Saturday, 31 January 2015

'The Imitation Game' Movie Review

During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.

Hello, Geeks!

Last Sunday, I watched The Imitation Game simply because I had a bad craving for cheese popcorn. The trailer looked interesting, but I wasn't sure if this serious, maths-and-war-based movie was my kind of movie.
But after two hours, when I walked out of the theatre, I realised that the popcorn hadn't been the best thing about this experience, after all.

This movie, contrary to my prior beliefs, does not focus on maths or war. Being a biopic, The Imitation Game is all about Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), a mathematician who greatly reminded me of Sheldon Cooper - intelligent, logical, arrogant, unlikeable... but still a protagonist you'd root for.

As the movie begins, Alan Turing's voice gives you a warning: if you cannot pay attention, leave. This story is only for those who can focus.

Turns out, the warning is very relevant. There are a lot of jumps in the movie's timeline, and a lot happens in just a few minutes. You can't miss a single scene without losing track of the story or becoming confused.

But you wouldn't want to miss a single scene. The movie draws you in. From witty humour to what-happens-next moments to emotional breakdowns, this one's got it all. Alan Turing is not just the lead character but also the lead comedian, with his Sheldon-esque retorts and comments.

Benedict Cumberbatch steals the show. There was no doubt about it, of course, because we all know of his talents. But from the moment he (or rather, his voice) appears on-screen, you can't help but be dazed by his performance.

Keira Knightley shines as Joan Clarke; and Matthew Goode and Allen Leech, who play Turing's fellow mathematicians, are simply brilliant. A special mention to Alex Lauther for his performance as the teenage Turing. 

Obviously, since this is a movie, things have been dramatised for cinematic impact. But at the end of the day, that doesn't take away from the message the movie is trying to put forth.

I'm going to go with 4.5 stars out of 5 for The Imitation Game. 
Thought-provoking, funny, and emotionally powerful, this movie is one that I'll surely rewatch in the years to come. I'd recommend it to everyone who's reading this review. Here's the trailer, but be warned: it does give away a major plot point.

If you've seen this one, and I'm sure most of you have, tell me what you thought of it. Entertaining? Emotional? Boring?
Are there any movies, old or new, that you'd like me to review? Feel free to make your requests. ^_^

See you later, Geeks!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

'Magic in the Moonlight' Movie Review

Set in the 1920s on the opulent Riviera in the south of France, Woody Allen's 'Magic In The Moonlight' is a romantic comedy about a master magician (Colin Firth) trying to expose a psychic medium (Emma Stone) as a fake.
What follows is a series of events that are magical in every sense of the word and send the characters reeling.

At first glance, I found this movie both appealing and jarring at the same time. I've always counted Emma Stone as one of my favourite actors, and as for Colin Firth... well, he had quite the effect on me as Mr. Darcy.
But the thought of my favourite Jane Austen hero being romantic with Peter Parker's girlfriend, after aging quite a bit, mind you...

Anyway, I was still rather excited for this one, and the starting did not disappoint me one bit.
The movie opens in the middle of a magic act by none other than Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), better known as Wei Ling Soo, the famous Chinese magician. His friend requests him to come to the south of France to unmask a phony but pretty spiritualist, Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), who might be hoodwinking a very rich family.
But soon Stanley finds himself rethinking his disregard for the irrational and the illogical... or is he just spellbound by Sophie's eyes and smile?

This movie, set in the 1920s, has quite a few things going for it: that smooth 20s music, the witty dialogues, the oh-so-beautiful cinematography, the costumes... and, of course, the two leading actors, who are wonderful in their roles.

Sophie and Stanley's scenes together are very entertaining, yes, because of the clash of their thoughts, but I just couldn't see them as lovers. Maybe it was the age difference, but I didn't see any real chemistry between them. Their conversations were engaging, but not in a romantic way. As the story went on, I started to hope that they wouldn't end up together - and one isn't supposed to feel that way while watching a romantic comedy.

The second half ended up being a tad too dramatic, and while the ending would have seemed sweet with any other pair, it just felt wrong with this one.

I'm going to go with 3 stars out of 5 for Magic in the Moonlight.

Sure, the romance wasn't the highlight of the film, but it was a great one-time watch. I couldn't take my eyes off the beautiful actors and the greenery, and the writing did make me laugh here and there. And Colin Firth and Emma Stone sharing screen space? I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Would I recommend this movie to you? Well, unless you're a fan of the actors or a sucker for the 1920s, give this one a miss. You won't be missing out on too much. Still, watch the trailer below and see if it appeals to you:

I'd love to know your thoughts on this movie, and if you have any suggestions for my next movie review, head over to the comment box below.

See you soon, Geeks!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

5 Quick Fitness Tips!

Howdy, people!
I think I had promised to do a fitness post a while ago, so here I am.

While I agree that it's important to love your body just the way it is, no matter what your shape or size, I find that fitness should be an essential part of everyone's life. Exercise keeps your stamina in check, boosts your self-confidence and causes the secretion of happiness hormones. There really is no excuse to skip the workout.

However, we are all busy people leading busy lives, and we don't often get time for exercise. I didn't, today. I came back home tired from college, continued my HIMYM marathon (I'm on season six now!), took a nap, woke up and watched the newest episode of Pretty Little Liars, and then it was time for dinner. 
But as I mentioned in my previous post, fitness is a system, not a goal. You can't and shouldn't quantify it. Just incorporating it into your existing schedule is enough.
So with my quick fitness tips, get started on the journey of health!

1) Brush Your Teeth and Get Fit:
Sounds weird when you read it, but this is what I do. I'm a right-handed person, and my left arm has always been much weaker than my right. I think this would probably be true for anyone who isn't ambidextrous.
So one thing I do to work on my left hand coordination and strength is to brush with it instead of the right.
It can be a little tricky in the beginning to do things with your non-dominant hand, but with some practice, it'll become a habit.
Also, studies show that doing simple tasks this way can also benefit your brain. Yay for two birds with one stone!

2) Standing in Line:

You know when you're standing in line at the grocery store or the airport, and it's been more than ten minutes, and you start to wish you could have spent these ten minutes doing something more productive?
Well, have no fear! All you need to do is stand on tiptoe and then slowly come back down. Repeat this a few times and you'll start to feel the burn in your legs. This is a simple calf raise that sounds easy but actually gives great results. I can't do this for more than a minute without taking a break.
And since this involves very less movement, you won't have to worry about catching any unwanted attention from onlookers.

3) Brushing Your Teeth (Again):

I promise, no dentist has sponsored this post.
You can club the non-dominant hand exercise along with the calf raise while brushing your teeth. Or you could do a squat, or any lower body move that doesn't involve moving too much. Don't try doing quick hops or lunges. I don't know about you, but I get toothpaste stains on my shirts even when I stay completely still.

4) Make a French Braid:

Sorry, boys or girls with short hair, but you may not find this tip useful.
Playing with your hair while braiding can really help tone your arms. Before I cut my hair, I would take about five minutes to do a French braid, and by the end of it, my arms would start to burn. Boom. Instant toning of the arms!
Just a simple, productive action like this can fix a bad hair day and make you stronger. So let's vow to spend more time on our hair so we can lead a healthier and happier life!

5) Walk It:
Okay, I know everyone hates this tip. But it's true! Walking to your destination or taking the stairs instead of the lift works wonders. I know that sometimes it's just too hot outside to walk, and sometimes you're in too much of a hurry to take the stairs, but if you have time, and if it's a pleasant evening, take the road not taken. Don't press the button to the lift. Don't take that escalator. You'll thank me for it later.

Well, these are five quick tips to get fit, off the top of my head. I follow almost all of these whenever I can (Hey, sometimes taking escalators is allowed. I need to be able to respect the wonders of technology), and I can definitely say that I'm much fitter than I was six months ago.

If you'd like to see more such posts on the blog, or if you have your own fitness tips for me, leave your thoughts in the comment box below. Fitness is very close to my heart now, and I could probably talk about it all day long.

I'll see you next time. Bye!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

As Fast As It Can.

I'm writing this post more for myself than you, Geeks.

Have you ever wanted to stay in bed all day because you had absolutely nothing to look forward to? Have you ever felt like you were walking aimlessly with no clue where your life was headed? Have you ever wondered what was the point of it all?

I've been there. Heck, I am there right now.
This cold has drained all of my energy and put an end to my workout regimen, further draining me. So now I don't have much to look forward to except tonight's sleep... and tomorrow's. My resolution to 'be positive' every day is starting to crumble.

But that's going to change right now. I'm here to tell you something very important. Every minute of every day of your life matters, and every single moment is coming together to form your story. And I can assure you it's going to be one hell of a story.

And these moments right here - the moments where you feel all alone and hopeless - these moments are about to end. Life may feel like a long, long night to you, dear readers, but I promise you that it's almost time for dawn.
So when you open your eyes tomorrow morning, tell yourself something: "Today is going to change my life."
Because it is going to. Maybe you'll hear a joke that brightens your day, or maybe you'll meet the love of your life. Maybe you'll have an idea that will revolutionise your career. Maybe you'll find that spark of hope that you're desperately searching for. Maybe you'll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Get ready, Geeks. Tomorrow is coming. And it is going to change everything. The life you've always wanted is out there. It's on its way - and it's getting here, as fast as it can.

Good luck!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Goals are for Losers. Systems are for Winners.

I've been meaning to write this blog post ever since I finished reading this spectacular self-help book about success last week, but due to a sudden illness, I could only do the things I most hate doing: sleeping 16 hours a day, being heavily medicated, and eating soft food.

But now that I'm feeling well enough to actually use my brain, here I am!

This post is going to be based off a few things I learnt from Scott Adams' popular book, 'How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big'.
Disclaimer: This isn't a book review (I've already given it 5 stars on Goodreads - do read it!).

Now, I'm going to share with you some really brilliant points from the aforementioned book. You may think some of these are obvious or stupid or not realistic enough, but Scott Adams himself tells you he's no expert. You need to implement his ideas to know whether they work, instead of just trusting him blindly. I'm also quoting his book at the end of each point, so you have a clearer picture.

1) Priorities and Energy:

Everyone's always telling you to prioritise. Everyone says that people make it big in life because they have their priorities straight. But do we really understand what our priorities are or should be?
Scott's idea is simple: prioritise the things that make you feel alive and energetic, and don't choose the things that make you stressed or drained. Once you prioritise the right things, your health, mood and focus will be on point, making your family and friends happier, too.
"Right choices can be challenging, but they usually charge you up. When you're on the right path, it feels right, literally."
"Priorities are the things you need to get right so the things you love can thrive."

2) Illusions:

 Albus Dumbledore once said, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget how to live." While that's correct, it is important to dream big, because dreaming big gives you the power to make those dreams come true.
Possibly the most common question asked in interviews is this: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" And most of us don't know, because we haven't thought that far. But in order to achieve what you truly want, you need to see yourself achieving.
Yes, this may mean that you have to live in a world of illusions - but to get where you want to go, you need to imagine yourself there already.
As I'm writing this post, I know realistically speaking that maybe about twenty people are going to read it. So a thought might pop into my head: "Why am I spending so much time writing and editing and GIFing just for those twenty random people? Instead, I could be watching Castle."
But if I imagine thousands and thousands of people reading this post, then reading Scott's book, then implementing his ideas, and then making it big in life... my entire perspective changes. Now I know that every word I write on this page has the power to help people. And that motivates me to write my best.
"Free yourself from the shackles of an oppressive reality. What's real to you is what you imagine and what you feel. If you manage your illusions wisely, you might get what you want, but you won't necessarily understand why it worked."

3) The Power of Praise:

We all know that there are two types of motivation: positive and negative. Scott believes that the power of praise is much greater than the power of criticism, that validating a person is one of the best things you can do for his or her personal development.
Imagine this scenario, taken from his book: you're afraid of public speaking, but you have to deliver a five-minute speech in front of the entire class. You stutter and stumble your way through the words, you make no eye contact, and you're shaking the entire time. Now the teacher and your peers have two choices: they can either berate you for your lack of confidence, or they can praise you for your courage.
If they choose the second option, you would actually be eager to talk the next time an opportunity arises, because you now associate public speaking with positivity.
"Positivity is far more than a mental preference. It changes your brain, literally, and it changes the people around you. It's the nearest thing we have to magic."

4) The Power of Affirmations:

What you think is what you become. This is a fact that has been tested many, many times, and you've probably experienced it, too.
Ever remember walking on to the stage in school and thinking, "I'm going to trip!!" and then actually tripping? That's how affirmations work. The moment you declare something, you start to focus all your energy on that thought only.
This isn't to say that if you think, "I'm going to be a billionaire!" and sit around waiting for it to happen, it will. Obviously, affirmations aren't magic.
But when you express your dreams, again and again, your brain gets rewired into believing that you can actually do it. That's when you'll get ideas and strokes of genius and master plans that will help you reach your fullest potential. I don't know how this happens, but it does.
It's all about self-motivation. So once you're done reading this post, take some time and repeat to yourself what you really want. For example:"I, Ash Ketchum, will be the greatest Pokemon master... of all time!"
"My point is that you don't need to know why something works to take advantage of it. My perception is that affirmations are useful and I have no idea why."

5) Goals are for Losers. Systems are for Winners:

Ah, finally, we come to the most important part of Scott's book. In today's world, being a goal-oriented person is considered a very good thing. When you have goals, you're focused. You know what you need to get done.
But when you have systems, you're already getting things done.
Let me first explain the difference between 'goals' and 'systems'. A goal would be wanting to lose 3 kgs. A system would be getting fit. Once you lose those 3 kilos, you'd return to your normal routine. Or if you didn't happen to lose weight, you'd feel demotivated and go back to your previous routine anyway.
But a system cannot be measured. You just know that you have to get 'fit'.You start to go for walks more often. You switch to brown bread and fruit juice instead of white bread and Diet Coke. And slowly, this becomes your new routine. You're winning in life every single day. And all this, because you switched from goals to systems.
So I'm not going to command myself to write 500 words every day or to post two times on the blog per week. I'm simply going to write every day, without counting the minutes or the pages or the words. And that's what will make me a successful writer.
"If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realise you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or set new goals and re-enter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure."

There are many other things I've picked up from reading his book that I can't explain here, so do give the book a try if you can. Scott Adams, being a cartoonist, is naturally witty and humorous, and that shows in his writing. I guarantee you'll enjoy all 300-something pages of it.

What do you think about Scott's method of success? And if you've been successful in any part of your life, do tell me how you achieved it. I want all the advice I can get!


Sunday, 4 January 2015

'The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2)' by Robert Galbraith: A Book Review

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...

A killer on the loose, a scandalous manuscript and a private detective like no other... is there a better recipe for a murder mystery?

Today I'm reviewing The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling), the second novel in the Cormoran Strike series. The first book, while complex and well-written, did seem a little boring at times and failed to grasp my attention for too long.

But things have changed with this novel, because The Silkworm is simply spectacular!

Cormoran Strike is just recovering from his foray into the limelight after solving the mystery of a famous model's death, and although he's quite well-off now, his personal and social life is still very much a struggle. His ex-fiancée is getting married, he isn't getting along with his assistant Robin's fiancé, and his relationship with the police is rocky (at best). 

And then he stumbles upon Owen Quine's case and everything changes.

The dynamics of Strike and Robin's relationship (or rather, friendship) in this novel change quite a bit, and it's very interesting to read their exchanges.
In the first Cormoran Strike novel, the detective's way of interrogating his suspects did seem a little dull and repetitive. Thankfully, things stay exciting and different in this book, and the varied characters and all their possible motives leave you wondering who could have committed this crime and how.

As always, JK Rowling's writing is beautiful and thought-provoking. Here are the quotes I liked best.

"Writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want life-long friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels.” 

And a faint glow of hero worship, almost neglected by years of neglect and unhappiness, flickered again behind her tired eyes. Perhaps it had been rekindled because her hero, like all the best heroes, was dead; perhaps it would burn for ever now, like an eternal flame, and she would forget the worst and cherish the idea of him she had once loved...

Strike had always marvelled at the strange sanctity conferred upon celebrities by the public, even while the newspapers denigrated, hunted or hounded them. No matter how many famous people were convicted of rape or murder, still the belief persisted, almost pagan in its intensity: not him. It couldn't be him. He's famous.  

The secret to any successful murder mystery is this: the identity of the murderer is always the most unexpected one. Keeping that in mind, I had an idea of who it could be, and why, and as the story proceeded, I was almost completely sure that I had solved the case.

And then Cormoran Strike revealed his findings, and of course, I had been wrong about the killer. Then followed the 'Oh!' moment where it all made sense and I wondered how I had never seen that coming.
In short, a very, very successful murder mystery.

I'm going to go with 4 stars out of 5 for The Silkworm.
In comparison to The Cuckoo's Calling, this sequel was an unexpected delight and every chapter left me longing for me.
And no spoilers here, but the ending has ensured that I will definitely get my hands on the third novel (hopefully, there will be one) as soon as it releases.
I can't wait to find out more about Strike's life, about his assistant's life, and about all the many potential murders that can be solved by this spectacular duo.

Kudos to you, JK Rowling!
Did you enjoy The Silkworm as much as I did? Or did you disagree with everything I said in this review? Talking about books creates a special bond, and I'd love to have that bond with you. So comment below!

I'm currently reading an incredible non-fiction/self-help book by Scott Adams. While I won't be reviewing it, I definitely plan to share his views with you. Until then, have a great day! :)

PS: The first post of 2015 is also the 100th post on Geekie Chic. Woohoo!