Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review on The Secret Runners of New York

Matthew Reilly’s latest offering can be likened to a pseudo-collaboration between Stephen Hawking and Stephen King to give birth to the enigma of The Secret Runners of New York.

Reilly’s foray into time travel is intriguing and yet, akin to Hawking’s futuristic theories, it tests the boundaries of possibilities. The reader is also treated to a thorough explanation of time bending or a time-spiral which leads to the theory of time travel.

And if imitation is the best form of flattery, his portrayal of the macabre provides the necessary suspense and dread that King is renowned for. Reilly himself, admits to being an admirer and die hard fan of Stephen King.

Notable for his writing style of hitting the ground running, Reilly tests his readers for a change by introducing his characters and presenting their background thoroughly, before leading the reader through the time travel phenomena and the menace that lurks behind the unknown future.

Whilst his characters are in the sophomore and junior range of high school, Reilly insists the book is geared for all adults, young and not-so-young. There is little to be concerned about, as Reilly captures his readers with his inimitable style, plot and pace. Juxtaposition all that with the conundrum of time travel and thriller type scenarios and you have another Reilly page turner.

The central theme, without giving away the plot, is of students disappearing without a trace and the heroine, Skye Rogers being drawn into a web of teenage angst, a touch of romance, family loyalties, high school life, the social mores of obscene wealth and the seemingly innocent ‘runs’ taken by a secret, inner circle. Mix in the gloomy prediction of an ‘end of the world’ approaching apocalypse, which is treated with public scorn or the inertia that previous prophesies have endured, and Skye and her twin brother Red, are shown a horrifying glimpse of New York and man kind’s future.

The Secret Runners of New York will hold the reader’s attention until the last page.

© Wendy Robinson

Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.

~ Noam Chomsky

Whether you’re a Matthew Reilly fan or not, I recommend this book. Does the review entice you to read the book or does it at least, sound intriguing? I’d love to hear from you.

Review on John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum (2019)

Parabellum, meaning preparation for war, or in Wick’s case, total mayhem and destruction, thoroughly fulfils the fans’ long-awaited expectations and more. This writer was caught off guard on more than one occasion, so much so that I had to cover my mouth to stifle the gasps that would involuntarily escape, time and time again.

What do we know of John Wick? He is the ‘Baba Yaga’ or boogeyman; the love of his life, his wife Helen, dies of cancer; he loves his dog so much that he’s prepared to kill anyone who harms it; he is renowned for killing three men with (gasp) one pencil; his infamy precedes him, whereby he is both respectfully feared and at the same time, admired in awe; he has integrity and yet, has no compunction when he is obliged to fulfil the rules of the ‘high-table.’

Surrounded by a recognised cast of players of the calibre of Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston, Common, Cecep Arif Rahman, Yayan Ruhian, Mark Dacascos, Lance Reddick et al, the audience sees more of Wick’s dual persona and the fear, respect, awe and reverence that his enemies, total strangers and his colleagues have for him. Incidentally, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and of course, Keanu Reeves, are the only actors to appear in all three of the John Wick films to date.

In this third story of Wick’s brand of havoc, we see our hero reluctantly forced to defend himself against assailants and their blood-thirsty greed to earn the US $14 million bounty placed on his head for killing his arch-nemesis on ‘consecrated ground,’ namely the off-limits New York Continental Hotel. The High-Table, as a consequence, designates Wick ‘excommunicado,’ meaning he is no longer under their protection and is denied the privileges and access to the underworld’s limitless resources.   

Whilst some opine that the combat scenes went on for far too long, fans of martial arts would no doubt drool at the variety and sheer expertise of the art, especially the scene between Wick and two worthy opponents, Shinobi 1, played by Cecep Arif Rahman (of The Raid) and Shinobi 2, played by Yayan Ruhian (also of The Raid). Both actors are renowned masters and instructors of Pencak Silat, the Indonesian martial arts. The choreography, the brilliant execution of the moves and the obvious respect between the three combatants, is both credulous and awe inspiring. Zero, an equally formidable opponent, is played by Mark Dacascos with both ferocity and continuous onslaught. Chad Stahelski, the director of the movie and the martial art, stunt coordinator, makes a cameo appearance on the zebra crossing/crosswalk during the scene where Wick gallops past on horseback.

In Parabellum, the regular players develop in character and yet, the viewer is left in the dark as to their loyalty or aversion to Wick. Ian McShane, the protagonist who plays Winston, is an enigma, as is the Bowery King, played by Laurence Fishburne, while ‘boots and all’ Halle Berry, who incidentally, broke three ribs while filming, holds her own as Sofia, an ex-assassin and manager of the Casablanca Continental Hotel. Are they for or against Wick?

Asia Kate Dillon is introduced to this film as the ruthless Adjudicator for the High-Table and both she and Mark Dacascos, having been diehard fans of John Wick 1 and John Wick 2, spoke of immediately accepting the offer of their respective film roles without even having read the script. We, once again, see the stylish, lean and lanky Lance Reddick in his usual role as Charon, the concierge of the New York Continental Hotel. It was a delight to see his role develop in the movie.

Granted, the blood-thirsty and gory scenes capture the viewers’ focus and attention whilst keeping them on the edge of their seats, and the tense and often dramatic scenarios, keep the adrenalin pumping. Yet there is light, comedic relief interspersed in between, which helps to ease the suspense, the stress and the tempo.

For those interested in keeping score, Wick’s kills amount to 77 in the first of the series, followed by 128 kills in John Wick 2 and in this film, the total amounts to 94 people killed.

Is this the last of the series? Does our hero meet a grizzly end? Is there more to come?

Die-hard John Wick fans will need no persuasion to see Chapter 3Parabellum and get their fill of the master in full-fledged action.

(C) Wendy Robinson July 2019  All Rights Reserved

 

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,

but because of those who look on and do nothing. ~ Albert Einstein

Review on the movie JOY

The adage, ‘what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger’ is an apt summation of Joy the movie! According to director David O. Russell, who co-wrote the script with Annie Mumolo, Joy is based on quite a number of women who have overcome continuous and almost insurmountable obstacles in their lives. Although he insists the story is not a biography of Joy Mangano, the real-life inventor of the Miracle Mop, she herself laughingly states, ‘I severely inspired it.’

Russell did however, in an interview, talk about a unique aspect of Joy Mangano’s character. ‘Every family has someone like that. You know, that person who is an old soul! No matter their age, there’s something unflappable and tolerant and patient about them. Joy has that! She could persist no matter how many times people try to take something away.’

The talented Jennifer Lawrence clones Russell’s idea of Joy in the movie, in that she is the stalwart of the family and manages to move from crisis to crisis with the utmost patience and perseverance. Adults around Joy turn to her when things fall apart, and despite her young age, they lean on her to solve the daily problems of life.

In shouldering the responsibilities, Joy loses the creative aspect of her character and is in danger of losing herself in the process. Her grandmother Mimi, played by Diane Ladd, has anDiane-Ladd-Joy-726x400 abiding belief in Joy and encourages her to explore her creative side and to unearth her latent talent.

Joy’s eventual determination to chase her dream and to launch her invention of a super-mop, gives the viewer an idea of the difficulties that would-be entrepreneurs face in the business world. An untried, almost naïve, typical, suburban, divorced, working mother of two, is understandably at a loss of where to start in creating a prototype and launching her invention. Advice from family and friends appear feasible, but Joy has to learn the hard way, that their advice has no basis in experience or lawful, business expertise.

Lawrence gives a convincing performance as the endlessly, patient Joy, while Robert De Niro plays her, loving but vocally-opinionated father. De Niro, who has changed tack from heavyweight characters, to take on more comedic roles, appears suited to the role of Rudy, the owner of an automobile garage. In an angst-filled scene with his ex-wife Terry, however, Rudy sarcastically states, ‘You know what you are? You’re a gas leak. We don’t see you, we don’t smell you, and you’re silently killing us all.’

joy-101Bradley-JL-RudysCC_rgb_0Isabella Rossellini, daughter of screen legend Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini, plays the part of Rudy’s wealthy but recently widowed, girlfriend Trudy. The dimpled and handsome Bradley Cooper takes on the role of the savvy, executive of a promotion channel, where Joy is hoping to launch her invention. Dascha Polanco acts as Joy’s childhood friend (Jackie) and a steadfast and supportive ally, while Edgar Ramirez portrays the ex-husband (Tony) who is still in love with her. Virginia Madsen’s role as Joy’s soap drama-addicted mother, Terry, expands when she meets Jamaican plumber Toussaint (Jimmy Jean-Louis), and appears taken with him.

Twin sisters Aundrea Gadsby and Gia Gadsby share the role of playing Joy’s five year old daughter Christie while another set of twins, Tomas Elizondo and Zeke Elizondo, take on the role of Joy’s son, three year old Tommy. Elizabeth Rohm’s part as Joy’s half-sister Peggy, adds to the family dynamics but also fuels the stress-load that Joy deals with. All in all, they are a joy-2015-movie-clips-and-imagesfamily that rely heavily on working-mother Joy, to keep the household running as smoothly as possible.

A line in the movie is particularly memorable when Joy advises young Christie, ‘Don’t ever think that the world owes you anything, because it doesn’t. The world doesn’t owe you a thing.’

Joy goes through numerous obstacles and setbacks, so much so that it can be wearying. There are many people in life who, akin to the biblical character of Job, and to Joy, keep facing difficulty after difficulty and end up wondering when the struggles will end.

Joy however, develops in strength when she emphatically stresses to Rudy and in particular her half-sister Peggy, ‘Never speak on my behalf, about my business, again.’

Critics have panned the ending as an anticlimactic one and given that Russell co-wrote the screenplay, he could have come up with a more-upbeat finish. Perhaps he wanted to avoid a Hollywood-type finale and instead elected for a more-realistic, down-to-earth completion of Joy’s journey.

Jennifer Lawrence, in her inimitable style, gives a convincing and unpretentious performance as Joy and has just received the Golden Globe for her role in the movie.

© Wendy Robinson January 2016

It is interesting to notice how some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage, and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles. ~ Washington Irving

Disclaimer: All the above images are from the internet.

Review on The Imitation Game

If ever there is an indication that a movie has affected its audience, it is when, during the credits, there is a drawn-out silence and no headlong rush towards the exit. The Imitation Game is one such movie and this viewer will no doubt join many who will remember, remain moved and ponder on the story for years to come.

BenedictCumberbatchImitationGameBenedict Cumberbatch excels in his role as real-life crypt-analyst Alan Turing, who, with his selected team of super-intelligent mathematicians, literally race against the clock in an attempt to break the German’s Enigma Code during World War Two.

The monumental challenge of breaking the code is summed up in the exchange between Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance), who heads the top-secret mission, and Turing. ‘Enigma isn’t difficult, it’s impossible. The Americans, the Russians, the French, the Germans, everyone thinks Enigma is unbreakable,’ Denniston states. Turing calmly replies, ‘Good. Let me try and we’ll know for sure, won’t we?’

KeiraKnightleyImitationGame2A supportive cast headed by Keira Knightley, who plays his love interest and fellow code-breaker, Joan Clarke, is followed by Matthew Goode as lead assistant Hugh Alexander. Allen Leech plays John Cairncross, a colleague whose allegiance is questionable, and Matthew Beard the last of the team, plays Peter Hilton. Most of the action takes place at Bletchley Park, a designated top-secret, Government Code and Cypher School.

In a flashback, we see Turing as a gifted young student, who in today’s term would be considered a geek or freak, is mistreated and bullied by his peers. In an insightful conversation, Turing speaks of his dilemma of never being able to play the game that people play: ‘When people talk to each other, they never say what they mean. They say something else and you’re expected to just know what they mean.’

Conversely, Turing is matter-of-fact and disconcertingly honest in his dealings with those around him, which is off-putting to the majority of people who don’t know or understand him.

Yet, it is the unique qualities which differentiate him from his peers that lead to his success in breaking the Enigma code. The profound line, ‘Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine,’ sums up Turing and is originally stated by Christopher, his close friend in school; is repeated by Turing himself and quoted later by Joan.

While it is understood that the task of breaking the code is anything but straightforward, it is the multiple layers of duplicity, dilemma, human emotion and questionable integrity and honour that drives the story to its climax. And the sad reality is that it is based on fact.

Cumberbatch was so affected by the personality he played that he admitted he couldn’t stop crying in one of the final scenes and candidly confessed to, ‘being an actor or a person that had grown incredibly fond of the character and thinking what he had suffered and how that had affected him.’

Winston Churchill deemed Turing made the, ‘single greatest contribution in Britain’s war effort,’ and according to historians, not only was the war shortened by approximately two years but around 14 million lives were saved. This unquestionable feat was designated a government secret (the Official Secrets Act) for the duration of 50 years post-war and Turing and his team therefore, received no public recognition for their respective roles.

According to Hugh Alexander, ‘Turing’s work was the biggest factor in Hut 8’s success.’ He candidly admits Turing was ‘indispensable’ and ‘the magnitude of Turing’s contribution was never fully realised by the outside world.’

Turing could be labelled as the ‘founding father of our modern day computers,’ as his ‘Turing machine,’ led to further research and progress in the field.

Asa Briggs, renowned historian and another codebreaker himself, states, ‘You needed exceptional talent, you needed genius at Bletchley and Turing was that genius.’

This is one movie I am glad I did not miss and would readily see again.

Turing MachineIncidentally, if you are heading for London, you can visit, ‘The Imitation Game’ exhibition at Bletchley Park. The exhibition which opened on 10 November 2014 will run for a year and has on display, the costumes and props from the film. The original Turing Machine is also housed at the Museum at Bletchley Park.

© Wendy Robinson February 2015

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.

The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. ~ Winston Churchill

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Review on The Water Diviner

TheWaterDivinerWindmillThe Water Diviner script, a joint effort by Andrew Anastasios and Andrew Knight, blends, like all good yarns, a combination of fact, fiction and fantasy. The fictitious tale is based on one factual line of a letter written by Imperial War Graves Commission’s Director of Works, Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Hughes (Jai Courtney) where he wrote: ‘One old chap managed to get here from Australia, looking for his son’s grave’. Farmer Joshua Connor’s reason for his trip is depicted in the line, ‘I promised their mother I would bring them home.’

RussellCroweWaterDivinerThe act of Water Divining is seen initially towards the beginning of the movie and later, after  war has ceased and Connor, played by Russell Crowe, travels to and attempts to use his skill once again on the soil of the abandoned, desolate battlefield in Gallipoli.

While the pertinent facts of the Great War are known to most, the film adheres to Crowe’s wishes and that is to present a balanced approach to the soldiers’ war experiences from both sides. A heart-warming effort at fantasy is played out through the storybooks that Connor reads to his young sons.

The story is centred four years after the war in Gallipoli, or as is referred to by the Turks, in Canakkale. The brutality of war is presented in flashback scenes and any romantic notion of war is quickly dispelled when the audience sees and hears the continuous and at times, drawn-out suffering of shrapnel and bullet-ridden soldiers.

TurkishLeaderWaterDivinerAn historical reference is made of leader and founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the monument he established to honour the ANZAC soldiers who died in Canakkale or Gallipoli.

His compassion is revealed in the words on the memorial, ‘Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us. Where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace after having lost their lives on this land. They have become our sons as well.’ Ataturk 1934.

OlgaKurylenkoWaterDivinerTurkish customs, social graces, arts and crafts, and history are shown through Ukranian female lead Olga Kurylenko, who plays Turkish hotel owner Ayshe, and her son Orhan, played by Dylan Georgiades. A multi-linguist, Kurylenko learnt just enough Turkish to interact and improvise in her scenes with actor Salih Kalyon, her on-screen father.

CemYilmazWaterDiviner2Having seen actor Cem Yilmaz in action, Crowe wanted him to play Jernal, the larger-than-life sidekick of Turkish Officer Major Hasan. His career began from caricature and comic drawings, but Cem unintentionally gained popularity and fame as a stand-up comic. The friendship between Crowe and Cem was such that Crowe tweeted him in Turkish, with the words, ‘darling Cem, you are not funny these days’.

YilmazErdoganWaterDiviner2Connor and Turkish Officer Major Hasan, played by Turkish actor Yilmaz Erdogan, find  themselves reluctantly thrown together in the country. Erdogan persuaded Crowe to give him the part of Hasan by vowing that he would never regret it. He is now a contender for best supporting actor.

Jacqueline McKenzie WaterDivinerJacqueline McKenzie has a brief and tragic role as Connor’s wife Eliza, and mother of their three sons,  Art, Henry and Edward. She cannot accept losing their sons in the war and blames Connor for the loss.

Crowe insists his film can be shown to school children as it refrains from sexual scenes and swearing.

The film is shot in Mugla, Turkey; in and around Sydney; South Australia and at Fox Studios in Moorepark. Erdogan reported in a TV show that they, at times worked in 49 degree Celsius heat in some of the scenes shot in Australia.

Although Crowe misses out on any industry acknowledgement of his first role as Director, he has received a nomination for the position of best lead actor. In an interview with National film writer Neala Johnson, Crowe talks about his choice to make The Water Diviner his first foray into directing. He found, among all the variety of scripts sent to him over the years, that, ‘this one had all the right challenges’ and gave a ‘lump in my stomach while I was reading the script’.  Crowe’s intention is to represent and honour an entire generation of  Australian men lost to the war.

The film has been nominated for nine Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) awards, which include best film and also best original screenplay.

© Wendy Robinson 2015

Experience is not what happens to a man.

It is what a man does with what happens to him. ~ Aldous Huxley

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Review on Gone Girl

Gone Girl will join the ranks of those iconic and legendary thrillers that are spoken with spine-tingling awe; with reverence; with fear; with a whisper or with sheer fright. Think Psycho; think Basic Instinct; think Silence of the Lambs or Cape Fear.

GoneGirlNickDunnepressappealBen Affleck’s lost boy appeal is evident in his lead role as Nick Dunne the unemployed writer and husband of the missing Amy Dunne. Rosamund Pike, perfects the role of the wife who is perceived to be vulnerable and wronged. As the story unfolds, the viewer sees Amy taking the role to a newer level.

Pike saturates herself in the part and convincingly portrays the entire spectrum of aloofness, calculating femme fatale, bewildered wife, intellectual scholar, dutiful daughter, confiding friend and a combination of manic and psychotic behaviour.

In preparation for her performance Pike confesses to studying Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct and Nicole Kidman in To Die For. In an interview with Elaine Lipworth, she says Amy “is incredibly magnetic, but her particular strength is not sexual. She has a very highly developed, challenging, complicated female brain”.

Pike also emulates the cool and aloof mannerisms of John Kennedy Jr’s wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy in playing the role of socialite Amy.

Bestseller novelist Gillian Flynn wrote the book as well as the screenplay. In defence of her second lead character, Flynn states she wanted her to be a woman who led all the way rather than ‘be the supporting character, the helpmate or adorably flawed heroine.’ She succeeds with Amy Dunne’s character.

GoneGirlDiaryentryHas Amy merely disappeared or has she been murdered by the deceptively mild husband? Is he playing the role of grieving husband or is he manipulating the media for his own end?

Nick hires Tyler Perry (Tanner Bolt), a media –savvy, New York lawyer who is well-known for handling a number of high-profile cases. Neil Patrick Harris plays Amy’s former boyfriend Desi Collings. Harris is persuasive as the besotted, well-heeled and still devoted ex-lover.

Nick, in direct contrast to Harris, can never equal Amy in any aspect of her life, be it her social standing, her intellect, her money, her career or her drive. They nevertheless appear compatible and passionate about each other.

Carrie Coon plays Nick’s supportive twin sister Margo while Kim Dickens plays the canny Detective Rhonda Boney.GoneGirlsearchforbody

Affleck was so keen to work with film director David Fincher that he deferred directing another movie to do so. ‘He’s the only director I’ve met who can do everybody else’s job better than they could,’ he enthuses.

His admiration was such that Affleck agreed for the first time in his movie career, to Fincher’s demand for the full-on European-film treatment of full frontal nudity. Fincher’s previous works include The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Despite the almost innocuous title, Gone Girl will remain an iconic mystery, thriller that will be long remembered after the last credit rolls.

©Wendy Robinson 2014

Listen to what you know instead of what you fear. ~ Richard Bach

Review on The Equalizer

The Equalizer brings to mind several other movies of the revengeful, annihilation genre. Unlike some heroes however, former Black-ops agent Robert McCall, has no qualms in literally taking the proverbial ‘eye for an eye,’ and does so with cool and calculated vengeance. His determination to right the wrongs wrought upon a young teenager enforced into prostitution by the Russian mafia, had this viewer riveted and silently cheering him along.

DenzelWashingtonThe EqualizerA modern day hero of the ilk of Batman, Spider-Man and Superman, McCall is more akin to Superman in that he quietly carries out his daytime job in a hardware depot in an unassuming and mild-mannered demeanor. At night however, he wreaks havoc on the unsavoury underworld inhabitants.

Who is the Equalizer and why does he feel compelled to act on behalf of the vulnerable and innocent? Denzel Washington plays the part of protagonist Robert, better known as Bob, and confesses that all he longs for is ‘peace.’ He attempts to restore peace to the victims of the subculture world and the methods he uses as the Equalizer returns the violence perpetrated on victims back to the instigators.

Bob’s vengeance is carried out in unemotional and icy-cool precision which in itself dramatises the stomach-churning and realistic violence the enemy are subjected to. There are psychological overtones to the drama.

ChloeGraceMoretzThe EqualizerIn an interview with Independent News, teenage female lead, Chloe Grace Moretz, speaks about her role as Teri, the prostitute. ‘Sex-trafficking is a huge issue – and the scary part is it’s very real,’ she says. Despite her young age, Moretz plays her role with a balance of vulnerability and a tinge of street-smart bravado.MartonCsokasTheEqualizer

Marton Csokas (pronounced Cho-Kash) plays anti-hero Nicolai Itchenko, otherwise referred to as Teddy and his menacing role balances McCall’s deceptively mild character.

Antoine Fuqua, veteran director of music videos and film, is an undeniable master of his craft. He presents the story unusually in that the periods of destruction and gory action are counteracted by quiet, thoughtful and contemplative episodes wherein Bob astutely but precisely plans his vengeance. Fuqua uses the periods of inaction to such an extent that it creates more tension and nail-biting viewing.

The film is based on the 1986 television series which starred and won British actor Edward Woodward the 1987 Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Drama Series.

Watch out for the unmistakable sound of Eminem who partially wrote, ‘Guts over fear.’ In a light-hearted moment, McCall also jokes to his fellow workers about having been one of the Pips in Gladys Knight and the Pips and the song ‘Midnight Train to Georgia,’ is heard.

In the café which McCall frequents and reads a book while he eats, Teri waits for her next call from her pimp. She asks McCall, ‘What’s your book about,’ and he replies, ‘It’s about a knight in shining armour, except he lives in a world where knights don’t exist anymore.’ It is an ironic but definitive reference to McCall’s role of the knight about to rescue Teri, the damsel in distress!

Washington excels in his role and is well supported by second-lead Csokas and the talented Moretz. This raises the possibility of sequels to the crime drama.

© Wendy Robinson 2014

We attract what we’re meant to because we’re aware and self-empowered enough to choose most of the time. Other times we have lessons to learn. ~ Jay Woodman

Review of The Hundred-Foot Journey

The movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey, brings to mind the song ‘Food, glorious food,’ from the stage musical Oliver! The delicious and mouth-watering fare that passes before the viewer’s eyes, tempt the palate as no doubt, all the exquisite coco-infused creations that were presented in Swedish director Lasse Hallström’s other production, Chocolat.

While there are several stars in the movie, the two that shine the most are Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory, the proud, French proprietor of Le Saule Pleureur or the Weeping Willow, and Manish Dayal who plays the part of gifted, Indian food-chef, Hassan Haji.

The widowed but snobbish Madame has been coveting a second Michelin star for the past thirty years and is determined to oust the up-start, foreigners who deigned to open an Indian restaurant opposite her. She condescendingly refers to the spice-laden fare as the ‘death of good taste.’  The verbal and oft times, petty duel between Madame and Hassan’s father and owner of Maison Mumbai (House of Mumbai), eventually gets out of control.

Indian veteran actor, Om Puri, plays the part of tragically widowed Papa, who, together with his remaining family, flees the political maelstrom of his native country to begin afresh in France.

HFJMarg&HassanRomance, although in a diffused sense, plays a part between Charlotte Le Bon’s sous-chef character Marguerite and the open and patient Hassan. Marguerite becomes incensed however, when the canny Madame offers Hassan an apprenticeship in her restaurant. Her underlying ambition to become head chef is in danger of being taken over by the talented Hassan. Will romance be relegated to the backburners?

Author Richard C. Morais’s story is centred in the south of France in the village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, with its lively marketplace filled with fresh produce and quality products; a picture book forest hiding treasures of truffles; a rough and ready bicycle path that is frequently used by the dainty Marguerite and a river where Hassan tries his hand at fishing. Certainly a picturesque backdrop against the creative, culinary divide!

For the fashion-conscious, Madame Mallory’s dress sense and style is impeccably French and is of course, tres chic. Helen Mirren’s slight frame carries off the creations of costume designer Pierre-Yves Gayraud with poise and flair, while Marguerite looks fresh in 50s style dresses and yet, professional in the obligatory checked pants worn by chefs.

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEYThe food of course, is authentically real and is prepared and presented by genuine French chefs in a proper kitchen set apart from the mock set. In Hallström’s opinion, creating simulated food would have been, ‘more complicated.’

While Morias is refreshingly star-struck when he meets co-producer Oprah Winfrey (Harpo Films), producer Steven Spielberg (DreamWorks) and Helen Mirren, he is nevertheless upset to learn that his book plot has been altered to some extent. He eventually accepts the film’s storyline, conceding ‘they nailed the book’s spirit and characters.’ In his opinion piece, My Book, Their Movie, Morais writes, ‘My lesson from all of this: Don’t micro-manage real talent. Let them own the project and make it theirs. They’ll generally rise to the challenge and make you proud – as I am.’

Oprah sums up The Hundred-Foot Journey’s tale as ‘the hundred foot divide between cultures,’ while Spielberg sagely adds, ‘You have to walk a distance to achieve something of value for yourself.’

In an interview with Stephanie Bunbury (Sydney Morning Herald), Lasse Hallström speaks about his feel-good film and his preference for light-hearted romance interwoven with strong characters that interplay within the relationships.

Hallström attempts in The Hundred-Foot Journey, to present the idealism of cultures blending and of people of different backgrounds relating and interacting together and perhaps, the division between cultures and people may just be a mere ‘hundred-foot.’

© Wendy Robinson

What is important is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us.                                                     ~ Jean Paul Satre

What did you think of the movie or the book? If you haven’t read or seen it, does this review entice you to see it? I’d love to hear from you.

Review on Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise may yet gain back his standing with fans he lost over the decade, with his latest role in Edge of Tomorrow. Cruise plays the part of Major William Cage, a public-relations promoter for the United States Army, but one who has never seen combat.

EdgeofTomorrowCowardCage

In Cruise’s past lead-character roles, he is often the alpha male who is in full control. In Edge of Tomorrow however, he plays the part of a snivelling, inept, full-of-funk wimp that is quite embarrassing to watch. In fact, director Doug Liman praises Cruise in awe, for playing, ‘an amazing coward,’ so credibly and also for doing all his own stunts.

Prior to the aforementioned part however, Cage’s character is suave, egotistical and condescending.  It is soon knocked out of him during a meeting with top brass, General Brigham. Summing Cruise up, the unimpressed General arranges a modern-day ‘shanghai,’ which finds Cage demoted and signed up to battle the Mimics or global-invading alien forces.

This is where Edge of Tomorrow is likened to Ground Hog Day, in that Cage finds himself repeating the day of the battle as soon as he is killed. Liman concedes that the time-loop repetition is a deliberate adaptation of the ‘spawning,’ or reset option of video gaming. ‘It’s the ultimate manifestation yet of video-game cinema,’ enthuses Nick Schager (Vulture) and ‘it’s because no film has ever so fully and enthusiastically embraced both the hallmark forms and content of games’. Fortunately, Cage is a fast learner and soon utilises what he has learnt from the previous experience to guide events and deal with them effectively.  In recognition of character growth or strengthening of character, Cage is honoured with the moniker, ‘Killer Cage,’ towards the end of the script.

EdgeofTomorrowCruiseBluntHe teams up with ‘Full Metal Bitch,’ aka Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who becomes the love-interest in the drama. The romance is dealt with lightly as the focus of the story centres around destroying the controller of the Mimics or central presence known as the Omega.

Humour is also lightly interspersed in scenes to bring relief but the comedic tone does not detract or override the drama. The story is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s 2012 manga novel, ‘All you need is kill.’

Blunt did most of her stunts and also undertook Krav Maga martial arts or tactical defence training, AND gymnastics AND weight training to handle the role. The role is, ‘the hardest thing I’ve done,’ she acknowledges. The actor was reported to have cried (oh, man up Sgt!) at one stage after having to yet again don the heavy and cumbersome 85 pound (39 kg) exoskeleton suit, which increased to around 130 pounds (59 kg) when pseudo sniper rifle and rocket launcher were added. The actors needed four assistants each to help them put on their armour.

The sci-fi thriller has received criticism for the time-loop repetitive scenarios but each time Cage returns to the beginning, comedic interplay forestalls any angst and the viewer remains hooked on the drama. A salute to screen co-writer Chris McQuarrie for the proficiently structured account and to film editor James Herbert for a tight and skilfully edited film!

Some found the ending dissatisfying but for your reviewer, the ending held a promise of a new beginning minus the time-loop fantasy or the ‘reset’ component option and would no doubt rely on good old fashioned courting rituals to complete the story.

In the end, in spite of or despite the critics, the entertainment value is what the movie-goer is after, and producer Erwin Stoff sums up the film with, ‘They played the truth every day and the truth was unbelievable entertainment.’

(c) Wendy Robinson 2014

Never lose hope. You never know what tomorrow may bring. ~ Unknown

Have you seen the movie? If so please share your views. If not, I would still like to hear what you have to say.

Review on The Monuments Men

George Clooney not only directed and starred in The Monuments Men, but he also co-wrote the screenplay with Grant Heslov.  The story is based on author Robert M Edsel’s non-fiction book, ‘The Monuments Men,’ which relates the true life quest of a band of men and women with expertise in art and cultural treasures, art frescoes and friezes, statues, monuments and buildings, and their attempts to save the historical and valuable artefacts that Hitler and the Nazis arrogantly absconded with. Their task was to track, protect or preserve, and return the stolen works to their original owners, guardians or caretakers.

The commission, granted and approved on June 23, 1943 by President F D Roosevelt, successfully saw the return of precious items to their legal owners and the rescue of priceless and irreplaceable artwork by some of the world’s greatest and renowned artists and artisans.

The Monuments Men Foundation exists today and their mission statement boldly proclaims the words, ‘For the Preservation of Art,’ and this movie not only honours the undertakings but also gives the audience a glimpse of the monumental task they faced just before the end of World War II.

George Clooney, playing the part of unit leader and art historian Frank Stokes,  put together a stellar cast ranging from his buddy Matt Damon as the Metropolitan Museum’s curator James Granger; Bill Murray as architect Richard Campbell; John Goodman as sculptor Walter Garfield; Bob Balaban as art promoter Preston Savitz; Jean Dujardin as French art dealer Jean Claude Clermont; Hugh Bonneville as the disgraced British art expert Donald Jeffries, and the only female star, our Cate Blanchette as French museum curator, Claire Simone.

In a Sydney Morning Herald report, leading lady Blanchette states that Clooney did not need to utilise his charm when he flew into Sydney to persuade her to take on the role of Claire Simone.  “The problem with George is that he’s so goddamn ugly,” she quips, while airily dismissing the entertainment industry’s accolade of ‘sexiest man alive,’ with a disparaging, “that was a decade ago.”

Blanchette’s role is based on Rose Valland, a French curator at Paris’ Galerie du Jeu de Paume museum. This very museum was used to house the Nazis’ stolen art works and Nazi leader Hermann Göring made 20 trips there to personally select over 700 pieces for his own private collection or to add to Hitler’s soon to be built Fuhrer Museum in Linz.

Germany’s famous Neuschwanstein Castle was also used as a storage facility for the stolen artworks and sculptures.

The outline of the story is the race against time to thwart Hitler’sNero Decree,’ should the Fuhrer die or the infamous Third Reich fall and the art experts also have to contend with the added fact that the Russians were also after the artworks.

While criticisms range from the movie’s supposed loose script, slow pace or its meandering plot, Clooney more than makes up for it by his attention to detail and the meticulous effort he gave to ensuring the recognisably famous art works looked as authentic as their real counterparts. Remember folks, there was no possibility that he could use or afford to risk the original art works in his movie.

He assigned the task of carving a replica of Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, which is of Mary holding the infant Jesus, to an artist. Months of painstaking work went into it and the result was ‘amazing.’ Yet Clooney felt dissatisfied when the unforgiving camera light did not reflect the rich marble effect of the original work. The artist’s response to Clooney’s complaint of, ‘it’s really good but it’s not perfect,’ was ‘well, I’m not quite Michelangelo, and I got it!’

High-resolution colour printed onto fabric, was used to create replicas of paintings by Rembrandt, da Vinci, van Eyck, Vermeer and many other artists and was testimony to Clooney’s quest for as much authenticity as possible.

Rolling Stone Magazine paid tribute to his efforts with, ‘What Clooney has crafted in The Monuments Men is a movie about aspiration, about culture at risk, about things worth fighting for. I’d call that timely and well worth a salute.’

The movie garnered additional interest when, as recently as 13 December 2013, over 1,400 unidentified masterworks and paintings by Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse and other famous artists, were discovered in a Munich flat. Cornelius Gurlitt, an elderly man and son of a Nazi art dealer, had stockpiled the valuable works, almost half of which are considered stolen or extorted from private Jewish collectors. Estimated at US $1.35 billion, Clooney is hoping that the art works and others that are exhibited in museums around the world will be returned to their original owners or their descendants.

Some interesting facts to watch for:

George Clooney’s father, Nick Clooney, plays the older Frank Stokes towards the end of the film.

Co-writer Grant Heslov also makes an appearance as the medical unit’s field surgeon.

In the closing credits, the real Monuments Men can be seen in black and white photos with some of the artefacts they saved.

I found The Monuments Men entertaining, educational and enjoyable and in the end, the entertainment value is what the movie-going audience is after.

© Wendy Robinson 2014

A man has honour if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so. ~ Walter Lippmann

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