BOOK REVIEW: NINA GEORGE – THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP

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The Little Paris Bookshop could be re-named, “Poulet Soup (Chicken Soup) for the Soul”. The latest novel by the prize-winning author, best-seller and newspaper columnist, Nina George, is a beautifully-written and wistful look at love, loss and regret. It’s a finely-detailed and nuanced story with believable and likeable characters who express real feelings and emotions and often wear their hearts on their sleeves.

The story follows Jean Perdu, a man who has been alive for half a century but has not truly lived. He is the owner of The Literary Apothecary, a barge on the river Seine that sells books. He is also a self-described “Healer” insofar as he can diagnose any malady or problem and prescribe the reader with a book that will cure all.

Sadly, Perdu is unable to treat his own broken heart and deal with his own issues. He had had an intense, five year relationship with a mysterious creature named Manon. One day this woman left without saying goodbye- except through a note but Perdu was too proud to read it.

Things change when Perdu gains a new neighbour named Catherine who is a divorcee. She challenges the bookseller to confront his past and offers comfort as she is dealing with some of the same issues as him. Perdu reads the letter and goes on a journey in his barge and an adventure through Provence along with some eccentric supporting characters in order to face his demons and discover what might have been.

This novel is a must-read for any book lover as it contains numerous literary references. It also boasts some evocative descriptions and vivid and poetic language. The author even adds two final sections at the end of the book where regional recipes from Provence are offered as well as Perdu’s “Literary Pharmacy” or “Book recommendations”. The overall pacing of the story is quite leisurely and laidback, although some people may find it is a little too slow and nuanced for their tastes.

The Little Paris Bookshop ultimately succeeds because it brings together an unlikely cast of eccentric but “real” characters that you can empathise with. It also takes them on a journey through their minds and hearts and it will make you think and feel in equal measure. In sum, it is a rather lyrical, wistful and bittersweet tale about a broken man and his long walk (or ride along the river) to the path of redemption.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/the-little-paris-bookshop/9262888/

BLU-RAY REVIEW: A THOUSAND TIMES GOODNIGHT

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In A Thousand Times Goodnight, the main character, Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) faces an important dilemma of whether to work or be a wife and Mum. These roles are mutually exclusive because she is employed as a war photographer and she’s had a number of brushes with death. This film is ultimately a beautifully-shot family drama that offers a complex and nuanced portrait of its heroine.

A Thousand Times Goodnight is directed by former war photographer, Erik Poppe. There are moments in the film where his shots are used which help lend the proceedings an air of authenticity. The story was co-written by Poppe along with Harald Rosenløw-Eeg and is clearly a labour of love for the former. But the story does occasionally falter on the dramatic front as it suffers from being a little too slow and contrived at points.

The story begins with Rebecca taking the last photographs of a group of Afghani women who are preparing a suicide bomber. In the resulting blast, Rebecca suffers physical and mental injuries. When she returns home to her husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones)) in Ireland he forces her to make a hard choice. If she decides to continue shooting conflicts it will spell the end of their marriage.

The couple’s eldest daughter (a promising, Lauryn Canny) is equally fascinated and frightened by her mother’s choice of work. When the youngster receives a school assignment about Africa, an opportunity poses itself for some reconciliation and mother/daughter bonding. This chance feeds Rebecca’s sense of determination and resolve to take photographs that make a difference and inform an ignorant public who are only interested in stories about Paris Hilton not wearing any underpants.

Juliette Binoche puts in an excellent, heartfelt and emotional performance as Rebecca. You really do get a sense that she is hell-bent on exposing injustice and suffering. There is also a cameo from U2’s drummer, Larry Mullen Jr., who plays a family friend. The film has a quiet tension as it reflects on various elements and is a gritty look at the ethics of war photography and its impact on relationships and the public.

A Thousand Times Goodnight is a relevant and important film. It’s an intense character study of a committed and ambitious woman who is torn between loyalties. And while it is by no means perfect, it will make you stop and think twice about the actual costs associated with photographers and photojournalism, in particular. In short, it’s deeply affecting.

 

Originally published on 27 April 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/thousand-times-goodnight-blu-ray-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

LIVE COMEDY REVIEW: STEPHEN K AMOS @ ENMORE THEATRE SYDNEY (23.04.2015)

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Stephen K Amos’ first Sydney show for his Welcome To My World Tour was a loose and casual affair from a man who sounds like he should be wearing a cravat.

You got the sense that this suave and trendy Englishman enjoyed being personal and revelled in the fact that everyone – at least for the most part – seemed to get on board and laugh at his observational and conversational comedy.

Amos is particularly good at doing funny accents. He started the show by speaking like an Aussie bogan and saying, “I love youse.” At other points in the gig he talked about his mother and father in a thick African drawl, before returning to the Queen’s English, which made stories like shopping at Target and worrying that he’d need a bodyguard in order to go to Chatswood quite funny.

At the outset, Amos introduced his show as being “all about the laughs”, and not for those expecting “deep and meaningful pathos”. For the most part he delivered with some funny observations about Sydney’s recent torrential rain and Tony Abbott (a man Amos describes as being able to out-gaffe good ol’ Prince Philip, who has turned putting your foot into your mouth into an art form).

Some tired airline jokes were also on the menu. This is territory that has been mined to death, but Amos at least won a laugh with his “stewards with attitude” material and a story about what it was like to have his bag lost.

Elsewhere, he was very interactive with the audience, playing a matchmaker to an Officeworks staff member named Stevie and a pharmacist and only child called Melissa. He drank beer with some Irish lads in the front row and chatted with a family. When he added some extra time at the end, you got the sense that this wasn’t a tightly scripted or polished show – but this didn’t matter and seemed to suit his casual delivery and overall demeanour. A very pleasant and enjoyable evening at the theatre, darling.

 

Originally published on 27 April 2015 at the following website:http://www.thebrag.com/arts/stephen-k-amos-2

Visit The Brag’s homepage at: http://thebrag.com/

FOOD REVIEW: KAZBAH DARLING HARBOUR (SYDNEY)

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Kazbah is the exotic jewel in Darling Harbour’s crown at Harbourside Centre. Except that with it’s fusion of Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Mediterranean food perhaps a more appropriate analogy is to a sultan and his wares.

Kazbah Darling Harbour is the sister restaurant to the one that originally opened in Balmain in 1998. It is also similar to it’s fellow restaurants, the Kazbah Souk in Potts Point and the newly-opened one in Miranda in that it reflects it’s owners’,Zahiand Penny Azzi’s, Lebanese, Turkish and Greek heritage. But what sets it apart is that it also reflects Head Chef, Wasim Shaikh’s personality because he has produced his own exclusive menu for this location and has put his own unique spin on things.

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We were treated to the Royal Dinner Feast as well as an additional lamb shank tagine. The former, 15-course banquet is available for $65 per person for groups of eight or more. It is nothing short of decadent, flavoursome and magnificent. But for those people who want a smaller option, the restaurant also offers a 9-course Ottoman Dinner Feast for $45 per person (also for groups of eight or more). This one has some of the same dishes as the Royal Dinner as well as some other additions that sound just as mouth-watering.

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Kazbah boasts friendly table service and this embodies the true spirit of Middle Eastern Culture where the host takes pride in putting their guests’ needs above and beyond their own. It’s a quaint and cosy space and it offers the perfect setting to enjoy your food and drink in good company. We suggest that you go to this restaurant on a Saturday night because at 8pm there is a belly dancer and you have wonderful views of Darling Harbour’s fireworks display at 8:30pm (and you can smoke a shisha outside too).

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The banquet commenced with a series of Levantine dips ($8 each) – silky hummus made from mashed chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic as well as babaghanouj or cooked eggplant dip with various seasonings which was soft and smoky. The dips were accompanied by fresh and crispy fried Lebanese bread (also known as flat-bread or kumaj) and the highlight was the taramasalata dip. The latter is typically made with the cured roe of cod or carp and it has a salty hue and is very fresh to the taste.

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The addition of crunchy walnuts, superfood quinoa and peppery rocket leaves to the traditional tabouli ($14) recipe based mostly on tomato, parsley, mint, onion and lemon juice elevated it from good to great. It was also served on a bed of crisp green lettuce and with a lemon wedge. The fried cauliflower with eggplant jam, pine nuts and yoghurt tahini sauce ($15)was a solid vegetarian option.

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The Muhamara sauce accompanying the kataifi wrapped prawns ($6 each) packed so many flavours into a tiny dollop. Anyone who has watched My Kitchen Rules would know that Manu Feildel would have lost his shit over this hot pepper sauce, which is typically eaten as a dip. Here it topped some large prawns and provided a crunchy, shredded pastry casing. The barbeque garlic and harissa marinated octopus ($22) was cooked to perfection and almost melted in your mouth and this is no mean feat for a fish that is notorious for being temperamental.

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Boreks ($4 each) are named after the Turkic word for “twist” and are a spring roll made from thin, flaky phyllo (filo) pastry. These ones had a yummy, spicy lamb mince and pine nut centre and were served with tzatziki. There was a theatrical element to watching the lemon baharat chicken shish kebab ($32) being released from its sword-like skewer. This was combined with caraway or Persian cumin and parsley pesto and the flavours danced on your tongue, meaning you couldn’t say “No” to seconds.

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The whole baked baby snapper with pistachio samke hara sauce ($34) took the prize for the most appealing dish to the eyes. But it was difficult to eat and serve unless you knew how to properly fillet a fish and negotiate the odd fish bone. The sauce and capers were nice but they were no match for the house speciality, the Casablanca Royal tagine ($68 for two people).

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This masterpiece is designed to sit in the middle of the table and is slow-cooked for 12 to up to 16 hours and boasts seven different raw vegetables. It is served traditionally in a hot pot and lifting this and unveiling its warm goodness is like watching your lover undress seductively in the bedroom. Like so many dishes tonight it was very flavoursome as the slow cooking process really infuses the meat with the different herbs and spices, making it soft, juicy and succulent. The same can also be said about the lamb shank tagine with prunes, carrots and kidney beans ($33) which fell away from the bone so graciously it should have had its own musical accompaniment.

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The roasted duck ($35) was also slow-cooked to preserve the flavours and was even cooked in a stock made from its own bones. This made it very tender and it also boasted nothing less than 22 different spices (take that Colonel Sanders). The mains were accompanied by a fluffy rice pilaf which was sprinkled with nuts and a fragrant saffron couscous as well aschips seasoned with Kazbah’s own flavouring ($10).

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A Lebanese summer salad, Fattoush ($10) was as bright and colourful as Christmas and it was a fresh side to the heavier mains. We washed all this luxurious food down with a sweet Mecca Cocktail ($18), red ale Lebanese beer ($9) (this sits nicely between a pale ale and a stout) and a fruity mocktail ($10.50). Another drink we could have tried is an Arabic liquor called Arak ($8-12.50). This is combined with water and goes a cloudy colour and is like Raki and to a certain extent, Ouzo, in that it has a strong aniseed taste.

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For dessert we were treated to more theatrics thanks to the Kazbah bomb of Turkish delight ice-cream, blueberries and Kurrant Vodka ($28 for two people) (where the latter is torched in order to brown the meringue). It’s a sweet treat but the highlight was a new menu addition called Umm Ali (which replaced the menu’s baklava). This dish was straight out of the oven and was a rosewater bread pudding with nuts and raisins ($12). We were told by our kind waitress Nicole that it also makes a hearty breakfast. Tonight it was the perfect conclusion to this great feast along with a thick, Turkish coffee ($4.50). The secret to Umm Ali is that although any bread or pastry can be used, our chef had used a combination of light croissant and Danish pastry and cardamom and cinnamon and it was just gorgeous.

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The chefs at Kazbah should be applauded for the time and effort that goes into creating these tasty dishes as some involve cooking from up to a day ahead. But this ensures that the spices enhance the taste and texture of things. In fact, most other foods will seem bland and tasteless after you’ve sampled the Arabian delights offered by Kazbah Darling Harbour.

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Originally published on 24 April 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/lifestyle/eat/kazbah-harbourside-darling-harbour-sydney

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

DVD REVIEW: AN INVISIBLE SIGN

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An Invisible Sign paints with numbers in the worst possible way. This quirky film could have been an engaging look at a young woman who grapples with her father’s illness. But instead it has an unlikeable lead character and is an unrealistic and confused movie that meanders and plods along.

The film marks the feature debut by Marilyn Agrelo who has previously directed a documentary about students in New York learning ballroom dancing. Aimee Bender wrote the novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own which this film is based on. It stars Jessica Alba in the lead role as the 20-year-old Mona Gray (even though Alba looks closer to her then actual age of 30). Mona is a loner and maths obsessive. She regressed into her shell and turned to self-deprivation after her mathematician father (John Shea) became very ill.

Mona’s mother (Sonia Braga) feels that the best way to help her daughter is to throw her out of the family home and to get her a job teaching mathematics to primary school students (despite Mona having no qualifications to do so). The story sees Miss Gray connect with a student whose mother has cancer while also remembering her youth through some flashbacks to when she had an eccentric maths teacher (who wore numbers around his neck to denote how happy or sad he was).

The characters feel underdeveloped and contrived and the performances are average. The story also feels quite laboured and it is difficult to connect with Mona who presents as a strange obsessive compulsive (who engages in tapping and various other ritualistic behaviours). Instead of offering an insightful or thought-provoking look at mental illness or sickness this film frequently makes light of the situation, making it feel completely throwaway and forgettable.

An Invisible Sign is a quaint and saccharine film that is completely nonsensical. The episodes of serious drama are diluted by the crazy shenanigans that take place at the school and overall this story feels forced. This quirky film isn’t particularly interesting and it is an unpleasant adult fairy tale that is as enjoyable as an impossible algebra problem. In short, it’s one to miss.

 

Originally published on 20 April 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/04/20/dvd-review-an-invisible-sign-usa-2010/

Visit The Iris’ homepage at: http://iris.theaureview.com/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

INTERVIEW: MICHAEL COHEN CO-CURATOR OF DARLING HARBOUR’S NOMANSLANDING

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Nomanslanding is a world first, a 120m interactive floating artwork installation on Sydney’s Cockle Bay. It is part of public program of events commemorating the centenary of the ANZACS that was produced by Australian, Dutch and English artists: Robyn Backen, Andre Dekker, Graham Eatough, Nigel Helyer and Jennifer Turpin. Darling Harbour is also the host to a poppy remembrance wall and is holding workshops enabling you to make your own poppy as well as exhibitions of historic images and timelines and a contemporary portrait exhibition by Turkish-Australian artist, Mertim Gokalp.

The AU Review spoke with Michael Cohen, the co-curator of Nomanslanding and Creative Producer for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority to learn more about this fascinating exhibit and some of the important historic details relating to the famous war port, tourist attraction and family-friendly destination known as Darling Harbour.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself like what was your involvement in Nomanslanding? How long have you been working in this capacity?

Well actually I think I’m the one who started the whole ball rolling – I guess in a producer capacity. About 3 years ago I started fishing around for international partners to work with on a big installation to float on the waters of Cockle Bay. It’s one of the really special features of Darling Harbour and doing something special there provides visitors with an experience they can’t have anywhere else. But I knew such a big project needed collaborators because it’s of a scale that would be very difficult for Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority to accomplish on its own. So I managed to secure some great partners and since then we’ve been working as co-curators to seek out the artists, gestate the project concept and then develop the work for each of our locations.

2. Can you tell us a little about Nomanslanding?

Nomanslanding provides visitors with an extraordinary experience of this part of the city. You’re ushered out onto the waters of the harbour along some narrow walkways and you enter what is effectively a floating wooden chapel with about 40 other people. It’s a moment out of time for people – some quiet contemplation floating in the harbour of a busy city. And in the context of the Centenary of ANZAC, visitors get to take this time for a very personal experience in a work that contemplates loss across all different cultures.

 

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3. Nomanslanding is in place to commemorate the centenary of the ANZACs. Were there any stories or things in particular that inspired this exhibition?
In our creative development for the project, the artists were very struck by the fact that in WW1 the people on opposing sides of the war were often from (the) same professional background and the same social background – they often had the same diets and social habits. And yet there they were shooting each other across this divide of terrain that came to be known as no man’s land. So the notion of confronting the enemy and potential death is effectively about confronting yourself and your own mortality.

4. Nomanslanding is a world-first, 120m interactive floating artwork. How did this installation come about?

It’s a massively ambitious project building a floating structure and walkway – and it’s a kind of engineering impossibility really! So Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority could not have undertaken something like this without some solid partnerships. We secured two European partners who will also show the work later this year. (Nomanslanding will tour to the Merchant City Festival in Scotland and Germany’s Ruhrtriennale Festival of Arts).So between us, we were able to dream big and deliver something that we all think is quietly extraordinary.

5. What are some of the highlights of the Nomanslanding installation? What are some of the highlights of the talks program?

One of the highlights is really seeing how people from all different walks of life are introduced to the historical jump-offs for the work (WW1, ANZACs, Darling Harbour as a war port) via what is really an abstract and ‘feelingful’ kind of experience. It’s not a telegraphed through interpretation of war – people go on a quiet experience with a group of other people and they are left to ask their own questions – about war, about death and dying, about loss by all peoples.

The talks program gave people a chance to get behind the scenes and dig in for some finer detail on the making process.

 

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6. Why do you think it’s important to have this artwork? Why should people visit it?

I think it doesn’t happen often enough that we are encouraged to ask our own questions about history. And artworks like this enable that kind of questioning in an interesting way that is free of the usual stuff that can accompany some commemorative projects. It’s not a jingoistic, flag-waving exercise at all. It actually makes that subject of WW1 commemoration a kind of personal experience that you can interpret in your own way.

And really it gives people an opportunity to experience the harbour in this part of the city in a way that they cannot do in ‘everyday life’.

 

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7. Darling Harbour has been a significant port in terms of its involvement in the military and industry. Can you tell us more about this?

We know it was a loading port for departures and that some people also arrived back home from WW1 here.

We also know that a lot of German internees (many were Australian citizens) were sent off to Germany from here during the war.

8. What is the most interesting fact or thing about Darling Harbour that most people wouldn’t know about?

• When Europeans arrived there were cockle shells piled up for metres and metres and metres all around the foreshore – this was traditional cockle-eating place for Aboriginal people – that’s where the word Tumbalong comes from (in reference to Tumbalong Park within the Darling Harbour precinct).
• The world’s first refrigerator was invented at Darling Harbour.

9. What other events or things are coming up at Darling Harbour?

• Vivid Sydney starts in May
• A really cool celebration of winter, called ‘Cool Yule’ during the NSW winter school holidays – (to include a massive floating ‘ice-berg’ on Cockle Bay)
• An assortment of cultural festivals – check out ‘Culture Beats’ on Darlingharbour.com for more details.

 

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Nomanslanding is a free exhibition open daily from 11am at Darling Harbour. It will remain there until 3 May 2015 before it travels to Scotland and Germany. For more information please visit: http://www.darlingharbour.com/whats-on/nomanslanding/

 

Originally published on 20 April 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/interviews/michael-cohen-the-co-curator-of-nomanslanding-describes-commemorating-the-anzacs

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: JOSEPHINE MOON – THE CHOCOLATE PROMISE

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The second novel from “foodie” fiction writer, Josephine Moon lives up to its title as it contains a lot of chocolate and promise. This light and romantic comedy is an easy read that will make you think about chocolate as many times as the film, Julie & Julia made you want to eat French cuisine. It’s a good one but it’s by no means perfect. The Chocolate Promise looks set to be like that big box of family assortment, where some elements and flavours will be enjoyed by some people and others will prefer different types.

 

The story is set in Tasmania and France’s Provence and Paris. The book stars the ridiculously-named, Christmas Livingstone (and it is revealed rather late in the book as to why she’s called this). Early on as you read the story, it can be hard to get your brain to switch off from thinking about the holiday, rather than the character at every mention of her.

 

Livingstone has had her heart broken previously so she now lives by a set of ten strict rules in order to ensure her happiness. These range from pleasurable ones like nurturing your senses, doing what you love and having massages through to the rather curious one that forbids romantic relationships. Livingstone is ultimately faced with a few dilemmas once she is offered the chance to go to a chocolate course headed up by a master in Paris and when a sexy, handsome and well-travelled botanist arrives in her tiny, Tasmanian hometown.

 

This novel is rather predictable and at times it reads like Tasmania’s answer to Chocolat. Some of the minor characters could have done with some additional characterisation but overall, these are minor quibbles in a story that is as uplifting and fun as keeping company with old friends can be. In short, this is an afternoon delight and quaint, little love story for fans of Marian Keyes and Monica McInerney.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/chocolate-promise/9222192

DVD REVIEW: SEX ED

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Sex Ed is an uneven and low-budget comedy. The feature debut by director, Isaac Feder and writer, Bill Kennedy is a coming-of-age caper that is easy to watch even though it attempts to be too many things at once. It weaves together a romantic comedy subplot with a more serious “safe sex message” where the frank and forthright honesty of the latter aspect is diluted by some sniggering and juvenile jokes (mostly involving cocks).

The Sixth Sense’s Haley Joel Osment is all grown up (despite his baby face) and here he plays a hapless loser and virgin named Ed Cole. Messer Cole is a 23-year-old who can’t catch a break as he fails to get a teaching job and is stuck working in a bagel shop. Eventually, luck throws him a bone and he is given a job that at first seems like little more than a glorified detention supervisor. But when one of his students gets her first period and she doesn’t know what is happening to her, Cole realises that what these kids really need is some sex ed classes.

These lessons are met with some controversy. The funniest kid in the class (Isaac White) is also the son of a local pastor (Chris Williams). This minister believes that sex cannot be taught outside of a religious context and he offers a knee-jerk reaction to things, trying to shut Cole down. But the kids really do need these classes because they have grown up with the internet and porn and they have some strange ideas about what is actually considered “normal” in love and sex.

This film has an excellent blues and soul soundtrack. But the tone is inconsistent because at times the filmmakers are trying to crack jokes when Osmond is showing off his mature acting chops and putting in an empathetic performance. There are also some sub-plots where Cole falls in love with the elder sister of one of his students (even though she already has a boyfriend) and he receives some sage advice from his sassy and brash landlord (Retta (Parks & Recreation)) and another wretched educator (Matt Walsh). There is also a running gag involving Cole’s neighbour (Glen Powell) being caught having sex all around their apartment (even in Cole’s room).

Sex Ed is a predictable film that attempts to be genuine and positive while pushing and promoting the idea that there needs to be frank and open discussions about sexuality. There are some good cameos and Cole is a very warm-hearted and likeable character. But this film would have been stronger if it had pared things back and focused on one angle or message. In short, this is a mostly clichéd and uneven film that only has a few charms.

 

Originally published on 18 April 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/sex-ed-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

BOOK REVIEW: BERNHARD AICHNER – WOMAN OF THE DEAD

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Revenge is a dish best served cold in Bernhard Aichner’s crime novel, Woman of The Dead. The book was a huge success in Europe and Anthea Bell has done a good job in translating this story from its original, German text. But something may have been lost in translation because what’s left behind is quite cold, clinical and gory (and often just for the sake of it).

The story stars an unlikely but strong female protagonist; she’s a mortician, widow and mother named Brunhilde Blum. She had had an idyllic life with her husband Mark until he was tragically killed in a hit and run accident. Blum decides to delve deeper into her husband’s life because she suspects that his death was a murder. Over time the lines between investigation and revenge become blurred.

One of the biggest problems with this novel is that it’s hard to relate to Blum. In the opening chapters she kills her parents because she claims she was abused. Unfortunately, Aichner fails to provide enough of a back story and justification for this unconscionable act. So while the character is a strong and determined woman, at times she is difficult to engage with, especially as she rediscovers what she is really capable of.

The story sees Blum also investigate the crimes perpetrated against an illegal immigrant named Dunya. The latter had been subjected to years of physical and sexual abuse and held hostage in a cellar by a group of five men known as the: photographer, huntsman, priest, cook and clown, respectively. The methods Blum uses to discover the identities of these men seem improbable and unbelievable as the story just clicks into place a little too easily. The narrative itself is also not as thrilling or gripping as other books from this genre, as these can often be hard to put down.

Woman of The Dead has an interesting-enough premise as it poses the question, “How far will you go in order to avenge a loved one?” It also has a strong female protagonist, which is commendable. But this character is also quite a flawed one and the writing is too repetitive and staid for it to really cut through. This novel may be full of dark secrets, sex and revenge but there is still a little spice or something missing, meaning it’s a good book but not a great one.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/woman-of-the-dead/9259297/

THEATRE REVIEW: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW @ THE LYRIC THEATRE, SYDNEY

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Welcome to the jungle. No, welcome to the camp science experiment that is The Rocky Horror Show. The play debuted in London in 1973, made it to Australia in 1974 before it was a cult movie favourite the following year. Now over forty but certainly not fat or fired, this show is still flirty, fun and fabulous, darling. In fact, it could be several decades younger.

Richard O’Brien’s rock musical favourite is currently playing in Sydney at the Lyric Theatre for a limited run. It sees the Helpmann Award-winning Craig McLachlan reprising his role as Frank-N-Furter. It’s one he originally performed back in 1992 before reprising it again last year and by gosh, he’s still got it. Kristian Lavercombe is also reprising his role as the caretaker, Riff Raff and he brings a certain frenetic quality to the role that was originally performed by O’Brien.

The story follows the wholesome and adorable couple, Brad and Janet (Stephen Mahy and Amy Lehpamer (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)) who are newly engaged. They take a car trip so they can tell their tutor the good news but they get a flat tyre and are stuck in a bad storm. They enter an eerie castle in the hopes of using the telephone. But after crossing the threshold into pleasure, there’s no going back. In Frank-N-Furter’s funhouse they’re treated to a strange sexual awakening thanks to the eccentric host and his band of crazed oddballs including Magenta (Jayde Westaby), Eddie (Nicholas Christo) and Columbia (Angelique Cassimatis). There is also Frank-N-Furter’s creation, the dopey but loveable Rocky who is played by Brendan Irving and who looks just as good as Ryan Gosling did in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

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Craig McLachlan steals almost every scene and is absolutely magnetic as Frank-N-Furter. The film screenings and production have always encouraged the audience to participate and it is here that McLachlan really shines. He’s never shy to break lines and add a quip or joke in order to tease and purr at the audience. Dressed in his black corset, high-heels and fishnets he is absolutely gorgeous and always manages to find the right balance between hamming it up and playing the cheeky transvestite who is quick with the wit, double entendres and innuendo.

The Rocky Horror Show draws its inspiration from B-grade science fiction and schock horror films. These ideas are particularly evident in the second act where the night at the funhouse descends into madness and strange revelations are made about the different players’ identities. This act isn’t as good as the all-killer, no-filler and energetic first half, which is paced perfectly and has the right amount of narrative, music and exquisite choreography.

One of the biggest draw points to The Rocky Horror Show are those classic songs. Tonight the favourites “Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite”, “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me” and “Science Fiction/Double Feature” were among the highlights. In the case of the former track, it was all about camp glitter and being loud and proud while the latter was a softer and more subtle nod at the music from the 1950s. The rock band were tight and raucous although there were some sound issues where the group drowned out the lyrics. This was particularly the case with narrator, Bert Newton’s mic as he was tried to give instructions during the “Time Warp”.

This latest adaptation for the outrageous, exciting and much-loved The Rocky Horror Show was nothing short of excellent. From the stunning costumes to the dancing and singing which were so big and joyous you couldn’t be blamed for wanting to join in and shout it all from a mountain range to just about everything in between. This was one pleasurable journey into the garden of earthly (and extra-terrestrial) delights. So let your hair down, leave your inhibitions at the door and enjoy the ride with some sweet transvestites through sass, seduction and sex. It’s the most fun you can have with your pants on.

 

rokcy

 

Originally published on 16 April 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/the-rocky-horror-show-lyric-theatre-sydney-performances-through-june-7th

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