Thursday, 25 May 2017

Don't Tell


'Don't Tell' is centred around a civil trial for damages sought by Lyndal (Sarah West) for sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a teacher at her school. The story is based on actual events in Queensland which led eventually to the resignation of an Australian Governor General and which also was a trigger for a national Royal Commission into institutional child abuse.

The story is told without sensationalism. It is an important reminder of shocking failures in child protection and the powerful forces that tried to cover up those failures.

✮✮✮✮

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Kinky Boots


Charlie inherits his late father's family shoe business only to find it is in financial difficulties. A chance encounter with Lola, a drag queen, inspires Charlie to make a desperate bid to save the business by producing versions of Lola's 'kinky' boots.

'Kinky Boots' is enjoying a successful run in Australia replicating similarly successful long runs on Broadway and in the West End and, no doubt, elsewhere. Almost without exception my friends who saw the show ahead of me praised it as one of the best, if not the best, musical they had experienced.

I'm on the outer here. I think the show is overrated. Yes, it is energetically performed and staged. Yes, the dance sequences are enjoyable and the show has its moments. However, it is very noisy. With one exception, I found the songs unremarkable and not at all memorable. The powerful amplification of the voices left much of the lyrics undecipherable. The plot is thin and a love story sub-plot is even thinner.

What saves the show and provides most of its entertainment is the character of Lola performed here by Callum Francis. Lola has all the best lines and Callum Francis, a performer with a terrific personality and loads of charisma, lifts the show at every appearance. He has the luck to deliver the one quiet song in the musical and that number provides one of its best moments.

The other main character, Charlie, is a thankless role for its performer, Toby Francis (no relation to Callum). Toby works hard but his Charlie has no chance against the exuberant Lola. Where Lola is full of colour, life, sympathy and humour, Charlie is bland, unsympathetic, uncaring and self centred.

It is not Charlie's fault. The show's characterisations gives Lola everything and leaves nothing for Charlie. The support cast throw themselves into their roles tirelessly. I can't blame any of the cast for my disappointment. It is the structure of the book, music and lyrics and elements of the production that left me unimpressed.

My overall rating would be lower but for Callum Francis' performance.

✮✮✮

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Drivers. Beware. Elderly drivers!

It is a stereotype. Elderly drivers are dangerous. Especially those driving Volvos. Particularly those wearing hats.

Well. Somebody told me that tale thirty or so years ago. And it has stuck in my mind.

I don't drive Volvos. I don't normally wear hats while driving but occasionally I will wear a baseball style cap. Nonetheless I may have turned into an elderly driver. Just maybe.


Friday night. It is dark and rain is falling. City back streets, not well lit. I'm trying to find a car space. I notice one to my right on a one way street. (Overseas readers, we drive on the left hand side of the road in Australia.) Actually I have driven almost past the space.

I check my back mirror. I check my side mirror. My rear window is splattered with rain. I cannot see anything behind me. All is dark.

I start to reverse my car. I continue to reverse my car. Suddenly. Simultaneously. A car horn and a very loud crashing sound.

I have backed into something. I look back at the rear window. Still cannot see anything.

I get out of my car. A small, black (or maybe it is dark navy) Toyota is behind me. Apparently I have backed into it.

The Toyota driver and I examine her little black car as best we can in the rain and darkness. No evidence of any damage. 'I will check it later in better light and away from the rain' the Toyota driver says.

We both examine my car. Embarrassingly, mine displays a few scratches and minor indentations which I know are from previous incidents. One tiny scratch looks to me to be the result of this incident.

Examining my car the next morning I see several other smallish paint scratches, four in total. If the Toyota driver finds similar damage - and none was evident on the night - it won't be worth claiming the cost of restoration through the insurers.

Drivers. Beware. I am an elderly driver on the road. I drive a dark grey, Mazda 3 sedan.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Viceroy's House


Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), arrives in India in 1947 with instructions to oversee the transition of that nation to independence after three centuries of British rule. He and his wife, Lady Edwina (Gillian Anderson), prove very different from their remote predecessors but are confronted with intransigent religious based factions unwilling to accommodate compromise over a nation's future.

'Viceroy's House' is a blend of 'Downton Abbey' meets 'Gandhi' with touches of the opulent privilege and frivolity of the former seasoned with the political seriousness of the latter. The blend is not entirely successful; a sort of bet each way really but it is a useful introduction to an important period in world history.

✮✮✮

Friday, 19 May 2017

Mr Burns

(Image: Daniel Boud)
'Mr Burns' is a co-production from the Belvoir Theatre and the State Theatre Company South Australia.

Some cataclysmic event has destroyed much of the planet and its inhabitants and a small band of survivors occupy their time reliving episodes of 'The Simpsons'. The cast of seven is energetic and lively and performs admirably.

If like myself and my companion you have not been an ardent follower of that animated series, then like us, you may well be left mystified by the happenings on stage in this work. Quite a few patrons did not return to their seats after the interval. Most of those who did return however, enthusiastically roared their appreciation at play's end. We were left bewildered albeit admiring of the performers' efforts.

✮✮

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Black is the New White

(Sydney Theatre Company)

In a twist of racial stereotypes, a well to do Indigenous family comes to terms with the struggling, white, boyfriend and his parents who visit for the Christmas holidays.

'Black is the New White' is a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner for the 21st Century. Authored by Nakkiah Lui, the play contains plenty of sassy, intelligent dialogue and much humour. Two slapstick scenes may be slightly over the top and the eventual resolution may be a little too neat but for the most part this is a very funny and intriguing play.

✮✮✮✮

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Bonnie and Clyde


Minor felons, Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), meet by chance, are quickly drawn to each other and embark on a crime spree that cannot end well.

'Bonnie and Clyde' is one of a series of classic films screening over the year at Sydney's Randwick Ritz to celebrate the cinema's 80th anniversary. It also is the 50th anniversary of 'Bonnie and Clyde's' release.

Surprisingly, given how much time I spend at the cinema, this is my first ever viewing of the film. It must have seemed a very violent affair half a century ago given that the impact of the violence is still stunning today. There is a fascinating assemblage of supporting characters and Dunaway's and Beatty's charismatic coupling still resonates.

✮✮✮1/2

Monday, 15 May 2017

Things to Come (L'avenir)


Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) who teaches Philosophy at a school is increasingly drawn to a former student and his commune lifestyle as her marriage to another academic begins to disintegrate.

'Things to Come' (L'avenir) is one of these French films which present a snapshot of a time in a person's life. There is little to explain their past and just as little to suggest their future. The film ambles along as a period in Nathalie's life.

I generally find Huppert to be a rather cold, emotionless presence. In this instance there are flickers of passion in her character.

An observation piece without the interruption of action.

✮✮✮

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife



As the Nazis occupy Poland in 1939, in Warsaw the local Zookeeper and his wife Antonina (Jessica Chastain) pursue action to maintain their animals while also secretly protecting members of the Jewish population from incarceration in the Jewish Ghetto.

'The Zookeeper's Wife' is based on actual events and individuals. A most extraordinary story told well.

✮✮✮✮

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Their Finest


Catrin (Gemma Arterton) is selected to write scripts and storylines for British propaganda films during the Second World War. She has to deal with male chauvinism and the eccentricities of fading matinee idol.

'Their Finest' is quite a pleasant, if sometimes slow, romantic comedy which follows a predictable arc to its eventual resolution.

✮✮✮

Friday, 5 May 2017

The Book of Mormon


Two Mormon missionaries are sent to Uganda and are confronted by a culture and lifestyle beyond anything imaginable from their own experience and education.

'The Book of Mormon' ostensibly ridiculing religion sends its characters on a journey of revelation in a manner never envisaged in the Bible. If you take your religion very seriously this is not the show for you. For those more relaxed about their beliefs and for those without belief at all this musical will mostly be an hilarious two and a half hours of entertainment and silliness.

Currently staged at Melbourne's Princess Theatre this is a brilliantly performed production.

I believed!

✮✮✮✮1/2

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Personal Shopper


Maureen (Kristen Stewart) flits between Paris and London shopping for her celebrity employer's clothes and accessories but her mind is constantly distracted by her late twin brother's vow to send her a message.

'Personal Shopper' is a European atmospheric experience rather than a plot driven journey. It is a case of love it or loathe it, I think. Definitely not an action flick.

✮✮✮

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Berlin Syndrome


Clare (Teresa Palmer), an Australian tourist in Berlin, meets local teacher Andi (Max Riemelt) who takes her home for the evening. The next morning after Andi has left for his work, Clare finds herself locked in his apartment. Is the lock in deliberate or accidental?

'Berlin Syndrome' is a slow burn thriller/mystery which has its moments but the rationale for Andi's behaviour is never fully explained and the final resolution appears superficial and unconvincing.

✮✮1/2

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Rules Don't Apply


Marla (Lily Collins) is invited to Hollywood by Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) to audition for a new movie and before long she becomes involved with Frank (Aiden Ehrenreich), one of Hughes' company drivers.

'Rules Don't Apply' is as much about the eccentricities of the legendary filmmaker/billionaire as it is about the young couple's relationship. Collins charms on screen and Ehrenreich makes for an interesting partner.

Beatty does a great job as Hughes but how humorous you find this movie humorous may depend in part on how much you stomach the character's eccentric behaviour.

✮✮✮

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Denial


In 1996 historian David Irving, a noted Holocaust denier, sued Professor Deborah Lipstadt and her publishers claiming she had libelled him in her book, 'Denying the Holocaust'.

The film 'Denial' recounts the legal battle, how the defence case was formulated, the trial and the outcome.

A beautifully acted film with fascinating glimpses into the British justice system and its protagonists.

✮✮✮1/2

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Going in Style


Three retirees angered by the loss of their pensions and banking practices decide to rob a bank.

'Going in Style' is perhaps not the best lesson in crime doesn't pay; if indeed that lesson is even evident. This is a movie aimed at seniors who will relate to the characters' frustrations and behaviour whilst also recognising the absurdity of the situation.

Fun, but not innocent fun.

✮✮✮

Friday, 21 April 2017

What the f.....


My credit card provider has written to inform me - and no doubt many others - that my card will 'no longer be offered' from 5 August.

WTF!?!?

I use the card regularly and I have many direct debits linked to it. What a f#$%&ng nuisance.

Now, to clarify. I have two credit cards provided by the same bank. One card is of the variety whose name is like a travel document. The other card, the one 'no longer offered', is of the variety that one 'should never leave home without'. You know the one. It is the one that many retailers won't accept anyway and that most of those who do apply a higher surcharge to.

Having delivered that sucker punch I read on to find that the account fee for the remaining card will in future be (think of any number 165% higher than the previous one).

Disgraceful.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Table 19


The history of cinema is littered with references to the outlying table at a wedding reception reserved for what might be regarded as the Z-list of people invited by the bride and groom out of duty rather than preference.

Those people in 'Table 19' include the dumped first preference for Maid of Honour, a long forgotten nanny of the bride, a mysterious oddball relative of the groom's father, a jaded, warring couple who own a restaurant vaguely favoured by somebody or other and a mother-pecked awkward young man who just wants to lose his virginity and whose connection to the wedding party, if it was revealed, passed me by.

I had the occasional laugh but frankly most of these characters behaved irritatingly and/or were not endearing to any great extent.

Watching this film I became just as bored as the characters appear to be in the film's poster.

✮✮

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Beauty and the Beast


Disney's latest iteration of the story of 'Beauty and the Beast' draws on the corporation's massive technical and financial resources to achieve a lush and lavish product.

The film contains some dark moments that I would have thought could frighten some children but this did not seem to be the case at the session I attended when the many children present remained attentive and engaged throughout.

The fuss from some USA sources at what has been described as a three seconds long gay reference mystifies me. Only the most obtuse of adults would fail to notice quite a number of gay references littered across the film. Not one of these came across as offensive to me.

✮✮✮1/2

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Popular Mechanicals

(Sydney Theatre Company)
'The Popular Mechanicals' takes Shakespeare's rude mechanicals characters from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and portrays them rehearsing for their performance. What ensues is a type of Shakespearean 'Play That Goes Wrong'.

There is plenty of visual, verbal and slapstick comedy and even a fart joke or two. You don't have to be familiar with the Shakespeare play to enjoy this but those who are will enjoy the insider jokes all the more. Or maybe not?

I thought this was a lot of simple fun.

✮✮✮1/2

Monday, 17 April 2017

Dance Academy


Based on the Australian-German co-production children's television series of the same name, 'Dance Academy', moves on from where the small screen series finished off by basically retelling the earlier themes. Aspiring dancers vie with one another and against obstacles to chase their dreams.

Everyone is photogenic and everything looks glossy in this world. Struggling students enjoy harbourside residences in Sydney and when they move to New York their every movement has centred in and around Times Square.

A lot of fantasy really but at least the film contains the lesson that not all dreams are realised.

✮✮✮

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Sunny Cairns

A little bit of exploration along the Esplanade in Cairns.

Muddy's Playground and Public Pool


Seafood dining
On the Esplanade looking north back at Cairns

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Day tripper

While I planned this trip as one of relaxation rather than action I thought that I should spend at least one day of my long weekend in Cairns engaged in tourist activity. Examining the tourist material I found that most of the activity around these parts is just that. Activity.

So many options seemed to revolve around diving whether it be from the sky or under the water. That is not me. In the end I selected activity that involved a fair amount of sitting. That is much more me.

I selected the option of a trip by train. I think Andrew would approve. The Kuranda Scenic Railway was constructed between 1882 and 1891 and runs from Cairns through World Heritage listed parkland to Kuranda, 328 metres above sea level.

Google Maps told me the equivalent journey by car would take 38 minutes but on the train, with two short stops plus a number of very slow passes by scenic highlights, the journey took two hours (each way). Two diesel powered locomotives, painted as Aboriginal murals, tugged fifteen carriages, some nearly one hundred years old according to the commentary.

This is the train I travelled on. Going to Kuranda I was in Carriage No 15, the last carriage. This was the train as it managed the tightest bend on the route.

The train as viewed from carriage 15
There were rain showers about.

The view from Barron Gorge National Park. Cairns is somewhere in the distance
Kuranda Railway Station in the lush heritage park
The return journey
Whilst in Kuranda I explored the township, had a burger lunch and spent an hour on a modest river cruise.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Customer Service

There is customer service...and then there is customer service. (The sequence of three videos is revealing and shocking.)

But back to me.

During my flight to Cairns yesterday I was sent a text message. My hotel was looking forward to 'having me'. At this point of the message I wasn't sure if I was a menu item but I read on. 'Do (I) drink coffee' the message asked, in which case they 'could organise a coffee machine for (my) room' if I liked. I don't much and I didn't. Still, it was a nice thought.

Three hours later and within an hour of having checked into the hotel I received a second text message. I was welcomed and thanked for staying at the hotel. 'Can we do anything for you at this point', the message asked. An hour into my stay I wasn't in need of anything which, I suppose, was a promising sign.

Fast forward to day two and almost to the minute of twenty-four hours since checkin I received a third text message. 'Just checking' it began breezily. 'How is (my) stay going so far' the message enquired. The message continued rather jollily 'feel free to reply back with a 1-10'. I wasn't intending to reply but in case of doubt the message added '10 being excellent'. Either way the message concluded 'Have a great day'.

It seems churlish to suggest irritation with these messages; three of them in twenty-seven hours. Will they continue at this rate until I succumb with a reply? I could be polite and just send a reply acknowledging my satisfaction but could that encourage a further stream of enquiring messages?

Pause.

Oh, the irony. At this moment, when I was about to 'top and tail' this item for posting, my internet connection stalled for around twenty minutes. Eventually it dawned on me that the hotel required me to re-apply for my complimentary WiFi access every twenty-four hours or so. I have now done so and can finalise this posting.

So, thank heavens my hotel is not run by United Airlines. If it were I might have found myself publicly dragged through the foyer following checkin 'gazumped' in favour of a freeloading customer with higher status than mine.

I should be glad for the service I have experienced so far, even with its wrinkles.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Cairns

I have flown to Cairns for the Easter weekend. Well, part of that weekend anyway. Departure from Sydney this morning where there was heavy cloud cover and a coolness (around 18º, I think). The plane took off to the south and continued in a southerly direction for quite sometime despite Cairns being to the north.

Eventually we made a 180º turn and headed north passing back over Sydney. The clouds parted briefly to reveal our flight path over the southern suburbs of Sydney.


North of Sydney to south of Cairns we flew in total sunshine for two and a half hours only to fly back into heavy cloud as we neared our destination. In a mirror image of our departure we flew right over Cairns from south to the north, turning 180º and making our approach and landing towards the south.

As we neared our landing and peeked beneath clouds we flew over what I guessed - in complete ignorance - might be Palm Cove. See photo below. My trusty smart phone however placed the photograph at Trinity Beach.


Having settled into my hotel I had a brief wander around town to get some bearings. I passed the following cafe which I simply have to record for posterity but more particularly for the information of James. Regular visitors to his blog will understand the reference.


My intention is to regard my stay in Cairns as a recreation weekend rather than an action weekend. I may have nothing further to report from here. But you never know.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Talk

(Sydney Theatre Company)

The play 'Talk' seems an ideal play for Sydney which appears to have the reputation as the shock jock talk radio capital of the nation.

A high rating talk radio announcer is facing arrest for revealing details not presented to the jury in a child molestation case. His resistance catches the attention of citizens whose feelings he cleverly manipulates as well as that of competing media organisations.

Local readers may well think this all sounds rather close to the bone of some extremely high profile situations in recent years involving an Australian media personality with pretensions to a Parliamentary career. If so, I couldn't possibly confirm that suggestion.

It is a rather ambitious work bringing together the invasive and subjective elements of 21st Century social media practices with recollections of a now distant past of professional ethical journalism. As a consequence I thought some of the references went over the heads of younger members of the audience. At the same time, some of the more modern references seemed stereotypical.

The staging is especially impressive with the stage split into sections. There are two levels. The bottom level represents an ageing public broadcaster news room on one side with a swishly furnished newspaper editorial suite on the other side. Above both these settings sits a modern high tech commercial radio studio. Lighting and sound design cleverly focus the audiences' attention on the flow of action. The staging arguably is the strongest aspect of the work.

✮✮1/2

Monday, 10 April 2017

Hysteria

(Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

The play  'Hysteria' imagines a meeting in London in 1938 between Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali at a time when a stranger has sought a consultation with Freud which raises memories of a case of his from the past.

This curious work for the most part seems to play out as psychological thriller/mystery but for reasons which possibly even a Freud couldn't explain it lurches mid Act 1 into a farce only to jump out as abruptly and inexplicably as it arose.

The acting is quite solid and the staging has some interesting moments.

✮✮✮

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Loving



The title 'Loving' is ironic as it is the family name of the interracial couple whose marriage and cohabitation led to the historic 1967 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that the law of the State of Virginia forbidding marriage between people of different races was unconstitutional. As a consequence similar laws in other States of the Union were voided.

The telling of their story in this film was not what I expected. There were no fiery scenes of antagonism against the relationship and no grand courtroom scenes. Indeed, despite the subject, the film is peculiarly lacking in drama adopting the reticence and quiet strength and determination of its principle character.

In perhaps an intended irony the film is mostly a depiction of a loving couple whose love for each other was stronger than institutional opposition.

✮✮✮

Friday, 31 March 2017

Grab your coat and get your hat....

....leave your worry on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street.*

I'm not going to bore you here with the seemingly endless saga of my friend's move from a house to an apartment. After literally years of 'will she do it' or 'won't she'; today 'she did it'. She moved from her house of thirty-five years to a very smart nearby apartment. We three friends were on hand to assist. In her mind I think we were moral support at a time of stress.



It was not a copybook move. Far from it. Cartons were packed but none was labelled. Which cartons contained her clothing and which contained the bed linen? Your guess is as good as mine. What was going and what was being discarded? We didn't know and nor it seemed, at times, did she.

The removalists filled their van and delivered the goods to the new address all by lunchtime today. Did they capture everything? Well, no. A microwave and a vacuum cleaner were left behind. Oh, and when we checked again, so were three large garden pots and at least three trays full of domestic cleaning material. And then there was the huge print of the harbour on the wall. How had that been missed?

But wait, there was more. Two cupboards full of pots and pans and saucers. And a step ladder; actually two of them. And what about that decorative container with the ashes of a dead pet? Yes, that was missed as well.

No. It wasn't a copybook move but its done now. Well, the delivery part is done. Now for the unpacking.

(* 'On The Sunny Side of the Street' by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields)

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Ghost in the Shell


Set some time in the future when robotics and humanity have become merged someone or something is threatening the ubiquitous technology Corporation of their time.

'Ghost in the Shell' has the look of a 'Blade Runner' with its dark laneways, dense populations and seedy futuristic images. There is plenty of action and a plot of sorts but really this is mostly an entertainment of image and action which is unsurprising given the work's origins in popular Japanese comics and cartooning.

I found it enjoyable at viewing but pretty forgettable soon after.

✮✮✮1/2

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Life



The International Space Mission is returning to Earth following an exploratory visit to Mars. Whilst en route Mission members test samples taken from the red plant and are thrilled when they revive an intriguing life form. Their joy soon turns to horror when this life form starts to grow and threaten them.

'Life' has visually pleasing aspects. The actors float about in zero gravity delivering their lines vertically, horizontally and even at times while upside down. The general mood of interstellar flight is well captured. But I did start to avert my eyes when the horror began to intrude. The climax comes as an unexplained surprise.

✮✮✮1/2

Saturday, 25 March 2017

'What's new?'

Now that is a question to strike minor terror in my heart. It is a common, seemingly inoffensive way to open a conversation. One of my friends will begin every telephone conversation with that question even if our previous conversation was only a day or two earlier. So why does my heart sink when I'm asked it?


I put my reaction down to my upbringing. Mine was a solitary upbringing. I was an only child. No siblings. My only two cousins arrived on this planet years after I did and so there was no childhood connection there. My parents, struggling to establish themselves financially, both worked full time in part to finance the very expensive private school in which they had placed me. They could not afford to repay the invitations that other parents made for me to spend time with their children. As a result those invitations, few in number anyway, dried up after a while.

Apart from school time, mostly spent regimented and disciplined in the classroom, I spent very little social time with anyone remotely similar in age to me. I never really learnt the skill of playful, casual chit chat.

So, nowadays when someone asks me, 'what's new?' I am in a dilemma. OK, if it happens that I have just purchased a new apartment or I have just returned from an overseas holiday or I have just been diagnosed with a terminal condition then I do have something new to report. But what about those long strings of weeks, week after week after week, when none of those things nor nothing remotely similar has occurred? What do I say then?

Perhaps I could model myself on another friend whose every telephone conversation includes a detailed run down of what he has done that day. He doesn't even require me to ask the question. In that event, my every (weekday) response to the question would be as follows. I got up and I shaved and showered and dressed. I ate two Weet-bix and some prunes for breakfast, drank orange juice and took my daily medication and then I drove to work etc, etc, etc.

In effect; everything old, is new again.