BOOK REVIEW: HOW TO WIN AT FEMINISM – PRESENTED BY REDUCTRESS AND BY ELIZABETH NEWELL, SARAH PAPPALARDO & ANNA DREZEN

 

How to Win at Feminism is a book that needs to be taken along with a large grain of salt as it is supposed to be a funny and subversive – if misguided – look at feminism for millennials. The writers even include acknowledge this, with, “At the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of cute klutzes who wrote an effing book” but is this admission at the end of the book one that is too little too late? If How to Win at Feminism achieves anything it is to prove that for some people feminism isn’t and will never be a laughing matter.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201703/226256

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BOOK REVIEW: LEE LIN CHIN & CHRIS LEBEN – ICED BEER & OTHER TANTALISING TIPS FOR LIFE

leelinchin

 

Iced Beer & Other Tantalising Tips for Life is a short book that is billed as a sort of advice manual by the self-proclaimed “Prime Chinster of Australia”, or Gold Logie nominee, newsreader, and inimitable fashionista known as Lee Lin Chin. This book is a confident look at the important things in Chin’s life and one in which she squarely puts the majority of people down (although to be fair, most of them were morons anyway). Chin is assisted here by The Feed’s Chris Leben, a man that Chin jokes cannot string a sentence together but who manages her social media accounts (because Chin hates technology).

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201701/216547

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BOOK REVIEW: TRICIA STRINGER – A CHANCE OF STORMY WEATHER

a-chance-of-stormy-weather

 

A Chance of Stormy Weather was originally self-published in 2004 by Australian, rural romance writer, Tricia Stringer. It was also one of her most requested books, as some readers thought it was good at distilling what life in the country is really about. This fictional story is not Stringer’s best work but it is still a well-written and pleasant-enough novel.

This book is about the marriage between a Sydney girl named Paula and a farmer from South Australia named Dan. The two had a whirlwind romance and got married not long after they initially met (and why this was the case is not properly explored.) This then sets things up for a fish-out-of-water tale as the book takes in the events that surround their first few months of marriage.

Paula is a naïve city girl when it comes to her new life. She doesn’t know much about the country (even basics like what kind of meat mutton is allude her) and she’s not used to driving along dirt roads. Paula is sometimes a difficult character to warm to. She is pretty idle when she initially arrives at her new home (granted some of this could be chalked up to the culture shock that she experiences) and she is sometimes quite silly (it’s hard to believe that she was burned in a previous relationship only to rush into the arms of another man.)

Dan on the other hand is an easier person to like. He’s a hard-working guy who’s trying to forge out a living and be self-reliant. But he is also hiding some secrets from the past, most importantly the present status/nature of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Katherine. There is also Dan’s meddlesome aunt, Rowena who is always on hand to offer her two cents worth and Paula’s parents are occasionally present to interfere with their daughter’s relationship under the guise of “meaning well.”

A Chance of Stormy Weather glosses over some important elements in the main characters’ romance (as well as their lives before they met one other) and it is ultimately a rather predictable story of a fish out of water. It’s also a book where the characters are not the most endearing or easy to warm to. Stringer has a fine reputation for telling engaging stories about the lives of individuals living in rural Australia and while this book seems to tick some boxes well, there was also room in this vast country expanse for some additional improvements.

***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-a-chance-of-stormy-weather

FILM REVIEW: MAN UP

man-up

 

Can a few dating wrongs allow you to find Mr. Right? That is the question that is asked in the British rom-com, Man Up. The film is simply one zany night stretched out to feature length. It’s an evening filled with mishaps and misadventures and it’s all madcap fun that is uncomplicated, funny and silly.

The film is directed by Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners Movie) and marks the silver-screen debut of writer, Tess Morris who has previously written episodes of My Family and Hollyoaks. American-actress, Lake Bell (In A World…) does an excellent job playing an English character who could have been drowning in self-pity. She’s Nancy, a 34-year-old single journalist who has been burned by her previous relationships and is naturally a little gun shy. She is also in possession of two parents and a sister who are obsessed with her relationship status. Like Bridget Jones, she is an older, single gal but she’s also a tad jaded, cynical and sassy.

Nancy meets Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) a young, over-achieving do-gooder on the train. Jessica raves about a self-help book and even gives a copy of this to Nancy. And thorough a series of contrived events, Nancy ends up underneath a clock at Waterloo station when Jessica’s blind date, Jack (Simon Pegg) turns up. Jack assumes Nancy is Jessica and rather than correct the poor man, Nancy decides to go along for the ride.

The pair hit it off but remember, this is a boy meets girl, boy loses girl sort of tale. As the story progresses, the events get zanier and crazier. There’s a cameo by a weird stalker from Nancy’s childhood (played by good sport, Rory Kinnear) and things do get a little strange when Jack’s ex-wife (a stern, Olivia Williams) turns up at the bar with her new partner. This film has a big heart and there are moments where it is quite likeable, fast-paced and funny. Thankfully, these parts tend to outweigh the predictable, contrived and clichéd moments found elsewhere.

Man Up has an unfortunate title and is actually a pleasant little film told from an interesting lady’s point of view, although it does go off on more than one screwball tangent. It’s an un-challenging and pleasant watch that can be a bit cheesy at times. But mostly it is filled with good bits of sass and witty dialogue. In all, this is one enjoyable comedy and look at modern love.

Originally published on 3 November 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-man-up-uk-france-2015/

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FILM REVIEW: BLINKY BILL: THE MOVIE

blinky

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DVD REVIEW: LAGGIES

laggies

 

“Laggies” are immature people who trail behind as their friends mature, get jobs, get married and have children. It’s also the name of a rom-com and family dramedy from director, Lynn Shelton (Your Sister’s Sister) and writer/novelist, Andrea Seigel. The story is implausible and forgetful but the film is redeemed by its pleasant-enough execution and the good performances that are offered up by the lead actors who are engaging, charismatic and charming.

The film stars Keira Knightley as Megan Burch, a 28-year-old who has a graduate degree but would much rather work for her father as a sign-girl and spend the rest of her free time sitting on her parents’ couch. She is a free-spirit who hangs out with the same group of friends she had in high school. This is despite the fact that they’ve all gone and got themselves good jobs, are married or engaged and in some cases are expecting kids.

Burch’s life is thrown into a head spin after she sees her father (Jeff Garlin) secretly with another woman at her friend’s wedding. And things fail to improve when her bland but well-meaning boyfriend (Mark Webber) decides to propose. Megan says “Yes” but she is secretly reeling. She leaves the reception in order to get some air and meets a group of teenagers who want her to buy alcohol (they are led by the very capable, Chloë Grace Moretz as Annika).

Burch decides she’d rather spend her time with these young, new-found friends (despite a very obvious age gap). She crashes on Annika’s couch for a week and lies to her other friends and family about going to a self-development seminar. The story is completely absurd (one scene even involves Burch playing Annika’s Mum for a meeting at school, despite the two looking nothing alike and neither being the right age). The whole thing is really just an off-kilter and eccentric vehicle to enable a romance to blossom between Burch and Annika’s handsome single father, who is played by Sam Rockwell.

Laggies is a low-key comedy that is far from perfect, as it often feels quite contrived and silly. But it does have some good moments and these generally outweigh the bad. This film shows that you can defy convention and make some bad choices but still remain an engaging-enough character. And if nothing else, this film shows that we can all learn new things and have a pleasant journey, no matter what our age is.

 

Originally published on 13 April 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/04/13/dvd-review-laggies-usa-2014/

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DVD REVIEW: FAMILY GUY SEASON 14

family-guy

 

Family Guy is one of those shows where you either love it or loathe it. And for some people Season 14 may also cause the same kind of reactions. It’s because this season sees characters like Stewie (Seth MacFarlane) becoming less like the evil and murderous child genius he was at the beginning of the show and more like a flamboyant gayby. But it is also the season that Cleveland returns and episodes like Life of Brian and Christmas Guy will be remembered as absolute classics.

The Season 14 set is a three disc DVD combining 21 uncensored episodes that were filmed in widescreen HD. The animation looks as good as ever and it works best in the cutaway sequences, especially when they drop in footage from other mediums or shows. There are moments like the death of Brian and the introduction of the replacement dog, Vinny (Tony Sirico) which makes the series feel fresh and it succeeds at keeping viewers on their toes.

But that doesn’t mean that all of these episodes are killer. Fresh Heir sees Chris spending time with his grandfather, Carter Pewterschmidt. Chris is eventually named the sole heir to Carter’s estate and Peter Griffin responds to this in the most ridiculous and unfunny way possible. He separates from his wife Lois and proposes to his son who accepts. Similarly, the Baby Got Black episode had many moments where it went too far at making jibes against African-Americans.

One thing this series has succeeded at is tightening up the visual gags and cutaways. So while there are sequences which include the odd vignette, these don’t drag on for quite as long as previously. But this is with the notable exception of one gross scene in Peter Problems where our favourite TV father uses a forklift on a beached whale and continually hurts and mutilates the innocent creature until it eventually dies a tortured death.

This set also contains bonus features like audio commentaries and deleted scenes on selected episodes. There’s a short featurette about the death of Brian, the public’s outcry on social media (which included a 100,000 strong petition on Change.org to bring the character back) and his return. An episode animatic for Christmas Guy is also included as well as a funny mashup of all the Consuela cameos from previous seasons. This series also included some great guest stars like: Adam Levine (Maroon 5), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Conan O’Brien, Lea Thompson, Liam Neeson, Peter Dinklage and the late Lauren Bacall.

In Season 14, Family Guy is as crass and cheeky as ever. But this television show also proved that it can also walk the line between comedy and drama and have moments where it is serious and even poignant. The series may not be at its pinnacle anymore but there are still some hidden gems to be found in the ridiculous antics of the Griffin family and their friends.

 

Originally published on 5 January 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/01/05/tv-dvd-review-family-guy-the-complete-season-14-usa-2014/

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DVD REVIEW: THE ANGRIEST MAN IN BROOKLYN

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - September 25, 2012

 

The Angriest Man In Brooklyn could be dubbed “The Diary Of A Mad Man”. The film is a straight-to-DVD release directed by Phil Alden Robinson and stars comedian, Robin Williams as one obnoxious lawyer. After being told he has 90 minutes left to live the irate curmudgeon engages in a frenzied, amazing race around New York to make amends with the individuals he has fractured relationships with. But this is ultimately awkward, artificial and unsatisfying.

Williams has starred in some excellent films and TV programs over the years but this is not one of them. Here, his performance as Henry Altmann feels forced and at times he even seems to be over-acting. Starring opposite Williams is a whiny, Mila Kunis (Black Swan) who puts on an equally poor show. She stars as Dr. Sharon Gill a young, frazzled doctor who is subbed in by her love rat partner (Louis C.K. ) to work that particular Friday.

Dr. Gill is overwhelmed by the recent death of her cat. She also deals with being overworked and emotional by popping pills. After she tells Altmann that he has a brain aneurysm, the latter pushes her to know how long he has left to live. She blurts out that he has 90 minutes, which leads him to seek out his wife (to have sex with), his brother (to make amends) and his son (to give his blessing over the youngster’s choice of profession).

The Angriest Man In Brooklyn is a remake of the Israeli film, 92 Minutes of Mr. Baum. The premise is really silly (who would actually believe that they have such a short period left to live and yet can still go on a crazed running spree) and the characters are too one-dimensional. The film also suffers from trying to be too many things at once. So occasionally it tries to be a light comedy, a thought-provoking family drama, a black comedy or a new-age style lesson à la Eat Pray Love and The Bucket List. The comedy here is outrageous and far too farcical in making light of a serious situation. The fluffy flashbacks try too hard to be sentimental and the voiceovers by Williams and Kunis speaking about their characters in the third person are intrusive and explain unnecessary and simple things.

The supporting cast includes the fabulous Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones) and an under-used, James Earl Jones. It’s a shame that this film is such a waste of talent. Ultimately, The Angriest Man In Brooklyn is a soulless and clumsy comedy that suffers from an odd premise, lacklustre script and poor performances. The audiences will be left with little to believe in, even less to emotionally invest in and will no doubt dismiss it all as a rambling and shambolic ride around New York.

 

Originally published on 13 July 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/07/13/dvd-review-the-angriest-man-in-brooklyn-usa-2014/

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DVD REVIEW: TWO MEN IN CHINA

china

 

One country. Two men. Three cities. Two Men In China sees friends- comedian and writer, John Doyle (who is best known as “Rampaging” Roy Slaven) and scientist and activist, Tim Flannery once again taking a trip. This is the pair’s first overseas sojourn as the two have previously travelled across the Great Divide as well as visiting the Murray River and the Top End. This series proves to be an engaging and mostly insightful look at Australia’s biggest trading partner, China.

The three-part documentary looks at the cities of: Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu (the capital of Sichuan) in more detail. The intrepid pair interview a diverse range of interviewees from traditional citizens and experts, to Australian expatriates along with the movers and shakers of new and booming industries. The series is full of Doyle’s provocative interview questions, observations and postulations as well as Flannery’s more sober and informative contributions. The two are a solid pair that share an easy camaraderie with one another, but in some scenes a little more context and variety would’ve helped (like when Chengdu is described as being known for the parks, bars and women).

Two Men In China occasionally covers some rather strange and untraditional ground. At times the behaviour of Doyle could possibly be interpreted by Chinese viewers as going a little too far at being the ocker Aussie taking the p**s. An example of this is when Doyle joins in during an outdoor tai chi class and starts inventing new moves like passing a football and playing a round of golf. It’s a fine line between being humorous and downright offensive to a different culture.

Thankfully, there are other scenes which prove to be more enlightening, like the frightening scene at the bear sanctuary where the barbaric process of collecting bear bile is described. This series does try to strike a balance between off-beat and serious topics and more colourful and funny ones. This means one scene could be about renewable energy and conservation and others can be about public match-making events and exclusive penis restaurants (not to mention the bonus scenes poking fun at the road handbook and the depiction of perhaps the only meat pie shop in the entire country).

Two Men In China is a difficult show to describe because it’s a real hodgepodge of different interviews and a heady mix of funny, silly and informative moments. At times this series captures the essence of this great and rapidly changing country thanks to the inquisitive enthusiasm exhibited by the two presenters, but at other times it does seem to miss the mark. In all, the show proves that China is one misunderstood and exotic mega power and a land full of wonderful contradiction and opportunity.

 

Originally published on 30 June 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/06/30/tv-dvd-review-two-men-in-china-abc-tv-australia-2014/

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THEATRE REVIEW: HENSON ALTERNATIVE’S PUPPET UP! UNCENSORED @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (02.04.2014)

PUPPET UP

 

This is what we call The Muppet Show… It’s fair to say that most people have a fond memory or ten from having watched either Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Henson Alternative’s Puppet Up! Uncensored is a live show that will make you feel nostalgic about seeing some of the old characters brought back again to life. Except that this is an adult’s game (just like the show, Avenue Q) and it’s something that is ions away from child’s play.

The show is the brainchild of Brian Henson (son of Jim Henson) who doubles as the show’s producer. There is a loose sense of controlled chaos to the proceedings as you have seven puppeteers (Grant Bacioco, Peggy Etra, Brian Clark, Allan Trautman, Colleen Smith and Ted Michaels) performing on the actual stage but the whole thing is also filmed live and shown on two screens with just the puppets starring from their waists up.

Puppet Up! Uncensored is improvisational and is just like Whose Line Is It Anyway? where the host asks for specific items or ideas from the audience. It’s commendable and impressive that these puppeteers are so clever that they can think well on their feet as well as manoeuvre and voice the puppets in entirely convincing and different ways. But that said, the sketches really are dependent on a good idea from the audience so tonight a mock job interview for a proctologist practically saw the jokes write themselves while a drama centred on a time traveller revealing his secret wasn’t very funny at all.

The evening also saw two old sketches recreated live. The first was “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face”, which was written by Jim Henson at age 20 and originally performed along with Jane Henson. This was funny and looked just like a scene straight out of Sesame Street. “Java” meanwhile, was created in 1965 by Frank Oz and saw two rather territorial puppets dancing against each other, which reminded me of a crowded Zumba class (there will be many ladies that get this analogy!) These were the two least offensive and cleanest sketches of the evening with the host,Brian Bristow having warned us earlier that most people will have been offended by the very end.

The night also saw an additional use for video in the form of sketches that involved some clever looping of recorded puppets with live ones. The first was Allan Trautman performing “Barry” the head usher’s old dance with his twin brothers. The second was “The End” where the whole cast got together to fuse puppets that looked like two huge monks (and required two people to operate them) with dozens of smaller puppets for one really anarchic ending.

A highlight of the night was when the cast picked on two audience members, Elise and Shane who were also on their very first date together. The puppeteers played the two in exactly 12 years time and the young couple had to buzz or ring a bell to indicate whether they disagreed or agreed with what was being said. The pair were good sports as the dolls broached the idea of having sex for the first time plus kissing and other things that were bound to make this date a particularly memorable one.

The cast all had wicked senses of humour. Patrick Bristow had even dubbed them all freaks at the very beginning. Brian Clark was especially funny with a quick and cheeky line or two. Colleen Smith on the other hand had a very dry and sarcastic sense of humour and she often came up with some great one-liners. Grant Bacioco was also a revelation, especially during the Hansel and Regretal (sic) segment where he operated a digital puppet shaped like a brain using a strange computer rig. Similarly, musical director, Dan Ring was also excellent at adding musical flourishes on the night and even had a funny moment of his own when he had Bristow enter the crowd to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”.

Puppet Up! Uncensored was very fun, often rude and extremely upbeat and off-the-wall. There was never a dull moment where the energy waned, even when some of the jokes missed the target (and this was often because a poor topic had been chosen rather than a fault of the performers). The show is clever in its execution and it certainly gets in touch with and relishes the naughtier side of puppetry. It certainly begs the question: “Who knew that Henson puppets could be so colourful?”

 

Originally published on 4 April 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/theatre-review-henson-alternatives-puppet-up-uncensored-sydney-opera-house-02-04-14

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