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

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