Movie review – Paddington

How useful it is to have young nephews and nieces.

Without Ben (10), Jessica and Lucy (5), Gill and I would have struggled to fit the movie-going demographic at the 10:20 am performance of Paddington at Guildford Odeon on a Tuesday morning, just before Christmas.

I can see the lurid Surrey Advertiser headline writ large: Paedophile suspect arrested at Paddington performance in Guildford. Handcuffed and led away in front of the shocked audience – average age 12 1/2 – Godalming resident Andrew Morris (57) was heard screaming “but I really do like marmalade sandwiches….”

What a great film this is, no matter what your age. It will appeal as much to my generation, brought up on the Michael Bond book, as it will to the current crop of wow-me-with-special-effects-or-leave-me-at-home children, spoiled by ever larger budgets and CGI trickery.

Having been the subject of countless books and TV episodes, Paddington Bear is coming to the big screen for the very first time in a magical adventure film.

With an all-star cast acting alongside Paddington, Michael Bond’s beloved creation is being brought to life by producer David Heyman (the Harry Potter films, Gravity), director Paul King (Come Fly With Me, The Mighty Boosh) and the Oscar-winning special effects team behind Gravity, Harry Potter and many more.

I won’t spoil the plot. Suffice to say that it’s a heart-warming tale of a talking bear leaving his Peruvian jungle home and arriving in England, in search of a new life and marmalade sandwiches. But London is not as friendly as an old explorer had led his family to believe…and there’s also the wickedly glamorous taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) to contend with.

A splendid cast – of both warm bodies and evocative voices – gives the live action story a magical soul. And clever injections of verbal and visual humour mean it appeals as much to 50 somethings as to 5 year-olds. Really.

Grab a child – preferably one you know – and see it now.

Paddington Bear Movie Poster

Movie review – The Theory of Everything

Thanks to the Times+ we saw a free screening of The Theory of Everything in downtown Camberley on a freezing Monday night in mid-December.

It tells the story of Stephen Hawking and his remarkable life, largely from his wife’s perspective. They meet as new students at Cambridge and he first starts displaying signs of Motor Neurone Disease (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS) very soon afterwards.

The prognosis is that Stephen will live for another 2 years. At most.

The story of their lives from this point is told in a remarkably moving, and understated, way.

The acting from Eddie Redmayne as Stephen and Felicity Jones as Jane is Oscarly brilliant, with very able support from David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Maxine Peake and others.

Not on a par with Bad Santa for festive film fun, obviously, but highly recommended.

Spot the difference…..

Book review – Us by David Nicholls

I feel like I’ve grown up with David Nicholls.

Starter for Ten, The Understudy and the global phenomenon One Day. All written in a similar style, full of wit, poignancy and offbeat characters, I wonder how autobiographical each one is….

Us is a bitter-sweet dissection of the relationship between Douglas – a structured scientist and traditional disciplinarian – and Connie, his wayward, beautiful and artistic wife.

After 20 years of marriage Connie announces that she’s probably leaving Douglas. But they agree to go ahead with their Grand Tour of Europe, probably the last family holiday with Albie, their stroppy and lost 17 year-old son.

The holiday doesn’t quite go to plan and Douglas ends up confronting some of his demons in a series of helter-skelter misadventures across Europe, few of which were on his written itinerary.

As always, the writer’s characterisation is brilliant. Douglas is maddeningly unable to cut Albie much slack, trying to impose a scientist’s logical thinking onto a confused teenager in search of anything but structure, at the same time as Albie wrestles with his own challenges

The Grand Tour mishaps are neatly interwoven with the history of Douglas and Connie’s relationship, and other incidents that give some understanding of the present father and son dynamic. If there is any dynamism in something that’s so broken?

I embraced Us in much the same way I described bookish immersion here.  And I’m already looking forward to the movie version of Us, anticipating who might play the main characters in this deftly woven story.

And please don’t make us wait too long for the next instalment of your literary life, Mr Nicholls……

Pensions…a momentous day @ Just Retiring

I wrote on this site recently about our pension quandary.

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Well, today is a momentous day in the Just Retiring household….I’ve sent off an income drawdown application pack to Hargreaves Lansdown, requesting payment of the maximum 25% tax-free lump sum from my pension pot, with the rest going into income drawdown.

Why go this route?

Well, I’ve stayed clear of annuities for the reasons I spelled out in the earlier article. And I like the flexibility of income drawdown, under current rules and the new ones proposed with effect from April 2015. Despite the remaining funds in drawdown staying fully invested so the return from that pot is not guaranteed, as it would be from the annuity route.

I’ll have to adjust my investment philosophy a little to rebalance my risk outlook, and also try not to get too emotionally involved with daily market fluctuations. Which is not easy when you’re worried that you’ll run out of money before you shuffle off your mortal coil…..

But the main short-term benefit is taking the 25% tax-free lump sum from my hard-earned pension pot. Come next May, who knows what a political football that could become…it’s potentially an easy target for certain political parties.

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Gill and I don’t know yet whether we’ll be working again after our current sabbaticals. We’ll see how long we can survive on the tax-free lump sum I’m about to get from my pension fund, and pray that UK politics and global economics don’t start nibbling – or worse, gobbling – away at the shiny new income drawdown pot.

Retirement is like a long vacation in Las Vegas. The goal is to enjoy it the fullest, but not so fully that you run out of money. Jonathan Clements

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