Tuesday 30 August 2011

A weekend for silly love songs

image image


 “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs

but I look around me and I see it isn't so.

Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs

and what's wrong with that? I’d like to know”


Paul and Linda McCartney




Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Borrowed from a friend, never heard of it, didn’t know what to expect. A teenage adventure into love: dumped boy, still besotted, meets new girl. Old girl has new boy, but gets jealous. Boy realises new girl is best but new girl has boyfriend. New girl also realises new boy is best and dumps old boyfriend. So goes the tracks on the playlist of moments  during one night in the city that never sleeps, New York, as we are taken on a journey through the ups and downs of love.

  ashramblings verdict:  (2*) a pleasant enough little jaunt through the ups and downs of young love

  Over her dead body

One of those films that tries to do a Ghost, but without the stars, and without the characters, and ends up reminding one of the click of the fingers comings and goings of Q in Star Trek. The premise here is woman gets killed in freak accident on wedding day before the ceremony. Man can’t get over it, so sister takes him to see a medium who she convinces to help con the guy out of his grief using his beloved diary entries. Problem is the psychic and the guy fall in love. Then the psychic actually start seeing the ghost of the dead fiancée who is bent on stopping her getting her man. Some good funny moments, others seemed too staged and forced. I liked the energy that Lake Bell brought to the part of Ashley the psychic, reminiscent of Julia Roberts. A small key character part for Stephen Root done with characteristic brilliance.

ashramblings verdict:  (2*) quirky tale with bright moments

Saturday 27 August 2011

Fat is a political issue.

Why We Get Fat - And What to Do About It.


Gary Taubes

Published by Knopf, 2011


About the author

Gary Taubes is no crank. He is an established science journalist, regularly contributing to Science magazine. He holds Robert Wood Johnson Foundation investigator post in health policy research at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. His articles about science, medicine and health have appeared in Discover, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine. He is the only print journalist ever to receive a Science-in-Society Journalism Award from the National Association of Science Writers and he has received 3. He has also received awards from the Pan American Health Organization, the American Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society. His writing was selected for The Best American Science Writing 2002, The Best of the Best of American Science Writing, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000 and 2003. He is also the author of Bad Science and Nobel Dreams, and Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease to which this book can be seen as an update

About the book

Nowadays I don’t often read non fiction books although as a child I would voraciously consume them, but I seem to be having a glut of  non-fiction at present.

Taubes’ “Why We Get Fat - And What to Do About It.is a quick, if perhaps overly long rambling, account of how obesity became considered to be an eating disorder, how fattening carbohydrates became considered as fat free carbs, how scientific studies repeatedly mistook cause and effect, how prejudice post WW2 ignored German research, how obesity is inextricably linked to poverty. Yes all in all fat is a political issue.

I was intrigued by the title of this book, not because I have a weight problem (I am actually very happy with my weight),  but because I love my food, no, correction I love good food and like to eat well and hopefully remain healthy! Also, here in India everyone (me included), has a high (or higher than usual) carbohydrate content to their diet. When I was travelling on the boat – the only time in my life I felt constantly hungry! – the diet was again high in carbs. Everyone said it was because the physical work on the boat required more calories, more energy. Yeah, yeah, I thought it’s cheap, that’s why! Me, I just couldn't do the diet and stopped eating much of the meals on board and  all the snacks because the carb content was just overwhelming. Even so I came off the boat completely pasta-ed out, never to eat pasta again for almost over a year. At home I eat comparatively in the way of bread, potatoes.Now here in India, with limited sources of protein (chicken and river fish) , my carb content has been increasing again and much as though I like potatoes, pasta or rice,  and drink lots of fruit juices (sadly, water can get boring and beer is an exceptional treat !), such a high carb content is not my diet of choice and never will be – I am a meat eater, a fish eater, through and through, certainly not by nature a vegetarian. In fact, overall, I don’t like the food here (rice, dalh, beans, semolina and gram flours) and wouldn’t choose to eat it – Northern Indian food is much more me. I still cannot finish a plate of rice here – the volume is just enormous!

Taubes argues for a hunter gatherer style diet, one higher in animal meat and fat and lower in carbohydrates (“ketogenic” diet) than the now prevalent diet. He sees the global epidemic of obesity  and the rise of diabetes as inextricably linked in the “diabesity” problem. He looks at the prevalence of diseases such as heart disease, cancer. He cites examples of societies where fat and poverty can be seen hand in hand where carbs are cheap and protein expensive. He cites examples where societies have undergone the “nutrition transition” from traditional diets to Westernised modern diet and its concomitant “disease transition” e.g. the Kikuyu in Kenya, Southern Pacific Islanders for whom the introduction of sugar and white flour accompanied the rise in these diseases. Anecdotal evidence from here in India supports this where where the diet is now high in sugar (Indian sweets are so so sweet I find them inedible!) and the concern people express about the rise of diabetes in the local population. He cites examples of societies where there is little or no cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity e.g. Inuit, Masai – both meat &/or fish eaters – to dispel the illusion that meat eating is all bad – and examples of vegetarian societies where cancer is high e.g. Indian Hindus. Why then was all this ignored in favour of a “fat is bad, stop eating meat” philosophy – because of the idea of the “fattening carb” and a diet free of easily digestible carbs and sugars can make us lean clashed with the idea that dietary fat causes heart disease which had become the prevalent hypothesis of nutritionists in the 1970s.

So read this book if you are interested in the history of diets, dieting and the treatment of obesity, our preoccupation with dietary fat reduction, why some weight loss diets work for some people  but for the majority they never work. The science content is appropriate, even his description of the role of insulin in fat metabolism is written in a straight forward enough way for the layman to understand. It is well referenced and researched.  Read this book if you are interested in how society changed from a pre 1960s “carbs are bad” philosophy to a post 1970s “carbs are good, fat is bad” fad, and we became totally preoccupied with the calories in/ calories out equation which fuelled the growth in the exercise industry  and forgot what our grandparents generation knew: we forgot the 1825 writings of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin  ‘The Physiology of Taste’ where he wrote

oh Heavens!” all you readers of both sexes will cry out, “oh Heavens above! But what a wretch the Professor is! Here in a single word he forbids us everything we most love, those little white rolls…. and those cookies… and a hundred other things made with flour and butter, with flour and sugar, with flour and sugar and eggs! he doesn’t even leave us potatoes, or macaroni! Who would have thought this of a lover of good food who seemed so pleasant?” “What’s this I hear?” I exclaim, putting on my severest face, which I do perhaps once a year, “Very well then: eat! Get fat! Become ugly, and thick, and asthmatic, and finally dies in your own melted grease: I shall be there to watch it.”

It wasn’t until 2007 when Christopher Gardener(*), director of Nutrition Studies at Stanford Prevention Research Center, presented and published studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association comparing the holistic impact of the Atkins diet with its benefits of weight loss, a rising of HDL cholesterol, a lowering of triglyceride levels, a lowering of blood pressure, a lowering of LDL cholesterol, and a decrease in heart attacks that attitudes began to change. Even Gardner himself admits that he undertook the study because of concerns that the Atkins diet was dangerous because of it is rich in meat and saturated fat – he calls the results “a bitter pill to swallow”

(*) Gardner, C. D., A. Kiazand, S. Alhassan, et al. 2007. “Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women: The A TO Z Weight Loss Study, a Randomized Trial.” Journal of the American Medical Association. Mar 7;297(9):969–77.

And see his presentation on YouTube’s The Battle of Weight Loss Diets: Is Anyone Winning (or Loosing)?

For me this  book puts into words what I was intuitively doing by scouring the supermarket shelves for items which were NOT fat free, which were NOT highly sweetened, complaining bitterly of the fad to have fat free food and quietly bemoaning the death of lard. The book takes a long time to get to its point – that the quality and quantity of carbs we eat makes us sick with associated diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, caner and Alzheimers. The author could have got to his point more quickly and succinctly, but he does put forth the argument and its an argument that needs to be heard if we are to counter our ever growing waist lines and the continual rise of diabesity world wide. This approach has implications for the world’s food production, it runs counter to the philosophy of vegetarianism, it has huge public health consequences and opens up a socio - political economic can of worms as the price of grain staples and food prices generally continue to rise and much of the world continues to not have enough to eat, never mind a well balanced diet.

Postscript: As I enter my last couple of months in India I can see my food ramblings, which have been remarkably well controlled so far (no haunting dreams craving cheese, cheese and more cheese that many volunteers have had!) may well become more focussed for my homecoming with thoughts of poached smoked haddock, a dripping juicy lamb rib, a thick slice of gammon, a crispy green salad, a slice of not too runny brie predominating and not a grain of rice in sight! But I’ll also be thinking of a pint of very cold dry cider, after all I’m not totally virtuous! I don’t know whether these thoughts made me read this book, or whether reading this book gave me my food thoughts – cause and effect – either way bring on the brie!

ashramblings verdict: 3* – skim read it for his thesis and supporting facts.

Monday 22 August 2011

In the true spirit of the www….

every so often one comes across something that makes one sit up and take notice because it just hits the spot.


I cannot praise this web site enough. Lots of very good tutorials on all sorts of subjects FOR FREE! I found them when I was trying to get up to speed really very fast on Excel 2010 which my NGO just got but I am still languishing on 2003! So of course folks needed training on Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, Excel – the first three were fine but I was struggling to get some good example data sets for Excel, so I was hunting around on the web and lo and behold I found this site.  In the end we just used their Excel course. I can really recommend it.

Their tutorials are clear, concise, precise, understandable, broken down into bite size chunks, very suitable for self paced learning, with examples that work – very  professional. They have tutorials on so many topics from Basic  IT, to Skype, Windows to Microsoft Office, Open Office, Google Docs and so much more. Also general everyday things like How to use an ATM ! And in the true spirit of the www they are FREE.

So I am very happy to provide a little bit of free publicity for this Not For Profit initiative  supported by the Goodwill Community Foundation

Thursday 18 August 2011

Happiness is knowing who you really are, what you really want to do and being committed to doing it

A little late in posting about the weekend movie treats, so here’s the scoop – 3 stories of the rollercoaster of life, its ups and downs en route to finding your self , your place in the world and attempting to make it a better one.


This was a wooden performance from Cruise – why doesn’t he take more risks and refine the talent shown in Magnolia and Eyes Wide Shut? The supporting “best of British” actors are the better ones here  – look for  the always good Bill Nighy as the procrastinating General Olbricht and equally so Tom Wilkinson as General Fromm;  add to that Kevin McNally, Eddie Izzard, Tom Hollander, Terence Stamp, Kenneth Brannagh as the key players in the plot to assassinate Hitler and you have a movie worth a watch
  ashramblings verdict: run of the mill thriller (3*)
The House Bunny
Being dependent upon borrowing movies from other volunteers one ends up watching things one never would have otherwise watched . Sometimes these can be delightful new discoveries, but often they are not.  This was one of the nots! A silly romp around a US university sorority house – never did get this concept, and probably never will. A complete waste of space movie
  ashramblings verdict:  leave it in the wastebin (0*)
 The Pursuit of Happyness
The misspelling  of Happiness comes from the day care where Chris leaves son Christopher in the hands of a Chinese nanny as he rushes back and forth across SF struggling to make a living from selling portable bone density scanners to hospitals. A chance encounter leads him to the world of stock brokers and so down to his last few dollars he undertakes a competitive unpaid 6 months internship. As his luck drains anyway father and son, loose their car, home, bank account and finally end up in a church run overnight rest stop for the homeless. With humour deftly added via scenes where the final scanners are stolen by the cities hippies and down and outs and recovered, repaired and  resold by Chris as he struggles to keep body and soul, father and son together, and financially solvent. The film portrays a good role model for black american youth. I actually enjoyed Will Smith’s performance through which one truly feels the emotional rollercoaster of Chris’s life fuelled by a fierce determination to maintain his relationship with his son and to succeed in order to do that. Naturally the film has a Hollywood ending but then it is based on the true story of  Christopher Gardner who eventually set up Gardner Rich & Co
  ashramblings verdict: (3*) adequately told inspirational story

Monday 15 August 2011

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

Girls of Riyadh


Rajaa Alsanea

Sex in the City Saudi style is the hype surrounding this book which takes the form of email supposedly sent by a Saudi woman to chat rooms on the internet in which she discusses her circle of friends,their love affairs, marriages and divorces à la Carrie Bradshaw.
A bit of a chick  lit read, but many of the interactions with boys and men we will all relate to – the ups and downs of love, of trying to find “the one” and settling for something else. I liked Un Nuwayyir’s analysis of men and women – too long to reproduce here  - she classifies men and women on the basis of strength of personality (the strong, the weak), self confidence (the secure, the insecure) , religious type(extremely, moderate, wild) etc and I suspect we can all place our lovers somewhere on that grid.
The novel paints a dire picture of Saudi men as weak willed, overwhelmingly bound by tradition and family, not devoid of love but willing to sacrifice it rather than break with traditional principles – saying you want a love match and being able to stand up to be counted when you find it and it is deemed “unsuitable” are quite different matters. At least none of her characters ended up with quite the same deadly fate as has found some men and women in real life even in my home country when they have sought to break with their cultural tradition and marry outside it for love.
For a westerner like me  definitely some moments of insight into what life must be like there: just how important  the mobile phone is as the only way to talk to a member of the opposite sex without anyone else being present, whilst the very same mobile phone records are scanned by prospective partners for traces of a “previous”; how everyone, men and women, change aboard planes just prior to landing back into traditional garb; where the girls every word, every action is watched and scrutinised by mothers on the look out for prospective spouses for their beloved sons; where marriage suitability is not just a question of belonging to a particular religious faction but also about the tribal discrimination between people’s from different parts of the country .
ashramblings verdict: (3*) It’s not a great book by any means, but it is one the banning of which in its homeland sets it up as a catalyst for discussion.

Sunday 14 August 2011

The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

The Fencing Master
Arturo Pérez-Reverte
1988, The Harvill Press
Translated from the original Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

Don Jaime Astarloa is of the old school – a 51 year old, down to earth honest teacher of the art of fencing, not the sport into which fencing is transforming upon the rise of the duelling fireman and the demise of the settling of honour scores by the  sabre. It in 1868 and Madrid is rife with political intrigue, talk of coups and revolution. But these topic hold little interest for Don Jaime even though he regularly meets with his other friends at the aptly name cafe Progreso to exchange the gossip of the day over coffee. But his mind is always on his fencing, on writing his definitive book on the subject and on the elusive perfect sword thrust. That is until he finds himself embroiled in a set of viscous murders, an unwitting pawn in a political game.
To begin with I wondered if my lack of knowledge about fencing was going to be a problem in reading and understanding the main character of the book and the whole plot. It is not a sport I am familiar with, I have never seen a fencing match, I know nobody who fences. The terminology was very foreign  - in seconde, in tierce, in quart, prime, parry, thrust, lunge etc but they  are gently introduced and one soon finds oneself swept along by the storyline. From her entrance it is  clear that Dona Adela de Otero is no ordinary Madrid lady and exactly how she will bring death and destruction to Don Jaime’s life we can but wonder, but that she has the money, the looks and the skills to do it we are left in no doubt.  
Character wise Dona Adela intrigues, Don Jaime is viewed with genuine warmth as the slightly down and heal, seen financially better days, but still comfortable in his own skin ‘Maestro’, and the reader is quietly pleased he has found good camaraderie with his buddies at the Cafe Progreso.  The plot structure is somewhat predictable, but by the time I got to the  denouement I had completely forgotten about the introductory italicised section prior to the first chapter and had to go back and reread it. That only served to make it all the most mysterious and thrilling a read.
Pérez-Reverte is a writer of some 12 books, mainly historical thrillers of which this was his first novel. Its the first of his I have read and I am sure to read more.

 ashramblings verdict: (3*) Recommended. A satisfying, smooth thriller, competently crafted and executed.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

blink – a double take

I’m still reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and it is clearly turning out to be a thought promoting read. In Chapter 6 “Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The  Delicate Art of Mind Reading”,  in particular the section entitled “Arguing with a Dog”, has been the catalyst today  Here, Gladwell documents accounts of policemen telling of a time when they had to fire their guns.  Time and again such accounts, he says, show the same details  - extreme visual clarity, tunnel vision, diminished sound, and the sense that time is slowing down. This is how our bodies react to extreme stress.

Reading this I am reminded of my run in with a beaching boat in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. I am walking along the beach one morning when I am alerted by an elderly man shouting at me to look out, to look behind me. I turn round and coming straight for me, out of control, is a boat, beaching onto the sand. The next moment, probably less than a minute, is  for me characterised by these same sensations. All I can see is the boat, heading straight for my legs; I am aware that if it hits them they are gone; I am not conscious of any sound at all, I have some memory of back peddling in the sand and going down but then nothing. Unknown to me, my body has reacted with amazing speed and agility, I have somersaulted  head over heels and am standing erect away from the boat. For a moment I am not even sure whether I have been hit or not. Gradually everything settles back, something like normality returns, I am aware of everyone, they are talking and asking me questions. My arm I realise has been hit but not broken. I am alive, intact and just want to be somewhere else.

So my personal experience of extreme stress bears out Gladwell’s descriptions and just as the policemen who has to fire on an assailant and not hit his colleague performs better because his senses are narrowed, allowing him to focus on the situation to hand, so my senses narrowed to enable me to react very quickly and intuitively to the danger and so avert disaster.

Thus psychologists describe how under extreme pressure, as heart rates soar, people get too aroused, and past a certain point, our bodies begin shutting down so many sources of information in order to concentrate of survival, that people can no longer dial 911, they forget to press the send button on their mobile phone, they even void their bowels, all this lack of control comes as blood is withdrawn from our outer muscle layers and concentrated in the muscle core so as to make the muscle hard and limit bleeding in the event of injury.

This says Gladwell, is why many police departments have banned high speed chases – not just for the immediate dangers during the chase but because of what happens after it. High speed chases are exactly the sort of activity that push people into this dangerous state of high arousal. A clear example is given using the famous case of Rodney King – why did the officers not stop their beating of King when a colleague told them to back off – answer they did not hear his words, for them sound had silenced, their ears had shut down. Another example is given  of the case of Robert Russ, who pursuing policemen were so wound up after another post pursuit shooting, that they broke with protocol, exited their vehicle to confront Russ sitting quietly in his, not exactly resisting arrest ! The result was that the officer broke the car window and Russ was shot close up in the chest. An unjustified shooting as the officers should not have been anywhere near Russ’s car, the detailed protocol for such stops was for them to sit tight and ask the driver to get out of his car. Here the officers' aroused state, narrowed their vision and thinking, they constructed a rigid system that said that a young black man in a car running from police had to be a dangerous criminal and all evidence to the contrary that Russ was sitting quietly in his car, he had not gone about 70mph did not register. Yes  the typical reaction to extreme stress arousal - you stop relying on the actual evidence and fall back on stereotype. Now many US police department 's have moved from two officer squad cars to single officer cars - the reason, one cop on his own slows things down, no opportunity for bravado, and single cop cars get into less trouble.

Sadly all this would have been but interesting reading if it were not for the events of the past few days in London and the shooting of Mark Duggan. Reminiscent of John Charles De Menezes, Stephen Waldorf and probably many more.

Monday 8 August 2011

blink and the four horseman of an Indian apocalypse

Four Horsemen
I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. There’s one section called “The Importance of Contempt” where he describes work done studying marriage success and failure by John Gottman. Gottman has identified what he calls “The Four Horsemen”: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism and contempt, of which contempt is the single most important and for which there is no gender difference. He defines contempt as any statement made from a higher level. His research shows that the presence of contempt in a relationship predicts its breakup, and even how many colds the partner receiving  contempt gets. Outside of marriage it correlate with the number of malpractice suits filed against doctors. Please basically do not sue doctors they like. Doctors with a dominant tone of voice are more likely to be sued: doctors who listen and respect the patient are more likely not to be sued.
Another section is called “Primed for Action”, where Gladwell describes the priming experiments of psychologist John Bargh, who showed the power of priming via the  scrambled sentence test – the subject is asked to quickly make grammatical 4 word sentences out of each of the 10 five word group, but the impact is on the subjects behaviour immediately thereafter which is altered through having been primed by the presence of suggestions of say the state of being old in each of the 10 groups of words.
A variant on this, conducted by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson,  looks at  the implications of asking college students to identify their race on pretest questionnaire. They are then asked to answer 20 questions for a standardised test used for entry into Graduate School in the USA. Their study shows that black American graduate students scores dropped by 50% when the pre test questionnaire asked about their race. “Girls can’t do mathematics” creates a similar stereotyping effect
All this has me thinking about whether contempt can be primed in relationships? 
Here in India I have heard so many folks say how authoritarian their bosses are. If I look back at the best bosses I have had, they do have one thing in common, respect. With the good ones I’ve  never felt I was not respected, that my views and opinions were never listened to, that my advice was not taken. With the  good ones, I was given respect by being given a clear scope for my authority and then allowed to get on with my job. With the good ones I never felt I was being talked down to , even when being mentored or coached in a new area. So in this respect, a relationship with a boss is a bit like a relationship with a spouse and Gottman’s Four Horsemen apply: is you are defensive and never raise your head above the parapet you don’t have a healthy relationship with your boss; if he stonewalls your requests for action, resources etc, the relationship is not good, if either party is unconstructively critical of the other, the relationship is soured and if there is contempt in the relationship you’d best find a new job quick!
So back to India. How often do we hear, see the Four Horseman? I put it to you that they are pervasive. Go on test this out and post back. Think about your experiences with bureaucracies and petty officialdom; about those infuriating moments when you realise that you are getting nowhere with your request for action; every time you were stonewalled by a “jobsworth” during your attempts to get your visa extended; every time someone talked down to you as a “foreigner” ( Mike, think the bus man who harangued  you to keep your arm in). Now think also about how many times you have witness the same behaviour being given out by one Indian to another – yes loads of times. Just look at the dominant tone of voice used by petty officials when dealing with the public, and worse if the public is someone who is SC/ST, or between men and women. How often have you seen people only really working when the boss is around, how openly critical of their staff some leader of organisations are, how controlling they are such that nothing can happen without their say, no one will act or take decisions in their absence ; how centralised decision making is ; and how many times have you then heard ‘oh so and so doesn’t know his job’ or similar comments about colleagues. Yes the Four Horsemen (defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism and contempt) are to be found everywhere.
Clearly the caste system exacerbates this but one is constantly struck by how subservient people are even with people who you would think they should think of as equals. I suggest there are behavioural  primers at work as well. Take for example the Namaste gesture  - in its full form it is not only the placing off hands together prayed like in front of the chest but  is also accompanied by a bow of the head; the whole touching your feet thing; always calling the manager ‘sir’; all dressed up as signs of respect but in reality are reinforcing the inherent contempt of the superior – inferior  relationship rather than fostering mutual respect. Likewise, the wholesale taking of bribes, the paying to get jobs etc are all reinforcers of a superior- inferior relationship.
How do you change this? I don’t have any magical answer but unless one is found I suspect India will be loosing some of its shine, and the BRICS countries will be loosing its current  “I” with some other country over taking from India in terms of growth and influence in the world on 2050.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Saturday night at the movies

This week’s ramble through the old movie collection saw me revisit a favourite , follow the disintegration of a relationship, laugh at multiple murder and watch a great car chase whilst listening to one of the best “voice candy”!
The Break Up – mediocre film about the downhill spiralling of a relationship break up running out of control. The one positive thing about this film was that it caught how it is the little things (here 3 lemons) which blow up out of all proportion that kill a relationship. But otherwise it is a lightweight.
 ashramblings verdict: Lightweight watch if nothing better on  (1*)
Very Bad Things – ‘5 go killing’ – or some ‘bad things happen on the way to the altar’ – a comic turn on the murder cover up theme with Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz was strangely enjoyable
It wasn’t until I was part way through that I realised these two apparently unrelated films both had actor Jon Favreau in them – as the the husband to be in Very Bad Things, and as best buddy of the husband in The Breakup
 ashramblings verdict:  Likeable romp (2*)
Taken The Luc Besson and Robert Marc Kamal writing team with direction by Pierre Morel to deliver a satisfying thriller around the well told story of father (Liam Neeson) seeks abducted daughter (Maggie Grace)  . This got mix reviews but I liked it – Ok I’ll admit to loving Liam Neeson’s voice so I can forgive the convenient way the pipework works loose to facilitate his escape as he traces the Albanian traffickers through Paris. But that aside, the story line is credible enough to hold you through and there’s a great car chase, maybe even better than the set pieces done for Bond movies. Watch out for Famke Janssen (Jean from X Men) as the mother, and yes the actress playing the seventeen year old who one minute is an excitable spoilt child, ditzy naive teenager on the brink of womanhood is Shannon from LOST ( amazing what difference hair colouring can make for an actress!) One to put the feet up and just watch. 
 ashramblings verdict:  Good Thriller (3*)
Perfume A hypnotic movie based on Patrick Suskind’s fantastic best seller of the same name. John Hurt narrates the story of Jean Baptiste Grenouille and his search to capture the essence of being in perfume. Nice set piece character performance from Dustin Hoffman as the old dried up perfumiere Baldini and Alan Rickman as the loving vengeful father with that mixture of love and hate he portrays so well. I read the book years ago, and had forgotten how good the film is. Such a pity films cannot deliver odours as well as sounds to the viewer.
 ashramblings verdict:  Hypnotic classic (4*)