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Cool Santa Website Donates to Aussie Kids Hospitals

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Fresh from the North Pole comes “PNP” or Portable North Pole. The website that brings Santa Claus right into kids’ (and grown-ups’) worlds through the magic of technology.

The website allows personalised videos to be created so that Santa Claus addresses the receiver by name, and names the good (or bad) deeds they have done throughout the year. Then, a madly pedalling elf  starts a frenzy of excitement in Sanata’s Village, as he powers the “Verdict Machine ” which finally concludes if you are on the dreaded Naughty or most desirable Nice list, this year.

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Yes, it’s all a lot of holiday fun – ho ho ho – but the best news is that every year PNP release a free video so that nobody will go without the wonderment of Santa. This year’s free video is set to come out any November day, now. For those who wish to upgrade the thrills to a premium video that gives more personalisation options, there are all kinds of fabulous packages and bundles to help you get giving, and 5% of all web sales will go to a participating children’s hospital near you.

PNP has partnered with Mater Little Miracles in Brisbane and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, this year, so Australian users of the website will be helping put smiles on more than one child’s face. Money that is raised during the holiday period will go to these worthy causes.

So, what are you waiting for? Get into the jingle bells spirit and head over to www.portablenorthpole.com 

Big Picture Deal – A Review of Gone Girl


gone girl review

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK

PLACE: Dendy Civic, Cinema 2

PIC: Gone Girl

PEEPS: About 2o present

Dendy, so lots of short ads for food, fashion, jewellery, giftware, hair products and the like.  An ad promoting the niceness of a union-based club to female sport in Canberra*.  No #$%^ing meerkats, so common sense may have hit, or maybe the thing has won some award and no-one has to worry about showing it any more.  Previews for The Captive (family etc deal with aftermath of a child being abducted) and A Walk Among the Tombstones (Liam Neeson as a PI manque, traumatised by what he did as a cop, and now dealing with an abduction).  No prizes for guessing that the feature might be about an abduction.

gone_girl_twoflatewhitesGone Girl is one of the more extensively promoted films of the year.  For those who haven’t seen a preview, an ad or a proper review, the setup is pretty simple.  Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is married to Amy (Rosamund Pike), nationally known as Amazing Amy, her parents’ fantasy account of her childhood.  They are not doing well, in life or in their marriage, a parade of low-grade hostility and resentment over pretty much everything, including moving from New York to Missouri**.  On their fifth anniversary, Amy disappears, with some signs of a violent abduction and Nick is Suspect No 1, the Most Hated Man in America, because he smiled for the cameras***.  Things get worse for him as more of the story emerges and his life becomes every day more of a performance for a ravenous media.  He’s supported by his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon) and Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) a flamboyant lawyer with a flair for domestic homicide and media management.  On his tracks are Detective Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Gilpin (Patrick Fugit), as well as about  thousand media trucks, network news and commentary and his increasingly disenchanted in-laws.

The plot has a distance to go from there, but that should be left to be revealed in the film or the book****.   There’s enough substance already for a film with some ideas about the compromises inherent in marriage and, more dramatically, the extension and intrusion of the media into private lives and complex investigation.  There’s a display of the ugly phenomenon of the uninvolved appropriating the emotional strain of those at the centre as if it were their own.  There’s enough material for the amusing exercise of trying to work out which of two essentially unappealing main characters, one mostly absent or in flashback, would be less palatable as a colleague or fellow-passenger.

Three flat whites.  A good cast and some interesting ideas, plus a large budget ($US61m*****) for a conventional film, probably should have qualified for a little more.  So the coffees are large, but there are still only three of them.

FPB

 

* – recently voted the Most Liveable City in the world.  I think it may be a question of scale; Sydney and Melbourne have their charms, but they’re focused in a few relatively small areas.

** – where most of it was filmed.  A pretty place in a small town with some big features way.

*** – and because, let’s face it, a lot of murders seem to involve spouses and partners.

**** – which one of my co-viewers suggested was not as engaging as the film.

***** – I couldn’t guess at what Gillian Flynn got for the film rights, but it was probably heaps.

Think Kink – A Review

the little death two flat whites

BY CULTURE VULTURE & INTREPID TRAVELLER, MARK PIGOTT

PIC: The Little Death

The Little Death contains the funniest scene about telephone sex in the history of cinema and is worth seeing for that scene alone. The Little Death, written and directed by Josh Lawson, is a very funny multilayered film containing various stories relating to the sex lives and fantasies of a group of friends and neighbours.

The film opened at the Sydney Film Festival and the audience was laughing from the opening scene. It was difficult to hear all the dialogue during the phone sex scene (featuring Erin James and TJ Power) because of the waves of laughter rolling around the cinema.

The film commences with a scene about rape fantasy; a topic that is fraught with danger and in the wrong hands could be destructive and traumatic. However, Josh Lawson handles the situation well with humour and sensibly avoids the potential hazards of this subject.

Other fantasies explored involve being aroused by someone crying and the tragic and comic depths someone will descend into to make their partner cry, being aroused by inherently funny role-play which happens to turn into an obsession, and being aroused by the sight of a sleeping partner. These fantasies make for some comical set pieces. Even though the film’s subject is about very intimate feelings and subjects, the characters tend to get themselves into complicated and ridiculous situations through their failure to have open and intimate conversations. This is incidental, really, as the film is lots of fun.

There are consistently strong performances from the talented cast: Josh Lawson, Bojana Novakovic, Damon Herriman, Patrick Brammall, Lisa McCune, Erin James, Kim Gyngell, TJ Power, Kate Box, Kate Mulvany, Alan Dukes, Genevieve Hegney, Zoe Carides, Ben Lawson, Tasneem Roc, Paul Gleeson, Lachy Hulme and Russell Dykstra.

The Little Death is on general release from 25th September 2014. I thoroughly recommend it.

This Christmas, a Prescription from Art Pharmacy

Maz Dixon "Colony 21"
Maz Dixon “Colony 21″ available at Art Pharmacy

Warm the hearts of loved ones with lasting gifts from local, emerging artists

Forget socks, scented-candles and other ordinary dispensables. This Christmas, forego the throwaway gift in favour of an inspiring artwork to last a lifetime, selected from Art Pharmacy’s talented pool of local and emerging visual artists.

As Australia’s biggest online dispensary of visual art, Art Pharmacy was born from the idea that original art should be available to everyone – even those who aren’t bankrolled by billionaires or the offspring of Russian Oligarchs.

Emilya Colliver, Art Pharmacy Founder and Director commented: “Receiving an original artwork made by a local artist at the beginning of their career is incredibly rewarding, not least because it will look lovely on your wall. A new artwork can be challenging, personal and also a lasting token of your relationship with someone.”

The carefully curated collection of more than 600 original works from award-winning local artists are available for as little as $80 in a bid to provide a nourishing dose of art for enthusiasts of all budgets and offspring of all persuasions.

Among these artists include Bea Bellingham and her playful, whimsical illustrations, Maz Dixon and her series of nostalgic paintings that are known to elicit memories of sun-streaked holidays, Victoria Dixon’s conceptual patterned prints and experimental radiography photographs by Brendan Fitzpatrick.

Detail, Sarah Roberts "Far From View" available at Art Pharmacy
Sarah Roberts “Far From View” available at Art Pharmacy

Hailing from across Australia’s eight states and territories, Art Pharmacy’s artist stable spans two-dimensional and three-dimensional work across multiple disciplines, ensuring there really is something to satisfy the personal aesthetic of all burgeoning collectors this Christmas.

“An artwork from Art Pharmacy can serve as an ice breaker between strangers at dinner parties and even has the potential to act as a catalyst for igniting a life-long interest in art and potentially an art collection to rival Herb & Dorothy’s.

In the event of an emergency, or for those with a tendency to leave Christmas shopping to the last minute, Art Pharmacy offers Gift Prescriptions, available online and sent immediately to the recipient. Best of all, delivery of all Art Pharmacy artworks is free, regardless of the size of the order.

Share the love this Christmas; support local emerging artists and ignite someone’s interest in art with a prescription from Art Pharmacy.

Irregular Migration – A Film Review

The Immigrant, review by FP Bluck

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK

PLACE: Paradise Electric, Cinema 2

PIC: The Immigrant

PEEPS: Say half a dozen present, including my old mate and I, seeking entertainment before lunch.  Retirement is really hard sometimes, so packages like the movie and light lunch thing that were advertised look pretty good.

The pretty screen saver, the usual ads for businesses and apartment sales in Acton.  The #$%^ing meerkat.  A slightly interesting ad for what turned out to be some kind of pop-up fashion retail thing at the airport.  A forthcoming Italian film festival that appears to feature a great deal of osculation.  Previews for Gone Girl (old mate has read the book, but was kind enough not to tell me what happened) and a Spanish thing translated as Living is Easy with Eyes Closed  that has apparently won heaps of awards  – a middle-aged schoolteacher in the 1960s wants to meet John Lennon while he is in Spain making a film.  It’s not the biggest plot that could be imagined, but seems an attractive road movie with ill-matched companions.  Not that we’ve ever seen anything like that before.

The Immigrant is set in the early 1920s, a time when the USA was keen enough to take anyone who arrived at Ellis Island, unless there was a good reason not to do so.  Presumably, they hadn’t worked out a Nauru/Manus/Cambodia solution or maybe they were confident enough in the existing society to be less worried about a few thousand, or a few million, extras*.  Ewa is young, Polish and beautiful (she’s played by the luminous Marion Cotillard, which means the beautiful bit is given) who arrives in New York with a question mark on her character and a sister who has TB and must go into treatment.  She’s saved from being deported by corruption facilitated by Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix), a vaudevillian and pimp who has plans for her that go outside the supposed job description of “seamstress”**.  He is infatuated with Ewa*** and assists her to forward some of her income for Magda’s medical treatment.  With no support from family already in America (the nasty Uncle Wojtek and timid Aunt Edyta), Ewa has few choices.  It gets a little more complicated with the arrival of Bruno’s cousin Emil (Jeremy Renner, channelling Bill Murray thirty years ago) who is also taken by Ewa**** and the plot lurches on to one of the many possible conclusions.

The Immigrant is easy on the eye*****, filmed mostly indoors, in wintry light and at the less-favoured times of the day.  The New York depicted is a place which has many of the bones of the place that exists now, but the attitudes and policies are those of a century ago.  Ellis Island is particularly well used as a location.  Alcohol Prohibition is mentioned, and the lewd vaudeville show is only a little more suggestive than would be seen on many streets in summer.

The film achieves the ambition of depicting a segment of society at a time of change.   The plot is brave enough that the audience needs to adjust its expectations of what will happen on a few occasions; some may see it as lacking shape, but others may recognise the twists and choices that happen in life.  Cotillard does more with a role that could have been a victim than the audience or the producers could expect.  Phoenix and Renner provide reliable support, but are tested by roles that require a measure of ambiguity.

A solid three flat whites.  Chasers of a liquor that was banned at the time.

FPB

 

* – by the way, anyone wondered what would happen if, say, an earthquake happened on the US west coast and their government asked Australia to take quite a lot of displaced people?  We would, of course, send them all to Nauru.  OK, I’ll stop editorialising.

** – I don’t know, maybe they had class 457 visas for seamstresses, but not for some personal services occupations.

*** – I think I mentioned that she’s played by Marion Cotillard.

**** – Yes, I did mention Marion Cotillard.

***** – Not just Marion Cotillard, who has now made it into three successive footnotes.

Charitable Intent – Now Playing at The Concourse

charitable intent

BY CULTURE VULTURE & INTREPID TRAVELLER, MARK PIGOTT

PLACE: The Concourse, Chatswood

PLAY: Face to Face ( part of the Jack Manning Trilogy by David Williamson)  

PERIOD: Closes 27th September 2014

 

A conniving, narcissistic, backstabbing bitch is the central character in the third part of David Williamson’s Jack Manning trilogy. Bryony (Catherine McGraffin) has been appointed as CEO of a charity and her modern corporate methods cause conflict with the staid, long term members of the organisation. The harmonious operation of the organisation has become dysfunctional to the extent that the board requires a community conference in an attempt to restore balance.

A workplace squabble about organisational direction has spiralled out of control to the extent that there are screaming sessions and unworkable relationships. This scenario resonates well with the audience as everyone is familiar with this or a similar situation. The other appealing feature of this play is having a classic soap opera style nasty bitch as a central character. It is good to have a character that the audience can metaphorically hiss and boo at. Some of Bryony’s lines drew a groan or an intake of breath from the audience.

Williamson’s dislike of management jargon provides much of the humour in Charitable Intent. Much of it comes from Bryony, and she seems oblivious to the meaningless nature of corporate lingo but somehow seems to have captivated the chairman and the board with her management textbook drivel.

Jack Manning is again played well by Glenn Hazeldine. He maintains his pleasant persona through some heated exchanges and captures the right level of restraint and reticence to maintain control. The other central character Amanda is played Fiona Press who has captured the downtrodden and suffering employee who is the victim of Bryony’s cruel and malevolent behaviour. They are ably supported by Chloe Bayliss, Persia Blue, Ally Fowler, Noel Hodda and Jessica Sullivan.

This production of Charitable Intent opened 17th September until 27th September.

Blunder Years – A Film Review

boyhood

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK

PLACE: Dendy Civic, Cinema 1

PIC: Boyhood

PEEPS: 3 present in a venue that would take a few hundred

 

Such is Monday, such is Canberra and such is the problem of long and thoughtful films. Aside from the $%^&ing meerkat, of which I have written previously, the usual short Dendy ads. Expensive menswear*, booze in Fyshwick, a restaurant bar with (apparently) about two customers and slightly smeared glassware, pancakes. sushi, a framing gallery**, a club that supports women in sport. Previews for Wish I Was Here (Zach Braff, routine voyage of self-discovery, small role by Jim Parsons), The Judge (great cast – Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio – in a Grishamish, but written by someone else, thriller about a judge charged with murder, his son the feral criminal defence creature, small towns etc) and Love, Rosie (girl and boy, friends since childhood, I think we all know where this is supposed to go). From which one might deduce that Boyhood is about relationships, possibly also involving alcohol, eating and art***. Well done, Dendy. It’s also about three hours, including pre-show, so sustenance may be required****.

I’m not sure my childhood lasted as long as this movie could have been, and it certainly had fewer highlights. Most people know by now that Boyhood has a bit of a Seven Up riff, with filming with the same cast spread over 12 years*****. Ellar Coltrane, who grows from cute little boy to 16 year old young man, is Mason, younger brother of Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Their parents, who married way too young, are played by Patricia Arquette (Olivia) and Ethan Hawke (Mason Sr). They split and head off on their own trajectories. Both study and work to make the best of difficult lives; Olivia crashes through a tangled series of difficult relationships while Mason Sr gradually turns into the man Olivia thought she was marrying. In the meantime, Samantha and Mason Jr are exposed to emotions and issues that it would probably be best avoided by the young and tender. Their parents compete and conflict over the way the children should behave, the children watch the rawness of hope turning to pain and learn the sorrow of broken promises. Somehow, they make it through the milestones and start to understand those around them and become stronger people, capable of functioning in a world more complex than the generations before (represented by Libby Villari and Richard Andrew Jones outstanding in their small roles).

Boyhood has imperfections, in part due to its episodic structure and lack of a single defining event or resolution. It does not always take the easy way out – there are cues to the passage of time, but they vary and are less obvious than they might be. There is an underlying, and very American, optimism about the capacity to achieve success through hard work that may misunderstand the injustices, rigidities and handicaps inherent in any hierarchical society. For a non-American, studying a map of Texas****** in advance might be advised. Coltrane is solid and confident in his role and Hawke does great things with a talented character who manages to defer everything including adulthood for a time. But it is Arquette who comes through strongest, creating a vivid memory of a good and clever woman trying to find the best way through a life alone. Many will find it hard to watch this engaging actress at times.

Four flat whites, but one of those is just for trying something worthwhile though really hard and doing pretty well at it.

FPB

 

* – it’s one of those success-by-association ads – “Armani, Ted Baker, Hugo Boss, Whoever’s House of Clobber”.

** – amusingly situated near the police station and courts.

*** – there are, however, no meerkats.

**** – before the 11,00 am session, I chowed down on a sausage roll and a pot of tea from the bakery below.  Tastier, if no healthier, than popcorn.

***** – whatever else it may be, this is seriously courageous cinema for that reason if no other.

****** – it’s big and genuinely diverse in geography and population, but it could be difficult to know the significance attached to places that enable them to become shorthand for attitudes.

Face to Face – Now Playing at The Concourse

jackmanning

REVIEW BY CULTURE VULTURE & INTREPID TRAVELLER, MARK PIGOTT

PLACE: The Concourse, Chatswood

PLAY: Face to Face ( part of the Jack Manning Trilogy by David Williamson)  

PERIOD: On now, closes 27th September 2014

 

Face to Face is one of David Williamson’s plays from his Jack Manning Trilogy. The Trilogy is based on community conferencing, where victims and perpetrators of a crime are brought together to attempt to achieve a resolution and to avoid the court process. This might sound like good and worthy material for a typical left wing Williamson play and it could be viewed as such but the sharp and intriguing dialogue lifts it to a higher level. As could be expected the boss is exploitative and the workers treated badly but these are secondary issues to the main drama.

Glen Tragaskis, in a catching performance by Andrew Cutcliffe, a young scaffolder has been fired and then rams his car into the bosses Mercedes. A community conference is held to try and resolve the situation and avoid court and gaol. Jack Manning, in an excellent performance by Glenn Hazeldine, starts nervously as he facilitates the conference, but generally directs the conversation assuredly as various unexpected side issues emerge. Bullying and pranking are common practices at the scaffolding site and these lead Glen to reacting violently and consequently being fired. These issues are further investigated and explored in the conference and it emerges that just about all of the characters in the play have acted dishonourably or inappropriately.

Willamson is in his best form writing the heartfelt, emotional and witty dialogue. Sandra Bates’ direction utilises this fine writing to encourage strong performances from the talented cast.

Adriano Cappelletta is excellent as Luka, a workmate of Glen, involved but not a ringleader in the bullying.. Jamie Oxenbould, Erica Lovell, Kristian Schmid and Catherine McGraffin  give strong performances. Warren Jones, Fiona Press and Jessica Sullivan each bring fine performances to the production.

There is a lot to enjoy about Face to Face. It feels as if the conference could erupt into a wild brawl or an all out screaming match, or possibly proceed in the opposite direction and with excessive hugging and crying but Williamson’s well crafted script avoids melodrama and keeps the audience fully engaged.

Face to Face, is part of  Williamson’s Jack Manning Trilogy along with two other plays, A Conversation and Charitable Intent. All three are showing until September 27.

Storytiller

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Review by culture vulture, Mark Pigott

John Knowles’ one man show draws extensively from his childhood in Nova Scotia. The rambling monologue features many tales of his father, who ran away from home when he was fourteen to become a cowboy in the Rocky Mountains, his bizarre recollections of his school friends, his mother’s incomprehensible sayings and his many brushes with death. The humorous stories are mixed with some poignant tales, which is initially a little disconcerting considering this show is part of Sydney Fringe Comedy. However, Knowles has struck a good balance which works very well as a one hour piece of entertainment.
Knowles’ father was a larger than life character and as we discover cowboys don’t make good fathers. A good father wouldn’t replace the bow and arrow, which was confiscated after nearly killing someone, with a rifle. This one of John’s many stories that are funny but also quite chilling.
It is amazing that a self confessed nerd was bootlegging when he was in high school, exploding home made bombs and mocking an armed robber. Fortunately, Knowles weaves these events into an engaging and surprisingly sweet narrative. There are lots of quirky stories but the sense of shared intimacy lifts this show to different level.

Storytiller is on at The Factory, Marrickville until 14th September. The Sydney Fringe Festival runs until 5th October.

Gleaming Teeth

What We Do in the Shadows – A Film Review

what we do in the shadows

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK

PLACE: Dendy Cinema 3

PIC: What We Do in the Shadows

PEEPS: About 50 present

I hate the #$%^ing meerkat ad. We got it, along with the usual bunch of short bites (sushi, menswear, framing, gifts, pancakes, booze) and the serious looking one for bar and restaurant that is curiously unlikely to inspire attendance*. Previews for Dracula Untold (lots of CGI and a script that sounds like it came from a random word generator), The Interview (James Franco and Seth Rogen set out to kill Kim Jong-Un who seems to get ridiculed a bit as well**) and Sin City (darkly luscious noir and a big cast that will need a pretty good story to justify it). So, the lesson is that the feature would involve humour, vampires and darkness***.

What We Do in the Shadows is set in the present day in NZ’s pretty capital city, Wellington, although it could be pretty well anywhere with a population in four of more digits. Inside an old house live four vampires with vaguely central European accents – seriously old Petyr (Ben Fransham), old and formerly powerful Vladislav (Jermain Clement), needy and annoying Viago (Taika Waititi) and youthful and lazy Deacon (Jonathan Brugh). They constitute a normal group house, with the usual tensions over housework and visitors that are explained by Viago to a visiting documentary film crew. Sometimes they go out, though they need to be invited into clubs**** and their need to snaffle promising people and drain them dry is a bit of a social handicap; sometimes they have standoffs with Wellington’s burgeoning werewolf community. Sometimes they, or their thirty-something female familiar, persuade people to come to the house where they will be attacked and drained after being subjected to the lads’ limited hospitality. The high point for the supernatural community is the masquerade ball, to be held in fairly ordinary premises. It cannot be an exciting life, but it’s eternal.

It’s not wholly satisfying, though the sketch comedy works well. Think of The Young Ones with very long teeth. Individual tropes work well, though scene endings can be a little ragged and there is not a consistent theme to follow. The script is amusing for the most part, with reactions to the social blunders of a newbie vampire being a high point. A feature film may not have been the right format; alternatively a film may have been better had it contained more unifying material or spent some time exploring the comedy inherent in much documentary-making.

The audience laughed like drains and a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating (on a small sample) suggests there is a market which will lap it up like blood from an artery.

Three flat whites. Black pudding.

* – I have been to the premises in question, during the daytime when it attracts older people, and thought the place pretty good.
** – I’m guessing they’re not shooting for the Pyongyang Film Festival.
*** – the last two of which go together anyway.
**** – it’s a vampire thing. They can’t just walk in to someone else’s place.

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