DVD REVIEW: SCOTT DOOLEY – DEBUT

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Scott Dooley’s Debut is a “Stand-up comedy film”. It’s not strictly a recorded version of his live show nor is it an in-depth documentary of his travels. In Debut Dools offers us an account of his life spent on the road, performing stand-up and doing promo spots and above all, making people laugh.

Dools’ debut film is an interesting concept and a rather strange beast in that it threads together many different elements. In some ways this makes it similar to his live show, which is very down-to-earth, casual and high energy. At times Dooley’s comedy seems similar to Wil Anderson’s in that it is occasionally clever, sometimes crude and often revels in poking fun at others (as well as reserving a fair slab of time for self-deprecation).

The highlights of Dooley’s live show are: his describing a funny Craigslist advertisement from America that is similar to the “Here’s Looking At You” personals column in MX Australia. There’s a funny and snarky letter to Vodafone (found in the Extras) as well as a sex scene/story written by his naïve but clever eight-year-old cousin. Another family member of Dooley’s that’s very funny is his grandma, Dawn “Little” Fenton. She offers up great pearls of wisdom and her advice for living in New York is: “Never tackle any one for any reason”. Seriously.

Debut also features some great cameos including: Lehmo, Matt Okine, Alex Dyson and Des Bishop. Dools used to work at Triple J and Nova radio but he now lives in New York. His musical tastes still reflect the former station however, as the soundtrack includes music by: Illy, Eagle & The Worm, The Medics, Thelma Plum and Dune Rats, among others.

The DVD also includes additional bonus features like extra jokes from his live show. There is also a mock interview full of one liners from his co-presenter on The Green Light Boys podcast, Angus Truskett. The trailer for the DVD rounds out a reasonable set of additions to this set.

Scott Dooley is at his best when he finds the right balance between scripted material and some quick-fire ad-libbed lines. His comedy film, Debut is an odd beast in that it cannibalises a few genres to fashion things together into one handy package. But that said there are some very funny moments from this engaging and average every day man who still connects with people even when he’s simply complaining about feeling old, single and in his dirty thirties.

 

Originally published on 22 February 2015 at the following website:http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/02/22/comedy-dvd-review-scott-dooley-debut-australia-2015/

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FILM REVIEW: THAT SUGAR FILM

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That Sugar Film is a provocative documentary by Underbelly actor and former Tropfest winner, Damon Gameau. It nods at Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me (by turning one healthy man’s body into a vessel for an experiment) and shares the entertaining, stunt documentary style that Michael Moore favours.

Gameau begins as the pillar of health and has been sugar-free for some time. With his girlfriend Zoe Tuckwell-Smith expecting their first child, Gameau is prompted to think about the effects of sugar, assembling a team of experts including a doctor and nutritionist.

The goal is to measure and track Gameau as he consumes 40 teaspoons of sugar a day. This is 31 teaspoons more than the recommended intake for men in America and the average amount that teenagers consume. Gameau restricts his diet to so-called ‘healthy’ foods like cereal, juices and low-fat yoghurts. The results are shocking, as the extreme diet takes a toll on Gameau’s health and mental state.

Along the way, the origins of sugar are explained, as is the point when doctors first suspected the links between sugar and various ailments. Gameau also visits a remote Aboriginal community with high incidences of Type 2 diabetes and obesity, as well as an American town where children occasionally have mouths full of rotten teeth from drinking too much Mountain Dew.

The story is told in a convincing and entertaining manner. Talking head interviews are edited so that the experts appear superimposed on food packaging. It’s a visually appealing touch, though it does dilute the message somewhat, as it is difficult to see the individuals’ credentials.

That Sugar Film features cameos from Stephen Fry and Isabel Lucas (Hugh Jackman also appears but is uncredited). Ultimately, it’s an informative and challenging documentary that offers lots of food for thought in a colourful package. The finale is rather silly and unnecessary, but for the most part this film will force people to rethink some of their choices.

Originally published on 16 February 2015 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/sugar-film

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FILM REVIEW: THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel once again takes the audience on a journey through India with our favourite set of English retirees. The sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit brings together the same ensemble cast as previously, as well as some new additions. The film is helmed by the same team which included writer,Ol Parker(who adapted Deborah Moggach’s novel for the original) and director, John Madden (Shakespeare in Love). What ensues is a fun, unsurprising and easy-going romp with the oldies.

This second film has a lot more energy and storylines to bring together than the first. The sheer volume of the latter means at times these threads are not drawn together as seamlessly as possible. The sharp-tongued, Maggie Smith takes over the narration duties and is now acting as the co-manager of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful”, along with the original owner, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel). Business is thriving so they look at expansion and travel to America to convince a wealthy investor (David Strathairn) to offer up the funds.

But money isn’t given for nothing and for the deal to go ahead the investor decides to send along an anonymous hotel inspector. When the suave American writer, Guy Chambers ((Richard Gere) who still makes hearts swoon and fits in here brilliantly) arrives at their doorstep, Sonny believes it’s a façade and that Guy is the inspector. This assumption throws Sonny into the land of Basil Fawlty as he fawns over this visitor (while pimping out his own mother in the process) and doesn’t care if it’s all at the expense of another guest, like the relatively young English woman (Tamsin Greig).

The other characters, meanwhile, are having to deal with their own issues involving love and relationships. There is the lothario Norman (Ronald Pickup) and his promiscuous girlfriend, Carol (Diana Hardcastle) grappling with monogamy while Madge (Celia Imrie) does her best Blanche Devereaux impersonation as she is forced to pick between two different, eligible male suitors. The amazing Judi Dench is a scene-stealer playing Evelyn Greenslade, an independent woman who has built a career in India but is still struggling to get her relationship with unlikely tour guide, Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) off the ground.

The youngsters don’t fare much better. Sonny’s love interest and now fiancé, Sunaina (Tina Desai) is busy planning all of the aspects relating to their wedding. But Sonny is far too preoccupied with the hotel. So when Sunaina introduces her brother’s friend (and wedding dance choreographer), Kushal (Shazad Latif) this leads to a bizarre love triangle of sorts.

The jokes aren’t as frequent in the sequel and sadly all of the best zingers can be found in the film’s trailer. Despite this and some minor bumps in the plot, this film is redeemed by a series of engaging performances from some seasoned and professional actors. The story is also upbeat and energetic and the ensemble are certainly a likeable and affable lot.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel may not hit all of the right notes but it is still a good sequel and film. Some things may be a little shambolic but the overall result is something that is heart-warming and pleasant. In short, it’s an enjoyable film that you can bring your Nan along to as you giggle at some light-hearted silliness.

 

Originally published on 24 February 2015 at the following website:http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/02/24/film-review-the-second-best-exotic-marigold-hotel-usa-uk-2015/

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BOOK REVIEW: THE SECRET LIFE OF LUKE LIVINGSTONE

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For thirty years Luke Livingstone was a “lucky” man. He worked as a well-respected solicitor and had a loving wife, son, daughter and grandchild. But life in Oxfordshire wasn’t as perfect as it originally seemed. That was because Luke was harbouring a secret- he desperately wanted to be a woman.

 

Eventually Luke is forced to make a tough decision, he will either kill himself or become the woman he always felt he should be. The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone is a fictional, family drama that looks at the issue of gender identity. It feels very honest and real as it portrays the problems and things that Luke must encounter as he makes the transition away from his birth name in order to become Lucia.

 

The story is written by barrister turned author, Charity Norman. In her fourth novel she seamlessly intertwines commentary about Luke’s day-to-day life with flashbacks as well as offering the perspectives from four different characters- Luke, his wife, Eilish and their two children. The characters are well thought out and life-like and their reactions to Luke being transgender range from grappling with uncertainty to denial and resentment and just about every other emotion in between.

 

The book does get a little repetitive, especially when scenes are re-told from different characters’ perspectives. At times there is also a sense that the same characters are continually ruminating over the same sorts of feelings. That said, this novel would be a very good one for individuals that are being touched by gender identity issues – either personally or through family or friends – to read and relate to.

 

The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone is an insightful read and look at the transgender population from a relevant and individual perspective. This family drama covers the ramifications of such a big decision including the tears and dysfunction. It also doesn’t hold back in portraying Luke as a social outcast at times. In short, it’s a frank story that should be shared with others.

 

This review originally appeared on The Reading Room and was received for free from the publishers as an advance copy. To view the original review please visit the following website: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book-review/reviewed-by-natsalvo/58591

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: IF I STAY

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If I Stay shares a few things in common with a Nicholas Sparks’ story. The film is based on a best-selling young adult novel by Gayle Forman and is about the adolescent love between two likeable characters. It’s also a slow-burning yet emotional film about choices and existential quandaries.

This is the feature debut for director, R.J. Cutler who is best known for his Vogue documentary, The September Issue. The screen adaption is written by Shauna Cross (Whip It) and stars Chloë Grace Moretz, who is best known as Hit-Girl from the two Kick-Ass movies. All of these aspects sound promising enough but If I Stay is rather underwhelming as a whole.

The story focuses on Mia Hall (Moretz) who is a talented and pretty young cellist. She feels like an alien in her own family as she has implausibly cool parents that invite her and her brother along for a drive on a snow day (the mum even calls in sick to do so). The family are involved in a devastating car accident and Mia is left in limbo, watching her friends and family who are worried as she remains in the intensive care unit. Mia also has to grapple with whether she has the strength to pull through and continue living.

In some ways this film is like The Lovely Bones but it also lacks the latter one’s depth. Here, Mia also looks back at her first love and relationship with a spunky rocker named Adam (Jamie Blackley). The two seem like an unlikely couple but their love did prevail for the most part. That is at least until Mia was left with the choice of whether to go to the Julliard school or not.

The dialogue in this film flits between gushing emotions (especially in the narration) and plain silliness (like “dim sum for twosome”). It makes the proceedings feel bland, contrived and heavy-handed. One redeeming factor however, is the soundtrack and the musical references which feature the likes of Iggy Pop, The Dandy Warhols, Blondie, The Smashing Pumpkins and others. Jamie Blackley should also be applauded for singing and performing all of his character’s songs, especially as this is not a common thing for most screen actors.

The Blu-ray version also boasts a series of bonus features. There are some mini featurettes where cast interviews are shown alongside edited scenes from the film. There are also audio and music commentaries as well as a gallery, music videos and deleted scenes. These will definitely prove to be a hit with fans.

If I Stay makes the most of what it is given but something does fail in the execution. This melancholy, young-adult drama may sit well with its target market but one can’t help but think that this adaptation could have been improved with some moderate changes and a swift edit. It is commendable that If I Stay tackles some serious issues and that it is not superficial, but this doesn’t stop it from occasionally veering off-track and into the realm of boring clichés.

 

Originally published on 13 February 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/02/13/blu-ray-review-if-i-stay-usa-2014/

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