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Happy Families

August: Osage County– A Film Review

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK
PLACE: Sunday, 1:00 pm. Limelight Tuggeranong, Cinema 2
PIC: August: Osage County
PEEPS: About forty present, 90% armed only with X chromosomes

Quite distinct from the mauling mass in the foyer, awaiting one of several serves of animated children’s fare. No-one who appeared to have been diverted from attendance at SummerNats, Canberra’s local BoganFest that attracts the mullet-wearers of much of the rest of Australia.

This is Tuggeranong, aka Tuggers, known as Canberra’s Nappy Valley until about fifteen years ago, so we had ads for fast food, an apartment hotel for visitors and, as is apparently required by law in Canberra, a jeweller. Previews for Divergent (a movie about some kind of genetic difference and why it leads to actors having to go through really tedious looking explanatory scenes) The Monuments Men (a bunch of comic actors dress up as soldiers and rescue great art from the Nazis) and Noah (Our Russ* works wonders for genetic diversity in the face of climate change). Nothing resembling a pattern.

August: Osage County is an adaptation of a play by Tracy Letts, and its bloodline shows in a production that is, inevitably, full of talking and high-profile acting. Out in the American West** poet Beverley Weston (a he, played briefly by Same Shepard) is a drunk, married to Violet (Meryl Streep), who has cancer, a prescription medicine habit and a talent for unrelenting nastiness that belongs in Australian politics. Beverley goes missing, and this brings the couple’s daughters and the rest of the family into the same zone. There’s Barbara (Julia Roberts), in the last days of her marriage to Bill (Ewan McGregor), accompanied by their teenage daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). There’s scatty Karen (Juliette Lewis), about to marry the sleazy Steve (Dermot Mulroney). And there’s Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), still at or near home and in love with her cousin, Little Charley (Benedict Cumberbatch), the son of Violet’s sister Mattie Fay (Margo Martindale) and her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper). It’s an ensemble cast, and a very good one, well directed, playing wounded people, all at pivotal points in their lives.

Apparently unaided by CGI and special effects***, the plot that advances is one where secrets and deceits are revealed, the thin covering destroyed by the acid and bile that spews from Violet and, at times, from the other family members. It’s an opportunity to reflect on whether we survive as a society and as families because of the lies, or despite them. It’s savagery below the veneer, and one might wonder why unhappy families, despite being unhappy, get all the best lines in drama and in real life.

As indicated, the film is not unlike a stage production**** and at times it seems slow. But those slow passages are like watching the clouds gather for the next, inevitable, thunderstorm. Set mostly inside a poorly lit house, it may seem claustrophobic, but again this adds to its ultimate value as drama.

Four flat whites, at least one of them to wash the pills down. Not a date movie, unless one’s surname is Borgia.

FPB

* – the very fine and gifted Australian actor and sometime loudmouthed EnZedder boofhead.
** – specifically, Oklahoma, near its northern border with Kansas.
*** – I assume there were some effects, but that they fitted in and progressed the story, rather than creating it.
**** – compare 1982’s very fine Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (with a much weaker cast than this) and filmed adaptations of Tennessee Williams.

Wallow, wallow, wallow: What’s All This Then?

Filth – A Film Review

Filth film

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

PLACE: Dendy

PIC: Filth

PEEPS: About a dozen.

 

As well as the usual Dendy ads, we were greeted with a couple that involved retail booze.  There were none for tobacco, cocaine, bribery, violence or diverse practices related to close interpersonal physical relationships (including those featuring only the participant), so we had few hints from them.  Suffice to say that the feature did not include the jewellery, quirky gifts and healthy food that are the staples of the Dendy pre-show.  The correlation between an ad for a picture framing business (operating in consort with a retail art gallery) and a subplot involving a harmless little man may have been unconscious wit.

There were no previews and, in retrospect, it is difficult to think of what may have prepared an audience of lonely souls, huddled in the darkness in the hours following the farewell lunches that have become, again, a regular feature of life in Canberra.

Filth is strong stuff, deserving of its R rating.  It is a comedy, of sorts, about a relationship but don’t turn up expecting something like, About Time.  Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is an Edinburgh cop with more issues than the Times of London.  He may be bipolar, but those around have been happy to feast off his successes.  He is a detective sergeant, looking for the promotion that may buy him a few more months or years in the chilly sunshine of the love of his wife, Carole (Shauna McDonald) who has left him but features heavily in his imagined life. He is contemptuous of his colleagues and rivals for the position.  He is capable of compassion and action, but not for longer than the heartbeat of an impulse.  Robertson has occasional allies. but no friends other than those that come in bottles or in powdered form, snorted with a rolled banknote. He is crude, corrupt, bigoted and brutal, but seems to be capable of being effective at bringing other appalling people to some form of justice.

Filth

Robertson’s prospects depend on a result in a murder investigation and in resolving a nuisance to one of his brother Masons.  It is at this moment that his stretched lifestyle and fragile mind catch up with him and the nightmare becomes more intense.  Some may suggest that this takes the plot too far, but once the line of excess is crossed, it is all a matter of degree.  The subplots are needed to show the depth of his ambition and his degradation.

The soundtrack is strange, atmosphere larded with the more trivial end of popular.  The dialogue may sometimes have been assisted by subtitles but the intent is always clear as is the trajectory.

 

Three flat whites.  Additional substances optional.

 

 

FPB

Vegan Special, With steak; Rare – The Family movie review

 

the family

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

PLACE: Hoyts, Woden

PIC: The Family

PEEPS: Six present.

The winter PillowTalk ad, plus one for a club and another for a builder/developer. Oh, and how Army officer training teaches women to walk backwards and do quick changes. Previews for Bad Grandpa (an old codger and a small child engage in some of the imbecility that has made Jackass into a franchise, but failed to turn Johnny Knoxville into an actor), Insidious 2 (a horror film, with shocks and surprises for anyone who has not previously seen such a movie) and Thor: The Dark World (Our Chris, as I should now call him, given that he’s a star and all, saves the world from CGI). The previews created the faintest possibility of a movie about relationships, with suspense and violence.

The Family attempted to deliver on this promise, but the chasm between the safer ground of any of its possible genres was too great for its flabby direction and rote performances by the leads. It fell, like Wile E. Coyote when he realises he has blown up the narrow spit of cliff that connected him to the heights and is plummeting to a desert floor accompanied by an anvil.

thefamily2
The set up is simple. Giovanni Manzoni (Robert de Niro), his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeifer) and children Belle and Warren (Dianna Agron and John D’Leo) are in a cute little village in Normandy*, masquerading as an American family called the Blakes. They are there because Giovanni was a serious mafioso who ratted on the Mob and now has a price on his, and his family’s, heads. They are protected by FBI Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) and a couple of other affable agents who really never get a scene going. They have had to skip in a hurry from other places of refuge, because they persist in acting like serious mafiosi**, or maybe just Americans, and they resume the pattern in their new home. Amusant, non? Well, some of it is, and some of it is just laboured and repetitive. Inevitably, things go bad, but mostly for innocent bystanders (and they’re mostly French, anyway), so that’s ok.

This could have been funny or cleverly plotted, but it’s far more witless than Witness. It’s a mess of attempted humour and excessive violence; the family that slays together, stays together. De Niro, Pfeiffer and Jones pretty much phone it in, and we’ve all seen (for example) De Niro as a hardass and Jones as a weary, decent man before. The younger roles require a bit more, and mostly Agron and D’Leo deliver; it’s not Agron’s fault that she gets cheesy lines and some hammy situations***.

Two lukewarm flat whites.

FPB

* – which we are told a few times is Normandy, France. Just in case one might confuse it with Normandy, Missouri, which would be quite possible, because almost everyone speaks English, albeit with a French accent.
** – you know the sort of thing. Lots of talk about being disrespected, followed by brutality without warning or limit.
*** – but as part of a bur

Win tickets to the 2013 Japanese Film Festival

This month sees the return of the Japanese Film Festival which is now in its 17th season, and Two Flat Whites in association with the Japan Foundation Sydney are giving our lucky readers the chance to win 1 of 5 Double passes to the event (excluding opening night).

There are some fantastic movies at this year’s festival across all genres, including, the latest Takashi Miike (13 Assassins) offering ‘Shield of Straw” and Hideo Nakata (The Ring) latest movie “The Complex”.

To enter the competition, just head to our Facebook page and follow the post.

The 17th  Japanese Film Festival is on:

  • Broome: 17 Sep – 18 Sep
  • Perth: 23 Oct – 27 Oct
  • Hobart: 13, 14 & 16 Oct
  • Canberra: 30 Oct – 3 Nov
  • Townsville: 26 Oct
  • Sydney: 14 Nov – 24 Nov
  • Cairns: 3 Nov
  • Melbourne: 28 Nov – 8 Dec
  • Brisbane: 16 Oct – 20 Oct
  • Darwin: TBC

For more info on the festival click japanesefilmfestival.net

Bright Sparks Conference | Keynote Speaker Clare Bowditch

Clare Bowditch

ARIA winner Clare Bowditch is set to inspire attendees of this year’s creative business conference

ARIA-award winning singer, Clare Bowditch, will be a keynote speaker at Murray Arts’ Bright Sparks 2013 conference in October.

This unique event brings together a talented line-up of industry professionals who are succeeding across the spectrum of creative industries in a program aimed at inspiring, motivating and offering practical advice and skills to people who work or aspire to make a living in a creative field.

It’s a subject close to the heart of Clare Bowditch who understands the challenges faced by creatives striving to achieve commercial as well as artistic success. The singer-songwriter stars in hit TV show Offspring and was named Rolling Stone Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 2010. She launched Big Hearted Business this year, offering mentoring and practical business skills training to groups of 20 creative people trying to make a living from their artistic talent.

For Bright Sparks, she will offer a singing workshop as well as a keynote address: Sensitive Creative Types – A Real Life Survival Guide.

Celebrated furniture designer, Mark Tuckey, will also share the benefit of experience at this year’s Bright Sparks. Tuckey embarked on his road to success 25 years ago with $200, a blue F-100 truck and some recycled timber. Now with a staff of 45, showrooms in Melbourne and Sydney and a homewares store on Sydney’s northern beaches, he qualified to talk on the subject of  Turning Your Passion into your Business.

The program includes a number of other creative industry practitioners who will share their insights through workshops and panel discussions, to cover a raft of topics including social media, building business plans, networking, business partnerships and digital software.

Now in its second year, Bright Sparks attracted more than 60 graphic and fashion designers, publishers, writers, film makers, visual and performing artists to the inaugural event event in 2012.

Full program details & bookings here 


CALL FOR ARTISTS: LANE COVE COUNCIL’S RECYCLED REINDEERS PROJECT

lanecovecouncil

Lane Cove Council is calling for expressions of interest from local and Greater Sydney artists, designers and craftspeople interested in participating in a recycled reindeer project to coincide with Christmas 2013.

Seven artists/designers/craftspeople will be commissioned to design and build a three dimensional, weather-resistant reindeer sculpture using recycled and repurposed materials. The completed works will pop-up in various locations throughout the local area in December 2013.

Council is seeking designs that are innovative, imaginative and bold.

Successful proposals will be of a high standard in both concept and execution, while recognising public safety concerns and durability.

Commissioned artists will be paid a one off payment of $1000. Council will also contribute up to $250 towards the cost of materials and, if required, a wire reindeer frame.

The project has been designed to highlight the need to think carefully about our waste at Christmas time. It encourages the community to interact and engage with issues of sustainability through innovative artistic practice using recycled and reappropriated materials.

The Recycled Reindeer project is an initiative of Lane Cove Council and is funded by the Sustainability Levy.

To register your interest, and obtain a copy of the artist brief and application form, please contact Council’s Cultural Development Officer on: cultural {at} lanecove.nsw.gov(.)au.

Completed applications must be received by FRIDAY 11 OCTOBER 2013 and will be selected by Lane Cove Council’s Internal Public Art Committee.

All applicants will be notified by email and successful parties will be provided with further project details.

Miss Julie – “by Simon Stone after August Strindberg” @ Belvoir Theatre

 

belvoirsttheatre_missjulie

Simon Stone’s Miss Julie, playing at the Belvoir Theatre, brings us a shrilly precocious, teenage Julie (played by Taylor Ferguson in a stage debut) who wields her nymphet sexuality like a lightsaber she can’t quite get a grip of, and a likeable rogue, Jean, (Brendan Cowell), whose dreams of social mobility turn him into bumbling predator at the mercy of his own lust.

Stone’s adaptation shifts details to create a highly-strung tension relevant to a modern Australian audience. In the original Strindberg play from 1888, Julie is a nobleman’s 25 year old daughter whose tryst with “the help” (namely the socially ambitious servant, Jean) poses the threat of a scandal she fears she cannot live with. Stone seemingly deemed this suicidal Miss Julie scarcely believable in the 21st Century.

In this version, the moral danger is crafted by lowering Julie’s age to 16 and captures the very essence of the original story’s power struggle, which at the heart is about class and sex. The female lead’s father is ever-absent, having charged Jean, his driver, with the responsibility of minding his adolescent daughter and keeping her rebellious mischief out of the media spotlight.

Unapologetically contemporary, the audience is kept amused by references to Snapchat and online ordering, along with the delightfully coarse Australian lexicon. The glow of the Apple Mac icon is onstage almost as much as the characters are, beaming from Julie’s silvery laptop on which she checks the newspapers for reports on her or her high-profile politician father, or watches French films.

Cowell’s lechery is not quite of the Humbert Humbert calibre, and is almost (disturbingly) excusable. This could be because Julie’s virgin 16 seems threatening only in as much as it is illegal, a fact that Jean’s fiancé, Christine (Blazey Best) reminds him of, “I’ve looked it up, Jean. She was under our special care and you could get 8 years for this.”

Blasts of ominous fanfares composed by Pete Goodwin, engulf scenes at key moments with retro, cinematic high-drama. The climax mounts as troubled Julie’s desire to be loved clashes with her self-realisation of social status, and Jean’s inability to resist the under-aged temptress finally meets his dawning realisation that he’s bitten off more than he can chew. Then Strindberg fans can settle in for the classic character shredding of the second half.

“The moral of the story is, it shouldn’t be this easy for a dog to f*** a princess,” Jean snarls at Julie, but there’s got to be more to it than that.  Are the creators asking us to consider the psychic world of the Abbott girls?

As it all unravels, Stone steers the story so that it grazes the original ending and then hurtles into a very different kind of self-destruction for Julie. This might not please Strindberg diehards but director, Leticia Caceres, certainly works up a crowd-pleasing, bloodlusty finale.

Cast

  • Miss Julie (Taylor Ferguson)
  • Christine (Blazey Best)
  • Jean (Brendan Cowell)
  • Composer Pete Goodwin (aka, the Sweats)
  • Director: Leticia Caceres

Article Written by Estelle Pigot via Design Federation

MUSCLEBOUND – Pain & Gain movie review

pain-and-gain

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

PLACE: Dendy, Cinema

PIC: Pain and Gain

PEEPS: A congregation of six.

A feature that is longer than usual equates to fewer ads: don’t copy movies, buy the DVD of Warm Bodies, eat and drink healthy things, wear lots of jewellery and join the Navy.  Not all at the same time, necessarily.  It also meant fewer previews: RED2 and the 2013 version of Anchorman.  Both appear to have been successful the first time around but there is no law that says there must always be a sequel or a prequel.

There’s unlikely to be a sequel to Pain and Gain, in part because a number of characters are… ummm… dead, and a plausible plot would require a major leap from the “true story” shtick.

Or, just maybe, zombies.

The plot is said to be a true story, a fact which the viewer is reminded about on a few occasions.  Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a gym instructor who is empowered with the success message from Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong) and becomes unsatisfied with the limited version of the “American Dream” that he lives.  He partners up with born-again Christian/cokefiend Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) and mainstream-if-manic Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie). This intrepid trio have blurry vision and the collective intelligence of pondlife.

They kidnap the comfortably rich and ever-so-slightly dodgy Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) and force him to sign over his assets to them.  While their standard of living improves, the plan quickly goes awry, notwithstanding the blundering of the local Miami police. As with many dreamers and visionaries, our heroes eventually wake up, by which time they are in a layer of squelchy stuff so deep and so malodorous that their futures are somewhat confined.

rebel-wilson-and-anthony-mackie-star-in-new-pain-gain-

There are things one could dislike deeply about this movie, principally the casual and humorous depiction of excruciating violence (at least some of which presumably happened, given that this is a true story) and the failure to push the socio-politico-cultural point about a society that limits options for many while asserting that those who cannot participate fail through their own actions.  But there is enough to balance those problems.  The three leads have obviously buffed to the max for their roles, and that is something that will please a segment of the audience.

The social point is identified, even if it is not pressed.  There is a small Oz moment (even if it is Rebel Wilson*) and a well-balanced performance from Ed Harris as a private detective.  There are some genuinely funny moments as the leads discover that their values are not especially well considered.

And, in the grey days of late Canberra winter, there’s Florida to look at.  It’s not the worst movie this year, but it could have been better.

 

Three flat whites. Light soy.  No sugar or sweetener.

 

FPB

 

 

* – playing a loudmouthed and unintelligent woman, so not a big stretch from her usual roles.

Interview with Jess Harris, Co-creator of ABC’s Twentysomething

Estelle Pigot throws the curly questions at Jess Harris, one of the creators of ABC2’s popular series twentysomething (DVDs in stores now!) which is now in its 2nd series.

Two Flat Whites also has 5 twentysomething Season 1 DVDs signed by both Jess and Josh available for our readers to win. Details are on our Facebook page.

Twenty_Something_S2_R-113872-9_3D[2] 

Where did the initial idea of Twentysomething spring from?

 JH: Josh [Schmidt, co-creator] and I were in the thick of our twenties. We found constant humour in the ups and downs of the life we were living. One minute you had not a care in the world, the next you were freaking out how to pay rent, hating your job and wondering if we would ever have any sense of creative fulfillment. We felt out of control of our own future, so we decide to take matters into our own hands and create a comedy about the life we were living.

 

What do you think your 20’s should be all about? Do your characters Josh and Jess have the right idea?

JH: I think your 20s is a time of exploration and freedom. Jess and Josh are making the most of being young; they are enjoying an era where you can be selfish and a little reckless. But there is also the burning desire to make your mark, to find your passion and purpose.

 

As actors, you might know something personally about odd-jobs and casual employment….

JH: We have done every sort of casual employment you can think of, from waiting tables, ripping tickets at cinemas, retail, babysitting, cleaners you name it. Even though, at the time, they weren’t the dream job, I look back on them all with fondness.

 

Are relationships a struggle during this decade of life? 

JH: Finding the perfect twentysomething partner in crime is such a huge part of your twenties, but it’s also a time you crave adventure and independence. My advice would be – enjoy the single life for as long as you can, it’s such a fleeting window of youth and freedom, run wild!

 

Was it a dream come true when you came across from Channel 31 to ABC?

JH: Definitely. It was the ultimate. ABC2 was the prefect next progression for the show.

 

What is Hamish Blake like to work with? 

JH: He’s the best. We have been friends with Hamish since high-school, so we are all so comfortable with each other. He brings such a sense of lightness to the set, he makes me laugh like not many others can, he is so sharp and funny, with such a massive heart. His character Billy brings out the sweet and vulnerable side in Jess, it’s the perfect balance to the show.

jess-and-josh

We have heard you hate the question, “What are you doing with yourselves?” but what are you up to next?

JH: You are right, we get anxious when we hear that question. We would love to stay twentysomething forever and live vicariously through Jess and Josh, I think a 3rd season would be amazing, to see them turn 30 would be the ultimate ending to an amazing chapter.

 

Follow twentysomething on Facebook  & go onto Two Flat White’s Facebook page to win one of 5 signed DVDs!

 

Local and Imported Brews

FILM REVIEW: THE WORLD’S END

 the_worlds_end

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

PLACE: 10:30 am, Hoyts Belconnen, Cinema 7

PIC: The World’s End

PEEPS: The Lovely Companion and I were about half the crowd.

 

The government electoral ad, but not the one for jobs, and the grating PillowTalk one with a bit of product placement*, plus a new one for someone building ecologically sound houses.  More previews than I can remember, including Now You See Me, We’re the Millers, Pain and Gain, Kick-Ass 2 and Runner, Runner (Ben Affleck runs a dodgy online poker site,  Justin Timberlake confronts him and there’s a non-virtual violence depicted).  The LC and I played the game of thunbs up and down, and I suspect she has better taste, or maybe an even lower tolerance for utter silliness than I do.

For the film was pretty silly, though well-made and with some structure.  Many years before, Gary King (Simon Pegg) and his four mates finished school and decided to do the Golden Mile, a pub crawl through their town of Newton Haven**.  They failed, as teenagers will when confronted by quantities of alcohol if they don’t start king-hitting passing pedestrians.  Years later, the friends (played by Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost and Paddy Considine) are prevailed upon or deceived by Gary into trying to succeed as men where they had failed as boys.  It gives nothing away that the friends have moved on with their adult lives, with some success, while Gary remains beached as an eternally irresponsible teenager.  He is as embarrassing and irremovable as a drunkenly unwise tattoo with the name of the last woman one met misspelt or the Chinese characters for “No MSG on Request”****.   He acts like an idiot because it’s not been brought to his attention, through the layers of self-induced addling. that he shouldn’t, because what is merely silly in a boy is disgusting and tiresome in a man.

THEWORLDSEND

The town has changed, and not in a good way.  Some of the pubs are now, in effect, parts of chains of identical establishments and have lost the character they used to have.  At least a couple serve Foster’s****.  And the people are different, in a way which will not utterly surprise anyone who saw Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  Mayhem and special effects seem to be on a bigger scale than either of those films, but a pretty reliable supply of jokes and sight-gags, plus a couple of cameos (Pierce Brosnan, Bill Nighy) and a nice supporting role by Rosamund Pike***** keep the pace up and there’s even a drunkenly rational motive for continuing the pub crawl that is beyond any sober argument.  An untaken opportunity to reflect on what maturity is supposed to be (rather than not be) and a clever mining of the issue of whether sane and considered behaviour is a necessary condition for humanity******. 

No prizes for guessing the ending or its consequences. 

Three flat whites.  Local microbrewery chasers.

 

FPB

 

 

* – though it has occurred to me that the Ashton Kutcher piece called Jobs is likely to be an extensive commercial for Apple, and one we will pay to see.  I mean, we paid to see The Social Network, didn’t we?

** – actually somewhere bizarrely called Welwyn Garden City.  I mean, no-one calls Queanbeyan “Near Canberra Parasite City”, do they?  Well, not if they’re talking to people from Queanbeyan (aka Struggletown).

***  – we’ve all seen NRL players.

**** – don’t mind me, I just made a spitting noise.  Calling it Australian is like calling the old Eskimo Pie icecream a product of Alaska (though it’s branded with an inappropriate and obsolete name for a kind of native North American people).

***** – I won’t do “sigh” because the LC was there.

****** – it’s probably not – I’ve travelled on enough public transport where it’s been in short supply – but it might make things better if we could get around to it sometime.

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