Monday, April 30, 2012

ASoIaF reread: "A Feast for Crows"

"A Feast for Crows" is the only book in aSoIaF series that I have read only once, and this was five years or so ago. This means I forgot much of it - I was surprised how much exactly. I remembered that was Jaime and Cersei in there, Brianne and Arya, of course. But I completely forgot about Greyjoys, Sam, Martells, Sansa... I also knew the plot in general, but most of details were gone from my memory. All in all, this was almost like reading the book for the first time.

One thing did remain in my mind strongly - I didn't like "A Feast for Crows" much the first time I've read it. And judging by reviews and comments I read at that time, a lot of people shared this opinion. Most of everybody's favorite characters were missing (Tyrion, Jon, Daenerys), and majority of readers didn't like Brienne's part. Arya's part was great, but it was too short.

Although these objections mostly still stand, I like this book much more the second time. Brienne's POV is still not great as others, but it serves to depict how desperate situation in Seven Kingdoms has become. This is continuation from "A Storm of Swords" - Seven Kingdoms has definitely become a place where no one is safe and life is hard. And considering the amount of food and prospect of another harvest, things will get even nastier. Also, Podric is one of my favorite minor characters.

Jaime's and Cersei's part are great - well, greatly written at least. It is interesting how they have switched roles comparing to "A Game of Thrones". At that time Jaime was a brutal and dishonorable bully, the notorious Kingslayer. And Cersie, well, she wasn't likable for sure, but she was strong, fierce and experienced in game of thrones. And now, Jaime has become almost a new person, trying to improve himself and find some honor in this brutal world. While Cersei, she has proven not so experienced, smart and definitely not wise - a more pitiful stream of bad decision and stupidly chose advisers has not be see in a long while.

Arya's POV... There is not much to say about it except that is great - everybody like an apprentice story!

About the rest of POVs, Sansa, Sam, Greyjoys, they are nicely written, but forgettable. Even though only a week passed since I read it, I can't recall much details. There was some good parts, but must of them were only necessary, and not great.

One part is important, and I completely forgot about it until this reread: the prophecy. Until now, aSoIaF was unusual epic fantasy book because it lacked any BIG plot or theme behind everything, a purpose. We were thrown into this superbly developed setting, with life-like and interesting characters, but we just followed what happened ad-hoc. The prophecy that Aemon gives in one of Sam's characters is probably the most important part of the series so far - it gives meaning to past books and gives an idea what must happened later.

For conclusion, even though "A Feast for Crows" is not a greatest book in series, it is still very good and very important part of it. If "A Dance with Dragons" proves a good twin of it, I will be happy to say that aSoIaF stays at great course.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

ASoIaF reread: "A Storm of Swords" by George R. R. Martin

I have finally finished reading "A Storm of Swords", the third book in "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, and I am thankful for it. Not that I object to its quality or enjoyment it provided me with, but this book is soooo long, it's no wonder there are split editions available! First when I started reading it, I was surprised with how much I have forgotten. I read this book at least three times, but it was few years ago and it looks like the time affected me more than I expected. Sure, I knew the events in general, even few of the specific minor events, but I lost a picture of the book as a whole. I wasn't sure what will happen next, and I forgot which events happened here and which in "A Feast for Crows". But as I was approaching second half of the book (I even forgot there were two parts), things finally settled in my head and I once again had a good clear picture of this book. And even then, I was surprised how long it was.

This is a point in series where things start to spiral down, not in quality but in... let's say level of optimism. You can't say that events in first two books fared well for the "main characters" (e.g. Starks, Tyrion...), but they had a few victories and there was a feeling of cautious optimism regarding their future. But this is where things change from bad to worse for them, and Martin really slams it down for them and makes us question what worse can happen. Of course, the bleak autumn (constant rains, floods, death) helps to achieve really depressive feeling, especially in second part. Lost is the fell of summer and optimism, just as Catelyn predicted in "A Clash of Kings"...

Also, this is when Martin forces us to leave any prejudices we had about who is good and who is evil (not that he encouraged them in first two books). He does with adding Jaime to the list of POV characters. Jaime, one of most arrogant and least honorable persons in first two books, a person who killed those who he sworn to protect, throw kids from towers, talked with scorn to everybody and anybody. Now we are forced to follow him from the inside and see that is neither bad nor pitiful, just a victim of events as anybody else. As in Malazan Books of Fallen, and I think this is a mark of really great books, nobody is really evil. People are cruel, ambitious, insensitive; they got blood-crazy when they go to war, or they fight with members of their family; but except in few notable exceptions, this behavior can be explained, whether by the society they live in, or by mistreatment of their parents, or by some other reason that force people in real world to behave evil.

As with first two books, "A Game of Thrones" and "A Clash of Kings", "A Storm of Swords" is another great book in this great series.

Few days ago I found this post: Game of Thrones Reimagined. I think that images are great, but this is not even close of how I imagined the characters. In my mind, Starks are, well, starker, with lanky hair and pale faces, while Daenerys is much younger and fragile. All in all, all characters depicted are looking too glamorous.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Movie review: "Man on a Ledge"

Few days ago I stumbled at my friend's home while they were watching "Man on the Ledge". Another friend watched in the movies some time ago and was full of praise for it. But to the rest of us, this movie was a big disappointment.

The premise is OK. An ex-cop escapes from jail, where he was put for stealing some big diamond. After weeks of hiding, he arrives to a hotel in New York, rents a room, and eats a fancy dinner, after which he steps out of the windows on a ledge, where he threatens to jump if police-negotiator Lydia Mercer doesn't attend to his wishes. But is a suicide his real intention?

As I said, a good idea, but the execution is poor. The problem is that this movie can't decide what it really is. Is it a crime investigation, or heist-movie, or action comedy? Elements are introduced to the plot just to be abandoned later. Also, the banter between the brother and his girlfriend, even though was intended to be funny, sound forced and irritating. And ending, it is first predictable, and second, using deus ex machina (with the receptionist real identity). Acting was also unimpressive, especially Ed Harris.

Even though "Man on a Ledge" is not a completely bad movie, it is not something I would recommend you to spend money or time on. But if you have nothing to do, it can serve...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

ASoIaF reread: "A Game of Thrones" and "A Clash of Kings"

Although initially I planned to write a particular post for each of the books, I later changed my mind and combined it to one, simply because I didn't have much to say. I am continuing with my reread, so I will see whether "A Storm of Swords" and "A Feast for Crows" will be put in separate posts. "A Dance with Dragons" surely will be.

I don't plan to write in much detail about these books. Since there is ASoIaF madness going around, anybody who wants to find out what is going on in these books can do it without much hassle. Although, anything less than reading a book will result in only a partial experience. I have watched the first season of TV adaptation, "Game of Thrones", and although it follows the series pretty much correctly, it still cannot incorporate all the little details that make ASoIaF what it is. This is another reason why I won't write a short synopsis: every description would fail in catching a myriad of small details that makes this a series with one of the most complex plots available, with a matching cast of characters. Let's just say that "A Song of Ice and Fire" is a epic fantasy series, set in a very complex quasi-medieval and fantasy world (but one with very sparse use of magic), with a large case of complex and deep characters and without clear distinction between good and evil.

I really don't have much to say about the first book, "A Game of Thrones". It was not really a thrilling experience and I was glad to finish it. This is not a berating - aGoT is still one of best fantasy books I read, belonging to one of three my best series ever (along "The Wheel of Time" and "Malazan Book of the Fallen"). But I have read it at last half a dozen times, although not in last few years. Nevertheless, I pretty much remember everything from it. But more so, last year I read a Leigh Butler's ASoIaF reread on, which is pretty detailed and would make me remember details even if I forgot them. And on top of that, I watched the first season of series recently. So you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm...

With "A Clash of Kings", things fared much better. Even though Leigh has gotten into reread of aCoK, she did less than half of it. A TV shows has only recently started showing, so I had a much better reading experience with it. But in the bottom, there is not much difference with these two books. Maybe it can be said that grayness of characters come to fore; also, the fact that you should not make an emotional attachment to characters. But maybe this comes from me knowing what will happen later.

This was the first time I read these books in original language they were written. Martin is quite a good writer, who can go into details deep as he wants (e.g. food) without ever getting boring. I don't know whether I knew this before and forgotten it, or is this the first time I realized it, but chapters in these two books are set strictly in time line. Meaning, events in any chapter happened later than those in chapter before (with one small possible exception toward the end).

Well, this is all I wanted to say about these two books. Now, I am getting onward with "A Storm of Swords".

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Movie review: "The Hunger Games"

Last weekend my girlfriend and I had some plans going with another couple to movies. This friend was very hyped-up about "The Wrath of Titans" so we wanted to satisfy his wish and we complied with this choice. But when he called to say he can't go, we changed our plans and went to "The Hunger Games" instead.

This movie is not so familiar to general audience, at least here in Croatia, but I knew much because put much attention on it. So I knew the plot in general, even few names and about the romance part, some background. Anyway, it sounded OK; except few reviews that branded it as "a new Twilight". While I don't hold any grudge toward "Twilight" series, I watched only movies and didn't find them very good. So these comparisons made be a bit suspicious toward this movie, but in the end this fear proved unnecessary.

"The Hunger Games" have quite good plot. It's SF dystopia. Some time ahead, USA ended in civil war which resulted in new oppression: the Capitol and 12 district. The capital is place of high-technology, easy living and full colors - people there live like nobility. Other districts are each poorer than previous, with District 12 being the poorest, a place of miners and poor villagers. There lives a girl in her teens, Katniss Everdeen. Every year, a festivity called the Hunger Games is held, where two people from each district, a boy and a girl, are chosen to fight to death. After Katniss' younger sister end elected, Katniss volunteers herself to replace her, alongside Peeta, who is chosen for male representative. The two of them then travel to Capitol to prepare for the fight of their lives.

Well, since this is a young adult film, you can pretty much guess the ending. But even so, this movie has enough qualities and twist to make its 2 and a half hours pass faster than expected. The dystopian part of the movie is done quite well. A bit exaggerated from the District 12 side, but it strongly expresses the difference between the classes. In district, everything is gloomy, dirty and quite, while the Capitol is full of colors, laughter and lights.

The training part was longer than I expected it to be, but this is not an objection. They used it to explain the setting in more details and they did a good job. Nothing was obviously wrong or unbelievable. I even got a wish to read the books ("The Hunger Games" trilogy) to learn more, although I don't see where I would found the time for it. And when fighting part started, it was constantly tense and full of action. Few possible ending were hinted, so you could not be sure what the final conclusion would be.

At acting part was done quite well, except one over-cried scene. There are even few stars: Woody Harrelson,   Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and Lenny Kravitz. Interestingly, and I don't know whether this was intentional or not, when they put Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson (plays Peeta) together first time, they had the same facial expressions that I was positive they are father and son.

I was quite interested to see how will they be able to make a main character, who is a gentle and obviously good teen girl, kill somebody without making her look bad. More so, kill somebody with such a violent weapon as bow. Although I think that their solution was at least partly a dirty trick, it was nevertheless done cleverly.

For conclusion, I can say that "The Hunger Games" were a positive surprise. An interesting and fast movie for all kind of audiences, with enough small details to interest those with higher expectations. Also, bear in mind that this is only first part in probable trilogy.