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Archive for February, 2017

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Dustin Hoffman is jingle writer Harvey Shine, in London for his daughter’s wedding, and feeling isolated. He has a strained relationship with his daughter and his ex-wife – who is now happily remarried – and his job is looking shaky. But then he meets lonely airport worker Kate Walker (Emma Thompson), who is jaded by her lack of love life and her mother’s stifling emotional dependence, and maybe, just maybe there might a chance of happiness for the two of them.

I felt that this was a lovely film – not really a comedy although there were some funny scenes, but very poignant and thanks to the two main leads, immensely watchable (it’s a fairly short film at just over 90 minutes, but seemed to pass by in half in hour!) Harvey is not an altogether likeable character – he can be brusque, and he has clearly not been there for his daughter when she has needed him – but Hoffman’s performance still makes you want to root for him, while acknowledging his flaws. In the hands of a different actor, Harvey could have been someone whose happiness meant little to viewers, but I wanted him to be okay and to get his second shot at happiness. And as for Emma Thompson – well, Kate was always the more sympathetic of the two characters, but Thompson’s acting is just sublime. You really felt what she was going through in each scene – the awkward blind date, where friends of the man her friend has set her up with gatecrash the evening, the awkwardness tinged with delight at finding herself at a wedding reception where she barely knows anyone, and the frustration of dealing with her mother (Eileen Atkins) who Kate clearly loves dearly but who obviously feels the need to unleash every thought on her daughter at any given time.

This is a lovely film, which seemed to slip under the radar at the time of release – watch it for the novelty of seeing a film about romance between two people who are over the age of 30 and who don’t necessarily look like they have just sashayed off the catwalk. Watch it for the incredible acting. Watch it to find yourself really caring about these believable, flawed people. Whatever your reason, just watch it!

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Year of release: 2008

Director: Joel Hopkins

Writer: Joel Hopkins

Main cast: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Eileen Atkins, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, Liane Balaban

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In this romcom (actually it’s more of an unrom-com, in that it has the comedy but is not romantic!), struggling writer Josh (Rafe Spall) and high-flyer Nat (Rose Byrne) have a whirlwind romance and get married after seven months. Only then does reality set in and they begin to realise that they don’t know each other that well, and may not be at all compatible. Further complications arise in the shape of Josh’s ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris) who clearly still loves him, and American businessman Guy (Simon Baker) who has immediate chemistry with Rose when he hires her firm to do some work for him.

There are laughs-a-plenty in this film – and as a warning, if you don’t like crude humour then I’d recommend you avoid this, as there is a lot of crudeness and toilet humour – but as alluded to above, not a whole lot of romance, at least not between the two leads. I did think the main four actors all played their parts remarkably well, even if there was not much chemistry between Josh and Nat. Or maybe that was the point – they seemed to click with other people but not with each other.

Stephen Merchant plays Danny, Josh’s best friend and best man, whose speech at the wedding made me wince with embarrassment, and who always seemed to know exactly the wrong thing to say! Because of this, his scenes were amongst the funniest for me, although possibly amongst the most annoying for some viewers. It’s also worth mentioning Minnie Driver and Jason Flenyng as unhappily married – or are they? – friends of Nat. Minnie Driver has a real talent for comedy and it shows in her acerbic character here. Olivia Colman also shines in her small role as marriage counsellor who obviously has problems in her own relationship!

I won’t spoil the ending but I will say that it was unexpected, and I liked that. Overall, if you are looking for some good belly laughs and an undemanding storyline, then give this a try.

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Year of release: 2013

Director: Dan Mazer

Writer: Dan Mazer

Main cast: Rafe Spall, Rose Byrne, Simon Baker, Anna Faris, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Stephen Merchant

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After hitch-hiking around Ireland with a fridge, enlisting the help of Norman Wisdom and Tim Rice to have a one hit wonder, playing the Moldovans at tennis and doing something with a piano in the Pyrenees (not sure what exactly as I haven’t read that particular book yet), Tony Hawks takes on his biggest challenge yet – moving with partner Fran from London, his home for 30 years, and buying a cottage in rural Devon. There, they have to get used to a change of scene, change of lifestyle and change of pace.

Tony and Fran embrace their new surroundings and new neighbours, and meet the challenges that are thrown at them with enthusiasm and gusto (if not always unqualified success). When they discover that Fran is pregnant, Tony realises that there is time for just one more challenge – cycling coast-to-coast with a micro pig named Titch.

I have always enjoyed Tony Hawks’ books and this one was no exception. At many times it is laugh-out-loud funny – and I do mean literally – laugh-out-loud. I found myself bursting into giggles on a number of occasions (the scene where Tony attends a Zumba class had me in stitches). He also adds in his own thoughts about the environment and man’s effect on it, and impending fatherhood. The book ends on a sweet note which I am reluctant to spoil for other readers, so I won’t!

Overall, if you have enjoyed Hawks’ other books, I am sure you will enjoy this one too. If you have never read him before, don’t delay any longer! This is extremely enjoyable, funny and heart-warming. Oh – and I adored the micro pig Titch!

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As the subtitle suggests, this musical tells the story of Buddy Holly – or at least the story of his rise to fame, for the show starts while Buddy is looking for a record deal. Naturally it contains all his most famous songs, and given just how well known and loved those songs are, it must be a daunting task to take on the role.

Full disclosure here – I probably would not have gone to see this show if I hadn’t been taking my mother, who really likes Buddy Holly’s music, given that she spent much of her youth listening to it. But along I went, looking forward to an enjoyable afternoon, and I have to say this show delivered enjoyment by the bucketload. Alex Fobbester played Buddy (he alternates performances with Glen Joseph), and he was absolutely fantastic. Like the rest of the cast, Fobbester played his instruments live during the performance  and they did full and complete justice to the songs.

The story charts his career, taking in his marriage to Maria Elena, and his fallout with backing band The Crickets.

The second half of the show is given over to a performance of touring show that Holly was doing with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens when all three were killed in a plane crash in 1959. This gives Thomas Mitchells and Jordan Cunningham playing Big Bopper and Valens respectively the chance to shine, as they perform those singers’ most famous songs – Chantilly Lace (Big Bopper) and La Bamba (Valens) – and they both thrilled the crowd.

The entire audience were up on their feet clapping along by the end of the show, with many of us dancing in the aisles. The standing ovation that the cast received at the end was very well deserved. And me? I am most definitely a Buddy Holly convert, and am in fact sitting typing this with Buddy Holly’s music playing in the background. For a career that last less than two years, this man gave the world of music a precious gift and a lasting influence. Whether you are a Buddy fan or not, I strongly recommend this show.

For anyone who is interested, here is a list of songs that feature in this production:

Rose of Texas

Rip It Up

Changing all those Changes

That’s Be the Day

You’ve Got Love

Brown Eyed Handsome Man

Everyday

Shout

Not Fade Away

Peggy Sue

Words of Love

Oh Boy

Listen to Me

Think it Over

Well Alright

True Love Ways

It’s So Easy

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Chantilly Lace

Maybe Baby

Peggy Sue Got Married

Heartbeat

La Bamba

Raining In My Heart

It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Rave On

Johnny B. Goode

 

 

 

 

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As the back of the book states, in this story, “A vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant demagogue runs for President of the United States … and wins.” If that sounds horribly familiar to today, pause for a moment and realise that this book was written in 1935.

In an alternative timeline to what happened in real life, Buzz Windrip wins the Democratic nomination for president over FDR, and runs a campaign claiming that he will make America great again, appealing mainly to angry Americans who have suffered from the Great Depression. To Doremus Jessup, mild-mannered newspaper editor, the thought of Windrip as President is bemusing, but even as they hear reports of fascists like Hitler and Mussolini rising to power in Europe, he and like minded friends tell themselves and each other, “It can’t happen here.” And then it does.

When Windrip takes power, bemusement turns to anger and horror as innocent people have their jobs and homes taken away, and people are put into prison or tortured – or worse – for daring to disagree with the regime.

The writing style doesn’t always flow easily, and the book did take a few chapters to get going, but despite this I found myself absorbed, and I urge others to read this book. It makes for uncomfortable and extremely thought-provoking reading, even if afterwards I found I needed, in fact craved, something more light-hearted.

Definitely recommended, especially in light of today’s political climate.

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