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Stoker Munro Survivor



Reviewed by Anne M

Stoker Munro Survivor is an incredible story of a young man’s bravery and determination. This book, which is an evocative narration of events during the Second World War, is harrowing in its realistic depiction of war-time incidents.



PNGVR: A HISTORY 1950-1973


Reviewed by Donald Lawie

 The Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles – PNGVR – was a one Battalion Regiment of the Australian Army. A scion of the renowned wartime militia unit, the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, PNGVR was raised in 1950 and at the time was the only resident military unit in the then Territories of Papua and New Guinea (TPNG). Membership was restricted to European (white) male volunteers and service was part time in the Australian Civilian Military Forces (CMF). Major Bob Harvey-Hall RFD, ED, was the last Battalion Second-in-Command  and the longest serving officer of PNGVR. He has written the defining history of the unit in a large, copiously illustrated  and meticulously researched book which will be treasured by ex-members and their families. PNGVR: A History  is also an important piece of the history of Australia’s armed forces, since it describes a Battalion unlike any other.




Cinema: Mr. Holmes

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

I’m willing to wager that as word of mouth spreads about Mr. Holmes, Bill Condon’s gorgeous new film about the esteemed detective, chances are it will be chiefly about the knockout turn by Sir Ian McKellen. What a gift in this chilly weather to be able to curl up with this remarkable actor and watch him deliver the performance of the year. The film itself is beautifully made if weighed down by a flimsy story but once it launches into the mystery and the narrative starts to flower, those looking for intelligence and atmosphere will surrender happily.



Cinema: Trainwreck

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Once upon a time comedy was all about the laughs, just the laughs, and little more. I think back to the days when Mel Brooks, Jim Abrahams, and those Zucker boys played with details and riffed on eras gone by that let us forget our own lives, if only for a while. Remember Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, The Kentucky Fried Movie, Flying High, and The Naked Gun trilogy? They were like a fantasy camp. But with directors like Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, a new breed of humour, epic humour to be precise, has been hatched. Now, we laugh (and how could we not?) but we’re pulled up short by moments that ground us in reality (suddenly we're inside the story) and there are plenty of those to be found in Apatow's latest film Trainwreck. A fellow critic nudged me when Apatow dialled his leading lady Amy Schumer down for introspection; he establishes “awkward” like a champion. Feig branded Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy with Bridesmaids (and Trainwreck is very much a remix of that smash hit) and Apatow will probably do the same for Schumer. Already marking her territory on Comedy Central, she’s talented alright. I’ll wager this blonde tootsie could match McCarthy in an improvisation race, and in dispensing with the vanity. To bring the funny you have to roll up your sleeves, forget the mirror, and charge.



The Best Gallipoli Yarns and Forgotten Stories



Reviewed by Donald Lawie

It would be easy to take a cheap shot and declare that some of the “Forgotten Stories” would have been best left forgotten, but that would be unfair. The Best Gallipoli Yarns and Forgotten Stories is a book for all tastes; a useful  introduction to the Gallipoli adventure for those who have only heard of the affair, or some agreeable yarns for a more widely read audience. I use the word “adventure” since much of The Best Gallipoli Yarns and Forgotten Stories, as the name may imply, is in the Gripping Yarns category. They are not an attempt to give a sober military history, nor to analyse the pros and cons of the campaign. There are no foot notes, confronting bibliography, or even an index. The yarns are presented in chronological order from “Recruited” then through “The Landing”  to “The Final Phase”. Linking entries by the author Jim Haynes provide continuity and there is a number of poems/verses for those who appreciate such form of expression. 


The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains



Reviewed by Duncan Lawie

The title ought to be giving the game away. The cave in the black mountains is where the truths of the story are revealed. Still, telling you so is absolutely not a spoiler in a story which makes such use of foreshadowing, told tales and illustration. This is an illustrated book, where each of the words and pictures is an effective means of telling the story yet the combination is more powerful still. Words are, perhaps, the more obvious medium. How can these truths be illustrated?


Before I sleep


Reviewed by Jill 

Ray Whitrod’s was a remarkable life.  Its beginnings were modest. Fate, dedication, and sound ethics led him in directions along career paths he could never have imagined.  A strong faith, and unwavering love for his wife and family underpinned the decisions necessary in a police and administrative life.  Before I sleep: my life fighting crime and corruption is Whitrod’s account of a working life which revealed to  him the inefficiencies, rivalries and outright criminality in organisations charged with protecting the public and enforcing the law.


Cinema: Ant-Man

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Yet another Marvel superhero movie is enough to make just about anyone sigh in resignation these days. This year we’ve already had our behinds numbed with Avengers: Age of Ultron and I’m not looking forward to that old familiar feeling with what looks like an unnecessary update of Fantastic Four. The trailers would have us believe our world, or at the very least our cinemas, will be torn asunder, such is the overwrought dramatic pitch. Can you remember the last one that didn’t encompass a metropolitan being torn to shreds as the gaily made up villains and their opponents tear into each other? The movies, more than the characters, are the hot new heroes of cinema yet how pedestrian they’ve become! It’s for all these reasons that Ant-Man, the latest horse out of the franchise’s stable, is so refreshing. They say he’s the smallest hero of them all. Maybe, but as played by Paul Rudd, he’s also the most engaging, and easily the most fun. He doesn’t even bother with the wearying one-liners. The pieces (among them an oversized ant and a super-sized Thomas the Tank Engine) that make up the whole may look familiar but as director Peyton Reed so ably demonstrates, its how those pieces fit together. Perfectly paced and cast, and mining its B-grade sensibilities for all they’re worth and then exploiting them, Ant-Man is pure fun.



DVD: Eastern Boys

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

I have nothing but admiration for actors who can establish a character with the stillness of their bodies and their unwavering gaze. They need little more than their eyes to reveal themselves, and tell us all we need to know. Oliver Rabourdin, who fans of the 2010 French drama Of Gods and Men will remember, is such an actor. Together with the ensemble of Xavier Beauvois’s elegant film about a group of Trappist monks who were assassinated in 1996 during the Algerian Civil War, Rabourdin delivered a subtle and powerful portrayal. In Robin Campillo’s Eastern Boys as a man who meets a male prostitute and plunges into an unlikely relationship, he demonstrates the same compassion and vulnerability and again, he's so still.



The Heaven I Swallowed



Reviewed by Leigh Coyle

In The Heaven I Swallowed by Australian novelist Rachel Hennessy, protagonist and narrator Grace Teresa Mary Johnston takes the words of her own childhood nemesis, Sister Clare – “A child’s fear can be your greatest friend” –– and applies them to the treatment of her new charge, Mary, a twelve year old aboriginal girl taken from her birth mother some time after the end of the Second World War.  In this tale of the Stolen Generations, told from the (albeit twisted) perspective of a white woman, Hennessy has provided a sliver of insight into the racism that flourished in our society: a subject demanding exploration in contemporary Australian fiction.  


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