Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Movie Review)

10/17/2017 at 6:06 AM (Actors, Crime, Mystery, Nostalgia, Politics, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller)

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a 2015 American action secret agent film co-authored and also directed by Christopher McQuarrie. It is the fifth installment in the Mission: Impossible film series. The film stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, and Alec Baldwin with Cruise, Renner, Pegg, and Rhames reenacting  roles from prior Mission: Impossible films.

I am not into too much blood and gore so the theatrics in Mission: Impossible suit me better as I like the fact it isn’t realistic and pulling off is less tawdry because it is presented in a more stylised way within its action frames. Rogue Nation is produced by Tom Cruise, J. J. Abrams, and David Ellison. In the film, IMF agent Ethan Hunt is on the run from the CIA, following the IMF’s demobilisation as he tries to prove the existence of the Syndicate, a secretive universal terrorist consortium.

The film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation needs to be seen for its action. Talking too much about the plot in a review does no favours to this style of movie. It needs to be watched while having dinner with friends or partner.

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The Help

06/10/2012 at 10:45 AM (Books, Classics, Inspired, Politics) (, , , , , , )

This was a book which I had reserved for ages thanks to a work-related book club listing. It was so readable and engaging in tone that it took one sitting to finish reading although it was approaching the wee hours of the morning by then. I didn’t realise it encompassed the perspectives of different characters (Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter) until the fourth chapter – I was too engrossed in the unfolding plot. This is a book written by a writer who has paid attention to suspenseful build up of plot with teasers – in my experience, those books are the page turners. Each character also has a unique voice but while I’m sure it helped the reading, I didn’t exactly dwell over it.

So here’s the summary: The Help by Kathryn Stockett is the story of Skeeter Phelan, Aibileen Clark, and Minny Jackson. Skeeter has  graduated from college and has returned to Jackson, Mississippi. She feels unsatisfied by her small town, Wednesday bridge club and working as the editor of the Junior League, because she wants to be a professional writer. She has her fair share of troubles because unlike her friends she has not found a husband yet and her mother is always trying to remind her to find dates. She wants to obtain a publishing position in New York but she has only received rejection letters. Inspired by her fondness for her former maid, Constantine — who left without a word before she returned — and annoyance with her friend Hilly’s “Home Sanitation Initiative” (a scheme for white people to set up bathrooms for their colored help), Skeeter sets out to write the stories of the black maids in her town. Naturally given this story is set in 1962 and given the setting, they are embarking on a fairly dangerous mission.

The Help book cover

 I’m not white, I’m not African-American and I’m not a citizen of USA. While I knew some background on civil war history, I  liked the angle this book took on the Jim Crow laws and maids working for white women that they once raised as babies. There were two readings which struck me: Skeeter, a white woman gives a voice to “colored” maids who are silenced by the laws governing their state about race. On the positive side, it represents a simple college girl finding courage to stand up for the oppressed race. On the negative side, this is a story about mastery and race – the maids could not have done this without Skeeter’s assistance. At least, those are the two sides of the coin to me.

What was most beautiful to me was the relationship between Aibileen and motherly affection-starved Mae Mobley. I loved how the racist first grade teacher was changed when Raleigh Leefolt saw her playing ‘Rosa Parks on the bus’ with her sibling after she lied to defend Aibileen. Celia Foote, Johnny and Minny also had quite interesting interactions. The book definitely has its share of dramatic and funny moments.

Well, as for my opinion? It is worth reading, though there is plenty of subject matter about racism in the Southern States, because of the perspectives from which it is written – especially that of Aibileen andMinny.

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The Sign

09/09/2011 at 12:36 PM (Adventure, Books, Environment, Mystery, Politics, Religion, Thriller) (, , , , , )

The Sign, the third book written by author Raymond Khoury, combines a tale of politics gone awry and the realities about the impact of global warming into the plot of a thriller. In the modern world depicted by the writer, the joint forces of pollution of the earth and arising political upheaval gives rise to big arguments between those who believe in evolution and those who believe in creationism. The sign which appears over Antarctica, during the collapse of an ice shelf, as a shape-shifting globe and then vanishes are claimed by the latter group as a divine sign from God. The sign itself was able to arouse my curiosity but all the squabbles regarding its “divinity” put me off. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think this a Bible-thumping book at all but which way you lean politically is likely to effect how you perceive the book. The Sign seemed too technical and science focused for me to like it at first until the thriller part came into play with scientist Danny Sherwood’s escape attempt.

This sign’s appearance is witnessed by Gracie Logan, a science reporter who’s at the right place at the right time. She is boarded on a scientific vessel to cover the breakage of the ice shelf. Deciding to follow the story of the sign and investigate what it means, she is led to Egypt after a tip-off from a priest called Brother Ameen. Her crew sees the sign drawn in a Coptic cave inhabited by a Catholic priest called Father Jerome who is widely regarded as a Saint. The catch is that these images were drawn seven months earlier before the appearance of the sign in Antarctica. In regard to Gracie and her TV crew, I feel the descriptions were just too long and the debates on creationism versus evolution were too much on the preachy side to be enjoyable. Those characters became marginally of interest only after the death of a main crew member in Egypt in shady circumstances.

The Sign Book Cover

Image from: booksellers.penguin.com

Once Boston’s Matt Sherwood, reformed car thief, was added to the equation after learning about the possibility that his brother’s death was a murder from his best friend, the plot becomes more action-packed and the pace begins to accelerate significantly. The short chapters and simple to read prose keeps you turning pages more because you are interested in where the plot will lead rather than because the characters arouse your sympathies. This is a plot-driven novel which doesn’t really care much to endear the characters to you. This is all about the characters going from Point A to Point B and to Point C in pursuit of the ending. Perhaps this is because of the writer’s credentials as a screenwriter – it is a lot easier to imagine this as a blockbuster with a lot of action. This book may have the pace of an adventure written by Dan Brown but because it considers much deeper subject matter such as global warming and environmentalism in almost lecture mode, I feel it’s more of a science fiction about corruption in religion and politics rather than the plot of a religious thriller featuring religious figures from myths and legends of the past. It almost feels like you’re reading something academical when reading bits of the book not involving Matt’s physical encounters with the Bullet as he tries to find out what really happened to Danny Sherwood, his kid brother.

This book will bring enjoyment for a fan of quickly moving adventure thrillers if you don’t mind lectures with an agenda sneaking into your fiction. For me, this detracted from having a wholesome reading experience. If a book claims to be a thriller, I have different expectations of content rather than politics and the possible dangers to humanity through global warming. This is not a religion-bashing book either as the final solution to the corrupt plans by the state and the military who are at odds with each other seems open-minded. But while I didn’t dislike this book, I believe it could have been written a lot better.

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Fishing For Stars

06/19/2011 at 10:54 AM (Australian Literature, Books, Culture, Educational, Inspired, Politics, Romance, War) (, , , , , )

It actually has been a long while since I’ve read a Bryce Courtenay because work and volunteering has kept me on my toes. But on a recent jaunt to the library, I found a sequel to The Persimmon Tree. It’s called Fishing for Stars.

So shipping magnate Nick Duncan finds his life revolving around two women: Anna Til, the exotic but damaged Eurasian obsessed with profit and Marg Hamilton, ex-Navy wife and fanatical protector of nature’s treasures. These characteristics give the two women who are loath to let Nick Duncan belong solely to the other have two vindictive names to call each other: Princess Plunder and Green Bitch. The settings are interesting as it involves the Yakuza in Japan, the military environment of Indonesia, the Pacific Islands and parts of Australia. But this is a story narrated by flashback.

Penguin Fishing for Stars Book Cover

Nick is grieving after losing Anna to breast cancer and is suffering from bad dreams harking back to WWII. Marg decides this is possibly the onset of PTSD and finds him an appropriate specialist. On the advice of his psychologist, Nick decides to put his story on paper; the tale of how he has lived since being a war hero. He writes about the lifelong contest of the two women and how he tried to keep each to their separate worlds until he was forced to take action.

The struggle to save Lake Pedder annoyed me with the weight given to all the politics involved but nevertheless the information was so educational that it was easy to forgive this aspect. The take on Anna Til being a BDSM dominatrix with vaginismus who had a smack habit she couldn’t kick but was cool as a cucumber in making multi-million dollar business deals was a bit much. The habit did not really count as a flaw if it didn’t impact on her ability to be a rational and calculating negotiator. Marg was described in a better and believable way but I think this book focused more on what she did than her as a character.

Still, if you have read The Persimmon Tree, reading the aftermath in Fishing for Stars is not a bad experience even if the history is rehashed for the benefit of those with poor memories. You will always be sure to learn something entirely new in the case of this writer.

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Campaign Ruby

03/24/2011 at 1:02 AM (Books, Politics, Romance) (, , , , )

My recent fling with chick lit has made me succumb to more of it. In this case, it was Campaign Ruby written by Jessica Rudd, the daughter of the ex PM of Australia.

It starts out with the protagonist Ruby getting fired from her job as an investment banker in London. Used to being financially well off, she is devastated when her Louboutins – towering high-heeled pumps with signature red soles –  arrive on that very day and she is forced to return them. Snubbed by the email sent by the HR staff, she creates a cutting reply and without thinking of the consequences hits send. By the next day her email has gone viral even to the extent of The Financial Times. To drown her sorrows, she indulges in a case of Australian Pinot Noir. On waking up the next day, she realises in a drunken stupor she has booked a flight to Melbourne departing on that night.

Campaign Ruby Book Cover

With the assistance of her efficient sister, Fran, Ruby is sent to stay with her lesbian aunt in the Yarra Valley. Although she gets off on the wrong foot with Debs, her aunt’s partner who happens to be a lawyer with a good sense of style, they ultimately resolve their differences. Despite not having a working visa, Ruby is offered a job as a financial policy advisor to the Federal Leader of the Opposition by the Chief of Staff during an impromptu visit to a political fundraiser. So upon accepting despite having no background on party views and economic policies, she finds herself enmeshed in the election campaign trail and dubbed Roo.

Thrown headfirst into the field of Australian politics, she finds herself enjoying the hectic pace despite suffering wardrobe malfunctions, numerous media related faux pas and relationship mishaps with men of dubious character. Despite her rookie status, Ruby makes suggestions which work well when the Treasurer overthrows the current PM and calls an early election. This is eerie and reminiscent of the K -Rudd situation but the strangest thing is that this book was written prior to that. It gives meaning to life imitating art certainly!

While Campaign Ruby is humorous and uses brand names to a suffocating extent, it is still enjoyable. Just watch out for the peppering of clichés. But as political chick lit spin, it’s a great read.

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02/15/2011 at 10:37 AM (Books, Classics, Politics, Romance) (, , , , , , , , )

Just before Valentine’s Day, I finished reading Middlemarch by nineteenth century novelist George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans). This story of hers about the life within an English provincial town is not the easiest to follow because of the style of writing she employs but for those who can manage the vocabulary, we are drawn into the centre of a plot starring the intellectual and ardent Dorothea Brooke who is full of moral convictions. Fantasies of glorious achievement by transcending the limits of self are dreams possessed by many of us and the way she encompasses this longing into the narrative train of her novel demonstrates how contemporary the thoughts of the author were for her time. She uses Dorothea as the leading vehicle to invigorate the spirit of quest through a web of interconnected characters in Middlemarch.

Middlemarch cover image

Yet we learn even Dorothea, knowledgable as she is, can be prone to mistakes in judgement. This is what leads to her union with the much older Edward Casaubon because she feels by assisting in completing his seminal work (which is a useless research piece), it will be of benefit to the world.  Despite her wealth and position, Dorothea is constrained by the liberty to do nothing which was the fortune of a gentlewoman in 1829. It is when she meets Will Ladislaw, the young cousin of her husband, Dorothea finds a companion within her wavelength but their association is subject to mean spirited speculation regarding inheritance.

In contrast to her, we have Dr. Tertius Lydgate who also desires to do good in the world but similarly ends up in an unhappy marriage through poor judgement with the frivolous Rosamond Vincy. In addition, his initial benefactor Nicholas Bulstrode struggles with demons of his own leaving him in the lurch. Other practitioners in the town are resentful of his progressive ideas and this leaves him alienated. While the paths of  Dorothea and Dr. Lydgate collide at the end to the benefit of both, tales of many other characters and their individual preoccupations on using their gifts to help the self and their surrounding environment perpetuate the novel such as the romance between irresponsible Fred Vincy and pragmatic Mary Garth.

The pair of failed marriages and unrealised ambitions make up the trajectory of Middlemarch as well as its setting in the period just before the Reform Bill of 1832. The characters in the novel are all drawn together into a motley cast and we are given insight into the habits and idioms of the diverse groups as they pursue their goals of  self fulfillment.

If you are interested in watching a television adaptation starring Juliet Aubrey as the regal Dorothea after reading the novel, you can find it here.  The role of Fred Vincy, you might like to know, is played by Colin Firth’s younger brother, Jonathan, who has an impressive resume of his own.

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Home – Lahrissa Behrendt

02/01/2011 at 5:52 AM (Australian Literature, Books, Nostalgia, Politics, Short Stories) (, , , , , , )

Larissa Behrendt is a Eualeyai and Kamillaroi woman who decided to become a lawyer at the tender age of eleven when her Indigenous father found his mother’s removal certificate. This poignant and touching story titled Home about Garibooli, a naive young Aboriginal girl who is displaced from her society to an alien Western world, tells us subtly how advantage is taken of her childhood innocence.

Aboriginal art

Copyright: Mudjile Mime

Garibooli, after being taken from her people is put to work in the mansion of the Howard family under the name, Elizabeth . The domestic servitude encumbered upon her during her youth is exploitation enough but worse follows when Mr. Howard begins to pay her flattering attention. Her ignorance and lack of education makes the resulting consequences ultimately tragic.

The story is interspersed with comparisons of Indigenous traditions and Western culture. Highlighted is the friendship between Xiao-ying Chan (Helen Chan to white people) and Garibooli (Elizabeth to white people), her cordial relationship between the strict but kindly housekeeper Miss Grainger and the perpetual annoyance of Mrs Howard when she tries her best striving to get praise for a job well done. Imposition of barriers created by the inability to communicate is well articulated within this tale. The author neatly ties in the impact inflicted on Garibooli by the separation from her family through indicating her conflicting desire to please the Howard household while showing her discontent through nostalgic, contemplative reflections.

The story appears to indirectly comment on the plight segregation had forced on the protagonist since in Australia, similar conditions were faced by many other young Aboriginal girls when oppression against the indigenous people were rife. Prejudice held against this native community has lessened considerably with the passage of time and the public apology but politics and the current legal system still has a big part to play in improving conditions for our indigenous citizens. If you did not know about the Stolen Generations, you might find some enlightening information within this fact sheet.

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