35 of #52FilmsByWomen: Julie and Julia

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Julie and Julia (2009, written and directed by Nora Ephron)

[No. 35 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

For one reason or another, working on some sort of project is a great way to give themselves a sense of direction in their lives. Julie Powell (Amy Adams), turning 30 and seeing her friends being busy with their successful careers and personal lives feels despondent with her dead-end job of being a telephone operator for an insurance company. So she sets herself the goal of cooking through all the recipes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child within one year, while writing a blog about it.

This is a fun adventure of seeing Julie going through her us and downs of keeping to her schedule and balancing her life around the difficult tasks required by the complicated recipes. There is also a parallel storyline taking place in the 1940s were we follow Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) and how she learned French cooking and published her book.

As far as the story goes, this is a charming and lighthearted movie. Though there seemed to be plot threads that seemed to have dropped or resolved somewhat arbitrarily at the end, the rest of the movie is fun and entertaining. Also looking at all the food might make you hungry.

 

 

34 of #52FilmsByWomen: The Invitation

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The Invitation (2015, Directed by Karyn Kusama)

[No. 34 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

Whether or not you care about spoilers, we can’t deny that genre convention does play a lot with our expectations and preconceived notions about the movie. Sometimes a movie may play around with these conventions, and lead to true surprises even for experienced movie connoisseurs.  This is why I recommend watching The Invitation completely cold and not knowing anything about it’s plot or story. (Seriously, don’t even check its IMDB page)

What little non-spoiler synopsis is like this: Will and Kira attends a dinner party hosted by Will’s ex-wife Eden. They are joined by their mutual friends, most of whom Will seemed to have lost contact with since their divorce. And it all goes along from there.

 

33 of #52FilmsByWomen: Talvar

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Talvar (2015, directed by Meghna Gulzar)

[No. 33 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

Talvar is a murder mystery based on a real life case known as the 2008 Noida double murders. While the names and characters are fictionalised for the movie, lots of the procedural details of the case were similar to its real life couterpart.

The case is about a murder of a 14-year-old girl, who’s body was discovered by her parents early in the morning. Soon thereafter the body of the family’s servant was also discovered on the roof. Irfan Khan plays the lead investigative officer who takes over the case from the bungling incompetence of the local police. He is great as the calm professional, who might sometimes bend the rules a little bit to get the job done, though not in the extreme way like in Luther or The Shield, but in a more subtle and believable manner.

This movie is gripping right from the start, the mystery and investigation moves forward at a brisk pace, with some comedic moments here and there to relieve the intensity. There was especially great performances by Konkona Sen Sharma and Neeraj Kabi as the victim’s parents, who goes between sympathetic mourning parents, to suspicious murder suspects, depending on the opposite points of view by different investigating teams taking charge of the case.

This is one of the best police investigation stories, which is a must-watch for fans of Broadchurch, The Fall and Top of the Lake. Irfan Khan’s character might even make this a slightly more mild-mannered version of Luther.

Game Review: The Room

The Room is (literally) a locked room-uh, box game in which you have to solve puzzles to advance. The premise is rather simple: you are following the footsteps of your friend who has disappeared, but has apparently dabbled in alchemy prior to that. He has left behind a box that has multiple hidden compartments and locks on it, which will provide clues as to what had happened to him.

I love puzzle games, and I got interested in this game from watching a ‘Let’s Play’ video of it. As far as puzzle games go, The Room is engaging and addictive. Part of its appeal lies in the wide variety of puzzles, from using a special lens to find hidden messages to getting tokens across a set of obstacles, so that you are not likely to be bored. However, I believe that the most impressive aspect of this game is the design of the objects in the game. It is a visual feast, especially if you like ornate designs like these:

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This game is close to perfect, but not quite so. Story-wise, the game is just so-so, reiterating the plot of someone dabbling in the supernatural and courting the sinister, which further convinces me that it is the visual design of the game that sets it apart.

Another grouse that I have about this game is the obligatory zooming in and out for every single action you want to perform. Want to place a key into a keyhole? You have to zoom in to the keyhole, put the key in and turn it, and then zoom out again. Given the amount of actions you will perform over the course of this game, that quickly gets tiresome.

Finally, if you ever get stuck on a particular puzzle or ran out of clues as to what to do next, there are hints provided to guide you. That brings me to my next complaint: the hints only show up after a certain amount of time. I understand that this is to encourage the player to keep trying, but it is annoying when the first hint provided is rarely helpful. For example, once you find a key or a cog or some random piece of metal, but are unsure of where it can be used, the first hint is usually along the lines of, ‘That can be used somewhere’. No shit, Sherlock! In return, you will have to wait even longer for the next hint to be available.

Still, the game itself is engaging enough for me to finish it in two sittings (only because I started the first session quite late). It was so addictive that I was disappointed when the game ended, which prompted me to immediately get The Room 2 (to be discussed in another post). There is undoubtedly a sense of satisfaction in solving some of the puzzles, the feeling of joy when something clicks. Another added bonus: this game is available for USD4.99, which is not too bad for about 4 hours of gameplay. I can’t vouch for its replay value, since it’s too early for me to try playing it again, but I suspect that I would have forgotten most of the solutions to the puzzles, so it will still be engaging if I play it again.

If you like puzzles, go for this game. It’s as good as it gets. Finally, let me conclude with my favourite part of the game:

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32 of #52FilmsByWomen: Jennifer’s Body

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Jennifer’s Body (2009, directed by Karyn Kusama, written by Diablo Cody)

[No 32 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

Imagine an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but without Buffy, and that episode is expanded into a full-length feature film with a reasonable budget to match. That would be my description of Jennifer’s Body.

In small town called Devil’s Kettle, a demon has inhabited the body of a popular high school girl named Jennifer (Megan Fox). She starts murdering people and completely upending the life of her best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried).

Putting aside, her association with Transformers and Michael Bay, Megan Fox’s performance was fantastic as Needy’s best friend who turned into a psychopathic demon. Her transformation into a villain is believably scary and convincing.

The writing and dialogue in this movie was sharp and snappy, as befitting the quality of Diablo Cody who wrote Juno (one of my favourite movies).

 

 

 

31 of #53FilmsByWomen: You Carry Me

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You Carry Me (2015, written and directed by Ivona Juka)

[No. 31 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

This is an anthology of three stories of people in the three separate stories about the lives of a director, makeup artist and a producer for a TV soap opera. Nevertheless, the fact that they work together in making soap operas seem almost irrelevant to the meat of their individual stories – all of which focus on different aspects of family and parenting.

The first story seemed to be the most self-contained from the other three, in which we follow Ives (Lana Baric), the TV director who’s barely scraping by to take care of her father with dementia. This is probably the most emotionally powerful story among the three as we see Ives struggle to balance her work and finding time to take care of her father, not to mention earning enough money to keep it all together. Lana Baric gave a great performance where we would empathise with her constant frustration and despair as she deals with her father who sometimes couldn’t recognise her at all.

The second story is about the of the makeup artist Lidija (Nataša Janjić), though the story focuses more on the relationship of her daughter Dora (Helena Beljan) with and Dora’s father Vedran (Goran Hajduković).

In the third story we follow the TV producer Nataša (Nataša Dorčić), who is pregnant and also suffering from a terminal illness. Her philandering husband seem to be no help in her situation at all, and oddly enough she has a much better friendship and support from Phillip, her husband’s son from a previous marriage.

You Carry Me is sometimes emotionally heavy. But it hits all the right notes where everyone could relate to, as it examines in honest clarity the various aspects of family life that everyone experiences at some point. And just like family life, the movie takes us through happy and sad moments alike.