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Review: Dunkirk


Year: 2017
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Hardy

This movie refers to Battle of Dunkirk, a military operation that took place in Dunkirk (Dunkerque), France, during the Second World War. The battle was fought between the Allies and Nazi Germany. As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and Allied forces in Europe from 26 May to 4 June 1940 (wikipedia).

I have been a fan of Christopher Nolan’s work ever since The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, hence I was expecting a lot from Dunkirk. Well, I was not disappointed at all! In fact, I really really like this movie! It is brilliant in all aspects: the storyline, the cast, the cinematography, the music; each piece fits beautifully and creates a beautiful mosaics for audiences.

The movie started with a story of Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a young British soldier who tried to leave Dunkirk. Trapped in the island with other 400,000 devastated soldiers who also wanted to go home, Tommy had to find a way to ensure he would not be part of those unlucky troops who might be left behind. Trying his luck, he quickly picked up a stretcher to bring a wounded soldier to medical boat, hoping he could sail away with the medical team. Unfortunately it didn’t work and forced Tommy to find another way to save himself. While Tommy was struggling in the land, in the skies above, Spitfire pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) took off to Dunkirk to protect people in the island by shooting down enemy planes. Limited fuel and wave of enemy planes did not make the job easy for both of them. In the sea, Mr. Dawson (Mike Rylance) together with his son, Pete and his friend George, headed off to Dunkirk in his boat to save as many British soldiers they could get. They encountered a shell-shocked soldier on a wrecked ship and took him aboard. When the soldier discovered that Dawson was sailing for Dunkirk, he tried to take control of the boat and accidentally pushed George down to the lower deck. The latter got severe blow to the head and lost his sight. All three events seemed not related at all, until the truth appeared in the middle of the movie.  

It was brilliant. The fact that the movie tells a story of three different events in parallel actually blows my mind. In the beginning I thought everything happens in a sequence manner, which means one event after another. However in the middle of the movie, I (and I believe everyone else) noticed the oddity of the flow when similar event happens again, but this time from different person’s point of view. That’s when I started questioning if those events were actually happened in different timeline and somehow linked to each other. This so much reminds me to Inception in which Nolan was playing with the concept of dream and reality, which linked back again to time. Seems the concept of “playing with time” is one of Nolan’s favorite, which in a way can be classifed as his signature on his movies. 

I love the cinematography and the sound of this movie. Everything was just perfect, not less and not too much. Sometimes in a war movie, I feel like the sound was dominating a bit too much (which I expect) to give more impact to the audiences. Watching Dunkirk, I  still feel the same impact with less attack to my eardrums. The casts are great, each one of them played a very convincing role which pushed the story moving forward. Fionn Whitehead was basically Tommy in my eyes: a young soldier who was trying to leave Dunkirk by doing anything he could. I feel like I am part of his “virtual” team: supporting him along the way and feeling nervous everytime he tried to do something to gain his freedom. I could totally relate to Mike Rylance’s role as a dad who wanted to do something in behalf of his soldier son who passed away in the war. Mr. Dawson’s story was told in a simple yet effective manner which makes me symphatized even more to him. Surprisingly, I love Jack Lowden’s Collins character, whom I find somehow interesting, though he only appeared in less than a 30% portion of the movie. 

Overall it was a very good and entertaining movie which for sure lasts in my mind. Nolan obviously had a job well done. No doubt it gets my 5 out of 5 stars rate. 

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Review: A Very Special Year

Title: A Very Special Year
Author: Thomas Montasser
Year Published: May 2016

(Spoiler alert! You have been warned!)

As a student majoring in business, managing a small, old bookstore was not part of Valerie’s future plan. Yet, when one day her aunt, Charlotte, suddenly vanished and left a very short note appointing Valerie to maintain the bookstore, Valerie did not have another choice beside taking over ‘Ringelnatz & Co.’ while hoping one day Aunt Charlotte would come back. 

It looked pretty simple in the beginning. Valerie had knowledge in business anyway, so with good analysis, reasonable plan and couple of contacts, she believed she could run the bookstore for a little while to pay off its debt, before eventually selling it to another party. 

It was not too long before she realized there was another part of the business that she had not been mastering on: portion of magic. There must be couple hundred of titles in the bookstore, with several version per title. Simply said, thousand books are available for readers! The problem is, without magic, it would be useless. How could we know what from all these books which would attract the readers? Who could remember by heart this magnificent collection which ranges from decades ago to the latest published? This is the magic of a bookseller which Valerie noticed and concluded. 

Though a bit devastated in the beginning, gradually Valerie enchanted by the charm of ‘Ringelnatz & Co.’, or in particular, its book collection. Valerie, who in the last few years rarely reading books beside Business related, started drawning herself in the world of Orhan Pamuk, Thomas Mann, and other authors which she had never heard before. Soon, she was engtangled with the magic of books, and unconsciously developing her skill as a bookseller. 

Her meeting with several interesting people across the seasons enriched her experience and progressively guided her to a direction which she had been thinking of. Until one day she found herself with two train tickets in her hand, accompanied by an attractive gentleman, and had to decide what she would do next….

I bought this book out of curiousity since the summary sounded promising. It is actually a German book which has been translated to English, and just published last May. In general, I quite like this book. The early chapters are a bit slow for me, but after chapter three, the pace becomes normal and more enjoyable. What I like in this book is the description of magic, either for the books, or the bookstore. I also like the fact that Montasser provided examples of different titles and the authors (and they are real), which made me realize how little I know about literature. 

The missing part of this book was the explanation of a special book with the same title: “A Very Special Year”, which later would influence Valerie’s life greatly. In the beginning of story, audiences were introduced to this special book. Valerie thought it was a defect due to blank pages in half of the book. Only later Valerie knew that “A Very Special Year” was a rare book and only few copies available in this world. And this copy, which she thought a misprinted book, was her copy. It was her own book. It was her chance to experience her own story. 

Now, for me, it would be another magical experience should Montasser have given  a little bit more space for this portion, to peek a little bit on how Valerie would have chosen her path to build her own story. Unfortunately the explanation was very brief, and somehow this was also washed off by last section (Epilogue) which explained on what happened next to Charlotte and Valerie. I wish Montasser had put more story of Valerie and the young guy in the train rather than putting some closure summary in the Epilogue. 

In conclusion, this book was light, easy to digest, though a bit slow in the beginning. I think it represents nicely Montasser’s passion of books and literature. I enjoyed reading it while learning a bit on literature. Not bad to accompany your evening.

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Review: Junji Itou’s Manga Collection

I have never been into horror, either movie, book or comic. Not because I am afraid of ghosts or monsters, but more because I hate surprise (which is everywhere inside a horror movie) and disturbing graphics or description in comic or book. Only once in a while I will try reading a horror comic (or watch a horror movie), and commonly it was a light one.

So imagine how surprised I was when I found myself digging into Junji Ito’s manga collection couple of weeks ago. It was purely driven by curiousity because I saw someone’s comment in internet that stated that Junji Ito’s manga was the best horror manga he ever read. I started to read some of Junji Ito’s one-shots collection, and unexpectedly, I was drawn into it. 

Ito-sensei’s art is truly disturbing (and disgusting as per to say), yet the story is so interesting, I just could not stop reading it. Commonly the protagonists in the stories were victims of either curse, alien attack, ghosts, society who had nerves breakdown or unexplained phenomenons. In another hand, Ito-sensei had also made some evil-main-characters who were lunatic and would not mind to hurt other people, including their family. It was no surprise that there was no happy ending in any of Junji Ito’s story. Some of the stories indeed have some dark comedy, but even inside that, there would be some victims who had to suffer (read: die) in a pitiful situation.

The most popular titles of Junji Ito’s were Uzumaki (Spiral) and Gyo. Besides those two, Junji Ito has wide collection of one-shots (Itou Junji Kyoufu Manga Collection), and other stories such as Black Paradox and Hellstar Remina (you can check the other titles in wiki). 

Uzumaki (Spiral), one of my favorite titles, telling us story about citizens of Kurôzu-cho, a city which was affected by a supernatural curse involving spirals. The main protagonists were Kirie Goshima and her boyfriend, Shuichi Saito. Though she did not believe it in the beginning when Shuichi told him about the curse, day by day, Kirie had been witnessing how the spiral curse affected people around them, including her own family. Not only that, the curse then destroyed all buildings inside the city, and eventually forced the citizens to build shelter houses in the shape of giant spiral. Kirie and Shuichi then tried to get out from the city, but could they make it? (sorry, no spoiler :p). 

What I remember the most from Uzumaki was the snail man, which, as the name indicated, was disgusting. To come up with such an idea was pretty cool, and I salute Ito-sensei for his originality.

  

Then there were short stories about Hikizuri siblings, who I confirm as the craziest family in the world. It was not even clear if they were truly humans, or actually came from another world. This was one story which I mentioned had some dark comedy inside, but of course, with psycho twist as expected from Ito-sensei. 

 

Another collection of short stories which also stays in my mind was story about Souichi and his family. In most of the stories, Souichi would always try to hurt his cousin, Michina, and his brother Kouichi just because he did not like them. Souichi was one of those twisted characters which I could not accept logically in my head, but still made me curious to know what he would do next.

 

Overall, I have to admit, aligned with that someone in the internet, that Junji Ito’s manga was the best horror manga I have ever read. It is dark, full of twists, have psycopath characters, unexplained phenomenon, and no clear nor happy ending in any of the stories. Perfectly created for horror lovers! 

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Review: Burnt

Title: Burnt
Year: 2015
Director: John Wells
Writers: Steven Knight (screenplay), Michael Kalesniko (story)
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl 

Meet Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper). Adam was a pretty talented chef (or so what he claimed himself) which managed to get two Michelin stars when he worked in one of top restaurants in Paris owned by Jean-Luc. However, he destroyed his career with drugs and arrogant behavior combined with crazy demand on perfection. Went to New Orleans, he tried to clean himself while working part time in a restaurant. Once he reached his threshold (which was one million oysters being shucked), he went to London and determined to redeem himself by bringing a top restaurant that can get three Michelin stars.

It was not Adam if he did not cause ruckus for his friend Tony (Daniel Brühl), who was running his father’s hotel. He persuaded Tony to give him opportunity to achieve his goal of three Michelin stars, but it was not easy for Tony to immediately agree considering Adam’s bad history. 

Adam started his plan by searching his ideal team members: Helene (Sienna Miller), a sous chef in his friend, Conti’s restaurant, which he liked; Michel (Omar Sy), his friend from Jean-Luc’s who was angry because of incident done by Adam but eventually forgave and willing to work with Adam; Max (Riccardo Scamarcio), also Adam’s friend from Jean-Luc’s who was about to be released from jail and chef-on-the-rise David (Sam Keeley), who agreed to work at Adam’s restaurant and let Adam stayed in his apartment temporarily. As a final action, Adam invited famed restaurant critic Simone (Uma Thurman) to dine at Tony’s hotel. Left without a choice, Tony agreed to have Adam cooking for her. Simone’s review of Adam’s food was favorable that Tony and his father agree to renovate their hotel’s kitchen and hire Adam as the head chef. However, they made Adam doing regular drug tests with Tony’s psychiatrist Dr. Rosshilde (Emma Thompson). 

The opening night which was highly expected unfortunately turned into a disaster. Adam, who was a true perfectionist, released his furious to all his kitchen members, especially to Helene, who decided to quit later on. Adam then did some TV talkshows to build again the credit while preparing another relaunch of the restaurant. Tony managed to bring Helene back, and slowly Adam and the team working their way to reach the three Michelin stars goal.

I will stop here because I might give you some spoiler if I continue (lol). I think this movie was not too bad, but for sure not the one which will remain in your mind long enough. The idea was actually good, but the execution was not that smooth.

Let’s start with the characters. Adam was an arrogant, cocky, snob person and he yelled a lot. Like, a lot. The thing is, there was no scene where he shared his knowledge or coached his team members, except with Helene, and even that could be easily assumed as his way in approaching Helene as love interest. How can he be so arrogant, yelling to everyone and expecting them to be excellent if he did not communicate with them? I expected some connection between Adam and his colleagues, but I found none. In other hand, the supporting characters were not strong enough to leave memorable impression. Tony, for example, could be a really interesting character who lead the story forward together with Adam. Unfortunately his scenes were limited, his one-side-crush to Adam was not exposed well (which I think could be interesting as well) and he acted more like Adam yes-man rather than his friend. Same happened with character of Helene. Shallow digging of these characters made the movie lost opportunity in making the conflicts more interesting.

The movie plot was not too bad. The sequence was pretty clear though I found some anticlimax here and there (e.g.drug dealer’s collector issue which was solved pretty quickly). I love all beautiful dishes served along the movie. At least for this part they did their preparation and execution really well. 

In conclusion, this movie was okay. Good enough to be watched during your relaxing day when you want to watch some drama without thinking too much.

Rate: 2.5 from 5 stars

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Big Bad Wolf Book Sale, A Festive for Bookworms

  

This past two weeks, all book lovers and bookworms in Indonesia were spoiled with this special event of Big Bad Wolf Book Sale (BBW). This event originally held in Malaysia and has been an annual event in many cities there since then. As mentioned in Jakarta Post, a franchise of BBW was bought by PT Jaya Retail with Uli Silalahi as director. Uli personally asked BBW to hold a sale in Jakarta due to the low literacy rates in Indonesia.

BBW took place in Indonesia Convention Exhibition (ICE), BSD city, with total of 40 containers and 2 million books. They claimed they put huge reduction in all the books, which I found true when I went there yesterday. The E hall in ICE turned into “sea” of books since you could see books wherever you see.

  

 

I went there and spent around four hours “only”, considering I could have spent more than my budget if I have stayed longer. The books were classified to certain groups: Children (which had the most collection and occupied almost half of the hall), Non-Fiction (I think second big collection after Children genre), Fiction, Young Adult and Indonesian books by Mizan. I spent my time in Fiction section and still I could not finish checking all the books provided on the tables! I guess it their claim that everyone would find something interesting in this sale was reasonable. Well, how wouldn’t you if you have thousands of books lying before your eyes? 🙂

  

 

Some points in BBW which I noticed from my short observation: 

  • Pretty clear that the titles are not new ones, but at least some of them are popular ones  
  • Some books are scattered around different tables and sessions so open your eyes open widely!
  • Fix price was tagged in each book. For novel, it ranged between 45K to 70K IDR. Not too bad! Price even better for photography or architecture books.
  • Most of the authors were not recognizable, at least for me. I could not find some famous authors whose titles should have been available though they are not new
  • Lack of carts though boxes are available everywhere 

All in all, I enjoyed my four-hours-visit to BBW. As a bookworm-wannabe *cough*, I know I am just continuing my “sin” by adding more books to my to-read-list. But as people said, what can you do? 🙂

 

Gotta find a place for these books and start reading… *cough* 


PS. More info about this event can be found on below links:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2016/05/05/beware-of-big-bad-wolf-10-fun-facts-about-the-book-sale.html

http://www.bigbadwolfbooks.com/id/

https://inlustwithbooks.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/pengalaman-pertama-big-bad-wolf-booksindonesia/  (in Indonesian)

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Review: “Captain America: Civil War”

 

Title: Captain America: Civil War
Year: 2016
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay), Stephen McFeely (screenplay)
Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson

It was another “regular” day for the Avengers. Led by Captain America (Steve Rogers), Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff), The Falcon (Sam Wilson), and Wanda Maximoff were on mission to stop Brock Rumlow from stealing a biological weapon from a lab in Lagos, Nigeria. When Rumlow commited suicide with a bomb, Wanda tried to move the explosion into the sky but it destroyed a nearby building, killing a number of Wakandan people. 

This incident triggered Sovokian Agreement, supported by most countries in the workd which would establish an international governing body to oversee and control the Avengers. The team were split into two sides: Iron Man (Tony Stark) supported it because he felt on destruction happened in Sokovia, while Captain America believed that they had enough judgment to do their responsibility. 

While the agreement was about to be finalized in Vienna, a bomb exploded and killed King T’Chaka of Wakanda. Video footage indicated that the bomber was Barnes (Winter Soldier). Rogers who was his best friend then tracked and tried to protect Barnes from being caught and also being killed by T’Chaka’s son, T’Challa. In the end, Rogers, Wilson, Barnes and T’Challa were captured. When Barnes was supposed to be evaluated, an unknown person called himself Zemo managed to go inside the facility and used Hydra’s trigger words to activate Barnes’ brainwashing. He questioned Barnes about the 1991 mission which revealed that there were more Winter Soldiers beside Barnes. They were still kept in Siberia, inside Hydra’s facility. 

While Rogers recruited some new comrades to help him in chasing Zemo, Stark also recruited other superheroes to catch Rogers and Barnes. So what happened next? And what secret kept by Stevens for years from Stark? 

I am not too familiar with Marvel’s comics because I grew up more with Europen and Japanese comics, so I never really had certain expectation on Marvel’s movies. I have been liking Iron Man after watching all the movies, and The Avengers are not that bad either (no offense, I am simply not that into it).

Captain America, honestly speaking, was the least interesting character for me. I like Hulk and Ant-Man better (after Iron Man, of course). I do not know either because of my preference or because the character itself, I found myself dotting for Tony rather than Steve, and this movie was supposed about Captain America (or so the title said). Though I acknowledged that somehow Steve’s perspective got a point, I felt Tony’s battle, inside and outside, deeper than Steve’s. Robert Downey Jr. did his part really well for me.

The plot itself was pretty interesting. Some people might perceive the ending as anti-climax, considering no battle between superheroes or war with super-evil-organization with deadly weapon. I actually liked the fact that the revenge concept was so simple, yet Zemo did an extra mile to have his goal achieved. It was also refreshing to know the villain was a simple human being, though his mind was messed up due to deep wound.

In the end, I could say I enjoyed watching this movie. Though I had this strange sad feeling about Tony and Steve walking to different direction, I somehow felt that it would strength their bond as good friends and allies. Or so I hope (not sure why I am so emotional, the comics are there anyway, lol!). 

Rate: 3.5 from 5 stars

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Review: The Girl on the Train

  

Book title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Released date: January 2015

(Warning: soft spoiler between the lines)

This novel was opened with introduction to our main character, Rachel Watson. The thirty something woman who commuted every day using train to London, but not without companion of gin and tonic. Yes, Rachel was an alcoholic, driven by her terrible past with her ex-husband, Tom Watson.

Rachel had this habit of looking at a specific house in suburb area everytime her morning train stopped in the signal. She had observed a couple who lived there and seemed like a perfect one. This reminded her on her own situation and her dream of having wonderful family as they had. She adored them a lot, though she did not know them at all, and just playing with her imagination. They were her ideal family.

Until she saw it. A glimpse of gesture in the couple’s house which surprised her as it did not match on what she had in her mind. While she conflicted with herself on what she needed to do, news on missing person suddenly popped out. What would Rachel do?

I have mixed feeling about this novel (though I think I am more into negative side, lol). The plot itself was pretty much okay. The mystery was quite interesting, as I kept questioning what actually happened in the past. The ending was okay, but I felt that some acts were somehow not necessarily required. 

Hawkins used first person point of view (first person narrative), however she put three narratives from three characters. It was not uncommon to have this kind of setup (more than one narrative), but I rarely found a situation with more than two characters. Honestly speaking, I did not see the relevance of Anna telling her story here, considering she did not play a big role, beside stealing someone’s husband in the past.

I think the weakest point of this novel was the characters. I could not find any single character who was strong enough (either being good or bad) to captivate the readers. Not even Tom, the bad guy who supposed to be a very good liar. Rachel was a complete mess with no clear information on how she used to be, and suddenly, few paragraphs in last chapter revealed how strong she was in the past. I was not convinced at all. 

Overall, I would give this novel two and half stars out of five. The mystery and plot helped me to keep reading it until the last page, however no strong impression of any character left in my mind afterward. Easy reading with no significant impact 🙂