DVD REVIEW: LUKE WARM SEX

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Let’s talk about sex baby. Luke McGregor’s doco-comedy, Luke Warm Sex is a raw, honest and no-holds-barred approach to copulation. It also promises to educate viewers in how to get better at or to have a more satisfying sex life. Across six episodes the viewer embarks on a journey with the most awkward comedian in history to learn a lot about lovin’.

Luke McGregor has graced our small screens before in sitcoms like Utopia and Please Like Me. The Tasmanian-born funnyman is a naturally rather anxious guy with nervous chuckles punctuating his speech. This man has a very awkward persona and some people may have thought this was all an act or something that would not have helped in making a program like Luke Warm Sex.

It may come across as a bit of a surprise but this nervy guy is actually quite a charming presenter. McGregor was – by his own admission – a complete novice when it came to matters of the bedroom, having only had sex twice in his 33 years on earth. To this series he brings an eagerness, enthusiasm and a natural zeal to learn more and to improve himself. He lays his insecurities out in the open and in doing so is actually quite endearing and wins over the audience. Luke Warm Sex is ultimately quite a relatable, entertaining and informative program.

In Luke Warm Sex McGregor tackles his body hang-ups and overcomes his fear of being nude while in the company of some kind-hearted naturists. He becomes comfortable with the idea of touch and contact and learns how to prepare the body for sex. The final stages he learns about are pleasure, intimacy and creative ways of getting down and dirty. In this series, McGregor speaks to various individuals including sexperts like: sex therapists and educators, tantric practitioners, sex coaches and naturists, to name a few.

The special features on the DVD include an eclectic mix of titbits. Dr Judith Glover offers a history of vibrators while Roger Butler gives us the “flip board of love”. Academics, Thiagarajan and Gomathi Sitharthan discuss porn while Amanda Lambrose makes a “sex” smoothie and Cindy Darnell and McGregor discuss sex toys. There are some comedic moments like “The STI House” (starring Dave Hughes, Hamish Blake and other comedians), “The Consent Sketch” and a little segment where McGregor visits his hometown and old school. There are also some outtakes, promo trailers and some vox pops that McGregor did in Melbourne.

Luke Warm Sex offers the viewer a light-hearted and educational look at sex. In an age where a lot of people learn about sex through porn, it is refreshing to see a program tackle some real experiments and offer facts from a guy who is painfully honest about his lack of know-how. This series is a brave one that should be mandatory viewing by everyone because we could all learn a thing or two from this endearing, gentle and original show.

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/luke-warm-sex-dvd-review/

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

DVD REVIEW: MAVIS!

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Mavis! is a little documentary about a big personality. It’s a film about legendary singer, Mavis Staples. This story is ultimately a celebratory one about her life and while it is warm and feels good, at times it seems like pure hagiography and a documentary that is far too short.

The film is a promising one by Jessica Edwards who is making her feature length debut. The director has managed to assemble some fine talent for this film including: Bob Dylan, Jeff Tweedy, Chuck D, Sharon Jones and Bonnie Raitt. There are also interviews with Staples’ band members, civil rights activist, Julian Bond and Stax Records’ Al Bell, among others.

The best talent in Mavis! is undoubtedly the film’s charismatic namesake. The story chronicles her humble beginnings as a member of a Gospel group with her pioneering, guitar-playing father, Pops and siblings, Pervis, Yvonne and the late Cleotha. The film also touches on how the group transitioned from Gospel to the blues and rock ‘n’ roll and how it wasn’t always well-received (and if you’re unsure, just think of the reception that Bob Dylan received when he went electric).

Mavis Staples is a talented and unique performer. Her quotes are funny and honest and she can still have a profound effect on an audience while in concert. This film uses a lot of footage that was shot on the stage and in the present day and for this reason perhaps it would have made a more captivating concert film. While some archive footage and photographs are offered and the interviewees deliver some information, one can’t help but feel like this documentary is barely scratching the surface and suffers from being too short. Staples’ private life and relationship with her family feels like a very short and unimportant footnote when it could have been an integral part of the story.

There is no question that Mavis Staples is a special artist with a long legacy (her role in The Staples Singers and in supporting Dr Martin Luther King Jr. were but two important chapters in her life). But Mavis! doesn’t always do justice to this vibrant, ground-breaking and amazing woman. The film has its good moments, an excellent soundtrack and a tone of celebration or jubilation but it could have been so much more. In short, this inimitable singer and exuberant lady deserved a far more visceral and emotional documentary than the paint-by-the-numbers, Mavis!

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/mavis-dvd-review/

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

DVD REVIEW: MATILDA & ME

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The documentary, Matilda & Me is more about the latter than the former. It’s a film that looks at Tim Minchin’s background and history, charting his rise from aspiring actor to successful comedian and renowned theatre composer. The movie is ultimately a fun and vibrant one about two great characters- the fictional, Roald Dahl creation, Matilda and the clever and creative larrikin, Minchin.

The film is written and directed by Minchin’s sister, Nel Minchin as well as Rhian Skirving (Rock n Roll Nerd). The former gives us quite a personal look at her brother Tim, showing us old photographs and home movies and narrating Tim’s story. Mr Minchin may have been introduced to theatre and creative things while still at school but he was an unlikely choice when it came to Matilda. There was a long road to success and some of this journey even included some couch-surfing at playwright, Kate Mulvany’s place. But it seems that the stars aligned with Matilda because this strange choice of composer would write some award-winning lyrics and music for the Roald Dahl classic.

Matilda & Me features a diverse range of interviewees. There is Mr Minchin himself as well as his siblings, Dan and Katie, wife Sarah and friends Andrew Denton and Eddie Perfect. There is also Dahl’s cool wife, Felicity, Andrew Lloyd Webber and actress, Mara Wilson, who played the lead character in the 1996 film. There are also interviews with those involved in the stage production like: playwright, Dennis Kelly, director, Matthew Warchus and the four girls selected to play the lead character in the Sydney production: Georgia Taplin, Bella Thomas, Sasha Rose and Molly Barwick.

The story is ultimately an inspiring one just like the book. It shows how Minchin went from a modest childhood living on a farm and near the beach in WA to becoming hot property thanks to a successful and award-winning musical playing on Broadway and in the West End. Minchin himself is quite an engaging and interesting character. He can be quite outspoken and vocal (the recent Cardinal Pell song is testament to that) but he is also quite modest and quick to downplay his hand in the success of the show.

The DVD extras include some behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews. They include subjects like “Meeting the Matildas”, “A look at the magic of Roald Dahl” the “When I Grow Up Song” and interviews with associate choreographer, Fabian Aloise and actor, James Millar who plays the scary principal, Mrs Trunchbull in the Australian adaptation.

Tim Minchin may have set some tongues a wagging with his blue eye makeup, long hair and bare feet but he was the perfect person to work on the stage adaptation of Matilda. Roald Dahl’s magical tale has been given a new life on stage and Matilda & Me captures some of that enchanted pixie dust and the essence of the creative driving force behind it all. This documentary puts its spotlight squarely on Tim Minchin’s star and gets an intimate look at the creative composer who took the story of a little girl and ran with it and a man that looks poised to do a whole lot more.

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/matilda-me-dvd-review/

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

BOOK REVIEW: LUKE DEVENISH – THE SECRET HEIRESS

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The Secret Heiress is a rich, historic fiction book set in Castlemaine, Australia in 1886 and 1903. The novel is by screenwriter, playwright, author and academic, Luke Devenish. The latter is no stranger to writing about history as his two previous books were set in Ancient Rome. His latest offering is a rather mysterious one set closer to home.

The novel is told in two separate, interwoven parts. Initially we meet Ida, a naïve farm girl who is offered an amazing opportunity to work as a housemaid at the exquisite, Summersby House. Ida accepts the job because it’s a great opportunity for a poor girl who has been told that she’s not very bright. It’s possible that her intelligence was not given its full credit because she is a rather inquisitive young lady nonetheless.

Ida has a rickety start at Summersby. Her mistress, Miss Gregory is found dead on Ida’s first day. But Ida perseveres because she hopes that someone at Summersby will still want to employ her. That somebody proves to be the charming and handsome gentleman, Samuel Hackett and the former fiancé of the late Miss Gregory who wishes for Ida to continue her work at the stately home. Things initially seem okay but then a serious of mysterious events start taking place and these contribute to a rather strange and vivid mystery entangling all of the characters.

The other main thread in this book stars Biddy MacBryde, a young lady with a cheeky disposition who works as a Reverend’s kitchen maid. Her big mouth sees her fired and eventually she is lured to the elusive surrounds of Summersby where she is employed as a friend/companion to one of the residents. She also possesses a natural curiosity for the house’s inhabitants and what she discovers is a rather complicated story entrenched in the past.

Luke Devenish’s prose is well-written but there are moments where it is a bit too detailed and flowery for its own good. The novel is a sprawling and ambitious one that is engaging. But there are some moments where it is a tad too confusing and difficult to understand- namely where the identities of the twin sisters, Margaret and Matilda Gregory are described. The characterisation is rich but the names are too similar and the structure is a little too messy and this can confuse some readers. Thankfully this is all resolved eventually in what is a rather neat and satisfying ending.

The Secret Heiress is a complex book filled with layers of lies and deceit. It’s an interesting story and Devenish should be commended for setting a dark and gothic tale in Australia. There are some minor problems that let this book down but ultimately it is quite a dark and stirring read set in an opulent house and grounds. Nice.

***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-the-secret-heiress

Interview: Writer, Sex-Blogger & Feminist Vanessa de Largie talks about sexuality and her best-selling books

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Trigger warning: This post includes information about rape and domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers.

Vanessa de Largie makes no apologies. The former actress and feminist is now a successful author and sex blogger for The Huffington Post. Her writing is fierce, funny and honest with things like “The Blowjob Artist”, “The Squirting Princess” and “The Hum-Balls-Harlot” just some of her most recent posts. She is also a successful memoir writer with her books, Without My Consent and Don’t Hit Me! focusing on rather difficult topics like her rape and an abusive relationship which saw her become a victim of domestic violence. The AU Review sat down with de Largie to talk about feminism, sexuality and her best-selling books.

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How long have you been writing and working in the arts industry?

I’ve just turned 39 and have been pushing my dream uphill since I was a kid. I started at The Johnny Young Talent School at the age of three — training in dance, singing and drama. Mum got me my first agent at 14. In 2011, I was burnt-out from the acting industry and decided to take a break and focus on writing. I’ve never looked back. Writing has given me an inner-peace that acting was never able to provide.

Can you briefly describe your book, Don’t Hit Me?

Don’t Hit Me! is a collation of journal entries, poems and lyrical prose about my journey through domestic violence.

Why do you think people should read Don’t Hit Me?

Basically, I published my raw journal. I would like to think that my book offers hope and nourishment to survivors.

You have written brutally honest books about being a victim of domestic violence and rape. How did you prepare yourself to write about such difficult material?

Without My Consent is about my journey through rape at age 20. I never intended to write about it. It wasn’t something I discussed. Rape culture breeds fear in rape victims. Victims don’t tell anyone in fear that they will be disbelieved, judged or interrogated. Although the book is only novella-length, it took me 18 months to write. Many writing sessions ended in tears, anxiety and alcohol.

Was the process of writing about these horrific events cathartic at all? What advice would you give to individuals who are facing similar circumstances?

Very cathartic. Reliving the violence whilst writing about it, enabled a release. It was a very healing experience. I encourage all survivors to use writing as a form of therapy.

How important is it for victims of domestic violence and rape to have secure support networks? How big a role did your friends and family play with respect to your own circumstances?

Whilst I was living through the violence in Don’t Hit Me! my brother and father died and my mother was fighting terminal brain cancer. Mum’s death was the catalyst for leaving my abuser. I couldn’t grieve for Mum, Dad and my brother Damian whilst being physically abused. Domestic and sexual violence are a very secretive business. I think support networks sound great in theory but I’m not convinced they work in reality.

You have a blog dedicated to covering feminist issues and sexuality. What issues would you like to see covered in more detail in the mainstream media? Why did you choose these ones?

I was fortunate to land a gig as a sex-blogger for The Huffington Post. From the very first article it just took off. Many sex-blogs written by women are tame and politically correct. My blogs are fierce and male-friendly. I also run an additional sex-blog called The Victress.

I have no interest in female-friendly porn, sensuality or romance. My blogs are for women and men who are seeking something fiercer, dirtier and un-PC. There is a definite inequality in literature and what is deemed acceptable for women to write about. I’m promiscuous and I make no beg-your-pardons. Interestingly enough, I was advised to tone down my writing by others in the industry. They believed it would sabotage my career opportunities. Thankfully I kept true to my voice. If anything, my sex-writing has only increased my opportunities in the mainstream. I want to see sexually fierce women like myself represented in mainstream media. I want it to become so normal that it no longer shocks.

Who is your feminist icon and why? What advice would you give to young women who may be struggling to identify as feminists?

Germaine Greer would have to be my feminist icon. She is more fierce than most women half her age.

I’m not sure about this new brand of feminism that is sold to girls.  It’s very sugary and shallow. But I do understand the reason for mass-marketing it this way with slogans like: If you believe that women should be treated equally then you’re a feminist.”

Feminism is much more complex than that. I believe that being a true feminist is your ability to support a woman in her choices, whatever they may be — sex-work, porn, stripping, promiscuity etc. I would encourage young women to read, read, read. I’ve been reading books about feminism and gender since I was a teen and I still have so much to learn.

Your work includes being a regular sex blogger and columnist. What is one of the biggest myths that people believe with respect to sex?

The biggest sex-myth is that women have lower libidos than men. The second biggest sex-myth is that women require emotional attachment in sex. It’s BS!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell The AU Review about Don’t Hit Me! or your future works?

Don’t Hit Me! has been a #1 Amazon Bestseller in four countries. It is the recipient of two international book awards. The book was originally self-published but was picked up by a Seattle publisher and re-released as a paperback and eBook.

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For support and 24 hour assistance regarding domestic violence, please visit the National Sexual Assault Online Service at: https://www.1800respect.org.au/ or call 1800RESPECT

For more information about Vanessa’s books Don’t Hit Me! and Without My Consent visit: http://www.vanessadelargie.net/without-my-consent.html and http://www.vanessadelargie.net/dont-hit-me.html

Originally published on 22 April 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/interviews/writer-sex-blogger-feminist-vanessa-de-largie-talks-about-sexuality-and-her-best-selling-books/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

INTERVIEW: NZ PLAYWRIGHT & SCREENWRITER ROCHELLE BRIGHT ON DAFFODILS

Daffodils_HERO photo by Garth Badger

 

Punk band, The Scavengers once sang about true love being beautiful. You could also say that Daffodils is a gorgeous romance story set in New Zealand where the aforementioned are from. The play is actually a Kiwi cabaret based on a real life love story between two teenagers, a farm girl named Rose and a Teddy boy called Eric. The pair are actually the parents of New Zealand screenwriter and playwright, Rochelle Bright and the production celebrates New Zealand’s finest recording artists including Crowded House, Bic Runga and Chris Knox, to name a few.

We sat down with Rochelle Bright to learn more about the sonic and visual splendor behind the heady love story that is the ballad of Eric and Rose.

Can you briefly introduce yourself? How long have you been working in the arts industry?

Hi, I’m Rochelle Bright. I’m a screenwriter/playwright currently based in Auckland. With my collaborator Kitan Petkovski, we are Bullet Heart Club. I studied at Tisch (New York University) and the projects I enjoy the most are collaborations with bands. It has been more than 10 years now that I’ve been in the arts industry – working in various roles from writer, composer to producer.

Can you briefly describe your production, Daffodils?

Daffodils mixes iconic New Zealand songs with theatre to tell the story of my parents. It’s true, my grandparents and parents both met at the exact same place by the daffodils by the lake – 20 years apart. It’s become a family legend. Yet while their love may seem fated, life is always much harder and more complicated. This production takes you right into their personal journey, played by two actors (Todd EmersonColleen Davis) with a live band made up of LIPS (Stephanie Brown & Fen Ikner) and Abraham Kunin.

Why do you think audiences should come and see Daffodils?

If you love good music (indie, pop, rock, electronic) this is a good show for you. If you love a good love-story, this one is a heartbreaker (we’ve heard many a sniffle in the theatre). Daffodils is performed in a unique way – the two actors never once look at each other. They give everything to the audience. From the responses we’ve had so far from those who have seen the show, I would think audiences should come to see Daffodils because it’s a story that feels close to home and at the same time it hits you with music you’ll love.

Daffodils features a great soundtrack by artists like Crowded House, Bic Runga and Chris Knox to name a few. What’s your favourite song that is used in this production? Why did you choose this?

Oooooooo… hard one. Each track in the show is part of the great NZ songbook. They’re all favourites. I guess… the section we’re most proud of in the show is connected to the song, “Language” (by Dave Dobbyn). This song speaks to a generation of men who struggle to communicate. I choose the song because it so perfectly expresses the dramatic moment without being cheesy/saccharine. We were so nervous the night Dave Dobbyn came to see the show. Thankfully he liked what we did!

How did you come to pick the songs in this production? Were there any that were left on the cutting room floor? Why?

Throughout the writing process each song was picked differently. For example, listening to Crowded House late one night while almost asleep, I could picture the key turning point in the story. This was the first song I picked. Later on while skyping with my Mum, she told me a story about my Dad when they were dating. There was a kind of sadness in her voice that when I listen to a particular The Mutton Birds track I hear/experience the same feeling – so that song was added. Some songs felt like they picked themselves – if you’re doing iconic NZ songs, you gotta have this…. One of the best discovery moments was looking at APRA’s Top 100 NZ songs of all-time list and finding a song by Blam Blam Blam. I had not heard it before as it was before my time, but as soon as I listened to it, I knew it had to be added. Blam Blam Blam’s songs represented perfectly the tension in our country during the 1980’s. There wasn’t any cutting room floor songs per se; we did try swapping one song out with another during an early read through but we always found ourselves going back to the original song list.

The production features some great images by Garth Badger. Do you have a favourite image from this production and why did you pick this particular one?

We shot all the images in one wild crazy day with Garth in his studio at Thievery. It was super hot and we had to put our lead actress Colleen Davis into a full on wedding dress. We shot from above with a confetti gun. The result was stunning, like a snow globe. This imagery is followed by my parents’ actual 8mm wedding footage. It’s my favourite moment – as the new and the old come together in a really beautiful way. We love working with Garth, he’s such an amazing creative force!

Do you have a favourite scene in the production? What’s it about and why did you choose this one?

Another really tough question. The great thing about live theatre is that in every show the performers find new moments. In each performance they shine and create magic in different parts. So for me my favourite scene changes. It’s the delicate moments when in a performance the band, actors and story just hit a special sweet spot. It can be a really cute flirt, or a moment when the cast simply break apart in front of you. Music plays a huge role in this show, so sometimes it can be a musical gesture. For example, at the moment I think my favourite musical part is during a Mint Chicks song, the band has added a little Brian Wilson salute in the backing vocals, which I just love!

Daffodils is about young lovers, Eric and Rose. How would you describe their relationship? Is it one people should aspire to?

Their relationship is true to life – through slightly romanticised through my eyes. There is a natural/immediate push and pull between them. Both stubborn and proud, they put their own feelings aside for others. Drawn on details from family and friends, their relationship is based on true events. The way Eric speaks to Rose is taken from letters my Dad wrote to my Mum. Elements of fiction have been added, to keep the story moving and to protect my family. I think we all hope/aspire to meet someone who we truly love. We also know that to keep such a love is the hardest thing we can do in one lifetime – especially when we cannot control the actions of others.

What are Eric and Rose’s favourite vinyl records? Do you think these sum them up as individuals?

Eric and Rose meet in 1964. Rose would be listening on repeat to Gene Pitney “Only Love Can Break a Heart” & Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’”. Eric, he’s got a different style, with The Beatles “Hard Day’s Night” & The Rolling Stones “Little Red Rooster”. Have a listen to these tracks, and you’ll hear them: Rose the farm girl and Eric the Teddy boy.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell The AU Review about your adaptation of Daffodils or future works?

This year we finished a Daffodils Ep – Lips Remix with the band and we are currently working on adapting Daffodils into a feature film. We’re really excited to be working with Rose and Eric’s story again in this new medium.

Bullet Heart Club is also working towards a couple of new stage shows; one is a collaboration with an Australian artist and the other with artists from Sweden. It’s early days, but you can follow us at bulletheartclub.com to see what comes next.

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Daffodils plays at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta from May 12-14. For more information and tickets visit https://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/daffodils/

 

Originally published on 21 April 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/interviews/nz-screenwriter-and-playwright-rochelle-bright-describes-the-kiwi-cabaret-and-love-story-daffodils/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

 

BOOK REVIEW: MARK LAMPRELL – THE LOVERS’ GUIDE TO ROME

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The Lovers’ Guide to Rome promised to whisk me off my feet and take me on a journey of the Eternal City. And while there were plenty of moments where I felt like I was back in Italy, there were also times where it felt a tad unremarkable. This book is ultimately a light, uneven and pleasant rom-com that would have made a better film.

This book is the second novel from screenwriter, Mark Lamprell (Babe: Pig in the City). Here, Lamprell choses to have the city of Rome play the role as the narrator. It’s a novel idea to weave together three different stories about love- one that’s found, rekindled and farewelled. The Lovers’ Guide to Rome is ultimately an adventure that includes some off-beat interludes like meetings to a gypsy camp, a mugging and a spell down the Spanish Steps on a motorino.

One of the stars of the book is Alice, an arts student who is looking to have one last hurrah before she settles down and marries her safe but boring boyfriend. By contrast, Alec and Meg are a couple who have been married for a long time. Their excitement no longer comes from each other but is instead found while doing home renovations, even if these require a short trip to Rome – or the same place as their honeymoon – in order for them to succeed. Constance and Lizzie meanwhile, are in Rome to spread the ashes of the latter’s brother and the former’s late husband, as per the instructions in his will. The pair are not looking for love but it may find them anyway.

This novel is a vibrant one and the descriptions of the supporting characters can be quite fun. Lamprell has done a good job of painting some rather flawed but authentic-feeling characters for this book. But despite this, there are still some moments where the novel felt a little forced and uneven. The mugging scene seemed completely out-of-step with the rest of the book. The middle-aged couple’s domestic despair was quite mundane and tedious and this is a far cry from the gorgeous tourists attractions that are described here along with some notes about their history (it’s also nice to see that Lamprell has included the famous ones as well as those that are a little off the beaten track).

Mark Lamprell has put together multiple love stories for The Lovers’ Guide to Rome but the linking of these tales could be described as tenuous at best. This romantic tale had some good intentions and it seemed decent enough at times but it was ultimately lacking in the power, mystery and passion of the fine, Eternal City. Some readers may enjoy the fun romp with some added history lessons that this book offers, while others may be left wanting to know and experience a little more of Rome’s true essence, something that may have been lost in the Castel Sant’Angelo.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1607130870?book_show_action=false

 

 

BLU-RAY REVIEW: KNIGHT OF CUPS

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Terrence Malick’s seventh film, Knight of Cups is a completely forgettable piece of hoity-toity arthouse shlock masquerading as a kind of intellectual narrative. The story gets its name from the tarot card that depicts a romantic adventurer guided by his emotions. And that’s really all it is. For a long two hours.

Christian Bale stars as Rick, a Hollywood screenwriter who is difficult to like. He is dissatisfied with life (don’t we all experience this at times but it doesn’t mean we need to watch hours of it) and plays things out through encounters with different women. The film is divided into separate chapters that are shown as almost separate vignettes and this only serves to keep the audience at arm’s length. It’s really hard to empathise with such a disagreeable lead character and his lovely ladies when you are barely scratching the surface.

The film itself looks beautiful with the cinematography by multiple Academy Award winner, Emmanuel Lubezki. But its use of monologues delivered in hushed tones and lots of voiceover narration that doesn’t add any kind of cohesive sense to the proceedings means the film doesn’t feel atmospheric and ethereal as the director intended it, it just feels tedious and over-bearing. The soundtrack by Hanan Townshend is almost exclusively orchestral music and this adds a flowery element to the story. But the film is ultimately too experimental for its own good because one man’s navel-gazing and prolonged existential crisis does not a good film make.

The Knight of Cups does have some famous stars making cameos. Cate Blanchett plays Rick’s ex-wife while Isabel Lucas is supposed to be an innocent but she just wanders around looking gorgeous. Natalie Portman plays a woman who has been wronged by Rick in the past. But these stories could have been expanded on. The film is really just aimless and vapid with lots of scenes of a picturesque L.A. set in mansions, beaches, resorts and clubs that look fine but it doesn’t have anything of note to say. This film is full of fragments that hint at drama but amount to little more than naught. The special features are also quite disappointing because they simply include a short and unenlightening behind-the-scenes featurette.

In all, Knight of Cups is an ambitious film about one man’s philosophising amidst his own personal crisis. It could have been an insightful and interesting tale but it is instead filled with hollow montages and monologue that fail to truly capture his internal struggle. In sum, this is one tedious experimental film that would have benefited from a bit more direction and form being added to the brief.

Originally published on 9 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/knight-of-cups-blu-ray-review/

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

BOOK REVIEW: JOSEPHINE MOON – THE BEEKEEPER’S SECRET

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The Beekeeper’s Secret marks a slight departure in style for Australian author, Josephine Moon. In her third novel the writer has once again put together a vibrant and easy-to-read story about love, loss, family and friendship but this time around also manages to thread in some extra twists of suspense and mystery to the tale, as well tackling some dark and topical subject matter.  This was ultimately an enjoyable book boasting some well-realised characters and hopefully this is not the last that readers will hear from this diverse and intriguing lot.

The story stars a kind-hearted and well-meaning former nun named Maria Lindsey. The latter likes nothing more than her solitary life tending to her honeybees and making honey-based products that she can sell at the local markets in order to raise funds for an orphanage in Cambodia. Maria is a likeable character who is also harbouring a number of terrible secrets. She is plagued by a sense of guilt and feels like she needs to continue in her quest for atonement.

Tansy Butterfield is a successful 30-year-old interior decorator and the estranged niece of Lindsey. She is suffering a mid-life crisis because she must reconsider her feelings and make some big decisions with respect to child-rearing and following her husband overseas. At the same time she also wants to establish a relationship with an aunt she’s never met and knows nothing about. If that’s not enough, Butterfield also has a tight-knit immediate family and they are battling a number of their own issues like loss of faith, infidelity, sick children and regrets about the past.

Moon’s story was a little slow to begin with but it really hit its stride in the middle and towards the end. The characters are rich and realistic ones like those found in Marian Keyes’s novels and the story is an interesting and relevant dramedy that contains added messages, meaning and metaphors thanks to the vivid descriptions of honeybees. In all, this book shows a dysfunctional family negotiating their way through rights, wrongs, cover-ups, lies and betrayals in a story that is like a pot of amber gold and a rather sweet family tale.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28509498-the-beekeeper-s-secret

FOOD REVIEW: TRE BICCHIERI BY GAMBERO ROSSO WINE DINNER @ THE RESTAURANT PENDOLINO (21.03.2016)

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The Sydney instalment of the Tre Bicchieri World Tour concluded with a scrumptious dinner at the restaurant Pendolino. The dinner came after a long afternoon of wine tastings and a masterclass lead by Eleonora Guerini, the editor of Gambero Rosso’s comprehensive, Italian Wine guide. It proved the perfect opportunity to eat, drink and be merry and enjoy 12 award-winning, Italian wines.

Italy boasts over 500 different grape varieties and Gambero Rosso’s guide is like the bible because it offers a detailed look at grapes and wines that can seem rather foreign to Australians. The evening started with a glass of Bortolomiol ‘Prior’ Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Millesimato Glera 2015. It is a grape grown in the Dolomites where the environment has its own unique microclimate. This provides impeccable growing conditions for Prosecco and it’s a light and fresh drop with a high acidity and hints of apple and almond. The second glass, an Altemasi ‘Riserva Graal’ Brut Trento DOC was a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero and had hints of orange blossom.

 

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Pendolino Restaurant has long been a supporter and importer of Italian wines. In recent times they have played host to their own series of masterclasses, which allow people to sample and learn about different wines from overseas. The first course from Pendolino chef, Nino Zoccali’s team was a beetroot salad with burrata, fresh mint, beetroot jelly, crisp breadcrumbs, Pendolino nebbiolo vinegar and King Island Ligurian honey dressing. This entrée saw the creamy, snow white cheese complementing the tart cubes of beetroot and Pendolino’s own special vinegar dressing. This dish also went well with the soft and fruity Zorzettig ‘Myò’ Friuli Colli Orientali DOC Pinot Bianco.

The primi course of traditional handmade ravioli with spinach ricotta, Parmigiano reggiano, gruyere, mozzarella, burnt butter and sage was grand. These large, thin ellipses were positively bursting with flavour. They were full of strong and powerful cheeses and proved an interesting match when paired with the fruity, sparkling wine, Ferghettina Extra Brut Franciacorta DOCG Chardonnay and Pinot Nero blend. This was quite a complex and tropical drink and like Italy’s own answer to champagne. The Le Marchesine ‘Secolo Novo’ Millesimato Franciacorta DOCG Chardonnay offered structure and elegance with its hints of raspberry, violet and wild strawberries.

 

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The main course featured some ten hour, slow-cooked British-bred beef with organic buckwheat ragú,Polegnano style heirloom carrot, parsnip and parsley root puree, burnt grain and organic Nero D’Avola sauce. This dish was absolutely divine- the meat just feel apart when you looked at it and the quinoa grains were tasty after having been caramelised to offer the right mix of crunch and oil. The carrots and puree also offered a certain sweetness to the dish and this went well with the Velenosi ‘Roggio del Filare’ Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC from Central Italy. This had refreshing grapefruit notes and it brimmed with different flavour profiles thanks to its being made up of 70% Montepulciano and 30% Sangiovese grapes.

 

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The night had been a decadent one filled with rich and bold flavours. It also offered the chance to learn a lot from some representatives from some stellar Italian vineyards and the Gambero Rosso Italian Wine Guide. It was a fitting way for Gambero Rosso to celebrate some 30 years in the industry while in the company of friends from Sydney.

 

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For more information on Gambero Rosso’s Italian Wine Guide and the Tre Bicchieri world tour please visit:http://www.gamberorosso.it/it/eventi-internazionali

For more information on the restaurant Pendolino please visit: http://pendolino.com.au/

Originally published on 4 April 2016 at the following website: https://theplusones.com/sydney/2016/04/04/pendolino-wine-dinner-gambero-rosso-tre-bicchieri/

Visit The Plus Ones’s homepage for the city of Sydney at: https://theplusones.com/sydney/

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