Telling Tales that Make You Sit Up & Listen

In this stirring video Sir David Attenborough tells us humans how we can save our planet from destruction. How we can provide a sustainable future. To do it, says Attenborough in the video, we need to ‘rewild’ our planet. Rewilding will help people move back into a harmonious balance with nature.

Attenborough outlines three other ‘simple’ ways to save our planet: phase out fossil fuels, produce food more efficiently, and correctly manage our oceans.

Attenborough’s video has helped raise the profile of a crisis that most of us simply ignore.the wolf wilder

In light of this heightened awareness I found it interesting that – shortly before I saw this video – I read a children’s book called The Wolf Wilder. Author, Katherine Rundell, bases this exotic adventure on the real concept of ‘rewilding’ wild animals who have formerly been tamed. In the story the wolf wilder is actually a feisty young girl called Feodora who lives in freezing Russia with her wolf-wilding mother and a pack of wolves. When Feo’s mother is kidnapped Feo chases after her with the wolves, making friends as she goes and starting a revolution. It’s an entrancing, almost bizarre story in which children – and wild wolves – are firmly the heroes. I highly recommend it.

Reading fiction – especially in the Wolf Wilder’s case – is an entertaining way of confronting very serious issues. Likewise, non-fiction told in narrative form can be an effective way of holding and at the same teaching an audience. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore is a case in point.

the radium girlsAs recently as 2011 a bronze statue was unveiled in Ottawa, Illinois to commemorate a group of women ‘dial painters’ known as the ‘radium girls’. Kate Moore tells in her book The Dial Painters the horrific story of young women who were employed in America during World War I to paint dials on watches and clocks used in the war effort. The paint these women used contained radium. The poisonous effects of the radium on the women were astounding. Bones became brittle, teeth loosened, jawbones cracked and fell out of the gums, cancers grew to huge proportions and blood markers changed. Many died excruciatingly painful deaths. And even in death the women’s skeletons glowed with radium.

What was even more astounding was their employers’ cover-up, denial and outright lies regarding the dangers of radium. It was the bravery of a handful of these women that finally resulted in proper workplace safety standards and government legislation regarding radium. The contribution to science – thanks to the girls’ suffering – has been invaluable.

All of this was told in an easy-reading style – as a story – as opposed to history. The characters were written by Moore as real, individual – and therefore relatable – people. I also highly recommend this book.

An explosive evening in London…nearly

by Roxanne Daniels

I had been working in London for three weeks and was finally able to pay my gracious hosts back and keep a bit of pocket money. After a failed and cancelled Berlin trip (which caused me to nearly implode, but let’s move swiftly on from that) I decided to go into the city and buy a last-minute ticket at a reputable ticket office in Leicester Square. As I joined the queue at 4pm, I hurriedly chose Half a Sixpence. The process was a breeze and I had a decently priced seat at the Noel Coward Theatre for the musical. I had three and a half hours to kill, so I wandered around and stumbled into the shop of my dreams – Stanfords. I was absorbed by stories of adventures and world maps in so many different forms that this took nearly an hour of my time.

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Miss Peregrine is Scary and Clever

This children’s movie, which opened in South Africa on Friday 7 October, carries an age restriction of 10. Parents should consider this a good guideline as younger children would certainly be frightened of the story’s long-legged monsters that pluck out people’s eyes, most especially those of children…

Age 10 to early teens is also a suitable-enough age to understand the intricacies and setting of this tale. The adventure revolves around Jake (Asa Butterfield) who is an awkward, modern-day teenager without friends. Jake is quite attached to his grandad (Terence Stamp) who tells him fascinating, true “bedtime” stories. When Jake’s grandad is murdered under mysterious circumstances the old man manages to pass on to the boy an important message before he breathes his last. Jake, accompanied by his unbelieving dad (Chris O’Dowd), travels from Florida to Wales, to try and fathom the cryptic message’s meaning. What follows is an enthralling account of time-travel, children endowed with peculiar, yet special, gifts, and a carer called Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) who keeps her wards safe in a time loop. Jake is welcomed into the crowd of odd children because he, too, has a peculiar and indispensable gift, one he uses to protect the children later in the story. The villain presents himself as Barron (a glassy-eyed Samuel L. Jackson) who seeks immortality through slurping up eyeballs.

I think young viewers may not relate to the World War II setting (Miss Peregrine and her children are stuck in a time loop in Wales that dates back to 1943). Also, some of the action, especially in the beginning, is a little dull. Things improve, though, as the story progresses. Messages of acceptance, the value of loyalty, and finding one’s place in the world come through easily enough. And the cleverness of this child-led story will certainly captivate some imaginative young viewers.

The film is being screened in 2D and 3D.

 

The final Hobbit resounds with a fitting and exciting finish

A review by Brenda Daniels

Image supplied by Ster Kinekor

                                                              Image supplied by Ster-Kinekor

The Hobbit, a book by J R R Tolkien, was written for children. But this fantasy adventure moves beyond a simple child’s tale into a grand adventure incorporating elements of war, greed, loyalty, bravery and friendship.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the final instalment in the film trilogy, based on the book, and directed by Peter Jackson. And it includes everything the book does and more.

In this movie, the audience sees the surprising result of the death of the dragon Smaug: a converging of several armies, all wanting a part of the massive treasure contained in the Dwarves’ old home of Erebor. Elf, man, dwarf and wargs meet on a huge scale at the foot of the imposing stronghold and fiercely battle for supremacy.

Meanwhile, Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the little band of dwarves becomes obsessed with his reclaimed treasure and subsequently neglects his duties and relationships. To avert the catastrophic consequences of war Bilbo the Hobbit uses his magic ring, a precious stone, and a good dose of bravery to broker a peace between man, elf and dwarf. And in the process deepens an important friendship.

The film version incorporates a number of elements of the The Lord of the Rings, tying the two stories together nicely and forming a well-rounded prequel to the brilliant, hugely successful Ring trilogy.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a resounding and fitting end to the The Hobbit films and is Peter Jackson’s best. Enjoy.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies releases at Ster-Kinekor cinemas and IMAX nationwide on Friday, 12 December. The running time is two hours, 24 minutes.

Explore time and space with Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

A review by Brenda Daniels

In a near-future scenario the earth is subject to failing crops and no rain. Massive dust storms cover everything in layers of dirt endangering people’s health and leaving an empty, hopeless pall over mankind’s survival. Enter Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), an incorrigible scientist. Cooper is also a farmer, former astronaut and widower with two children.

One of those children, Murph (Mackenzie Foy as young Murph and Jessica Chastain as adult Murph), encounters what appears to be supernatural phenomena in her bedroom. Someone or something from “beyond” is trying to communicate with her. This scene involving books that fall in a seemingly random manner, and dust that settles in unnervingly systematic lines, is a very important part of the plot, an element that is resolved for viewers only at the end of Interstellar.

In a bizarre mix of science and what appears to be the supernatural Cooper is “called” to embark on a space mission that will save mankind. Joined by Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and others, the astronauts leave earth in search of previously earmarked destinations in order to evaluate their viability as a replacement home for mankind.

They will either return for the humans on earth or start a new “colony” with specially prepared human embryos.

What makes the story fascinating, however, is not the future setting or its intergalactic nature, but its intriguing exploration of the space-time-gravity continuum. Explaining too much here would spoil the adventure for viewers.

Suffice to say that Interstellar is a multi-layered space adventure that also examines the human heart and its capacity (or not) for altruism. Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain give particularly good performances. Michael Caine and Matt Damon also star.

Interstellar opens at all cinemas in South Africa on Friday 7 November. It runs for a lengthy, but absorbing, two hours and 50 minutes.

Matthew McConaughey stars in the gripping new film, Interstellar. Photo: Creative Commons.

Matthew McConaughey stars in the gripping new film, Interstellar. Photo: Creative Commons.

Jessica Chastain stars alongside McConaughey in Interstellar. Photo: Creative Commons.

Jessica Chastain stars alongside McConaughey in Interstellar. Photo: Creative Commons.

Mr Peabody and Sherman – an animation for adults too

A review by Brenda Daniels

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a clever, funny, children’s animated adventure film. It contains fun science fiction elements, historic and educational features, and a modern setting with relationships. The 3D format makes for enjoyable viewing.

Based on a 1960s animated TV series, the story features an impossibly intelligent little dog as the title character, Mr. Peabody. Sherman is Mr. Peabody’s (human) adopted son. A scientist extraordinaire, Mr. Peabody has invented a time machine which he and Sherman use to visit past eras.

So we see them making a trip to an anti-royalist France and to ancient Troy and Egypt. They meet famous people like Marie Antoinette, Leonardo da Vinci, and many more. These excursions provide a wealth of education for Sherman, and the audience, and are a source of clever humour adults will pick up on.

Far from being a socially inept genius, however, Mr. Peabody is also into hip hop dancing, sword fighting, cocktail mixing – you name it; he can do it. And when it comes to looking after his son, Mr. Peabody is just as “human” as the rest of us. He worries about Sherman attending school for the first time. In fact it’s on Sherman’s first day at school that the story really begins.

After a rather sorry encounter with a mean school girl called Penny, Sherman and his dad are launched into an exciting adventure. The ensuing action sees them battling a collision of the past and present, dealing with modern school politics and personalities, and facing off the complications in their own relationship.

The film is rated PG and runs for an entertaining one and a half hours. As an adult I thoroughly enjoyed the clever humour and original mix of genres. Older children who like something a little meaty will enjoy the educational aspects, parcelled as they are in adventure and funny relationships. Very little children will miss the meaning in the dialogue.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman opens today, 20 March, at NuMetro cinemas (3D) in South Africa.

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons