‘Christopher Robin’ a timeless message even if Pooh lacks spark

The American fantasy drama ‘Christopher Robin’ has something significant to say. (Courtesy Disney)
Updated 16 August 2018
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‘Christopher Robin’ a timeless message even if Pooh lacks spark

CHENNAI: The American fantasy drama “Christopher Robin” has something significant to say, and it seems as relevant today as it did in World War II England.
Companies slave-drive their employees to increase profits and to fill the pockets of their owners to such an extent that men become machines, forgetting the simple pleasures of life and neglecting their families. Nothing can be truer than the quip by Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) in the Marc Forster-directed film. You no longer laugh, she tells her husband, Christopher (Ewan McGregor), who is in the titular role.
Adapted from a story by Greg Brooker and Mark Steven Johnson, and inspired by A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard’s delightful book, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” “Christopher Robin” is a live-action/CGI extension of the Walt Disney franchise with the same name. Here, in the latest adventure of the honey-loving bear Pooh, the focus shifts to Christopher who, on the eve of his departure for boarding school, bids adieu to his forest friends, Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl and Rabbit, promising that he will never forget them.
But as he grows up and quickly matures after the death of his father and a stint in the army, his childhood friends fade away from his memory. Married with a nine-year-old daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), Christopher has no time even for them. He works long hours as an efficiency manager in a luggage company, whose boss desperately wants to cut costs. In the mad scramble in which Christopher lands himself, Pooh finds him in London and urges him to travel toward a magical realization.
Unfortunately, this comes after dull, rather long scenes between Christopher and Pooh, and they seem labored. The bear looks clearly unhappy, devoid of any spark, and one wonders how he manages to draw the grown-up man back into the joys of childhood, nay, life itself. McGregor sleepwalks through his fantasy journey to the Sussex countryside that was once his playground, for the rendezvous with his animal friends.
The women are not very impressive either, and the overexposure of Pooh makes it apparent that the teddy has passed his sell-by date. However, Jim Cummings’ voice for Pooh is spot-on, and imaginative production design, costumes and cinematography lift this tale to a higher notch.


Hawking’s final book offers brief answers to big questions

Updated 15 October 2018
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Hawking’s final book offers brief answers to big questions

  • Hawking was forever being asked the same things and started work on “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” last year before he died
  • “He was regularly asked a set of questions,” his daughter Lucy Hawking said

LONDON: Stephen Hawking’s final work, which tackles issues from the existence of God to the potential for time travel, was launched on Monday by his children, who helped complete the book after the British astrophysics giant’s death.
Hawking was forever being asked the same things and started work on “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” last year — but did not finish it before he died in March, aged 76.
It has been completed by the theoretical physicist’s family and academic colleagues, with material drawn from his vast personal archive.
“He was regularly asked a set of questions,” his daughter Lucy Hawking said at the Science Museum in London.
The book was an attempt to “bring together the most definitive, clearest, most authentic answers that he gave.
“We all just wish he has here to see it.”
Hawking, who was wheelchair bound due to motor neurone disease, dedicated his life’s work to unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
The cosmologist was propelled to stardom by his 1988 book “A Brief History of Time,” an unlikely worldwide bestseller.
It won over fans from far beyond the rarefied world of astrophysics and prompted people into asking the mastermind his thoughts on broader topics, answered in his final work.

The 10 questions Hawking tackles are:
-- Is there a God?
-- How did it all begin?
-- What is inside a black hole?
-- Can we predict the future?
-- Is time travel possible?
-- Will we survive on Earth?
-- Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
-- Should we colonize space?
-- Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
-- How do we shape the future?


In his book, Hawking says humans have no option but to leave Earth, risking being “annihilated” if they do not.
He says computers will overtake humans in intelligence during the next 100 years, but “we will need to ensure that the computers have goals aligned with ours.”
Hawking says the human race had to improve its mental and physical qualities, but a genetically-modified race of superhumans, say with greater memory and disease resistance, would imperil the others.
He says that by the time people realize what is happening with climate change, it may be too late.
Hawking says the simplest explanation is that God does not exist and there is no reliable evidence for an afterlife, though people could live on through their influence and genes.
He says that in the next 50 years, we will come to understand how life began and possibly discover whether life exists elsewhere in the universe.
“He was deeply worried that at a time when the challenges are global, we were becoming increasingly local in our thinking,” Lucy Hawking said.
“It’s a call to unity, to humanity, to bring ourselves back together and really face up to the challenges in front of us.”
In his final academic paper, Hawking shed new light on black holes and the information paradox, with new work calculating the entropy of black holes.
Turned into an animation narrated by Hawking’s artificial voice, it was shown at the book launch.
“It was very emotional. I turned away because I had tears forming,” Lucy Hawking told AFP on hearing her father’s voice again.
“It feels sometimes like he’s still here because we talk about him and hear his voice — and then we have the reminder that he’s left us.”