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Showing posts from December, 2012

Best Books I Read in 2012

The following is a compilation of the books I read and liked best in 2012.

Ghost Walk by Heather Graham (♦♦♦♦): Though I found the ending implausible the rest of the story is compelling and engaging, the characters very well outlined. The legends of New Orleans are as quaint as the city itself. I felt the urge to book a trip!

Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag (♦♦♦♦): The characters are utterly human, multidimensional. I liked the banter going on at the Sheriff’s Office: it was funny and distracted at times from the gritty plot. The story was magnetic, compulsively readable, true detective’s work in the pure sense of the phrase.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose (♦♦♦♦): I liked this book very much. It flows and draws you in like a pleasant dream. It is marvelously narrated, described effortlessly and beautifully. The literary images are well constructed and evoke memories from the reader. I did like the premises of the book: it is about family legends and tragedies, broken dream…

Top Ten Acting Performances of 2012

Top Five Female Performances

Sally Field: hers is the best female performance of the year in my opinion. As Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln, she was vibrant, in a role marked by the loss of a child and the desperation to save another from the claws of war. The Mary Lincoln portrayed in the film was a steady supporter of her husband’s cause and, as many other politicians’ wives, an adviser and confidante.

Jennifer Lawrence: with two films among the best of the year, namely The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook, she is one young talent to watch as she grows more and more comfortable in her roles. The Hunger Games franchise proved that she has the dramatic power to carry a lead role that will cement her as a superstar among young fans.

Anne Hathaway: with two great movies under her belt and among the best of the year, this was possibly Anne Hathaway’s year. She almost stole the show as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises and sang the most spirited, well-known anthem of hope in Les Mi…

Top Film Directors of 2012

Ben Affleck (Argo)

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Robert Zemeckis (Flight)

Tom Cooper (Les Misérables, 2012)

Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski (Cloud Atlas)

Christopher Nolan (The Dark Night Rises)

Sam Mendes (Skyfall)

Peter Jackson (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (♦♦♦♦)

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Gandalf appears one fine morning at Bilbo Baggins’ doorstep in the shire to mark his door, unbeknownst to him, and invite rude, mean-looking dwarves to a banquet in Bilbo’s home. The reason? An extraordinary adventure that will lead the dwarves to reclaim the land they were driven away from by Smaug the dragon, and Bilbo to embark on a quest no other hobbit before him has ever been. On their way to Lonely Mountain, Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves will encounter many obstacles some of whom are orcs intent on killing them, and trolls with different motives.

If anyone had any doubts that director Peter Jackson had lost his Middle Earth mojo, those doubts have been dissipated with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The magic is back and so are the luscious visual effects and the fantastic creatures that populate a realm only J.R.R. Tolkien could have imagined and only someone with the imagination and creative genius of Peter Jackson can bring to life. The result is breathta…

Les Misérables (2012) (♦♦♦♦)

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Jean Valjean is a man condemned to almost two decades in jail for stealing a loaf of bread and then trying to escape prison. He is finally given his freedom but with the condition that he’ll be on parole forever. Eight years later Valjean has straightened out, has become a wealthy man and is the major of his town, but a blast from the past comes in the form of Inspector Javert, the man who as a jailer made Valjean’s life a living hell.

Inspector Javert soon begins to suspect the true identity of the major and makes inquiries, which prompts Valjean to flee the town. As a debt to Fantine, a factory worker turned prostitute out of necessity, Valjean takes young Cosette under his wing before he flees. Nine years later, France is on the brink of revolution and Valjean once again meets his archenemy, but under duress he makes a decision that may very well impact the rest of the story.

This year’s version of Les Misérables is a big screen adaptation of the homonymous stage musical. Though s…

Silver Linings Playbook (♦♦♦♦½)

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Patrick has an onset of bipolar disorder when he walks up on his wife Nikki cheating on him with a one of her coworkers. The fallout is such that Patrick is hospitalized and issued a restraining order to keep away from Nikki, except he is obsessed with rebuilding the relationship they once shared.

When Pat leaves the hospital he goes back to live with his parents, but part of the arrangement is that he must attend therapy. That turns out to be challenging enough because Pat doesn’t want to take any medication. In the end, Pat manages to fix his life with the help of a friend named Tiffany who has her own baggage.

Silver Linings Playbook is the feel good movie of the year. Masterfully directed and acted, this film is heartwarming and funny. Even though the mental problems the protagonists face get them into funny situations, hysterical even, the movie makes no fun of those issues, it embraces them. Silver Linings Playbook is at the core a romantic movie with plenty of issues worth expl…

Hyde Park on the Hudson (♦♦♦)

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President Franklin D. Roosevelt is in need of company as dictated by his mother. Daisy, a cousin of his, is called to cheer him up. What ensues is an intimate friendship until Daisy finds out there are other women in the president’s life aside from his wife Eleanor, of course. Amidst all this, King George VI of England pays a visit to the States to secure an alliance in case Germany invades Great Britain.

Despite the hype surrounding this movie, I confess I was disappointed. Bill Murray’s performance as Franklin D. Roosevelt is good but not great, not on the same acting level as Daniel Day-Lewis’ Lincoln. Bill Murray is refreshing in the role of Roosevelt, maybe too refreshing given the political climate that he was facing at that time.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes of King George VI’s visit to Roosevelt’s Hyde Park mansion and they shared the flaws each had and the uniqueness they brought to their political roles. When King George VI complained about his stutter, Roosevelt repli…

Lincoln (♦♦♦♦)

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Based on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lincoln the movie focuses on the last four months of Lincoln’s presidency, on his role in bringing an end to the Civil War, his relationship with family, allies and political foes and his push for passing the thirteenth amendment to the US Constitution granting equal rights before the law to people of color.

Lincoln is not a great movie, but it is a very good one. Steven Spielberg directs and co-produces the film. Lincoln suffers greatly due to its running for close to 3 hrs, and the heavy political discussions involved that have more resonance these days due to the partisan bickering ubiquitous in Capitol Hill. Despite these flaws, Lincoln shows acting performances for the ages, particularly the ones belonging to Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Lincoln, Sally Field as Mary Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as Stevens.

The resemblance of Daniel Day-Lewis to Lincoln is uncanny. Day-Lewis physic…

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (♦♦♦♦)

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It’s 1804…Mary Anning is a young girl who lives with her family in a coastal English town named Lyme Regis. Since the family is poor, Mary’s father has taught her to hunt for unusual stones in the beach and clean them to be sold for a small fee. Mary’s family survives with little, but that changes for the worse when Richard Anning, Mary’s father, dies suddenly, leaving them buried in debts.

In London, twenty-five year-old spinster Elizabeth Philpot-- along with her sisters Margaret and Louise and Bessie, a servant—is making arrangements to move away from the city due to the marriage of her brother John, whose wife may not want to share her new quarters with her sisters-in-laws. Upon a visit to Lyme Regis, the Philpot sisters decide to settle there.

Mary and Elizabeth meet months before the death of Richard Anning, who is a carpenter, when Elizabeth pays a visit to the Annings to order the making of cabinets to exhibit her growing collection of fish fossils. What begins as a shared pa…

The Dark Knight Rises (♦♦♦♦½)

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After the death of Harvey Dent in Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has gone into exile, or rather, he never leaves his mansion anymore. All that changes with the emergence of a dangerous criminal named Bane, whose devious plan consists in bringing Gotham City to its knees, both figuratively and literally. Bane proves to be a powerful opponent and he is not to be taken lightly. He’s trained with the League of Shadows, alum of Wayne’s master Ra’s Al Ghul.

With still more surprises under his belt, Christopher Nolan has outdone himself with the last installment of his Batman Trilogy. There are lots of explosions, threats, lots of gun fights and not for the sake of destruction but with plenty of justification within the context of the story. The coolest gadgets were yet to appear, and appear they did: a flying batmobile—which as Lucius Fox would put it “[there’s] nothing like a little air superiority”--, a twisting motorcycle (of which Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman makes plenty of use) and army ga…

Ape House by Sara Gruen (♦♦♦♦)

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Mbongo, Bonzi, Lola, Jelani, Sam and Makena are Bonobos Apes living in a research facility annexed to the University of Kansas. Isabel Duncan is the scientist in charge of conducting linguistic experiments with the Bonobos. When an intentional explosion renders the lab unusable, the apes are sold away later to reappear as properties of a porn magnate--now turned media mogul—in a television experiment called Ape House.

As TV ratings dwindle, the magnate begins to wonder just what to do with the apes. A journalist friend of Isabel and the Bonobos exposes a conspiracy that explains how the Bonobos came to be in the mogul’s possession in the first place.

Ape House by Sara Gruen is utterly entertaining. It’s an easy, compelling, edge-of-your-seat read with funny story development. In Ape House there is intrigue, both of criminal and the professional variety, there’s love, physical attraction, explosions and animal sex—lots of it.

Lately I haven’t been enjoying literary books that much beca…