Saturday, 30 April 2016

Mother's Day


Here we go again. This fad for romantic comedies set around a holiday season or annual celebration. New Year, Christmas, Thanksgiving and now 'Mother's Day' all excuses for this formula driven unrelated series of films.

The template is identical. Create multiple plot lines, featuring photogenic characters and season with cheesy, happy endings, or at least heartwarming situations and with any luck audience members will identify with at least one of the set ups generating positive word of mouth and box office success.

The current outbreak was sparked by the world wide success of  'Love Actually' in 2003/04 with its ridiculous number of plot lines.

'Mother's Day' runs for 118 minutes and contains precisely two funny scenes, one of which relies on a cute baby to inspire its humour. The remainder of the film, some 110 minutes is deeply unfunny and pretty unromantic too. The blooper outtakes over the end credits are the best moments of the film.

A formula, already very tired, plummets new depths.

★ 1/2

Friday, 29 April 2016

Disgraced

(Sydney Theatre Company)

Religion, identity and stereotypes all are aired and argued over in 'Disgraced', the Pulitzer Prize winning drama currently staged by the Sydney Theatre Company.

Set in a loft style New York apartment, an ambitious lawyer, his artist wife, her art gallery sponsor and his lawyer wife are forced to face some home truths about their lives and relationships.

The set up is an unlikely but not impossible contrivance given that the foursome comprises a 'lapsed' Muslim of sub continental descent married to a caucasian Christian and a Jew married to an African American.

The performances are excellent whilst the dialogue and actions are provocative.

★★★1/2

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Hay Fever

(Sydney Theatre Company)

I wondered a bit why a major theatre company would stage Noel Coward's 'Hay Fever' nowadays. Especially in Australia. It is a play of its time (1925) and is based on society people who would have been well known to the audiences then. It is very English in style.

Each of the four members of the Bliss family, unknown to the others, invites a guest to their country home for the same weekend resulting in a comedy of ill manners. It is a premise that could easily be adapted and updated for a 21st century audience.

The play hasn't been updated in this production although the period in which it is set  - judging from the clothing of the performers - I believe is left deliberately vague thus enabling the inclusion of an Amy Winehouse song.

Without some awareness of the individuals being parodied a lot of the first Act falls flat as the self absorbed characters engage in idle chatter but the play gathers steam when the farcical elements of the story develop.

★★1/2

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Divergent Series: Allegiant



'The Divergent Series: Allegiant' is about the third film in the series that I have seen. The population of what is left in the skyscraper ruins of Chicago has been has been divided into a number of groups each with their particular characteristics and purposes in what remains of community. They are not permitted to travel beyond the wall that surrounds the city nor even know what, if anything, lies beyond that wall. There is a general sense of lawlessness as the groups battle each other for supremacy.

Well, that sort of what happens in my blurred impressions of what seems the same story repeated over and over in each episode.

There are some interesting effects but this is really one for the aficionados and fans. At least this time it is all over fairly quickly (at least that's how it seemed to me).

★★1/2

Monday, 25 April 2016

Cruise time

The cruise ship Carnival Spirit, a regular visitor to Sydney departed for its current cruise at dusk this evening.

Carnival Spirit pulls back from its berth at Circular Quay

After a 90º turn, Carnival Spirit is ready to steam out of the harbour

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Georgy Girl



'Georgy Girl' tells the story of the Australian group The Seekers who came into world prominence in the 1960s and whose folksy style of music was as popular and at times more popular than contemporary groups including a couple of bands you may have heard about....The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Just three years ago I saw The Seekers perform at the same venue at the start of a tour in celebration of their fifty years performing. The tour had to be abandoned a few days later, not for lack of interest but when lead singer Judith Durham suffered a serious illness.

On that occasion The Seekers performed several dozen of their songs weaving them around vision and commentary about their performance history. To be honest that 2013 concert was a more interesting representation of their careers than this newly conceived musical.

The performers in Georgy Girl are skilful and sing well but the musical is singularly lacking in drama in Act 1 which feature as much, if not more, music by artists than the The Seekers. This Act is reminiscent of the cabaret productions favoured by cruise ships. The second Act is more dramatic and interesting.

A bit disappointing in my view although the audience generally seemed very enthusiastic at the end.

★★1/2

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Jennifer McGrath

WARNING: This post contains an expletive.

I've been receiving daily emails from a person (business or bot?) using the name in the heading. I sense the sender is using the email connected with this blog and therefore may have been a reader.

The emails read;

There is a fine line between good service and being a pain, I sent you through an email a few days ago in regard to organizing a time to chat about your business and to see if online marketing could be a viable option for your business.

Understanding you are busy, I wanted to ascertain if you were interested in having a chat?



The fact that I have not replied to a single one of your emails (sent daily, not a few days apart as suggested in the emails) should be sufficient message that I am not in the slightest interested in chatting with you.

If Jennifer McGrath is reading this post then my message to you is.........fuck off.



Friday, 22 April 2016

Train arriving at platform 2

Surely there is no better view from a railway station platform than the view from Platform 2 of Circular Quay station in Sydney?

This was the actual view from the platform after I stepped off the train at Circular Quay on a gorgeous Autumn day yesterday.


Thursday, 21 April 2016

Midnight Special


'Midnight Special' opens with reports of the abduction of a young boy. Setting out as an apparent crime thriller the film soon enters the world of religious sects and supernatural forces.

Australia's Joel Edgerton has a prominent role continuing his development as a 'go to' actor in American independent films and Adam Driver shows versatility in a startlingly different persona from his appearances in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' and television's 'Girls'.

Interesting but like most films of this type somewhat unresolved overall.

★★★

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Labyrinth of Lies (Im Labyrinth des Schweigens)


A junior prosecutor in Germany in 1960 sets out to discover and prosecute former members of the SS responsible for murders at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. His work and that of his tiny unit is hindered by the hostility of a community then unaware, or in denial, of activities at these camps.

It came as a surprise to me that as late as fifteen years after the end to the Second World War there remained a general ignorance of the Auschwitz camp amongst Germans. These actual prosecutions in the early 1960s brought Germany around to community education and acknowledgement of the wartime crimes.

'Labyrinth of Lies' focuses on the investigations. There are references to the concentration camp atrocities but for the most part the references are indirect and not confronting. The film has an odd theatrical rather than cinematic style at moments but otherwise is skilfully presented.

★★★1/2

Monday, 18 April 2016

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Lincoln Place

The building under construction next door unveiled from the scaffold previously covering it.


The last time I posted about it the site looked like this.

26 July 2015

Friday, 15 April 2016

A development too personal


These smiling people may be graduates of a personal development program whose website this photograph adorns. Or they may be professional models.

I don't really care.

Jm, a friend of more than 45 years, is two thirds of his way through the program. It involves a considerable investment of time and (not surprisingly) money. It begins with thirty hours over one extended weekend spent in a classroom situation followed by three hour seminars per week for the following eleven weeks. Oh, and there is also a weekly hour long telephone conference with a group of fellow development 'undergraduates' during those eleven weeks.

Jm's three adult children and his wife have all undertaken the course at different times; indeed his wife is embarking on a second tier program of similar duration and (apparently) structure.

The program's advertised aim is to bring about positive, permanent shifts in the quality of (a participant's) life. 'Create power, freedom, full self expression, and peace of mind for your future' the program's website advertises. 'Peace of mind' is even marked as a registered trademark although it seems to me to be a very common saying.

The structure of the program has an in built strategy for identifying potential future suckers participants. On week seven of the eleven weeks of 'seminars' the participating undergraduates are asked to bring along a guest (or guests) who are given a taste of the program and its benefits and who are invited to sign up, 'no pressure', for future programs.

Jm invited me to be his guest and in a moment when friendship trumped intention, I accepted his invitation.

It was pretty well what I expected. Toothy, smiling, advocates of the program enthusiastically welcomed me to the gathering with the zeal and creepiness I associate with Hillsong and similar religions all the while invading my personal space with a leery manner.

There were about forty participants and their guests present for the evening. Current participants were called on to state their 'breakthrough moments' on the program to date; each dutifully confirming the life changing effects. Participants and guests alike were then taken through a series of exercises to identify and address one aspect of our lives that was 'not working' and that we would seek to change. The two session leaders both delivered personal revelations and as I expected one had a teary, heartwarming situation to relate to the group.

I found it curious that the evening served the dual role of being seminar seven for the existing participants and an information, preview session of the total program for the guests. Surely, I thought, the participants, by then effectively sixty-six hours into the program, would expect something more developed for their time and money invested.

Eventually the 'soft sell' of guest registration into a future program was introduced. Twice. 'Lift the burden from your shoulders by signing up tonight' was the leverage. It is true that this was delivered without pressure. Twice. However, when it was clear, after the second invitation, that I was not rushing to register, a 'graduated' person appeared by my side with the hard sell. This man had the appearance and build of Pacific Islander. He looks much like many of the bouncers we see around Sydney's troublesome night spots. He pressed for a while but then disappeared from my side when he realised I was firm in making no commitment that night.

The exercises we participated in on the night were quite useful as examples of applying organised thought to personal issues. The undergraduates I spoke to all appeared genuine about having benefitted from their participation.

I tend to approach these development programs with a cynical mind. Mostly, they are not for me. I know I have my faults. I also know that I have successfully addressed many of them from life experiences over the years; sometimes by painful learning from repeated mistakes.

Good luck to those who are enthused by this type of program. It is not my style.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

King Charles III

(Sydney Theatre Company)

When I included King Charles III in my 2016 subscription series for the Sydney Theatre Company I assumed I would be seeing an Australian production of the play I saw in London in September 2014. I was looking forward to comparing 'our' production with the English original and it was only a couple of weeks ago that I realised I would be seeing the same production but with its British touring cast.

Never mind, I would probably have booked it anyway as I enjoyed seeing the play in London. 'King Charles III' imagines what happens when Charles assumes the throne upon the death of the Queen only to immediately enter into serious dispute with his Prime Minister and the Parliament.

Checking back in my blog I see that I gave the play a ★★★★ rating. There may have been some adjustments to the play. I have a recollection of some dialogue from the London production which  seems to have been omitted here. My recollection may be faulty, however.

Essentially it is the same production design from London. The British cast is in fine form and the play still packs a punch. Even though I recalled well and was expecting the crucial moment at the play's climax it still induced a gasp from me the second time around.

★★★★

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Great Fire

Belvoir St Theatre

I would like to be more enthusiastic about 'The Great Fire', a new Australian play but it is a play that needs a lot more work.

The premise of the play is that three generations of a family are gathering at the family home for Christmas. This not a novel premise and the audience has a fair idea of the trajectory the play will follow.

The two acts that comprise the first half of the play sadly contain no real drama. The dialogue and scenes are quite bland, there is no sense of great mystery, or excitement generated by the interplay between the characters. The characters enter and depart their scenes in a pedestrian, faintly ridiculous manner. The conclusion to the first half, which you'd expect to feature something explosive to maintain interest, just peters out.

Thankfully, the two acts that comprise the second act are a considerable improvement with some long needed drama at last giving the actors something to work with. Unfortunately this came too late for me to feel concern for the characters although the final scene was touching.

★★

Sunday, 10 April 2016

That figures

I guess it is obvious that a chef/kitchen hand needed for a 'fast paste' kitchen should have good English skills too.


Saturday, 9 April 2016

Where to Invade Next


In 'Where to Invade Next', the documentary filmmaker Michael Moore sets out to teach his fellow Americans some lessons about how the rest of the world, or at least some carefully chosen Northern Hemisphere countries, are doing so much better at life than they are.

Moore is a polarising filmmaker with admirers and detractors in possibly equal measure. This latest film continues his style of finding the arguments to prove his points without involving too many contrary examples that could disturb his case. Generally I am admirer notwithstanding the weaknesses in his style of journalism. Those who know already in which opinion silo they fit will have their view confirmed by this film.

Some of the scenes, for example, the rosy work conditions in Italy, are somewhat disingenuous but others, for example, education in Finland and crime and punishment in Norway are genuinely revealing. At least, I thought so.

Sitting in a plush multiplex in an avowedly left leaning inner west suburb of Sydney I was left with the uncomfortable thought that not only did Moore have no reason to include Australia as an exemplar but in fact on nearly every issue featured 21st Century Australia is need of the same lessons Moore is directing to his countrymen and women.

★★★1/2

Friday, 8 April 2016

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice


I suppose it sounded like a good, commercial idea. Spend about a quarter of a billion dollars making a big, noisy, splashy movie involving two of the most popular super heroes of the past seventy years and watch the money roll in.

A week after its release 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' had just about covered its budget in box office returns which I presume means it now needs to cover its marketing costs before it moves into profit for its investors. A pretty expensive gamble which may pay off in the long run but probably not as yet.

The plot such as there is one is that Superman has become odious in the minds of the public - represented by the citizens of Gotham City and Metropolis - and an unprecedentedly down and charmless Bruce Wayne (Batman's alter ego) is going to rid the Burghers of those two cities of their fallen hero.

This requires two hours and thirty minutes of the loudest, most lurid action sequences imaginable interspersed occasionally by a minimal amount of insipid and unhelpful dialogue. Huge chunks of the film are quite confusing. Who is fighting who and why? What is going on? I didn't know and mostly I didn't care.

When in the final act of the film it turns into a 21st Century King Kong like epic with Wonderwoman added to the mix I would gladly have done away with Superman myself to end the torment.

Traditional lovers and students of the two super heroes must be aghast at the liberties taken with the well established characters. Or maybe not? I don't know.

What a muddle.

★1/2

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Word for the day

putrescent
pjuːˈtrɛs(ə)nt/
adjective
  1. undergoing the process of decay; rotting.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Talk to each other

The sign on the Courtyard Cafe at Sydney Hospital; 'Sorry no free WI-FI, talk to each other'.


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Eye in the Sky


A joint British, American and Kenyan operation to capture three of the most wanted individuals on the US President's East African terror list enters murky territory when issues of potential 'collateral damage' arise.

'Eye in the Sky' is a depiction of conflict in the 21st Century executed with the use of high technology whilst political, warfare and ethical issues are discussed, finessed, bent and arguably ignored.

This is an unexpected and quite brilliant thriller on matters that we read about in the news but about which we have little real knowledge. I don't know how accurate are the depictions of the deployment of missile carrying drones and the decision making processes that go into employing them but this all has made for a very fine movie with much for the audience to debate about afterwards.

★★★★

Saturday, 2 April 2016

A Bigger Splash


A record producer pays an unannounced visit to a singer and her photographer partner who are recuperating from health issues on an Italian island.

The threesome have some history between them and whilst they enjoy the delights of the island their history and prior relationships intrude in unexpected ways.

'A Bigger Splash' is a remake of 'La Piscine' and retains that European style. Slow development of story, more questions asked than answered and loose ends left unresolved. There is much nudity, Ralph Fiennes in particular, leaving little to the imagination. The Italian scenery and setting are interesting.

★★★

Friday, 1 April 2016

Sad reef

My weekend at Hamilton Island was the first time I have been in the vicinity of one of the wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef.

Until then my knowledge of the Reef has been confined to gorgeous images of colourful coral and marine life balanced by worrying reports of human generated deterioration that threatens the Reef's future. When I booked for a day's cruise and visit to the Reef I was in two minds about enjoying this natural wonder on the one hand and being a contributor to the deterioration by my, and so many others', intrusion to the area.

The catamaran we travelled on probably was carrying about three hundred sightseers. It took about two hours to reach the anchored pontoon on an edge of the Reef to which the catamaran was tied for the four hours of our visit.

Passengers could explore that tiny portion of the Reef in numerous ways. There was a submersible vessel that motored from the pontoon along a stretch of, I guess, one hundred metres of the Reef's edge. The pontoon itself housed an underwater viewing area alongside the Reef's edge. Passengers could, indeed did in large numbers, snorkel and scuba dive on a tiny section of the Reef and it's edge. There were two nearby helipads from which passengers could take helicopter rides over the Reef for periods of up to twenty minutes.

One way and another that seems a lot of potential disturbance on admittedly a tiny section of what is an enormous system. However there would be other daily visitors like ourselves at many other points not to mention disturbance from passing vessels, leakages and the many other events and accidents that impact on the area.

So did I observe the colourful life of the promotional images or signs of worrying deterioration? I am no expert on marine life or science and my exposure was for four hours only and at one very tiny section of the Reef. I don't suggest that my limited exposure is definitive but sadly what I observed was not the promotional images.

Here are several images of life under water.





And some images of life from above.

The Pontoon

Snorkeling on the Reef
Pontoon sundeck with Catamaran in background
Pontoon