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Black Panther Looks Dangerously Like Something It Shouldn’t Be (But Still Looks Beautiful)

The first Black Panther trailer has been unleashed upon us by our superior overlords at Marvel Studios, and needless to say, it is excellently cut together.

It’s cut together so well, in fact (especially with the music), that it seamlessly flows from start to finish, perhaps better than any Marvel trailer thus far. It’s a two minute work of art that has been masterfully made.

It’s a trailer that features rather contrasting tones as well. Even now, I’m unsure about what seems to be the overall tone of the film. I would initially think, royalty and all, this would be a serious, perhaps coming-of-age, almost family drama (of sorts), but the music used indicates nothing along the lines of this. There seems to be a lot of traditional Wakanda with a lot of modern urban environments as well, and it’s unclear how Andy Serkis and Michael B Jordan are linked in the film.

All of that, despite not seeming like it, is praise. When a trailer gets you excited for a film with uncertainty, the paradoxical nature of which is enough to express how difficult it is, it is a great trailer.

However, as far as actual developments go, there is one that struck me as an “Are they really doing that?” moment.

Think of the Iron Monger. And Abomination. And Yellow Jacket. And Kaecilius. In Marvel’s solo origin movies, they tend to have the villain be someone who is the direct opposite of the hero, and every time they’ve done that, the villain has just not been good.

And then I watched this trailer and saw that Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger is going to have a suit very similar to the Black Panther suit, and that makes for a really rigid pairing. I thought this movie would break the streak and have a more versatile villain, but it looks like this is what we are going to get. I hope it exceeds expectations, though. I really do.

Regardless, the Black Panther trailer is, as I mentioned, exquisitely made, and can be rewatched over and over and over and over. And over.

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A Book That Speaks to You Like an Old Friend

I have read books which put you in the shoes of a character. I have read books that have had an outside view, narrating everything as if the narrator always soars above the characters involved. I’ve even read a book narrated by Death. I have never, however, read a book which literally tells its story to me.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, penned by Mohsin Hamid, is a novel in which the main character, a Pakistani who emigrated to America, recites his time in the US to you, supposedly an American. I say this, because the entire book is, essentially, a conversation in which a stranger sits down with you for tea, and narrates the story of his adult life (or, the answer to the question “what if Forrest Gump wrote a book?”. This is praise, seeing as Forrest Gump is one of my favourite movies). It isn’t even second person narration. It is strange, but it is rather beautiful in its originality.

For quite a long way through its engaging tale, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a book that doesn’t allow you to put it down. It’s a book that has the cultures and lifestyles of Pakistan and America collide, with a narrator at the height of his venturous phase in the middle of it.

It is a story, much like Forrest Gump (which I really should stop making comparisons to), which has major real world events shape its narrative, while essentially being the story of how a boy is unreasonably in love with a girl he cannot have.

In a way, it is a book that is both a love letter to, and a mirror held up against, America. It is the story of a Pakistani’s relationship with America, falling in love with its opportunity, diversity and a girl native to it, and not with what he saw post-9/11.

What this results in, even openly addressed in the book, is a book with some controversial viewpoints, and regardless of whether the writer himself expresses these views, the fact of the matter is that one way or the other, someone had to say what’s said in this book, for the sake of discourse, if for nothing else.

This was shaping up to the perfect book, in all its effortless beauty through its first two-thirds, but after that, it did, in a sense, fall from grace. It began to feel a little more robust, a little less easy to read. A free-flow to the end is what this book needed, but its momentary change of pace lost it some of its points.

Regardless, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an interesting and enticing read, certainly for anyone looking for a love story, or a slight political outcry, or fans of Forrest Gump.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist: MIHIR

Predestination: Film Analysis of the Week

This is going to be hard. Please excuse me if this ends up being a completely terrible article that is a waste of your time.

Also, here’s the routine spoiler warning for these things, this time earlier than ever before because it’s impossible to talk about this movie at all without spoiling something.

Predestination is… A weird film. The Google synopsis says “An agent is tasked to travel back in time to prevent a bomb attack in New York in 1975”, and that is really like saying “the icing of the cake is strawberry”, without mentioning the flavour of the actual cake.

In reality, this is a time travel movie that messes with your mind mercilessly, following mainly two characters, played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook, across time, tying together pieces of their story to create something that is as beautiful as it is very, very disturbing.

A female is born and abandoned at an orphanage doorstep. She grows up, and develops an interest in science and math, and is selected for a secret space program, where she gets kicked out.

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She falls in love with a man. He gets her pregnant. He leaves without warning. Then her daughter is kidnapped while she was in the hospital, at three days old. After she gives birth, she discovers that she was born with male genitals as well, and giving birth forced her to change into a male.
Time passes by and she narrates her entire story to a bartender, who introduces her to time travel.

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Now, you should know that her parents, the person she falls in love with, her daughter, her daughter’s kidnapper and this bartender… Are the same person. In fact, they’re all her.

Somebody who hasn’t watched this movie would never be able to comprehend all that. And that’s a praise for this movie. It tells its very weird story in a good way.

I suppose that’s what Predestination does best. It’s able to have something huge lingering over the movie, in plain sight, but doesn’t give it away.

It isn’t something completely hidden, though. There are a couple of indications. First, the opening scene of the movie is not chronologically in order (or, you know, it is. Time travel mumbo jumbo. What is chronology?), and already shows the biggest twist of the movie, without anyone actually knowing it. Furthermore, in the first place both characters travel to together through time, there are clothes already there and it’s explained that Ethan Hawk knew they were there because he had been there before (“it’s complicated”), hinting at some sort of loop.

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In the same scene, Ethan Hawk says he suspects Snook’s boyfriend-to-be is the ‘Fizzle Bomber’ (yes, the guy from the Google synopsis), and, ultimately, he is not lying. He says “don’t worry, I’ll be around. Trust me”. And he always is around, one way or the other.
However, the biggest clue, which is in the same scene, comes when Snook says “don’t you think sometimes, things are just inevitable?”, and Hawke laughs and says “the thought has crossed my mind”. This is not just foreshadowing. The fact that Hawke laughs while he spoke is the biggest indication that the reason the thought has crossed his mind too is that they are the same person.
Finally, all the ‘hidden’ characters – Snook’s parents, her boyfriend, her child’s kidnapper, the Fizzle Bomber – the nature of their secretiveness makes it rather obvious that they are not just any other person. This movie had something to reveal at the end, and it doesn’t hide the fact that it does.

So, that’s it. There is probably a lot more, but that’s all I could gather from one viewing. My brain is not willing to go through that again. At least, not yet.

Like I said at the start, this probably wouldn’t be a good article, and I can say myself that it is incredibly confusing, even when it isn’t exactly hiding anything. You see what watching Predestination feels like?

 

 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Identity (III)

A Case of Identity, the third short story in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, presents itself in a rather bloated manner, disguising itself as a bigger mystery than it actually is (which is, actually, quite fitting).

When Mary Sutherland approaches Holmes with a case of a disappearing husband-to-be, he develops an interest in the case and leads Watson to think it is of significant difficulty.

A Case of Identity is a good read. It is not as good as its predecessor, The Red-Headed League, as its mystery does not have the same associated suspense, but it does have some interesting details in it.

It expresses that not every case, no matter with how much ease, difficulty, flair or trouble everyone’s favourite consulting detective solves, can be legally punishable. He may uncover some of the most evil developments, but if the law isn’t suited to penalise this evil, nothing can be done.

It also expresses how Holmes isn’t so afraid to take matters into his own hands, if it means receiving justice. In a rarity, it shows that he does care about his clients. At least, some of them.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

A Case of Identity: MIHIR

 

An Insightful Look at Life and the Universe – Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Yes, I do like to watch documentaries. Ha ha.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a 13-part documentary series created by Ann Druyan and Steven Soter, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and chronicles the history and future of astronomy, life and the general study of the universe as we know it. It is a remade version of the original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, hosted by Carl Sagan, of which there are books as well.

Before I say anything about the series, it should be noted that Alan Silvestri’s original composition for the title theme and music for the series is unbelievably beautiful.

Cosmos works on three fronts: Real, animated, and metaphorical. The latter is achieved through the way the show voyages through its course, in the ‘ship of the imagination’, which transcends all limitations of humankind to allow us to see, up close, things like the inside of a black hole and surfaces of the Earth (from the past) and other celestial bodies. What the biggest take away from all this is, of course, is the sheer extent to which you are forced to hold your breath at all the incredible visual representations of everything in the universe. You might need to thank modern computer image generation, but everyone on the visual effects team truly created something exceptional, for which ‘a treat for the eyes’ is a laughable understatement.

The animated sections of the show largely exist to tell history of scientific discovery, which in this show, often follows people who have made famous discoveries and also animates their personal lives (for example, Isaac Newton). Quite a lot of the show is dedicated to historical human scientific discovery, and this is a plus point. Unlike anything you learn in school, Cosmos enables you to care for a scientist as you see their struggles and everything they did to achieve what they did. It enables a mass audience to develop true appreciation of those who came before us.

Through Cosmos’ journey, which takes you all the way across time, there is a layer of sentimentality across the whole show; sentimentality of being human, of being alive, of existing at a random star, at a random point of a random galaxy. It is as much a spiritual series as it is an informative one. Of course, the nature of the subject is as such, but it’s wonderful to see how much the series embraces this.

I’ve come so far and have said nothing about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s presentation, because I’ve saved the best for last. Perhaps the world’s best known living astrophysicist, for his presence on the internet and general popular culture, Tyson brings something to this show that nobody else could have. There is, at his core, a burning love for science, and this oozes out of him with every single word he says on the show. Nobody would be as much in awe of any of the history, any of the visuals, or have any appreciation of existing, without Tyson’s voice covering it all. He has you gripped from start to finish, and this series truly wouldn’t have been nearly as good had anybody else hosted it.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is more than just an educational documentary series. It’s something that can provide brilliant scientific insight to an entire generation and beyond.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey: MIHIR

 

Turtles All The Way Down: A Reading Experience That Will Leave an Imprint on Your Mind 🐢

First, I apologise for writing this one day late, but I actually can explain. I spent the entire day yesterday thinking to myself that it was the ninth of October and this book was releasing today, and only at the very end of the day did I see John Green himself say the book is out, on Instagram. That’s when I checked the date and realised the stupidity with which I wasted the entire day, especially after being in anticipation of this book for months.

Anyway, here we are. Turtles All The Way Down is John Green’s latest book, and is his first since The Fault in Our Stars, which came out way back in 2012.

I remember watching a vlogbrothers video, which dates back a few years, in which John said he was struggling to follow up The Fault in Our Stars and didn’t feel very confident about being able to write another book.

It is quite surprising, then, that he managed to create a masterpiece that somehow rises above all his previous work.

Turtles All The Way Down follows Aza Holmes, a high school junior who lost her father a few years prior and suffers from extreme anxiety, often descending into unforgiving thought spirals that have adverse affects on her life and the people in it. The story kicks off with the disappearance of a billionaire who lives very close to Aza, but is so much more than just a mystery.

As far as the conventional standards of a novel go, there isn’t a need for me to mention much. John Green consistently features great narrators that can speak to a reader on a personal, and a more metaphorical, level. This is something that is a staple with every book he writes; he has a deep understanding of adolescents and how an adolescent thinks.

When his narrators take it a step further, however, things get even better. The Fault in Our Stars, which had held my spot for his best book until now, is narrated by a cancer patient, and this was able to make the book more fragile and (honestly, I couldn’t think of a better word. I’m sorry) precious. This book is narrated by someone who suffers from a serious condition that, when it comes down to it, nobody except her can truly understand.

What is in store, then, is a story about friendship, family and love, all wrapped around – and strangled by – the narrators condition, and it is truly something unique to read. There hasn’t been a more intimate John Green book, nor one that puts you in the shoes of the narrator quite as much as this one (it does this so well, in fact, that you begin to think and feel exactly as you would expect the narrator to).

In doing so, it also can be quite painful to read at times, and if you read this book completely at once, like I did, it leaves you quite exhausted, and this is a compliment, because you understand Aza so well that you turn the last page, take a few deep breaths and wonder how she, and everyone in the world with similar symptoms, is able to handle what she goes through in this book all the time. It’s so merciless in its depiction of Aza’s condition that it is a powerful advocate to raise awareness about the difficulties of people suffering from mental health issues, and without meaning to sound too political, in an adolescent/school-reading demographic, books like this are essential.

This is also quite fitting because John Green has also said in numerous vlogbrothers videos (which are, obviously, the greatest things on the internet) that this book is inspired by his own experiences with Aza’s condition, and this makes you feel like you’re connected to the author as you read this book, almost as if, in a way, he is talking directly to you.

This is the rare book that you can develop a relationship with, and will stay with you for a long, long time.

Turtles All The Way Down is a book that will transcend decades and be looked back upon as an inspiration to both readers and writers, for its courage to be so relentless in its narration, and its raw ability to be human.

Take a bow, John Green.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Turtles All The Way Down: MIHIR

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Looks Like It’s Going to Be Truly Special

This is going to be filled with a lot of stills. This is my most anticipated film of the year and I will discuss it with all the beautiful imagery I can use to aid me.

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is here and it is utterly and unforgivably mouth-watering.

Immediately you see similarities and differences between Rey and Kylo Ren. Both are going to be trained in this movie, and both have remarkably similar abilities.

Luke Skywalker has had a past with Kylo Ren (which we will see), and tells Rey that he wasn’t afraid the last time he saw the kind of ability she has, but this time he is. This is incredible. Both Rey and Kylo Ren are tied together so much that this seems to be an even more intimate Star Wars story than ever before, which is really, really saying something.

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On the other end of the spectrum, we have General Leader Snoke training Kylo Ren after his failures in the last film, and in this case, he is trying to have Ren embrace that raw power and whatever is ‘truly special’ (see, even the title for this article is a pun) about him, going as far as (possibly) telling him to kill his own mother (the late Carrie Fisher has been featured in the middle of the new poster, which I think is a wonderful gesture). Ren, of course, is still as conflicted as he was in the last film, and no matter what anyone says, I will always love the number of layers that have been given to this character. He is deeply vulnerable and really not that strong at all, but that’s what makes him so compelling.

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Now, miscellaneously, we see Poe Damoran (also known as everyone’s crush and man-crush. Don’t deny it), who appears to have taken a very personal vendetta against the First Order, and Finn, who is seen taking on the (not dead) Captain Phasma, who I hope receives more in this film than the last. At least, this shot is beautiful.

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Something I’m also very excited to see is the battle involving Tie-Fighters, Rebel fighters, AT-AT’s and more, on a planet that we haven’t seen before that’s sending visually astounding red dust everywhere. The overall red theme that this film has been built around, I think, is marvelous.

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Finally, towards the end of the trailer we see a shot of Snoke and then this shot of Rey.

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The person in the background may indeed be Snoke, which is similar to The Emperor’s role in The Return of the Jedi, but it could be possible that Rey is lost and trying to find answers, shuffling between Luke Skywalker and Snoke, possibly even conflicted between the light and the dark, just like Kylo Ren. This is even more evident (‘evident’ in the sense of prediction) in the very last exchange in the trailer, as Rey says after a (supposed) battle, to Kylo Ren, “I need someone to show me my place in all this”, and Ren extends his hand.

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Now, really, this is what I want this film to be. Both Kylo Ren and Rey have these strings being pulled by mentors and superiors, and while they may each be on one side, they are both conflicted and, in a way, they are both victims. This story looks like it’s going to be as personal as it gets, and quite simply, that makes my excitement for this movie multiply by twelve parsecs (I’m sorry).

Star Wars: The Last Jedi really can’t come soon enough. The trailer is tonally gripping and visually magnificent, and it is, living up to my prediction yesterday, the best trailer of the year.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch The Force Awakens again.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Red-Headed League (II)

Stop number two in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the Red-Headed League, a short story which follows a mysterious organisation that hires Holmes and Watson’s latest client to work part-time, and then disappears out of the blue.

Following A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League is an excellent short mystery that doesn’t allow you to put it down until you finish all of it. Crisply contained in only one day, this is a mystery that develops with every page, and has marvellous reward at the end.

What’s also interesting in this story is John Watson’s observation of Sherlock Holmes’ relationship to music, which is not only touching to a reader who knows Holmes as a hard, dedicated detective, but also quite relatable to one who has similar experiences with music. Holmes has a certain human touch in this story, and whenever you’re able to peel a few layers off a character, the wonders that the author has in store are almost always intriguing.

The Red-Headed League is a flawless short mystery that is able to have every word be juicier than the last in its journey through an ever-developing peach of a plot.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

The Red-Headed League: MIHIR

The Justice League ‘Heroes’ Trailer is the Best Trailer of the Year (So Far)

If, at any instance of time, you see a trailer which uses a David Bowie song, there is no doubt that it is going to be a magnificent trailer.

In the mixed bag of Justice League trailers that we’ve had over all this time, none are as perfect as this one. It’s short, it’s rather random and has less to offer than the previous trailers, but that doesn’t stop it from being the best one.

The trailer opens with a dream that is beautifully reflective of the first time Lois Lane and Clark Kent converse in Man of Steel, except with their roles reversed. As Superman looks out over the horizon, Lois Lane stands behind him and he says “I take that as a yes”, relating to the ring he planned to propose to her with while he was alive at the end of Batman v Superman.

Lois wakes up in the cold, Superman-free, ‘hopeless’ world, and the tone is brilliantly established. This is especially where this trailer prevails. From this point forward, the theme of the trailer is ‘hope’, and that’s exactly what it needed to be. Set to the masterful ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie, this is essentially a series of shots of members of the Justice League working together and trying to keep their spirits up in an increasingly difficult situation.

Really, that image of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman smiling sums it all up. This is about hope, and this trailer’s depiction of that is wonderful. As much as Batman v Superman was about Superman’s role on Earth, this is Earth without him, and an Earth that needs these heroes more than ever.

Also, Ezra Miller’s Flash is simply sublime.

The Justice League ‘Heroes’ trailer is as poetic as it is awesome. That phrase is exactly what I hope the Justice League movie will be like.

I say best trailer of the year so far because The Last Jedi trailer is releasing tomorrow. Seeing as it’s been my most anticipated film of the year, there perhaps will be some prejudice in judging the trailer. That’s for tomorrow, though. Today belongs to DC.

Blade Runner 2049, Thankfully Better Than Blade Runner, But Still a Let Down

Let me get this out of the way immediately. I do not like Blade Runner. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I know that the film has its fair share of fans, but I am not one of them. I think it’s far too slow, has a paper thin premise and looks completely dreary.

However, I was quite excited for its 35-years-after successor, for two reasons. The first, obviously, was Ryan Gosling. The second was that the trailers for this movie are sublime. I didn’t expect to be let down as much as I was.

I’m going to start with the positives, though. Blade Runner 2049, despite it still being way too dark (visually) for my liking, is a beautiful looking film. Every frame seems crafted by artists who paid attention to every detail.

Furthermore, the plot is significantly more interesting than the original film’s. In this, it is more of a story of K (Gosling), a next level replicant member of the Los Angeles Police Department, trying to discover himself as he works on a peculiar case that is connected to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the original protagonist of the original 1982 film.

However, the execution of this plot is really questionable. For one thing, Harrison Ford is barely in the film. This was sold like a passing of the torch movie, but is anything but because of how little screen time Deckard actually has. Usually I like it when older characters take a back seat like this to give the newer ones the spotlight, but this is ridiculous. There isn’t even a viable bond between Gosling and Ford in this film, at all.

Speaking of Ryan Gosling, his performance in this film is nowhere close to his best, and I suppose a large reason for this is the way his character is written. Calling his performance robotic would be ironic, but it is.

I went into this film completely unaware of the runtime (I usually prefer to do this) but I didn’t expect to be anywhere near as long as it was. 2 hours 45 minutes is completely out of proportions, especially considering how incredibly slow the film is. It really doesn’t need to be that long. It’s not like I’m a 2 year old with no patience. The Godfather is a slow film, but it’s still good. This isn’t.

Jared Leto is also in this film, playing a supposedly important character who shows up in two scenes. This isn’t something only his character possesses. Characters who are pivotal to the plot of the film are in only one or two scenes, and so you have such little weight to their importance that the entire movie fails to have you really care about everything that’s going on.

I will end on a positive note. This film expresses quite well what it feels like to be human and experience human emotions, especially around Ryan Gosling’s character.

Blade Runner 2049 is nowhere near as bloated or boring as the original, but it still significantly fails to meet its potential. A few good moments are sprinkled here and there, but ultimately, all you feel is disappointment.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Blade Runner 2049: MIHIR