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Arbitrage – Film Review

Arrested Development: Possible Prequel  –   Arbitrage review

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

 

And so to the 10 am session of Arbitrage.  Sparse attendance, despite this being public sector superannuation payday.  Lamented, with the ticket person the disappearance of Last Will before I was able to see it.  Not a young crowd, and definitely about half would have been there to check out the current state of Richard Gere.  I can safely report that he does a suit almost as well as Clooney but when looking harried and drawn, takes on an unnerving resemblance to Bryan Cranston*.

The previews – as ever – tell us much about what the chain (in this case Event) thinks about the movie and its audience.  The Words with Jeremy Irons needing rehydration where Bradley Cooper playing an expressionless guy**;  Skyfall, a James Bond starring Daniel Craig as a man with few signs of personality; a film with a very high shooting quotient; Argo which might be ok but for the sneaking feeling all the good lines have been used in the preview***;  The Intouchables is an endearing-looking French confection about a wealthy paralysed bloke and his way-tough carer. In other words, the previews suggested that (a) Arbitrage was unlikely to require a wide repertoire of expressions from Mr Gere and (b) the plot and script might be a bit intelligent.  We also had two ads for Foxtel.

The Geremeister plays Robert Miller, a lion of Wall Street, a sleek but ageing king of a jungle. He has survived for years and is a purveyor of confidence mostly in himself.  Susan Sarandon is his wife, limited to doing charitable things.  There is a possibly thick-headed son and a disconcertingly clever daughter.  He’s in well-dressed flunkie heaven with many young retainers and some old hanging on his oracular status.  The … ahem …. girlfriend with a cute French accent and an art gallery propped up by his “investment”.  All the signs of success are there but the throne is on hollow legs and the whole palace may be on quicksand.

The film deals with the period when additional excrement is added to the quicksand and the whole is transported by an air-conditioning medium into Gere’s immediate vicinity so that, for the first time, he may have to face the consequences of his actions****.

Solid performances from Gere, Sarandon, Britt Marling, Tim Roth (as a dogged NY cop this time) and Nate Parker.  A script that shows rather than tells and a plotline that recognises that what is screened has a before and an after.  Some recognisable traces – a bit of Bonfire of the Vanities here, a little Margin Call there, some Woody Allen-lite NY affection – but it’s a world most of us don’t know.

This is well worth time and effort.  It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good.

 

* – don’t pretend you don’t know.  Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, plus a couple of strange roles in movies including the unlamented Total Recoil.

** – something he seems to do quite well.

*** – oh, and it’s got Bryan Cranston.

***** – yes, he can act.  Although his character operated as a projection of the information he was processing much of the time, rather than as a whole person.

****** – I’m not giving away more of the plot.

 

More The Merrier Share Their Hot Tips For Sydney Summer Dining

Christopher Dair and Zae Greenwood launched the very unique  More the Merrier website last year which allows users to plan an entire social event online.  Without having the hassle of juggling venues, the site gives you access to information on the best restaurants and activities which best suit groups of six or more people.

With suggestions that stretch from divorce parties to buck’s nights, dinner and ghost tours, botox brunches and beer masterclasses; More the Merrier is making expert socialites out of us all and Two Flat Whites chats to the innovators behind the site to find out what these merry events planners have in-store for a Sydney summer.

Q1:  How did you come up with the idea of MTM? 

It can be very stressful finding reliable group-friendly venues and experiences. Our aim was to create a platform that made organising great group occasions easy. With backgrounds in Events and the Entertainment industry, we were very familiar with the need to find unique group get-together options and the necessary information required when planning large get-togethers. We want MTM to be Sydney’s go to for group occasions.

Q2: What do you think about the Sydney scene for social dining compared to the rest of the world?

Sydney has plenty of wonderful social dining option. While it may not have the history or variety that some other super cities like London or New York have, Sydney has the climate and views for exceptional al fresco dining experiences.

Q3: What would be your ultimate, dream group occasion?

The most important component of any group occasion is friends, and then it’s a venue or experience that is group-friendly to create memories that last forever.

We recently talked about a ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’ experience that would have you enjoy a day out on a private fishing charter, then to finish you would pull into a harbour side restaurant where your catch of the day would be prepared by the chef for a seafood dinner like no other.

MTMs Hot Tips for Group Gatherings this Summer in Sydney

  • Shed the winter layers and get out into Sydney’s great outdoors – pop up picnic anyone?
  • Don’t let your group get stuck in the dreaded social rut of only attending parties and activities that are on your doorstep. You don’t become worldly by hanging around the same-old postcode.
  • Look for dining options that have the share factor; it’s a more social, relaxed approach to group dining
  • Get active and think of unique ways to get together with friends. It doesn’t need to be someone’s 30th to jump out of a plane or attend a dance class

A Different Road – LORE

 

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

To the cavernous pit that is Cinema One.  The handful of us sitting there were like leaves blowing around with nowhere to go.  Meanwhile, substantial numbers had lined up for the Madagascar movie, the adults with dutiful looks.  For it was still school holidays in the ACT and the day was bleak.

Previews for The Words, which is definitely worth a look, with Bradley Cooper (the current go-to man for many things) and Dennis Quaid* appearing to do fine things.  And a French movie, not The Intouchables this time, about the struggle of a disregarded son to follow the winemaking footprints of his father.  Yawn, shrug (Gallically).

I was after darker fare and found it in Lore, (that’s pronounced Law-ray, by the way, an abbreviation of the fine German name Hannelore).  Before commenting briefly, it is prudent to observe that few would disagree that the Nazis were the most appalling people ever to walk the planet although a few have tried to emulate them.  Nothing should ever get in the way of that truth.

Anyhow, the less than magical Reich that was Nazi Germany is in collapse as the film opens.  The loyal Nazi family of an SS officer collect their belongings in a truck and head for the Black Forest, leaving Dad behind.  After a time of growing desperation, the mother** tells their teenage daughter, Lore, to take the other children to their grandmother’s house near Hamburg.  The two girls, two little boys and a baby set off on a long trip through a hell that is made even more punishing by the beautiful summer weather.  They are exploited and frightened, and receive kindness only from Thomas, a resourceful if callous young man who may or may not be Jewish.  His motive is unclear until the end.

See it for the snapshot of life and attitudes at a time and place when certainty was dissolving into grief and blame and everyone lied rather than admit the truth.  See it for the wonderful sense of place, from the shaded forests to the open farmlands and then to the mudflats of Schleswig-Holstein.  See it for performances that are more real than young actors should know how to offer.  And see it for the reflection it offers on how the Nazis worked, through deceit and degradation of anyone they opposed.

The film is a German/Australian production and probably cost less than the coconut water and white omelette budget for Total Recoil.

 

* – not Randy Quald or Quade Cooper, either of whom would have looked ridiculous.

** – who demonstrates some of the personality characteristics that made the Nazis so popular.

The 16th Japanese Film Festival – 14th to 25th Nov

The Japanese Film Festival (JFF) started in 1997 with three free film screenings by Festival Director Masafumi Konomi.

From humble beginnings, the JFF has grown exponentially over the past 15 years, enjoying positive success in all areas. Last year the festival celebrated its 15th year with an attendance of approximately 22,000 nation-wide, quickly taking place as one of the largest Japanese Film Festivals outside of Japan.

The JFF has had the pleasure of showing a variety of films over the past years from classics to newly released films that are currently screening in Japan.

The Japanese Film Festival is presented by the Japan Foundation, Sydney who manages and run the two flagship cities, Sydney and Melbourne. Other Australian cities with abridged programs are assisted with the help of the Embassy of Japan and the Consulate-General of Japan or respecting cities.

Make sure you check out the festival this year, it’s going to be one of the best. You can catch it in Sydney from the 14th Nov to 25th Nov & in Melbourne from 29th Nov to 9 Dec. See you there!

Win an IPad Clutch

Why So Serious?

…well that’s because b.sirius and Design Federation are giving you lucky devils the chance to win one of their new IPad clutch range (4 to give away!) which would make the perfect Christmas gift for that special someone (or for yourself).

To enter, simply click through to the Design Federation Site

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.

 

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