27 Jun 2016
in Book Review
Tags: 4th novel, aunty janice, australian, believable, book, books, comedy, domestic dramedy, emotion, fertility, fidelity, fourth novel, funny, good satire, humor, humour, love and marriage, modern love, modern romance, our tiny useless hearts, parenting, pithy, real, real characters, review, reviews, rich characterisation, rom-com, romp, sex, shenanigans, thoughtfulness, three relationships implode, toni jordan, warm, well-written, witty
David Bowie may have sung about modern love but it is author, Toni Jordan that has written a book about it. Her fourth novel, Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is set over the course of a single weekend in suburban Melbourne and it shows how three different relationships implode. This well-written and witty book is a fun and light read that is set in a kind of domestic chaos.
This novel is what you would get if you crossed Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina with the works of Marian Keyes or P. G. Wodehouse. The story begins with the end of Caroline and Henry’s marriage. It’s an ugly event where a night-long screaming match ends with Caroline cutting out the crotches of her husband’s fine suits. She then follows him to Noosa where he has planned a holiday with his new flame, a schoolteacher named Martha.
Caroline and Henry are the parents of two precocious young girls (one of whom is taught by Martha). Their Aunty Janice is called in to babysit because she is the “sensible one,” or so it would seem. Janice is the story’s narrator and is a clever and witty scientist but she has also made some silly mistakes involving her own love life. She divorced the man she loves- the sweet and kind-hearted Alec and she did not divulge the true reasons for her change of heart. This is just one of the many secrets that are revealed in this novel. The other main characters are Caroline and Henry’s neighbours, the attractive but dumb, Craig and his self-absorbed artist wife, Lesley.
The characters in this novel are very flawed but for this reason the also seem very real and believable. Jordan has done an excellent job by providing rich characterisation, as the adults provide many moments of real humour as well as emotion and thoughtfulness. The whole experience is like being a fly-on-the-wall to the shenanigans that take place. Jordan expertly reveals each secret and lie from the past and tells these alongside the light of the present day, while also offering up some social observations about fertility, fidelity, parenting, sex and more.
Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is a warm and pithy take on modern romance. This Australian, domestic dramedy is an easy and enjoyable read. It’s ultimately a good satire based on love and marriage and a jaunty take on an institute you can’t disparage, lest you wind up being the star of a novel and the butt of a joke.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer thanks to a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29285427-our-tiny-useless-hearts
01 May 2016
in Book Review
Tags: a story of a dog dealing with cancer, beautiful, big-hearted, book, books, cancer, chemotherapy, chong, dog, dogs, empathy, family, feel-good, friends, honest, inspirational, love, loving, maryly turner, memoir, pets, quinn the rottweiler, quinn the rotweiler - story of a dog dealing with cancer, review, reviews, rottweiler, surgery, sweet, warm
Quinn, the Rottweiler- A Story of a Dog Dealing with Cancer is a charming little book about a beautiful canine. The story is told from Quinn the dog’s perspective and is a nice, feel-good tale in parts (at least when you consider Quinn enjoying his new and happy life with Maryly Turner and her pets). Quinn was originally named Chong and was forced to live outside or in a shed and was regularly chained up. But once he was adopted by Turner (after his previous owner could no longer care for him) his life took a turn for the better.
The story of Quinn leapt off the page. You could imagine this dog with a big smile on his face and wagging his tail as he enjoyed meeting new people and animals and sleeping on a warm bed, eating treats and going for rides in the car. It is sad that Maryly – who was recovering from cancer treatment at the time – would discover a lump on Quinn’s foot that would prove cancerous. We follow Quinn’s treatment as he has painful surgery and chemotherapy and we can feel real empathy for what he endures.
This book is ultimately a warm and big-hearted story that should help us understand our pets that little bit more. It’s a great tale that shows the power of family and family and their ability to help and support others, through the good times and the bad. Quinn is an inspirational character that at times reminded me of Oddball and he is one that readers will come to fall in love with.
***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/7543053-quinn-the-rottweiler
06 Mar 2016
in DVD Review
Tags: adaptation, amiable, Anthony Brandon Wong, asian, asian australians, australian, benjamin law, colourful, comedy, contemporary australian life, creative, drama, dramedy, dvd, dvds, eccentric, emotion, family drama, family show, featurettes, Fiona Choi, fun, gay, George Zhao, hot australian summer, irreverence, irreverent, jenny law, Jonathan Brough, Karina Lee, large family, lasagne of shit, long-overdue, Marieke Hardy, michelle law, middle child, modern australian life, queensland, relatable, review, reviews, sbs, series, shenanigans, show, Shuang Hu, sitcom, teenage life, television, the family law, Trystan Go, tv, Vivian Wei, warm
For too long, Australian TV shows have been white-washed and white bread but a series like The Family Law looks poised to change all of that. The SBS dramedy feels authentic in its depiction of the Law family living in Queensland in the nineties. The show has real heart and it will make you laugh and it’s no surprise that it has become a swift favourite among viewers.
The program is an adaption of writer, Benjamin Law’s 2010 memoir of the same name. The TV series was also co-written with Marieke Hardy. It uses some of the vignettes from Law’s memoir where he describes growing up as a gay, Asian kid in Australia. The TV show also fashions it all into a cohesive whole by making it seem like it all took place over one long, hot Australian summer.
The six-part series is mostly told from Law’s perspective. He is a creative, enthusiastic and well-meaning middle child who is close to his large family, especially his mother. Here, Law is played by the well-cast, Trystan Go, whose acting credits include the theatrical production, The King & I. But one character’s star shines the brightest out of the Law family and that is Ben’s mother, Jenny (played by the wonderful, Fiona Choi). Jenny is the family matriarch and a rambunctious, eccentric and colourful character. Jenny can be inappropriate at times and a no-nonsense and kind woman at others. She also has no filter and has by far, some of the funniest lines.
The Law family also includes the hard-working father, Danny (Anthony Brandon Wong (who plays a villain in several Matrix films)). Danny is thrown-out of the Law house and is forced to sleep at the restaurant he owns. There are also Ben’s four siblings- Candy (Shuang Hu), Andrew (George Zhao), Tammy (Karina Lee) and Michelle (Vivian Wei). The show is a warm, relatable and amiable one that focuses on Ben’s teenage life- from aspirations of fame and entries into school talent quests, to his parent’s wedding anniversary and marriage break-up to family Christmases, engagements and visits from friends.
The special features are interesting and include a trailer as well as a series of featurettes where there are interviews with Law, the actors and director, Jonathan Brough (It’s a Date, Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane). It is fascinating to learn that the production team went to great lengths to make the setting feel like a cosy, lived-in family home. Law referred to it as a “lasagne of shit” and this is particularly obvious in the mountains of laundry and family bric-a-brac. It’s also nice to see the real members of the Law family meeting their counterparts (they make a cameo in episode one which is lovely and rather funny).
The Family Law is a fun, Australian family show that expertly straddles the lines between drama and comedy. The show has some funny moments but it also doesn’t shy away from depicting some real drama and emotion. In all, this is a long-overdue program about a dysfunctional Asian family that everyone can enjoy thanks to its rich tapestry and depiction of modern Australian life that is full of off-beat irreverence and colourful shenanigans aplenty.
Originally published on 5 March 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/the-family-law-dvd-review/
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07 Feb 2016
in DVD Review
Tags: adventure film, adventures, australian film, bizarre, body swap film, C.J. Fortuna, cameo, cj fortuna, comedian, comedians, Comedians in Bars Drinking Beer, comedy, dave hughes, debut, dvd, dvds, Emily Taheny, fame-hungry, feature debut, film, films, fists of fury, funny, funny man, funny men, heckler, heckling, Hung Le, jeff green, Kate Jenkinson, low-budget, madcap, melbourne, narcissistic, palais theatre, promising, review, reviews, satire, Simon Mallory, stand-up, steve austin, the comedy cartel, the heckler, The Unusual Suspects, tony martin, tropfest, unique, warm
The Heckler is an Australian film that is not just a comedy but one that’s also about the genre, or stand-up in particular. It’s a body swap film that is a bit like Freaky Friday meets Ghost. It’s a low-budget satire that fills some rather large shoes by managing to stand-out from most other comedy films produced in our fair land.
The film marks the debut feature from The Comedy Cartel, or the same team that produced the Tropfest entry, The Unusual Suspects. It stars Simon Mallory as Steve Austin, the six million dollar man or one narcissistic, fame-hungry comedian. One day Austin is asked by an audience member named Mike (a fabulous, C.J. Fortuna) for some advice about how to break into the business. But Steve is too self-absorbed and proves really unhelpful.
An unfortunate incident occurs whereby Mike (who had turned into a heckler of Austin’s) dies and winds up in Austin’s body. Mike then sets about destroying Steve’s life by giving terrible performances as Steve as well as spending all of the comedian’s money and ruining his relationship with his ex-wife (Emily Taheny) and new girlfriend Bree (Kate Jenkinson (Offspring)). Unfortunately, all Steve can do is sit back and watch and hope that the damage isn’t irreparable.
The film features cameos by Tony Martin and Jeff Green. It’s also shot around Melbourne ad includes a scene filmed at the Palais Theatre. It’s not a bad little movie film full of madcap adventures and it’s quite pleasant to watch. The two main criticisms are that the jokes do get rather repetitive after a while and sometimes it is hard to imagine Mallory as a comedian (especially as Fortuna is the better comedic actor of the two).
The special features are good and include an audio commentary and the short film, Fists of Fury. The latter was made by the same group as they came together for pre-production. It’s fun, if a little raw. But the biggest highlight of the features is the C.J. Fortuna series, Comedians in Bars Drinking Beer, which is modelled on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee. There are just two episodes offered on this DVD release with Dave Hughes and Hung Le being the two subjects. But from the rushes we can see that Fortuna has interviewed other comedians so let’s hope these eventually see the light of day.
The Heckler is an adventure-driven film that is rather unique. This comedy about funny men is a pretty clever offering that manages to be both warm and bizarre. In short, this is one promising feature debut from The Comedy Cartel.
Originally published on 7 February 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/heckler-dvd-review/
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26 Jan 2016
in Blu-ray Review
Tags: admirable, australian fauna, australian film, australian flora, australian story, blu-ray, blu-rays, bluray, blurays, charming, clumsy, Coco Jack Gillies, conservation, conservationists, deborah mailman, debut film, dog, eccentric chicken farmer, educational, fairy tale, family film, family-friendly, film, films, frank woodley, grandfather, hammy, interviews, italian sheepdog, italian shepherd dog, likeable, magical, maremma dog, middle island, modern-day miracle, oddball, olivia, panto, pantomime, penguin, penguins, pest, photogenic dog, plot contrivances, pop, positive, predators, pretty penguins, protecting dwindling population of penguins, review, reviews, sanctuary, sarah snook, Shane Jacobson, sheepdog, special features, Stuart McDonald, swampy marsh, sweet, tv director, underutilised, victoria, warm, warnambool
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but a certain Maremma certainly got a new job in the small, Victorian town of Warrnambool. The Italian sheepdog was used to guard the town’s dwindling population of penguins. It was such a success it was declared a modern-day miracle or fairy-tale and the film Oddball tells this fascinating story in a pleasant but prosaic manner.
The film is the debut feature by veteran TV director, Stuart McDonald (who is best known for his work with Chris Lilley). The movie is loosely based on the real-life events that happened to an eccentric chicken farmer named Swampy Marsh, who is played here as a big, loveable teddy bear by Shane Jacobson (Kenny). It’s an interesting story but this film doesn’t always do it justice because at times it requires a large suspension of disbelief to get over all the plot contrivances and the very neatly stitched-together ending.
The wonderful, Sarah Snook plays Marsh’s daughter and a penguin conservationist. She injects some vital energy into the piece but at times is a tad underutilised. The same can also be said about the strange dog-catcher, the funny comedian, Frank Woodley and the town’s mayor, who is played by the delightful, Deborah Mailman. Marsh’s cute granddaughter Olivia is played by Coco Jack Gillies (Mad Max: Fury Road) and is a good sparring partner to her Pop.
The film is a little clumsy at times but it does tell the story of ten or so penguins who were living on Middle Island and how they needed help to stay alive so that the place could remain open as a sanctuary. It was no mean feat as the population had been decimated from thousands to handfuls by rogue foxes. There were also other villains to be found, each possessing their own hidden agendas. But despite this, Oddball is a warm and likeable family fable.
The Blu-ray edition’s special features include five long featurettes. These look at the real Oddball and the Maremma shepherd dog in general. There is also lots of information about the penguins, the township of Warrnambool and the predators and pests we can count in Australia’s flora and fauna. These are very educational and include interviews with historians, conservationists and Warrnambool’s former town mayor. These could have been edited down a little as they do clock in at around the five hour mark in total and because some features include the same snippets of interviews as the previous ones, which can get a little tedious.
Oddball is a charming little Australian film about a photogenic dog and some pretty little penguins. The animals and the town absolutely shine and the photography of the 12 Apostles is exquisite. The actors mostly put in good performances (although occasionally these can be a little hammy) but they are let down at times by some problems with the script. In sum, this is a movie the family can enjoy because it’s a magical and positive tale about some admirable dogs who worked hard to save the sweet, local inhabitants of Middle Island. It’s good but the film is ultimately missing some magic pixie dust.
Originally published on 24 January 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/oddball-blu-ray-review/
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