ARTS REVIEW: MATTHYS GERBER @ MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, SYDNEY

GERBER

 

To seek out the failings of an image seems like a curious choice of action for an artist. But Matthys Gerber is no ordinary painter. The Sydneysider (who has born in the Netherlands and has lived in Denmark) is the subject of a comprehensive exhibition that is currently being staged at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney. The show is his most extensive Australian one to date and it is something that will challenge and tantalise your visual cortex.

Gerber is very much a post-modern artist who succeeds at appropriating and drawing the best elements out of other individual’s art and music as well as adding his own unique twist to things. The exhibition features 34 of his paintings and one sculpture and these are laid out around a square room with another small interior alcove. It is probably easiest to describe the things that set these artworks apart rather than what draws them together, because Gerber is a dynamic and creative individual who is very experimental with his techniques and approach.

The works can only be described as featuring a vast array of contrasting styles. On the one hand you might have a bog-standard textual art piece like “Let It Be Me”, an acrylic on canvas that references a lyric by the Everly Brothers. On the other hand we have works that feature geometric shapes, hard lines and abstraction. There is also his take on indigenous art with “Schoon #2” a tip to Maori art styles while “Bush Flower” looks like an indigenous, Australian dot painting until you release that Gerber has hidden the Frank Zappa quote “We’re only in it for the money” rather cheekily in the background.

Numerous things influence Gerber, from popular music to commercial design through to avant-garde works and traditional and indigenous paintings. A frequently recurring theme in Gerber’s work is that of the Rorschach blots (inspired by the inkblot, psychological test) and the doubling up or mirroring of things on the canvas. It is really apparent that this artist is quite happy to take a back-seat and allow the person viewing his work to make their own assumptions and inferences rather than being painfully obvious.

The MCA’s Matthys Gerber exhibition is a heady mix of structure and chaos from an artist that can only be described as the ultimate shape-shifter. He challenges you to view things in a different way by offering up works that are full of variances; from the speed of his brushstrokes to colour, structure, shape, etc. Matthys Gerber is a talented artist and his MCA exhibition celebrates his unique and creative brand of experimentalism.

Originally published on 28 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/matthys-gerber-museum-of-contemporary-art-sydney-exhibition

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BOOK REVIEW: CHARLOTTE WOOD – THE NATURAL WAY OF THINGS

CHARLOTTE

 

Charlotte Wood’s fifth novel, The Natural Way Of Things hooks you in with a simple premise. A group of ten young women are imprisoned on a deserted farm in the Australian outback. They don’t know how they got there, all they know is that they were drugged and kidnapped beforehand. The story that unfolds is a complex and devastating one where you are compelled to keep reading in order to find out why this is so. The novel itself doesn’t offer up a whole lot of answers but it does succeed in asking lots of important questions.

The Natural Way of Things is Wood’s fifth novel. The Australian author has previously been nominated for various literary prizes and she’s also penned some non-fiction books. This latest work is a trully compelling read in that it is bound to create some visceral feelings in readers (who will want to share and discuss the book with other people). The content itself is quite provocative and it does deal with some confronting issues.

The story was inspired by a radio documentary that Wood had heard about the Hay Institution for Girls. This real-life “jail” saw women in the sixties and seventies locked up and in some cases it was only because they had spoken out about being assaulted or sexually abused. Like the real-life example, the thing that Wood’s characters have in common is that they were the victims in high-profile crimes (read: those covered by the media) involving men and sex. It’s sad because in the book this “future universe” actually mirrors the trial by media, victim shaming and judgment that occurs towards women that are unfortunate enough to have had these cruelties committed against them today.

The two central characters are the beautiful Yolanda who experienced a horrific gang rape and Verla, a strong woman who was the mistress of a high-profile politician. They are imprisoned by three awful guards including the sadistic and disgusting Boncer, the new-age stoner, Teddy and an un-hinged female “nurse”. At first the jail is brutal as the girls have their individuality stripped, they are subjected to hard labour and the punishments are delivered swiftly and often. But then a major turning point occurs when all of the individuals – including the inept guards – are left with no escape by the mysterious security company in charge.

The Natural Way Of Things has many contradictions but it all feels very real. Wood’s prose is quite pretty and lyrical (just like the book’s cover) and yet the content is very dark and terrifying. The novel poses lots of questions but the answers are not always forthcoming and the ending is rather unsatisfying. But in all, this is an important and raw look at misogyny, feminism and abuse and it is all presented in a gripping way. This intense novel is an exquisite book that would make a worthy literary prize winner as it is a modern classic that challenges the reader, slaps them out of their comfort zones and offers them with a bitter pill packaged as “food for thought”.

***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/natural-way-of-things/9529762

DVD REVIEW: MAN FINDS FOOD

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Man Finds Food is a TV show with a simple name and an even simpler premise. It sees food enthusiast, Adam Richman in the eponymous role and telling people about some hidden restaurants that are off the beaten track and their secret menu items that locals do not necessarily know about. It is something that can only exist in America.

Richman is no stranger to making shows about food, as he has previously helmed and participated in competitive eating challenges in Man V. Food. This means that Man Finds Food is no huge stretch for him. Once again he brings a hosting style that is charming if not a little cheesy and over-the-top. The same description could also be applied to some of these oddball, culinary creations.

The DVD set sees 14 episodes that are less than 30 minutes each. This is not a lot of time to dedicate to the many American states and towns that Richman travels to, including: Los Angeles, Nashville, Boston, Texas, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Las Vegas and Hawaii, to name a few. Richman does try to fit a lot in with the time he is given. The show is also unashamedly American in that it is very loud, bold and proud. This is sometimes part of its allure and at other points it is its drawback.

The presentation is really immature, zany and off-the-wall with Richman and crew keeping the mood light and funny. While this can make for an energetic, fast-paced and entertaining show, it is also one that is superficial and not very informative. In a lot of cases the chefs are not very forthcoming in their secret ingredients and techniques (which is unsurprising really) so while you do see food being prepared, you aren’t necessarily all the wiser about it all.

The food itself is larger than life and over-the-top like the program (think about something Elvis Presley would have eaten towards the end of his career and you’d be close). In good news for food fetishists there are lots of visuals focusing on perfectly cooked egg’s yolks that are cracked and sauces running like great pools of goodness. Richman also loves it when the sound guys capture a good, crunchy bit of food.

The creations range from strange inside-out sandwiches to items that were created after the menu was finalised and others still that feature tens to hundreds of ingredients. There are a lot of burgers and sandwiches as well as lighter options like quail and Japanese ramen in a fine dining restaurant. But for the most part the food looks like a coronary waiting to happen. It may look appetising but we’re not sure how your stomach or heart will feel about consuming so much richness in one setting.

Man Finds Food shares a few things in common with Charles Firth’s stories from his work with the Chaser. The show is swiftly edited, in your face and packed with visual punches. In all, this is a cult TV show that will appeal to those people who don’t mind a side order of cheese with their food programming.

Originally published on 27 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/man-finds-food-season-1-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: EFFIE GRAY

effie gray review dakota

 

Euphemia “Effie” Gray was once a woman stuck between a rock and a hard place. This free-spirited, Scottish lady was living in Victorian times and was trapped in a loveless and sexless marriage to a renowned art critic named John Ruskin. Divorce was not an option for Gray but despite this, she managed to find the strength and resolve to overcome the situation. The story itself is inspiring and interesting enough, but this film fails to do it all justice.

The film, Effie Gray was written by Emma Thompson who is known for her acting as well as having won an Oscar for writing the 1995 film adaptation of Sense & Sensibility. In this latest offering, she chooses to adapt real-life events about Ruskin and Gray. It’s a bizarre love triangle and a tragic tale if there ever was one.

The story goes that Ruskin (played by Thompson’s real-life husband,Greg Wise) fell in love with Gray when she was 12 but they waited until she was 20 before they married. He was charming at first but his demeanour soon changed and he became a cold and distant mummy’s boy not long after they exchanged vows. He was also so repulsed by Gray’s naked form on their wedding night (there are different theories about why this was the case but no definitive conclusion) and this meant that the pair were married for six years but never actually consummated their relationship.

Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning in her most mature role to date) was a strong woman in a terrible situation. She was helped by her friendship to the warm and supportive Lady Eastlake (Thompson). (SPOILER ALERT) Gray eventually seeks an annulment of the doomed marriage on the grounds it was never consummated. She also falls in love with the painter, John Millais (Tom Sturridge). Gray and Millais marry and the pair have eight children together. It’s a nice end to a bitter and twisted tale.

Effie Gray is a slow and meandering period drama that features some solid performances from its cast. It’s also a dry look at a notorious love triangle and a Victorian scandal (things that scream “interesting”). The story itself is a fascinating one and the film is beautifully-shot, but it is ultimately let down by issues with its execution. It means this is one wasted opportunity because what could have been a strong and atmospheric drama about a woman who overcomes cruelty, indifference and psychological abuse, seems instead to be as hum-drum and cold as Messer John Ruskin himself.

Originally published on 18 September 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/dvd-review-effie-gray-uk-2014/

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DVD REVIEW: WOULD I LIE TO YOU? VOLUME 4

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Would I Lie To You? is a show that has fun watching people fake it. The series also makes viewers happy thanks to its homely feel which is not unlike sitting around for a cuppa and a good yarn with friends. Ultimately, Would I Lie To You? Volume 4 builds on and continues the earlier success of this beloved, British comedy panel program.

The DVD set volume four is actually the seventh series of the show (which was first aired in the UK in 2007). The show is modelled on a parlour game where guests have to either deceive their opponents or tell the truth (usually by revealing an embarrassing personal anecdote or unusual fact). At the end the only question is, “Is it a truth or is it a lie?” It’s fun as a viewer to play along at home and call bulls**t on things, where applicable.

The success of this comedy series is certainly due to the guests and regular panellists. The program is hosted by Welsh comedian, Rob Brydon who assists with banter, questions and offering up fun, little impersonations from time to time (just as he did in The Trip, etc). There are also the team captains, like the clear-headed and logical, David Mitchell (of Mitchell & Webb fame) as well as the cheeky and irreverent, Lee Mack.

This show also works due to the good-hearted nature of the guest stars, who are prepared to play along and demonstrate things by almost any means necessary in order to “prove” they are telling the truth. This series features previous guest stars who were real favourites: Rhod Gilbert, Miranda Hart, Jason Manford, Jimmy Carr, Sarah Milican and Dara Ó Briain. The new additions also do well and include: Griff Rhys Jones, Gok Wan, Charles Dance (Game of Thrones’), Isy Suttie (Peep Show), Warwick Davis (Life’s Too Short), Josh Widdicombe (The Last Leg) and Joanna Scanlan (The Thick of It).

This collection brings together ten episodes which also take in a “Christmas special” and a compilation of unseen bits. It’s a well-shot piece of film and the addition of the studio audience adds to the hilariousness of the great, unscripted riffs, one-upmanship and guests who are really game for a ‘larf. In all, this is one excellent TV show that takes in the personal and quirky lives of some colourful characters while making the great unwashed chuckle and scream. And that’s the truth.

 

Originally published on 17 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/lie-volume-4-dvd-review/

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FILM REVIEW: BLINKY BILL: THE MOVIE

blinky

 

Blinky Bill may be a small koala but he has a big imagination. In the eponymous new film, this koala also embarks on a grand adventure through the Australian outback with a host of different animal friends. In all, this is a pleasant kid’s film that should appeal to some old and new fans of the iconic Aussie bear, good old Blinky Bill.

The character, Blinky Bill was originally created by Dorothy Hall in 1933. He was also the star of a 2D animated series and a film in the 1990s. These days, the hand-drawn animation has been replaced by some bright and colourful CGI. It gives Blinky a modern feel that is not unlike a Pixar or DreamWorks character. The animation itself is decent but not as good as the output from those aforementioned companies.

Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) stars as Blinky and does an excellent job in capturing the innocence and naivety of this beloved bear. Kwanten is just one member of a stellar voice cast, which includes Toni Collette as two emu sisters and Robin McLeavy, Barry Humphries and David Wenham as Blinky’s friends Nutsy the zoo koala, Wombo the wombat and Jacko the anxious frill-necked lizard, respectively. Deborah Mailman also plays Blinky’s mother and Barry Otto is Mayor Cranklepot.

Blinky Bill The Movie is about the adventure our favourite koala embarks on when he decides to go looking for his lost father (Richard Roxburgh). The latter had gone missing during walk-about. It means that Blinky has to leave the safety and comfort of his small town of Green Patch and tackle the dangerous Australian outback. But Blinky has the best intentions and some good mates (even if they engage in so much Australian slang and different stereotypes that you think you’re watching Austen Tayshus’ “Australiana”).

This film is pitched at young children but it also overreaches a little and tries to appeal to everyone. There are a few jokes that the adults will enjoy but there aren’t enough of these (and certainly not enough consistent ones) for this to really cut through the simplicity of the story or the silly slapstick humour. In many ways, Paddington was a far superior film, as it appealed across the board to both adults and kids.

Blinky Bill The Movie has a big heart to match the even larger adventure on which this little koala and his friends embarks. The voice cast is first-rate and it reads like a who’s who of the Australian film industry. They do an excellent job but it is also a little sad that the actors from the original TV series did not get a cameo or two. In all, Blinky Bill The Movie is an engaging and fun romp that offers up some good lessons about friendship, determination, responsibility and it should inspire viewers to go off and do some excellent things. Ultimately, it’s great to see such a sweet film recasting a beloved Aussie icon in a fresh, modern light.

Originally published on 17 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/blinky-bill-the-movie-film-review/

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BOOK REVIEW: MARY-ROSE MACCOLL – SWIMMING HOME

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Mary-Rose Maccoll is a very versatile writer. She is a regular contributor at the QWeekend Magazine, her non-fiction book, Birth Wars was a finalist in the Walkley awards and she’s also worked as a corporate writer and has now released her fifth novel, Swimming Home. This book is a celebration of two women achieving remarkable things in 1925 and finds the right balance between drama, tension, love and life in a post-war setting.

The story is mostly about Catherine Quick, a talented 15-year-old swimmer who has grown up in Australia. But tragedy strikes and she is left orphaned at this young and difficult age. Her new legal guardian is her Aunt Louisa, a successful career woman and surgeon who lives in London and at first glance is someone who does not appear to be particularly maternal. This event means that Catherine must leave her idyllic island home where she was previously cared for by Florence; an indigenous woman and where they lived happily with the latter’s son, Michael as well as Catherine’s father.

The move from Australia to London is tough on Catherine. The culture shock is huge and it takes some time for this young woman to realise what she really wants: to be free to swim. One day an American investment banker, Manfred Lear Black realises Catherine’s potential and offers her the chance to go to America to train with a professional swim team. He hopes that Catherine will one day be the first woman to swim across the English Channel. But things don’t always go according to plan.

Swimming Home is an excellent character study where Maccoll does an exceptional job of crafting some complex and relatable characters and examining their relationships with one another. It also looks at how some lies (some which may have seemed like innocent little white ones to those telling them at the time) can snowball and have devastating effects on other people around them. It’s ultimately an absorbing and well-researched tale that successfully dips between the past and the present.

Mary-Rose Maccoll’s Swimming Home is a novel that engages the reader thanks to its good use of tension and drama as well as a personal and intimate style of telling the character’s stories. It’s a celebration of women as they pioneered for their own rights and challenged the social expectations of the time. There are lots of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and while the ending felt a little rushed this was still a well-constructed, inspiring and wonderful read about some women who set their sights high and achieved the extraordinary.

***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/swimming-home/9529760

FASHION REVIEW: COLLETTE DILLIGAN: UNLACED @ POWERHOUSE MUSEUM SYDNEY

collette dinnigan

 

image credit: Holly Blake/Vogue Australia

Collette Dinnigan is a woman’s designer. Her clothes and underwear creations are always very feminine, fun and romantic. The Powerhouse Museum is currently hosting an exhibition about this acclaimed fashion designer, who is celebrating 25 years in the industry. Ultimately, this is an accessible and dynamic look at one inspirational creator and her wares.

The exhibition is divided up into a series of rooms. In one section patrons can watch a two hour video, which shows excerpts from her catwalk shows as well as a documentary. In another part, kids can sit down and colour-in worksheets to design their own clothes and make models. They can certainly draw some inspiration from Dinnigan herself, as a special room has been imagined and installed by the designer. This is a particular highlight and draws together the countless amount of research, sketches and hours of concept development as well as other things that have consciously or unconsciously shaped her work.

There are also plenty of outfits. One room showcases three different wedding gowns while another looks at the influence of Asian and floral themes on Dinnigan. There’s some special red carpet designs featuring outfits that have been worn by none other than Erin McNaught, Taylor Swift, Miranda Kerr and others. These all have a real “wow” factor as they feature lots of intricate beading and sequins coupled with classic designs.

There is a small section dedicated to Dinnigan’s children’s range (which she launched after the birth of her daughter, Estella). There is also a large room where 100 outfits that span Dinnigan’s career are displayed alongside videos of models walking towards you (as if on a catwalk). This is also accompanied by a hip, rock soundtrack in the background that screams “cool”.

Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced does a great job at celebrating her many inspirations: colour, art, travel, flowers, landscapes and details from vintage clothes and antique things. It also shows how dedicated she is to using the medium of lace, by working with families that have been doing this for generations and still remaining innovative and coming up with fresh, new ideas. One of these was when Dinnigan re-imagined underwear as outerwear. And while some people may find this a bit too out-there it is always done in a tasteful and stylish way.

In all, this exhibition is a testament to this adventurous, determined and successful designer and celebrates this woman in all her dazzling glory. The exhibition is realised by award-winning stage designer and artist, Anna Tregloan and features archive material from Dinnigan as well as the Powerhouse’s own collection. It’s a colourful tribute to an inspiring woman and an important look at some things that should not remain stuck in the closet.

Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced is on at the Powerhouse Museum from September 5, 2015 to August 28, 2016. For more information, go to: http://www.powerhousemuseum.com

Originally published on 14 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/collette-dinnigan-unlaced-powerhouse-museum-sydney-exhibition-open-until-28-august-2016

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

FILM REVIEW: MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS

scorchtrials

 

If you thought the teenagers from The Maze Runner were out of the woods because they escaped the labyrinth, you’re wrong. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second instalment that sees the characters grappling with a fresh set of challenges and obstacles,  and with the energy and tension raised to 11. This film does not work as a standalone piece but is a solid bridge between the previous film and the forthcoming one and while this has some flaws it is still a rather pleasant and enjoyable show.

Like the 2014 film, this is directed by Wes Car and written by T.S. Nowlin. It is also loosely based on the novel by James Dashner. The film begins by picking up virtually where the previous one left off. We meet the gang in a locked-down compound, where they have access to warm beds and showers and are free from exposure to the elements, which they experienced in the Glade. The downside is that the group’s leader Thomas (Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) discovers that they are in grave danger.

The elusive and mysterious World Catastrophe Killzone Department, or WCKD, are living up to their name. They are secretly harvesting the lifeblood out of the immune teenagers’ bodies in the hopes of finding a cure to the lethal Flare virus. Thomas and his friends must escape the complex to find the right arm resistance group. To do so, they have to journey across the forbidden territory known as “The Scorch”.

The Scorch Trials are like a series of repetitive episodes where the group encounter countless cranks (zombie-like creatures that have been infected by the virus) and various other forces that conspire against them (as they’re worth a lot of money, being immune to the disease). The results are like a series of energetic, tension-filled pursuits away from the “bad guys” in what is a rather disorienting adventure at times.

This film has some good visual effects and lots of CGI has been used to create the post-apocalyptic version of the youngster’s world and its full level of decay. But where this film suffers is in its lack of character development. While it’s nice to have a lot of energetic chase and adventure scenes, it would actually be better if the audience were given a reason to root for the characters. As it stands, the supporting cast, featuring Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), Kaya Scodelario (Skins) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Wolf Hall) put in solid enough performances, they really are only relegated to secondary elements and kept in the wings for far too long.

The second Maze Runner is better than the first film because it doesn’t waste time setting up the initial premise and is very high-octane, vibrant and well-choreographed. But it’s hardly the most original film because at times it borrows far too much from The Hunger Games and the Divergent series . It also fails to end in a satisfactory way. Instead, it sets up a scene for the next instalment The Death Cure,which is due out in 2017. In all, The Scorch Trials has some good elements but these are devalued by the trial that ensues in order to arrive there.

Originally published on 11 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/maze-runner-the-scorch-trials-film-review/

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