December 28, 2015

Book Review - The Happy Couple- How to make happiness a habit one little loving thing at a time By Barton Goldsmith PHD ; forward by Harville Hendrix, PHD

The Happy Couple offers simple strategies for developing and strengthening the positive relationship traits of-
'The Happy Couple is a guide book to relationships that every couple should read.' Bernie Siegel, MD author of A Book of Miracles and The Art of Healing.

With exercises at the end of most chapters the book is lighthearted, entertaining and positive. In the conclusion there is an interesting top ten list of ways to improve your relationship habits, which seems very achievable to implement into daily life.
An enjoyable and positive read. Anne

December 25, 2015

Book Review—A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

In the 1970s the world become disillusioned with rock and reggae became the new counter culture with Bob Marley as guru. As a sign of this prominence, The Singer organises the Smile Jamaica concert. Although an event that would resonate with the world at large, it was designed to help bring peace to the trouble island facing political corruption and gang violence. Told through the eyes of gang members, politicians, CIA operatives, abandoned women, and journalists, the full panorama of the tumultuous times comes to bear, with the ramifications having bearings into the following decades.

James’ tome owes a great deal to the multitudes of voices that fill its pages, whether it’s the Jamaican jive of Papa-lo or the domestic tinged machinations of Diflorio or the sanctimonious droning of journalist Alex Pierce. Like Faulkner, these numerous voices give us a unique vernacular on the unfolding events. Where it does stumble a little is that unlike Faulkner these shifts in voice do not always amount to a shift in perspective, rendering them repetition without reconstruction. Where it does come to bear is with its central subject. Of all the voices, the one that is never heard is The Singer. He is already a spirit in his own time, a myth being created as the actions unfold, and becomes the source of all hope, assurance, despair, and paranoia of all those in Jamaica. He becomes the symbol, the solution, the sage, the suspect, the sin, the song that all these cacophonous voices sing about.

Rich, alluring, and gritty, A Brief History of Seven Killings is a vibrant, multidimensional tale that divulges the personal within the monumental. 

December 21, 2015

Film Review - The Heat By Director Paul Feig

The Heat stars Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. From the director of the Bridesmaids. This odd couple joins forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord.

 At the start they couldn't be more different but through their amusing and dangerous escapades they become true buddies. Filled with laughter and action, a great movie. Anne
MA15+ Strong course language, crude humor and violance

December 18, 2015

Film Review—Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

By day Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) works a menial administrative job. Her mother is over bearing, wanting her to move back home until she finds a man and has children, and constantly questions her about promotions. At work, her colleagues are all younger than her with perfect figures and bright carers ahead of them, and her former school mates are living the life her mother dreams for her. But by night Kumiko obsessively studies an old scratched video cassette of Fargo, wanting to pinpoint the exact place where Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) buried the briefcase of money. One day, after having enough of her oppressive life, Kumiko goes on an all or nothing trip to Minnesota to hunt for her treasure.

The links with Fargo are plentiful. From the amped up personalities of the characters to the bleak white of the Minnesota snow. The other worldly Minnesota gives the second half of the film a dream like quality in comparison to the stifling, tinted Japan. The cinematography alone tells the story, shifting from Kuniko’s dingy home life to the expanse of the wilderness until she becomes a lone ghoul searching the forest until her final, blisteringly white triumph. The interplay with Fargo, a film where the intersection of dreams has fatal results, is appropriately at the heart of Kumiko’s obsession and quest. The treasure, the fictional prize that for Kumiko must, at all cost, be real and found, becomes an object worth risking everything for, and in the end, it is only by sacrificing her all that the dream has any chance of coming true.

Disparaging and beautiful, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter reveals the treasure of dreams and the dangers of following them.

December 14, 2015

Film Review - Last Vegas By Director Jon Turtletaub

Last Vegas stars Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. Billy, Paddy, Archie and Sam are all childhood friends. When Billy decides to get married to his 30 something girlfriend the gang gets back together.

 They head to Las Vegas to throw a bachelor party for their last remaining single pal. This film is filled with laughs. Anne

December 11, 2015

Book Review—A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

We all know someone like Ove. He’s the neighbour who tells you how to correctly mow the lawn, the uncle who always knows what’s wrong with the economy, or the man on the bus who will tell you why smartphones are nothing more than electronic humbug. Ove wakes early every morning before doing a neighbourhood inspection to make sure all is well and everyone is following the rules. He then has coffee with his wife, Sonja, and does a solid days work. Or at least, he used to. With Sonja dead for six months, Ove is placed in early retirement by the company where he worked for 30 years. Rather than face his days doing nothing at home he decides to end his life and join his wife. But with each attempt he comes face to face with the incompetence of the modern world, and each time he must delay his plan in order to set things right.

With hilarious observations of contemporary life, Backman shifts through all the assumed goods of the modern world, from tech professionals, to jogging, and the nonsensical T&Cs that accompany over consumerism, all with colourful, cantankerous jibes. But where this novel works is not in its observations or in its adeptness at highlighting the curmudgeon in our own lives (or in ourselves). Instead it is in its creation of sympathy for Ove. We come to see that his “rules are rules” mentality is not out of spite for other people, but a frustrated response to a world that only ever regarded him as someone who should just follow the rules, despite his attempts to live a life of principles that no one else seems to value.

A Man Called Ove is a hilarious, touching and compassionate portrait of those that modern life leaves behind. 


December 07, 2015

Film Review - Fifty Shades of Grey By Director Sam Taylor Johnson

Fifty Shades of Grey stars Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan. Ana is an inexperienced college student who is filling in for a friend interviewing billionaire and charismatic Christian Grey.

Quickly business turns to pleasure and Ana is swept up in Christian's glamorous lifestyle. Ana learns she needs to protect herself from Christian as she uncovers his darker side and secrets. At the same time she is drawn closer to unlock her own dark desires.
An all-consuming romance, how far will Ana go for love?
MA15+ Strong sex scenes, sexual themes and nudity.

December 04, 2015

TV Review—Better Call Saul Season One

Following the success of Breaking Bad, creator Vince Gilligan created this spin-off/prequel. Focusing on Saul Goodman, Walter White’s shady ‘criminal’ lawyer, the series shows him from his origins as Jimmy McGill, known as ‘Slipping Jimmy’, a two-bit hustler from Illinois, and his attempts to become a prominent lawyer in Albuquerque, New Mexico, following in his brothers much regarded footsteps. The process, Jimmy finds, is not easy, and involves him utilising many of the skills of his past in order to carve out his future.

Like its predecessor, it features a mix of relatable yet unusual characters in escalating scenarios. It also has a more consistent quality than Breaking Bad, with each episode having a solid plot while being heavily interconnected to the overall story arch. Jimmy is also a more charming character. Where Walter White’s musing shifted between the melancholic and triumphant with manipulative intent, Jimmy provides a smooth, enjoyable rhapsody. You know he’s playing you, but with a tune this enjoyable why stop dancing? Comparisons will continue to be made with its parental series, but Better Call Saul is best thought of as a companion piece. Where Breaking Bad focused on change, on Walter’s complete transformation from “Mr Chips to Scarface”, as Gilligan described it, Better Call Saul focuses more on stasis, on the inability to escape ones past and completely transform oneself. Jimmy quickly realizes that his future is not reliving his ‘Slipping Jimmy’ days nor in becoming a pillar of the legal community like his brother, but an evolution into something altogether unique.

Highly enjoyable viewing with great dramatic heft and engaging dialogue, Better Call Saul is not just a good spin-off, but a great television series.

December 02, 2015

Book Review—Trust Your Melody by Lana Mayes

When I started reading ‘Trust Your Melody’, I felt as though I was riding the roller coaster with Lana - I cried when she cried, I swelled with pride every moment she did and shed a tear when Thomas was born safely after a horrendous pregnancy.

There is so much emotion in Lana’s words which I recognise from my own story, that I just know how helpful this book would be to other mums. Reading about her struggles with breastfeeding was like re-living my own journey as a new mum with no how-to handbook. I only wish I had this book when I was a new mum!

As mums we put so much pressure on ourselves. That is particularly why I love the messages at the end of each chapter. They're a wonderful reminder that we need to pat ourselves on the back a little more often!
 Lana is an amazing writer and her book is full of heart which is probably why I can't put it down. I wanted to congratulate Lana - your story is powerful and I truly wish you every success. I know that other readers will feel as uplifted as I did afterwards.

I can't wait to read the next instalment in what has been an incredible journey so far.

Iliana Stillitano (Guest Reviewer)

November 30, 2015

Movie Club—The Evolution of Noir 2: L.A. Confidential

In December the Movie Club will continue its look at the changing face of noir with L.A. Confidential. Released in 1997, the film has been praised by critics (earning a 99% “Fresh” Rating on the Rotten Tomatoes), but never received the wide-spread attention it deserved then or now. This is particularly tragic as the film has a tight, fast moving plot, highly engaging dialogue, and solid performances from Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce (both new-comers to the Hollywood system at the time) and  Kevin Spacey.

Things are rotten in 1950s L.A., and three different detectives try to navigate the vice in the fallen "City of Angels". Each has a different approach: Crowe plays the tough guy, with a tooth and claw mentality and a penchant for punishing wife beaters; Pearce is a political animal, believing in high principles and the “New L.A.P.D.”; and Spacey is the smooth talking type, with links to tabloids and working as an adviser to a hit television detective show. While looking into different cases the three start to notice links, and although using different methods and having personal grudges, they combine their skills and efforts to uncover the darker parts of L.A. and their own police department.

Where The Maltese Falcon established many of the stylistic characteristics of film noir, L.A. Confidential plays with these conventions. It consciously replicates them while reworking them. This is perhaps best done with its tone: The Maltese Falcon had a dark outlook, where the corrupt and criminal elements weighed down the film with its post-Depression, pre-war angst. But L.A. Confidential boldly accepts its colour film and seedy subject matter, serving up its vice and violence with vivacious glee. It may seem as though it is enjoying its subject matter too much, but therein lies the “ambiguity and ambivalence” that separates the truly great noirs from those who just want to play detective.

L.A. Confidential will be screened on Wednesday 9 December at 6pm at Narellan Library, Cnr Queen and Elyard Street Narellan. Coffee, tea, and biscuits will be provided, but BYO snacks also welcome. Stay after the screening and share your thoughts about changes that have occurred in noir from the time of The Maltese Falcon to L.A. Confidential. Use the discussion questions or share your own observations.

Film Review - Dallas Buyers Club By Directer Jean- Marc Vallee

Dallas Buyers Club stars Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner. Winner of 3 Academy awards.

Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof is diagnosed as HIV positive and given 30 days to live. Not accepting his death sentence he embarks on his own journey, sometimes humorous with his disguises to seek other treatments and defy the odds. Making new friends along the way he challenges the medical community. This is a story of true strength of character and resilience. Anne
MA 15+ Strong sex scenes, drug use and course language

November 27, 2015

Book Review—The Awakening and Selected Stories by Kate Chopin

Edna Pontellier, wife of Laconce, a successful Creole businessman in New Orleans, has adjusted, over six years of marriage, to her new life and home. Accommodating the expectations of her husband and the upper society of New Orleans, she meets, while vacationing at a nearby Island, Robert Leburn, with whom she becomes infatuated. This young man sparks memories of her youthful infatuations, and she begins to unravel, socially and sexually.

Chopin came to prominence as a local colourist author, presenting the variety of the South and Louisiana in the late 19th Century. Stories like "The 'Cadian Ball" and "Désirée’s Baby" are fine example of this tradition, with the latter highlighting the preoccupations with miscegenation. Other stories, such as "Emancipation: A Life Fable", "Story of an Hour" and The Awakening reveal a focus of Chopin for which she become noted for after her death: a growing consciousness of the restraint of women within society. It was her place as an outsider in this Creole New Orleans (originally from Missouri) that provided Chopin with the distance to observe the vibrance of middle class creole society and, like Edna in The Awakening, to see through the pretences and social fictions. What makes The Awakening unique is that although born out of this local Colour, intellectually it is at home in two literary traditions: the feminist writers of the 19th century, such as George Sand, and fin-de-siecle literature, best known in the English speaking world through Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, with its preoccupations with degeneration but also of new beginnings and new hopes. The social and sexual critique comes not only from her unique position with her new home, but also in the richness of ideas that travelled from far off and helped make sense of these constraints within her fiction.

Deeply personal while at the same time socially relevant, The Awakening and Selected Stories provides unique insights into both the author’s and our society.

November 23, 2015

Film Review - World War Z By Director Marc Forster

World War Z stars Brad Pitt. This movie is a non-stop action, horror. UN employee Gerry Lane travels the world for answers to stop the zombie pandemic which is dominating governments and conquering armies all over the world.

Gerry has to work fast to stop the down fall of humanity in its entirety, its a heavy weight to have on one persons shoulders. Filled with non stop-action and horror, it will keep you on the edge of your seat at times. Anne

November 20, 2015

Film Review—Big Eyes by Tim Burton

Margaret (Amy Adams) leaves her husband and moves to San Francisco to make a living as an artist in the bustling 1950s art scene. She finds it difficult to promote her works, despite their unique ‘big eyed waif’ quality. She meets Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), who is also trying to strike it big with his European street scenes. Walter is a charmer and helps Margaret sell her paintings by pretending they are his works. It’s a success, but the strain of lying to everyone, including her daughter, takes its toll on Margaret, and Walter’s shady stories and past start to unravel.

Big Eyes is a refreshing change from Tim Burton, dropping the zany lead in a bizarre world and adopting a more real world setting, although still with his flair for perfectly framed shots with rich colour and stylised vistas. Here Burton adopts a domestic tale, where Margaret’s desires and skills are usurped by Walter’s own plans despite a lack of skill, giving a direct, if obvious feminist tale. The plot is straightforward, but has some interesting moments between Adams and Waltz. Adams’ delicately brittle performance couldn’t be appropriate, but Waltz, although entertaining as always, fell into the predictable, once again playing the charming deviant. Half way through the film you start thinking a more subtle performance would have aided the story.

Big Eyes is an invigorating and much welcomed development in Burton’s unique filmography.

November 16, 2015

Film Review - Saving Mr Banks By Director John Lee Hancock

Saving Mr Banks stars Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. This story is about the making of Mary Poppins. Walt Disney tries unsuccessfully to obtain the rights to the story from a tough author.

Only when they go back into past childhood memories do they feel free and are able to release Mary Poppins into the world. An enjoyable and uplifting movie, touching at times. Anne

November 13, 2015

Book Review—Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges

Like a book hidden away in the shelves, Borges is more legend than reading; mentions of his name or work receives either vague recollections or an outright “huh?” This is in part due to his output being short stories in an era when the form is viewed as the lessor of creative fiction (ironic in a time of microwavable meals, sound bite news, and Twitter posts), but another is Borges’ unique approach to the form, fully accepting that its strength is its inherent formlessness.

He worked with standard literary styles, like the detective story or the fantasy tale, but infused these with unusual modes, never undermining, but always expanding beyond the surface. Take for example his version of the fantasy story in “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, where the fantasy world is not some far off place, but a spectre lurking in odd volumes that slowly usurps the narrator’s reality. Or his famous “The Garden of Forking Paths”, an espionage tale mixed in with a novel where all possible realities exist and intertwine. In yet another (“Three Versions of Judas”) Borges provides a scholarly article about a fictional theologian, Nils Runeberg and his controversial idea of Judas as God’s incarnation in the world, made totally man “to the point of iniquity”, his sacrifice being an eternity of infamy.

Each of these tales, with their mixing of reality and literature, the mundane and the obscure, reveals why Borges’ Collected Fictions is an assortment of perfectly formed imaginings from the master of the formless infinity of literature.

November 09, 2015

Film Review - Outlander By Creator Ronald D. Moore

In Outlander the series follows the intriguing story of Claire Randell a combat nurse from 1945 who mysteriously ends up back in time in 1743. Being accused of spying and longing for her husband she has to quickly adapt to life in this era.

 She has a new love interest in a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior. Claire's heart ends up being torn between two men in two completely different lives.
An interesting series which includes drama, romance and sci-fi. Anne

November 06, 2015

Movie Club—The Evolution of Film Noir 1: The Maltese Falcon

This month the Movie Club will be screening the film noir classic The Maltese Falcon. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett and directed by John Huston, the film stars Humphrey Bogart as private detective Sam Spade.

Spade and his partner Miles Archer are hired by Ruth Wonderly to find her sister who has fallen in with a bad crowd in San Francisco. On the first night Archer is murdered and it is revealed that Wonderly is not who she claimed to be and is in fact searching for a jewel encrusted falcon statuette of untold value. Through the search Spade comes across others who are also searching for the same statuette all the while trying to solve the mystery of his partner's murder.

The film is notable not only as the first lead role and defining performance of Bogart (in addition to Hughes directorial debut and Sydney Greenstreet's film debut) but is arguably the first film noir and the defining detective film. Released the same year as Citizen Kane (which also added to the techniques of the genre) the film's subject matter and characters takes on a grittier, more real world tone. It established many of the characteristics of the genre, like the hard-boiled lead, femme fatale, moral ambiguity, as well as striking visual techniques, most notably the interplay of shadows.

The Maltese Falcon will be showing on Wednesday 11 November at Narellan Library (Cnr Queen and Elyard Street, Narellan) at 6pm. Tea, coffee, and biscuits provided, but you are more than welcome to bring your own snacks and beverages.

Stay after the screening to chat about the gritty ambiguities and stylistic achievements of The Maltese Falcon has to offer. Share your thoughts or use the discussion questions to get a debate going.

Film Review—Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) once enjoyed fame as Birdman, a comic book film adaptation that garnered millions at the box office. He now wants to gain ‘respect’ and ‘legitimacy’ by writing, directing, and starring in an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What we talk about when we talk about love” for the Broadway stage. The production is in constant turmoil, and he enlists the help of Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), a respected stage actor, to help save the production. He has risked everything for this, and is constantly reminded that he is “not an actor”, as a prominent theatre critic states, but “a celebrity”.

Meta is at the heart of the film, from the casting of Keaton, to the interplay of the various actors and plot lines, to the realism/naturalism vs. artifice of art that unfolds within the walls of the theatre. It flirts with magic realism through Riggan’s ‘Birdman powers’, which is contrasted with the lifelike movements of the camera that moves through the cramped, gritty artifice of the stage and backstage. As well as the naturalism vs. artificiality of art, another central concern is between the showiness of Hollywood and the ‘integrity’ of Broadway. This adds to the ironic factor, the film presenting itself as a serious, Art-house style film despite its Hollywood origins. Both these strands are linked with the eye of camera, with the bulk of the film being one long, artificially pieced together take with the camera gliding through the constructed world of the stage and the backstage of the theatre, being simultaneously raw and real while entirely artificial. It contrasts the naturalism and integrity of the stage with the artifice and ostentation of Hollywood combined into one.

None of this is subtle, and the self-conscious irony that drenches the film can be fatiguing, and will (and has) put a lot of people off. But if you go past the somewhat haughty conceit of the cast and crew, Birdman provides a playful, involving, engaging, and certainly potent experience.


November 02, 2015

Film Reviews - The Hunger Games By Director Gary Ross

The Hunger Games starring Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth. Katniss Everdeen volunteers and takes her sisters place in the Hunger Games- which is a fight to the death televised on TV.

Set in a different time than present. Panem is the Capitol of the nation and the 12 districts supporting and surrounding the Capitol have to sacrifice a teenage boy and girl to compete in the games. Katniss must make impossible choices and use all her wits and skills to survive. An original and addictive series. Anne
Rated M- Mature themes and violence

October 30, 2015

Book Review—The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

America is in the middle of an economic collapse, with all the social turmoil and unrest that goes with it. Unemployment, homelessness and crime are all up, and even those with once promising careers and lives are caught in the downturn. Stan and Charmaine are part of the many, now living in their car and surviving on a single, menial income. But things look up when they get into the Consilience/Positron program, a social experiment in a closed off community. In Consilience they get a comfortable house, jobs, and purpose. But every second month they swap with their ‘Alternates’, another couple with whom they share their new prosperity, and for this second month Stan and Charmaine live separated lives in Positron, a prison around which this community is built. The truth behind the gleaming façade soon comes to the fore, and Stan and Charmaine become entangled in the sleazy, gruesome underworld.

The stability they craved becomes the very thing that leads Stan and Charmaine wayward. Both seemingly adapt, but transgression becomes the ever present focus of their minds. And despite being marketed as the ideal community, neither Charmaine nor Stan establish bonds with anyone else in Consilience. Apart from the ever declining interactions between themselves they make no connections, save for the forbidden cavorting with their ‘Alternates’. There is a pastiche of other dystopic works, with hints of The Stepford Wives, a debt to Never Let Me Go, and a dose of Brave New World for good measure. This, along with the Yuppie-inspired Newspeak and plethora of pop culture references, does crowd the narrative. And while the recurrence of 1950s style and icons is effective, with its prim and proper gleefulness covering repressed lust, greed, and longing, the use is far from original and loses much of its ironic heft.

It may not have the bite or depth of Atwood’s earlier works, but The Heart Goes Last has involving characters, enjoyable dark humour, and an entertaining plot.


October 26, 2015

Film Review - And so it goes By Director Rob Reiner

And so it goes stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton. Oren Little doesn't make it easy for people to like him, he is a difficult and an obnoxious realtor.

Hoping to sell his prized family home and retire in peace, everything is going to plan until his estranged son turns up with his granddaughter he has never met before to be looked after. He struggles at first and thanks to his kind and helpful neighbour Leah becomes a more loving and caring person. This is a funny and uplifting movie.

October 23, 2015

Book Review—Arguably by Christopher Hitchens

The late Christopher Hitchens was a divisive voice in American and international politics and culture. He came to international prominence with God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, which, if the title doesn’t ring a bell or make entirely clear, takes a severely critical view of religion, although his firebrand polemics covered a much broader array of topics. He was, for example, one of the few left-wing supporters of Bush and Blair’s War on Terror. Arguably collects this variety of Hitchens’ works.

What distinguishes Hitchens is not his clear prose or his extensive knowledge, although these are striking features of his writing, but his passion. Every topic, book, action, person, and event are examined and spoken of with unrelenting clarity of view and purpose. You very quickly learn his angle on the topic and most importantly the reasons behind those views. This is Hitchens’ strength, and why even those opposed to his views maintained a fascination with his output. He takes even the most assumed common sense, the most assured convictions, and questions them relentlessly. There are definitely blind spots, and Hitchens abounds in many seeming contradictions, and, arguably, many of his opinions are not as revelatory or original as his most ardent supports may claim.

Arguably will not be to everyone’s taste and will leave many people bemused, annoyed, and angered. But I would argue that is exactly the reason why everyone, at least everyone convinced of the strength of their own convictions, should read it.


October 21, 2015

Film Review - Ghost Directed by Jerry Zucker

Ghost stars Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. Winner of 2 Academy awards including best supporting actress. This 1990 American romantic fantasy follows the life of a young women- Molly and the ghost of her murdered lover.

The story is tragic but a moving love story, showing that love knows no boundaries. There is an amazing pottery wheel scene between Sam and Molly that is unforgettable. Anne

October 19, 2015

Film Review - The Theory of Everything By Director James Marsh

The Theory of Everything is based on the relationship between renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and his beautiful wife, Jane Wilde. Through their struggles and with Hawking's diagnosis at age 21, they defeat the odds. With Jane strongly supporting him he embarks on his most important work- the study of time.

This is an uplifting and beautiful love story and is based on the memoir' Travelling to Infinity : My life with Stephen' by Jane Hawking. Anne

October 16, 2015

Book Review—The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

In a time after the Romans and when the knights of Arthur still live, England is in a time of despair. Ogres are constant nuisances and dragons occasional perils. But worst of all is a mist that has gathered over the moors and valleys, and everyone is caught in a state of amnesia. Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple, start to ponder this strange state that has befallen them and their fellows, and decide to go and see their son, who is also a vague memory. Along their journey they meet many dwellers in this cursed land, each with their own affliction and hope to be freed of the mist.

The novel provides many allusions to epic tales and literatures that creates a dense atmosphere. From the despair created by the psychopomp who is in turn tormented by the neglected wife of a passenger, to the heroic warrior with echoes of Beowulf, the conniving monks and treacherous kings, and the legend of Arthur hovering over everyone’s lips. The first few chapters of the novel promise a surreal take on the fantasy genre, with strange omens and eerie sensations. But as the chapters progress these hypnotic passages blend into staples of the fantasy genre, with quests and burdens that need to be fulfilled. There remains a subversive allure, where Arthur’s knight is weary, and the heroic warrior is as motivated by personal grudges as heroic duty, but often these seem more contrived to toil in the genre, and many passages and narrative shifts have little place other than convenience.

But Ishiguro's ability to move from heart-warming elation to devastation is perfect for the search for memories at the heart of The Buried Giant, with memories having both the power to relive past ecstasies but also to inflict regret and lamentations.

October 12, 2015

Film Review - The Musketeers Season 1 by creators Adrian Hodges, Simon J. Ashford and Simon Allen

The Musketeers are a group of highly trained bodyguards and soldiers to the king. Atho's, D'Artagnan, Aramis and Porthos all have their own troubles and secrets which surface throughout the series.

The Cardinal's scheming plans with the seductress Milady will keep you intrigued.
From affairs of the heart to defending the confused king, this series has something for everyone.
Filled with action and excitement there is true character development throughout the series.

October 09, 2015

Film Review—Foxcatcher

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is an Olympic Gold Medal wrestler struggling to make ends meat while preparing for the next Olympic Games. He trains with his brother David (Mark Ruffalo), a fellow gold medalist and coach, who raised Mark in the absence of their father. Mark receives an invitation from John E. du Pont (Steve Carell), of the wealthy du Pont family, who wishes to establish an Olympic wrestling team with Mark and David coaching. John and Mark form a strong bond, but this is overshadowed by John's overbearing mother, Jean, the Foxcatcher Estate matriarch, and his increasing jealousy of the closeness Mark shares with his brother.

The film’s strength is the performances by Ruffalo and in particular Tatum and Carell as the damaged duo seeking fulfilment. The mix of seeking both a father figure and a brother or friend marks their connection and explains the depth of the disconnection that occurs. The negotiations between friendship and dependency complicate the relationship, as do the need both Mark and John have for acceptance from their parental figures while at the same time trying to transcend the confines of those relationships. With both already having strong links with dependency they find themselves dragging each other with in their downward spirals, with personal hopes and dreams left on the wayside.

A portrait of the conflict between bonds and selfhood, Foxcatcher provides engaging performances and an arresting story.

October 05, 2015

Book Review - The diet trap : feed your psychological needs & end the weight loss struggle using acceptance & commitment therapy / Jason Lillis, PhD, JoAnne Dahl, PhD, Sandra M. Weineland, PhD.

The Diet Trap helps you to step out of the weight loss struggle by helping you change the way you relate to food and exercise. This is done by proven effective methods based in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). This book will help you cultivate more mindful eating habits, self compassion and a deeper connection with your own core values.
The three authors all have PHD's in the field of psychology and have clinical experience using acceptance and commitment therapy.

The Diet Trap is filled with beneficial examples and exercises to work through. I found the book to be refreshing and it offered a different view and path to permanent weight loss.

October 02, 2015

Book Review—The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

The abolitionist John Brown is terrorising the Southern states with tales of his exploits reaching boogeyman proportions. One day he wanders into Dutch Henry’s tavern and meets Henry Shackleford and his Pa. After a botched liberation he takes Henry into his army, although believing him a girl and calling him “Little Onion”. Henry witnesses Brown’s life and exploits as well as the social turmoil Kansas experiences at the idea of liberating slaves in the lead up to the Civil War.

The child narrator features prominently in the Southern literature from Mark Twain to Harper Lee. McBride adopts a similar position, but in his tale the ridiculous elements are heightened. Although this adds playfulness and wit to the tale, it does not shy away from more troubling elements, like the hanging of several slaves believed to be planning an insurrection, and Henry is far from the wide eye innocent child of earlier works dealing with slavery or race relations. He knows the vile habits and the treachery of the whites, as well as how to play the game of the ‘good negro’ in order to survive. Henry being mistaken for a girl and his willingness to don a dress and play that role divulges the spuriousness of this world. The more ridiculous and hyperbolic elements reflect the absurdity of the social structure of the South but without it becoming fanciful or otherworldly. It is simply the reality, the strange, twisted, paranoid reality that provided the institution of slavery with its constancy.

A modernisation of the slave narrative, The Good Lord Bird removes all innocence while revealing the farcicality of reality.

September 30, 2015

Movie Club—Good Will Hunting

This month the Movie Club will be screening Good Will Hunting, directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and the late, great Robin Williams.

The film follows Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a janitor at MIT who is in fact a genius with a photographic memory and capable of completing the most challenging mathematical formulas with ease. This brings him to the attention of Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) who sees the promise in Will although realising his troubling personality.

Lambeau strikes a deal with the judge at Will's latest assault trial to prevent him from going to prison, with two conditions: Will must work with Lambeau and attend therapy. Both prove difficult, but the therapy provides Lambeau with particular grief until he recruits Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), his estranged college roommate, who, like Will, is haunted by personal demons.

Through his sessions with Lambeau and Sean, Will grapples to come to grips with his enormous potential and his difficult upbringing, struggling to overcome his own prejudices and fears.

The script was penned by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and provided the the pair with their breakout into stardom. The film garnered much critical acclaim, not least for the performances. Robin Williams was especially praised, with his performance gaining him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It also has many poignant parallels with William’s real life, brought to the fore by his tragic suicide last year.

The screening will be on Wednesday 14 October at 6pm at Narellan Library. Stay after the screening to share what about the film had the greatest impact on you, or join in a discussion about the films many powerful moments.

September 25, 2015

Film Review—Whiplash

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an aspiring drummer enrolled at the prestigious Schaffer Academy. While there he is recruited by Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an acclaimed conductor who leads the school’s most prominent orchestra. Fletcher’s technique to inspire the orchestra is aggressive and involves belittling, slurring, manipulating, and often physically abusing and threating. This drives Neiman to push harder, practicing until his hands bleed and sacrificing everything, including a promising new relationship and his safety, to become one of the greats like his idol Buddy Rich. Fletcher’s techniques get results, but at what cost, and are all people going to respond the same way?

Simmons is phenomenal in the role, teetering between being entirely abhorrent and sadistically charming while ejecting hysterical insults. Although ultimately providing a happy and unsettlingly inspiring ending, this is not your usual feel good, bravely overcome adversity musical-prodigy Oscar bait. The film is stripped to its core, with little other than the scenes of Neiman’s furious practicing and the confrontations with Fletcher. It is a rivalry entirely brutal in its execution, where the lines between stern encouragement and abuse become blurred and there are no easy solutions. In Neiman Fletcher not only meets his much searched for Charlie Parker, but his equal, who is willing to fight him to the end.

Whiplash is an uncompromising treatment of troubling interactions in an unflinching environment.

September 21, 2015

Film Review - The Real Housewives of Melbourne-Season 1

 The Real Housewives of Melbourne follow the lavish lives of several women in Melbourne. The characters include- Gina Liano who is a barrister and single mother and lives in South Yarra. Lydia Schiavello is married to a famous Australian architect and is studying design and has 6 children in total. Janet Roach is a property developer with 2 sons. Jackie Gillies is a psychic and wife of Silverchair drummer Ben Gillies. Chyka Heebaugh is the owner of 3 event companies and has 2 kids. And lastly Andrea Moss has a skin specialist business and has children and is married to a plastic surgeon.

From glamorous cocktail launches, to romantic getaways, these women enjoy the finer things in life and also relish the drama created between them.
Rating-M Sexual References and course language

I found the series interesting to see how other people live, especially when they have excesses of money. Anne 

September 14, 2015

Film Review - I give it a year By Director Dan Mazer

In this movie, I give it a year follows the life of a mismatched couple in their first year of marriage. Deeply in love and happy to overlook their differences, they wed even though their friends have doubts. Will they live happily ever after when there are old flames and new temptations around?
Rated MA15+- Strong sexual references, course languages and nudity.

This is a hilarious romantic comedy from the producers of Love Actually, Bridget Jones Diary and Notting Hill. A very enjoyable movie, it doesn’t disappoint.

September 11, 2015

Book Review—The Girl with the Dogs by Anna Funder

Tess and her husband Dan have successful careers, three children, and live in a desirable if modest home in Sydney. Tess’ mother has passed away and her father is currently in a nursing home suffering from dementia. She suspects Dan may be unfaithful, a suspicion spurred on by her friends’ failed marriages. Amongst this Tess starts thinking about her youth in Europe and her relationship with Mitya, an artist. She leaves for a conference in London, and while there travels to Paris to see his latest exhibition and visit the path her life might have taken.

Funder contrasts the nostalgia of Tess’ father’s life, the seeming stability and certainty that came from a quieter simpler time, against the ever present life of the 21st century. Tess is confronted with the paradox that there was stability in her parents’ life despite the fragility of memory, yet in the modern world where social media, mobile devices and digital transfers record and haunt every moment there is nothing but instability. The fading of her father’s memories are more apparent than ever, with the family home being sold and his memories replaced by the latest pop Diva tunes. Tess desperately tries to counter this by attempting to revive another, abandoned life, one that is within her memories and away from the omnipresence of an i-Pad screen.

The resolution is a little too easy, too conservative, with the issue of infidelity easily quelled and the reuniting of the family resolving all. But that does not diminish the reverie in nostalgia that makes The Girl with the Dogs, with it fully embracing the loss and bittersweet spirit that defines that sensation.

September 07, 2015

Book Review - Fast Exercise By Dr Michael Mosley and Peta Bee

Dr Mosley teams up with leading sports Scientist Professor Jamie Timmons and super fit health journalist Peta Bee. Focussing on HITT training the authors offer a range of workouts that take about 10mins a day for 3 times a week. Build the short workouts into your routine and read the scientific evidence that promotes the health benefits of this type of training. Fast Exercise is for everyone-those who want to lose fat and get fit in the most efficient way.

I have implemented HITT training into my fitness routine and am surprised with how fast and efficient it is. If you're interested in fitness then this book is definitely worth a read. Anne

September 04, 2015

Book Review—The Writing Life by David Malouf

Malouf’s writing career spans many decades and numerous highly praised works. In this volume he shares his thoughts on other writers and, perhaps more interestingly, the role of reading in life and the writer in society.

Covering authors as diverse as Mann, Hugo, Proust, Kafka, Shakespeare and Homer, Malouf provides intriguing personal readings of their works and highlights unique perspectives. He reveals Kafka not as the surrealist, but as someone “who works so close to the facts of his own life”, and wrestles the enormity of the Iliad into a manageable, human work with relevance to 21st century life. The Shakespeare article is particularly interesting, as Malouf traces both the evolution of perception of Shakespeare in literary circles but also Shakespeare’s development in his treatment of material, shifting from performance to shared experience with the audience that makes his plays the most revered in the Western tradition.

Many of these essays are not just valuable from a critical perspective, but a living one, revealing Malouf as someone who absorbs literature in order to live a fuller life.  These life-centric readings provide the volume with its greatest interest, and several pieces in particular exemplify the link between literature and life. But in opposition it also reveals the disconnect writing imposes on writers, where their social, talking selves are in opposition to, and occasionally in conflict with, their brooding, writing selves.

A volume of unique readings and personal reflections, The Writing Life is a fascinating record of a writer and, more importantly, a reader.

September 02, 2015

Movie Club—Sunday Too Far Away

This month the Movie Club will be screening Sunday Too Far Away, directed by Ken Hannam and starring Jack Thompson, Peter Cummins and Reg Lye.

The film follows Folley, a gun (champion) shearer, who joins a new shearing time despite having left the biz. His plan is to lay off the booze, save up some money and move down the coast and buy a prawning boat. He quickly picks up his old habits and is once again immersed in the hard working and hard drinking lifestyle. At the same time, Folley and the other shearers face having a bonus taken away, with 'scab' (non-unionised) workers coming into town and undermining their labour strike.

The film is considered one of the leading films of the Australian New Wave Cinema of the 1970s. These films were publicly funded, and one of the conditions of this arrangement was that they feature themes of Australian life. But film makers often used this opportunity to question assumed elements in national myths and icons, and Sunday Too Far Away is no different. The masculinity and mateship, the drinking and the larrikins are all on show, and often not in a  redeeming light.

Sunday Too Far Away will be showing on Wednesday 9 September @ Narellan Library (corner of Queen and Elyard Street, Narellan) @ 6pm. Tea, coffee, and biscuits provided, but you are more than welcome to bring your own snacks and beverages.

Stay after the screening and join the discussion about the film and its portrayal of life on a shearing station. Share your thoughts or use the discussion questions.

August 31, 2015

Book Review - Helping your anxious child-A step-by-step guide for parents by Ronald M.Rapee and others

This second addition, Helping your anxious child has been updated to include the best techniques and latest research for managing childhood anxiety from separation anxiety, general anxiety, panic disorder and phobias.

Helping your child use detective thinking and stepladders to make progress. Helping your anxious child provides tools from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help your child overcome their fears with or without a therapist.
Written activities are included throughout the chapters for the child and parents to complete.

Being interested in child mental health I found it to be very directive and easy to follow. I recommend this book to anyone interested in child mental health and for parents/carers of children who suffer from some form of anxiety. Anne

August 28, 2015

Book Review—The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour

Raised first as a bird and then as a feral child, Zal Hendricks now lives in pre-9/11 New York. He struggles to be as ‘normal’ as possible all the while nurturing a longing to do what for him is as instinctive as breathing: flying. In his quest he comes across Silber, a famed illusionist, and Asiya, an artist who photographs birds in various levels of decay to give them new life. The lives of the three intermingle, with each searching for transcendence. But with the most reality shocking event in New York’s history slowly creeping closer, how do these special creatures hope to achieve fulfillment?

Khakpour combines the decade defining event with a mix of Persian Epic, Islamic mysticism, and illusionist ostentation. At times the narrative becomes a little too caught up in its own twining with laboured and self-conscious prose, as with the opening line “Exactly once upon a time”. The idiosyncratic characters generate considerable interest while the reality of life becomes ever more alien and impenetrable until the expected climax. But unlike Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep, the strangeness does not reinforce the harshness and poignancy of reality, and the epic proportions cover rather than embody humanity.

The Last Illusion’s ambitious telling provides a distinctive yet otherworldly addition to the 9/11 genre.

August 24, 2015

Film Review - Caught Inside - Director Adam Blaiklock

A group of surfers travel to an island paradise on a ‘surfari’. One of the guests is a single beautiful girl which causes jealousy between the friends.

In Caught Inside Bull a local surf legend, snaps and crosses the line, he turns their dream vacation into a nightmare ordeal, with a fight for survival. Trapped on the boat there is nowhere to turn.

“A spectacularly unhinged lead performance by Ben Oxenbould” The Daily Telegraph

This movie has all the elements of a great thriller, with a powerful end. Anne

August 21, 2015

Film Review—Gone Girl by David Fincher

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. After he calls the police they come to the conclusion that fowl play is at hand, and Nick quickly becomes the prime suspect. This is compounded by the strain the marriage has been under of late, with lies and deceit on both parts. Add to this a media frenzy that grows with scandal and the continuing mystery of what happened to his wife, and the stage is set for a thrilling, troubling mystery where the story matters more than the truth.

On the one hand the film is an exaggeration of the lengths people go to in order to keep up appearances, in particular the illusion of the perfect life and marriage. But it is also an example of a common theme in American Literature of the corrupting influence and fakery of the city in opposition to the wholesome honesty of the small town Midwest (think Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Welles’ Citizen Kane). We see numerous contrasts between the two, from the salt of the earth citizens of Missouri contrasted with the poseurs at a New York party, to Nick’s real bond with his twin sister in opposition to Amy’s competing with her “Amazing” fictional twin. Like its predecessors, Gone Girl deals with the creating of an ideal life narrative, reworked in an elaborate and effective “he said/she said” dynamic, where manipulation is simply a technique necessary in telling the best story.

In a world where image and story are all, Gone Girl is an arresting examination of the strain of keep up appearances.

August 17, 2015

Book Review - The Top Five Regrets of the Dying- A Life Transported by the Dearly Departed by Bronnie Ware

This book is filled with stories about people living in palliative care. Bronnie found herself working in this field and decided to apply lessons she learned from the dying in her own life. She then transformed that into a book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. 

She explains how we can deal with these issues now, while we still have the time. In the book Bronnie simply shares what dying people have shared with her, sad at times but filled with beautiful stories of some truly amazing people.

I especially enjoyed the story about Cath in the chapter ‘Happiness is Now’. A must read for people who want to get the most out of life. 

August 14, 2015

Book Review—The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

Norton Perina is a renowned immunologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. His fame is owed, quite simply, to unlocking the key to immortality. This comes courtesy of a rare turtle, found only on the Micronesian island of Ivu’ivu, where those who manage to reach 60 are given eternal life by consuming the turtle. But this gift has its cost, as those chosen few eventually become The Dreamers, doomed to senility and eternally wondering the island of ever fading memories. After fame, Perina adopts many children from the island. The problem however is that he is a paedophile, and this his account of his rise and downfall.

The novel owes a debt to Nabokov, first in its academic paedophile protagonist and secondly in its style being his self-indulgent confessions. Perina is nowhere near as veil a creature as Humbert, and also lacks some of his deviant charm. But his story is perhaps more fascinating, as well as more troubling tragic. The superficial semblance to Lolita is clear, with Perina even having Nabokovian pastimes (note his desire to collect insects rather than participate in his studies), but there is also the overpowering influence of memory. The whole work is Perina’s attempts to look back on his life from the confines of prison, ever deeper into the mirrorlike “sea of time” yet unable to reconnect with the life now past, just like The Dreamers he found on Ivu’ivu so many years before.

Tragic and worrying, The People in the Trees is a richly told and engrossing narrative.

August 10, 2015

Film Review - The Hunter - Director Daniel Nettheim

“Unmissable………a beautifully shot thriller” David Michael Brown, Empire Magazine.

The movie has received 14 nominations AFI (Australian Film Institute) including Best film, Best Director, Best Lead Actor and Best Actress.

Set in the Tasmanian wilderness based on Julia Leighs novel, The Hunter is a powerful psychological drama. Willem Defoe stars as Martin David a loner and expert hunter who is hired to track the last remaining Tasmanian Tiger for an unscrupulous Biotech company.

Boarding with a family who are coming to terms with the disappearance of her husband, the children's father, Defoe gets distracted from his mission. The film was beautifully shot and gripping until the end.

August 05, 2015

Film Review—Still Alice

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), a linguistics professor at Columbia University, is forgetting words. These slips of vocabulary start to become one of many signs that she may be losing her memory, and she is eventually diagnosed with early onset familial Alzheimer's disease. As Alice comes to accept her condition she comes to realize that the ramifications will spread to everyone in her family.

The performance of Moore is fantastic. In every scene there is a little bit less Alice, a little bit less of the life, the career, the self. Her subtle, moving performance is alone worth seeing the film, and in fact the only reason to see it. The material feels as though its lifted from a Hallmark 'disease-of-the-week" TV drama. The rest of the cast is uneven with the characters being types rather than people with predictable development reserved only for a select few. And despite Moore's heart wrenching performance, the script does not fully utilize the various aspects of Alice's ever receding life, with details like her career as a linguist used more as short hand for memory loss than engrossing exploration.

Although overly sentimental and over worn material, Still Alice has a solid, moving performance that overcomes the films shortcomings.

August 04, 2015

Movie Club—Citizen Kane

This month the Movie Club will be screening one of the most celebrated and talked about films of all time: Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.

Released in 1941, the film was Welles' cinematic debut. It follows a newspaper reporter who attempts to find the meaning of 'Rosebud': the dying words of media tycoon Charles Foster Kane. In his search he consults Kane's former business manager, the diary of his deceased guardian, his second wife, and his oldest friend turned critic. Each tells of a different aspect of the larger than life Kane, but did any of them actually know him, or the identity and significance of Rosebud?

The film is celebrated for many reasons. In a time when Hollywood was driven by genre (like Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns) and films were at the mercy of studios, writers, directors, actors and producers all having an individual impact on the final product, Welles' monument combined many genres as well as seeing the 25 year old Welles taking on all roles in the making of the film, one of the earliest and most megalomaniacal examples of auteurship.

From its non-linear, ever complicating narrative (reminiscent of early twentieth century novels like F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom!) to its superior framing and revolutionary cinematography, the film is certainly a milestone but also a rarity of the American film industry.

The screening will be held on Wednesday 12 August at Narellan Library. Not convinced of its greatness? Share your thoughts or use the discussion questions to get a debate going after the screening.

August 03, 2015

Book Review - Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily joy and lasting fulfilment by Tal Ben-Shahar Ph.D.

In this book by popular Harvard University teacher Ben-Shahar Ph.D, it combines scientific studies, research, self help and spiritual enlightenment. The course he ran at Harvard based on Positive Psychology and Happiness was Harvard’s most popular and life changing course. The book is divided into 3 parts

·         What is happiness
·         Happiness applied
·         Meditations on Happiness

Ben-Shahar has created a set of principles in Happier to follow and to apply into your daily life to achieve more happiness.

‘It is easy to see how this is the backbone of the most popular course at Harvard today’-Martin E.P Seigman author of Authentic Happiness.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on reconciling present and future and enjoyed working through the time-in exercises and meditations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, I got a lot out of it and will be rereading it again soon.

July 31, 2015

Book Review—Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

The much discussed release from Harper Lee. It has had many tongues wagging, from rumours of shady dealings by lawyers and publishers to fears that it will taint Lee’s legacy. Now that it has been released we can finally see for ourselves.

26 year old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns to Maycomb from New York to visit her family. Her visit comes at a time when many changes are happening in the country, particularly regarding race relations. But on this return trip she discovers that all the small changes that she has been witnessing in Maycomb are but a precursor to the sweeping social shift that will affect everyone, including her much loved and admired father, Atticus.

It is difficult not to make comparisons with To Kill a Mockingbird, Watchman being an earlier incarnation.  The most apparent difference is that Watchman does not have the charm of its successor. Gone is the child narrator, and although the mix of folk tales and tall tales that so enlivened Mockingbrid are here, these whimsicalities are only shades, with the dialogues and tales that would, in subsequent rewrites, become the exchanges that gave Mockingbird its uniqueness and heft apparent only in sketches.

The South’s struggle with segregation is still present, but where Mockingbird focused on the personal Watchman deals with the political dimensions. Its treatment of Atticus is more complex, Mockingbird being, after all, Scout’s reminiscences of her heroic father. In Watchman this idolisation is replaced with disillusion. He may have upheld Tom Robinson’s rights, but that does not mean this old Southern gent isn’t worried about Southern heritage, including all the fears of miscegenation, worries about state’s rights and individual liberties, and a mistrust of outside forces like the federal government and NAACP that go along with the Southern mentality. But even these passages are often laden with stereotypes and awkward phrasing, giving reminders that Watchman, even in published form, is a draft, both in how it handles its subject matter and also in its flow.

Despite its short comings it is not the death knell of Lee’s reputation. When viewed alongside Mockingbird it provides a unique study not just into the creation of a much loved classic, but of an author who began with an admirable if muddled story and was able, with some help from an editor, to craft it into a fascinating tale.

July 29, 2015

Film Review—The Babadook by Jennifer Kent

Amelia (Essie Davis), a widow, tries to live with her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) who has behavioural issues. Hyperactive, he fears monsters, a fear that has real world effects on both mother and son. One night she lets him choose his bedtime story and he selects Mister Babadook. In the pages is a terrifying bogeyman, who warns “the more you deny/ the stronger I get”. Having to deal with the lurking grief of her husband’s death as well as Samuel’s increasingly severe behaviour, Amelia becomes more disturbed by her son’s focus on The Babadook and the real threat it begins to pose.

The film is disconcerting throughout, presenting a world that resembles ours but with the strange proportions of a Grimm’s fairy-tale. This is heightened by the fairy-tale like Mister Babadook, reminiscent of old children’s tales like the Great, Long, Red-legged Scissor Man, that both fascinate and frighten children and adults. The colour palate of the film is true to its story, where we get hints of emotion that slowly build, rather than raucous shifts in mood, or the overused and ineffective quite-quiet-LOUD copout that passes for ‘technique’ in so many horror films. The spectre of the Babadook and Amelia’s grief are fantastically twined within the cold and claustrophobic tinge that stains every shot and conjures the evocative interplay of light and shadow. The result is a subtle story where even the happy ending is marred.

Understated and unsettling, The Babadook is not just horror cinema at its finest, but a strangely beautiful look at grief.

July 27, 2015

Film Review - Gone - By Director - Heitor Dhalia and Writer Allison Burrett

Jill is a beautiful young women living with her alcoholic sister. She was previously a kidnap victim of a serial killer but as no evidence was found, the police didn’t believe her and she was committed to a mental institution for a number of years.

In Gone, when Jill's sister disappears she is convinced her kidnapper is back so she takes matters into her own hands, as the police believe it is all in her head. Brilliant acting by Amanda Seyfrend (Mamma Mia).
Rated M 15+
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie as it keeps you on the edge of your seat till the very end. Anne

July 24, 2015

Book Review—The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna

Winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2015

Jimmy Flick is a child with behavioural issues with a manic energy and fascination. His mother, Paula, is deeply protective of him with a strong and special bond. Gavin, his father, is an abusive alcoholic, like his father before him. His brother, Robby, is frustrated with the life he was born into and wants to leave, but feels a sense of duty to Paula and Jimmy. As Jimmy grows we see the struggles of different members of the family to remain personally whole while trying desperately to maintain their bonds, with the very members of these bonds receiving the brunt of these conflicts.

Laguna’s writing is striking in the voice of Jimmy, giving slanted, strange, surreal descriptions to the commonplace and the domestic. For him the acts of everyday life are cause for wonder, from the pipes that fuel the machinery inside us all, to the engine of crying and the taps that control tears, to the transfer of energy from a slap to a look and the clouds of laughter that float above our heads in moments of joy. But this does not detract from the brutal passages when Gavin strikes Paula, or the poignant scene when Robby makes his difficult decision. Despite their unusual expression these thoughts and emotions are still human, the reality of the actions and consequences immediately apparent.

The Eye of the Sheep is a mesmerising, warming yet gritty look at the struggle of domestic life in a working class family.

July 22, 2015

Film Review—Nightcrawler by Dan Gilroy

Louis "Lou" Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a driven young man who sees a future career as a stringer, a freelance cameraman who films violent accidents and brutal crimes to sell to television news outlets. He discovers he has a talent and interest in this activity, and begins to gain more and more success. But his behaviour, already on the border of decency, slips, and he starts going to extreme lengths to get the best footage.

Gyllenhaal is phenomenally creepy with an unsettling charm that lures both business associates and the audience. The warped Bloom, with his frightening focus and unhinged outlook on life provides an arresting lead into the pseudo-world that is overly sensationalised media. But the skewed reality extends to overt corporation and the isolating affects it and media have on lives. Sometimes these jabs at mass media and business become a little redundant and clichéd. But when viewed as a distorted character study, through the prism of Bloom, who views the world through this media lens and interacts and negotiates life in business jargon, the film really takes hold. “It looks so real on the news”, Bloom says in woeful awe to a backdrop of the Los Angeles cityscape in the studio. He has indeed found his niche in this world, where the hyper-reality of the news and the detachment of business can fuel his strained waking hours.

Nightcrawler is an alluringly repugnant neo-noir thriller with a sensational lead performance.

July 20, 2015

Book Review - Hawaii - Lonely Planet Written and researched by Sara Benson and five others

This guide book is filled with amazing experiences, plans for the perfect trip and ways to get off the beaten track. 
It includes features such as:
  • Scenic driving tour itineraries
  • Outdoor adventure planning
  • Inspirational photos
Insights into island culture with its beautiful beaches and big surf it’s understandable why Hawaii is such a popular holiday destination. This guide also includes a map of the islands.
From the North Shore to Hanauma Bay, this Hawaii Lonely Planet Guide is filled with information about arts and culture as well as the best food, drink and accommodation. Also listing the top 20 attractions to see.
This book is true to Lonely Planets reputation; it’s easy to read and look up information and filled with expert recommendations. Definitely inspirational for the next holiday escape from winter.