I arrived in a freezing Germany on 9 December 2017. My goal: to visit the Christmas market at Marienplatz, Germany. Bundled up in five layers of my paltry southern hemisphere winter wear, my eyes watering in the cold, I braved the outdoor experience alongside my husband.
A gluhwein stand
The atmosphere was marvellous. Stands of hot chocolate and gluhwein steamed invitingly in the biting air, while visitors and tourists waddled past in their padded coats. Just taking off my gloves to examine little goodies at the stands froze my bony fingers. Shopkeepers helpfully spoke English when I looked blank at the German tongue, and people seemed generally cheerful despite the minus one degree Celcius temperature. It took three trips to the market before I had decided on what to buy. South African Rands don’t make much of a dent in Euros. And, to my practical mind, many of the ornaments and trinkets, nice as they were, wouldn’t have been very useful.
I settled on buying traditional food. The stand that got my Euros was the one
A strange kissing companion
that offered tasting samples and I enthusiastically bought packs of stollen (a fruit bread) and lebkuchen (a ginger-type biscuit) for friends and family back home after nibbling the delicious little blocks.
We had just got back to our hotel room when it began to snow in earnest. I was delighted. In two hours every horizontal surface I could see was covered in soft whiteness. But of course, with icy weather comes travel problems. My departing aeroplane that night had to undergo special de-icing procedures before it could safely take off. I have to say that this was the best part of my trip. Because I have a cockpit pass I was permitted to sit in the cockpit for taxi and takeoff and what a view I got. Before taking off the Airbus A340 was surrounded by three giant de-icing vehicles. Like weird-looking Transformers (I think the creators of the film based their models on these machines), the trio scooted back and forth around the wings and tail spraying 60 degree Celcius liquid across its surface. Using a checklist designed for such conditions the pilots did all the requisite checks and procedures before lifting off the icy runway. Beneath us the whitened landscape twinkled in gentle yellow lights until it disappeared beneath a layer of cloud.
What a treat. Sitting in the cockpit was much more exciting than any movie I could have watched on the aeroplane’s entertainment system.
My funny husband
Source: Common Sense Media
Kidnap has a simple plot. Mother loves son; son is kidnapped; mother stops at nothing to find son. The premise is equally simple: this mother is one tough cookie and shouldn’t be messed with.
The story is set up for the viewer right at the beginning. Karla Dyson (the beautiful Halle Berry) is a struggling waitress who works in a useless restaurant with awful customers. Her son – Frankie (Sage Correa) – is her life. Her ex-husband wants custody of the boy. So when Frankie is inexplicably taken from a funfair (where Karla just sees him being bundled into a car) she has nothing but her son to lose.
The rest of the film makes room for Karla’s development. As Karla becomes more exasperated with the kidnappers – and the authorities – she grows even more determined and resilient. Several external factors make her job harder: she loses her phone, she runs out of petrol on this (very) long drive, and she tries to trade her purse for the boy. What doesn’t seem to get in her way, however, are the public in general and any physical injuries. At certain points cars are spaced evenly so that the baddies and their pursuer can easily dodge in and out. And despite several horrendous crashes Karla surfaces each time to continue her pursuit.
What Karla eventually finds is something part of a much bigger issue which does lend more purpose to this car chase. The final scenes are quite nail-biting too. But on the whole Kidnap is too formulaic and superficial to be much more than a showcase for how tough and capable this modern woman is.
Kidnap opens at cinemas in South Africa on 8 December 2017. It carries an age restriction of 13V. #FridayFun
As many filmgoers know sequels can sometimes be disappointing. Others, however, are superb – as Finding Dory, the prequel/sequel to Finding Nemo – was. See A Feast of Tales’ review of that film here https://wp.me/p4c1s1-dF.
An upcoming sequel which opens at cinemas in South Africa on 1 December is Paddington 2. This sequel, likewise, is excellent. Perhaps even better than the first film Paddington. The action opens showing Paddington (the voice of Ben Whishaw) as a happy and accepted part of the Brown family. Still faithful to his ‘bear’ family, however, Paddington longs to honour his Great Aunt’s upcoming birthday by sending her a special gift from London. He finds an unusual pop-up book depicting famous London landmarks in Mr Gruber’s antique shop and settles on that. But the book is expensive and Paddington has to save up enough money by working. He sets about it with his usual penchant for creating unintended disasters and is finally close enough to buying the book. But someone else who wants the book – for obviously shadowy reasons – is the pompous, fake showman Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). Before Paddington can buy the book it is stolen from Mr Gruber’s shop, Paddington is framed for the theft and he is sent to prison. Horrors!
No worries there. While the cooky Brown family embark on the difficult task of finding the real thief and proving Paddington’s innocence, Paddington, with his usual unfailing good manners, makes friends in prison. He even wins over the fearful chef Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), teaches him to make marmalade and makes prison a jolly charming place to be. A series of adventures involving escape, capture, fearful train journeys and determination lead to a happy conclusion.
Paddington 2 is charming, lovely family entertainment. Paddington’s politeness and honesty, and his commitment to family, highlight values worth exposing young children to. It opens at Ster Kinekor on 1 December just in time for the long school holidays. Don’t miss it.
Coco is a sophisticated animated tale about a young boy called Miguel and his search for ancestors on the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) lives in a Mexican village with his extended family. The young boy is an aspiring musician, but is forbidden from enjoying its pleasures by his family because of the seemingly shameful actions of a long-dead musical relative. Through a series of strange events on the actual Dia de los Muertos Miguel enters the Land of Dead. Here he meets his music idol, rubs shoulders with unsavoury characters, and uncovers some family secrets. Miguel has to work against the clock in order to save characters in the Land of the Dead from being lost from memory forever, and to ensure that he himself re-enters the Land of the Living. In the process Miguel brings understanding and enlightenment to himself and his precious family.
Coco’s story is complex but conveyed in a manner that young viewers will understand. Its messages of respect, family values, and understanding are deep. Its setting is unusual– skeletons, death, the Day of the Dead seem uncommon in children’s animated films. Its depiction of Mexican culture is educational, colourful and varied. I think Coco‘s contribution to children’s storytelling will prove valuable.
Coco opens at cinemas in South Africa on 24 November 2017.
In January this year I read Seven Women and the Secret of their Greatness by Eric Metaxas. The brief biographies contained therein whet my appetite for more about the women Metaxas discusses. I particularly wanted to know more about Hannah More so was pleased when I recently came across the full biography of this 17th Century woman by Karen Swallow Prior. The book is called Fierce Convictions.
I’ve always loved biographies. They provoke envy, spark my imagination and inspire me to be more than I am. In Fierce Convictions Hannah More was a writer, a teacher, a dramatist, a Christian woman, and a reformer – roles I could either identify with or greatly admire. More used several of her skills throughout her life, and became more motivated by her firmly held convictions as she aged. Her skills and principles were used to promote the Christian faith and social reform. And the subsequent influence she had on society was all the more remarkable because she was a woman.
More’s first career was as a teacher. Pairing this skill with a desire to uplift and ‘moralise’ the poor More became famous for starting and running many ‘Sunday Schools’, schools held on Sundays for the benefit of educating the poor. At that time in English society poor people were not given access to education so More went against the norm. Probably the most important of More’s anti-establishment work was her involvement in the anti-slavery movement. She worked closely with William Wilberforce to campaign for Britain to outlaw slavery. She died just weeks after the anti-slavery bill was finally passed. As a woman More could not be a parliamentarian but she became one of the ‘Clapham Sect’ a group of influential members of society who all worked to bring an end to slavery.
More was a prolific writer, starting her writing career as a playwright and poet, and continuing throughout her life to produce material aimed at changing public sentiment. Her works were enormously popular, although their appeal faded as tastes changed. Karen Swallow Prior presents a fair, well researched and balanced view of More. And more than her subject’s successes and weaknesses, Prior presents a person who had integrity and was motivated consistently, and more than anything else, by her Christian convictions. Certainly a woman I could learn from.
Weekend weather forecast looking grim? Don’t let that stop you going out. Destination: iZulu Theatre, Sibaya Casino, just a few kilometres north of Umhlanga Rocks. Reason: to see the show A Handful of Keys. Stars: Roelof Colyn and James Smith. Why: Because it’s HUGE fun.
The set on the stage in the fairly grand iZulu theatre is simple: two grand pianos. Combined with two extremely talented musicians and
James Smith & Roelof Coelyn
direction by Ian von Memerty, this is all you need. Roelof and James play all the songs in this two-hour show, bar one piece, sans sheet music. The songs showcase different eras, well-known male and female pianists, South African compositions and a splendid Broadway musical medley. The latter comprises 148 songs and is played in just 12 minutes. I recognised many of the songs and sang (under my breath) and tapped my feet to the beat.
But even if the music and historical artists don’t ring a bell the humour and narration by Colyn and Smith will keep you entertained. They mock everyone they play and sing – from Elton John to Liberace, Barry Manilow to Richard Clayderman, Barbara Streisand (complete with a squint) to Stevie Wonder. They don’t spare themselves either, joking about Colyn’s age, and Smith’s wild hair and huge mouth. Costume changes, physical antics, word changes, piano swapping, completely goofy facial expressions and word play make the show so entertaining I absolutely loved it. It draws in the non-musical and at the same time highlights the superb musical prowess of these showmen.
Go on – treat yourself (a line from the show) and book to see A Handful of Keys. Tickets are available from Computicket, www.computicket.co.za, 0861 915 8000.
Show schedule: Friday 10 November 8pm
Saturday 11 November 3pm and 8pm
Sunday 12 November 3pm
Tuesday 14 to Friday 17 November 8pm
Saturday 18 November 3pm and 8pm
Sunday 19 November 3pm.
Wind River is a thriller set in the harsh, remote, snow-covered landscape of Wind River, a Native American reservation somewhere in the USA.
Image: Wind River Facebook Page
The story shows the few inhabitants, workers, police and the FBI battling against the elements, against the depravity of human nature, and against their own weakness and suffering. The main action revolves around the mysterious death of a young Native American woman. And it is this death that is supposed to form the message of the film. Native Americans, Wind River states, have been unfairly forced into locations like Wind River, and murders of these inhabitants often go unsolved, particularly those of young women. Thrown in amongst these locals is the resident and professional hunter Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). Renner is the drawcard for the film. He’s rugged and capable and acts well. The other main character is Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) an FBI agent sent to investigate the murder. In over her head she teams up with Cory, relying heavily on his local knowledge and hunting skills.
It seems counterintuitive to cast two white American actors as the main characters and heroes when a film is trying to make a statement about the sidelining of Native Americans. But perhaps this casting was intentional because without these character/actors the message might not have been noticed. Or maybe the choice of these two characters was supposed to underscore the liminality of the Native American people group. Regardless, the important theme that forms the backdrop for Wind River is put across too gently. It is largely drowned out by jittery story development but also by beautiful cinematography, well-drawn characters, good acting and the relentless and unforgiving environment.
I didn’t leave the cinema feeling sorry for the characters. I left wondering how anyone could survive in that freezing, pitiless climate.
Wind River is well worth seeing. It opens at cinemas in South Africa on 3 November 2017.