Friday, December 25, 2015

Review: Beloved

BelovedBeloved by Toni Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beloved is the kind of book that demands re-reading, but it's so maddening to get through once that you won't want to pick it up again. The scenes of slavery are probably the harshest I've ever read, and the unconventional approach to story-telling, which melds reality with magical realism, creates a story that is weaving and glorious at times, and obfuscating and frustrating at others. It's certainly masterfully written.

But here's my problem with it. Its structure could be a little smoother. Yes, everything unwinds itself eventually, and yes, it does all make sense in the end, but there are some telly moments that kind of feel like an info dump. I think I would have enjoyed it a little more if some of the plot remained a bit more hidden and the reader had to make their own interpretation, but oh well. Either way, this is a masterpiece. Showing slavery in a fierce and metaphysical way was a gamble, but it paid off. It's no wonder Morrison won the Pulitzer, and later the Nobel prize for this book.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Why The New Star Wars is Kind of Like Creed, But Not As Good (No Spoilers)

(Image taken from:

It's Sunday, and by now, you've likely already watched the new Star Wars movie. And if you haven't, then you're probably in a cineplex watching it right now. If you're the latter, read this later. If you're the former, read this now. There are no spoilers either way, so you don't have to worry if you're in the third group that might be seeing it next week.

Now, while I know everybody LOVES this new movie, I feel kind of cold to it. It's not that it's bad. It's just that it's recycled meat. I wanted a Harold's sandwich, and I got Subway instead. It has several callbacks to the original trilogy, but most of it is just fan service. And that's okay. I don't have a problem with a film that rests on its own laurels. If any franchise deserves it, it's Star Wars, especially after the last abysmal trilogy. I'll compare it to Street Fighter III. Now, stay with me for a moment. After Street Fighter II, people wanted the next evolution of the series. But then, no, they realized they didn't, since SF III introduced brand new characters and was totally different from its predecessor. Where was Guile? Where was Blanka? M. Bison? Nowhere to be seen. In many ways, it was viewed as interesting but a failure at the same time that didn't grip the mainstream audience as much as it could have. Street Fighter IV, on the other hand, was seen as a return to form. All of your favorite World Warriors were brought back to the fight, and everything seemed back on track, even if it was really just SF 2 with a new coat of paint. Now, I'm not saying that Street Fighter III is comparable to the prequels. God no. I actually LOVE SF 3 and consider it my favorite Street Fighter. But it was something different when people really just wanted more of the same. And that's what Episode VII is. More of the same. That's not to say that's a bad thing. But it's been done before, and the film is more just simpering fan service than anything else. It's for all the scorned fans out there who wanted to love Star Wars again. This film was for them. All the rest, well, you're welcome as well. The Mouse House doesn't discriminate.

(Image taken from:

But there was another movie this year that also recycled from its past, but this time, to great effect. Creed, in every way, plucked and pulled the best elements of Rocky and sprinkled them all throughout the recent Creed. But here's the difference between Creed and Episode VII, and why the former was fantastic and the latter was lacking. Creed recognizes the past and adds it into the story, but it doesn't circle the entire plot around it. It's there, and it's relevant, but it's more for thematic purposes (Rocky is still fighting. It's just cancer this time), rather than for the audience to clap and whistle everytime something nostalgic graces the screen.

In every way, it seems like Episode VII was a mea culpa to the fans and a suggestion that we're turning this ship around. It also felt like it was just building toward more films, while Creed stood tall on its own and felt fresh, even though it really wasn't fresh at all. Creed had heart, and The Force Awakens felt devoid of heart. Sure, there's hope, and a more apt subheader for this film would have been "Another New Hope." But it's really just a film for the fans, and nothing more. Creed was a genuinely good story that tugged at the heart strings, and for the next SW, I want more Creed and less The Force Awakens. Hopefully, they make that happen.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Review: Bushido: The Soul of Japan

Bushido: The Soul of Japan. A Classic Essay on Samurai EthicsBushido: The Soul of Japan. A Classic Essay on Samurai Ethics by Inazo Nitobe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are times when Bushido: The Soul of Japan is almost poetic. But I think that's more the subject matter rather than the actual writing, since the actual writing verges on being pedantic at times. Seriously, I had to read certain lines three or four times just to get the gist of what he was saying, which felt totally unnecessary. Mr. Nitobe was a man who must have loved to hear himself talk. But I guess that's just how people wrote back in 1900, which is when the book was published. Predating both World Wars, the idea and conscience of Bushido probably seemed much more alive back then that it does today. Still, this acts as a sort of winsome time capsule of the better times. It also acts as a nice companion to any of the James Clavell samurai novels, which I'm sure Clavell pulled a great deal from this book.

But there is a bit of a discrepancy in that the author was a devout Christian, and some of the beliefs of Shintoism don't align with that of the author's, so it doesn't feel as entirely authentic as it might have. Even so, there are certain aspects of this, like the talk of seppuku and the sword that are fascinating, and others not so much. It's a relatively short book with a lot of depth. All in all, it was okay.

View all my reviews