DVD REVIEW: ROSEHAVEN SERIES ONE

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Rosehaven is a comedy show that finds the funny in lots of things. It’s a fish-out-of-water comedy, a buddy comedy and a sitcom set in rural Australia. This eight-part series debuted on the ABC in 2016 and it was a hit with audiences. This is because it’s a funny show about two rather unlikely friends and their lives in the fictional town of Rosehaven.

The show is written and created by Australian comedians Celia Pacquola (Utopia) and Luke McGregor (Luke Warm Sex). It’s not the most original premise for a program but it is one that has a big heart. This could be because Rosehaven manages to find the comedy in the characters’ adventures and misadventures.

McGregor stars as Daniel McCallum, a character that you sense is not a huge stretch for him to write or play. McCallum had previously left his childhood town of Rosehaven in Tasmania to work on the mainland of Australia. But his mother’s ailing health means that her shy, anxious and nervy son must return home to help run the family real estate business. Cue a lot of the local townspeople greeting the grown-up Daniel by his childhood name, “Danny” and making the assumption that he couldn’t “Hack it on the mainland.”

Pacquola stars as McCallum’s vivacious and confident best friend, Emma Dawes. You get the sense that the pair’s friendship has survived an awful lot, not least Emma’s marriage. The series opens with McCallum playing the bridesmaid for his best friend but the marriage doesn’t last much longer than the actual ceremony. Emma is left abandoned by her new husband on her honeymoon in Bali. So she goes to Tasmania to seek refuge and new opportunities with her best friend, Daniel. It helps that Emma is a fast-learner and a natural talent at the real estate game and that she’s not fazed by the town’s eccentrics (think a hoarder, some vigilante neighbourhood watch members, a 24-hour emergency butcher and more).

The series pokes fun at the shenanigans the pair encounter while trying to run the small real estate office owned by Daniel’s mother (an powerful and occasionally scary, Kris McQuade) in the quiet and idyllic, eponymous town. McGregor and Pacquola have a wonderful chemistry and it’s obvious that they’re close friends in real life. The pair also have great lines that really bounce off the other quite well with McGregor’s reticent straight man often proving to be the comedic foil because he is a pushover for the more devilish, quick-thinking and enterprising Emma.

Rosehaven’s first series proved to be a charming and likeable one. The show has some clever jokes and wonderful laughs and it is a testament to the exciting writing by Pacquola and McGregor that they did not have to resort to cheap jokes about the local townspeople who to be fair are a bunch of eccentrics. Instead this is a fun comedy program that will have you cheering on these adorable adolescent-like adults and their blooming business because it will make you want to sit back and hope that this little family enterprise and friendship becomes hot property.

Originally published on 29 December 2016 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/dvd-review-rosehaven-series-one-australia-2016-is-a-funny-comedy-misadventure-about-two-unlikely-friends/

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

Visit The Iris’s homepage at: http://www.theiris.com.au

FILM REVIEW: ROSALIE BLUM

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French film Rosalie Blum is a new adaptation of the graphic novels of the same name by Camille Jourdy. It’s a quirky dramedy told across three separate parts, taking in the different viewpoints of three separate characters.
In act one we are introduced to Vincent Machot (Kyan Khojandi). He is the king of predictability, a man who lives with his overbearing mother in a flat, and who can divide his time neatly between that spent at work on his own business, and his encounters with his cousin, cat and parent.

One day, a series of circumstances forces Machot into a grocer’s shop in a provincial part of France. The shopkeeper is one Rosalie Blum (a dowdy-looking Noémie Lvovsky). Confronted with this mysterious older woman, Machot can’t help but shake the feeling that they already know each other – so, naturally, he becomes her stalker, going through her garbage in order to satisfy his curiosity, if not the audience’s. From her perspective, Rosalie is aware that she’s being followed, and enlists the help of her gorgeous young niece Aude (Alice Isaaz) to spy on her stalker.

First-time director Julien Rappeneau uses his time to slowly reveal how these three characters are really connected, and while the concept has potential, the actual execution is dull.

The Belle And Sebastian song ‘Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying’ is a welcome distraction (though the sentiment of that title is probably going a bit far, even if this film struggles to maintain any momentum). Still, Rosalie Blum is little more than a flat and forgettable game of hide-and-seek in which nobody seems to win.

Originally published on 29 December 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/rosalie-blum

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

INTERVIEW: NATIONAL THEATRE OF PARRAMATTA’S WAYNE HARRISON

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Hakawati is a Sydney Festival show that allows you to be swept away to an Arabian night in Western Sydney. The show is a celebration of food and stories and is inspired by an Arabic tradition where storytelling is combined with breaking bread. This event will have its world premiere at the El- Phoenician restaurant in Parramatta. We at the AU Review talked to the show’s director and organiser, Wayne Harrison AM to learn more about Hakawati, the National Theatre of Parramatta and an event where a meal can offer much food for thought.

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Can you briefly describe what your role is and how long you’ve been working in the theatre?

I had my first job in the theatre when I was seven, performing in a J C Williamson’s musical. I led a double life as a student and a thespian until I ran away from Melbourne University to join a circus. I thereafter became a journalist, a dramaturg, and a theatre director – I’m combining all three to create Hakawati, although the circus may be in there somewhere.

Can you briefly describe the premise behind the show Hakawati?

It’s ‘food and food for thought’.

Why do you think people should come and see the show Hakawati?

I hope it will be entertaining, maybe enlightening – and the El-Phoenician (Restaurant) food is exceptional. The format is: first course / followed by story / second course / story / third course / story / fourth course / story.

Hakawati is inspired by the tradition of story-telling and breaking bread as well as celebrating food, music and the telling of tales. What sorts of stories can people come to expect at this show? Will participants be encouraged to share some stories of their very own?

The stories will be contemporary with a ‘1001 nights twist’ – a bit of magic realism and generational conflict, with a cameo from the odd celebrity (appearing in words only). I’m sure the concept will generate a lot of audience stories, but at this stage the format only allows for the four official story-tellers to tell their tales.

Hakawati is all about food and stories. If you could invite any three guests to dinner (living or dead) who would they be and why?

Rogan Poulier, who was my best friend at school – he was of Sri Lankan descent, taught me a lot about telling stories in a different way, and never had a problem with my double life; Jacki Weaver, who’s always good value at a dinner party; and my mother, who never really forgave me for swapping uni for the circus – this might make up for it, a bit.

Is the Hakawati Sydney Festival live event related to the novel of the same name by Rabih Alameddine? Or do the two just use similar approaches to their art?
No, the Sydney Festival event is not related to the excellent novel. It has a crossover, in that it also concerns itself with parents and children – but we are grounded firmly in Granville south with a quick visit to Kellyville (where there’s a magic lamp).

You directed the Hakawati show at Sydney Festival. What is involved in directing a show like this one? Does this show actually have a script or is it improvised?

There are four scripts – one for each Hakawati, though the fourth story is a bit of a group effort. The direction for this sort of show is all in the casting, i.e. finding four actors who can sustain complex story-telling, create all the characters, set the various moods, find the humour and the other emotional moments, take us all on the journey, invite the audience to help tell the story. I can help in this, too, but it’s mainly the actors.

Can you briefly tell us about the National Theatre of Parramatta (NTofP)? Is there anything else relating to this theatre company that you’d like to plug?

NTofP is “putting the nation on stage”, helping tell a few stories that might not necessarily get a guernsey (or look-in) elsewhere. It’s also like a door, one that new talent, or individuals new to the theatre, can knock on and enter.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers of The AU Review about Hakawati or any other upcoming events?

Well, the stage version of Felicity Castagna’s award-winning The Incredible Here and Now is coming – life and death on the streets of Parramatta and beyond – and David Williams’ Smurf in Wanderland – a take on what happens when a Sydney FC supporter frequents Western Sydney Wanderers’ footy matches. Both are NTofP productions.

Photo credit: Luke Stambouliah

Hakawati has its world premiere at the El-Phoenician Restaurant in Parramatta from January 11 – 21 as part of the 2017 Sydney Festival. For more information and tickets please visit: http://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/2017/hakawati

Originally published on 21 December 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/interviews/wayne-harrison-talks-about-staging-an-arabian-night-in-western-sydney/

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

BOOK REVIEW: KARLY LANE – THIRD TIME LUCKY

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Karly Lane’s book, Third Time Lucky is a lovely adaptation of a Christmas novella. It’s a story that translates well to the longer format but it’s also one that is difficult to write about without revealing some crucial plot points. It is perhaps best if we consider that this is a rural romance that poses and solves a number of questions, including: is it possible to forgive the past? Can you learn to love after you’ve been duped by your partner and left a widower?  Can young lovers that were once torn apart rekindle their relationship? Do you choose revenge or forgiveness after being slighted?

This novel stars December Doyle, a strong and relatable character who lives in a small and mountainous town in country NSW called Christmas Creek. Doyle is a kind character that only sees the best in people. She’s also the only female to be born into her family for some time. As a result of this, she is often protected by her well-meaning but stubborn father and brothers.

Doyle finds herself newly single. Her childhood sweetheart, a former bad boy-turned-successful businessman named Seth Hunter returns to town just as she is beginning to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life. What ensues is a period where the main and supporting characters meet again and reassess their past relationships, rights and wrongs.

Third Time Lucky sees Karly Lane penning another intriguing romance novel. Lane is a country girl and it is obvious in her authentic prose and descriptions that are quite detailed and multi-faceted. Third Time Lucky is an easy and breezy read that will make you want to kick off your heels, relax into a couch and enjoy a simple but satisfying romance tale.

***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/blog-tour-book-club-third-time-lucky

BOOK REVIEW: JEANETTE WINTERSON – CHRISTMAS DAYS

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Joy to the world, Christmas Days is a collection of twelve short stories and other tid-bits that celebrate the festive season. The book is written by Jeanette Winterson (Why be Happy When You Could be Normal?) an author who by her own admission loves Christmas and this could be due to the fact that she was adopted by a family of Pentecostal Christians. Winterson states on the cover that Christmas is: “A tradition of celebration, sharing and giving. And what better way to do that than with a story?”

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201612/213480

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

DVD REVIEW: STREETS OF YOUR TOWN

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Streets of Your Town is a romp through history, suburban Australia and its architecture. Comedian, Tim Ross, a self-confessed modernist tragic who has performed his own live shows in significant Australian buildings takes us on a journey through different Aussie structures, from the significant ones to the humble family home ranging from the 1950s to today. This two-part documentary could have been longer and is ultimately a love letter by Ross to Australian architects and buildings, but the series is not without a few structural trappings.

This fly-on-the-wall program from director, Sally Aitken (Getting Frank Gehry) begins in the post-war years when materials like concrete, steel and glass were used to make sleek and functional, modernist designs. In this special, Ross describes important buildings like the Sydney Opera House, Rose Seidler House, The Australian Academy of Science Building and Blues Point Tower. He also interviews a number of interesting individuals including Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs,) writer, Kathy Lette and philosopher, Alain de Botton.

The final part of the series tackles the impact of immigration on Australia’s homes, particularly the ones from the eighties where columns, arches and balconies saw them dubbed “Late 20th century immigrants’ nostalgia.” There is also the recent phenomena of upsizing the family home such that media rooms and en-suites are a must and are no longer a negotiable commodity.

Over the course of this programme Ross and his team go into detail about Australia’s pioneering architects including Robin Boyd, Harry Seidler and Syd Ancher, to name a few. Ross is also a little condescending at times when he dismisses the McMansions of today even though they are punctuating the suburbs. He calls them ugly in an aesthetic sense and he also believes that many old buildings should be cherished and preserved.

Streets of Your Town is an interesting documentary series about Australian architecture, history and suburban life. Ross is a passionate and rather opinionated presenter and sometimes his ideas may not accord with his viewers, as he is a little biased towards modernism. But at the end of the day this intriguing show demonstrates just what it takes for a house to be appreciated and considered a home.

Originally published on 12 December 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/streets-town-dvd-review/

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

FOOD REVIEW: THE SHANGRI-LA’S FESTIVE HIGH TEA & LIFE-SIZE GINGERBREAD HOUSE

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel. Executive Pastry Chef, Anna Polyviou and her team of elves have outdone themselves this year with a life-sized gingerbread house full of lolly decorations on display, as well as a Christmas-themed carousel. The introduction of these annual decorations have transformed the atmosphere in the hotel’s famously lavish lobby, so it’s only right that they offer a few yuletide specials to celebrate.

For those not already aware, you might remember Polyviou from her appearances on MasterChef Australia and her decadent, Anna’s Mess dessert. Polyviou is like a rock-star chef but she’s also one who is fond of the traditional gingerbread house. The Shangri-La Hotel’s lobby has been home to a large gingerbread house for the past few Christmases but this year Polyviou and her team have taken things to a whole new level. The delectable Christmas offering also boasts a gorgeous carousel of horses to rival that magical scene in Mary Poppins and it’s also one that will make you wish you could hop on board and ride along yourself.

 

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These life-size pieces of gingerbread finery took no less than 32 people working together around the clock in order to fashion and execute. The individuals included Polyviou’s team of pastry chefs as well as 20 members of the Australian Cake Decorating Network. Gingerbread houses are not always easy for people to put together so it’s a structural wonder to see this staggering house and carousel made of 2000kg of gingerbread bricks, 800kg of lollies, 100kg of fondant, 200 lollipops and oodles of icing. The whole thing makes you want to scream, “Oh my!”

Polyviou remembers her childhood fondly. She recalls the thrill and enjoyment she had when buying and eating lollies from the local milk bars and tuck shops as a kid. This Christmas display is a celebration of all those fun days from your childhood. Polyviou says, “I love that people think we’re crazy with creations like this, and I love that adults often get more excited than the kids once they see it.”

 

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For those individuals wanting to take home a little piece of this merriment, the hotel have a number of wonderful festive treats for sale. These include: gingerbread lollybag houses ($55), a family of ginger ninjas (aka a 4 pack of gingerbread men for $9.50), white Christmas nougat ($5.50), fruit mince star tarts ($12 for 6 pies), Christmas pudding (individual $6 and large ones serving four people for $18), mix ‘n’ match rocky road $6.50), the pastry chef’s Christmas stocking ($35) and strawberry candy cane and caramel gingerbread macarons (9 pack for $12).

The Shangri-La are renowned for their delicious high teas; at other points in the year they offer both a traditional one and a sumptuous chocolate one. For Christmas, customers can enjoy a festive high tea ($55 per adult and $27.50 per child) where Polyviou specifically tackles holiday fun with her desserts. On the menu is a sweet cherry pie, a white Ozzy berry Christmas Pavlova, Santa hat domes filled with lip-smacking berry mousse and your traditional afternoon tea scones with jam.

 

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The high-tea includes a number of savoury options and these flavours align with the fact the owners of the hotel are originally from Asia. These include a caramelised onion and goat cheese tart, a new take on the prawn cocktail and a turkey sandwich. These are all accompanied by a vast range of teas or alternatively sparkling wine and champagne can be added for an additional charge.

 

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Polyviou has also added an extra piece of Christmas joy to the high tea experience. This feature is a special miniature Christmas tree adornment decorated with tiny baubles and gingerbread men dressed like little ninjas and it also comes with some “presents” underneath it. These are tasty pieces of white chocolate, cranberry and pistachio nougat, jelly lollies and two kinds of chocolate including one praline variety and the other a soft-centred caramel.

 

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Polyviou has also added an extra piece of Christmas joy to the high tea experience. This feature is a special miniature Christmas tree adornment decorated with tiny baubles and gingerbread men dressed like little ninjas and it also comes with some “presents” underneath it. These are tasty pieces of white chocolate, cranberry and pistachio nougat, jelly lollies and two kinds of chocolate including one praline variety and the other a soft-centred caramel.

The Shangri-La Hotel has a number of options available for Christmas and team lunches. It also has a spectacular outlook of Sydney Harbour so it is the perfect venue for New Year’s Eve celebrations, especially for those patrons wanting to view the fireworks. There is a lot to be merry about at the Shangri-La this December. Anna Polyviou and her team of hard-working elves have put together a spectacular Christmas celebration that is fit for a king. It’s an absolute treat to see the life-sized gingerbread house and the magical carousel as this winter wonderland will leave you singing ding dong merrily on a high!

Images supplied.

Shangri-La Hotel Sydney
Address: 176 Cumberland St, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9250 6000
Website: http://www.shangri-la.com/sydney/shangrila/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shangrilasydney

Originally published on 12 December 2016 at the following website: http://food.theaureview.com/news/anna-polyvious-epic-gingerbread-house-and-festive-high-tea-take-over-shangri-la-hotel-sydney/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to dining and food at: http://food.theaureview.com/

 

FILM REVIEW: A UNITED KINGDOM

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A United Kingdom could be renamed “Politics and Prejudice.” This film tells the extraordinary true story of when Seretse Khama, the King of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), fell in love with and married a determined English woman named Ruth Williams.

This film stars David Oyelowo (Selma) and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) as the two lovers in this bi-racial marriage, and they put in strong performances and share a persuasive and lovely chemistry.

The union between this African man and white woman was challenged by the South African government of the day, which had just introduced its apartheid legislation. That government also put pressure on the British to publicly intervene. The couple had to deal with with society’s conservative ideas at the time, as well as mounting pressure from their respective families.

When Williams gave birth to their first child in the sweeping African plains, Khama was exiled and stuck in the UK.

Sure enough, A United Kingdom offers an inspiring and sentimental story of love conquering all, with geography, politics, family and the establishment failing to keep the couple apart.

It’s a beautifully-shot and convincing dama from director, Amma Asante (Belle) and a safe yet moving look at an important chapter in history. This was a brave couple who united and took on the world, and such a story of unity seems more timely and relevant today than ever.

Originally published on 7 December 2016 at the following website: https://issuu.com/furstmedia/docs/brag_692

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

BOOK REVIEW: AMANDA WEBSTER- A TEAR IN THE SOUL

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For years Amanda Webster had an idealistic view of the past. The smart, sixth-Generation Australian, who has published books about autism and whose father and grandfather were respected doctors, had assumed that everyone – including her Indigenous school friends – had enjoyed a comfortable upbringing that was similar to the her own.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201612/209506

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

BOOK REVIEW: ANNA ROMER – BEYOND THE ORCHARD

beyond-the-orchard

 

Beyond the Orchard is an Australian saga spanning multiple years, taking in different generations and perspectives. It seems to have a lot in common with the late Bryce Courtenay’s work insofar as it’s an epic slice of Australiana. The book is the third novel by Anna Romer (Thornwood House) and a rich and detailed tapestry where some different characters lives are all interwoven together through a series of secrets and lies.

The story stars Lucy Briar, a young woman whose mother passed away when she was just a young girl. Briar is now all grown up and has been living in London for the past few years. She is also newly engaged. Lucy left Australia for the UK a few years ago after a relationship with an older man (the father of a friend of hers) had gone awry.

Lucy is called back to her childhood home after she is invited to her friends’ wedding. Before Briar arrives in Victoria she receives a message from her estranged grandfather that is completely unexpected. He wants to meet her and set the record straight on a few things regarding the past. Sadly, Lucy’s grandpa does not get the opportunity to follow through with his promise. But little by little Lucy undertakes he own detective work and uncovers a rich and complicated family history and some life events that involve her relatives as well as love, loss, death, despair and redemption.

Anna Romer’s novel is a rather ambitious one that threads together the perspectives of various characters living at different points in history. She also adds additional textural flourishes in the form of extracts from a book written by Lucy’s father Ronald. These extra storylines add greater depth and meaning to the existing characters and their motivations because it is a case of art imitating life.

Beyond the Orchard feels like it’s a real story because it is so atmospheric and emotional. It’s a testament to Romer’s fabulous writing that the characters seem as rich and complex as real people. Romer’s prose is well-written and sometimes quite poetic and beautiful. This book is a well-constructed one where mystery and romance make for one haunting and intriguing family history.

***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-beyond-the-orchard

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