on my heart”

“The old dreams were good dreams; they didn’t work out, but I’m glad I had them”

“Analysis destroys wholes. Some things, magic things, are meant to stay whole.”

“The reality is not exactly what the song started out to be, but it’s not a bad song.”

“I don’t like feeling sorry for myself”

“I love you, profoundly and completely. And I always will.”

‘There are songs that come free from the blue-eyed grass, from the dust of a thousand country roads’

“To ancient evenings and distant music”

“In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.”

“Complex things are easy to do. Simplicity is the real challenge.”

“.. and I play that tune for a man named Robert Kincaid and a woman he called Francesca.”

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Pride and Prejudice. Oh, And Zombies.


“It is impossible that he should still love me, unless, by kicking him into the mantelpiece during our battle at Hunsford, I affected some severe change in his countenance.”

–Elizabeth Bennet, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

(Elizabeth is wondering about the change she saw in Mr. Darcy when she met him at Pemberley.)

Written by Seth Grahame-Smith, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ (from now on called PPZ) is a delightful take on Jane Austen’s incomparable novel. Although I have to admit, I had my doubts before reading the book; Pride and Prejudice (yes, I’m calling it PP from now on. It’s easier, dammit) is, after all, a favourite, and I’m not too tolerant when it comes to rip-offs.

PPZ, however, is a mashup. Not merely a satire, but something like a funny-horror alternate-universe version. I didn’t feel offended even once; the author doesn’t make fun of the novel, nor does he try to demean it. He just puts in ‘ultra-violent zombie mayhem’ into our beloved characters’ lives, and takes us along for this incredibly empowering ride!

Yes, empowering. Seeing Jane kick some zombie butt made up for all the times in PP when (I thought) she should have been more proactive.

It’s true that this was my first brush with a mashup, and the novelty might be a major reason why I liked this book. But I’ll still recommend Jane Austen lovers to give it a try.

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Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter


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I’d been meaning to watch this movie ever since I read Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel of the same name, but managed to do so only yesterday. And was completely floored all over again!

The movie deviates from the novel at many places as all adapted screenplays are wont to, and usually I dislike when that happens. But in this movie it all turns out for the better. The concept of slavery-meets-vampires is brilliant, and the actors do enough justice to their characters. But the thing that really stands apart in this film is the cinematography and the action sequences. The climactic scene atop a moving train is not only a great plot twist, but a visual treat as well. I only wish I could have seen it on a huge screen in a theater rather than at home. The ending of the movie is also quite different from the book; I actually liked this one better, since I thought the novel’s ending couldn’t really be justified.

All in all, I can’t imagine why it didn’t sit well with audiences.

(Disclaimer: I’ve been known to have a really bad taste in movies. eg. I even liked Maid in Manhattan when I saw it for the first time. Well, it had Ralph Fiennes, end of story. I couldn’t have tolerated Steven Segal though. So anyway, if you watch this movie on my recommendation and don’t like it, I can’t be held responsible.)

(PS. Another example–I loved Red Riding Hood (2011) but was disappointed by Snow White (2012) (Charlize Theron is a Goddess and I adored her in the movie, who wouldn’t, but why does Kristin Stewart have just three expressions in her repertoire? And what’s with the heaving?! Heroines haven’t done that since the 1890’s) although it was the other way round for critics and Rotten Tomatoes.)

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