Jumanji (1995)

Jumanji is based on a creepy-looking picture book by Chris Van Allsburg that’s also called Jumanji.

It’s an expensive, high-tech movie, but the plot (perhaps unsurprisingly) ends where it starts (in the past), and all the accumulated damage is reversed.

I have trouble believing the giant crocodile was ever convincing, and the effects team admits to basing the monkeys on no monkey in particular, but the plants were pretty cool, and the stampede was amazing.

The running gag with the car was hilarious, and it was fun to see Robin Williams act the part of the man-child from the jungle. He’s awfully good at being silly and yet serious, as he is in Hook (which I liked better).

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/jumanji/id532055046

Not out of Hate by Ma Ma Lay (thoughts on postcolonial literature)

I posted some background information and opinions on Not Out of Hate in a post about the book on Asian Books Blog.

This post explains why I chose this Burmese novel to feature in my Backlist books column, even though I didn’t start out with the intent to study Southeast Asian postcolonial literature.

Continue reading Not out of Hate by Ma Ma Lay (thoughts on postcolonial literature)

Tomb Raider (2018)

The rebooted Tomb Raider, like its bizarre 2001 predecessor, is an archaeological action-adventure movie based on a video game starring a feisty, attractive young woman named Lara Croft.

There is much that you’d expect: a mysterious ancient text, an exotic locale, booby traps, and of course a plunge off a cliff into a river that flows towards the inevitable waterfall. However, although the waterfall itself is no surprise, the scene where Lara barely escapes going over the edge of it has to be seen to be believed. It isn’t quite like any other.

It’s not just the details that are different; the backstory is new, too. In the 2001 movie, Lara is rich and lives in the family mansion like some kind of female Bruce Wayne. In the 2018 movie, she’s a penniless hipster who refuses to take possession of her inheritance because it would mean giving up hope that her missing father will return.

I enjoyed it. The consensus seems to be that although the leading actress (Alicia Vikander) did a great job, Tomb Raider was disappointing. Sadly, this origin story was obviously intended to make way for a sequel—one that may never materialize.

Tomb Raider Reviews

  • Roger Ebert says it was better than expected, and doesn’t feel like it’s copying from a game.
  • Variety calls it a “rare thing, a propulsive blockbuster with a bit of heart” and “escapism that breathes”.
  • The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw was bored.

Times book sale at the Centrepoint atrium

It’s a trap!

I do not need more books, but I love looking through the random collection of not-quite-current titles whenever I see an atrium sale. The serendipity of it is what appeals. I can’t not buy discounted books on topics I find interesting!

I bought:

  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
  • The Eighty-Minute MBA by Richard Reeves and John Knell
  • Simplicity by Edward de Bono
  • Neurotribes by Steve Silberman
  • A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics by Daniel Levitin
  • Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan
  • Malaysa Singapore: Fifty Years of Contentions 1965 – 2015 by Kadir Mohamad
  • Passage of Time: Singapore Bookstore Stories 1881 – 2016 by Chou Sing Chu Foundation
  • 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up by Bianca Schulze
  • The Movie Book by DK

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

This ambitious film adaptation of a ground-breaking children’s sci-fi novel was faithful to the book in fits and spurts, and in some ways it was better. Still, I agree with the box-office receipts on this one: not a winner.

I’m biased towards the book because I read it growing up and remember it vividly. Since screenplays can’t accommodate as many details as even the shortest of novels, liking this movie was going to be difficult in any case. That being said, the movie has some real flaws, about which, more below.

See below for some comparisons with the book and a list of reviews as well as a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I re-read this familiar classic in preparation for seeing the 2018 movie adaptation.

When and Why I Read A Wrinkle in Time

My site keeps getting 404 hits for an image of this book that I uploaded years ago. It’s because of the movie, I’m sure.

Genre: Fiction (children’s fantasy)
Date started / date finished: 12-Mar-2018 / 15-Mar-2018
Length: 198
ISBN: 0440998050
Originally published in: 1962
Amazon link: A Wrinkle in Time

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved is a masterful, discomfiting tale of slavery. I didn’t like it.

It’s literary. The writing and careful arrangement of plot elements makes the reader work hard (and keep turning pages) to piece together the sequence of events. The non-linear storytelling and ambiguously psychotic or supernatural elements may strike some as pretentious, but the novel has a powerful message effectively conveyed with consummate skill.

It’s tragic. You may think the book has a hopeful ending; interpretations vary. The ending didn’t seem hopeful to me. Regardless, the pain the characters suffered is—well—painful to contemplate. Thus, reading this story was for me more of a duty than a relaxing way to pass the time.

I didn’t like it, but I’m glad I read it. Institutionalized slavery of Africans in America is over, but it left a lasting legacy. I can trace my ancestry back to one of the founding fathers of the country, but some Americans can’t trace their ancestry at all. Their desire to connect with a past free of pain and punishment—even a fictional one—accounts for the success of the Roots the book and Roots the television series, and has contributed substantially to the success of Marvel’s Black Panther.

Toni Morrison explains the need for and the difficulty in writing such a book:

The terrain, slavery, was formidable and pathless. To invite readers (and myself) into the repellant landscape (hidden, but not completely; deliberately buried, but not forgotten) was to pitch a tent in a cemetery inhabited by highly vocal ghosts.

The idea for the book came from a newspaper headline.

A newspaper clipping in The Black Book summarized the story of Margaret Garner, a young mother who, having escaped slavery, was arrested for killing one of her children (and trying to kill the others) rather than let them be returned to the owner’s plantation.

All the other details were Morrison’s own invention.

More on what I liked and didn’t like about Beloved below. Beware spoilers.

No, seriously, beware spoilers. I think the book is really better if you read it from start to finish without knowing where it’s going and where the characters have been.

Continue reading Beloved by Toni Morrison

Evita (2018 musical in Singapore)

It is a night of sparkles and shining lights.

A crystal cascade hanging in Marina Bay Sands mall over what used to be a plastic ice-skating rink delivers a magical sound and light show for the benefit of diners at the food court.

The performance itself is less magical than we hoped: the music is cacophonous, we strain to hear the words, and while we don’t much admire the social climber Lloyd Webber depicts, neither do we much like the narrator who mocks her. Nevertheless, arrayed in flashing white jewels, Eva Peron captivates when she sings…

Seen from the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the domes and supertrees in Gardens by the Bay glow below in the darkness: don’t drop your phone.

If you look the other way, skyscrapers downtown shout the names of their tenants in lights the colors of bank logos. Save your pennies! they seem to say. See the 1996 film version instead. Too late now.

The Third Eye by Mahtab Narsimhan

The Third Eye was written by an Indian-born Canadian woman and published by a Canadian publisher (Dundurn Books). It was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council and won the 2009 Silver Birch Award from the Ontario Library Association.

Holding this book, I immediately doubted it would be any good. You probably can’t tell from looking at images of the book online, but the cover image (and the author photo on the back cover) are pixelated. In other words, the publisher screwed up. The writing is similarly only okay. There’s much better stuff out there.

I would recommend, for example, the Indian fantasy children’s series by Indian-American author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni that starts with The Conch Bearer.

When and Why I Read The Third Eye

Passed to me by a friend.

Genre: Fiction (children’s fantasy)
Date started / date finished: 04-Mar-2018 / 07-Mar-2018
Length: 240
ISBN: 9781550027501
Originally published in: 2007
Amazon link: The Third Eye