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Category Archives: REVIEW

Some think about death when someone they know dies. Some think about it when they themselves face the unknown inevitability. Some refuse to think about it at all while others wake up in cold sweat in the middle of the night because it is all they can think about. Death is the one certain thing in our lives and relates intimately to each and everyone of us. So a film that promises to search the meaning of death and the possibility of an afterlife minus entertainment gimmickry à la an M. Night Shyamalan concoction, by a talented, octogenarian director is more than just appealing – it feels like compulsory viewing. Unfortunately, the great Clint Eastwood’s latest drama about three lives weaved into one script is lacking in ideas and audacity. Unlike Gran Torino, Hereafter skims rather than delves, leaving audiences unaffected by what should have been a hard-hitting philosophical film.

However, like holding a selective magnifying glass over life, Eastwood captures the little things with skillful precision. This is aptly amplified by the subtlety in his latest muse Matt Damon’s performance. Just watch the scene where he walks out from the cooking class after meeting a beautiful woman. Maybe death is on Eastwood’s mind but he seems to capture life a lot better than he does afterlife. Then, out of nowhere he’s added an extraordinary tsunami scene which has awarded him a Best Visual Effects Oscar nomination, a gong the vivid scene may just deserve but won’t win. I say “added” because in the end that’s what Hereafter feels like. An accumulation of various stories and scenes, ironically lacking soul.

Check your local DVD store.

Movies don’t get any better than this.  Get Low is a clever little story about the very idea of storytelling. And hey, it doesn’t hurt when you have brilliant actors like Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek telling that tale. As funeral director Murray whines about going out of business, “What do you do when people just don’t die,” in walks Duvall’s Felix Bush with a wad of cash to buy a funeral, for himself.

The catch? Bush, the recluse, has been living in the woods away from civilization for 40 years. Rumours have it that the man had murdered in cold blood and even possesses special powers. So Bush’s idea of a living funeral where he wants people from all over town come tell a story they’ve heard about him seems not just morbid but ludicrous. But thanks to Murray’s “genius”, seats are sold for the funeral show like lottery tickets to win Bush’s isolated plot of land when he’s actually passed.

Get Low builds like the perfect three-course meal towards a sweet ending where Bush tells the most compelling story – the real story about his life. There is a very simple truth I took away from this film – no one’s life is ever lived without having an effect on others, even if more than half of it was in seclusion. And that’s why in 2011, we are watching a movie which is loosely based on a real-life Felix Bush who lived in Tennessee in the 1930s. Hakuna Matata people – life, death and a whole bunch of beautiful stories in between and beyond. Get Low is highly recommended.

Release Date: 26 May

I have a “quirky” habit when I read books. I highlight lines that seem like they are speaking directly and only to me or sentences that are too brilliant not to run over with florescent colours. When I was watching writer/director Paul Gilchrist’s latest play Toy Box at the Tap Gallery last week, my “quirky” habit was verging on OCD as I felt an excessive compulsion to highlight or in this case mentally record every inspired line that was looking me straight in the eye.

These were not literary quotes you find plastered on ridiculously expensive birthday cards, these were simple stringing of words drenched in an exceptional ability to observe human behavior and thought. This is a story about children seeing their parents as fallible human beings, mothers and those who don’t want to be mothers, siblings with the magic power to incite intense hatred and love within the span of a few minutes, men who will always be boys and women who always carry with them an inexplicable sadness. This play could be staged anywhere in the world and it will resonate with the audience. Paul Gilchrist and Daniela Giorgi (producer) of Subtlenuance Theatre, remember me when you become disgustingly famous. I wanted to highlight you way before everyone else did.

ONLY UNTIL APR 17, TAP Gallery, 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst. $12-$25. 9361 0440, tapgallery.org.au

Cracker Night (CN) kicked off the Sydney Comedy Festival (SCF) proper on Monday, April 14. Cracker Night features ten-minute quickfire stand-up performances by comedians doing full shows at SCF. My partner Dave and I went to the CN at Metro Theatre. The show only started at 8.30pm so we went to a Korean restaurant in the city. A spicy hangover pork rib soup, grilled eel and a few sips of potent soju later, we were ready. The theatre was packed and Tahir the MC kicked off the night like a pro. To be honest, I’ve seen a few minutes here and there of SBS’ Pizza and never liked it. Tahir as a stand-up, however, is a different story. He is spontaneously funny.

This was the line-up: Dead Cat Bounce (IRE), Dave Eastgate, Moshe Kasher (US), Craig Hill (SCT), Tom Allen (UK), Rhys Nicholson, Glen Wool (CAN), Tig Notaro (US), Daniel Sloss (SCT), Gina Yashere (UK) and Steve Hughes in that order.

Here are my favourites that I recommend you go see – Dave Eastgate, Tahir and Steve Hughes. I’ve been with Dave for almost 5 years now and I’ve never heard him laugh as hysterically as he did during Hughes’ closing act. Click here to read my interview with the man.

Special mention goes to Rhys Nicholson (pictured), Tig Notaro and Gina Yashere. I was disappointed with Dead Cat Bounce, Moshe Kasher and Daniel Sloss. To be fair Sloss is only 20 years old and I’ve still got hope for Bounce. I hope this helps with your choices for the festival!

Until May 8, Sydney Comedy Festival, Various Locations, sydneycomedyfestival.com.au

PLEASE GIVE

It’s been a while since I recommended a DVD of the week, and it’s time damn it! The first is a quirky little comedy that I love so much, I demand you watch it. It nicely sums up the contradictory lives we live managing accumulating wealth and the guilt we feel because of it. It also touches on infidelity without “real reason” and insecurities despite age. I think Please Give uses a very simple, clean plot to tell a  very clever and funny story. And Catherine Keenan just keeps getting better. Must watch.

 

DUE DATE

I know this film did not receive very good reviews but I watched it two days ago and laughed so much I had to take a break from my Oporto meal. That never happens. Road trip films are predictable so the quality of the film relies solely on the acting chops of the protagonists and Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis make a really great dysfunctional pair. Brush off the hoity toity reviews. This is funny.



I never knew I was maternal until I saw Soap. Be warned readers, this production brings out the mother in you. You’ll gasp, cover your mouth and wished the performers would just wear a helmet for god’s sake! Hanging off aerial straps, tip toeing on the ledge of a wet bathtub, a pair of very mesmerising legs, an operatic diva with cougar-like tendencies and a cheeky trick the audience won’t see coming, Soap is a visually stunning performance of new circus, comedy and dance on a water-soaked stage. Add one portion water to seven artists performing to the music of Mika, Sia, The Doors, Nina Simone, Gnarls Barkley, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Curtis Mayfield, Goldfrapp amongst others and watch as they grow into a bathroom spectacular. Even though the performers lack the dexterity of better known circus acts like Cirque du Soleil, there is no denying the pure novelty of this production. A rough start with a few synchronisation problems did not stop the riotous opening night audience from whistling and shouting ecstatically in German. (Soap is a German production making its Australian debut after a quick stopover at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Like a modern family, the amalgamation of talents worked like a mismatched charm. This is liquid gold! Speaking of which, I recommend a visit to the toilet before the show starts.

Until Jan 23, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, $44-55, 9250 7777, sydneyoperahouse.com

Blue Valentine was born as a script 11 years ago to director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance. It was shot in a mere 30 days. Its story is told through two memories. One that transpired over a few months in a couple’s (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) past when they meet and the other over 24 hours in the present where they’d possibly part. In its 112 minutes of running time, Blue Valentine dances between being seeped in a grainy, sepia-toned tale of young love and then pulled out of drowning water to be cast under the fluorescent light of a certain future room, where the built-up blemishes of a 6-year-old relationship lay bare naked for all to see.

Cianfrance claims that this film was based on his childhood fear of his parents breaking up. And in 11 years and 30 days with the help of two extremely talented actors, Cianfrance has found the poetry behind irreconcilable differences. He’s transformed the predictable of a present-day divorce into a tragic heartbreak you deny to have seen coming. I am not saying this film will start or end in divorce but the “will they or won’t they” tension is played to subtle perfection by Williams and Gosling, both nominated recently for next year’s Golden Globes in the best actress and actor categories. This is not a purposely manufactured tragedy (à la Notebook or P.S. I Love You), it is what it is – beautiful memories of a relationship in its natural state of decay.

Boxing Day Release.

Awkward is the new black, if black is still the new black. From Kristen Stewart’s tomboyish stiffness to Michael Cera’s adorable gawkiness, awkward seems to translate well in the box office. And Greta Gerwig and Ben Stiller do their own brand of awkward to a tee in Greenberg. Click here to read my full review.

 

 

COMEDY: MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS


“Walking through walls, using sparkly eyes technique to confuse your enemy and killing goats by simply starring at them are just some of the psychic weapons used by the U.S. Military’s New Earth Army. Sounds kooky?”  Click here to read on…

TV SERIES: LOVE MY WAY

Ok, so I know I’m coming into this late and most Australians would have seen Love My Way. If you haven’t, do it! I’m moving towards the end of season one and my partner and I love it. So far, I’ve done the laughing and crying but mostly it’s just cool to see where some of the biggest Aussie stars started out.

P.S. I’m sorry but I just don’t get Sam Worthington.

Sorry guys, couldn’t find a trailer. This is part of episode one.

Often I find myself asking when exactly that pattern in popular culture emerged. You know the pattern where single women in expensive heels who have dedicated all their time to building successful careers that they lack basic life skills or common sense. And more often than not, I find that these women only find true love when they start letting go of their materialistic obsessions and doing something totally normal like milking a cow on a farm. Incidentally, men who are closer to nature make the best life partners.

While this pattern is popularised to a revolting extent in Hollywood and reality television, on stage, Naked had redeemed itself mainly because of its brilliant cast (Jo Thomas and Sam Clark) and the dark reminder that our drinking culture is not a pattern but a reality. This was of course cleverly softened by a glorious pink set design and musician James Dobinson’s sarcastic arched eyebrow and a half smile as he belted out tunes from Pink, Lady Gaga and The Killers in response to protagonist Jezebel’s single lady dilemmas. Besides a small wardrobe glitch that Jo handled with poise, opening night of Naked went splendidly well and proved to be thoroughly entertaining. Note to self: don’t over think it.

Until 28 Nov. Darlinghurst Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point. $27-$32. 8356 9987, darlinghursttheatre.com