Friday, October 17, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

CatwsDIRECTOR: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo; CAST: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson …

SUMMARY (from IMDB): Steve Rogers, now finding difficult to fit in to the era of today then leads an assault against a friend turned rival from World War II, a Soviet emissary known as "The Winter Soldier" and his lead of a precarious uprising.


I watched this sometime in July and it took me till October to get to writing a review. That’s how I am nowadays.

However, one of reasons for me stalling with reviewing was definitely the emotional turmoil caused by Captain America: The Winter Soldier which still makes it hard to find the right words to describe my feelings about this film.

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as there were so many thing I loved:

  • the overarching theme of the evil rooted at the very core of the good as Steve stumbles upon a terrible conspiracy against humanity,
  • the incredibly developed characters and in-depth explored relationships, even minor ones, despite the turbulent pace of all the action scenes
  • and, yes, the spectacular fighting choreographies and special effects.

In conclusion to my sort-of review, I’m pretty sure everyone but me had seen and fallen in love with this franchise ages ago, but if you haven't: what are you waiting for?

5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an action-packed but heartfelt film about the struggle against evil found in the very pores of what was supposed to be good; a tale of not just one hero, but many; and, of course, a story of a long lost friend who may yet be found again. No need to say I’m excited for Captain America 3.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron man 3DIRECTOR: Shane Black; CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pierce…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.


In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark continues to struggle with who he is both as Iron Man and as a person as his past comes back to haunt him in the form of an adversary who feels wronged by him in the past.

On a personal level, Tony’s preoccupation with his so-called hobby - that is, working on constant development and improvement of the Iron Man technology - interferes with his personal life, in particularly with his relationship with Pepper.

However, the Mandarin puts in danger not only Pepper’s life, but the world, and Tony must figure out how to save both. Fortunately, he finds not only strength within, but also outside help in likely (Captain Rhodes) and unlikely places (Harley Keener, and does just that.

While the film’s central themes are fighting evil and not being able to escape one’s past, Iron Man 3 also addresses the issue of genetic engineering and provides some food for thought on that topic.

Finally, the film has quite a few stunning scenes, mostly of fight and destruction. Curiously though, I found that this fearful imagery, such as the fall of the Malibu compound, can also be beautiful, in a way.
RECOMMENDATION: Obviously, if you have watched the first two Iron Man films and are a fan of Marvel cinematic universe, you won’t want to skip Iron Man 3.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

DeathlessSUMMARY (from Goodreads): A glorious retelling of the Russian folktale Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, set in a mysterious version of St. Petersburg during the first half of the 20th century. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya's fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace - only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death. Deathless is a fierce story of life and death, love and power, old memories, deep myth and dark magic, set against the history of Russia in the twentieth century. It is, quite simply, unforgettable.


Deathless is quite a depressing book, in a way, but nonetheless a fantastic read.

The story is mainly set in St. Petersburg, the city with ever-changing name, in one of the darkest (if not the darkest) periods of Russian history, spanning the time from the pre-Revolutionary era to the aftermath of the Second World War. That said, the plot takes the reader across Russia, to its farthest hidden corners, both the tangible and the intangible, in space and in time.

Catherynne M. Valente perfectly captures the Slavic soul – which may feel exotic to some people, but is so much a part of me – with its pessimistic worldview with and a penchant for tragedy, finding beauty in dark things and sadness, interspersed with tiny bits of humour, or rather, typical sarcasm, even cynicism.

Valente combines myth and folklore with historical allusions, which stay almost unobtrusively in the background of the story. Between the lines one can discern insightful yet subtle social commentary/criticism, applicable both to historical and contemporary circumstances.

Everything is wrapped in a beautiful, highly metaphorical, yet easily readable language. The magic, myth and folklore at the forefront are, for one who wants to see beyond them, filled with an overwhelming symbolism, a study of humanity on the level of an individual and the society in general.

All that said, I have no idea why I had had the impression Deathless would be a YA book prior to reading it, for it is certainly not, at least in my opinion. It is, however, an amazing read, though dark, and I enjoyed it very much.

5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you love the darker side of myth, folklore and humanity, Deathless could be excellent read for you.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron man 2DIRECTOR: John Favreau; CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): With the world now aware of his identity as Iron Man, Tony Stark must contend with both his declining health and a vengeful mad man with ties to his father's legacy.


Iron Man 2 has a bit of a mid-life crisis as a film, or maybe it is going through puberty.

While it is still rather watchable and adds important elements both to Tony Stark’s story and to the Marvel cinematic universe, it would probably be better if it was shorter. Some action parts, in particularly, are too long and dragged out to my taste.

Talking about mid-life crisis, Tony Stark is definitely going through one, reverting to his old self-centred, partying, extravagant behaviour as he faces his existential issues. Absorbed in self-pity while searching a means for self-preservation, he neglects his company and the conspiracies of his competitor, so much so that his best friend turns against him, prompted by the government, and his faithful assistant almost gives up on him.

It takes SHIELD stepping in, forcing him to face his father’s legacy to find a solution to his problem – resolving his misguided resentment against Howard Stark on the way – for Tony to get himself together and save himself and the world, sort of, in the process. 

While Tony’s so-called mid-life crisis was somewhat irritating, it was great seeing his genius at work again. And I loved the appearances of agent Coulson and Natasha Romanoff. And Pepper. Everything would have gone (even more) awry for Tony without Pepper.

In conclusion, Iron Man 2 doesn’t quite reach the quality of its predecessor, but it is still a good film. 3 stars 
RECOMMENDATION: If you loved Iron Man, the sequel is almost a must watch.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man 1DIRECTOR: John Favreau; CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): When wealthy industrialist Tony Stark is forced to build an armoured suit after a life-threatening incident, he ultimately decides to use its technology to fight against evil.


The reason I didn’t watch Iron Man films before was that I thought they were full of senseless action. Obviously, I was wrong.

Iron Man is so much more than an action/science-fiction film. It starts as a story about a rather arrogant heir to an empire, a playboy flying on the wings of success, a not particularly likeable character, for all the dazzle surrounding him.

However, Tony Stark is not just some spoiled rich guy, he is a genius inventor, who has earned his own success, and he can very well roll his sleeves up, which is what saves him when he finds himself in a precarious situation. Once he realises the people closest to him have been lying and his company, a weapon industry giant, has been selling arms under the table, he decides to set things right, and thus becomes Iron Man.

The slow uncovering of the intrigues behind Stark Industries is what keeps up the suspense throughout the film, but what I loved most was the gradual peeling of the layers off of Tony’s character and getting to know him.

All in all, Iron Man is not just an action film, but also a character and a relationship study with a hint of criticism of modern warfare and weapon industry.

4 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Iron Man is a film both for those who like action and fights and those who like an insight in the characters, relationships and some general world issues.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Loki by Mike Vasich

LokiSUMMARY (from Goodreads): God of Mischief. Father of Lies. Harbinger of Destruction. Exiled and tortured by the gods, Loki swears vengeance. He will summon the mighty Fenris Wolf and the legendary Midgard Serpent, and they will lead an army of giants and all the dead in Niflheim. Brimming with the power of the most destructive being in the Nine Worlds, he will not rest till Asgard is in ashes and all the gods are dead under his heel.


I enjoyed Vasich’s retelling of Norse myths with their entangled web of inevitability, for even though Odin, all-knowing as he is, can foresee the future events, he does nothing to stop them. On the contrary, he makes sure they come to pass.

While such behaviour is contradictory to every living creature’s inherent drive for self-preservation, this willing surrender to fate is, paradoxically, while a total renouncement of free will at the same time its ultimate embodiment and thus exactly what keeps the Norse gods alive, if only in myth.

Loki ends with a powerful message: that even in a total destruction, something may survive. Even more: that the destruction of old is necessary for something new, something better to be born. Hence, as the world of gods falls to ruin, a new world arises, a world of Men, in which, however, the old world is not forgotten, but lives on in the form of a myth.

Nevertheless, while all of the above is highly interesting and worth exploring, the writing in Loki was basically dry. Vasich writes from multiple characters’ POVs. However, he only seems to have a good grasp on one character, Loki, who truly comes alive trough his words, while the others appear rather mechanical, unable to provoke emotion in a reader.

Therefore, I must admit that after the first 40 pages and a few other sections further along the story, I more or less skimmed most of the book.

All in all, Loki does have some intriguing aspects, but the writing just wasn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps I should find another author for fictionalised Norse mythology.

2 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Loki is not actually a book about Loki, at least not for the most part. What it is is a basic retelling of Norse myths, and a rather dryly written at that.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cat Diary (26): Nicknames

This is an occasional Sunday feature where my cat, pardon, Her Majesty the Cat, offers her more or less gracious insight into my (and her) life.

Did you know that Jo loves nicknames? As in, she loves giving me nicknames, instead of addressing me properly.

Some aren’t that bad, however the others…

My favourite three are:

  • Mini,
  • Mitzi,
  • Little Tiger,

My least favourite ones:

  • little thing (Really!?),
  • little naughty thing (even worse),
  • little beast,
  • little dwarf (Do I look like a dwarf?),
  • little rascal…

Do you see the pattern here? I’m a big cunning majestic cat! Rawr! Not something little. (In Jo’s defence, all those terms are one-word diminutive endearments in Slovene.)

Oh, oh, and the insult of all insults: mousey. Mousey! *hisses* I won’t say anything else.

Till next time,

Friday, August 29, 2014

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

CA - The First AvengerDIRECTOR: Joe Johnston; CAST: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending USA ideals.


Why on Earth have I not watched this before?

‘This’ as in not just this film but most of the Marvel things (apart from both Thors and The Avengers which I have watched.) I mean, I am fantasy/sci-fi kind of gal. 

There are special effects and things blasting off. But there is also WWII. And good winning vs. evil. And a little guy becoming a hero, saving the world, and making the ultimate sacrifice.

There are thought-provoking issues, heartbreak, and a little romance, and it is beautiful and painful and amazing. And I’ve used way too many and-s in one post.

Overall, I loved watching the co-called making of Captain America, a growth of a hero. I say growth, because one doesn’t become a hero from nothing, not if they don’t already have something heroic in them already. And Captain America: The First Avenger presents that very well.

5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Captain America: The First Avenger is a wonderful mix of sci-fi with a historical background and the fight of the good against evil. Since probably everyone but me saw this long ago, I don’t think I have anything else to say to recommend it.


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