Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Iron Lady (2011)

JohnnyTwoToes tells you why he loves the Iron Lady!

The Iron Lady refers to Margaret Thatcher, the first and only female prime minister of England. The Iron Lady references her unwavering and unwillingness to compromise on any issue she deemed to be vital to her nation and her nation’s security. It was the British press and her fellow members of the Parliament who affectionately gave her that title, whether you agreed with her or not. 

Meryl Streep plays Mrs. Thatcher and she gives probably the very best performance of her long career. That is saying something, too. The film opens as an elderly Mrs. Thatcher is buying milk from her local grocery. Nobody recognizes her as she pays and hustles back to her home. Meanwhile the Bobbies and Mrs. Thatcher's staff are discreetly searching for her. As she comes in the back door of her home she begins a dialogue with her husband, Denis who died in 2003 from cancer. She has yet to start cleaning out his closets and she still has yet to let go of the love of her life. Denis Thatcher is played by the terrific actor Jim Broadbent and Streep and he have wonderful chemistry together. I really believed that I was watching the lives of these two people unfold right before my eyes. 

This biographical film is told in a series of flashbacks that start with Margaret as a young girl working in her father's grocery store as he ran for mayor of her hometown. He raised her to be self reliant and to always fight for what she believes is right and just and to NEVER compromise. She starts as the first female member of Parliament and after feeling that her own conservative party was rather inefficient she decides to run for the leadership of her party. "I don't expect to win. I want to shake my party up", she tells Denis. Well, she won and then went on to become the first and only female prime minister of Great Britain, thanks to lots of support from her own party but, also from her dear friend, Airey Neave (who was later killed by a car bomb planted by the IRA). 

The Iron Lady was met with very lukewarm reviews, despite the raves for Streep's Oscar winning (best actress) performance. I was shocked, actually. This is a poignant and sadly heartfelt. It treats Margaret Thatcher with respect as a person, lady and a politician. Whether you agreed with her or not. She was and is a smart and crafty politician that knew when she was right. Yet, it delicately shows her relationship with Denis and her sometimes estranged children. Could she be mean and demanding? Yes, but director Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia, 2008) and Abi Morgan's screenplay let Mrs. Thatcher's humanity come through the tough exterior from her time as a young girl through her courtship by Denis. It also helps to have another solid soundtrack score by Thomas Newman to accent the highs and lows of a person always under the gun with public scrutiny. 

The supporting cast including Anthony Head and Richard E Grant is standout as well as it documents all of the people that helped shape Margaret Thatcher into the Iron Lady she was. Now, Mrs. Thatcher has medical issues that prevent her from having many public appearances which is too bad. Love her or hate her, (I love her) she is a legendary tenacious figure despite her flaws and I felt nothing but compassion for Streep's perfect portrayal of her. 

If I had one complaint it was that the film is only one hour and forty-four minutes. I would have liked to have learned more about Mrs. Thatcher's dealing with parliament on both sides but the film only lightly touches on that. But having said that, this film deserved a better reception than it received so I will try to make up for it. I highly recommend The Iron Lady. The Iron Lady-***1/2 out of 4

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blondie - Greatest Hits and Other Favorites !

It was 6 AM on a frosty, chilled morning and I was in a lousy tent on a hiking nature school camp. Not much fun really! I was the first one to wake up and I turned on my guide’s Walkman to the sound of Blondie, I lay there in my sleeping bag listening to the sound of their hit single, "Denis" and my first contact with Debbie Harry, her boyfriend guitarist Chris Stein and company.

"Denis" a cover version of Randy and the Rainbows' 1963 hit was a huge hit of those days from their 1978 album – Plastic Letters and put the young US band, (considered an underground act until then) on top of the world rock charts. There was something about "Denis". You cant be sure if it was the detail that De-nis was pronounced De-nee or that part of the song was sung in French. Whatever it was, Blondie were hailed as the forerunners of the new punk revolution and more so, as it was fronted by a female vocalist.

In 1978, Blondie were leaders in the new wave, punk rock movement but they went on to flout that classification too. The late 1970's saw the release of several Blondie albums "Blondie" (1976), Plastic Letters (1978), Parallel Lines (1978), Eat to the Beat (1979) and a string of hit singles. It's hard to pick the most outstanding - "Picture This", "Hangin on the Telephone", “Sunday Girl”, “Atomic” and "Heart of Glass" all come to mind. The last of those were the group's first US No.1 hits, building on the success that they originally found in the UK.

Something extraordinary happened as the '80's dawned, Blondie the punk band transformed themselves into more of a Pop rock, new wave band with strong dance and pop influences. Examples would include the Richard Gere starrer "American Gigolo" soundtrack which featured "Call Me" collaboration with composer Giorgio Moroder that became a worldwide super hit. Their 1980 album 'Autoamerican' a stepping stone to more success produced hits like "The Tide is High" with its strong reggae and ska references and rap-influenced “Rapture”.

Debbie Harry meanwhile released a solo album of her own of 1981, "Koo Koo" featuring the small hit “Backfired” and probably caused the inevitable brief break-up of the band released. In 1982, after a quickpatch up, Blondie released their 6th Album “The Hunter” in 1982. While a critical failure, it still gave them 2 hit singles “War Child” and Island of Lost Souls”. 

The 80's and 90's were definitely wilderness years for the entire Blondie team. The renamed Deborah Harry found modest success with her solo projects which though promising much, lacked direction or originality in terms of music while the Blondie, the Band toured across the world.

Their defining moment perhaps was the release of their 1999 album 'No Exit' and “Maria” , the hit Single. ‘Maria’ is a sexy pop rock anthem that is a powerful ambassador for the rest of the album. Not many know that “Maria” also gave the band the unique distinction of being one of only two American acts (the other being Michael Jackson) to ever reach number one spots in the UK singles charts in the 70s, 80s and the 90s.

Subsequently, Blondie released several more albums The Curse of Blondie (2003) that featured the hit “Good Boys” and the more recent Panic of Girls (2011) which featured “Mother” and “What I Heard”.

However, No Exit remains in my view, their best effort and my favorite Blondie album. Besides the superb “Maria”, it features 2 more great tracks “Nothing Is Real but the Girl” and the title track “No Exit” featuring rap superstar Coolio.

Rather than sticking to the winning sound of the late 70's, the band built a strong new identity in No Exit. The persuasive musical influences were still all very there, with strong references to the punk and pop sounds of their past but fused with the current sounds of the 90’s pop and rock scene. What this concoction produced, once out of the blender, is an remarkable album of quality punk pop rock. Combining the novelty of their new found maturity with the wisdom of their vast experience "No Exit" is a glowing testimonial to everything Blondie have always been known for and why they are still considered one of the best selling bands of all time. 

Click HERE to sample and download all my favorite Blondie Hits in this special selection. Remember to also checkout the official Blondie Website for recent news, music, band profile, tour dates, photographs, discography, biography, merchandise, links and more!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Donnie Brasco (1997)

A First-rate Undercover Gangster Gem with a Heart! 

Two of my least favorite cinema genres are the romance weepies and the Mafiosi gangster types. Agreed there have been numerous classics in these genres but dig deeper and you’ll find both far too formulaic and devoid of authentic human interests to excite me. Besides, their blueprints are quite alike, especially the mobster types - A very unsurprising (and mostly) boring plot that serves only to set up episodic scenes of betrayal, lust, brutal violence and usually gory deaths in the finale. One generally rates these films by the originality of the script, the suave protagonist, the scheming villain or the acute shock and abhorrence of the killings. I think Horror films do a much better job here! 

There are some brilliant exceptions though!! A very few indeed and the Oscar nominated Donnie Brasco (1997) tops my personal list. Based on the true story of a FBI agent - Joseph D. Pistone, who infiltrated the organized crime Bonanno family in New York in the late 1970s, it stars Johnny Depp playing the title character Donnie Brasco, aka, 'The Jewel Man' and a terrific Al Pacino as Lefty, a small-time hood, the guy with the right connections who takes on Donnie as his protégé and opens doors into his crime union.

Well-told cinematic stories of undercover cops and FBI agents have been surefire suspense rides over the years, from the film noir days of T-Men and White Heat to later examples like Miami Vice, Rush, Hard Boiled – actually there are too many to mention. Although the ever present likelihood of Donnie's cover being broken sustains an underlying tension through the film, the great script (adapted from Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, Pistone’s Book with Richard Woodley) astutely, is far more concerned with the human drama of Donnie's convoluted relationship with his gangster mentor. 

Pacino tones down some of the overacting he can be sometimes prone to and gives a stirring performance who Donnie comes to see as just a working stiff really, with his own unhappy life and his many problems and his disgruntled dreams. For Al Pacino’s Lefty, Donnie Brasco becomes a solid friend and surrogate son. Only when he's in too deep, does Donnie realize how he has endangered Lefty's life by exploiting him for a risky undercover sting, and this leaves him struggling with divided loyalties. 

In addition to this absorbing drama of Donnie’s dilemma, the movie also gives us a thoroughly believable peep into the secret environment of the underworld, emphasizing the daily realities over the violence. Surprisingly, there is only one scene of graphic violence in the film. 

Spinning a different note, Donnie Brasco is not set in the likes of the Godfather films, which showed life among the big bosses. This is about the lower rung – the street-level hoods and hsutlers who stoop to the pettiest of crimes (stealing from parking meters for instance ) to deliver the mandatory "take" each month to a higher boss, for fear of far deadly consequences. 

The diverse cast of Donnie Brasco including Michael Madsen, Anne Heche, James Russo and Bruno Kirby is uniformly first-rate, and other praiseworthy contributions are the realistic 1970s production design and the melancholic mood-setting theme and vintage soundtrack by composer Patrick Doyle

Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and screenwriter Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show) create a bleak dirty mobworld of nastiness and perennial suspicion, and I think its a far more evocative depiction than the false romanticism of Coppola's The Godfather triology or the high-spirited blood-riddled tone of Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas. Perhaps Donnie Brasco is one of the few gangster movies that bravely flout the mobster formula and opt for emotional human drama over needless bloodshed. Strongly recommended!

Extended Cut - Free Streaming/Movie Download - Video Link

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Flight Experience Like No Other

Helluva Ride inside the Cockpit! 

I am going to break a secret! A hush-hush pact between 4 other souls and me - two of whom who I had actually never ever met before. A secret (if known to the authorities) that’s guaranteed to make them lose their plush jobs and probably get me into a legal nightmare!! Okay, before you make vague assumptions of what whale of a sin we had all committed, I am breaking that oath for you!  

Once, I had to travel urgently from Metropolis A to Cosmopolis B and there was a mess-up with my flight ticket, boarding to realize that it was fully overbooked. Opposing all attempts to be booted down, I desperately pleaded with the senior flight attendant who as my luck would have it, happened to be a very good friend (a junior at college) to help me take this flight. Fortunately for me, the Pilot i.e the Captain was his cousin and help they did - going beyond their call of flight duty and committing a deadly sin. I was shown to be moved into the Business Class area (which was also filling up fast) and then surreptitiously invited to ride on the Jump Seat. Yes, the Jump Seat of their aircraft. And that’s a one-in-a- million luxury that no common man can afford to ride on! Seriously! 

To those uninitiated in Airline terminology, all major aircrafts have a petite, secretive, tiny seat in the cockpit area that opens out to accommodate one additional crew – the Jump Seat, perhaps named so for reasons one does not want to certainly imagine. Also known as the Auxiliary Crew Seat, it is placed between the two pilots, slightly to the back of the cockpit but believe me, it offers a spellbinding experience and spectacular views compensating for all the inconvenience of the small seat! 

I will not describe the take-off, it was too quick and all over before I could settle in but have no doubt; the scenery from the Cockpit is downright stunning. Miles and miles ahead, the visibility was crystal-clear astounding; with beautiful clouds with their weird human like patterns for company. Besides, I could actually see other aircrafts in mid-air, the ocean and mountains from over maybe 100 miles away. 

It’s like watching a National Geographic special in an IMAX 4D theater compared to the rudimentary views we are used to seeing from the puny, flight windows in any airline seat. As a passenger, you can only see sideways and you cannot get the feeling of the range and distance that the aircraft is flying but from inside the cockpit, the view is almost 180 degrees and the depth of that subtle yet dazzling experience is something that you can only realize if you ever get this chance. It would be nice if all Aircraft manufacturers realize this potential money spinner and maybe one day, build special seats that will allow the lucky passenger to witness and feel this amazing experience. 

Even when flying along at roughly 500 miles per hour, the ride on the Jump seat was super smooth and I got to listen to all the air traffic control chatter which seems to come in small incessant bursts. The sheer assortment of switches and buttons present inside the cockpit is also spectacularly perplexing but both the pilots (the Captain, a burly friendly guy in his early fifties and his young, early thirtyish co-pilot) knew how to use them with an amazing craftsmanship like ease. And if you are those who have this fancy idea from countless mid-air movies that any man, woman or that hot buxom babe in distress, preferably in a see through torn dress, can land an aircraft, ditch that. Well, I can positively tell you that it is not just improbable; it’s unquestionably impossible and is surely not as easy as it sounds. 

Tempting as it is, I was almost driven by an irresistible urge to toggle one button or two and see what happens. One lever like appendage particularly caught my attention – it read something like 'Reverse Thrusters' but sanely, just the thought of the horrified looks on the faces of my fellow passengers aboard the aircraft was more than enough to deter me from trying that stunt. 

Midway after a few minutes, when we were all offered refreshments, the Captain informed me that the aircraft was now on auto-pilot - flying all by itself and that if required, it could also equally land on its own. Not in the mood to make him try anything so adventurous, I graciously declined to experience such a landing, the thought being so audacious. Even so, the plane sped along happily like a kite, swaying beautifully as if under some type of an arcane spell. 

Anyone with a dread of flying will find the cockpit comforting. I think that a person’s fear of flying lies in the unknown – all those scary bumps, jerks, sudden drops in height, long shudders and seemingly strange noises from the aircraft ominously mean something but inside the cockpit, they vanish - you are here in the driver’s seat and all those noises and movements seem like an artisan at work. 

After almost 6 hours, it was landing time. Coming back to earthly land was oddly like slowing down your sports car in traffic and finding a nice place to park. The air traffic control chatter was suddenly back in full throttle, lots of switches were clicked, buttons pushed and screens looked at. I guess, both the Pilots deciphered all that babble and directed the craft at a runway ahead which was magnifying in size almost instantaneously. The Captain made the standard landing announcement and after a few seconds of momentarily silence, came in slowly and landed as gently as a feather touch! But I was for some strange reason, palpably tensed throughout the landing. 

After maybe a few minutes of landed leisurely ride on the runway, I could see an animated young chap on the ground with flags in hand who helped in the parking and bringing the craft to a standstill. The Pilots smiled at each other, switched off an assortment of devices and then looked at me, as if to ask “ So, how was the ride ? “ 

My flight attendant friend was soon back, telling me that I had to wait and I would be the last person to depart. On leaving, the captain gave me a firm handshake and made me promise not to tell anyone or even faintly admit that I ever got into their cockpit (hence the silly codenames for the cities). I just thanked him and the co-pilot, feebly nodding my head to convey my concurrence. The flight experience had been so exhilarating that I was visibly lost for words. 

A good 25 to 30 minutes later, when it was sure that every passenger had departed, I was stealthily escorted out and driven to the terminal. My friend repeatedly reminding that I needed to keep this promise and I owed her now a big favour!

It’s almost few years now but that ride is still all very vivid and fresh to me. And every time I board a aircraft, like a little child, I still yearn to sit up in front with the modern equivalent of the train driver and relive those delightful moments all over again. 

And to every one who has a valid ticket but still end up getting deboarded, ensure you make friends with the aircraft flying types and you never know, one day, you may get this chance and one helluva ride on undeniably the best seat on the plane!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

JohnnyTwoToes reviews the action biopic about Sam Childers, former gang biker turned preacher and defender of African orphans

Machine Gun Preacher (2011) tells the mostly true story of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) as the heroic protector of the orphaned children of  South Sudan based on his book 'Another Man's War'

For those uninitiated; Sudan has long been at war with itself between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Lords Republic Army lead by the murderous dictator, Joseph Kony. The LRA is a sick joke of a title for this army because it is anything but Christ like. They are known to tear into villages in the dead of night, kill anyone who even resists and take the children as forced labor and troops in their army. Kony, as their leader has been allegedly responsible for the deaths of at least 500,000 people and tens of thousands either disappeared, maimed and injured. 

Ok, on with the review. Sam Childers did not start out as the fearless hero the children came to love and admire. No, his beginnings were far from that. As the film opens, he is shown being released from prison and picked up by his ling suffering wife Lynn, a former prostitute and strip dancer played beautifully by the lovely Michelle Monaghan. Now that all the time has passed, she has become a spirit filled Christian as well as her daughter, Paige also well played by Madeline Carroll. Now that he has been released from prison he, at first takes up right where he left off; boozing, drugs, sex, and crime. 

Over time, however, his heart begins to soften and he realizes he can no longer live the life he has been living. Soon, Sam finally receives Christ as his Savior and his life seems to start over. He starts out in construction and begins his own business and becomes quite successful. He even saves his dearest friend, Donny (Michael Shannon) from the wretched live he has as well. 

Clean and reborn, Sam becomes active in the Pennsylvania church he was saved in. It is here he hears of the atrocities in the Sudan and Uganda, although the film focuses almost entirely on Sudan. His mission that he takes upon himself is to build an orphanage in the middle of a war zone as a refuge for those who need it. For this, he bets his business, home and everything he has to make the orphanage a reality. 

Machine Gun Preacher is not a perfect film but it is earnest and well meaning about enlightenment, pain and redemption. Director Marc Forster (Kite Runner, Monster's Ball) peppers the film with action as Sam's nickname "The Machine Gun Preacher" is born. Sam is unafraid to pick up a gun and kill anyone who threatens the children of his orphanage, despite naive and rather insipid critics who think he is contributing to more violence. Forster stages the action competently but does not overdue it. 

The film worked best for me in its drama as Sam tries to do what he believes is best and right with what he can financially and physically do. He tries to do this while balancing his family and the church in Pennsylvania of which he now is a preacher (in the film, anyway). Gerard Butler gives one of his better performances as Childers. He is a man who knows what he is capable of, tries to make it right and still battles his demons along the way, some days better than others. Butler is sympathetic and true in his portrayal of Childers and makes the film more effective. 

Jason Keller's script does the Childers cause justice with intelligence and power and Asche and Spencer's score is gorgeous. Machine Gun Preacher is a decent film, well acted, directed, written and scored. If I had any complaints I would say this film could have been longer and had some additional input to combine the action and the drama in a more coherent flow as some of it is disjointed and oddly edited. Other than that, Machine Gun Preacher is a solidly informative and enlightening film that deserves to be seen. Available on DVD. Machine Gun Preacher-*** out of 4

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sleeping and living with the Enemy

Advice for my Mysterious Chat Friend ! 

I had this interesting and uncanny chat with a blog reader today. She wanted me to write more about women – apparently, she seemed to like my “womencentric” posts. Now, if you are not bored with my self-flattery, we slowly started discussing things off-topic and more personal – about possessiveness, jealousy, domestic violence, obsession, those kind of things. One thing that we spent a long time on was whether it's possible to love someone to the point of morbid obsessive fear? I don’t know and didn’t ask if she was in such a relationship – it would have felt awkward but I think I should have. Something tells me she is in some kind of a problem so this post is directed to her (if she is reading this).

We all agree that in a relationship, there is a definite amount of possessiveness that goes along with that. We say or think "This is the woman that I love. It's mine, and I want to protect my emotional investment in it." The previous statement applies to both people and objects. This way lies possessive jealousy and that can be a very normal response. Problems occur, however, when possessiveness and the behavior around it, are taken to extremes. And this can happen in relationships with both objects and people. The man who hides away his DVD collection in a fireproof vault with a laser security system and explosives on the floor of the underground chamber is being a tad overzealous with the protection of his DVDs.

In the same light, the same can happen in a relationship with two people, where one partner can act in such a way as to control, stalk and abuse. One could try and see that the other doesn't have any other friends, or can't get out and be with other people without letting the "possessive partner" know exactly where they're going, how long they'll be there, who there with, and perhaps going into a sulk if they don't want the partner going. Or worse.

I don't want to make direct recommendations about what people should do. But if you're in a relationship and feeling 'possessed' by the other person, it might be a good time to reexamine that relationship. I am always an advocate of giving people a second chance, so trying to explain to a partner, husband, wife, lover.. how one feels, and asking for a change in that behavior might be helpful..

And to whoever reads this column, (including my chat friend), if you feel for the first moment the other partner in the relationship might have some sort of extreme or violent reaction to a request to not be so possessive, immediately seek local help: a parent, a brother or sister, a friend, a professional psychologist or a relationship counselor, or whatever - for yourself and your partner. Not an anonymous, immature, blogger on the Internet like me. Extreme reactions to obsessive love can be dangerous and life-threatening. Beware and take care!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Act of Valor (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes finds this a genuine Movie but lost in a bad propaganda script !

As I am writing for an international audience I realize that as an American, I will not be liked by everybody and that my country will also be a sore spot for many around the globe. I can respect that and try to understand that, so having said that, thus starts my review for Act Of Valor, now out on DVD. 

Act Of Valor is a very rousing and energetic film but is very respectful of all who serve in our military, living and deceased. It was written, directed and stars actual Navy Seals and although it is a fictional story, the acts of valor it is portraying are very real. 

As the film opens, a horrific explosion rocks a school yard filled mostly with school children and an ambassador as the intended victim. The film then jumps to an American doctor (Roselyn Sanchez) who is actually an active CIA agent monitoring terrorist cell activity. Once she is kidnapped by the very people she is watching, the Navy Seals spring into action to save her only to uncover more nefarious activity than they originally thought.  

The film's stars are unidentified and I looked at IMDB (Internet Movie Database) and at Wikipedia. This is not about who plays the characters but the reverance that is shown towards them. I am, have always been, and always will be proud of all service men and women and this film is a very respectful film to honor their service. Where I had problems was in the acting and a script that seems cliched. I would have sat down and done another couple of re-writes to hone this script to be a little more gutsy. 

Having talked to people about this film I mentioned that the leads should have taken some acting classes before shooting (they may have, anyway) and the response has been ,"Can you imagine Navy Seals taking acting classes?". To which my response is, "Yes, if they want me to shell out money for a ticket, they need to take some acting classes." I don't think I am out of line for saying so, too. It is the so-so acting that lessens the emotional impact of what the filmmakers are trying to do. 

The script by Kurt Johnstad seems to be recycled out of other spare movie plots and the countless terrorist films. Trust me you have seen these terrorists and their plots in countless other films. There is nothing new here. However, where Act Of Valor is strongest is its direction by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh. The action is crisp and some shots of what the military hardware can do, quite frankly had me in awe. I also enjoyed Nathan Fursts patriotic score that bolsters the action. 

Act Of Valor could have been a more solid film had they taken the time to make it deeper and have characters the viewer can sympathize with. Could it have been better? Yes. Am I glad I saw it? Yes. Do I wish they make another film along this line? Yes. So this was a mixed bag, but still you could for far worse. Act Of Valor **1/2 out of 4. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Paris to the Moon - Adam Gopnik

Reading Adam Gopnik's Enjoyable Love and Hate Parisian Memoirs 

I've been reading, really I have! However, much of 2012 so far found me starting new books, putting them down, starting other books. I just couldn't commit! I needed real hard literary counseling! But July is here, and I feel I am on the road to recovery. Here's one of the 3 books I started and finished recently, much to my delight considering all the three are NOT my usual type! 

The book in question here is American writer Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon. If we are to believe everything he says, Adam seems to have suffered the great calamity of living in Paris for five long years while writing "The Paris Journals" for the New Yorker magazine. My heart goes out to him, the poor man. 

Paris to the Moon is a compilation of wry essays that describe his misfortunes, along with previously unpublished journal entries which are equally sarcastic in style and tone. Gopnik seems to love Paris but he discusses and dissects French life and culture like no other - with plenty of self-deprecating wit, and he is perhaps at his best when describing the many differences between his Parisian existence and the good life he left behind in New York City. 

Everyday life in the French capital seems to have been troublesome. Gopnik faces minor inconveniences, like trying to purchase a Thanksgiving turkey during a general strike and figuring out the inexplicable construction of French Christmas tree lights, as well as more knotty troubles, like how to get a taxi when his wife is in labor (French taxi drivers it seems are reluctant to offer rides to very pregnant women but I disagree). Along with his wife, Gopnik's young son Luke came along for the adventure, and his impressions and preferences, including a taste for imported Barney tapes and his special soft spot for a female Parisian classmate, add an engaging allure to this thoroughly pleasant book. Though dated by over 12 years, read this bestseller if you want to see a distinctly different perspective of Paris that you may perhaps never read in any travel book.
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