2016: 100 Book Challenge

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Hello!

The end of the year usually means a lot of looking-back/reflection/summary posts. This one is no exception. Also, if you ever needed more proof that I am a gigantic nerd, this is it.

At the beginning of the year, I raised myself a challenge – to read 100 books and to keep track of them. I mainly did that because 1. I wanted to read more – I used to read a lot during childhood but couldn’t find time for books in later years, due to watching a lot of films and 2. since I read/watch/hear so many stories, I wanted to have a list of them so that I would not start reading a book which I have read before.

I’m glad to announce that I did achieve my goal and did finish 100 books in 12 months. I covered a variety of genres, authors, and languages.

Some statistics before I give you the list: out of the 100 books:

  • 23 were in my native Lithuanian language and 77 were in English.
  • 20 of them were for study purposes, 80 – for leisure.
  • 60 authors were covered: I read only one book by 44 authors and a few books by 16 authors. W. Shakespeare came in first with 8 repeats, T. Morrison followed second with 6 and J.K.Rowling with 5. D. Brown had 4, while A. Moore, R. Riggs, M. Strandberg and S.B. Elfrgen and Sir A. Conan Doyle all had 3. Lastly, I read 2 books by each of the following authors: A. Miller, H. Ibsen, A. Spiegelman, S. Plath, J. Conrad, J. Moyes, G. Flynn, and H. Lee.
  • 30 writers were American, 15British, 5French, 2 (each) were Lithuanian, Irish, Japanese, and Scandinavian and 1 (each) – Russian, Polish, Nigerian, and Pakistani.
  • 72 were stand-alone books, while 28 belonged to 11 series.
  • 53 were modern books, while 47 were classics.
  • 56 were prose and 2poetry books. 15 were plays, 18graphic novels, and 9memoirs.
  • 8 was my monthly average.

Before I give you the long list by genre, here is my TOP 10 in no particular order:

  • A. Spiegelman – ‘Maus’
  • A.Moore and D.Gibbons – ‘Watchmen’
  • J.K.Rowling – ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’
  • S. Plath – ‘The Bell Jar’
  • H. Lee – ‘Go Set a Watchman’
  • A. Weir – ‘The Martian’
  • G. Flynn – ‘Sharp Objects’
  • E. Cline – ‘Ready Player One’
  • L. Wacquant – ‘Body and Soul: The Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer’
  • C. McDougall – ‘Born to Run’

Now the actual list by genre:

Prose:

  1. E. A. Poe – collection of short stories titled ‘The Gold-Bug’
  2. A. de Saint-Exupéry – two storiesSouthern Mail’ and ‘Night Flight’ in one novel.
  3. M. Shelley – ‘Frankenstein’
  4. J.M.Barie – ‘Peter Pan’
  5. W. Golding – ‘Lord of the Flies’
  6. V. Nabokov – ‘Lolita’
  7. K. Ishiguro – ‘Never Let Me Go’
  8. S. Plath – ‘The Bell Jar’
  9. J. Conrad – ‘Hearth of Darkness’
  10. J. Conrad – a trio of short stories ‘An Outpost of Progress’, ‘Karan’, ‘Youth’.
  11. J. Baldwin –  ‘Giovanni’s Room’
  12. C. Achebe – ‘Things Fall Apart’
  13. T. Morrison – ‘Beloved’
  14. T. Morrison – ‘Sula’
  15. T. Morrison – ‘Song of Solomon’
  16. T. Morrison – ‘A Mercy’
  17. T. Morrison – ‘The Bluest Eye’
  18. T. Morrison – ‘Home’
  19. M. Mauss – ‘The Gift’
  20. H. Melville – ‘Moby Dick’
  21. J. Austen – ‘Sense and Sensibility’
  22. J. Moyes – ‘Me Before You’
  23. J. Moyes – ‘After You’
  24. H. Lee – ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
  25. H. Lee – ‘Go Set a Watchman’
  26. A. Weir – ‘The Martian’
  27. G. Flynn – ‘Sharp Objects’
  28. G. Flynn – ‘Dark Places’
  29. M. Strandberg and S.B.Elfgren – ‘The Circle’
  30. M. Strandberg and S.B.Elfgren – ‘Fire’
  31. M. Strandberg and S.B.Elfgren – ‘The Key’
  32. K. Vonnegut – ‘The Breakfast of Champions’
  33. I. Fleming – ‘Casino Royale’
  34. D. Brown – ‘Angels and Demons’
  35. D. Brown – ‘The Da Vinci Code’
  36. D. Brown – ‘The Lost Symbol’
  37. D. Brown – ‘Inferno’
  38. G. DeWeese – ‘Into the Nebula (Star Trek: The Next Generation #36)’
  39. R. Riggs – ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for the Peculiar Children’
  40. R. Riggs – ‘Hollow City’
  41. R. Riggs – ‘The Library of Souls’
  42. E. Blyton – ‘The Famous Five: Five Go Down to the Sea’
  43. E. Blyton – ‘The Famous Five: Five Go to Mystery Moor’
  44. E. Blyton – ‘The Famous Five: Five Have Plenty of Fun’
  45. E. Blyton – ‘The Famous Five: Five on a Secret Trail’
  46. K. Keplinger – ‘The Duff’
  47. P. Hawkins – ‘The Girl on the Train’
  48. J.K.Rowling – ‘The Casual Vacancy’
  49. J.K.Rowling – ‘Fantastic Beast and Where To Find Them’
  50. J.K.Rowling – ‘Quidditch Through The Ages’
  51. J.K.Rowling – ‘Tale of Beedle The Bard’
  52. Sir A. Conan Doyle – ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’
  53. Sir A. Conan Doyle – ‘The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’
  54. Sir A. Conan Doyle – ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’
  55. E. Cline – ‘Ready Player One’
  56. G.R.R.Martin – ‘The World of Ice and Fire’
  57. D.Grayson – ‘Doctor Strange: The Fate of Dreams’

Poetry:

  1. S. Heaney – ‘North’
  2. S. Plath – ‘Ariel’

Plays:

  1. J.M.Synge – ‘The Playboy of the Western World’
  2. A. Miller – ‘The Crucible’
  3. A. Miller – ‘Death of a Salesman’
  4. H. Ibsen – ‘A Doll’s House’
  5. H. Ibsen – ‘Hedda Gabler’
  6. J. Lyly – ‘Galatea’
  7. W. Shakespeare – ‘The Taming of the Shrew’
  8. W. Shakespeare – ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
  9. W. Shakespeare – ‘Twelfth Night’
  10. W. Shakespeare – ‘The Merchant ofVenice’
  11. W. Shakespeare – ‘The Tempest’
  12. W. Shakespeare – ‘Coriolanus’
  13. W. Shakespeare – ‘Hamlet’
  14. W. Shakespeare – ‘Troilus and Cressida’
  15. J.K.Rowling – ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’

Graphic Novels:

  1. A. Spiegelman – ‘Maus’
  2. A. Spiegelman – ‘In The Shadow of No Towers’
  3. M. Satrapi – ‘Persepolis’
  4. J. Maroh – ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’
  5. C. Burns – ‘Black Hole’
  6. M.Millar and S.McNiven – ‘Civil War’
  7. Various authors – ‘Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes: Wolverine’
  8. A.Moore and D.Gibbons – ‘Watchmen’
  9. A.Moore and D.Lloyd – ‘V for Vendetta’
  10. A.Moore and B.Bolland – ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’
  11. M.Anusauskaite and G.Jord – ’10 litu’
  12. Various authors – ‘The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told’
  13. Various authors – ‘Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Iron Man’
  14. J. Sacco – ‘Palestine’
  15. C.Thompson – ‘Blankets’
  16. M.Wolfman and G.Perez – ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’
  17. E. Brubaker – ‘The Death of Captain America’

Memoirs:

  1. D. Howell and P. Lester – ‘The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire’
  2. T. Oakley – ‘Binge’
  3. C. Franta – ‘A Work in Progress’
  4. G. Helbig – ‘Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to be a Grown-Up’
  5. L. Wacquant – ‘Body and Soul: The Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer’
  6. M.Youafzai and C.Lamb – ‘I am Malala’
  7. I.Staskevicius – ‘Maratono laukas’ (‘Marathon running’)
  8. H. Murakami – ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’
  9. C.McDougall – ‘Born to Run’

I hope you enjoyed flicking through my 2016 reading list. I really want to start writing more book-centric posts next year, so this was like a taster-post. Have a great New Year and tell me in the comments your favorite book from last year!

A snapshot of my collection

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Movie review: Allied

Movie reviews

Hello!

Today, I’m reviewing Allied – the movie that ‘broke’ Brangelina, the ‘it’ couple of Hollywood. Okay, I’m kidding –  I don’t actually believe or care much about the rumors. To me, Allied is, first and foremost, a film by a director that is of my native descent (Zemeckis is half-Lithuanian).

IMDb summary: In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.

Writing

Steven Knight wrote the screenplay for Allied. So far, his accomplishments have been a bit average: I absolutely loved his small film Locke and really enjoyed the stories of The Hundred-Foot Journey and Pawn Sacrifice. However, Knight also penned the script for the so-so picture Burnt and wrote the completely awful Seventh Son as well. His next film will be a different Brad Pitt picture – Wold War Z 2. Speaking of the writing for this film, quality-wise, Allied was a mixed bag , just like Knight’s track record.

I felt that Allied contained two distinct stories which could have been explored in two separate movies. The first suspenseful act of the two characters falling in love on a mission was cool and interesting. It was a successful homage to Casablanca and the Golden Age of Hollywood. The second story – the home life and the investigation – was much slower and less interesting than the preceding set-up. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the fact that this film focused more on the romance and less on the war because I have already seen enough historical films, in which the romantic aspect is relegated to the sidelines and feels out of place. Allied made a decision to be a romantic movie first and a war drama second and stuck with it. I, as I have mentioned, enjoyed and liked this idea, but I can also understand that some people might see it as too sappy and melodramatic. I, personally, found it touching and heartbreaking, although not Casablanca level heartbreaking (Allied didn’t reach the levels of ‘We’ll always have Paris’ is what I’m saying).

Having said that, Allied still did have some pretty nice lines of dialogue and some rather cool concepts. I don’t really know why but I liked the trailer line: ‘Being good at this kind of job is not very beautiful’. I also enjoyed the ideas about love in war – the problem isn’t the action of getting involved, it is feeling something about the involvement. Lastly, I liked how the film underscored that the two main characters could never be trusted, as they were trained to lie.

Directing

Robert Zemeckis, who is responsible for creating a whole slew of cinematic classics – Back To The Future trilogy, Who Framed Robert Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away and whose latest films include The Walk and Flight, directed Allied and did quite a good job. The film looked beautiful visually, although the CGI at the beginning (the desert) seemed a tiny bit fake and took me out of the film. Other historical settings were realized nicely, though. Zemeckis also used a lot of time jumps in the film and they did make sense for the most part. Lastly, I did like his long takes that some critics panned. At first, they seemed unnecessarily long to me as well, but then I realized that they were this long for a reason and were meant to show or to indicate something extra.

Acting

I think that the lead duo – Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard – did an amazing job. First, they had crazy good chemistry and made a believable couple – their back and forth dialogue was superb, especially in the first act. Secondly, I think that the two actors nailed the ‘fake’ spy acting and didn’t make it seem cartoony. I was also quite surprised to see Lizzy Caplan in a supporting role and thought that her character was interesting, although, I question the motives behind the decision to include her character. A trio of actors, who seem to constantly appear in historical movies – Jared Francis Harris, Matthew Goode, and Simon McBurney, rounded up the cast of Allied and brought solid performances too.

Actors’ film recommendations:

  • Brad Pitt: Seven, Fight ClubMr. & Mrs. Smith (why not, it is still a good movie), Inglorious Basterds, Fury, The Big Short, By The Sea (even more ironic, as this one is directed by Jolie).
  • Marion Cotillard: Macbeth, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Big FishLa Vie en Rose for which she won an Oscar should also be on this list, even though I haven’t seen it yet. 
  • Lizzy Caplan: Now You See Me 2, Mean Girls (what a throwback).
  • Jared Harris: Benjamin Button, Lincoln, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Matthew Goode: Downton Abbey, The Imitation Game, Watchmen.
  • Simon McBurney: MI:Rogue Nation, Magic in the Moonlight, The Theory of Everything, Jane Eyre.

In brief, Allied was a solid romantic war drama. It had good acting and a decent story and visuals. However, the film was not groundbreaking, which it could have been, knowing who was involved in its making, both in front and behind the camera.

Rate: 3,75/5

Trailer: Allied trailer

allied-2016-3

5 ideas about a movie: Batman: The Killing Joke

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have been reviewing movies for almost 3 years and, throughout that time, I tried to branch out as much as possible – I wrote about big blockbusters and small indie films, Hollywood flicks and foreign pictures. All of the movies had one thing in common – they all have been theatrical releases. Well, this time, I’m widening the spectrum and reviewing an animated movie that was released on streaming and had only a limited theatrical run – Batman: The Killing Joke.

IMDb summary: As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.

  1. The Killing Joke is the newest addition to the DC Animated Universe. Lately, I have been watching a lot films of that franchise – I’m done with Justice League films and I’ve also checked out the Wonder Woman animated feature. All of the DC Animated films are beloved by the fans, so The Killing Joke was also highly anticipated. The original graphic novel was written by the genius Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, so that’s also a few of the reasons why the nerds couldn’t wait for it. I haven’t read the original comic book  but really want to and will do in a near future.
  2. Writing: the comic book writer Brian Azzarello penned the script for the film and did quite a good job. However, the story did seem uneven. The first half an hour of original material, regarding Batgirl and her relationship with Batman, did not have any connections to the actual narrative of The Killing Joke, so the feature seemed like 2 different shorts in one. I understand why they wanted to add more backstory and development for Barbara, but I think they could have found a more cohesive way to do so. Nevertheless, I really liked the ending of her story – The Joker might have broken Batgirl, but Barbara survived and moved on to better (?) things. I also liked that they kept the ambiguous ending and that they also played fast and loose with The Joker’s backstory: even though the visual flashbacks told one story, the lines of dialogue sorta contradicted it.
  3. The theme of insanity and loneliness during madness was explored in the film. I have a weird interest in insanity as a concept for creative cinematic stories (that’s why I love Gotham’s Arkham Asylum episodes), even though I understand what a serious, awful, and important real-world issue it is. Nevertheless, the dark portrayal of insanity in The Killing Joke was respectful and sophisticated – the film wasn’t just dark and crazy for entertainment sake. I also really liked the deeper dive into Batman’ and Joker’s relationship and the similarities they share. The Joker has always been my and a lot of people’s favorite comic book villain and it is quite easy to see why. He is so iconic and well-rounded, both physically and psychologically: his distinct look is instantly recognizable, despite the plethora of variations throughout the years, and his emotional stance as a villain is amazing: he is frightening, yet humorous; efficient, relentless and threatening; unreliable yet still scarily charming.
  4. Sam Liu directed the picture – he has a lot of experience with animated comic book properties and didn’t disappoint this time either. The animation was good, it was done in the same style as the majority of DC Animated Universe films. I don’t know if would look good on the big screen but it definitively worked on a small one. The action scenes were also realized nicely and I appreciated the recreation of the comic book panels – even though I have yet to read the original material, its graphics are familiar to me due to how iconic they are.
  5. The voice cast did an amazing job, but it is no surprise when you see who actually voiced the characters. Kevin Conroy returned to voice Bruce Wayne / Batman and did a perfect job, as expected. Mark Hamill shined as The Joker once again. I just love that slight crack and the edge in Hamill’s voice – it is so appropriate for The Joker and I cannot imagine a different actor who could do this job. He performed the infamous memory monolog perfectly: it wasn’t too flashy but just the right amount of terror and intimidation. Tara Strong, who has plenty of voice work experience did a nice job bringing Barbara Gordon / Batgirl to life, while Ray Wise was also good Commissioner James Gordon, even though it is his only second voice role.

In short, Batman: The Killing Joke was a nice addition to the magnificent DC Animated Universe. It might not be the best feature of the franchise but it is definitely enjoyable. I would love to hear the thoughts of those who have read the comic – how does the film compare to it?

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman-The-Killing-Joke-2016-movie-poster

Movie PREVIEW: Captain America: Civil War a.k.a. Civil War comic book review

Movie previews

Hello!

I have done a few preview posts while waiting for the release of the big movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now, I would like to discuss my expectations and predictions for the new Marvel movie – Avengers 2.5 also known by its actual name Captain America: Civil War.

In preparation for the film, I have rewatched both of the Captain America’s films and enjoyed them even more than the first time. If you would like to read my review of the previous two films, you can click here – that post is one of my early ones and the reviewing style is completely different from the way I review films now, so don’t be too harsh.

In addition, not only did I rewatch the previous movies in the series, but I have also actually read the graphic novel by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven (the main series of the 7 issues) that this movie is at least partially adapting. Civil War graphic novel is one of the first serious superhero graphic novels that I’ve ever read. As a child, I would read comic books about magic that were aimed at very young audiences. Nowadays, the majority of graphic works that I used pick up would be quite biographical, like Maus and Persepolis. However, Civil War really made me want to get into comics more. I have always felt kinda overwhelmed with the lore of the comic book universes and didn’t really know where to start. But, through Civil War, I discovered that there is a bunch of limited series style graphic novels that are easily accessible to new readers. You don’t have to hunt down different issues, but can enjoy the whole story all at one, in a book format! Because of this, I have recently purchased the Greatest Batman Stories compilation novel and I’m also actively looking for the Watchmen graphic novel in my town’s 2nd hand shops.  So, let’s talk what the film might and will change when transferring the Civil War story from the page to the civil screen. SPOILERS for the comic book and possible SPOILERS for the movie.

  • To begin with, from the trailers and previous MCU films, we know that the incident that will divide the superheroes won’t be an unsuccessful TV show and will have nothing to do with New Warriors. Instead, The Avengers will disagree over the Winter Soldier question, thus, making it a personal matter to Cap. In addition, the aftermath of Sokovia and other accidents, that The Avengers were involved in, like Battle of New York will only deepen and widen the rift .
  • In addition, the film will probably cut a lot of characters that were involved in the original story. For one, Marvel Studios does not have the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four characters – it is a miracle that they got Spider-Man. Moreover, MCU has a lot of characters already, without adding a bunch of new ones ( that’s why I called the film – Avengers 2.5  – it is more of a team up movie rather than a solo standalone feature). So, if Cap 3 introduced a big group of characters all at once, the majority of them would lack the necessary development and would overcrowd the film. In the comics, it is a different story – all of the characters, that were involved in the Civil War story, have about 50 years of history behind them – they are known to the avid comic book readers, while the movie has to cater the needs of the mainstream audiences, who do not know anything about these characters.
  • Having said that, while the film won’t add a bunch of new characters, we will be introduced to a few of them. Black Panther and the new Spider-Man (with the best suit ever – the CGI eyes are amazing) will make their debut. I do not really think that they will reveal Spider-Man’s identity like they did in a comic book Civil War, since Spidey is so new in the MCU. I feel like they will save this big reveal for a solo Spider-Man film, maybe even the last film of the new trilogy. On the other hand, Black Panther’s comic book storyline probably won’t be changed that much, but the movie might add something more to it.
  • In the comic book, X-Men characters were sorta neutral, so the lack of them in the film won’t be a huge loss. On the other hand, Fantastic Four’s characters played a big role in the events, so I wonder who will replace them in the movie’s version. Doctor Strange was also neutral in the comics and since he technically is still Stephen Strange – the surgeon in the MCU (he will get his powers in his own film), we will probably only get a post-credits scene with him. Other characters, like Thor’s Cyborg Clone will either be cut or substituted. There is only a small chance that any Thor lookalikes will appear in the film, as Chris Hemsworth is not listed on IMDb. Nevertheless, that plotline might be included in the film by replacing Thor’s Clone with Vision. The characters or team like Goliath, Mrs. Sharpe, The Thunderbolts (Marvel’s Suicide Squad), Young Avengers and Namor will probably also be cut. I also don’t think that TV characters, like Daredevil and The Punisher, will appear.
  • I wonder whether the film will keep the idea that Nick Fury is on Captain America’s side, while the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. is supporting Iron Man. Either way, Civil War film will definitely mark the end of The Avengers as we know them now.
  • I am mostly sure that, in the movie the same way as in the comic book, both teams will have members, who will question their choice and will change sides. We will probably get ‘mole inside the team’ plotline as well.
  • The negative zone prison and the fifty state project will probably be too comic-book-y and too grand ideas for the film, so the actual Prison 42 will most likely be different – more realistic maybe? In general, the film’s Civil War will probably be a much smaller scale event.
  • I am also interested to see whether the film will keep the ending of the comic book. Will Tony become the S.H.I.E.L.D director? Will Cap surrender? What will be Winter Soldier’s role? I also heard the rumors that they might include the death of Captain America storyline at the end of Civil War – really don’t want that to happen. It would also make Civil War very similar to BvS, and I don’t think that’s a good idea. 

So, in conclusion, I have a lot of questions and possible speculations about the film and that’s all part of the fun with these comic book movies. I loved the graphic novel Civil War and can’t wait to read more – now I feel stupid for waiting so long to star reading the comic books.

Civil War film will be directed by the Russo brothers. Since half of their filmography consists of past and future Marvel movies (they will direct Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and 2), I don’t really have anything more to say about their previous work. I will briefly touch upon actors’ previous work in the actual review of the film, although I will probably be repeating myself a lot since I have said almost everything I wanted to say about them in my past Marvel movie reviews: Avengers Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and Guardian of the Galaxy. If you want to read my either comic book movie posts, both Marvel and DC, you can find them here: Marvel Phase 3, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool and BvS.

I am planning to see the film on April 29th, in the morning, and I will definitely be rocking my Marvel Comics T-Shirt. Will you be cosplaying for the premiere and what are your predictions for the film? Let’s discuss this in the comments!