Ten Food Commandments with Jay Rayner

Once I booked my flights to London, I knew what I had to do: check if there were any shows in the city I wanted to see. While on this hunt, I thankfully remembered to check if Jay Rayner had any shows on during my trip. I got lucky, there was a ‘Ten Food Commandments’ show on September 11 – the day I landed in London. I knew I’d most likely be jet-lagged that evening but there were no other shows during my trip, so I bit the bullet and bought a ticket.

Right, so I haven’t read the book on which the performance is based but I knew that whatever the show would end up being, I would be treated to a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek and witty observations. Thankfully, I wasn’t wrong.

I headed off to The Crazy Coqs, which is located within Brasserie Zedel, just off the Piccadilly Circus station. Guests were queuing up in this basement-level foyer, which had some stunning murals and architecture. I looked it up while writing this post, and found out that the building, now restored, is a loyal retelling of its original 1930s Art Deco style. The room which houses the Crazy Coqs used to be the billiard room, and, according to the official website, has been restored faithfully.

Now – on the show! Once we were admitted to the intimate round venue, all clustered around a mini stage at one end, the show began when Rayner appeared in his Moses outfit…

The show started at 9.15pm and ended at 10.45pm, which included a 10 minute break. The first part of the show concentrated on the ten (food) commandments, peppered with interesting anecdotes that played into those commandments, as well as some brilliant jokes. After a 10-minute interval, before which he encouraged the crowd to tweet him with food commandments of their own, he returned and started reading those tweets and interacting with the tweeters and sharing his opinions. After that was an open Q&A, and then he stayed behind to sell and sign his books.

If you’re interested in the culture of food, and enjoy reading his restaurant reviews every week – this is definitely a good show to catch.

Let me leave you with one of my favourite quotes of the night: “People don’t go to restaurants to stave off rickets. People go to restaurants to collect memories.”

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Movie Review: Mamma Mia 2 – Here We Go Again

Ten years after the first movie came out, we have the sequel to Mamma Mia. But does it work? Will it get the movie-goers up and dancing?

The premise is simple: Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep) passed away a year before the events of this movie (we are not told what happened) where her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is reopening the hotel as Villa Bella Donna and making her mother’s dreams come true. But there are challenges: her beau Sky (Dominic Cooper) has been offered a job in New York and he is thinking about taking it and not coming back to the island, and her two fathers out of three (Bill Andersen/Stellan Skarsgard and Harry Bright/Colin Firth) can’t make it for the re-opening. And her on-island father Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan) is grieving for Donna. While we follow Sophie’s journey and her struggles, we are also taken back in time to when Donna was growing up, and how she met the three potential fathers. Does everything work out in the end?

Well, yes. This *is* a feel-good movie after all!

Let’s start with the returning cast. Amanda Seyfried is really good in this one – I really think I preferred her in this movie compared to the original, and I absolutely and unequivocally loved the duet between her and Sky after their phone call where it seemed as though the relationship was at at end. Not only were both their performances heart-breaking (in a good way, I was totally in the moment), but the way it was shot was beautiful.

Sky (Cooper) isn’t in the movie much, much like the first instalment. But I did have a niggle with his contrived plot point: I mean, okay, he came back mid-way but why did he? Fine, every single decision doesn’t have to be explained, but I was genuinely confused with his ‘I couldn’t stay away’ reason, but hey-ho I’m just nitpicking now.

Both of Donna’s friends, played by Christine Baranski and Julie Walters in the current day, were as brilliant as always. And it was amazing to see that their younger selves, played by Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn, were so perfectly cast, I couldn’t believe it. Both forms of these characters were so in sync, I was well impressed.

And the same goes for young Donna. Played by Lily James (I first discovered her in Downton Abbey), I was blown away by her voice and her performance throughout the movie. Cannot wait to see more of James in the future.

Now, on to the dads. Pierce Brosnan still isn’t necessarily the best singer of the lot (sorry Remington Steele, I still adore you) but he puts on a better performance than 10 years ago. How much he misses Donna can be seen through his nuanced acting, and I felt like I could feel his pain as he looks over her photographs. Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard were hilarious, and Firth’s comic timing is still perfection. Quick note about the younger actors who played them: I hadn’t actually noticed them in anything before, but they were great! And such good singers too!

So, Cher is in the movie. When she starts singing, it’s like, OK this is what we were waiting for. She obviously, absolutely nailed every song she performed. I almost wish we had had more of her powerful voice in the movie. Andy Garcia is also in the movie, as the older, still smouldering, hotel manager, and his role in an enjoyable song later in the movie led to so many laughs and cheers in the theatre. I wish so much I could have heard him sing more, though.

Mild spoiler alert, so maybe gloss over this para if you can? There is a touching scene at the end of the movie which left me tearing up. The whole mother-daughter connection (what, you thought it was all about ABBA?!) was strong in the first movie, and is strong here too – especially where we are seeing the parallels between what Sophie is going through and what Donna was dealing with so many years ago. But it all comes to a satisfying, bone-tingling and eye-tearing end when Sophie and Donna share a duet, in a ‘she’s looking down at you from the heavens’ way that worked, that actually didn’t make you think, ‘well this is cheesy’ but made you sing along and cry because that’s how wonderful it was.

OK YOU CAN READ FROM HERE ON, SPOILER AVOIDERS!

The plot isn’t exactly strong and obviously some points seem built just so a song could be sung, but it’s so much fun nonetheless. Since so many of ABBA’s hit songs were used in the first movie, there are some that are repeated (like Mamma Mia, Waterloo, I Have A Dream and so on) but done well enough that it doesn’t matter. Look, I watched this movie right after Mission: Impossible – Fallout which stressed me out so much for nearly three hours, this one calmed me right back down and I left feeling chirpy.

Do you enjoy ABBA, love singing, and want to see a feel-good movie that may make you cry and laugh? OK, here’s your chance.

And stay for the last song where all the characters get to sing and dance together, it’s so worth it.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures in Middle Earth. I read the book after I read, and saw, the Lord of the Rings series. I remember when I read the books thinking that The Hobbit was an easier and quicker read than LOTR. So when the news broke that it would be broken up into three movies, I was fairly confused. The movie did diminish that confusion somewhat, for which I am glad.

Peter Jackson, who did a marvellous job on LOTR, is back at the helm. This helps as it keeps the Middle Earth universe looking consistent. That said, I did not get the whole argument between 24fps and 48fps – perhaps I’m far too ignorant of film-making to understand what kind of difference this is meant to create.

I was a little surprised though – there were one or two points in the movie where…I can’t believe I’m saying this…it was painfully obvious some things on screen were CGI. One was when you see Smaug’s tail disappearing into Erebor, and another when the Eagles were flying over the mountains. I was not expecting that. Was this a result of the fps issue? Anyone more well-versed in these matters, please clue me in!

Anyway, the book, if you’ve read it, is meant for a younger audience but I’m not sure I was necessarily take children to this movie. Some action sequences, especially with the Wargs and Orcs might scare the young ones.

The acting is fantastic. Ian McKellen makes a fitting return as Gandalf, even though he inexplicably seems older than the LOTR movies (well yes, he’s obviously older, but bear in mind, the events of this movie are meant to take place well over half-a-century before LOTR). Martin Freeman does well as Bilbo Baggins, bringing a charming sense of humour and reality to the character – you forget he is Watson. He IS the hobbit. Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarf company, is magnificent. His kingly behaviour makes me think of Aragorn a lot. Excellent stuff right there.

The other dwarves are cast well, although it’s hard to say more since they don’t have, obviously, as much screentime as Thorin and Bilbo. I did get to see Aidan Turner’s Kili quite a bit, which is awesome (for me) since I’ve been a fan since watching BBC’s Being Human.

The villains…what have we got here? A fire-breathing dragon Smaug, whom we don’t really see (imagine my surprise when I found out Sherlock‘s and Star Trek‘s Benedict Cumberbatch is voicing the deadly dragon – AND another villain…coming up). A necromancer (Cumberbatch too apparently!) who is causing havoc in the forests of Mirkwood. Azog, the pale-skinned Orc, who has sworn revenge on Thorin for chopping off his hand (this isn’t in the book either). There’s even Saruman who makes a quick appearance, potentially to tie in this movie with LOTR – although those who will not have seen LOTR or read the books will not know the importance of his character, or the consequences/import of his appearance.

Gollum, however, is a star. Andy Serkis returns to his inspiring motion-capture performance as the schizophrenic creature, and it is his scene with Freeman/Baggins that makes The Hobbit worth the watch. Highly commendable part of the movie.

Purists might object, and they have. Why? LOTR, while making changes in the story with cinematic license, largely stuck to the books. The Hobbit definitely has the basic premise down pat: the dwarves wanting to reclaim their home and wealth along with the help of an unlikely ally, a hobbit. But what it doesn’t have is utter loyalty to the book.

Many changes have been brought on the script, including licenses taken with timelines as well as what was in the book. Who is Azog? Why is the necromancer in the movie at all? A Morgul blade? Where did Galadriel come from? I’ve read a lot of articles and listened to podcasts, and what I’ve taken away is this: using additional texts, appendices and unfinished works of Tolkien, the screenplay has encompassed parts of Middle Earth lore that relate to the tale in this book/movie, and which the makers thought would add to the entire storytelling. It does.

So my advice to the purists: buzz off. The movie is done well. Yes, cinematic license has been taken. Get over it. Or make the movie yourself and see if you can do it better.

Anyway, it may, at some times, seem slow. There were certain points where I did think: COME ON, MOVE ON! Some additions may seem stilted – for example, when the movie suddenly moved to Radagast the Brown (again, not there in the book AT ALL) in Mirkwood, it was beyond, beyond confusing for a few minutes. Who is he? Why is he there? Why are porcupines important, and … WHAT’S GOING ON?! I’m hoping all three movies will help put it all together, more neatly than this one felt.

Quick nod to the musical score…absolutely brilliant. Loved, loved, loved it.

While I do like the backstory and emphasis on motives and cause-and-effect that has been created in this movie, I’m wondering whether three movies were necessary. I’m hoping the next two installments will resoundingly tell me: Yes, we were.

My final verdict is that the movie was good – not as brilliant as I’d hoped, but I’ve a feeling the next two movies will more than make up for it. I’d say 3.75/5.

Note: This first installment of the trilogy spans the first six chapters of the book, along with more additions than I’d care to count.

Book review: 50 Shades of Grey

Twitter alerted me to the “50 Shades” phenomenon, mostly with jokes. I held out against the trend until I thumbed through a copy and found some ridiculous lines staring at me. I was tempted: I had to read it and see if it was as bad as the random lines I read were.

And yes it was.

The back cover says: “Romantic, liberating and totally addictive, this is a novel that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.” HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA.

Anyway.

Here’s the basic story: Anastasia Steele is this insecure woman who is a virgin (OF COURSE SHE IS!) and has never been interested in any man until Christian Grey, a dashing tycoon, walks into her life.  All we know about how they look is that Anastasia has hair that doesn’t behave (tough shit, get a straightener) and he thinks she’s beautiful…and that Grey is hot and has a big p*nis, and is into BDSM. Yay?

They seem to have no personality whatsoever and there is absolutely no explanation of why they even like each other. She’s this moron who wants to work in publishing because she loves English Literature. And what exactly does Grey do as part of his business? I HAVE NO IDEA. He’s like one of those men in Indian TV serials who carry random briefcases and files around and announce pompously to their wives: “I’m going to the office.” Yes, but to do what, smartass?

Christian Grey… he’s the Edward Cullen of the non-vampire world: broody, sullen, powerful, and breathtakingly handsome. And all the while you have no bloody idea what he’s really about. BDSM is one thing, I mean that’s a lifestyle and personal choice, but his need to control her every single move, and quite literally stalk her… that’s ridiculous and sends the completely wrong message. No honey, it’s not romantic if he stalks you. It’s not romantic if you feel scared that he’s going to hit you. That is NOT BDSM (or so says my Google research). It’s messed up, is what it is.

Yes this book is about BDSM – when one of my friends found out I planned to read this book, she cautioned me against it, saying the scenes were graphic. Well, let me tell you… that’s not true. One of the truths about the s*x scenes in this book are: they are nothing special. I read Mills & Boons sometimes, and those have better intimate scenes than this pile of boring crock.

Anastasia is also a yo-yo. At one point she’s all, yeah I’m going to do everything I can to please him, how can I do better… and then she gets upset for all the pain he’s putting her through. Make. Up. Your. Mind. And she seems to be crying more after she met him than before! Abuse victim much?

The author also keeps repeating some phrases so many times, I could predict by the end when those damn things would rear their ugly heads on the page. Anastasia says the phrase “Oh my” so many times, I wanted to shoot her. And then she kept going: “Holy crap!” or “Holy shit!” or “Oh crap!” or “Holy f*ck!” or “Holy Moses!”… Every. Few. Paragraphs. For an English Literature graduate, she sure has a limited vocabulary.

I need to dedicate a paragraph to Anastasia’s inner goddess, whom I have taken a pledge to hunt down. Just some examples:

  • “My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old.”
  • “My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.”
  • “My inner goddess has stopped dancing and is staring, too, open-mouthed and drooling slightly.”

Her inner goddess is a moron and needs to be put down.

The writing is, quite frankly, appalling. To borrow inspiration from the book, my inner editor was holding a red pen out and making horrific slash marks across the pages.

And there is very little plot. It’s like any random excuse to throw sexual scenes in … fine, but there still needs to be a story! All in all, Anastasia comes across as a super-confused, dependent, whiny moron. She’s the classic example of the emotional abuse victim btw: “I CAN CHANGE HIM! I JUST HAVE TO PUT UP WITH HIS SHIT FOR A LITTLE WHILE!” Ummm. No. Girls who like this book and think they can change their man ‘for the better’… yeah, that’s not going to happen. If they’ve lived a certain way for decades, the chances they’ll change because you’re putting out? Nada. Zilch. NONE! ZERO! GET IT?

The ending of the book is ominous because it alerts me to the fact that there are two more books out there in this series. TWO MORE!

I might do what I did with Lauren Kate’s series (my reviews here) and read on and stay appalled at the stupidity in this world. This is me putting myself through the torture of reading insane things so you don’t have to.

Oh. By the way…there’s going to be a movie.

Also read the review of 50 Shades of Grey by Savannah on her blog, Easy as Pie in Dubai, and this review on Kimi Who, which is from the perspective of someone from the world of BDSM (and they hate it too apparently).

Movie review: Avengers Assemble

When Loki decides to attack Earth, it’s up to the superheroes, Captain American, Iron Man, Thor, and Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, along with the Black Widow, to step in and fight alongside Nick Fury.

That’s quite a few massive egos in one team. How does that work out?

Quite well actually, and one of the main reasons for this is that Joss Whedon, who was at the director’s helm, is a genius. 

It’s not easy to bring together four big guns into one ensemble, and then mix them with equally important supporting characters, and make it a success. But that’s exactly what Whedon does. Creator of the hit TV show Buffy along with Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse, Whedon has spun together a believable and strong tale of action, adventure, and lots of humour thrown in generously. And to no one’s surprise, every character has their own part to play, with no one cutting in to another’s role.

Robert Downey Jr.’s deprecating charm and wit is out there as always, and he’s managed to deliver his role as Iron Man/Tony Stark with an ease many would envy. Not just a comic element, his role portrays emotional power as well. Chris Evans does well as Captain America, although his perfection can seem annoying at some times. Chris Hemsworth is still rocking the Asgardian armour as Thor, delivering a strong and stable performance. Mark Ruffalo is perhaps the surprise as Bruce Banner. In his Banner role, he seems vulnerable, yet sweet, making a great contrast with his angry green half. And their chemistry together is amazing, which makes it all the more exciting to watch.

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is evil to the core, making it great fun to watch them try to defeat him. His complicated, twisted mind has been shown well. 

Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. is suitably dangerous. Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of Black Widow perhaps echoes more to those familiar with the Whedonverse of strong, intelligent women who have an emotional side. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye had a smaller role but did it well, although a backstory there would’ve been more interesting. 

There are many scenes that lend themselves to a laughing audience, or one gripping their seats. I shall not, however, spoil it for you. There are alien races apart from the Asgardians, there are some absolutely hilarious comic moments – even during the climax action scenes – and there are some losses.

I saw the movie in 3D, and after the initial discomfort that sets in, I actually forgot I was watching it in 3D. I think though, that that’s what one needs: watching 3D and forgetting it’s in that format and immersing in the movie and how good it looks, without worrying whether the alien is going to fly straight towards your nose or not.

The movie may be slightly longer than most, at just over two hours, but is a fine amount of time to develop the story well and leave the audience waiting for more. And it’s not the CGI that dictates the flow of the movie, and for that I’m extremely thankful.

It’s a dysfunctional motley of heroes we’ve got, but they put on a show. And what a show it is, conducted by the ring leader, Joss Whedon, who must really take a bow for his accomplishment.

A super-hero film that relies on great acting, fine direction and a whole lot of gritty pizzazz. Watch this movie, because it’s one of those rare gems that really does live up to your expectations.

 

Book Review: Passion by Lauren Kate

My review of Book 1: Fallen
My review of Book 2: Torment 

Spoilers and all that but read on anyway.

If there were any hopes the third instalment would give us something, or even something to praise, then they have been cruelly dashed with the nonsense I read through.

The book takes off from the end of the last one, after the mini-battle, where Loopy Luce decides to take off on a time-travelling jaunt on her own. Why, you ask? Because she can and she’s an obstinate little chick who is the sort to throw tantrums. Anyway, off she goes, despite everyone saying: “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” because if there’s one thing I learned reading these books is that only reverse psychology works on this girl.

I think, in her mind, conversations are like this:
Everyone: Don’t do it Luce!
Luce: That…means…DO IT!
Everyone: No, it’s bad for you!
Luce: THAT MEANS GOOD! *claps* 

She then waltzes through time through each of her past lives watching herself die everytime. Then if that was not enough, she goes into what the author hilariously calls “3-D” (HAHAHAHHAHAHAHA) and merges with each of her past lives. And dies.

THAT’S IT! That’s the plot! The story is essentially one chapter multiplied into numerous chapters. Each chapter is her finding a past life, dying, then moving on to another time period. Alternate narratives are Broody Daniel also moving back in time, running behind Luce but never quite catching up because he’s just too slow or stupidly lands where she’s already been and moved on. And when she meets her past Daniel, it’s ALWAYS: they meet, they fall in love, they kiss, she dies. REPEAT! She doesn’t care one bit about taking control of other Luce’s bodies and selfishlytaking over their last moments.

There’s also an annoying gargoyle called Bill, and never mind how people she knew in past books betrayed her. Gargoyle Bill says: “Hop into this dark shadow and travel across time, and while you’re at it, kill yourself with this dangerous weapon,” and Luce jumps to please. What. An. Idiot.

We have no idea exactly why she wants to time travel except when she blabbers something about wanting to understand her relationship with Daniel and wanting to know if he really loves her, or some such psycho-babble. But hey, by the end of the book, we still don’t know why they love each other, what on earth the curse is all about and why they get so goopy around each other? Characters keep saying, OMG YOU’RE SOUL MATES. Yeah…but why???

Luce is still whiny, as I said, defying everything everyone says because she thinks she’s all that. Daniel is still tortured, and decides that he is so totally going to tell God (yeah, really) that he wants Luce to die again and again and again BECAUSE HE LOVES HER! LOVE WILL TRIUMPH and blah blah blah. Apart from the fact, as I mentioned: there is no foundation to their “love”. Nothing!!! It’s just lust, based on descriptions of how she feels his abs and wants to kiss him and gets giddy when she sees him. 

I loved (when I say loved, I mean I howled in a combination of laughter and misery) where Luce claims she loves Daniel because: “she just does”. HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA. It’s a never-end loop of I love him because I love him because he loves me because I love him…………. *brain freeze*

There’s a very pathetic reveal of the evil character, and everything that happens in this book is “destiny”. Can’t understand what the hell Daniel is telling God? IT’S DESTINY! Don’t know why Luce runs back in time? IT’S DESTINY! Don’t understand why you’ve wasted money on this book? YUP…IT’S DESTINY!!! Why is there no character development? Oh this is a hard one…let me think…could it be…destiny?

I think me reading these books and reviewing them, so you don’t have to, is a pretty big public service.

Rejoice, for I have saved you all.

Apologies for the multiple uses of caps lock key. Yes, I was shouting in my head as I wrote this, so outraged I was at all the senselessness.

Review – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Part 2) | The Graduate Times

Review – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Part 2)

Devina Divecha reviews the highly anticipated final installment in the Harry Potter series – CAUTION – SOME SPOILERS

Review – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Part 2)

★★★★☆

It’s the last bow for The Boy Who Lived. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), along with his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), work towards finding the remaining Horcruxes (the objects that have pieces of Voldemort’s soul in them) and destroying them.

Being the last film in an epic series spanning 10 years, there are a lot of expectations from this movie. Have David Yates, the director, and Steve Kloves, the screenwriter, made it worth the wait?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 takes off where the first one left us: Dobby’s death and Voldemort finding The Elder Wand in Dumbledore’s grave. The film gives us about ten minutes of peace, and from then on viewers are taken on a rollercoaster ride.

Harry, Ron and Hermione embark on robbing Gringotts Wizarding Bank, having an encounter with a dragon, and then facing the Death Eaters in not one, but two battles at Hogwarts. Voldemort and his Death Eaters are there every step of the way to foil the trio’s plans. And we get to see almost every member of the Harry Potter series since it started, making blink-and-you-miss-them and cameo appearances.

The lead actors have grown so much from when we first saw them in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Radcliffe, Grint and Watson have grown into fine young actors. I’ve always had a problem with Watson’s acting, but I couldn’t fault her this time. A special mention goes out to Helena Bonham Carter, who got Watson’s portrayal of Hermione down to a tee, in the scenes where Hermione is disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange.

Dame Maggie Smith shone as Professor McGonagall, her quips making me laugh: “I’ve always wanted to use that spell!” or, “…had a particular proclivity for pyrotechnics”. The famous “Not my daughter, you bitch!” scene between Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) and Lestrange (Bonham Carter) was anti-climactic, as it felt rushed, chopped and not given its due attention.

Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape makes many cry in this one, where the truth of his character’s innocence is revealed, along with his undying love for Lily Potter. Ralph Fiennes is inspired as Voldemort; he is chilling, as well as awe-inspiring. He truly makes you think of the line: “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible things, but great.”

The battle sequences are nothing short of fantastic – we see Hogwarts and its surrounding areas in a larger scale than ever before. Kudos to the set designers. In addition, seeing the movie in 3D has its benefits: Nagini the snake, the dragon, and the Dementors look even better and menacing than we could have ever hoped.

There are a few details that have been changed, but it can be brushed away by the benefits it brings to the movie adaptation. However, there is one major scene in the movie where viewers are left feeling underwhelmed, and many may have cried out: “Wait? THAT’S IT?”  I know I did.

One major gripe aside, the final instalment in the series is a worthy one. It is full of action, emotion, and excellent performances. Goodbye Harry Potter.

 

Review – X Men: First Class

With many prequels failing the expectations of viewers, I’ve tried to go into a prequel not expecting a single thing. X-Men: First Class however, magnified what little expectations I did have and blew them out into space. This movie was an entertaining, slick and enjoyable watch.

It traces the roots of the characters we’ve already seen in the X-Men movies till date. It starts where the first X-Men film did, in 1944, showing a young boy separated from his parents, and taken into a Nazi concentration camp. There young Erik Lensherr (to-be Magneto) meets Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) who, like the Emperor in Star Wars, creates the X-Men world’s Anakin Skywalker, a young man angered by the death of his mother.

The plotline shows how the paths of Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) and young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) cross, how they become friends, how they learn to control their powers together and undergo a bromance that isn’t at all sappy or apparent. The two join forces with the government to stop the imminent threat of Shaw’s megalomaniac plans, with Lensherr having his own personal agenda on the cards. There are other mutants thrown in for good measure – we see the origins of Mystique, or Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) as she used to be called, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and more.

In the process of fighting against the mutant threat, a rift is created between the two close friends and Magneto and Professor X are born from the ashes.

Why does the movie work? It has a fantastic story, the actors fit the characters like a well-made glove and the special effects are in no way overdone or tacky. McAvoy is a slightly cocky yet innocent Xavier, one who has not yet seen what the world can do, or what mutants can do. Fassbender is a wonderful Magneto; you almost feel sorry for him and wish he’d stay on the good side, even if it’s just to see the lovely friendship between his character and McAvoy’s continue. Lawrence as the vulnerable Raven/Mystique trying to fit into the world that won’t accept anything or anyone different is impressive. Bacon was slightly disappointing in the latter half of the movie, although his turn as the Nazi officer is chilling. Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, the human CIA agent is the only one who believes in helping the mutants, and does well. The rest of the supporting cast played their roles well.

There are two blink-and-you-miss-them cameo appearances by cast members of the X-Men 1-3 movies, so watch out for those. A word of warning to those expecting a teaser scene at the end of the credits: there isn’t one this time.

All in all, a fascinating watch that makes viewers hope that there will be more prequels coming along especially if this is how they’re going to do it. Kudos to the director Michael Vaughn and the writers for giving us a great movie at the start of the summer.

Review – Fast 5 | The Graduate Times

Review – Fast 5

The fifth film in the series is just as Fast and Furious as the previous four. And just wait for the sixth; I know I am, says Devina Divecha.

Review – Fast 5

★★★☆☆

Did you honestly think that the last scene of Fast & Furious (the fourth instalment) would signal the end of the racing franchise?

It’s been 10 years since audiences saw Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) hit the drag race scene, but interest in the series has not waned. If anything, the fifth edition has kicked it up a notch.  The film starts where Fast & Furious ended, with O’Conner busting Toretto out of jail where he has been sentenced for 25 years. They end up on the run in Rio, where along with Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) they have to bring together a team, Oceans 11 style, to get even with a head honcho in the area and pull a final job in order to stop running.

The team is filled with members from the previous films – we have Vince (Matt Schulze) from the first instalment, Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Ludacris) from 2 Fast 2 Furious, Han Lue (Sung Kang) from a drift version set in Tokyo, and Gisele Harabo (Gal Gadot), Tego Leo (Tego Calderon) and Rico Santos (Don Omar) from the previous film.

To add more drama, they’ve thrown in Agent Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) to chase down the fast and furious crew, with new entrant Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky), a rookie cop in Rio, assisting Hobbs.
The film is filled with testosterone, cars, girls, races and lots of running. The plot is simplistic and the acting no great shakes, but it will keep fans of the series hooked. ‘The Rock’, as the new addition, doesn’t impress. His dialogue delivery seems stilted, and the beads of sweat literally sticking to his skin (and not rolling down) distracted me every time his face was zoomed in. Toretto and O’Conner are old pros at this game, and their chemistry as racing buddies and rivals is still there.

While Fast Five doesn’t have as many car sequences as the first three did, viewers would have probably noticed a shift from the fourth film onwards. The characters have developed from when we first saw them in 2001 and there’s a lot more to it now than just racing.  But the film gives us what it’s there for: car drooling scenes and the final race, involving the Fast Five crew and all the police cars you could have mustered in Rio, makes for a smashing finale.

This film also follows the formula increasingly used these days of having a teaser scene after the end credits. This one is honestly worth the wait. It made me gasp out loud, clutch my hair and drop my jaw. I did not see it coming. Bring it on, number six.

 

Review – Thor | The Graduate Times

Review – Thor

The visual scenery in Thor is almost as epic as the original myth itself, says Devina Divecha

Review – Thor

★★★★☆

When you leave the cinema after watching this movie, you will probably hope that The Avengers will have many scenes with Chris Hemsworth throwing his hammer about.  The movie starts with thunder, lightning and rain. And a flashback sequence. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and he is cast out of the wondrous Asgard by his father for disobeying him and banished to Earth. Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, which only he can wield, is also sent to Earth, where its presence draws the men in black. Thor is found by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), whom (surprise, surprise) he has a romantic entanglement with. Thor also has to deal with the threat of the Frost Giants, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and human elements that want to ‘get him’.

Thor undergoes a pretty rapid character shift – from being arrogant and egotistic at the start of the film to becoming understanding, strong and worthy by the end. A little too fast for our liking, but we’d imagine many things had to be rushed to accommodate it all into the screening time of the film.  You might be surprised to know Kenneth Branagh was chosen to direct the film, with his penchant for Shakespeare. But can there be anyone else to show the semi-Shakespearan drama between Thor and his family? The choices for the roles are perfect – Hopkins as Odin, Portman as Jane Foster, Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig do well. Rene Russo makes a brief appearance as Frigga, Thor’s mother. But the two that really stand out are fresh faces –Hemsworth (whom Trekkies will recognise as George Kirk from the rebooted Star Trek) and Hiddleston (trivia: he acted with director Branagh in Wallander). Hemsworth steals scenes as the striking Norse God and makes us laugh in a few (especially the scenes where Thor has to deal with humans who don’t care whether he is the son of Odin or not), and has the audience falling in love with his mischievous sense of self. Hiddleston as the meddling Loki is inspired; you’ll end up hoping someone dangles him off an Asgardian cliff long before you realise what he’s up to.

The visuals are striking and to be expected, with Asgard looking like a futuristic city in the clouds. Absolutely marvellous; I did not see the film in 3D and did not need to – it can carry itself without the added gimmick.  As Marvel is propping up these movies to lead up to the final bang which is The Avengers, avid moviegoers would do well to stick around till the end of the credits. As always, there’s a little scene in there to pique your curiosity, confuddle you, and make the wait for the mega-epic seem just a little longer.  Twists and turns are aplenty in this movie, with a lot of action. Buckle up, because Marvel wants to take everyone on a fantastic ride.