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History's Worst Battles - and the People Who Fought Them

 

Reviewed by Donald Lawie

History’s Worst Battles  introduces the reader to fifty battles chosen by author Joel Levy to represent those described as “the worst in history”. He has used five criteria for qualification as “worst”: High Casualty Rate, Catastrophic Defeat, Pyrrhic Victory, Tactical Blunder and Appalling Conditions. Battles range in chronological order from Thermopylae in 480 BC to Basra in 1982, and include many classic battles such as the original Pyrrhic Victory at Asculum in 279BC, Borodino in 1812 and Stalingrad, 1942/3. Warfare in the ancient and modern world, oriental and occidental, provides battles rich in the chosen five criteria though none meets them all. Levy gives a succinct summary of each battle, highlighting the categories in which it qualifies, the opposing armies and their leaders and an estimate of casualties incurred in the battle. He refrains from dictating the victorious side – in most of these battles the victor suffers grievously from his success.

 

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Blu Ray/DVD: Enemy

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

The Denis Villeneuve that directed Enemy is not the same resolution-friendly director that gave us last year's epic thriller Prisoners. His latest film, a deliciously eerie psychological piece of work, is more complex, stranger, and more unnerving so if you’re looking for easy access, keep on walking. But, if you like your thrillers thick with atmosphere, aligned with nightmarish imagery, and open ended, Enemy should be at the top of your list. It’s the second doppelganger film this year, the first being Jesse Eisenberg’s dank little adventure The Double. It must’ve been announced first since Villeneuve’s film is adapted, by Javier Gullon, from Jose Saramago’s celebrated novel of the same name. Never mind. Enemy is a better title. 

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Cinema: Venus in Fur

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

From the smooth tracking shot that moves along a Parisienne avenue drenched by rain and belted by thunder to the clumsy entrance of the heroine, its clear that Venus in Fur won’t be about couture. Grounded and neatly constructed, Roman Polanski’s latest film, an adaptation of the two-hander Broadway hit by David Ives, works well enough, for what it is. With Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric in the key roles, it tells the story of a director trying to cast the female role for the titular play. Inspired by the almost identical 1870 novel Venus in Furs by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch who essentially inspired the term masochism, Polanski and Ives have more on their mind than whips and chains. This will be a duel of words, a power play beyond anything the director could’ve imagined.

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Cinema: Sex Tape

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

I’m not sure if Sex Tape, the latest knockoff comedy to star Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, even deserves to be reviewed. The yocks here are like totally low-grade with Rob Lowe scoring the lion’s share, and its all like, so intent on breaking down every last boundary regarding that most intimate of acts that like, the air runs out of this celluloid trifle real fast. Clumsily steered into a brick wall by Jake Kasdan, who was also responsible for the, by comparison, infinitely superior Bad Teacher, the story follows a married couple that find their sex lives have stalled since they had children so they make a private porn movie using that delightful old tome The Joy of Sex as a guide. Was this even rehearsed? Every scene looks like the first take.

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Confessions of a digital naive

 

Reviewed by Jill 

Diverse events led Rita Leistner to participate in Basetrack, a social media experiment to embed journalists with US troops in Afghanistan.  Basetrack’s intent was to bring the Marines closer to their people back home.  Leistner, a digital naive, captured images on an Iphone using the Hipstamatic app.  One of her aims through publication was to interpret or explain her experiences in McLuhan’s terms.  She also interpreted Afghanistan via this new technology.  These are the less obvious hints that the reader is in for a different sort of experience.  The book Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan, is confronting in its format and appearance.  At times it shouts.

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'Such a scene of fashionable excitement ...'

 

 

 

Reviewed by Jill 

‘Such a scene of fashionable excitement it was impossible to pay much attention to anything else.’[14].  Through determination, inspiration, and sheer hard work, Englishman Charles Frederick Worth created a fashion house that designed for the rich, the prominent and the famous.  Via an incredible archive of black and white photographs, The House of Worth: Portrait of an Archive documents a fashion house during its most prolific design and financially-successful period.  Possibly its most expensive dress ever cost almost £5,000.00 in the late nineteenth century.  The trim might add thousands more to the design.  Owners bequeathed their dresses to museums.  Dickens, Zola and Taine wrote of Charles Worth.  The company continues to this day, albeit with altered form and purpose.  It is a superb contrast to our current era’s apparent ‘wear-it-once, consign to landfill’ mass fashion.

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Cinema: The Lunchbox

A new social media tool has been published, named Social Shoppers, by which you can make searches among thousands of products and services. The system gathers you a various range of data from social media about the product or service. One is able to see comments, reviews and critics about the specific product, and contact the commenters on social media to get detailed information. The site is very new, and started yesterday. You can reach it through the address: www.socialshoppers.org.

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

The new Hindi film The Lunchbox, written and directed by Ritesh Batra (what a debut!) and starring Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is as delicious as it sounds. It often recalls the exquisite Merchant Ivory drama The Remains of the Day. Love cannot always be, even when its within your grasp, and it may be universal but fate can intervene and cultural expectation can interfere. On the surface the contentions of The Lunchbox sound treacly, even soft, but Batra’s affectionate approach makes the film sing a beautiful melody.

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Cinema: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

If nothing else, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will bring respect back to the word “sequel”. With Matt Reeves once again back in the director’s chair, Andy Serkis returning as Caesar, and delicately applied 3D, this instalment is more exciting, engaging, and touching than its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, as Reeves uses the conflict to push the story to near Shakespearean heights of drama. This time, it’s the relationships and interactions between this now even more evolved species that demand our attention.

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Cadence: Travels with Music

 

Reviewed by Thea Biesheuvel

In musical terms a Cadence is a measured movement of sound, set to a certain rhythm, reflecting a certain intonation of the total work.  It is usually the close of a musical phrase.  It is a passage for solo instrument, near the close of a movement and is usually improvised.  Many famous composers kept their own cadenza a secret until the work was to be performed.  There is, these days, a kind of ‘one upmanship’ in performance pianists, especially, to show off their talents by playing their own, obviously brilliant cadenza at the end.

 

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Cinema: The Keeper of Lost Causes

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Screening as part of this year's Scandinavian Film Festival line-up, the tantalising thriller The Keeper of Lost Causes is one you must make a date with. Slotted in, appropriately enough for after dark screenings at Palace Centro in Brisbane on Sunday July 13 and again on Friday July 18 (check the website for dates in other cities), this brooding, thoroughly creepy story of a detective relegated to the cold cases department is a superb exercise in control and menace. Adapted from Jussi Adler Olsen’s novel by Nikolaj Arcel who co-adapted The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (the original and the best), this story of long festering vengeance should be remembered as the thriller of the year.

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