“The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” (Novel) by Jonas Jonasson

 

“The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”, by Jonas Jonasson, may have a rather complicated title, but it is not a complicated novel. The story follows Allan Karlsson, who is – you guessed it – a hundred year old man who escapes from his centennial birthday party via a window. We then follow his story as he finds himself involved with thieves, incompetent police, a suitcase filled with cash and a series of murders, some of which are more accidental than others. Along side the tale we learn that Karlsson had spent his earlier life involved with some of the 20th century’s most significant people and important events – everything from the creation of the atom bomb, to having dinner with Stalin himself.

I have heard many novels and films described as “charming” but I’ve never strictly understood its true meaning. Jonasson’s debut novel, however, can only be described as such. An endless stream of witty dialogue and engaging an engaging story keeps you entertained from cover to cover. There are moments where it gets so funny you may find yourself laughing enough to make an elderly woman come and ask if you are okay (I may or may not be speaking from experience).

It isn’t a novel that you will regret.

DISTINCTION

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Calvary

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If you are looking for a heart-warming tale with sweet love story and a happy ending, I’m afraid you needn’t read this review any further. I first came across Calvary during my perusing through the weekly email I receive from Dendy Cinemas, and in all honesty, it didn’t seem very interesting at all. However, after I saw the trailer for it (it was forced upon me during a Youtube advertisement) I was far more intrigued.

The film follows Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson), a good natured and well-loved priest in a small rural Irish town, after he is threatened with his murder during confessional. He is told that he has until the following Sunday to get his affairs in order before he finally commits the act.

The film tackles some fairly heavy issues, particularly the history of covering up incidents of sexual assault from within the clergy. We are also hit with an overarching theme of death and suicide throughout the story, with many characters facing some grave issues with which Father James attempts to help. As grim as that sounds, though, it has a certain class and sense to it that forces you to see the small town in the eyes of the Father. If there’s nothing I love in a film more, it’s one that makes you feel. Despite all this seemingly doom and gloom, there is a comedic element to it all. Truth be told, the whole this is quite funny – not in an obvious slap stick way, but rather a sophisticated European way.

The good pacing, excellent acting and direction is helped with a rather stellar cast – along with Gleeson, there are the likes of Chris O’Dowd, Dylan Moran and even Aiden Gillan (of Game of Thrones fame). In a year where there really has been very little to jump around about at the cinema, Calvary is surely a masterpiece.

DISTINCTION

Chef

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I’m a big fan of the Iron Man movies, so in turn I became a big fan of Jon Favreau. Those films are a perfect balance of action and story with a touch of humour on the side. When I heard that Favreau would be releasing a new film away from the superhero genre, I was expectedly excited.

Chef follows Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), a chef at a high-end restaurant, who quits his job when he receives a poor review after not being allowed enough creative license by his controlling restaurant owner (Dustin Hoffman). He then decides to open up a food truck specialising in traditional Cuban food with the help of his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and chef-friend, Martin (John Leguizamo). They tour the country as their popularity increases with the help of an ever-growing social media presence.

The film is a foodies delight with delicious cuisine being served up at ever corner. This, and a mildly funny script were the only things that won me over in the two hours I spent in the theatre. A very clichéd storyline, along with average grade acting and some pacing issues made me continuously look at my watch throughout. The fact that two big named stars in Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr were used so sparingly gave the impression that they were included only to draw in a crowd. The ending was cheesy and really countered the little development we saw in the characters. The constant push of Twitter and other social media gave it the impression that Favreau was trying just too hard to be cool.

It’s a feel good film, I’ll give you that – but a chocolate bar costs $2 and makes you feel pretty good too.

CONCEDED PASS.

Transcendence

 

Directed by Wally Pfister

Ever since Ross mentioned the concept of living on as an AI after we die in that episode of Friends, I’ve been kind of fascinated with the idea. When I saw the trailer for Transcendence a couple of months ago, I sat prepared, waiting in eager anticipation.

The story surrounds Dr Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a highly renowned researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, who is targeted by technology-resistant terrorists. After he is tactically taken down, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and close friend Max (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, manage to upload his consciousness to a highly powerful super-computer.  This artificial Dr Caster, however, develops a seemingly endless thirst for power and knowledge, sending the whole world into craze.

I was really hoping to like it.

Reeaaallly hoping.

Whilst the concept was entertaining enough, there were endless problems with the writing. Huge pacing issues, minimal character development and rather confusing story arcs left me asking myself “wait, what?” far too many times. Also, anyone with a minimal scientific grounding could poke holes in story left, right and centre. The acting was sub-par, which was disappointing considering the talent on display. Only the mildly entertaining special effects – which were kind of ridiculous in itself – made it an acceptable two hours to sit through.

In truth, Transcendence is like fitting a Ferrari without an engine. It’s flashy and pretty, but with nothing to power it home.

PASS.