Book Review: The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin

Spoiler warning!

I’ve heard of this book before but mainly in the context of the movie, which I haven’t seen, it turns out I was totally in the dark as Ira Levin was a bit of a hit machine back in the day with three of his books getting adapted for the big screen in the 60s and 70s- The Stepford Wives, Rosemary’s Baby and this one, so clearly the guy knew how to have brilliant ideas. And this one is pretty ace.

the boys from brazil

The Mid 1970s- Yakov Liebermann, an aging Nazi-hunter in Vienna hears from a young associate that he’s overheard a meeting between the infamous Auschwitz doctor Mengele and other Nazis who are hiding out in South America. The meeting was to discuss the killing of 94 men around the world over the next three years, all of whom have two similarities- their age at death (65) and their jobs (low level civil servants), aside from that, there appears to be no connection, but Mengele states their deaths will bring glory to the Aryan race.

Liebermann’s informant is killed and the tape recording of the meeting is taken by Mengele. With little to go on Liebermann asks a journalist friend to forward him details of any murders or accidental deaths of men in this range, and given a start date by his informant begins to investigate some.

Liebermann has doubts but a few of his investigations do suggest possible foul play, Mengele however decides to let Liebermann live as his murder will only draw attention and that the chances of Liebermann working out what is actually happening are remote. Liebermann’s situation is shaky, an old man he also has to deal with dwindling support and interest in pursuing the war criminals he hunts, a sad commentary on how quickly people want to forget the horrors of the past.

It’s a gripping read as Liebermann tries to figure out the connection and the Nazis work their way through the list, and Levin does a fantastic job of keeping the reader and his protagonist in the dark. When all is finally revealed it’s a humdinger of an idea- Mengele is killing these 94 men because all have adopted a son and he wishes the child to grow up in certain conditions. Why? Because the 94 boys are clones of Adolf Hitler.

Its an idea which is solid gold, and the execution is fantastic, with Levin crafting a short, riveting page-turner which kept me hooked throughout. It also allows some exploring of greater issues such as the nature vs nurture argument, these boys carry the same genes as Hitler but would they follow in his footsteps to lead the Nazis, as Mengele hopes? It’s an interesting question, particularly the way in which Mengele attempts to shape their lives to make it as similar to his Fuhrer’s as possible.

Also, the sheer horror of the Jewish characters at the thought of just one of these Hitler’s succeeding in rallying the Nazis is all to believable and terrifying. Levin doesn’t lay it on too thick, instead allowing us to see it from the character’s perspectives- Mengele’s mania and Liebermann’s fear and concern.

Flicking between both characters is a nice touch, allowing us to see Liebermann slowly working it all out and finding out who may be next on the list, and Mengele’s decisions to pursue the plan alone after the others back out. It all leads to a climactic showdown where the hunter finally faces one of his hated targets. And it also highlights how both are obsessed with following through on their goals.

And the finale, where the fate of the clones is debated raises an interesting dilemma- if the risk of one of them raising the Nazis is so terrible is it better to eliminate them all? And then a final, disturbing sting which leaves you feeling uneasy.

Verdict: A tense, gripping quick read based around a fantastic premise and executed well, this is a fantastic thriller and definitely worth checking out, will definitely look into more of Levin’s work. 7/10

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


My Favourite Films #27: The Blues Brothers

Comedy is harder than it looks. A lot of folks think that when a serious actor does a comedy its because they want an easy time. But that’s not true, because while improv and riffing results in a few decent gags, the best comedies tend to be the ones meticulously written and thought out. Timing is everything, and there’s a brilliant precision at work in most great comedies to assure they get the biggest laughs possible.

Of course, there are exceptions and this is one. The Blues Brothers is many things as a film, but precise and disciplined are not two of those, as the whole film has this crazy, anarchic feel to it. In places it’s baggy, overdone and even self indulgent, but it powers through on charm, humour and, of course, music.

blues bros pos

Written by Dan Aykroyd and director John Landis the premise is simple- two musical, criminal brothers must raise money to save their old orphanage. To do so they put their band back together and perform a big show.

But then a bunch of stuff is thrown in and the brothers are pursued by various people they’ve annoyed- the police, a psychotic ex, neo-Nazis and a country band. Cue tons of over the top car chases where cop cars fly across the screen, piling up all over Illinois. It should feel aimless and stupid, but pulling it through are two wonderfully deadpan performances by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as Elwood and Jake Blues.

The characters were born out of SNL sketches and the movie works well as a series of “bits”- the blues band having to perform at a rowdy country bar, causing a scene at the posh restaurant an ex-band member works at (including the memorable, but never appropriate quote “How much for the little girl?”), the brothers commenting on the mall as they speed through chased by police etc.

Among my favourites is the brothers’ visit to “the Penguin” the mother superior of the orphanage they were raised in, played with stone faced toughness by Kathleen Freeman, it’s a hilarious scene as she scolds the two grown men, thwacking them with a wooden ruler when they swear, which only provokes more expletives. It might be where my fear of nuns began.

blues bros penguin

Aykroyd and Belushi work brilliantly off each other, bickering like real brothers and remaining deadpan as explosions, car chases and general madness ensues around them. Belushi in particular is sensational, especially in moments like his stone faced performance of the theme song of Rawhide, where he stands stock still before crossing the stage to pick up a bullwhip to crack for the finale.

The dark glasses help them and provide the film’s iconic look, but they’re still fantastic performances.

blues bros

The supporting cast, like John Candy, Charles Napier and Carrie Fisher all do their jobs perfectly well

But the movie’s real strength is the music. John Landis would go on to direct “Thriller” probably the greatest music video of all time, and he shows his chops here with fantastic choreographed pieces to “Think”, “Shake A Tail Feather” and “Minnie The Moocher”. The Blues Brothers band might not be the best actors, but they play wonderfully and convince as an infectious, fun live lounge and a string of cameos from music greats ensure that there are some belters on the soundtrack.

blues bros shake

In the end its the film’s crazy excess that make it stand out as one of the coolest, most bizarre movie musicals. Its easy to see why the movie has built up a cult following and its a movie that for me never fails to make me smile and want to shake a tail feather.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


It doesn’t suit you.

One of my favourite shows to watch is Don’t Tell The Bride. It’s kinda trashy TV, but the central premise is gold- a groom is given £12k and three weeks to arrange his wedding, with his wife being kept in the dark until the big day- he picks the venue, theme, food, dress, everything.

dttb

It’s genius reality TV- it’s got drama (will he pull it off?), humour (a sarky voice over and inept grooms), schadenfreude (the brides worrying and the grooms dealing with mishaps) and a key central story, in that you want the groom to pull it off to silence his doubters and please the woman he loves.

What I find interesting about the show is it highlights this weird hype around weddings that’s grown up. I get that a wedding is a big deal, but it always seems to me that for some of the brides it’s more about the day and how they look, it’s about “their special day”, when really a wedding isn’t an event, it’s the beginning of an event, a marriage. Getting hung up on the wedding is like caring more about the Olympic opening ceremony more than any of the events that follow, and as good as Danny Boyle’s extravaganza was, it’s Usain Bolt blazing down the track that I’m going to remember.

I’m not a religious man, and so for me it doesn’t really matter where I get married, if I do. I don’t need a church because I’m not getting married under the eyes of a god, I mean, I want somewhere nice for my friends and family to be, but I’m not fussy.

Anyway, it’s about time I reached a point.

One of the things I find one-sided in the marriage world is the suits. A bride picks her dress by herself, with many still holding to the old superstition that it’s bad luck for the groom to see her in the dress before the ceremony.

But, the bride gets a say in the groom’s suit- the colour, the cut, whatever. And that doesn’t seem fair.

Watching the show a couple of weeks back I commented to a female friend that if I was one of the grooms I wouldn’t wear a suit. This went over like a lead balloon, and I had a similar discussion this morning I was told that I’d be lucky if I could find a woman who’d be okay with that.

But why?

Here’s the thing, I hate suits. Hell, I hate most “smart” clothing.

When I left comp one of the first things I did was happily throw out my school tie. Ties are one of the most pointless and irritating items of clothing ever made. They serve no purpose and always make me feel kinda choked, the only plus point they have is that you can tie them around your head, Rambo-style.

Sixteen year old Chris made a vow to the moon and stars that he’d never work a job that required him to wear a tie. And 13 years later, I’ve kept that vow.

Sure, I’ve worn ties over the years, to occasions where they’ve been called for- end of year balls, funerals and weddings- but I’ve ditched them as soon as was acceptable. In less than a fortnight I’m going to be a groomsman at the wedding of one of my best friends, and as such, I’m wearing a suit. It’s someone else’s day, and it’s what they’ve decided to do, so I’m not going to be a dick and refuse to wear one. His day, his rules.

But my day? I’m not wearing a suit.

I’ve mentioned this to my mum once, and she told me my uncle used to say he’d get married in jeans, but in the end was in a suit, and that I’ll fall back the same way. Well, sod that, he may have changed his mind, but the gentleman is not for turning.

I feel uncomfortable in a suit. The tie chokes me, and I feel like a numpty, a fraud. I’m not a suit dude, fashion is not my strong point.

A lot of girls say they like a man in a suit. By that they mean, they like Daniel Craig in a suit.

skyfall

I’m not fool enough to think I look like James Bond when I don a suit. I look like the doorman at a working men’s club, or just a fat bloke in a suit.

The point is, a wedding is the couple’s day. The couple. Both players should be comfortable and happy on the day. I wouldn’t insist my bride wear something she didn’t like or felt uncomfortable in, and I wouldn’t expect her to ask me to either.

I’d also hope that should I get hitched the future Mrs Page would know me well enough to get where I’m coming from. And also be relaxed enough to go along with it, in fact I’d like the whole wedding to be a small, low-key affair with a super relaxed dress code and atmosphere. She doesn’t even need to wear a fancy dress, just whatever she’s comfortable in.

And I’m not saying I’m gonna rock up in a KISS shirt, jeans and my knackered Reeboks, I’ll dress smart-casual, leaning more towards casual. A shirt and some nice trousers, or maybe rock up like the King in his Hawaiian era (without the lei, of course).

If it's good enough for the King, it's good enough for me

If it’s good enough for the King, it’s good enough for me

I’d even cater my Hawaiian shirt towards the wedding’s colour scheme.

I just feel that if I’m comfortable I’ll be in a better mood, look more relaxed in the photos and enjoy the occasion more. And happy groom, happy room.

I’ve argued this with my flatmates and been told it’s traditional to wear a suit. Yeah, but you don’t have to blindly follow tradition.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


First the worst

The decline of the English Defence League and British National Party were cause for celebration, as the two hate fueled organizations slipped away, but unfortunately the root of this weed was not stopped or cured, and a fresh organization has arrived- Britain First.

The politics of intolerance, bigotry and hate are all there, but what sets Britain First apart is that they are surprisingly smart at insidiously getting into the public conscience, using social networking cleverly. They post about animal abuse and support for the armed forces, when really they have no interest in these things. These are just what they use to lure in the compassionate to appear as though they have more followers than they do. To say that they speak for the British public, when actually many of those who like them are unaware of their true nature.

They hide the images of masked, paramilitary looking members from the Facebook page, because it doesn’t chime with how they want to appear.

Top political tip- if you need to wear a mask, you might not be one of the good guys.

Top political tip- if you need to wear a mask, you might not be one of the good guys.

Today I read about them taking part in actions which I hope will draw censure from some of those who have been duped into “liking” them. A small gang of their members, dubbing themselves the Kent Battalion, they stormed into a mosque in Crayford, East London.

They claimed to be there to make a stand for “women’s rights” and equality, arguing against the fact that the mosque had separate entrances for male and female worshipers. This is standard Islamic practice, with segregated worship, and also happens at Orthodox synagogues and Sikh gurdwaras, apparently. But like I said, Britain First are pretty smart for a bunch of racist douchebags, and know that storming into a synagogue will play a lot worse.

Also, they’re part of the depressing trend of Islamophobia, where they seize on individuals such as Lee Rigby’s killers to stir up hatred and mistrust of a whole religion.

It’s loathsome stuff and the image of their members marching into a place of worship where they hector and intimidate an elderly Muslim is disgusting to watch. They lay into him about Britain’s history of equality and women’s rights, but it’s all bluster and posturing. Britain First don’t give a crap about women’s rights, if they were why aren’t they campaigning against slut shaming, rape culture and the wage gap between the genders?

They want to look like the big heroes riding in to save the day, but despite bombastic music there’s no heroism here, there’s just bullying and thinly veiled history. The Muslim asks them to take their shoes off, which they refuse to do spouting off “when you respect women, we’ll respect your mosque”. Because apparently gender equality is a British value, but religious freedom isn’t?

Britain First are scum, this video shows them as the thuggish, moronic bullies they are. They will use this video to try and portray themselves as champions for equality when they are anything but, as they continue to try and stir racial tensions. A brief visit to their site in research for this post made for depressing reading and shows their true outlook. Islam is slandered repeatedly, accusing them of terrorism, sexual abuse and equating their food laws with extremism.

There have been Islamic grooming gangs, but are members of other similar gangs identified by their religion? Is that religion even relevant in all these stories? Britain First are the most open in this Islamophobia, but the mainstream press and their handling of some stories are equally to blame with the demonizing of Islam.

If you have “liked” them because of a story about one of “our boys” or some poor critter, please look further into the organization. This is not who they are, and if you have “liked” them you are endorsing their hatred and bigotry, unlike them and spread the word. This form of backdoor bigotry and duplicitous tactics are more of a threat than anything the thugs of the EDL could come up with.

no to hate

Story here.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Brazil 2014: Four Star

Mario Gotze fires home to win the match for Germany

It ended with a bang.

Extra time wound down and the cruel, tense resolution of penalties seemed likely. A shame that after a match as entertaining as this that luck should decide the victor.

Thankfully, one last moment of skill remained.

Mario Gotze stepped forward to claim his place in footballing history. Taking the ball on his chest he controlled it beautifully before banging it into the net for a belter of a goal.

It was a goal worthy of winning a World Cup and one Germany thoroughly deserved.

Going in they had been the favourites, the most consistent team in the tournament, and while the Argentinians would make more of a game of it than the lacklustre Brazilians in the semi, I still felt Germany would emerge comfortable winners.

But the Argentinians made them work hard for it, defending marvelously, succeeding in stopping the Germans’ fast passing, well oiled machine from hitting high gear. Even better they struck on the counter, challenging the German defence more than any team I’d seen in Brazil.

Argentina could, should have led through Gonzalo Higuain, but he pulled a glorious opportunity wide. It was not to be his night as later he would celebrate a goal that wasn’t, having been caught offside.

The first half was high tempo stuff, and while it slackened in the second, it remained a captivating contest.

Germany looked to its team to pull them through, Klosse, Muller, Schweinsteiger, they had a team of talented individuals all capable of turning the tide in their favour. In the back the sensational Manuel Neuer continued to impress between the posts, and his defence, particularly Boateng impressed.

Argentina have talent to spare too, but the hype and expectation appeared to focus on one man, the man in the number 10 shirt. Lionel Messi.

Despite the club triumphs, the individual honours and even an Olympic gold, Messi still lives in the shadow of Argentina’s legendary 10 Diego Maradona.

For many this final was his opportunity to step out of this and claim his place as a national hero.

It seemed no one was more aware of this than the man himself. Pressure appeared to neuter him, and for long stretches he was anonymous on the field.

When he did take centre stage he was hampered by the German defence and his best moment hinted that the quest to become a legend was on his mind.

Getting the ball at the edge of the box he cut back and inside, beating one, two defenders. With options around he opted instead to go for goal, firing in a strike which never really troubled Neuer. A pass would have been the better option and the fact he selfishly went for goal suggests that his mind was focused on his own legacy.

It appears strange that even for a player as lauded and successful as Messi that this would hamper his game.

Was this his last chance? He may play at another tournament, but he’ll be 31 then, and unlikely to be the deciding factor in the Argentinian campaign.

A pity that he still feels the need to prove himself, when he is already one of the sport’s greats. One final shot presented itself in the dying minutes after Schweinsteiger gave away a free kick at the edge of the area, but unfortunately Messi’s attempt was over hit and more likely to trouble those in row F than the keeper.

Germany held on and sealed their fourth World Cup victory, and finally realizing their potential after years of developing and building their squad. The outpouring of joy was charming to behold, although yet again far too much time was wasted before the defeated team could leave. There must be a quicker way to hand out the runner up medals, because after at least 90 minutes that have led to defeat, they probably don’t want to be in the glare of the spotlight.

It took me a while to get into this tournament, and there were lots of off the field controversies that threatened to sour it, but in the end it emerged as a fantastically successful tournament which displayed the world’s best players and provided some classic moments and matches.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Not to be, a dejected Messi


Book Review: Hitman by Bret Hart

I was a massive wrestling fan as a kid, a huge Hulkamaniac who idolized people like Ultimate Warrior, the Undertaker, the Legion of Doom and Macho Man Randy Savage. Those are the ones who really stood out for me, and it’s easy to see why, they were the larger than life in-ring superheroes of the day. That’s not to say I didn’t like some of the other stars in what was then the WWF, including Bret “The Hitman” Hart who was one half of the Hart Foundation tag team with real life brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.

Hart with Neidhart, the only guys who could still look badass in pink.

Hart with Neidhart, the only guys who could still look badass in pink.

Around about the age of eight I found out that wrestling was fake. It was scripted with the winners already decided.

This hit me hard, and as I’d never believed in Father Christmas, this was my “Santa moment”. I knew that the A-Team wasn’t real, and that He-Man, the Turtles and the Ghostbusters were drawings and it had never been a problem, but wrestling was different. I loved wrestling and truly bought into the stories and characters. This feeling of betrayal and the mockery of older kids led me to abandon wrestling, and aside from a few glimpsed matches I went over ten years without watching it.

At uni, a mate was into it and I fell back in love with it. As a (technical) grown up I could enjoy the storylines and characters, but I could appreciate the skill the wrestlers had in making it look like they were really hurt. Looking at old matches I could see that some of my childhood heroes weren’t actually that good at wrestling, and it was their charisma that got them over. I could also see who the real talents were, and became a fan of new wrestlers like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio and Kurt Angle, while also reevaluating my feelings on some of the older guy’s I’d not liked- Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels being the best examples.

On holiday with the family I discovered the place we were staying carried the Wrestling Channel and spent the evenings watching TNA and other smaller companies, one night they had an extended interview with the Hitman himself, who I’d come to realize had been one of the most talented guys when I was a kid. So, with everyone in bed I sat down and watched a poorly shot chat with Hart, who’s story I knew little about.

It made for depressing watching, Hart had suffered concussion and a stroke and still embittered with the WWE and Vince McMahon. I learnt about things like the Montreal Screwjob and his brother Owen’s death in greater detail, and at the end I went to bed troubled by the fact that the cool Hitman seemed so broken.

Shortly after this, Hart made peace with McMahon, and reappeared on WWE, launching a “best of” DVD that my mate let me borrow. I got to watch Hart in his element in the ring, and talking about the tough road he’d followed. There were echoes of the resentment when he talked, but he seemed much improved from that murky and amateur interview I’d watched.

I got into wrestling in a fairly big way, devouring PPV DVDs and trawling YouTube for videos. And Hart’s autobiography came up repeatedly as something worth checking out. So I did.

 

hitman

It makes for fascinating reading, with Hart having kept audio diaries for years he has lots to draw in and charts his entire life and career. The early stages where he reveals the chaotic, scrapping childhood he experienced in the Hart household is at times shocking, one of twelve they grew up in tough times as their father, Stu, tried to keep his wrestling business afloat. Hart captures the madness of the crowded house, as the twelve Hart kids ran around.

He talks about watching his dad wrestle, meeting the old school wrestlers who maintained their characters at all times- never spending time with rivals who had been their friends before, speaking in accents if required and sticking to storylines. Bret would eventually join them and there are plenty of crazy stories from the road involving pranks, alcohol, brawling and near misses.

The nostalgia is palpable, but Hart doesn’t sugarcoat it, he knows how tough times were, and how badly behaved some of the guys were. As his story continues he doesn’t shy away from his own failings- womanizing and boozing, even admitting to smoking weed and brawling.

It’s this honesty that makes it such a compelling read, while it comes from Hart’s point of view, it feels real. He acknowledges his errors, and doesn’t pull his punches in handing out criticism of the wrestlers he felt were untalented or unprofessional, he talks about the backstabbing politics of the WWF and the madness of the dying days of WCW.

Most interesting, if troubling, is his handling of his family. The Hart family seem to be a mess of rivalries, jealousies and ego. With two of his sisters married to wrestlers and three of his brothers having tried to follow their dad into the business, it’s understandable that as the most successful kid, Bret is singled out for their criticism. There’s bickering and tensions, which boil over following the death of his brother Owen. As Bret and his parents pledge to support Owen’s widow in her lawsuit it leads to heated, vicious infighting with Bret’s sisters, who fear that the case jeopardizes their husband’s jobs. These parts are painful to read, especially as Hart becomes aware of how it’s effecting his parents and hurting Owen’s widow.

It’s a gripping read, with Hart never getting to bogged down and rolls through his career at a decent pace, stopping to focus on the major events- his first title, Montreal, Owen’s death, moving to WCW. What makes it interesting is how he conveys the changing business, he wrestled in the small local promotions and witnessed Vince McMahon’s WWF turn into a juggernaut, he joined McMahon’s company and rose to the top, but as the wilder, sensational “Attitude Era” began he felt out of place, displeased with the sleaze creeping into the ring and the actions of some of the major players.

This makes it one of the best personal histories of the wrestling business, and it’s nice that despite multiple tragedies Bret emerges at the end in one piece and seeming to be bouncing back. Physically injured and pained he may be, but he seems to have set down some of the grudges and burdens he shouldered for years and made peace with himself.

There were times reading this book when I chuckled at the backstage ribbing or the madness of the wrestling world, but showing his skill as a writer Hart is also capable of emotionally connecting with his readers, and I got choked up a couple of times. It highlights the dangers of the business, and there are far too many appearances by what Hart dubs “the Grim Reaper of wrestling”.

It might lack the lightness of Chris Jericho’s books, or the skill and wit of Mick Foley’s but this is still a superbly crafted and engrossing story of a life in and around the ring, and the toll it can take. Bret Hart’s story is the story of professional wrestling in the 80s and 90s, and for a wrestling fan it’s definitely worth checking out.

Verdict: Hart’s recollections are an epic piece of work, but the size is justified due to the scope of his story. Hart lifts the curtain to show us the background politics and rivalries within wrestling and his own family, and this bravery in not shying away from this is admirable. It’s a fascinating read and utterly compelling, and Hart has great skill in balancing light and shade. The best there is? Well, he’s up there with them. 8.5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Chef

I’ve been a Jon Favreau fan for some time, starting off as an actor thanks to his appearances in Friends, The Replacements and Daredevil, but growing as I discovered his work as a writer and a director. He wrote the cool, funny Swingers and directed a couple of quality flicks including laying the groundwork for the Marvel cinematic universe by helming the first two Iron Man movies. Having knocked those two out of the park and followed them up with the flawed, but fun Cowboys and Aliens, Favreau is in the blockbuster leagues, especially as he prepares to make The Jungle Book for Disney. So his new movie, Chef, stands out, because it’s a much smaller, more personal feeling movie.

chef poster

Favreau is in triple threat mode here- writing, directing and starring as Carl Casper, the eponymous chef. Casper is a Miami born chef who now works in LA at a restaurant owned by Riva (Dustin Hoffman). With a well regarded critic due to arrive Carl has plans a tasting menu to show of his skills and wow the writer, but Riva argues that they should stick to the set menu as people like it. Despite protesting Carl agrees to this, but the writer isn’t pleased and posts a scathing and insulting review.

Carl also has a far from perfect home life, and struggles to relate to his ten year old son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), unsure of what to do he constantly tries to find “fun” things for them to do when his son would actually rather hang out and talk. Carl remains on good terms with his ex, Inez (Sofia Vergara), who seems to genuinely care about him.

The review goes viral, and helped by Percy, Carl joins Twitter, however his lack of knowledge about the social network results in him openly calling out the reviewer and stating he will cook him something totally new. Sadly, Riva vetoes this idea and Carl storms out, leaving the writer, Ramsey (Oliver Platt, who nicely avoids falling into traditional douchey critic stereotype) with the same menu. He tweets about it and Carl returns to the restaurant where he explodes and his outburst is caught on camera phones, going viral and earning him online notoriety.

Stuck for something to do, he agrees to go with Inez to Miami where she has meetings and to look after Percy. While there they spend time together as a family and Carl agrees to begin a food truck business, something Inez has been pushing for a while. Joined by his old friend and assistant Martin (John Leguizamo) and helped by Percy they fix up a battered old van and begin serving Cuban style sandwiches.

Carl and Martin decide to drive the truck back to LA and Inez agrees that Percy can join them. They then begin a coast-to-coast road trip which allows Carl to pass on his love of cooking and also to bond with Percy.

Quality time: Carl (Favreau) introducing his boy Percy (Anthony) to the sight and tastes of New Orleans

Quality time: Carl (Favreau) introducing his boy Percy (Anthony) to the sight and tastes of New Orleans

Okay, two things about this flick- 1. I loved it and 2. If you are gonna check it out, eat before you watch it because Favreau shoots the food so beautifully that you will get hungry. Seriously, this is food porn to an extent I’ve never seen before.

The movie is shot beautifully and simply, with Favreau really capturing the hustle of the different cities they visit and the beauty of life on the road (along with hunger this movie will also fire up the wanderlust). There are also some really nice touches regarding the social network stuff, with little speech bubbles appearing when characters write tweets and small blue birds zipping off when they’re sent. Coupled with Vines and changing Facebook pages I can’t think of a movie that conveys the energy and ubiquity of social networking.

But this isn’t just about the movie looking fresh and beautiful, like Carl’s cooking the real strength here is the passion and heart. Favreau manages to make the father-son dynamic wonderfully charming and sweet, never veering into overly sentimental territory. A large part of this is down to the script, which is sometimes profane but always realistic. Well, aside from the fact that Carl hooks up with a hostess who looks like Scarlett Johansson, but I’ll forgive Favreau this tiny part of wish fulfillment.

Scarlett Johansson as Molly the hostess

Scarlett Johansson as Molly the hostess

 

Despite it’s family theme and the presence of the young Percy, it’s a 15 rated movie here in the UK due to the language and some of the sexual frankness.

That’s not to say it’s dirty or anything, in fact, its extremely sweet in places and this realistic banter, especially between the male characters grounds it and shows the kind of guy Carl is and why he might struggle in his role as a father.

The performances are great across the board, with Favreau a likable, charming presence, managing to convey the character’s passion for cooking in a believable way. His interaction with all the characters feels natural and his anger at the critic is understandable, with the meltdown being pitched perfectly.

As for Anthony as his son, it’s one of the better kid performances I’ve seen, with the youngster managing to capture his hurt and need for a relationship with his father in a pleasantly understated way. He’s cute without being cutesy and works brilliantly with Favreau.

The rest of the cast do their roles well enough, and there are cameos from Favreau’s blockbuster buddies (Johansson and Robert Downey Jr crop up) but the stand out is Leguizamo as Carl’s right hand man, Martin. Talking a mile a minute Leguizamo makes the foul mouthed, swaggering character extremely likable and funny, and there are moments where he and Favreau goof around with the easiness of long time friends.

Favreau and Leguizamo as the old mates on the road

Favreau and Leguizamo as the old mates on the road

One other strength the movie has is the fantastic soundtrack, which has a Latin flavour and includes several cool and inventive covers of old standards like “Message to You Rudy” and “Sexual Healing”.

Favreau knocks this one out of the park, nailing the tone perfectly and crafting a glorious, sweet confection that warms the heart and has plenty of laughs along the way. My only problem? Who calls their kid Percy in this day and age?

Verdict: Simply marvelous, the performances and music raise this into a different league and Favreau manages to keep it touching without getting bogged down in cheese. There aren’t a lot of surprises along the way, but it’s still a great trip to make. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,709 other followers