Paddington 2 is a Delightful, Exciting Adventure

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.

Home Again is a Journey of Self-Discovery

Home Again is a modern story of how one woman comes to terms with the breakup of her marriage, and how she moves from dependence on a husband to dependence on herself.

Source: People.com/movies

After leaving her husband Austen (Michael Sheen), Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) moves back to her father’s old Los Angeles home. Her late father worked in the movie industry and while Alice is in his home she strikes up a relationship with three young men, all of whom are just starting out in the same industry as that of her father. The three men, Teddy, Harry and George, are all around 12 years younger than Alice who celebrates her 40th birthday in the story. They form a composite ‘husband’ for Alice as she gradually begins to disentangle herself from relationship dependence. One of the young men is great with her two daughters. The other is a whizz at computers and helps her set up a system for her business, while the third becomes Alice’s romantic partner.

Alice offers the three a temporary home in her father’s house. And it is here that we see Alice deal with her past, face her own need to assert herself in the working world, and work out what it is she wants from a man – and from herself – in a relationship.

Home Again is lighthearted. The fallouts are mild. The lessons gentle. On one hand it is typically Hollywood, filled with superficial, beautiful, privileged people. On the other, it is a well-rounded story of one woman’s move towards independence, a journey most of us need to undertake.

Home Again opens at cinemas in South Africa on Friday 15 September. It carries an age restriction of PG13.

The Founder: Ray Kroc or Dick & Mac McDonald?

When Joan Smith asked Ray Kroc in words something to the effect ‘When did you start McDonald’s’, there was just a small flicker in his eyes before he answered ‘1954’. That flicker indicated the moment in the film, The Founder, when Kroc (Michael Keaton) lied about the beginnings of the famous fast food chain McDonald’s. Kroc was not the ‘founder’. The developer, yes, but not the founder. That title in fact belonged to brothers Dick and Mac McDonald who came up with the concept many years earlier.

The Founder Poster HR

Michael Keaton plays ‘Kroc’ in The Founder. Image: supplied.

Kroc had been a struggling but optimistic salesman who met the brothers when he sold them milkshake machines. He had been so impressed with their flagship store in California that he persuaded them to go into business with him and roll out more franchise stores like theirs across the USA. But the McDonalds’ conservative stranglehold on progress frustrated Kroc’s ambitions and Kroc managed to override the brothers, buy them out and take the chain to global reach.

That flicker moment also pretty much indicated when Kroc, in The Founder, stepped over the integrity boundary in his personal and business life. As his personal life went south so did his business ethics, and Kroc’s wife, and the McDonald brothers received a raw deal. Kroc is not painted in the film as an all-out baddy, however. His tenacity, business sense, and focus are shown in a way that make you admire him. And the balance between his business success and some unfair (though not technically illegal) dealings is this this film’s strength.

The Founder does not come across as a typical Hollywood ra-ra-America film. I enjoyed the story about how Dick and Mac came up with their simple menu and scientifically developed service offering. How Kroc, with the help of lawyer, Harry Sonnenborn (B J Novak), turned the focus from purchasing franchise stores to purchasing real estate, and how the McDonalds’ focus on marketing to the family was changed by Kroc to marketing that appealed to people’s religious-type passions.

The Founder opens at cinemas in South Africa today 19 May 2017.

Running through 2015 with 12 half marathons

By Robyn Turton

It’s that time of year again when we haul out the Christmas tree, prepare for the family gatherings and wonder where the year has gone. It gives cause for reflection.  I began the year with a goal to run 12 half marathons! I was never very sporty in high school and it was only on a whim that I ran my first half marathon in February 2012 (who plans a race for February in PMB!). I loved it but didn’t do anything else until June 2014 when I ran my next marathon for charity. The end of that year saw me finishing an additional 2 half marathons but both much slower than my first. So what I’m really saying is that when I set myself this ‘marathon’ of a task, it was certainly no wee walk in the park!

Equipped with my Polar exercise watch and Reebok running attire I hit the ground running at the end of January 2015 and haven’t stopped since! It’s December now and I have indeed crossed the finishing line 12 times.  It’s been an incredible journey with many uphill battles and downhill joys.

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Durban North Garden Delights

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Colourful cakes. Photo by Brenda Daniels.

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Orchid. Photo by Brenda Daniels.

Lynn Easton recently invited me to attend the 16th anniversary celebration of her family business, Afscot Financial Services. What a delightful occasion the day turned out to be. Colourful eats, a soothing foot massage, an intimate home environment, cheerful conversation and the strains of live banjo music all made for a lovely experience. But what really made my time at this Durban venue special was a tour around Lynn’s gorgeous garden. Full of roses, orchids, bonsais and bromeliads, this sanctuary is the handiwork of Lynn’s very talented and hardworking son, James.

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Bonsais on stands. Photo by Brenda Daniels.

James is a recovering drug addict and a fine example of a young person who has since channelled his energies into the creation of a masterpiece. James puts in hours and hours of work a week and enters the garden into gardening competitions. He is so painstaking with his efforts that he even cuts the verge grass with scissors! While mum, Lynn, hovers over him with a light, James prostrates himself into all hours of the night, trimming the lawn at the base of the rose bushes into perfection.

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Rockery. Photo by Brenda Daniels.

This particular lawn is the only one on the premises. The rest of the garden is made up of beds, landscaped into unique areas. I was delighted by the beautiful and varied orchids attached to trees, the bonsais displayed on wooden stands at different heights, the rose bushes planted in honour of special people, and the creative rockeries planted with rare bromeliads.

By Lynn’s own account, she is a “slave” to both her husband (in their hospitality industry insurance business) and her son (in the garden)! But she does it gladly. With the couple’s daughter also involved in Afscot Financial Services, this is a true family business. This business and its garden is a beacon of beauty in the Durban community.

Feldman journeys with the reader to finally unpack his heavy bags

Carry-On Baggage by Howard Feldman

A review by Brenda Daniels

The blurb of Carry-On Baggage describes the author, Howard Feldman, as “a high-flying commodity trader, living a seemingly perfect life, with a perfect wife and perfect children, in an unbelievably perfect world.”

It then goes on in a more sinister tone to say that Howard “gets attacked. And attacked again. Then he gets sick. His business folds. And his carry-on baggage simply gets too heavy to hold.”

Concerned that this “sort-of autobiography” might be just another moralistic misery memoir, I nevertheless was attracted by the travel theme, and decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did. Carry-On Baggage is neither miserable nor moralistic. Nor is it self-indulgent.

It is an entertaining, descriptive, easy-to-read book, written with humour by an author with an obvious interest in other people.

In this story Howard describes his family and business life in South Africa, Israel and the USA. He speaks candidly of family and business difficulties, of personal faults, and how crime in South Africa deeply affected him and his loved ones. Although the crime experienced was devastating and, for Howard, ultimately life-changing, the incidents aren’t belaboured or inappropriately revealing.

Feldman writes with obvious affection about his extended Jewish family, and manages to portray his natural people skills without pride or affectation.

The blurb preps the reader for a change in the author’s life and therefore psyche. The revelation, however, occurs only at the end of the book where Feldman describes psychologically “unpacking his bags” and “lowering his banners”. Although I found this arrangement a little puzzling I really enjoyed the journey.

I was left with a hope that I might one day meet Howard Feldman face to face.

Carry-On Baggage by Howard Feldman is published by Tracey McDonald Publishers. An e.Book is also available.

Visit www.thewriteoutlook.com for more info on Howard.

Photo: Brenda Daniels

Photo: Brenda Daniels

Hearing King Lear – with National Theatre Live

The National Theatre Live screening of Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear is not to be missed if you’re studying it at school and certainly not if you just love anything to do with this 16th Century literary genius. It is showing (in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and at Ster-Kinekor Blue Route Mall in Tokai) on 14, 15, 18 and 19 June only.

It goes without saying that Shakespeare was meant to be performed. Not read. But it’s worth reiterating. During my school days we watched one of Shakespeare’s plays on film. Another one was accompanied by a voice over. For the rest it was reading. And that was difficult.

Watching a play being performed brings it to life and helps the viewer understand this writer’s often inaccessible old English. The inflections, the pauses, the tone of voice, facial expressions and movement of the actors all communicate and help the viewer/listener understand and therefore appreciate the words.

I had never read (or watched!) King Lear so this production was a superb introduction. Whilst the language is true to the original, director Sam Mendes brings some modernity to the play by using modern-day clothing and stage set. But, as alluded to above, it was the performance of the excellent actors that enriched my experience of this play.

The action opens with King Lear dividing his kingdom between his three daughters, Regan, Goneril and Cordelia, based on their professions of love for him. Devastated by his favourite’s (Cordelia) unwillingness to flatter him, the king hands his estate to the other two and then gradually descends into madness.

Goneril and Cordelia become greedy and turn their backs on Lear, an act which contributes to his poor mental state. Shunned by his family, Lear’s only companions become the faithful servants in his realm. A parallel story of filial love/betrayal is that between the Earl of Gloucester and his two sons (one of whom is illegitimate).

As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, weather conditions act as portents of things to come. This one is no different. Thunder and even rain accompany descriptions of lightning.

A brief interview at intermission reveals the thought and research that were used to make this production the emotional, understandable one it is.

King Lear screens at 7.30pm on 14, 18 and 19 June and at 2.30pm on 15 June at the theatres mentioned above. With an intermission, the performance is three and a half hours long. Visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or call Ticketline on 082 16789.

A 1600s print out for King Lear

A 1600s print out for King Lear which is to be screened in South Africa from the National Theatre in London. Photo: Creative Commons

Cordelia in King Lear's court, a scene from Shakespeare's play, King Lear. Photo: Creative Commons

Cordelia in King Lear’s court, a scene from Shakespeare’s play, King Lear. Photo: Creative Commons

 

Lead up to the award ceremony: Cinema Nouveau Announces Pre-Release Screenings of Three Multi-Nominated Oscar Contenders

Each of the three pre-release titles, August: Osage County, Nebraska and Philomena, will have one screening each at 8pm on 24, 26 and 27 February respectively, at the four Cinema Nouveau theatres at Rosebank Mall in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria, Gateway in Durban and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Bookings are now open for these three special pre-Oscar screenings.

The talented Meryl Streep, who is no stranger to the Best Actress category, is once again nominated in this category for her role in August: Osage County, which will be pre-released at the four Cinema Nouveau theatres on Monday, 24 February at 8pm. Another big Hollywood name, Julia Roberts, shares the screen with her in this film and is up for Best Supporting Actress.

On Wednesday, 26 February at 8pm, Cinema Nouveau audiences are transported to another American state with the pre-release of Nebraska. With an impressive six Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actor – Bruce Dern, Best Supporting Actress – June Squibb, Cinematography, Best Director – Alexander Payne, and Original Screenplay, this black-and-white masterpiece explores another complex family relationship.

With four Oscar nominations – Best Picture, Best Actress – Judi Dench, Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay – Philomena plays on the Cinema Nouveau circuit at 8pm on Thursday, 27 February. It releases nationally on 28 March.

When former journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what to do. All that changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena (Judi Dench), who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about Philomena’s search for her son that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son’s fate, as their basic beliefs are challenged.

Cinema Nouveau audiences can watch these films and make their predictions before the winner of “Best Picture is announced during the early hours of 3 March.

The full list of nominees vying for this prestigious award are: Gravity; Captain Phillips; American Hustle; Dallas Buyers Club; Her; Nebraska; Philomena; 12 Years a Slave; and The Wolf of Wall Street.

For more information and to make a booking, visit www.sterkinekor.com or www.cinemanouveau.co.za. Call Ticketline on 082 16789.

The 2009 Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

The 2009 Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

The 31st Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

The 31st Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)