DVD REVIEW: RIVER COTTAGE AUSTRALIA SERIES 3

river cottage

 

There aren’t many shows you’d call “inspirational” but River Cottage Australia is one of them. The show is a spin-off of one created in the UK by former chef and food activist, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The Australian series is hosted by former Vou de monde chef, Paul West. The series is an absolute corker as it doffs an Akubra to sustainable living.

In the third season, West continues to make this program his own. The show is set in central Tilba on the south coast of NSW. In the eight, hour long episodes, West strikes a great balance between being informative and cooking up a storm. His instructional lessons include how to do things on the farm- like raising and breeding stock, growing and maintaining vegetable patches and maintaining things overall (like building fences and having a dam re-instated).

West is a charismatic, likeable and authentic guy. It’s also obvious that the locals adore him as much as the viewers of the show do. West is often joined by some colourful Aussie characters (read: locals) on the program. They include butcher, Matt Christianson, publican, Mick Youlten, farmer, Darcy Hoyer, dairy farmer, Nick Dibden and many more. Along the way West learns about hunting for eels with aboriginal elder, Noel Butler as well as beekeeping, studding animals and lemonade fruits (a lemon and orange hybrid).

The dishes that West makes are gorgeous. There is a truffle omelette, lemonade tart, rhubarb jam, macadamia nut cheese, porchetta barbeque and fried flounder, to name a few. The series ends on a high with a friendly game of bush cricket and everyone was treated to a farm picnic of smoked eggs, pavlova topped with vanilla custard and home-brewed beer. Someone who is never far from West’s side is his dog, Digger, a collie and kelpie cross who learns some new tricks this series including foraging for truffles and participating in an agility course.

The DVD includes some extra deleted scenes from each episode. These include more instructional ones about composting, building fires, selecting garden tools and fishing. There are also video diaries by West and the crew. In one of these you learn that the picturesque scenes of the idyllic farm are captured using a series of nifty drones.

River Cottage Australia is a farm that keeps on giving and growing as the series goes from strength-to-strength. This program feels real and natural and should inspire more than a few people to adopt a simpler lifestyle where their food choices are dictated by seasonal, local produce and not the mass-produced junk that lines our supermarkets. In all, this series is a wonderful and addictive one where West brings a fine banquet of goods to the table.

Originally published on 27 December 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/river-cottage-australia-season-3-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: EDEN

Eden-

 

A good story doesn’t have to feature a big triumph or success. Nor does it have to include a spectacular fall from grace. But it’s also hard to turn one that features an unlikeable man’s life ebbing and flowing in some mid-range pool into compelling viewing. Sadly, Eden fits into this latter camp. It’s a dull and overlong drama and love letter to the French, electronic music scene.

The film is the fourth feature to be directed by Mia Hansen-Løve who also serves as a co-writer. The film’s other author is Mia’s brother, Sven, whose life serves as the inspiration for the tale. Perhaps the two siblings were too close to the source material because they have failed to construct a tight narrative arc and to prevent it all from drowning in mindless self-indulgence.

Eden is a story about Paul Vallée (who is a fictionalised version of Sven Hansen-Løve and played by Félix de Givry). It’s the early 1990s and Paul is supposed to be writing a thesis at university. But instead he gets involved in France’s club scene and forms a duo called Cheers with this DJ friend, Cyril (Roman Kolinka). The pair are trying to break into the scene at much the same time as a group called Daft Punk (played by Vincent Lacoste and Arnaud Azoulay). Daft Punk go on to have great success but it’s funny to see that in this account of their early days, they were denied access to some exclusive clubs.

This film really is Paul’s story that spans over twenty years. It’s a character study of his life as he bubbles along through different relationships, incurs some huge debts, develops a drug problem and eventually will see that his DJ dreams realise minor success and then failure. The story is very slow in its pacing (the runtime of 131 minutes could have been chopped in half) and at times it feels very episodic and in cohesive. It’s also quite difficult to feel much empathy for the privileged Paul whose career is bank-rolled by his parents and because of some of his life choices.

Eden is a film that looks quite beautiful, is well-acted and boasts an excellent dance soundtrack (where Daft Punk feature quite prominently) but there is something that’s just too aimless about this story. It’s like a song being played on repeat for hours on end. It may have had something to say during the first spin but eventually it’s drowned by a sea of repetitiveness. Similarly, seeing a man make the same mistakes ad nauseam (albeit with different characters) can feel pretty dull and not particularly clever. It just seems like a short idea that wasn’t realised properly. Disappointing.

Originally published on 27 December 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/eden-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: THE EX-PM

the ex-pm

 

In the TV series, The Ex-PM  the show’s writer, creator and star, Shaun Micallef is playing quite a subtle and straight, former Prime Minister of Australia. But the show itself seems to try too hard to make the audience laugh. The result is a program that feels too uneven, forced and stilted to have much truth and resonance to it, despite it being quite an interesting premise overall.

Micallef is best known as a comedian and the man behind the show, Mad As Hell. Here, he eschews talking about the politics of the day to instead focus on fictional politics and satire. He plays Andrew Dugdale, Australia’s third-longest serving PM who once boasted an approval rating of almost three quarters of the population. But now Dugdale is at a loss. He’s lost the most recent election and moved back to suburbia along with a zany bunch of staff plus his promiscuous wife (Nicki Wendt), benign grandson and contemptuous adult daughter (who split from her drug-dealing husband), played by Kate Jenkinson.

The staff are the ones that contribute to the inconsistencies in the tone of this program. You have Curtis (Francis Greenslade), a glorified chauffer who is brain-damaged (read: incredibly stupid) and responsible for making sure the Commonwealth car isn’t egged. There’s an overzealous but dim security guard, Myles (Jackson Tozer) and a dedicated and knowledgeable, chief-of-staff (Nicholas Bell) who is too busy bedding Dugdale’s wife. There is a chef (Ming-Zhu Hii) who appears clever but is the butt of some jokes about her being on a special visa and Dugdale’s business manager (John Clarke) appears solely on TV screen because he’s under house arrest following an investigation by ASIC.

Dugdale is struggling with his identity and his financial situation is also rather dire. So it seems that now is the perfect time to agree to submit a manuscript of his memoirs in exchange for a hefty advance. The only problem is that they haven’t actually been written and when a young and plucky ghost-writer Ellen (Lucy Honigman) is called, Dugdale seems too elusive and easily distracted to help. The simple truth is that he doesn’t want his life to be written about in any great detail and it’s just painful to watch the lengths this man will go to get out of this. It’s also a shame to see a former leader appear so smart at times and so stupid at other points (and to buy the fact that “we” actually voted him in on four separate occasions! That’s doubtful).

This series could have been a rather clever take on Australian politics, and would have been timely after the merry-go-round of leaders that we have sustained as of late. But instead this is often a bit too silly and slapstick for its own good. In comparison, a show like Utopia looks absolutely brilliant because the latter managed to be both believable and funny. The Ex-PM sadly just feels like a poor man’s Yes Minister.

The special features on this DVD are disappointing. They include some bonus scenes from the show including mock “interviews” with Dugdale’s staff and relatives and some bloopers. The former elements show one dysfunctional family but they also fail to offer any insight into the production of the show.

The Ex-PM is a program that is an inconsistent, situation comedy. It feels like this is a hard idea to swallow even though the actual premise (about politics, truth and spin with its new slant of being framed through the eyes of a washed up PM) is a good one. The Ex-PM is most certainly an unrealised opportunity where the interesting political satire is swamped by some crazy, third-rate zaniness that you would typically find at a student revue.

Originally published on 27 December 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/ex-pm-dvd-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE BEAUTIFUL LIE

thebeautifullie

 

When it comes to matters of the heart and love in general it’s often complicated. Never is this idea more apparent than in the fine, Leo Tolstoy novel, Anna Karenina. The classic book was written some 150 years ago and it still manages to resonate today thanks to its universal themes. The new Australian TV miniseries, The Beautiful Lie uses this rich piece of literature as scaffolding for a modern and complex romance set in contemporary Melbourne.

The Beautiful Lie was written by Alice Bell (The Slap) and Jonathan Gavin and is produced by the same team who made the TV series Offspring. This production stars the brilliant and versatile Sarah Snook as Anna Ivin (modelled on the eponymous, Tolstoy character). Ivin is a former tennis star who initially seems happy in her seven year marriage to fellow, former athlete Xander (Rodger Corser). The pair live together with their young son (Lewis Fletcher). But a chance meeting with a young music producer named Skeet Du Pont (Benedict Samuel) threatens to unravel this domestic bliss.

Anna and Skeet witness a horrific accident but they also share a powerful moment of electricity or a romantic spark. For Anna this fuels the realisation that she is restless and dissatisfied with her safe marriage, career and life. She is seduced by the potential of a passionate love affair with a handsome, young stranger. Unfortunately, this dalliance proves to be an extremely destructive and volatile one.

This series also looks at family dysfunctions and some other issues involving relationships between the supporting characters. Skeet was briefly engaged to the flighty Kitty (Sophie Lowe (Beautiful Kate)) who also has an eating disorder. Over the course of the program Kitty matures and falls in love with her childhood friend and initially a rather unattractive farmer named Peter Levin (Alexander England).

Anna’s brother, Kinglsey Faraday (Daniel Henshall) also has a transgression in his marriage. He sleeps with the family’s au pair to the dismay of his wife Dolly, a well-cast Celia Pacquola. Gina Riley (Kath & Kim) also stars as the family matriarch and offers us some lighter moments in a series that can be quite dark and tense at times.

The Blu-ray’s special features include a series of short featurettes. These include interviews with the cast and crew as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot. There are also a few scenes where some of the lead actors read the amazing source prose or the translation of Tolstoy’s fine words. This will give viewers an added appreciation of the great writer.

The Beautiful Lie is an epic saga and family drama that sees a beautiful web of falsehoods constructed in order to mask various infidelities, passions, tragedies, emotions and jealousies. The story is a relevant and cautionary tale that will warn people to be careful what they wish for. This is a well-acted and gorgeous, contemporary production showcasing some grand and complex romance. Ultimately this is one engaging and seductive tapestry of love and deceit.

Originally published on 27 December 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/beautiful-lie-blu-ray-review/

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DVD REVIEW: WALT DISNEY – HIS LIFE & LEGACY

walt

 

The documentary series, “Walt Disney – His Life & Legacy” allows us all to jump into the wonderful and colourful world of Disney. It’s one that is extremely interesting and exciting. Plus, it’s not all about colourful fantasy lands and spoonfuls of sugar but rather, it shows a complex and captivating human being and family man.

Director/writer Sarah Colt and writer, Mark Zwonitzer were each granted unprecedented access to the Disney archives. They also paint a rather honest portrait of a man who was at times portrayed as a warm fatherly figure but who also had a rather dark side. This documentary steers clear of hagiography and instead shows a more honest version of Disney than the current corporation bearing his name would ever have produced.

Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago in 1901 and he died of lung cancer aged 65. The real-life Disney was a chain-smoker and perfectionist but his programs and movies celebrated his old fashioned values along with plenty of saccharine and corn. This film is broken up into four separate one hour parts and looks at what a driven and determined character he was as well as his striving for innovation and creativity and his desire to harness the powers of new technologies to achieve one thing overall, that is to be a masterful storyteller.

Disney had a strained relationship with his father, Elias but he also had some fond memories from a short period in his childhood. The latter were used as the building blocks for many of his stories and ideas. Most of the Disney films were about outsiders struggling to gain acceptance and to belong. As a young man, Disney managed to achieve some successes and faced many failures with some early cartoon characters (these included Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and a series of Alice cartoons which mixed animation with live-action scenes). But it really wasn’t until 1928 when Steamboat Wille a cartoon starring Mickey Mouse birthed a superstar and a phenomenon.

Disney was one complex entrepreneur and he would go on to challenge the word of entertainment with his masterpiece, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the first full-length animated feature film followed by the more artistic and abstract, Fantasia. Disney also made some more creative masterworks in the form of Pinocchio and Dumbo. But it wasn’t long before he became restless and had another vision, to open up a theme park named Disneyland. He realised this dream and along the way he also accumulated numerous Oscars but his pride and joy was getting nominated for Best Picture for his labour of love, Mary Poppins.

Walt Disney – His Life & Legacy features many talking head interviews and archive footage. Disney’s son-in-law Ron Miller is interviewed along with animators, writers and costume designers as well as film, art and media historians who offer illuminating thoughts and context. Disney’s biographer, Neal Gabler also features here. This film celebrates Disney’s incredible success but also manages to give airtime to his failures and problems. A nervous breakdown is mentioned as well as a labour dispute between Disney and his employees that belonged to a union, which is covered in some detail.

This documentary is a gripping story about the creative genius that was Walt Disney. He achieved so much in 65 years that it almost feels like four hours is not enough to cover it all (especially when you consider the films, Alice In Wonderland  and Sleeping Beauty are not even mentioned at all). In short, this documentary strikes a great balance between the different sides of the multifaceted Disney as well as showcasing and celebrating his amazing art and his rich and lasting legacy. Disney’s life really was a wonderful world.

Originally published on 27 December 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/walt-disney-life-legacy-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: LIFE STORY (COMPLETE SEASON)

lifestory

 

Life Story is both real and magical. The six part series narrated by Sir David Attenborough and produced by the Emmy-award winning team that made Life tells one captivating story encompassing birth, survival, life, procreation and death. This is one informative and intense show where amazing insights are offered and the viewer can sit back and feel a part of it all. This means it’s almost like you’re a fly on the wall or in the passenger seat and along for one wild adventure.

The program is shot on detailed, Ultra HD cameras. This allows the filmmakers to get up close and personal with the animals and keep things real and at their level. The two most amazing feats they managed to capture were a spider the size of a fingernail and a small Japanese puffer fish engaging in their own separate and stellar courtship rituals. The show is a testament to the patience, dedication and determination of the filmmakers (who are occasionally shown at the end of each episode for a brief “making of” segment). It is thanks to them and tireless years of filmmaking that they have managed to capture things that have not previously been seen.

Life Story is broken up into different segments. In ‘First Steps’ we are introduced to baby animals as they start life. In Greenland some barnacle geese are born at the top of a 400 metre cliff. At just a few days old (and before they’ve learnt to fly) they are forced to jump off the cliffs to join their parents to search for food. Only some of the goslings survive the jump while others face death and harm by their predator, the Arctic fox. It’s gut-wrenching stuff to watch.

The episodes are all expertly narrated by Sir Attenborough who offers insightful commentary on the animals’ behaviours, at times conveying real humour, emotion, joy and sorrow. Some elephants in the final episode are shown lightly touching the bones of a long-deceased matriarch in a particularly poignant moment. In other episodes Attenborough warns us about how being overly confident can contribute to your death. It reinforces the idea that Mother Nature is not always kind to her charges.

The special features are great and include an interview with Sir Attenborough as well as numerous short featurettes. They give the viewer an even greater appreciation and understanding of the time and effort that was invested into crafting this finely-detailed art. It also celebrates the new behaviours that have been captured for the first time in all their glory.

This is one captivating series in natural history and celebrates nature in all its majesty. It offers some thrilling and real moments and manages to also pack a lot into its runtime. In all, this is one extreme rollercoaster through the wild and woolly world of animals and manages to strike the right balance between objective facts and sentimental feelings and emotions. We can learn a heck of a lot from this particular walk with the animals.

Originally published on 24 November 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/life-story-dvd-review/

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BOOK REVIEW: NATHANIEL PHILBRICK – IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

se

 

In The Heart Of The Sea is a non-fiction book about an incredible, historic event that inspired the novel, Moby Dick, i.e. the downing of the Essex ship. The year was 1820 and whales were used to produce and supply oil to the world. But an unfortunate group of 20 men from Nantucket and other parts of the U.S. would meet their match. A huge sperm whale would ram their boat and the sailors were forced to endure an arduous and debilitating 90 plus day journey in the South Pacific Ocean in three leaky row boats.

Nathaniel Philbrick is a writer who lives in Nantucket and is no stranger to sailing. As a result of this, he was able to fashion a richly-detailed account of this true story (and In The Heart Of The Sea actually won him a National Book Award). This story references two main accounts, that of first mate, Owen Chase and that of cabin boy, Thomas Nickerson. Philbrick’s prose holds nothing back and is often quite gruesome and ghastly, but it is all necessary in giving context to such a horrific tale.

After their ship was struck by a large whale, the 20 remaining sailors would split up into three row boats. They could have set sail for some nearby islands in the South Pacific but they had been lead to believe that these places were inhabited by cannibals. The irony is that these castaways would eventually have to resort to such a treacherous act themselves. So instead, they exercised a series of grave errors of judgement, which lead them to sail almost 5000km against the currents and the winds towards South America.

They were out in the elements and would wind up suffering from severe dehydration, horrible skin boils and starvation. But the survivor’s stories are a testament to human strength. In The Heart Of The Sea is all about human endurance, discipline and determination, because some of these men actually managed to survive, despite becoming sickly, human skeletons that were inches away from death.

This book starts off a little slow and is dense but it does become a riveting and entertaining read, overall. There is a lot of drama and courage on display and it’s obvious that it was meticulously researched and lovingly put together by Philbrick. In The Heart Of The Sea sets the scene for a thriller in an unforgiving ocean where survival seems impossible, especially when the odds are stacked against you and you have to navigate through folklore, superstition and the high seas to boot. This is ultimately one amazing tale that should be compulsory reading by everyone.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-in-the-heart-of-the-se

LIVE REVIEW: COLD CHISEL & GRINSPOON @ QANTAS CREDIT UNION (SYDNEY ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE) (15.12.2015)

coldchisel

 

Cold Chisel’s latest run of Sydney shows doubled as their latest ‘last stand’, having famously played farewell concerts in 1983 bearing this moniker. Here in 2015, the same passion, power and fury was present, as the band bid goodbye to the soon-to-be-demolished Ent Cent (everyone always preferred that name) before it’s gone.

Grinspoon took a break from their hiatus to appear in a pleasant but predictable support slot. They blazed through most of their well-known songs (the notable exception being ‘DC×3’) and finished with the INXS cover, ‘Don’t Change’. It had been a short and fine rock show, even though it was obvious the crowd wanted to embrace its inner bogan.

Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes was in excellent singing voice, belting out ‘Standing On The Outside’, and things only grew exponentially from there. Ian Moss’ guitar playing was a real treat, both melodic and off-the-scales. ‘Barnesy’ and ‘Mossy’ were a veritable powerhouse along with the fabulous pianist Don Walker and the tight rhythm section, Phil Small and newcomer Charley Drayton. Together, they gave a metaphorical ‘fuck you’ to any naysayers that tried to dismiss them as old rockers.

Chisel’s shows are an eclectic mix where you can coast along for the subtle ‘Choirgirl’, then enjoy the funk factor on ‘Rising Sun’ thanks to long-time touring saxophonist Andy Bickers. ‘Cheap Wine’ had everyone singing along and hiding the fact they could relate to the ‘rocket fuels’ in the lyrics.

The longer second half of the show was virtually all killer and no filler. There was our unofficial national anthem ‘Khe Sanh’ and ‘Flame Trees’, a virtual hymn that’s known to make hardened men cry. It was a feast of nostalgia with a setlist inspired by the 1983 shows and a desire to tear down the venue with music. Chisel also threw in some covers: ‘Georgia On My Mind’ (made famous by Ray Charles), Chip Taylor’s ‘Wild Thing’ and Roy Hamilton’s ‘Don’t Let Go’.

It was fitting, as always, to finish with ‘Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye)’. It had been both a stunning farewell and a jubilant return to a venue that became synonymous long ago with the Chisel name.

Originally published on 17 December 2015 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/cold-chisel-qantas-credit-union-arena

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DVD REVIEW: JOANNA LUMLEY’S TRANS-SIBERIAN ADVENTURE

From Burning Bright Productions JOANNA LUMLEY'S TRAN-SIBERIAN EXPRESS ADVENTURE Sunday 12th July 2015 on ITV Pictured: Joanna Lumley in Mongolia in front of the Trans -Siberian Express train Joanna Lumley starts her 6,400 mile train journey to Moscow in Hong Kong which she last visited when she was four. She hasnÕt visited Moscow since 1966 when she was there as a model at the height of the Cold War. The first episode sees her start on the peak above Hong Kong harbour, jump on the underground to Shehzing where she catches the bullet train to Beijing. In Beijing, she discovers that they sell more Rolls Royces there than anywhere else in the world. She visits a bizarre restaurant dedicated to Chairman Mao and encounters an old lady who knew the last EmperorÕs favourite concubine. In Beijing she joins the TransÐSiberian Railroad, her first stop in Datong where she visits a wild stretch of the Great Wall. From there it is an overnight train to Mongolia where she passes through the Gobi desert and visits a Mongolian shaman. © Burning Bright For further information please contact Peter Gray 0207 157 3046 peter.gray@itv.com This photograph is © ITV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme JOANNA LUMLEY'S TRAN-SIBERIAN EXPRESS ADVENTURE or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com

 

Joanna Lumley’s travel programs are like the TV equivalent of listening to some smooth, easy-listening music. It’s not that she herself takes it easy; it’s just that she delivers her shows with such a graceful and gentle calm. This very British demeanour makes for a very pleasant holiday indeed, sweetie darling.

This series is the latest one from the former model turned actress and activist. Lumley has previously travelled to Greece, The Nile and taken in the Northern Lights. Her latest program is about the most epic rail journey one can do. It’s a 6000 mile (approx. 9600 km) journey that takes in Hong Kong, China, Mongolia and Russia. It’s also a very personal story for Lumley, because she lived in Hong Kong for a few years as a child and in 1966 she did a modelling shoot in Russia (whilst the country was in the midst of the Cold War).

Lumley is perhaps best known for playing Patsy Stone on the TV show and soon-to-be-film, Absolutely Fabulous. The two presentations couldn’t be any more different. On her Trans-Siberian Adventure Lumley is very courteous, luminous and British. The show also has an old-fashioned and classy tone which means it wouldn’t feel out of step when shown alongside Antiques Roadshow.

In this documentary, Lumley does manage to get off the beaten track. She visits a Chairman Mao-themed restaurant in China, consults with shamans and horse-milking nomads in Mongolia (a country that also boasts a giant statue of Genghis Khan), sees some throat singers, watches some young Russians recreating Jane Austen-like balls complete with period costume and finishes it off by drinking lots of vodka in Putin’s Russia. Lumley is an eloquent host who is very enthusiastic about most of the things she sees. It’s nice to watch someone who is so positive but she does tend to declare that a lot of things are “Extraordinary” and this could annoy some viewers after a while.

This three-part journey of 6000 miles started with a single step onto a train and it’s fair to say it’s a rather fun one. This travelogue is often rich with details and has a kind of quiet and subtle charm to it all. In the end it’s like travelling with your favourite, older aunt who is passionate about panoramas, people and culture. Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Adventure is very similar to enjoying an English breakfast tea while sitting on your comfortable chaise lounge in the warmth. It’s all a kind of quiet contentment.

 

Originally published on 11 December 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/joanna-lumleys-trans-siberian-adventure-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: RUBEN GUTHRIE

Ruben-Guthrie

 

Ruben Guthrie is a film that’s supposed to be a thoughtful look at the drinking culture in Australia. But instead it feels hollow and fails to offer too many insights. Heck, You Am I’s song, “Heavy Heart” actually offers a lot more wit on the subject in 3:11 than this entire feature. One redeeming quality about this home-grown film however, is that at least it is a short and swift one.

The film is an adaptation of writer and director, Brendan Cowell’s semi-autobiographical play. The theatre production was a highly acclaimed one and perhaps this means the story had suited this other medium better. For the motion picture version, Cowell makes his directorial debut and the exaggerated characters and rather wordy dialogue seem at odds with this particular genre.

Patrick Brammall (Offspring) looks like a younger version of Cowell and stars as the eponymous character and is reminded of his identity at almost every turn by his well-meaning co-stars. Guthrie is a high-flying advertising executive and a Sydney, party boy. He is into drunken excesses but this all looks set to change one day when he is in the midst of a particularly spectacular bender and decides it is a good idea to jump of the roof of his place into his pool (it didn’t end well, he broke his arm).

The shattered Guthrie is swiftly delivered an ultimatum by his Czechoslovakian fiancé, a model named Zoya (Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road putting on a pretty average accent)). He has to spend a year getting sober otherwise the relationship is over. The film follows Guthrie over the course of this year as he battles against constant enablers. These include his well-intentioned Mum (Robyn Nevin) and his alcoholic Dad (Jack Thompson). 

It’s not just Guthrie’s family that prove problematic. His boss (Jeremy Sims) is constantly telling Guthrie to have a drink on his behalf. Plus, Guthrie’s flamboyant best friend (a particularly camp, Alex Dimitriades) loves the night life AND to boogie. But our star does at least meet a saviour in the fragile hippie and former addict, Virginia (Harriet Dyer Love Child).

Ruben Guthrie is a simple film that makes sobriety look too easy. It has some good performances but it does have a very uneven tone. One minute it dips its toes into comedy while at other moments it is trying to convey drama and emotion. It’s hard to know whether this wants to be a story of redemption or a larger social commentary. At least in the case of conveying emotion, the film does succeed in having a great, lilting soundtrack from our very own, Sarah Blasko. Art vs. Science also appear belting out “Parlez vous Francias” in the trailer and at the beginning. The DVD has some good special features with a making-of featurette, a Q&A with Cowell and Brammall, a theatrical trailer and a music video for “Halfway to Heaven”.

This film is hard to warm to, especially because it is so easy to dislike the privileged, lead character. It also feels ingenuine, lacks focus and decent characterisation and this undermines the whole thing.  This was a story that could have even so much more but it is ultimately too out of sync to really make a solid point, unlike say, Mr. Rogers.

Originally published on 11 December 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/ruben-guthrie-dvd-review/

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