Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bridget Jones's Baby


It says more about me than the movie that the most annoying thing for me about 'Bridget Jones's Baby' is the superfluous 'S' that follows the apostrophe in the title. Renee Zellweger's mannered English accent in the early scenes comes a close second.

Our love's lost heroine falls pregnant but does not know which of the two possibles is the child's father. From such a slim premise the result is a predictably silly and familiar, yet quite entertaining, film.

If this is the last film in this series it will have the rare privilege of completing a movie franchise on a high note.

★★★1/2

Friday, 16 September 2016

Spin Out


I think a film about Bachelor and Spinsters Balls, an Australian rural curiosity, would be interesting especially in documentary form where the participants and activities would be a source of interest for many.

'Spin Out' is a fictional account of such a ball in which perhaps inevitably the participants and their activities have been turned into caricatures. Because the film focuses on the extreme there are humorous and gross moments but not a lot of balance.

Some funny moments but a missed opportunity.

★★1/2

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Barefoot in the Park

Ensemble Theatre

Neil Simon's play 'Barefoot in the Park' is fifty-seven years old. It depicts a young married couple setting up their first home in a tiny, walk up, New York apartment only days into their marriage. The wife's mother and an eccentric free loading Lothario of a neighbour complete the major characters.

It is very much a comedy of its time and I doubt it could sensibly be staged in a 21st Century setting without a complete reconstruction. This production keeps to its time. That's a brave thing as dated comedy can die an embarrassing death. The company and the performers are rewarded for their bravery in this Ensemble Theatre production by delivering an entertaining rendition of the work.

It won't have hurt that most of the audience at the performance we attended were of an age to remember our own experience of the times.

★★★1/2

Monday, 12 September 2016

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Sydney Theatre Company
'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is one of William Shakespeare's most popular plays and a compulsory text during my high school studies. Not that I remember it that well, apart from fairies, mechanicals, Kings and Queens and delightful character names like Puck and Bottom.

I saw the first preview of this current production by the Sydney Theatre Company and was somewhat unnerved when the Director took the stage before 'curtain up' to announce that this was the first ever full run through. If there was a need to pause the performance we were urged to talk amongst ourselves until the performance recommenced. Evidently there was no full run through during the rehearsal period. Maybe that is the usual case but I would have assumed there would usually be a complete run through at some point before presenting a work to the public.

Anyway, the night went off beautifully. A sparse set totally black apart from a white stage and white trim at the bottom of the three walls surrounding it. The performance commencing with, of all things, 'Summertime' from George Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess'. That is probably a first for Shakespeare.

The performers were very energetic. I can't recall ever seeing as much hectic full speed running back and forth across a stage but then I suppose this is an Olympic year.

The cast drew full comedic value from the play within a play final moments.

Not a traditional presentation but very entertaining especially towards the end.

★★★1/2

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Don't Breathe


Three youths who spend their time breaking into and robbing houses they learn about from a rogue security company worker decide to target the home of vision impaired returned war veteran who is believed to be hoarding a fortune in compensation money. Thinking that the break in should be a formality the three find fierce resistance.

On the face of it, the general plot of 'Don't Breathe' sounds suspiciously similar to the 1967 hit 'Wait Until Dark' in which Audrey Hepburn was the blind victim.

What starts out as a pedestrian by-the-numbers thriller takes several unexpected turns - and aren't they best type of turns for a thriller? - to rise above the mundane.

I'm probably quibbling by suggesting that the blind veteran is perhaps a little too adept at re-securing his house in the face of repeated assaults and that Dylan Minnette displays an impressively wide range of surprised and shocked looks.

The violence level by the end was higher than I would prefer but for thriller/horror aficionados this one is better than the average.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Sully


I remember the incident of the airliner landing onto the Hudson River in New York City with all passengers and crew safely rescued.

The pilot, nicknamed 'Sully', who was responsible for this emergency landing was briefly perhaps the most famous and admired person in the world. What I have less memory of is the accompanying investigation in which the Transport Safety Board took the view that the landing was not necessary and that the plane could have been safely returned to the nearby airport.

The story of this incident and that investigation provide the subject of this film. I was lost early on with some of the technical dialogue and for a while the film seemed too intent for my liking on cheesy stereotypes; the last minute passengers, the sad story passengers, the youthful pilot taught by his grandfather etc.

Thankfully, the film really springs to life with the set piece investigations climax which I found absorbing. In the meantime the film is kept afloat (excuse the irony) by flying sequences that are very well executed.

★★★1/2

Thursday, 8 September 2016

At the Barracks

A nice line of trees sheltering Victoria Barracks (left) from busy Oxford Street (right). The Jacaranda trees flower briefly around this time of year, or just slightly later, providing a gorgeous purple canopy for passers by for several weeks. I will probably miss the sight this year with an overseas departure just under two weeks away.


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Paddington Reservoir

For years a water reservoir and then concealed beneath a service station which subsequently subsided into it. Then a fenced off area of danger before the site was cleaned off and cleaned up, so to speak, to leave an attractive, below street level, generic public space on Oxford Street hosting the occasional community or cultural event. Otherwise, a nice space to laze about in.



Sunday, 4 September 2016

Indignation


In 1951, a bright young Jewish student enters a college in Ohio, exempt from conscription into the Korean War by his enrolment. The strictures of college life prove a stern test compounded by family and romantic pressures.

'Indignation' is based on a novel by Philip Roth.

The film captures the period beautifully in its depiction of the struggle young adults face to stay true to their principles under the pressure external expectations.

★★★1/2

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Nerve


'Nerve' taps into the modern practice of social media. High school students sign up to observe and participate in a series of daring and increasingly dangerous activities. The reward for them is both monetary and peer acceptance.

The film makes considerable use of current technology and technological practices. This probably ensures that it will date very quickly.

Although the rating for the movie in Australia is 'M' (that is, not recommended for children under 15) it seemed pretty clear that the majority of the audience at the session I attended was under that age. It is a worrying thought that some impressionable youths searching for peer acceptance might decide to copy activities portrayed in this film.

★★

Friday, 2 September 2016

Re-purposed religion. Church to shopping

St John's Church in Paddington has been disused for as long as I can remember, boarded up with signage indicating some future redevelopment.

Well that redevelopment has been achieved.

Once a Church, now a fashion store
From the other angle
Once the Manse now a Real Estate agency

Thursday, 1 September 2016

224. I should have known better

The car park in the Westfield Bondi Junction Shopping Centre is a shocker. I've known people who 'lost' their cars there and others who had panic attacks having found their car only to be unable to find an exit.

It is not as though there aren't sufficient exits. There are numerous exits. And numerous entrances too. The problem isn't so much 'the' car park; rather that the car parking facilities comprise a collection of disparate parking areas. The Westfield complex was constructed across a number of properties, most of them demolished to make way for the juggernaut.

A number of below ground pre-existing car parks were linked and incorporated into the new complex together with new underground facilities. There are apparently 3,297 parking spaces. That seems a lot, yet it is not uncommon for the car park to effectively be full. Actually, overflowing in my opinion.

I have learnt the hard way never to enter the car park when the entrance displays indicate fewer than 120 spaces are 'available'. In reality that means all spaces are occupied and more than that number of cars are inside and underground and in effect trapped trying to find a supposedly vacant space or a space that is about to be vacated. Trying to escape that queue of crawling cars in search of a space is almost an impossibility. The traffic lanes are too narrow for safe passing.

So, what am I getting at with this background information?

Well, I approached the car park today with the display indicating 224 available spaces. More than a hundred above my threshold figure. I felt uneasy. It still would be a tight fit but having driven to the Centre I was keen to complete my transaction. Against my better judgement I drove in.

Fifteen minutes later I was trapped in one of those endless queue of cars futilely searching for a space. Reaching an intersection of traffic I made a late decision to turn into a right hand lane but the angle was too tight to achieve in one turn. I stopped and reversed right back into the car turning behind me. I never saw it.

There we were trapped with others banked up angrily behind us. I had to manoeuvre down to a lower level with my tailgated accomplice following until we could find a tiny lay-by area where we could stop, examine damage and exchange details.

I was expecting a blast from the good looking young man whose car I had hit but as it turns out the bump must have been gentler than the noise accompanying it. Neither car displayed any damage. We both smiled, I apologised profusely, we shook hands and then we retreated to our cars to make our separate relieved escapes.

Only 224 spaces available. I should have known better.