Do you think you could believe that life’s entirely made up of coincidences? Well, there’s something to consider: THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY-a film I really liked- is a drama with comedy that could make you buy it. The film starts off with a loving mother showing her son the arcane subtleties of Indian cooking. He is quite young and talented. She hands him examples to taste as well as smell, and gives him a well-worn suitcase with compartments that hold the exotic spices.

Sometime later, the restaurant– which their family owns in Mumbai, India– is attacked and set fire to. The protege escapes with his father and all four young siblings. But his mother perishes. By now the boy has grown to manhood-Hassan Kadam-played by Manish Dayal-and has become a remarkable chef. His father-called Papa Kadam-is played by Om Puri. He is determined to re-establish the restaurant in Europe, and sets out for England-only to find the climate there-both for his family and for the kind of plant-based food they need for cooking-doesn’t please them.

Now they all load up in a broken down van and take off for France. I don’t think that the father has any specific place in mind, but he’s a man with a vision. I’ve known men just like him: they go on with their lives– somehow sensing they will arrive at some place where they’ll thrive. His kids bewail his sense; yet when their old van’s brakes fail to brake and he must swerve off the road to avoid a deadly crash, the vision lives on.

Soon a young lady comes along and helps them get the van into a service place. Where are they? They don’t know. Well… It turns out to be Saint-Antonin- Noble-Val in the south of France; and while Papa is pacing as work is being done on the van, he wanders about this picturesque village, and spots a FOR SALE sign… Long story, short: he purchases the property and the whole Kadam clan starts pitching in to get the place ready to become a restaurant. Papa’s vision guides all action.

Interestingly, the lady who first helped them works as a sous-chef at the place that just happens to be one hundred feet across from where their new restaurant is. She is Marguerite-played by Charlotte Le Bon-and she and Hassan bond as food fans. Even though she sees that he’s her ‘competitor-opponent’, she agrees to give him culinary tomes on French cooking-that he devours with spellbinding zeal..

Certainly, the movie becomes a story of rivals, not just of restaurants but also of owners from those two restaurants: one-the French one–Le Saule Pleureur (in English, The Weeping Willow) is devotedly run by Madame Mallory-played by Helen Mirren-and the one-Restaurant Mumbai- led by Papa Kadam. You can surely imagine what happens when the one-starred Michelin restaurant- providing first class cuisine to a community of people with French palates- is faced with a gaudily lit aggressively-seeking- new-patrons-restaurant– that starts serving fine tasting fare.

One more coincidence comes about as follows: both the owners happen to be widow and widower. And though ruthless quarrels ensue between them, there is an incident that nudges them towards newfound respect. Both these actors are terrific. Papa Kadam has a strength and inner bearing that come across as genuine. Madame Mallory does a curmudgeonly great job playing a strict no-nonsense restaurateur. She never smiles, constantly rebukes; and I slowly speculated The Weeping WILLOW might be code for WIDOW: that her humorless demeanor was there to hide the mourning for her deceased husband.

Now along with Papa’s issue: that none keeps his newborn restaurant from its life, he wants his son, Hassan,,to show the world that he is a chef as fine as they come. Coincidence plays a role here when Hassan gets a chance to advance one hundred feet to chef for the Madame-thanks to preparatory tips from friend, Marguerite. And quite soon he gets to Paris where he is world-acclaimed. (“Hold on! Where we going?”) This Paris stint stretches a bit, yet it’s there to teach him where his allegiance is, and it helps bring his character to a maturity that draws his close ties in.

Both Hassan and Marguerite make a great joining of youth that doesn’t need nude scenes to express how they really feel. There is one scene where they are tasting and sharing spices, and it struck me as a new way of showing love. Sometimes a metaphor achieves a lot more effect than an “in your face” love scene.

Cartoons, a License for Racism?

It seems cartoons have a lot more politically correct leeway when it comes to racism or using racial stereo types. Mainstay cartoon series such as The Simpson’s, South Park and American Dad seem to be able to get away with racist overtones and comedy that wouldn’t fly on a “human” show. On the extreme there are people who can even, somehow by some stretch of the imagination, find racism in cartoon’s like Arthur or Rugrats.

There are cartoons from several generations ago that had undertones of racism, where as today’s cartoons use racism or stereotypes overtly, in a comedic way, like the blunt in your face comedy of Don Rickles. And today’s cartoons get away with that humor as does Rickles.

A new cartoon series The Adventures of Wong Lo Fan is no exception, in this case more in the realm of reserve racism playing off the stereo types that Chinese have of Westerners. Wong is as common a Chinese last name as Smith, but “Lo Fan” is the derogatory slang term for white people. The character Wong Lo Fan himself, a nerdy blonde haired blue eyed teen, was “raised the child of a poor rice farmer in mainland China.”

DZToons, the creators of The Adventures of Wong Lo Fan, say “it’s all in good fun. Every group of people has stereotypical perceptions of other groups of people, whether it’s based on race, religion, country or other factors. If we get too politically correct, we become too easily offended, and we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves and others. Cartoons have the ability to allow us to still laugh at the politically incorrect.” They continue, “I think Mel Brooks would have a hard time making a movie like Blazing Saddles in this day and age, he would have offended just about everyone in the audience in the first 10 minutes, which is a shame, we should be able to laugh at ourselves and our differences without taking offense.”

DZToons hopes that audiences in both North America and Asia will find something to love and laugh at when the series airs. They’re betting that the support is there and we’ll see just how they fare with the IndieGoGo campaign to get the first season made.

Can Hulk Take on Superman the Man of Steel?

In light of the two wildly successful movies of late, fans of both major comic franchises have been asking each other and warring on forums across the reaches of cyberspace the only pertinent question when two veritable gods dominate the screen: who would win in a fight? We were privy to the Hulk’s awesome power in both the 2003 and the 2008 movies, in which the illimitable wrecking machine decided to smash until he could smash no more. Of course, although the film was successful financially, the reception for the first one was a bit mixed. The 2008 version starring actor Mark Ruffalo as the eponymous antihero was a little more successful financially.

The Man of Steel Has Landed

Predictably, when the Superman reboot came to the fore, starring new actor to the franchise Henry Cavill, it absolutely blew the Hulk away at the box office, tripling the Gamma Monster’s numbers. So the victory is resoundingly in the Man of Steel’s favor on this note; but that still leaves the question of who would take the W in a “real” fight.

Superman’s super-human abilities are the stuff of legends, and he is widely acknowledged as the first and greatest super hero. Known by the mild-mannered alter-ego of Clark Kent, this alien god comes with a treasure trove of powers: heat vision, super-breath, super speed, super-strength, atmospheric and interstellar flight, he’s virtually impervious to physical injury, and ice breath. These don’t even entail the full suite of his powers! Just the most used. Frankly, the Man of Steel has more weapons at his disposal than some super teams; and he is powered by the effectively limitless energy of our yellow star.

Before we move on to the Hulk, let’s not forget that Superman’s powers have been dialed down a bit from the Silver Age uber-god who inhaled entire solar systems and slapped away galaxies. His only rivals back then were celestial entities like Sky-Fathers and multiverse overseers. Hulk has no chance whatsoever against these incarnations of the Man of Steel, of course.

The Incredible Hulk, on the other hand, has some pretty formidable attributes of his own. A creature forged in the heart of a gamma bomb – which is the shortest range of light wavelengths – the unleashed psyche of nuclear scientist Dr. Bruce Banner is a fearsome green rage machine. The Hulk starts out with mega-strength, and it only gets worse from there if you make him angry. He’s been known to hold billion-ton mountains aloft to save his Avengers teammates, and even ripped the supposedly unbreakable metal adamantium during a bout with the X-Man Wolverine. Of course, to accomplish the latter feat, he was as angry as he’d ever been, second only to the battle with the psionic menace Onslaught.

As impressive as Hulk’s feats of strength have been, they take a decided back seat to Kal-El’s unbridled and seemingly limitless power. Superman has moved planets and shrugged off nuclear blasts. Superman vs Hulk would be a good battle because of the difficulty in putting Hulk down – due to his incredible healing factor – but Hulk has simply never quite faced anything like the Man from Krypton. His valor and honor aside, it is very difficult to imagine that Superman doesn’t have the power to actually kill the Hulk – though he’d never do it. With his superspeed, Hulk doesn’t even have a shot at landing a punch, and Superman’s invulnerability should be able to withstand it even if he did get hit.

Despite all the powers they have going for them, Hulk vs Superman probably really just comes down to who you like the most – who was your favorite childhood super hero. The real treat would be finally seeing how the comic book writers themselves would let a true battle play out – perhaps such a treat is in the works for the future.

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