Archive for September, 2019

The Turning strikes a chord

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Still from Tim Winton’s The Turning, making its world premiere at MIFF 2013. Christina Ricci (right) stars in Around the Block, set in Redfern.

People planning to turn up for The Turning

Producer-director Robert Connolly describes ticket sales for the Tim Winton adaptation The Turning as ”huge” so far. An innovative approach to turn the film into a special event in cinemas has generated more than $200,000 in pre-sales. After a series of Q&A screenings around the country, the three-hour film is screening for two weeks from Thursday with an interval and a free program. Like a live show in a theatre, it will also have just one session a night, plus the odd matinee in some cinemas. ”I’ve picked the 15 best screens in the country to launch this film,” says Connolly, whose boldness ran to using 17 directors for different chapters of the film including actors David Wenham and Mia Wasikowska. In Sydney, The Turning is screening at the Cremorne Orpheum, Dendy Newtown, Dendy Opera Quays and Palace Verona.  In Melbourne, it’s at the Nova, Rivoli, Palace Como and Palace Brighton. Other venues are the Palace Electric in Canberra; Palace Centro and Dendy Portside in Brisbane, the Arts Centre on the Gold Coast, Palace East End in Adelaide, Luna Leederville and Luna on SX in Perth and the State Cinema in Hobart.Around the Block moves around the calendar

The cinema release of the film that Christina Ricci (pictured) shot in Australia last year, Sarah Spillane’s Around The Block, is shifting from November to March next year. Producer Brian Rosen says the warm audience response at the world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival has encouraged thoughts the drama could take up to $3 million at the local box office. ”We need to get 50 or 60 screens to be able to do that,” he says. ”If we go in November, I don’t think I can find that many screens. So we’re looking to push into March after the Oscars.” The film is about a high school teacher (Ricci) who wants to help a talented indigenous student (Hunter Page-Lochard) at the time of the Redfern Riots. “It’s a gritty urban story that really could be set anywhere – East LA or Sao Paulo – so it’s got a universal appeal,” says Rosen.Golden oldies not so mouldy

Two classics feature at the Seniors Film Festival in Melbourne next week, Casablanca and Gone With The Wind. But it’s not all nostalgia with the program also including the French drama Haute Cuisine, about a cook employed by the French president, and Alex Gibney’s powerhouse documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In the House of God, about the culture of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The festival runs  October 6-11 at the Australian Centre For The Moving Image, with seniors tickets $5 and carers free.Documentray legend O’Rourke remembered

The Antenna Documentary Festival in Sydney will pay tribute to one of the country’s finest documentary makers, Dennis O’Rourke, who died in June. A screening of Cunnamulla, his controversial 2000 film about a Queensland country town, will be followed by a Q&A with executive producer Stefan Moore and editor Andrea Lang. ”In my view it’s Dennis’s greatest film,” says Moore. ”I was very surprised at how controversial it was. I looked at it as just a beautiful film about this small dot on the Earth.” While some claimed two Aboriginal teenagers were exploited by discussing their sex lives in the film, Moore says O’Rourke’s intention was ”to show how brave these girls were”. The festival opens with Eva Orner’s The Network, about a new Afghan television station, at the Chauvel cinema next Wednesday (sub: October 2). In Melbourne, it runs at ACMI from October 17 to 20.

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Tulloch Lodge cuts Nash Rawiller loose as Tom Berry hits his straps

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Cut loose: Nash Rawiller is no longer riding in a partnership with Gai Waterhouse and Tulloch Lodge Photo: Jenny EvansPremier jockey Nash Rawiller has taken a freelance role in recent months and Gai Waterhouse admits their successful partnership has moved to more of an association.

Rawiller has held the coveted No.1 rider position at Tulloch Lodge since the autumn of 2007.

It has been the most important riding position in Sydney for the past 50 years, since the halcyon era of Tommy Smith, however, Waterhouse made it clear the position is vacant as Tom Berry and Rawiller now share the stable’s best rides.

”There is really not a No.1 there at the moment,” Waterhouse said.

”I think Tom has really come of age. I think Tom is a very exciting jockey. He hasn’t got the maturity of someone like Nash or Glyn Schofield, but, my gosh, he is a good young jockey.” Rawiller didn’t want to comment about his position in the Waterhouse stable after he rode a treble at Canterbury on Wednesday, but none for Tulloch Lodge.

It was the outside rides that helped him surge to the jockeys’ title in July and this season he has only ridden three winners for Waterhouse from 12 rides, in a suspension-interrupted start to the new term.

Waterhouse said it was her idea for Rawiller, a heavyweight who rarely rides less than 55.5 kilograms, to branch out.

”I told him to [do a bit more outside riding]. I told him he should go and catch and kill his own and he would do well and he has,” Waterhouse said.

It was clear from Rawiller’s treble at Canterbury that he had embraced the new situation.

Waterhouse had runners, at Rawiller’s weight, in both races he won for Chris Waller, on Earnest Desire and Perplexity, before he was at his best to score on Clarry Conners-trained Turnley.

Rawiller has ridden seven winners for Waller this season and the premier trainer is happy to get the opportunity to use him.

”He is [a] great asset when you can get him,” Waller said.

Waller made it clear that he believed Rawiller was one of the elements of success at Tulloch Lodge.

”As a competitor, I look to see what the opposition is doing that makes them better then you try to apply that to your set-up,” he said.

Rawiller has been riding less trackwork for Waterhouse and it’s obvious looking at the bookings for Rosehill on Saturday – he is riding for a variety of stables.

He has three rides for Waterhouse – Julienas in the Colin Stephen Quality, Greytfilly in the Reginald Allen Quality and Hydro in the Gloaming Stakes.

It is Berry who has the pick of the stable’s rides on Saturday. They are highlighted by the promising Ecuador with 60kg in the opener, and the talented Aussies Love Sport (56.5kg) in the Stan Fox Stakes. He also has the important task of getting Our Desert Warrior, which has the minimum of 53kg, into the Epsom by winning the Shannon Stakes.

Waterhouse and Rawiller have been the strongest team in Sydney for the past six years and peaked when they combined for seven group 1 wins at last year’s autumn carnival. More Joyous and Pierro delivered three each but cracks have developed in the partnership in the past year.

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Stewarts and Burgesses: two proud, contrasting families put it all on the line

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Brothers gonna work it out: The Burgess clan at the XBox1 launch on Wednesday. Photo: Anthony JohnsonAre two Stewarts better than four Burgesses? And will Friday night mark the changing of the guard as the Burgesses replace the Stewarts as rugby league’s most influential band of brothers?

It is probably an argument worth debating in 10 years’ time after we witness the legacy the English siblings leave at South Sydney, but as Glenn and Brett Stewart enter the twilight of their careers, there is little doubt they will be remembered as two of the greatest Sea Eagles of all time. In Friday’s preliminary final, two proud families go to war for their equally proud respective clubs.

In one corner the flavour of the year and the talk of the town – the Burgesses. They love the spotlight. They love the camera. They are a promoter’s dream and everything off the field the Stewart boys aren’t.

The Manly pair have long been regarded as the hard men of rugby league. No-nonsense footballers who loathe the limelight and take no pleasure in seeing their names up in lights. Tough, unrelenting. They epitomise what it is to be Manly.

As siblings go, rugby league has been blessed with brilliant brothers. The Mortimers, the Walterses, the Hugheses, the Johnses, the Walkers – just to name a few. Victory for the Sea Eagles would give the Stewart brothers a chance to win their third premiership together, a feat that has only been achieved by Steve, Chris and Peter Mortimer for the Bulldogs in 1980, 1984 and 1985.

While they may not have the same numbers as the Mortimers, Canterbury great Steve Mortimer rates the Stewarts as one of the best set of brothers to have played the game. The Stewarts had only begun to forge their identity at Manly when the club announced its greatest team of all time in 2006, but Mortimer believes the pair have achieved enough to warrant selection if the team was to be reselected. ”I’m a huge fan of the Stewart boys, but in particular Glenn,” Mortimer said.

”He’s a playmaker in a forward’s body. He’s such a crafty player and would sit well in the company of Manly’s greats like Terry Randall and Malcolm Reilly, who I played against, as well as Steve Menzies in their greatest team. I wouldn’t want to say who would miss out but Glenn definitely is in the same category as those players. I also think the same with Brett Stewart in comparison with Graham Eadie. Brett’s an incredible player.”

The Stewart brothers have played 111 games together for the Sea Eagles, winning 81 of those matches (73 per cent) when they have been on the field together. The Burgesses have won 28 of 39 games (71.8 per cent) when at least two brothers have played together.

Sam Burgess, the most accomplished of the quartet, said he could see the camaraderie between Brett and Glenn. ”It’s hard to notice that connection they have when you’re playing against them, but when you watch videos of the game you notice the connection they have because they’re brothers,” he said. ”They are very good. Glenn certainly is a quality forward and Brett’s an outstanding player. I know how it feels to play alongside your brothers and they are two outstanding players in a great team.”

Tom Burgess, who will miss Friday’s preliminary final having been selected to play for North Sydney in the NSW Cup, said his brothers aspire to have similar careers to the Manly duo. ”We always like to see brothers in the game, it’s good to see,” Tom said. ”If we can achieve what they’ve achieved during their careers at Manly then we would’ve had pretty successful careers.”

Mortimer believes the connection between brothers on the field and their willingness to put their bodies on the line for each other provide the foundation for good football teams, and predicts the Burgess brothers will leave a huge legacy at the Rabbitohs.

”Playing with my brothers and the Hughes brothers, it was definitely an advantage, and while you bleed for your teammates, you die for your family,” he said. ”There’s nothing like having brothers in the same team – you do anything for them. I think the Burgesses definitely have the potential to be remembered as one of the great sets of brothers. They are humble, they are quiet and are good, quality young men. I definitely see them leaving a significant mark in South Sydney’s proud history.”

Twitter – @MichaelChammas

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Roberts gets the green light for Newcastle

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Fortunes improving: Tyrone Roberts, front left, is expected to be fit to take on the Roosters. Photo: Simone De PeakNewcastle halfback Tyrone Roberts is on track to line up against Sydney Roosters in the preliminary final at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night after a solid training session on Wednesday.

Knights coach Wayne Bennett was certain Roberts would take his place but effectively ruled out back-up playmaker Craig Gower (neck), and said winger James McManus (ankle) remained under an injury cloud. In their last run in Newcastle before the grand-final qualifier, the Knights were cheered on by several hundred supporters.

”We’re all fit to go … James McManus is still in doubt, but outside of him, everyone is good,” Bennett said.

Roberts was in a leg brace after Newcastle’s 18-16 semi-final victory over Melbourne at AAMI Park last Saturday night after hyperextending his right knee in the final minutes. Cleared of a significant injury after scans the following day, the goal-kicking Ballina Seagulls product showed no ill effects at training as he ran, stepped and kicked without incident.

”He trained all morning, he didn’t miss a drill out there, so if he’s got a bad knee, he can’t do all that he did,” Bennett said. ”He’s got no strapping on it.”

McManus has battled a stress fracture in his lower-left leg since the Origin decider in Brisbane on July 17 and was replaced by Kevin Naiqama for the game against the Storm last Saturday. Though he is no longer wearing a moon boot, McManus sat out most of Wednesday’s session and Naiqama remains on standby.

”He’s on the borderline, so we’ll give him until Friday and see how he is,” Bennett said. ”We’re all confident in Kevin, so it always helps when you’ve got … somebody else that’s very capable.”

Gower had neck surgery three weeks ago to shave a bulging disc and is not expected to displace bench utility Matt Hilder.

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The heroes of a new age

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Breakout: Clark Gregg’s agent Phil Coulson (right) is the link between Marvel’s cinematic and television universes.Stepping out of the long shadow of iconic superheroes such as Iron Man and Thor, the centrepiece of the new action series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a vast, fictional intelligence organisation: the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. With long tendrils and vast archives, its heart is a literal and metaphorical vault, packed to breaking point with secrets. ”There are a lot of questions that come with that,” producer Jed Whedon says. ”How far do you take that? Is keeping a secret ever valuable if it keeps someone safe? Or taking their liberty away if it will keep people safe?”

When the fictional espionage and law-enforcement agency was created in 1965 by reverend comic-book writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics – as one of those fictional super agencies that tangled with superheroes – it talked to a different American social landscape: one touched by the CIA in its infancy and other, traditional international agencies such as Britain’s MI5.

In 2013, it makes a very different social statement, about a world of WikiLeaks and Anonymous, where freedom of information and the democratisation of knowledge have become important social issues. ”We are dealing with both sides of that debate on our show,” Whedon’s co-producer [and wife] Maurissa Tancharoen says.

For a long time (in the comics world at least), S.H.I.E.L.D. was the institutional keeper of secrets, Whedon says. But now, in the wake of the events depicted in the Marvel theatrical films, the paradigm has shifted. ”Now their world has changed and people know the truth, that there are aliens and that there are gods and monsters,” he says.

”It’s an escape show where you’re watching characters with costumes and superpowers and strange gadgets. We don’t have too lofty a concept of ourselves, but I think it is relevant in terms of how global the world is now and how much information is out there,” Whedon says.

In that sense, Tancharoen says, the series is about the connected world: ”The human experience, amplified by this extraordinary world, but with characters who are regular people in this extraordinary world.

”And people who are feeling even more ‘less-than’ because they’re aware that gods, aliens and superheroes exist. How do you deal with that? We’re always trying to be something better than we are. It’s the beauty and the curse of being a human being.”

The series stars Clark Gregg as agent Phil Coulson – a character established in the Marvel feature-film universe – who takes charge of a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents: Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), Leo Fitz (Iain de Caestecker), Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Skye (Chloe Bennet), a civilian who inadvertently becomes a member of the group.

In motion it’s a fast-paced mixture of action sequences and character moments. It’s loaded with special effects at the top end of the TV range; an advantage, perhaps, of having a billion-dollar film franchise down the hall. All of that is set to an acoustic signature composed by Bear McCreary, the American composer best known for scoring the reboot of Battlestar Galactica and zombie drama The Walking Dead.

When Whedon and Tancharoen articulated the series to McCreary, they told him they wanted a show with big horns, big music themes and music that ”made you feel you were on an adventure”, Whedon says. ”But there’s also the human aspect, and that’s more about acoustic instruments.”

The show’s soundtrack, Tancharoen says, is infused with a sense of hope. ”And in those moments, big brass orchestral swells happen,” she says. ”It’s very fun. The first time we heard them score the pilot episode it was … well, that was a moment. We may have had a moment.”

To understand the series, however, we need to appreciate its placement inside the Marvel universe: where superheroes (such as Iron Man) and gods (such as Thor) are real people, and where ”the Avengers” – Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye – allied to defeat Thor’s stepbrother, the villainous god Loki.

That conflict – referred to within the Marvel comic-book continuity as the Battle of New York – was a definitive moment in human history, a paradigm shift in terms of the world’s population and its understanding of superheroes (and gods) and the roles they play in society.

Unlike a lot of comic-book franchises in the past – notably Superman and Batman, which tended to develop discrete film and television projects with very little crossover – a clear decision has been made with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to establish that the TV series, and the other Marvel feature films, exist within one continuity.

Which is not to say that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) or Iron Man (Robert Downey jnr) will be making guest appearances in the TV show, but that there is connective tissue that links the various elements of the bigger tapestry.

In addition, Whedon says, a lot of ”time and money has been spent fleshing out this world, creating a bunch of franchises, which they started linking together, and then they made a film [2012’s The Avengers] that brought them all together. We get the advantage of that world being established already.”

Gregg’s agent Phil Coulson inadvertently became the link, having first appeared in Iron Man (2008) and subsequently in Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011) and Marvel’s The Avengers (2012). ”His performance grew and grew in each movie,” Whedon says.

Far less likely is an appearance by either Iron Man or Thor, but Whedon and Tancharoen believe the TV series will benefit enormously from its relationship with its larger big-screen cousins.

”We’re open to crossovers and we communicate with features to try and weave between those releases, but we are very focused on being our own thing and establishing our characters,” Whedon says.

The TV series might, Tancharoen suggests, be an opportunity to explore the impact of events depicted in the Marvel feature films. ”We like to say the movies are about giants, but our TV show is about the people in the building that the giant crushed.

”The people at the centre of our show are real people and real people who dealt with the fallout from the [fictional] Battle of New York. Many people were hurt. And the world is a different place. It’s a big part of our team’s job to go in and help people deal with that.”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Wednesday, Seven, 7.30pm.

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