Red Koi Reviews

See what I've seen, hear what I've heard

Archive for June, 2006

Romeo and Juliet

Posted by redkoireviews on 26/06/2006

Romeo & JulietDespite being one of the most famous plays of all time, this was my first live performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare. Directed by John Bell, performed by his theatre company Bell Shakespeare, and attended by American tourists wanting to see a famous play in the famous Sydney Opera House.

John Bell has modernised Shakespeare before, and he’s moved the warring families of the Montagues and Capulets into a kind of gang / mafia setting. It should have worked, but Bell seems to have relied on a pretty thin understanding of gang rivalry, and it winds up unconvincing.

What lacks in the gang rivalry is made up for in Juliet. Shakespeare took the old tale of Romeo and Juliet, and made Juliet much younger – an innocent and naive 14 year old. Chloe Armstrong captures this innocence brilliantly. It transforms the play from being about true love, to a play about passionate first love. Other notable performances include Mathew Moore as Mercutio and John Batchelor as Capulet.

Romeo and Juliet is not one of my favorite Shakespeare’s, and I was was expecting something more from John Bell. Then again, it’s oft said Bell does one play a year that’s a crowd pleaser, and I guess Romeo & Juliet was it this year. For a more glowing review, see the Sydney Morning Herald’s opinion

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Posted in 3 Stars, Reviews, Theatre | 2 Comments »

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Posted by redkoireviews on 23/06/2006

Bookcover for I decided to read “Plain Truth” by Jodi Picoult because, well because it was around I didn’t feel like another Pratchett. As it turns out, I liked it.

Katie, a young Amish woman, wakes in the early hours of morning, stumbles out into a barn, gives birth and falls asleep with her premature newborn in her arms. When she wakes, the child is gone. Later, the child is found dead, apparently murdered. Ellie, a big shot city lawyer in mid-life crisis, winds up as Katie’s reluctant attorney. The rest is Boston Legal meets Amish documentary.

I found the book to be a classic ‘page turner’. So much so that I lost sleep last night staying up to finish it, while my work mates lost sleep getting up a 4am to watch the Socceroos play Croatia. How un-patriotic.

Men beware: This books is about feelings, love, families, and is dangerously close to ‘chick lit’. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of hard work’n men who shun feelings as if they where alien.

While not a classic or a challenging read, it was a good read.

My Rating: 3 Stars

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Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company

Posted by redkoireviews on 18/06/2006

Memory for MaxMemory for Max was the last film that my partner & I in this years Sydney Film Festival. Produced by Canadian documentary maker Allan King, it’s a moving documentary of the lives of Max, Claire, Ida, Helen & a number of others living in a Toronto nursing home.

The film draws the audience into the struggles of daily life in a world where your life memories are fading and slowly disappearing. For anyone whose ever lost a elderly relative to dementia (and so many have) this moving will be especially moving. Bring tissues.
If you’ve been a bit infrequent in your visits to reletives in nursing homes, this film will remind you why it’s important to visit, even if they confuse you for somebody else.

The only criticism I have is that there a few too many people in the film – a few of those we see a small glimpse of could probably have been left out. However, I can imagine the producer trying to decide whose lives should go un-recorded, lost to time. It’d be tough.

Hy partner saw ‘Dying at Grace‘ at the 2004 Sydney Film Festival, an thought it was a bit better than ‘Memory for Max’.

My Rating:4.5 Stars

Posted in 4 Stars, Movies, Reviews | 1 Comment »

Five Days in September

Posted by redkoireviews on 17/06/2006

Five Days in SeptemberFive Days in September” is a documentary that follows the first five days of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It’s a well constructed insight into the daily machinations of a modern orchestra. The Orchestra has a new conductor and a real sense of renewed vitality under his leadership.

Although it’s clear that the musicians love what they do, the film does not carry a sense of passion with it. Perhaps that’s because it simply wasn’t there, perhaps it’s just that in five days, a film maker simply isn’t going to build up enough trust with the musicians for them to really open up.

My partner likes classical music more than I do, but I think this film increased my appreciation. The artistic and creative energy of the soloists and the conductor are very evident in the footage of rehearsals – really really get a sense of something being created despite the music being centuries old.

Not a standout of the Sydney film festival, but certainly worth seeing if you have any fondness at all for classical music or creative endeavour.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Workingman’s Death

Posted by redkoireviews on 12/06/2006

Workingman's DeathWorkingman’s death brings the audience into the lives of working people from five of the most brutal working worlds.

Ukrainian coal miners working in an illegal mine not more than a foot high. Indonesian men hauling over 100kg of sulphur up the sides of a hellish mountain. Nigerians whose daily chore is the bloody slaughter thousands of goats. A Pakistani beech where the steel hulks of freighter ships go to be slaughtered and recycled. Chinese steel workers who can see the signs of progress in a move away from sheer physical work and onto more ‘know how’. See the Film Festival synopsis for more detail.
The scenes certainly make you appreciate the life of luxury we live in Australia. The abattoir scenes are not for the faint hearted. So grizzly where the scenes, my nose smelt the snuff of nauseating abattoirs I’ve visited in the past. Smell triggered purely by sight – that’s weird.

Although visually gripping, we never really get to know any of the people. That makes the film a lot less compelling than it could have been. Another director might have used some stats, or some contrasting images from the western world to score some political points, but not this one. Being a political animal, I feel the power of these peoples stories was not fully brought home to the audience. For alternative views, see those on Rotten Tomatoes

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Posted in 2 Stars, Movies, Reviews | 1 Comment »

Adams Apples

Posted by redkoireviews on 12/06/2006

Adam's ApplesWritten & directed by Dane Anders Thomas Jensen, ‘Adams Apples’ sets the standard for black comedy.

Take a mixture of pulp fiction gore humour, mix with characters from Fargo and your on the way to baking Adam’s apple pie. The black humour is not funny because it put’s violence out of context, it’s witty, sharp, and sometimes just bizarre. However what elevates the film above the rest of the pack is it’s exploration of good and evil. It has a lot to say about life.

It all starts innocently enough when neo-nazi Adam arrives at the local country church for community service. Local Minister Ivan finds Adams description of being ‘Evil’ in his CV as ‘just rude’ and simply not possible. Adam’s task is to bake an apple pie using the apples from the Church apple tree. It sounds simple, but quickly gets complicated, and at times bloody. For more, check out the Synopsis or the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

I loved this film. I laughed so loud I’m sure I would have annoyed those around me, except they too, where laughing.
My Rating: 5 Stars

Posted in 5 Stars, Movies, Reviews | 1 Comment »

La Moustache

Posted by redkoireviews on 11/06/2006

La MoustacheThis was my first film of this years Sydney Film Festival. It’s the story of a man who shaves off his moustache, only to find his partner & friends believe he never had one. What follows is a bizarre dissent into a world where nothing seems certain.

A very french version of the ‘man with amnesia/delusions’ type of film. Very good (though not stunning) acting and direction make this a very entertaining (and perplexing) film. For some reason, the fact that this film is by french and in french make it better than it would have been otherwise. Don’t ask me why. Check out the Synopsis on the Sydney Film Festival site or see other reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes sit.
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Posted by redkoireviews on 08/06/2006

Guards GuardsGuards! Guards! is the very first in the long line of books involving the City Watch of Ahnk Morpork. Commander of the Watch is the drunkard Vimes, accompanies only by Nobby and Sergeant Colon until dwarf raised ‘Carrot’ arrives.

This motley crew sober up enough to wrangle with the a new problem for the city of Ahnk Morpork – an oversized dragon – and a familiar problem – someone trying to overthrow the cities ruler.

I can’t say it’s my most favourite Pratchett – the characters just don’t seem to have as much depth to them. Vimes himself becomes a far more interesting character in later books. While the plot has some nice class politics weaved in, it’s not nearly as interesting as the plot from Thud!

Having said all that, it’s funny and entertaining. It sets the scene for the development of some of Pratchetts best characters.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Posted in 2 Stars, Books, Reviews | 2 Comments »

Capricornia (The Play)

Posted by redkoireviews on 06/06/2006

CapricorniaWritten by Louis Nowra and based on the novel by Xavier Herbet, this play is an epic journey into Australian identity and racism. The scene is far north Queensland, where ‘the wet’ is a personality all of it’s own, and a variety of ethnic groups struggle to co-exist. Lead character Norman Shillingsworth struggles to resolve the contradictions of being a half caste but raised a white. Good intentions go astray, friendships are betrayed, criminals turn out to be good people and good people turn out to be criminals. Through it all, love desperately clings on.

The play is an epic – 3 1/4 hours long. but don’t worry, the plot is intricate and beautiful – you never feel like it’s dragging. The staging is powerful, but not distracting attention away from the fantastic performances of the actors that really make this play what it is. It’s not all grim either – there’s just the right amount of humour to break up an otherwise intense theatre production. The Sydney Morning Herald also has a review if you don’t like mine.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Posted in 4 Stars, Reviews, Theatre | 1 Comment »

 
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