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Confessions of an Expat in Paris
Confessions of an Expat in Paris
Vicki Lesage | 2019 |
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
I’ve been a fan of Vicki Lesage for years. I’ve read both Confessions of a Paris Party Girl and Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer. So I was thrilled when she contacted me for an honest review (click here to learn how to get me to review your book).

Paris Potty Girl details her first few years in Paris, from bar-hopping to getting her first apartment to meeting her husband and Paris Potty Trainer, of course, details pregnancies and getting used to parenthood.

Confessions of an Expat in Paris is an anthology of anecdotes spanning across both these eras in Vicki Lesage’s life. You’ll learn about the cheesy and downright weird pick-up lines she received from French guys as well as the time she might have eaten part of her friend’s thumb.

Yep, you read that last sentence right.
Each anecdote is paired with a drink recipe, many of which sound really good. I can’t wait to try the mulled gin recipe.

Mulled Gin
For when you need to recover from face mask fails
1 bottle of red wine
12 oz. gin
1 teaspoon honey
1 oz. orange juice
1 oz. lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
Add all the ingredients to a pot
Stir and Simmer until honey is dissolved
Serve warm
I really enjoyed Expat in Paris. The stories are usually hilarious and sometimes just a little bit cringy in a good way. Others are sweet and make me smile, like when she was on her honeymoon with her husband.

With her first two books, I felt like there was more of an overall story instead of disjointed anecdotes. As much as I liked being able to enjoy a quick and witty snapshot of her life before I had to get back to my own, I think I preferred the more continuous storyline in Party Girl and Potty Trainer.

While some of the stories were without a doubt hilariously absurd, like her boss’s father asking about how her vaginal rejuvenation was coming along in front of her coworkers (what the everloving fuck), others were less climactic. Lesage included an entire chapter about how she’s an awkward dancer, except when she did the Dirty Dancing move with her brother on her wedding.

A perfect wedding dance move.
The dancing chapter felt more like a summary than a specific moment in her life, which made my eyes glaze over. And she only casually mentioned what could have been some good stories, like her drunkenly dancing on tabletops in public. I would have loved a complete chapter about one of those times, but they are only mentioned now and then.

Vicki Lesage often makes me laugh out loud when reading her books. Her chapter “10 Ways Living in Paris is Like Dental Work” will always make me smile. She talks about how both involve interesting flavors, a lot of paperwork, and a lot of money, and I’ll go “Oh shit, she’s right.”

Now and then, however, her jokes miss the mark. At one point she veered off-topic to stage an imaginary trial to defend herself against herself for eating so much Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and then, within the trial, she goes even more off-topic by talking about how France doesn’t have Phish Food flavor until I just wanted to skip the chapter.

As of this review, I still haven’t tried any of the drink recipes, but I trust a former hardcore drinker like Vicki Lesage to come up with some good drinks, although I don’t think I’ll ever try The Fluoride Treatment because, well, ew. Not the drink itself, but the name. Even though it’s relevant to the chapter, I’m weirdly squeamish.

However, most of these drinks are probably not for amateurs like me, who drink wine out of a box and can’t tell the difference between Stella Artois and Schlitz (I’m guessing. I’ve never actually had Schlitz. But Stella Artois tastes like every other beer to me).

With the exception of the mulled gin, most of the drink recipes require either a martini shaker or a blender. You can probably mostly pull off these recipes without either, though. Just don’t take a page out of Lesage’s book and use lite pancake syrup instead of honey.

I rate Confessions of an Expat in Paris 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a hilarious book that I recommend to anyone who wants a light-hearted memoir.
7500 (2019)
7500 (2019)
2019 | Drama, Thriller
Greetings & Salutations Everyone!

On behalf of myself and my fellows at ‘Skewed & Reviewed’ I want to say I hope all of you and those nearest and dearest to you continue to be healthy and safe during these uncertain times.

We’ve made it to another summer and with that comes a multitude of new films for the summer of 2020 only they’ll assemble in the queues on your digital devices rather than the movie theaters. Trust me. That’s a good thing right about now. We’re going to take a turn off the beaten path this time. Instead of a comedy or an action film, we’re going to start things off with a thriller. With all the unpleasantness going about it seems like an odd move perhaps? Not really. A well-made thriller film will create such intensity that you’ll completely forget about everything else at least for the film’s running time anyways. Judging from my own experience, today’s movie for you consideration will accomplish just that.


The aviation transponder code indicating that a hijack is in progress. Essentially the worst case scenario for any flight crew and accompanying passengers. The basis for today’s film. ‘7500’ is a 2019 an Austrian/German/American dramatic thriller from Amazon Studios and the directorial debut of German filmmaker Patrick Vollrath. Written by Vollrath and Senad Halilbasic and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (in his first film since 2016), Omid Memar, Aylin Tezel, Carlo Kitzlinger, Aurélie Thépaut, Murathan Muslu, and Paul Wollin.
Evening. Berlin Tegal Airport. Passengers and crew board a passenger plane bound for Paris. A routine flight (from what I’ve personally been told by retired U.S. Air Force personnel and friends in France, an amazing experience for any traveler). While the passengers begin to board he plane, Co-pilot Tobias Ellis (Levitt) and his girlfriend Gökce (Tezel) one of the flight attendants trying to decide on which school they can send their child too. Captain Michael Lutzmann (Kitzlinger) makes his way into the cockpit while making jokes regarding the plane. Everyday life. Flight check complete, the plane proceeds to take off and for the first few moments a routine trip. That quickly changes when a group of men including a young man named Vedat, attempt to break into the plane’s flight deck and take control of plane. After a brief but violent struggle, Tobias and Captain Lutzman despite both being wounded, overpower one of the hijackers and force the cockpit door closed. Over the course of the next few moments, the situation will go from bad to worse as the fate of the passengers, the crew, and even the hijackers will be left in Tobias’s hands as he attempts to get the plane to safety while injured and thwart the plans of Vedat and his associates. One thing is clear. No matter what happens, no matter how much he might want to, he cannot under any circumstances open the door to the flight deck.

Right off the bat. 4 out of 5 stars. The film was brilliant. My eyes were glued to the computer monitor for the 92 minute runtime of the movie. Part of which was due to the fact that the film was based entirely upon the idea of something that could very well possibly happen and unfortunately has happened before. There is a focus on conviction for both sides. How far is an individual prepared to go? What are they willing to do to prevent the other from overpowering them regardless if your intentions are just or malevolent? What is one willing to sacrifice in order to carry out an objective or safeguard the lives of a group? Joseph Gordon-Levitt might have been out of the game for a while but he certainly hasn’t lost his edge and the cast and crew of the film he decided to team-up with for this outing did not disappoint either.

I wouldn’t recommend this one for the kids due to the dark nature of the story and the violence involved at points in the film. It does touch upon certain stereotypes which perhaps should be talked about among those who see the movie. The film takes place almost exclusively on the flight deck of the plane which reminded me of Joel Schumacher’s 2003 film ‘Phone Booth’ starring Colin Farrell or Mukunda Michael Dewil’s 2013 film Vehicle 19 starring the late Paul Walker. The focus of the confined space only adds to the intensity and so very few directors have managed to pull off films like these three. Definitely add this film to your queue and pick a Friday or Saturday late night to view it. I personally believe the ‘Master of Suspense’ Alfred Hitchcock himself would have.
Never Forgotten (Never Forgotten, #1)
Never Forgotten (Never Forgotten, #1)
Kelly Risser | 2014 |
10.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
''All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. - Anatole France''
How can one day go so very wrong? One minute Meara Quinn is making plans for how she will spend the Summer before her senior year and the next she's finding out that her mother's cancer has returned and they are moving away from the only home she's ever known.
Now she is in a new country, taking care of her mother, living with grandparents she never met, meeting new friends at school and a guy she really likes and having weird visions of a father who was absent her entire life. There is a secret of who Meara is, and everyone seems to know this except her.
Meara is determined to find out the secrets that will change her life forever.
The beginning of this book in unbelievably good! Amazing intro and perfect character development. I loved how you could feel with Meara all the time, and go through with her while she leans about her mum's sickness and the movement to another country. It is very realistically described, and we manage to see this all through the eyes of a troubled teenager. And the descriptions of the scenes? Ahhh, just see for yourselves:
''The room was a deep purple and accented with an eclectic blend of antiques and comfortable furnishings. It was the kind of room that made a person long to grab a book and cozy into the oversized couch for a several hours.''
Thought, sometimes, there would be things that didn't make sense to me:
''The guy who delivered the pizza forgot plates and napkins. So, we just opened the box and dug in.''
Which delivery place on Earth, for God's sake, delivers plates and napkins? Is this an American thing? If I order pizza, I expect to dig into it with all my fingers, get really messy, and then lick them in the end. Just saying…
There were many twists and turns, mostly little ones in this first book, but the middle of the book gets really slow paced. For a moment, I thought this might be an unpleasant read, but it turned out to just be a calm before the storm, where the biggest twist happens right before the end, and it leaves us wanting more - therefore, the second book. Nicely done, Kelly Risser, nicely done!
Meara is an amazing girl, and we follow her story. She finds out her mum's cancer is back again, and they have to move from USA to Canada. For a teenage girl, that is a huge change. I loved the way she coped with it, even though, at the beginning she made me quite agitated - her mum is dying, and her thought are - life is unfair, why do I have to move to another country, and change schools and lose my friends? It made me incredibly angry, but as much as I don't want to admit it, those are the exact thoughts a teen would have in such moments. We don’t really tend to think about how our parents feel until we get older and wiser, do we?
I liked Meara, apart her irritating personality at times. She is a typical teenage girl, and many girls, me included, can relate to her so well! She is a good person, and she cares about the people around her.
I loved Evan - he is just the sweetest person / boyfriend a girl can have. I honestly wish I had a boyfriend like him when I was 13-years-old. He made sandwiches, and they watched a movie in the car because it was raining, and he would come to Meara's house with flowers, and offer to help out with the chores? He is the cutest person ever.
''He was about six foot tall with wavy, black hair that curled over his ears. Tanned skin, lean muscles, and strong hands that ended in long, graceful fingers.''
But then, there is Kieran… I know he is the bad boy, but I might be able to ship him and Meara together - maybe? We'll see… It's an unpopular opinion, but I actually want to see them together. Even though Evan is just the sweetest thing, and it would be horrible if Meara broke his heart.
I really enjoyed this book - maybe I enjoyed it the most from all the other Young-Adult paranormal books I've read. It was a great first beginning to a series, and I can't wait to dig in the rest of the series.
As a finale - I had to also include this quote from the book:
''Humans are spiteful creatures. They destroy more than they create. That is why I do not associate with them.''

nEoFILM (144 KP) rated Saving Private Ryan (1998) in Movies

Feb 25, 2019 (Updated Feb 25, 2019)  
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
1998 | Action, Drama, War
Groundbreaker mired in slop
Contains spoilers, click to show
Regarded as one of the best war films ever made, it certainly qualifies. The opening twenty minutes are still as breathtaking, shocking and disturbing realistic as they were back in 1998. It is hard to imagine that it has now been over twelve years since Saving Private Ryan broke the mold of World War II film making.

Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Director for Spielberg, Best Cinematography, and Sound, which was astonishing, even by today's standards, it failed to win Best Picture, losing out to Shakespeare In Love. Shakespeare In Love! Don't get me wrong, it's a good film, but easily forgettable compared to Ryan, only proving yet again that if you touch upon the British monarchy you get Oscars.

The film is a fictional account of four brothers, all serving in the U.S. Army, three of which were killed in action on or around the D-Day landings. The fourth, James Ryan played by Matt Damon is somewhere in Europe, and Tom Hanks with his platoon are sent to bring him home, to spare his mother anymore heartache.

Tom Hanks, who was also snubbed at the 1998 Oscars for his perfect performance as Captain Miller, the everyman who was losing himself in the horrors of war, underplayed his role perfectly. He is believable on every level, emotionally, physically and has a sense of subtly with makes him of Hollywood's greats.

The action is visceral, gritty and horrifying. But never played for crass effect. Scenes of soldiers intestines spilling out, limbs flying a sunder and brutal killing left, right and centre are recreated for one purpose. To truly demonstrate the horrors of war, and to change our perceptions of the global conflict which had almost become a joke, a setting for gung- ho action films, where the Yanks reign supreme and single-handedly win the war.

This shows troops crying, hurting and making decisions which should not be made under any moral circumstances, but you understand why, whether you agree or not. There is no doubt that Spielberg is not innocent of making an American film, but it is about as even-handed as you might expect, with the exception of Tora! Tora! Tora! or The Longest Day.

So, the action is first-rate, graphic and perfectly toned to recreate to horror of the last century's greatest and most of destructive conflicts. But that's only half the story.

The other half is the talking, reminiscing and the almost sepia tone is more than a little cloying. The U.S. General's monologues, which seem to consist almost entirely of Lincoln quotations are overly sentimental, erring on the side of sloppy patriotism rather than Jingoism, which is hardly a bad thing but it isn't good either.

The civilian scenes, such as Mrs Ryan, washing a plate as she sees the car drive down to road to inform her of her sons deaths are so sentimental that they jar against the realism of the war scenes. It's not so much contrast as it is as extreme as black and white.

The action is obviously interspersed, as all war films are, with rest stops and moments of talking, pondering etc., but the scenes drag on too long and disrupt the tone of the film. On the other hand, the direction is brilliant when explaining the situations during and around the action, but Spielberg seemed to think that we needed these sloppy and often boring moments, such as The Church, and the outside the cafe in Ramelle, to express the emotional torment of the characters, but I think that these scenes are so boring and pointless that I' can hardly remember them, as my attention drifts off during them! But I do have an understanding of the soldiers, and this was achieved, quite adorably without these scenes.

Overall, this is a film of two halves if ever there was one. The battle scenes and the journey through war-torn France are brilliant, gritty and educational, but the scenes of American sentimentality are in danger of derailing the whole film. Many feel that is the best war film of all time. I do not agree, favouring Black Hawk Down over this, but I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that Blank Hawk Down owes a debt to Saving Private Ryan, by opening the door to the gritty war dramas of the naughties and to the style itself.

This film is on of the most important contributions to cinema ever, and has done so much to finally show to true nature of WWII and war in general. But even though I would rate this 10/10 if it was just for the war scenes, the slop just gets in the way and devalues what should have been perfection.
The King (2019)
The King (2019)
2019 | Biography, Drama, History
The visuals and audio are amazing. (0 more)
There has been a lot of talk about The King, it's not one that I would necessarily have picked but I do enjoy historical films and who doesn't like a good battle scene? With Timothée Chalamet in the lead and Robert Pattinson in a supporting role I had my doubts, I'm not a fan of either one particularly but in the end it changed my opinion... partly. What surprised me was that this was a Netflix film, from all the hype I had been expecting a general release and I think it would have done incredibly well at the cinema, but we shall see how it fairs online.

My historical knowledge is terrible, luckily the evening I saw this I was meeting a friend for dinner who would be my phone a friend for all things historical so I picked his brain. We compared notes and it seems like they haven't messed with the actual history of it too much, though he did admit to not being an expert on this period. Do let me know in the comments how it stands up against documented history if you're up to speed on the topic.

The film does a good job of keeping the timeline clear, it doesn't jump around unnecessarily and despite the obvious long time frame of real life the scenes capture and condense everything quite nicely.

I'm going to start covering the acting by talking about Robert Pattinson. I have never heard such a unanimous reaction to a performance in my life. From the sheer volume in the Odean Luxe I believe that as soon as he spoke everyone broke out laughing. It wasn't just the one time either, it was every time. I don't know anything about The Dauphin of France but perhaps he did have the stereotypical accent... I don't know if I want to give RPat the benefit of the doubt. Almost every scene he was in had a rather tragic comedy element, mostly that was the accent but later there's a scene that would have sat well in a silent black and white comedy skit, I did laugh, but it really didn't fit the tone of any part of the film that he wasn't in.

Timothée Chalamet hasn't made much of an impression on me so far in his acting career. Beautiful Boy wasn't my cup of tea and his parts in Lady Bird and Hostiles clearly didn't either as I only remembered them when skimming IMDb. In The King though I found him to be excellent, I didn't make a single negative note about his performance. Every scene, every emotion, every moment in battle landed perfectly. This really did turn my opinion of him around and I'll be looking forward to his next role a lot more.

Joel Edgerton as Sir John Falstaff is the comic relief this film needed, his moments were light and broke the tension in the perfect way. He's a very consistent actor whose a pleasure to watch on screen and he's a multi-talented fella to boot... writer, producer and actor in this, well played sir, well played.

Sean Harris will also be a familiar face to most of us, and I suspect the main go to for people would be the MI franchise though he's got over 50 acting credits including the UK actors' traditional stint on The Bill. Yet another great actor in the mix and he managed to bring the characteristics of William out with great effect in his performance.

Overall the cast was excellent, though a couple of performances may have been a little on the irritating side for me, that did feel more intentional than anything else when you took the scenes into consideration.

It's difficult to know whether I'm spoiling something or not, but this is based on historical fact so I'm going to say not... The build up to the battle seemed fitting and yet somehow understated for what was to follow. The sound and the visuals are stunning, I'm getting goosebumps just remembering it. The rumble of the horses, the arrows... the sound in the cinema was so powerful and it makes me a little sad that this is going straight to Netflix where that part won't meet its full potential for most of its streams.

The other worry is that the battle won't get the same impact on a smaller screen. The camera work in The King is amazing, you got the sense of claustrophobia and the crush of the fight as we were brought into the mob of actors. I was in awe watching it. I genuinely don't know how they successfully managed to film that whole sequence in what was essentially a pool of mud. It makes my mind boggle.

While I can't really get on board with Robert Pattinson in this film everyone else was a joy to watch. It's a shame it's a Netflix film, I commend them for making something this impressive but it really deserves a cinema experience, I'm thankful to LFF for giving me that honour.
Full review originally posted on:

Lucy Catten (4 KP) rated Sanctus in Books

Mar 12, 2018  
Simon Toyne | 2011 |
10.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Next up is the first in the Sancti Trilogy by Simon Toyne. I finished reading this on the 23rd June and have finished another four books since, so this review is probably going to be less a ‘review’ and more a list of reasons why you should give this book a go.

(Note to self: get into the habit of reviewing everything I read as soon as I finish it!).

This book bypassed me completely when it was released in 2011 but I recently heard a couple of interviews with the author promoting the third part of the trilogy which came out in April this year, and although he didn’t go into a great amount of detail about the plot, there were enough ‘hooks’ mentioned to get my interest.

Firstly, I love the title. The word ‘Sanctus’ actually means ‘holy’ or ‘holy one’ and The Sanctus is a part of the Catholic Mass. It is such an evocative word to me on so many levels, conjuring up images of crumbling churches and monasteries with candlelight flickering behind stained glass windows. I can just smell the incense and see and hear the robed, hooded Monks singing the Gregorian chant. The cover of my version of the novel captures this perfectly – see above, and check out this link to really set the mood:

Secondly, Simon Toyne’s own story piqued my interest. He is a British writer and Sanctus is his debut novel. In 2007 he decided to quit his job and spend 6 months writing in France to try and fulfil his lifelong ambition to become a writer. He said in the interview I heard that he had no idea whether he was any good, but he knew that if he tried to write alongside his existing career it would never work. It was ‘all or nothing’. Thank goodness he decided to give it a go…

Lastly, the blurb says:


Liv Adamsen is a New York crime reporter, Kathryn Mann a charity worker. They are very different people, but their fate is bound together by one man’s desperate act.

With the world’s media watching, a robed man has thrown himself from the top of the oldest inhabited place on earth, an ancient citadel in Turkey. For some it’s a sign of great events to come. For Liv and Kathryn it is the start of a race into danger, darkness and the most remarkable secret in the history of humanity.

 It is a secret that the fanatical monks in the citadel will kill, torture and break every law, human and divine, to keep hidden…

Wow! What’s not to like? I wanted to know that secret like, NOW and bought the book on my first browse. Not only that but when it arrived I started it pretty much immediately and read most of its 400 pages in a (very rare) marathon four-hour reading stint whilst staying in a hotel overnight.

I won’t lie, Toyne’s story and style are reminiscent of Dan Brown to whom he has been likened in the popular press. I am not a die-hard Dan Brown fan by any means but I have read all of the Langdon series and enjoyed them to varying degrees; I am a bit of a sucker for the whole ‘ancient conspiracy meets modern world’ premise and do enjoy a damn good mystery so in that sense both Brown and Toyne tick a lot of my boxes. If you are not a Brown fan though, don’t let that put you off Sanctus. I have also recently read Dan Brown’s latest Langdon novel, Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4) and I can honestly say that Sanctus beats it into a corner. Hands down. No arguments. If the two books were five year-old children, Inferno would be on the naughty step for five minutes. Eye-rolls for Inferno, (approximately) twenty-six; eye-rolls for Sanctus, zero.

There are actually two stories being told here – one through the various Monks in the Citadel (the Sancti) and the other through Liv, Kathryn, Kathryn’s father and her son Gabriel who are working (for their own, personal reasons) to reveal the three thousand year old secret that the Sancti are protecting. I liked both Liv and Kathryn – they are both brave, strong, independent women. Another tick, Mr Toyne.

If you like a meandering, gently-moving novel however then this one is probably not for you. Toyne’s TV background can easily be detected in the pace; there is a LOT going on and I actually caught myself holding my breath at times. Otherwise, there really is something for everyone including gruesome murder, suicide, forensics, technology, history and religion. Even if some of these themes don’t light your fire, none of them should be taken in isolation. Together they work, or at least they did for me.

I can’t talk about this book without touching on the ending. The Sun review I read described it as ‘a load of rubbish’ but did concede that ‘getting there is a good ride’. As soon as I read it, I knew it would be the part of the narrative guaranteed to spark negativity. That said, I would be interested to know how Mr (a slight assumption perhaps, but an accurate one I think) Sun Reviewer would have preferred it to end? In any conspiracy novel of this kind the reader has to be prepared to suspend logic to some extent. How did I feel about it? Intrigued to know how it would be picked back up in the second part of the story and sad. But only sad because it was the end.

I don’t keep many novels these days; I have a pretty good rotation system going on, but those books that make a real impression on me get a permanent spot on my shelf and Sanctus is there to stay.

There are only four books that I’ve read in the last few years that I’ve given 5/5 to and this is one of them. I absolutely loved the ride and didn’t want it to stop. Thank you Mr Toyne. Part two, The Key, arrived this week…
Toni Erdmann (2016)
Toni Erdmann (2016)
2016 | Comedy, Drama
Well Now! *over exaggerated sigh of relief* After my first movie review of the year it is a suspicious coincidence as well as a welcome relief, that I have the incredibly good fortune to bring you the review of a movie that is not only good but it’s original, sometimes confusing, weird, downright funny, and German. Hey, sometimes when you are disappointed with a domestic film it’s best to look at a foreign film. That ‘strategy’ applies to any movie viewer in any country I can assure you. Today’s film for your consideration is already making waves and winning awards in Germany, Europe, and around the world. It’s making such a significant fuss that as of February 7th, its confirmed that Jack Nicholson is coming out of self-imposed retirement to portray the lead in an American remake of the movie!

‘Toni Erdmann’ is an Austrian-German dramatic comedy written, directed, and co-produced by Maren Abe. The film stars famed Austrian actor Peter Simonischek as Winfried Conradi (the character was based on the directors father a purported prankster) a divorced music teacher and father whose considered by his family, friends, and students to be a hippie. He has the reputation of being a prankster and is notorious for playing practical jokes. He is estranged from his daughter Ines (Sandra Huller). An ambitious business woman working for a company in Romania. They rarely speak except for family gatherings at which Ines is usually on her phone conducting business and actually spends little time with the family. Her father in particular. The only friendship Winfried has is with his blind and deaf dog. One night, after a family gathering and paying a visit to his mother, Winfried falls asleep in his front yard only to wake up and find that his beloved dog has passed away during the night. Feeling lost and dwelling on the past, he travels to Bucharest where his daughter currently consults for an oil company. He finds the office complex where she is based and waits in the lobby for several hours. Finally, he catches a glimpse of Ines walking through the lobby with several board members of her client’s company and sneaks up behind them wearing sunglasses and his trademarked fake teeth while pretending to read a newspaper. Ines notices but completely ignores Winfried. Despite the failure of his practical joke, Ines contacts her father and invites him to a reception at the American embassy in Bucharest where they have a chance encounter with the CEO of a German oil company Mr. Henneberg with whom Ines has been desperately trying arrange business dealings with. While paying little attention to Ines, ironically Henneberg begins a conversation with Winfried in which he casually and jokingly mentioned that he has hired a replacement daughter because Ines is always so busy. Much to the surprise of both, Henneberg invites Ines and her father to join him and his entourage for drinks at a trendy bar where he continues to brush off Ines but only after sharing Winfried’s joke with his colleagues.

Ines is so absorbed in her work she seems to only tolerate her father’s presence and after a few days, Winfried decides to leave feeling alienated as though he’s getting in the way of his daughter’s life. A few days later, Ines and two of her friends are out having drinks when Winfried appears at the bar. Wearing a wig and his trademark false teeth he chimes in on the conversation between his daughter and her friends and comically introduces himself as ‘Toni Erdmann’ a consultant and life coach. Ines two friends continue to converse with him trying their best not to laugh while Winfried continues to ‘enhance’ his character much to the dismay of Ines.

Meanwhile, Ines day-to-Day work routine becomes more frustrating as she seems to be going nowhere with her career despite her best efforts. Becoming almost amused with her father’s character, Ines decides to play along with the character and even invites ‘Erdmann’ to spend time with her at work and with her friends and later even to a business meeting. Strangely enough, the ‘Erdmann’ character created by her father has become a strange and hilarious means of bonding with her father leading to one misadventure after another in which she decides she no longer cares about her current state of being and proceeds to alienate her boss and her colleagues and a way that’s reminiscent of her father’s ‘prankster tendencies’.

This film did not disappoint. It’s funny, it’s shocking, it’s awkward at some points. Most importantly, it’s original. It flys in the face of routine and redundancy and like many great films implies that in the end, the most important thing is family. When worse comes to worse family might not always get you out of trouble but they will certainly provide the catalyst for an escape from the hum drum of whatever is eating at your life.

‘Toni Erdmann’ has already been nominated for ‘Best Film Of The Year’ by critics in several countries including France and England. It premiered at the Cannes film festival last year in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ category of the film festival but the night before its premiere, the judges and critics gave it such praise it was immediately added to the more prestigious ‘Palme d’Or’ category and went on to receive high praise at its premiere. It has already won 20 awards in serval countries with many more awards pending. I’m calling this film 4 out of 5 stars. The film clocks in at 162 minutes. A bit long on the tooth for running time but DO NOT let that discourage you from seeing the film. Do yourself a favor and check out ‘Toni Erdmann’ now and see the original in all it’s hilarious glory. As I mentioned earlier, it’s been confirmed that Jack Nicholson is coming out of retirement to portray the lead in the American remake. This film is totally something you would’ve seen Mr. Nicholson doing early in his career back when he was just getting started as an actor. Even with this in mind someone somewhere along the line could still screw it up.
Les Misérables (2012)
Les Misérables (2012)
2012 | Drama, Musical, Romance
7.8 (17 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Words cannot express how amazing this movie is. For those of you who have shouldered through the modern-day musical revival; suffering through the questionable singing talents of many stars as “Phantom of the Opera,” “Chicago,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Sweeny Todd,” and that abysmal rendition of “Nine” – I can assure you, that “Les Mis” will change that perception. For once, the casting crew took the time to select a cast capable of the repertoire’s vocal demands (and Les Mis is very vocally demanding – as most operatic pieces are). It’s apparent that each singer was heavily vocally coached and trained, some faring more so than others. While this is no replacement for raw talent, I can assure you that the cast was downright fantastic.

For years I studied and sang opera. I know music and I’ve sung my fair share of Les Mis pieces in my past. I adore Victor Hugo and “Les Misérables” is by far one of my favorite literary works. When I began to watch this movie, I was keyed up to be critical on the vocal spectrum, the literary aspect, and the representation of one of my favorite Broadway/London pieces. To be frank, I wasn’t disappointed at all.

For those unfamiliar with Hugo’s work or what to expect with Les Mis, let me give you a brief synopsis on its plot and the history of the French revolution in which this takes place. France has just endured her infamous Revolution (the one with the guillotine, Marie-Antoinette, and the Sans Culottes movement) and her people are still suffering. There is no money for food, the country is in the midst of a depression, and the Napoleonic regime is yet to come to fruition. Thus, you find Fantine (Hathaway), a poor but determined (and beautiful) woman trying desperately to make enough money to support her daughter, Cosette, who resides with friends in another city. The book reveals that Madame Thénardier (Bonham-Carter) and her husband, Thénardier (Baron-Cohen) were supposed to be taking the money that Fantine had given to them to provide for her daughter, Cosette. Instead, however, Cosette is forced to live in absolute poverty while Thénardier’s daughter, Eponine, lives the life of opulence. Meanwhile, Jean Valjean (Jackman), an ex-convict, is trying desperately to find legitimate work after his stint in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to provide for his starving family. The infamous policeman, Javert (Crowe), feels Valjean will re-offend and makes it his mission to pursue Valjean until the end.
Finding the world a terrible place as an ex-convict, Valjean seeks to steal from a church her silver, believing he has no other way to survive. It is the love of a good priest, however, who gives Valjean the silver he seeks under the pledge he will become a servant of God and provide for others the same good he has provided for him. Thus, years later, we find Valjean a reformed man (who has skipped on his parole and assumed a new name), running a factory in which Fantine works. And so, when Fantine is fired from her job and takes to a life of prostitution in order to provide for her daughter, it is Valjean who feels the burden of her demise and takes it upon himself to save Cosette and raise her as his own.

Of course, this entire time, Javert is pursuing Valjean and a new revolution is starting to take place amongst Paris’ people. Years later we find Cosette grown to womanhood (now played by Seyfried), and falling in love with one of the revolution’s key players, a youth by the name of Marius (Redmayne). The Thénardiers are back again and we find their once-grand lifestyle has resorted to a life of gutter-crime and Éponine (now played by Barks), is desperately in love with Marius as well (although her love is unrequited). For those unfamiliar with how the story plays out, I will leave it at that.

I will caution those who have never seen this play to prepare for a long show. It is very dramatic and very intense, but visually breath-taking and emotionally moving in so many ways. Vocally, there are times when the legato is lacking and some transitions seemed forced (Crowe struggled many times with allowing his natural vibrato to come through instead of pushing a sustained note; Seyfried’s vibrato is very trill-like and sometimes distracts from the pure quality of her spinto-soprano range). However, I must say that I was blown away by Hathway’s performance (she brought me to tears with “I Dreamed a Dream” due to her emotional rendition) and her ability to truly escape into her character. Similarly, Tviet (he played Enjolras) was stunning with his vocal command and Redmayne was equally as impressive. Jackman will amaze you with his rich tenor and, surprisingly, I found Crowe to have a fantastic baritone when he didn’t force his work. Baron-Cohen and Bonham-Carter provided a much needed comical respite throughout the film (and both sing beautifully as well, although this movie didn’t focus on their vocal command as much). Barks did a lovely job for most of her work; although I found her rendition of “On My Own” a bit forced (she is a true mezzo but seemed to push her high notes, although this may have been where her voice shifted into her head voice which is no fault of her own).

Overall, if you are an avid musical lover and have been waiting for a proper rendition of this production, this movie will astound you. Visually, the movie is breath-taking and the acting is absolutely fantastic. I’m still haunted by the revolutionary song, to be honest. If you’ve been waiting for a musical worthy of the big screen, this one is it. Look for it to sweep the Oscars this year.
This movie deserves an A all around.
Gideon's Angel
Gideon's Angel
Clifford Beal | 2013 | Fiction & Poetry, Paranormal, Science Fiction/Fantasy
10.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Note: this review is transposted from my personal review blog, and so was originally written several years ago. I figured if I reposted it here, someone might actually read it….

I received my copy of Gideon’s Angel through the Goodreads FirstReads program. This in no way influences my review, except to ensure that I was able to get ahold of this book and thus review it. I have to say, I really enjoyed this one. I want to describe it as “steampunk,” but my understanding is that steampunk is usually set in the 1800s (or at least that level of tech and society) whereas this work is firmly set in 1653. If there’s already a term for pseudo-historical fiction with a fantasy touch set in that timeframe, I apologize for not knowing what it is and using it accordingly.

Things are not going well for Richard Treadwell. The English Civil War is over, the King’s Cavaliers lost to the forces of Parliament and Oliver Cromwell, and Charles I has been executed. Treadwell has managed to escape the destruction of his cause, and has spent the past eight years in exile in France, performing a delicate balancing act between loyalty to his exiled king* and his employer, Cardinal Mazarin. When Mazarin informs him that someone is using the forces of Hell to tip the balance in their favor and asks him to spy on the exile court to find out if it is one of the king’s supporters, Treadwell decides that it’s time to get out of Paris. He accepts a mission for one of the king’s more militant supporters that will take him back to his beloved England–to lead a Royalist uprising, one last try to oust Cromwell and his Puritan cronies. Treadwell has other business to tend to as well, including a wife who by now probably considers herself a widow. Unfortunately for Treadwell’s simple worldview, it soon becomes clear that Cromwell’s power is the only thing preventing the more radical Puritan elements from running roughshod over the whole country. Worse still, a demon from the pits of Hell has appeared to a radical Puritan sect masquerading as an angel of light and ordering the death of Cromwell so that the Kingdom of God may be fulfilled. Now instead of assassinating Cromwell Treadwell will be forced to save him–if he can find a way to fight the forces of Hell, gain some allies in his quest, and avoid d’Artagnan, a young Musketeer dispatched by the Cardinal to bear him back to Paris….

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not exactly “high literature,” but I think I’ve very well established that I care far more about a work’s entertainment value than whatever it is critics look for. The world Beal creates here feels very real, slipping in background historical information without making you feel like you’ve been lectured. Some readers will probably wish for more background on the English Civil War, and that’s fine. If they care that much, there are numerous good books on the subject. If they don’t, there’s a Wikipedia article that should give you a good rundown on what happened. Beal manages to evoke seventeenth-century London in all its grimy glory, much as it would have actually been aside from the fact that all the magic we dismiss as superstition is actually going on behind the scenes. Moreover, this magic very much resembles what you would find depicted in the folklore of the era without obvious modern embellishment. I’m not really all that well versed in the history of the Freemasons, so I can’t accurately speak to how they were portrayed here except to say that I very much doubt their claim to date back to the builders of the pyramids. Then again, I doubt they have the tools to summon demons too, so maybe I shouldn’t be too critical. Secondary characters generally proved to be interestingly complex, especially Billy Chard, but I am seeing criticism of how the female characters in the book act. They aren’t weak characters by any means, but they are constrained by their roles in society. Treadwell’s wife has pragmatically joined her fate to that of the officer who took over Treadwell’s land when he was banished and is pregnant with his child. Is she weak for this? Or is she a strong female doing what she has to in order to protect what is left of her family? Treadwell’s Parisian mistress follows him to England rather than stay in Paris and face the scandal of their liasion alone. Weak, for needing Treadwell by her side? Or strong, for following him into whatever dangers he may be facing? Finally, Isabelle decides to follow her father and the rest of Treadwell’s band into battle against the forces of Darkness, deciding that it would be better to fall by his side than live on without him. Possibly a sign of weakness, but look at her situation realistically. She and her father were driven from Spain for their Jewish heritage, her mother dying along the way. Jews do not fare well in the Christian world of the seventeenth century, not even in England. The lot of a young woman alone in the world is already hard enough in this time without adding the burden of religious and ethnic persecution. She would have no respectable means of supporting herself, and could conceivably find herself forced into prostitution–on her own if she was lucky, as no more than a slave if she was not. Is preferring death in battle to such a fate a sign of weakness or of strength? She certainly has no trouble speaking her mind, and in fact berates Treadwell severely for endangering her father when they first meet. I suppose I can understand where some people would find these characters and their portrayal to be weak and sexist, but I respectfully disagree. I submit that instead they are strong characters reacting realistically to a world where women are not treated equally–in fact, I would have more of a problem with them if they demonstrated anachronistic modern sensibilities.** The ending was a little deus ex machina, but on the whole I didn’t mind. I would say that I want to read a sequel, but I don’t think the author could come up with anything to top this in terms of personal impact on the characters–Treadwell’s internal conflict between hating Cromwell and having to save him is very well done, and I fear Beal would prove unable to find something equally interesting as a follow up. We never really got to find out what happened to Treadwell back during the Thirty Years War that introduced him to the world of angels and demons, so I could see maybe writing that up….I’d buy it, anyway.

CONTENT: R-rated language, occasionally harsh but I would argue not gratuitous. Moderately explicit sexual content, as you would expect from a work in this vein.*** A fair amount of violence, from both man and demon. Not usually too gory in its description. There is also a good deal of occult content, as the villains are summoning a demon they believe to be an angel. This demon’s lesser minions dog Treadwell and his friends, and there are multiple encounters with them. One is implied to be a golem, others appear as strange amalgamations of beast(s) and man. For me, this is adequately balanced by the recognition that, as powerful as the forces of Darkness are, God is far more powerful than they. Bottom line: if you’re mature enough to handle the other content, I don’t believe the occult elements should prove to be an issue.

*Charles I was executed, while his son Charles II went into exile. Just in case you were concerned with the historical accuracy of the book. So far as I can tell, this is pretty accurate. You know, aside from the demons and fictional characters roaming London…..

**Please understand, I’m neither defending nor endorsing the inequality of the seventeenth century. Neither is Clifford Beal, for that matter. I’m simply pointing out that it was how it was, and this was the world the characters would have come from. I’m all for equality, but to whitewash history and pretend it was different from it was….that way lies dangerous waters.

***This evokes more than anything a supernatural-tinged Alexandre Dumas novel for me….and you know how bawdry his musketeers could be when they wanted to be.

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