MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Movie Review – Theeb (2014) — May 15, 2016

Movie Review – Theeb (2014)

Movie Review – Theeb (2014)

theeb

Movie Synopsis:

This Jordanian film focuses on the Ottoman Empire during World War I.  An English officer comes to a peaceful settlement, wanting a guide to a strategic location on the newly built Ottoman railway.  Theeb’s brother volunteers to lead him, following customs of hospitality to guests.  Young Theeb secretly follows them, and eventually joins them.  It’s too late to turn back, so they must include him in the journey forward.  However, when they are beset by raiders on the dangerous path, Theeb must find a way to survive in a frightening desert wilderness.

Movie Review:

 

This film was a fascinating, and ultimately successful drama/adventure.   The combination of immediate plot combined with a broader commentary on the history and development of this land during the early 1900s was well put together.  The idea that the coming railway and advance of other societies was creating change and impact on the local peoples of the Ottoman Empire was referenced in this thoughtful film.

Director Naji Abu Nowar did a wonderful job bringing to life the Ottoman empire of the early 1900s.  The cinematography and shots of the landscape was beautiful and majestic.  The soundtrack to go along with this was also fantastic and added a lot of substance to the film.

The story of Theeb, and following him through some difficult and dangerous times, created tension and emotion.  Theeb was a character the audience really cared about, and child actor Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat did an excellent job showing curiosity, adventurous spirit, and sadness.

The one downside to the film was that the few main characters of the film were not as well defined and explored as they may have been.  If we had more details of the characters thoughts and motivations, it may have added additional depth to the film.

Overall however, this was an enjoyable, thoughtful, and powerful film that told a story from an Arabic point of view.  This is always vital when trying to understand events and situations.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.

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Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War (2016) —

Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

captain-america-civil-war

Movie Synopsis:

In this latest Marvel outing, we see Tony Stark still reeling from what occurred in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where his efforts led to near worldwide destruction.  He is trying to be more careful going forward.  Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers, are trying to make a difference to make the world safer, but yet another problem has led to innocent civilian casualties.

The United Nations, as a response, and with Tony Stark’s support, proposes that the UN have more say in how and when the Avengers will get involved in world threats.  Stark and several Avengers agree, while Captain America and several other Avengers disagree with this.

What unfolds is disagreement and dissension amongst the group, and infighting, while at the same time a dangerous criminal from the past hopes to use the situation to create havoc for the Avengers, for his own ends.

Movie Review:

 

This movie was definitely a good follow-up to Avengers: Age of Ultron, where the story picks up from the conclusion of that film.  The writers of this film did an excellent job on two fronts: showing the emotions of the super heroes, and creating a unique story that is different from the usual.

Emotions of the super heroes, particularly Tony Stark and his desire to ensure the Avengers do not take matters into their own hands to the point civilians are lost, was an interesting and logical next step, given what happened in the last film.  The fact Captain America didn’t agree created an interesting difference of opinion for all the Avengers, and there emotional responses to this philosophical divide was interesting to watch.  Although some characters had less focus and air time than others, the ones that were focused on were interesting to watch.

This question of the role of the Avengers and their relation to oversight from the United Nations was a fascinating central question for this movie, and it created a unique plot for the film.  There were obviously battle sequences and scenes of action, but the fact we had these internal questions being asked by our heroes created a unique premise for a movie.  We have seen many of these movies where it is battling huge and powerful evil characters trying to blow up cities and the planet itself.  Seeing something different in this film was a positive development, and one can hope this continues as we move forward with many other Marvel movies coming up over the coming years.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Book Review – Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel —

Book Review – Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Book Review – Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

station-eleven

Facts:

  •    Book: Station Eleven
  •    Author: Emily St. John Mandel
  •    Genre: Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 2014
  •    Read 339-page paperback edition in May 2016.

Book Description:

In this dystopian novel, the human population of the planet has been largely killed off by a fast acting flu.  However, some people have managed to survive and live in a post-acopalyptic age where there is no electricity, medicine, or other comforts of the modern age.  Twenty years after the disaster, although there are settlements now, some safe and some dangerous, the novel centres on a group of traveling musicians and actors, who perform Shakespeare and bring art and culture to people.  The novel also goes back to the days after the flu began, to show us the impact on society and how several people survived, people with eventual connections to the Shakespeare group.  This is a novel of sadness and melancholy, mixed with hope for some kind of future.

Book Review:

This novel by Canadian author Mandel is absolutely fantastic.  Her writing style and structure for the novel were perfect, with the decision to go back and forth across time, from the date of the disaster to twenty years beyond.  As we go back and forth, we start to see how characters and individual story lines connect, and it was enjoyable and touching for the reader to see these connections of people and objects.

The plot is obviously a dark one, with a huge medical disaster affecting the entire world.  Mandel focuses not on how organizations and governments try to deal with it, but more on the personal level, how do individual characters try and cope with impending doom.  Mandel writes many beautiful passages on these themes, that create a very personal and emotional novel, one that is touching, haunting, and melancholy.

“Garrett had had a wife and four-year-old twins in Halifax, but the last call he’d ever made was to his boss.  The last words he’d spoken into a telephone were a bouquet of corporate cliches, seared horribly into memory.”

The traveling music and theatre troupe twenty years after the disaster was an interesting and enjoyable group to read about.  Understanding their various perspectives on the world, some people who remember pre-apocalyptic technology, and younger people who don’t have those memories, provided interesting conversations to think about.  The importance of the arts and culture, no matter what your surroundings, was also fascinating.

Mandel also introduced a nice concept of the Station Eleven comic book, which connected characters from the date of the flu epidemic to characters twenty years later.  The comic book was vivid and well described, and the characters who were connected to this comic book placed value on it, which added substance to the novel itself.

The reality of lawlessness and a lack of national governments and borders was a very interesting concept, and Mandel did a nice job of highlighting many differences in the “new world” and allowed the reader to try and imagine this.

The action and tension in the novel related to the dangerous “Prophet” and his cult-like followers was well written. Mandel did a great job connecting characters like the Prophet to characters from twenty years earlier when the flu hit, and this connected the time periods of the book nicely.  At times it seemed some of the connections of people and objects were a little too convenient, but this was a very minor issue.

Overall, there were interesting characters and interesting story lines that came together throughout the book.  Mandel did a wonderful job, with strong writing that was both haunting and dark, as well as hopeful for a future.

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars