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Archive for October, 2012

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FREE salsa class at Balcone @ The Junction & Latin Junction

Everyone in Bondi Junction knows the Tea Gardens Hotel but the upstairs restaurant/lounge – Balcone @ The Junction – is a whole other universe compared to the wild shenanigans of downstairs. New manager, Victoria Lungren, has brought to the newly renovated venue an impeccable sense of class (afterall, she was trained at The Hilton Hotel in Sweden) and transformed the bar into an elevated respite from the shoppy frenzy of the Junction.

Her staff function like a well-oiled machine, graciously offering punters all the dying arts of hospitality. With DJs spinning tunes 3 nights a week, this is the Eastern Suburbs’ new low-fi Sunday session default destination.

Lundgren has teamed up with  local Bondi Junction dance school, Latin Junction, to spice up Saturday nights. A longtime fan of salsa, she has invited the school owners Felix Ben and Amber Dawson to treat Balcone regulars to a free beginners salsa class this Saturday 3rd November from 8pm – 8:45pm. After 9pm the salsa spirit really begin, with a special DJ bringing some Latino beats and a photographer capturing the carnivale atmosphere as the Day of the Dead fiesta kicks off.

If you wouldn’t mind combining some fitness regime, with flirtacious dance moves and tequila cocktail jugs then get yourself to Balcone @ the Junction this Saturday night. Bring your friends… because there’s no aphrodisiac like salsa.

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT LATINJUNCTION.COM.AU

EMAIL  salsa {at} latinjunction.com(.)au

or FIND THEM ON FACEBOOK!

Don’t Watch This Space – The Watch

THE WATCH

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

Nearly 10 am, I noticed that the painters hadn’t turned up. So I texted them and made a hurried bolt up to Hoyts, specifically to see The Watch because I doubt many people I know would want to.

As noted previously, the previews provide a reasonably reliable guide to the flavour of what is to come. I may have missed one, and that might be critical. We had Bachelorette (like an updated Porky’s with chicks),  an Australian “comedy” called Mental about a family where the mother is in a psych ward and something called Taken2. The last had Liam Neeson and some sobbingly lovely shots of Istanbul. But it also had lots of shooty bits and seemed posited on the right of Americans to shoot people in exotic places. What happens outside the USA, stays outside the USA or something.

If it had been named in the spirit of Snakes on a Plane and Cowboys and Aliens, the feature could be called Aliens in a Costco (although that would have given away the ending) or, more accurately, Unfunny Stuff about Rude Words for Bodily Parts and Functions. Ben Stiller plays a Good Citizen, which is a change from his classic “laid back once and future dopehead”. Vince Vaughn plays a crude person lacking in insight, which is pretty much his range. Jonah Hill is the creepy, angry, fat little guy and, again, is not stretched. Richard Ayoade, who played a weird bloke with a mass of pubic hair on his head in The IT Crowd also sticks to type, and managed to keep his accent for reasons that made even less sense as the thing rolled out its very long 90 minutes or so.

Arrogant, incompetent and dismissive cops with drunken, stroppy, sex-crazed teenagers. Weird, male neighbour who may or may not be trying to hit on the sort of happily married Stiller. Aliens – the closeup ones looked like extras from the Alien movies or maybe Tony Abbott with green goo, though the victims were all male. We all know how it’s going to end, so I won’t bother. Some gross bits, but the shocks were cliches, telegraphed from what seemed an eon before but was probably only another joke about semen or something.

Someone was laughing in Cinema 8 and it wasn’t me (which leaves the old bloke up the back, the bloke who was obviously waiting for his car to be fixed and the two teenagers). It was so bad I had no problem with a 15 minute wait in Medibank Private, where (a) one staff member was acting as concierge, directing people to chairs and asking questions about what they wanted at a volume that made me glad all I needed was to adjust the rebate level, (b) two staff members dealt with people at desks while the concierge swanned around and did very little and (c) one bloke occupied a vast amount of time due to his disbelief that if he joined today, Medibank Private would not cover stuff he had done earlier in the week or the surgery he had been told he would need.

Bring on the aliens, even if they’re not convincing.

TIME TO SALSA, SYDNEY – Latin Junction

We don’t need to tell you dance has the power to transforms lives. Look at Richard Gere’s character when he met Jennifer Lopes. Or when dowdy Fran met the frenetic Scott in Strictly Ballroom. Or when Patrick Swayze announced that ‘no-one puts Baby in the corner.’ Or ask Danielle Spencer.  It’s dangerous stuff this pressing up close to people, swivelling your hips in new and daring rotations, spinning across a slippery dancefloor, getting sweaty to latino beats… phew.

One dance school wants to keep the sexy times… without the intimidation factor. Latin Junction offer fun, friendly and relaxed salsa lessons for newbies and beginners. They welcome blokes who swear they have two left feet, ladies who thought they were destined to be eternal wall flowers and everyone in-between.

With locations in Bondi Junction, Surry Hills and Chatswood, they have inner-Sydney pretty well covered, so there’s no excuse! While the complacent folks of the suburbs slob on their couches,  spooning ice cream out of tubs as they watch So You Think You Can Dance, wondering in the commercial breaks why Mr or Mrs Right has eluded them … you could be salsa-ing your way through steamy summer nights this year.

Go to www.latinjunction.com.au for more info

or email Felix salsa {at} latinjunction.com(.)au

KILLING THEM EXPLICITLY – Killing Them Softly

KILLING THEM SOFTLY

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

This may wind up as a week of several movies for two reasons.  First, in the post-school holiday burst of adulthood, there are few films around that don’t involve animated animals and compulsory wholesomeness.  Second, I’ve been dumped* and have time on my hands.

So, to the Tuggeranong Limelight at 10;14 am wearing my best trackie top for Killing Them Softly.  Should I have left on the slippers/uggies?  Good question, but as the shoes were from Rivers, the difference amounts to not very much.  Six people – a middle aged Asian couple in front: she texted, he went for walks at intervals – and some older Australians** sitting behind.  The latter group was universally disappointed and made their feelings known to the acned youth checking the place out as they left.  But they stayed for the whole thing first.

Previews for Dredd 3D which, surprisingly, did not include Sylvester Stallone in a typically taxing role, for Savages (cleancut American dope growers fight evil Mexican drug cartel) and End of Watch (eye candy American cops versus the ever-popular drug cartel).  These told me that Killing them Softly was likely to be a tad shooty and that it may involve a drug theme.  I had no idea of the significance of Paranormal Activity 4 as it seemed to involve neither guns nor drugs***.

The response of the Alan Jones end of the audience, suggests they obviously thought this was going to be Sound of Music with extra tracks by Roberta Flack. This is a provocative movie – people swear a great deal, use drugs and steal stuff throughout.  But mostly they point guns and sometimes fire them, the result being captured either in glorious slo-mo or in rapid real-time.   Oh, and there’s a bit of extreme beating up as well.  So, if you’re offended by blood and flying viscera maybe you should look elsewhere.  I won’t spoil the plot beyond saying Ben Mendelsohn and the oddly named Scoot McNair are a couple of small-time crooks who seek the traditional big score.  Brad Pitt is engaged by Richard Jenkins to … ahem … rectify matters somewhat in the aftermath, with reluctant maximum prejudice and lines that may have been written for, say, John Travolta.

Wonderful performances by Mendelsohn****, Pitt, Ray Liotta and a strange intervention by a lugubrious yet satyric James Gandolfini.   A modest budget, filmed in a gloomy GFC wasteland played by New Orleans, with beautiful slices of the threatening side of American life, a soundtrack of the 2008 Presidential election season and some strangely chosen music.  Much better than a pass.

And back to the mean streets of Tuggeranong.

* – yes, ladies, he’s single!

** – even older than your scribe

*** – although, on reconsideration after viewing, Killing them Softly had some wacky close up camera shots and a few people who had entered the spirit world by the end of the movie.

**** – worth the price of admission for sounding Australian, for being smacked out/shambolic at a level off the usual scale for living people, and for his deadpan delivery.

Criniti’s at Finger Wharf, Woolloomooloo

If you’re well-adjusted and grown-up enough to look past the fact that sushi feels a bit wrong in an Italian restaurant, then you’re going to love the latest offering from the CRINITI’S empire.

With established restaurants in Parramatta, Castle Hill and Darling Harbour (and another set to open in Manly next year), they launched their piece de resistance at Finger Wharf, Woolloomooloo last week; with much fanfare, good cheer and ever-flowing Veuve Clicquot (always a winner).

Criniti’s will rev things up on the wharf scene, which has become a complacent locale for long liquid lunches enjoyed by radio shock jocks, politicians and WAGs.  With Ducati motorcycles suspended over the bar like a Calabrian coat of arms, twisted exhaust pipes and Ferrari engines decorating the space; you quickly get a sense that they are finding their way into the men of Sydney’s wallets and hearts via more than just their stomachs.

Head chef, Jason McCauley, will serve up classical Southern Italian fare – soul food like meatballs, Milanese-style crumbed lamb cutlets, pizzas and tiramisus – that will delight the gents and for their carb-conscious dinner dates, a selection of sashimi and sushi. We shall see if this combination works out as brilliantly as the hype suggests (there’s nothing worse than when ‘fusion’ becomes confusion).

The launch party was quite the society gathering last week. Hosted by the wonderful Melissa Hoyer (of www.news.com.au), she interviewed a steady line-up of society’s bold and beautiful. Stepping off yachts, off designer motorcycles and out of cabs, the intimidating sight of these rich young things on a balmy spring night could chill the hearts of the baby boomers dining in the restaurants next door… or was that just the frosty draft off the Absolut ice-sculpture?

The Criniti’s Woolloomooloo playground is open for wining and dining, earmarked by this blog as the place to be this Summer. Enjoy, you rascals.

 

LUST HIGHWAY – On The Road

On the Road (alias The Hangover III, MLitt) Thursday afternoon at the Dendy.

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

The previews:  Mental (seems loud and vulgar), Argo (fake making a movie to cover getting hostages out of Iran) and a thing called The Sessions, where a gracefully-ageing Helen Hunt plays sex therapist to a quadriplegic. 

The movie has a plot, sort of, and is based on Kerouac’s book, sort of.  It could be summarised thus: Insensitive loser (named Dean Moriarty) and narcissistic would-be author (named Sal Paradise but who is really Kerouac) have a bromance from the late 1940s to the early 1950s.

The loser is also the love interest of Kirsten Dunst (doing well as a sensible woman whom the loser marries), various floozies including the retinue at a Mexican whorehouse, a teenager whom he also marries and the narcissist’s pretentious mate.  Oh, and a frankly depicted commercial arrangement with Steve Buscemi, playing a weird guy*.  Minor but solid role for Viggo Mortensen and appearances by, I am informed, some people who were in the Twilight movies.  Everyone smokes and drinks their heads off, the loser leads a variety of drug-taking exercises and lots of people have joyless but noisy sex.  Corey Bernardi would not be pleased.

The youth – people who would have missed the worst of the Depression and who missed WWII because they would have been too young – are generally useless and self-indulgent.  The narcissist does a sort of interrupted monologue that shows how he is full of the thoughts he tries to crush as he walks and hitches everywhere.  He bonks the teenager, a cottonpicker with whom he shares a tent, while her child watches and a Mexican whore, just before collapsing in a haze of pot, peyote, booze and dysentery.  Breakfast of champions.

The film features some genuinely brilliant outdoor shots.  It’s a really good travelogue over the American backblocks (plus New York and San Francisco), mostly to show how the loser drives like a loon and irritates the police.  There are a few noirish moments that could be longer, along with lovely driving jazz and bebop music to which the loser and the various femmes de l’heure dance in a way that my mother might consider suggestive.

Overall it was OK – but would have been far better if someone had let off the brake and allowed the whole damn thing hurtle down its true path.

* – as if Buscemi could play anything else, except possibly the result of a human/meerkat mating.

 

We Need To Talk About Your Chocolate Problem

3pm in offices and kitchens across the country, the frenzied hunt begins. Yet the traditional scramble for the afternoon chocolate fix has left many wanting these days. Now that we are more health conscious and allergy-ridden than ever, the hope for an organic and healthy chocolate option has been out of reach.

Until now. Lovingly manufactured in Melbourne, Pana Chocolate proclaims we should ‘ *heart* our insides, *heart* the earth.’ Not that I had time for that hippy claptrap when I first lay eyes on the pretty, glinty, recycled packaging at a fancy green grocers yesterday. I was too busy imagining the delights that lay within.

The Dieline  claims that the purpose of the packaging was to make people who didn’t know what they were grabbing for – to still get grabby and want to try it. Worked for me. But designer brownie-points anyway for the gorgeous recyclable foil, soy based pantone inks, 100% recycled board and eco-friendly, rustic feel.

That’s not all they do differently at Pana, their chocolate is handmade, raw and not heated above 42 degrees to keep all the nutrients in their purest form. It’s organic, vegan, dairy free, gluten free, low GI, has no refined sugars, 0% soy and 100% out of this world.

Pana Chocolate is jam-packed with scrumptious ingredients like cacao solids, virgin cacao butter, dark agave nectar, raw cacao powder, virgin coconut oil, wild carob, cinnamon and pure Himalayan crystal salt (yep, you just read that).

It has a fudgy, crumbly, rich texture that lets you taste the love these good people have poured into their product so that everyone, no matter what their dietary restrictions might be, can indulge in something world class and mind-blowingly delicious at when the 3pm munchies hit home.

SYDNEY’S BEST HAIR EXTENSIONS ARE AT ZOLF THIS SPRING

GET ZOLFED FOR SPRING

ZOLF HAIR & BEAUTY BAR COMES TO ROSEHILL GARDENS FOR SPRING CARNIVAL

Sydney’s hottest hair salon is set to be the star attraction of Spring Carnival this racing season with the ZOLF Hair & Beauty coming to Rosehill Gardens for key carnival events.  Bringing the same glamour and excitement that has been making big news at Marquee the prestige nightclub at Sydney’s casino, The Star; the pop-up pamper lounge will be indulging female race-goers to the VIP treatment for free. Get your photo taken with brand ambassador, Sarah Lawther (from Beauty & The Geek) who is a ZOLF hair extension devotee.

The ZOLF Hair & Beauty Bar features 4 professional stylists from the George St salon, make-up artists from Cameron Jane Make-up Design using international cosmetics from LORD + BERRY and express manicures with gorgeous gel neon hues (perfect for spring) from ORLY nail lacquers. With the ZOLF photographer capturing the gorgeousness of the ladies in all their splendour and glory, after being thoroughly made over to look like a star.

The pampering is offered with the compliments of ZOLF Hairdressing, Sydney’s hottest hair salon in the CBD. They have made a name for themselves as the most exciting addition to the fashion, hair and beauty scene in recent history, dominating the market with their incredible 100% Russian Wonderbead hair extensions. Converts travel across the country for an appointment with hair magician, Ash Celine, and his team of professional hair extension technicians.

Zolf Hairdressing offers SYDNEY’S BEST HAIR EXTENSIONS perfect for Spring Racing, Formals, Spring Weddings and the up-coming party season.

Melbourne Cup Day It’s not the race that stops the nation, it’s the fashion!  Heart-racing style will be inevitable with the ZOLF Hair & Beauty Bar zjooshing the ladies to ensure the bar is raised at Rosehill Garden. Extravagant hairstyles and pop colour will dominate – get snapped looking incredible. Look your unlevel-headed best with the help of the ZOLF Hair & Beauty Bar. Come get prettied up, fillies, the race is on!

Girls Day Out  - here’s one just for the girls. With the NSW Firemen and Hotshots providing the entertainment at this ladies luncheon, the ZOLF Hair & Beauty Bar will provide the pampering. Just went you think the luxury and pleasure can’t be beat, enter the ZOLF Two Minute Angels providing express massages to help your stress dissolve as you enjoy a glass of bubbles with your besties.

Book your Wonderbead hair extensions today at ZOLF –   www.zolf.com.au

& follow the excitement on the ZOLF Facebook

Sparks of Hope – RUBY SPARKS

RUBY SPARKS

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

After so many duds, and so many opportunities to be cruel, it is sometimes necessary to be nice.  And this note is nice, well, mostly.  Ruby Sparks is worth the expenditure of a modest amount of time and money.

Twenty plus minutes of ads – count ‘em and realise that’s three times as much time as all the worthwhile bits in Total Recoil, Hot and Runny and The Botch put together.   Two spurts of Andrew Gunsburg, against a Hollywood backlot,  trying to drum up interest in the latest Madagascar and The Botch and Paranorman, a piece of animation.  Previews for Twilight: Breaking Wind or somesuch, featuring more people with red eyes than an Adam Sandler/Vince Vaughan buddy movie, and for a truly woeful Glee-goes-to-Carlaj thing called Pitch Perfect and for Fun Size, another film somehow related to American youth and their amusing irresponsibility.  Life of Pi looks interesting, though I would have thought the book close to unfilmable. There may have been more but by this time I was checking my mobile phone and hoping for a message from someone trying to interest me in getting money out of Nigeria.

Anyhow, Ruby Sparks is not a big movie by any account.  Four recognisable faces – Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliott Gould and Steve Coogan – going through the motions as, respectively, a ditzy hippy chick mother, her current partner*, a kindly shrink and a sleazy novelist.  Also, the girl who played Maeby on Arrested Development, playing a lit-fan of limited moral fibre or vision.

The leads – Paul Dano and Zoe Karzan – twinkle with almost as much star power as the second burger preparer from the left in a recent McDonald’s commercial.  They act about as well as Mitt Romney maintains consistency, which is to say that they appear to have learnt their lines and that they are determined to say them.  The dog is cute, and pivotal, and performs as well as anyone else.

Anyhow, Dano plays Calvin, a lonely bespectacled boy-genius writer whose second novel is more blocked than a colon on a fibre-free diet.  Kazan is the funky girlfriend he dreams up.  The budget for the whole exercise was probably less than the muffin budget for Total Recoil but the film is about a hundred times smarter about using an interesting idea.  Could have been made anywhere** and would have looked much the same.

 

The script plodded a bit at times and a lot at other times.  I won’t spoil the ending, other than to grumble about Americans always going for the soft option.

 

* – a Hispanic “artist” who makes things using a chain saw

** – remove Banderas, add Bryan Brown.  Remove Gould, add Jack Thompson.  Remove Bening, add Jackie Weaver.  Remove Coogan, add Sean Micallef.  Remove leads, add recent NIDA grads.  Make changes as necessary for UK, Canada, Uzbekistan etc.

 

Beads for Wildlife – This Christmas Get Decorations That Matter

This year family Christmas trees all over Australia will be decorated with beautiful pieces which have changed the lives of families in Africa, and brought the endangered Grevy’s Zebra back from the brink of extinction.

The decorations are part of a collection of works which make up Beads for Wildlife, an alternative income and livelihoods project championed by Zoos Victoria. The beadwork is made by local women, and purchased by Zoos Victoria for sale in Australia.

The program has also empowered women says Zoos Victoria’s, Brooke Squires who is one of the Zoos Victoria staff who travels to North Africa each year to facilitate the program. “One of the biggest issues in Samburu and Rendille culture is household violence, and a lot of it is born out of frustration, it’s born out of an inability to make ends meet. It’s born out of families knowing that next week they could be starving. We’re finding that by having more reliable stable income systems, that household pressure is relieved enormously.”

“When the bead money comes in, it’s the woman who does the finances, that is just how they work it culturally, and she actually will give him an allowance. So it reverses things, and her ability to control the financial space has much better household outcomes.” Woman are more likely to invest in children’s education, vaccinating domestic livestock and buying grains to facilitate food security.

Not only are the angels, Christmas trees and other decorations beautiful lively additions to any Christmas tree, they have a wonderful story and remarkable impact on North African families and wildlife.

 

Beads for Wildlife can be purchased online at: http://shop.zoo.org.au

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