Four Stars

Food Review: Calle Rey fuses Peruvian, Mexican and Japanese influences into an ambitious plant-based feast

It’s been a while since I last ventured into a fusion restaurant, let alone one that skillfully harmonizes not just two, but three distinct culinary traditions into a symphony of flavors. Calle Rey has masterfully achieved this feat, exuding both confidence and finesse through its plant-based and gluten-free menu. The abundance of exquisite diversity in…

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Perfect Days examines the beauty of living life one day at a time: Sydney Film Festival Review

There are few films as meditative and rhythmic as what Wim Wenders managed to achieve here with Perfect Days. Known for his past documentaries and dramas, this German auteur presents a celebration of living a beautifully present life that is fresh out of Cannes and was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or, where it…

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Fancy Dance is a heartfelt coming-of-age drama about family bonds and the trials of Indigenous women: Sundance Film Festival

Set in present day Seneca-Cayuga Reservation in Oklahoma, Fancy Dance follows Jax (Lily Gladstone), a Native American swindler who hustles for a living while caring for her niece Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson), taken in following the sudden disappearance of her mother. With every spare moment spent trying to find the missing parent, time is running out…

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Film Review: Smile trumps its lack of originality with sharp execution and a great performance from Sosie Bacon

Adapted from the short film Laura Hasn’t Slept, Smile tells the story of Rose Cutter (Sosie Bacon) – a doctor who is experiencing strange, horrifying occurrences after a traumatic incident she had with a patient who killed herself. The patient had displayed clear signs of trauma and mentioned witnessing a suicide and seeing the victim…

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Film Review: Here Out West shows a rich tapestry of multicultural Australia that we rarely get to see on-screen

Set in present-day Western Sydney, Here Out West starts off following the story of a grandmother, who is visiting her daughter who had just given birth. The grandmother is stuck with babysitting an 8-year old neighbour and they both make a trip to the hospital. However, the relationship between the grandmother and the daughter is…

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You Won’t Be Alone is an engagingly wistful look into humanity wrapped up as a supernatural horror: Sundance Film Festival Review

A unique if uneven take of supernatural horror told through the veil of existentialism that is frustrating, beguiling and eventually emotionally rewarding. The film follows the story of a young woman who is kidnapped from her mother by a wolf-eateress, rendered mute and then turned into a shape-shifting demon. We see her inhabit various characters…

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Cha Cha Real Smooth is a funny, charming and poignant crowd-pleaser about people who hesitate to grow up: Sundance Film Festival Review

Cha Cha Real Smooth tells the story of 22-year old Andrew (writer/director Cooper Raiff), a recent college graduate who is stuck in his own purgatory before adulthood. Stuck in a dead-end job selling fast food and back living with his family including his mother (Leslie Mann), his step-father (Brad Garrett) and his younger brother David…

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Living, buoyed by innovative storytelling and Bill Nighy, makes a strong case for remakes: Sundance Film Festival Review

Set in 1950’s Britain, Living tells the story of Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy), a veteran civil servant who works every day in a meticulous and repetitive fashion in a government office while leading a group of colleagues to help him out. His work ethic and reputation are well known around the inner circle but the…

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Speak No Evil taps into the awkwardness of human interaction and squeezes out all the horror to excruciating effect: Sundance Film Festival Review

Speak No Evil tells the story of a Danish family who are having a vacation in Tuscany, Italy. They meet a friendly and jovial family who are from the Netherlands. They both share common interests, they both have children the same age but most importantly, it is the polite camaraderie that they share that makes…

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Film Review: The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson at his self-effacing and extravagant best

The French Dispatch tells a series of stories through a framework of a newspaper publication known as The French Dispatch. The framework begins with the death of Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray), the editor of said publication and we follow the stories of the final farewell issue; which consists of three major articles, a minor…

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Film Review: Julia is a heartwarming documentary about trailblazer chef extraordinaire Julia Child

Julia is the latest film by documentary filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen. They are best known for their acclaimed works such as RBG and My Name is Pauli Murray; studies of renowned trailblazers who have contributed so much to the world and have shattered social norms in order to do so. The latest subject…

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France is an amusingly quixotic journey from Bruno Dumont, led by a stellar Lea Seydoux: TIFF 2021 Review

France is the latest film from filmmaker enfant terrible Bruno Dumont; whose filmography is, for the lack of a better term, peculiar. His body of work shifts into many forms of storytelling in ways that they can never be encapsulated in restricted genre terms. From films exploring the idiosyncrasies of life with his debut film…

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Mad Women's Ball

The Mad Women’s Ball is a satisfying hybrid tale of psychological drama and friendship: TIFF 2021

Set in 19th century France, The Mad Women’s Ball follows Eugenie (Lou de Laage), a young, wealthy lady of the manor who feels institutionalized within family and gender expectations. Her father expects her to be married off to a husband while she wants to travel, go on adventures and learn new things like her brother…

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You are not my mother

You Are Not My Mother is an extremely effective horror flick that blends filial drama and powerful frights: TIFF 2021 Review

You Are Not My Mother tells the story of Char (Hazel Doupe), a struggling teenager who is living a self-sheltered life, drifting through school with good grades despite the bullies, all while having to take care of her mother Angela (Carolyn Bracken) and grandmother (Ingrid Craige). Her relationship with her mother is distant, after a…

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Saloum blends action, comedy, horror and drama into a satisfying thrill-ride: TIFF 2021 Review

Saloum tells the story of three mercenaries Chaka (Yann Gael), Rafa (Roger Sallah) and Minuit (Mentor Ba) who are tasked to extract a Mexican drug dealer Felix (Renaud Farah) and his cargo of gold and drugs away from the chaos of the government overthrow of Guinea-Bissau and transfer to Dakar, Senegal. But when their means…

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Zalava is an engaging mix of genre thrills, social commentary and potent drama: TIFF 2021 Review

Set in 1978, the film tells the story of a mountain village of Zalava in Kurdistan that is supposedly plagued by an ancient curse. The villagers are so drawn into the story of the curse that they have been driven into the ways that veer into levels of superstition, involving the use of metals as…

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Jacob's Wife

Film Review: Jakob’s Wife is a fun splatter horror comedy about a disintegrating marriage that could use some vamping up

Jakob’s Wife tells the story of small-town couple Jakob and Anne Fedder (horror veterans Larry Fessenden and Barbara Crampton); a local minister and his dutiful wife who have been married close to 30 years. Anne feels that after all the tasks of being a housewife – including the cleaning, cooking, gardening, housekeeping and more cleaning…

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The French Gift

Book Review: The strength of female friendship is celebrated in Kirsty Manning’s The French Gift

Kirsty Manning‘s historical fiction always features two things: an intriguing mystery in the past that must be uncovered by characters in the present day, and sumptuous descriptions of food and drink. Her latest novel, The French Gift is no exception. And no wonder, as Kirsty Manning is the co-owner of the Bellota Wine Bar and the…

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Just Like You

Book Review: Nick Hornby’s Just Like You is a smart, quaint and funny love story

The tagline for Nick Hornby’s ninth novel should be “Love happens you least expect it.” On, Just Like You he’s fashioned together an interracial and intergenerational romance between two unlikely individuals. The result is a very sweet and realistic book that could offer a breezy form of escapism for readers during the world’s continued Covid madness. Hornby…

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Book Review: Past, present, and Australiana come under the microscope in Evelyn Araluen’s Dropbear

Poetry and prose, critique and compassion all come together in Dropbear, the debut collection from award-winning writer, poet and editor Evelyn Araluen. It’s a remarkable collection; smart, thoughtful and articulate. To put it frankly, it comes as a surprise that this is Araluen’s debut book. Dropbear explores the imagery and mythology surrounding popular ideas of…

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Raya and the Last Dragon

Film Review: Raya and the Last Dragon is visually rapturous and fun, marking a minor step in representation

Raya and the Last Dragon is set in a fantasy world called Kumandra; which was once inhabited by both humans and dragons in a harmonious existence. But, that peace comes under imminent danger when malevolent monsters known as the Druun make their presence known. To stave off the threat and save humanity, the dragons perform…

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Sundance Film Festival Review: The Pink Cloud is more than just an eerie prophecy of the world today

One of the things that is very reflective about film is how cinematic storytelling can reflect the current condition of the world today. But it is that very same quality that can make the storytelling of said film feel dated. The main reason would be due to the time spent on development in getting the…

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Book Review: Randa Jarrar is provocative and unabashed in her memoir Love Is An Ex-Country

Love Is An Ex-Country is the compelling new memoir from Arab American writer and academic Randa Jarrar. The book (much like its author) is provocative, powerful and utterly unabashed. Presented as a travel memoir, Love is an Ex-Country begins with Jarrar heading on a cross-country road trip, emulating a similar trip taken by celebrated Egyptian…

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Sundance Film Festival Review: Passing is a fantastic directorial debut from Rebecca Hall

Passing is the feature-length directorial debut from acclaimed actress Rebecca Hall. She is best known for her astounding performances in Vicky Christina Barcelona, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women and Christine; as well as her appearances in blockbusters like The Prestige and Iron Man 3. Her interest in adapting the source material of the same…

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Born Into This

Book Review: Adam Thompson’s Born Into This spotlights Tasmania and its people

The Tasmanian landscape and a whole host of engaging, charming and well drawn characters populate the stories that make up Born Into This, the debut short story collection from Adam Thompson; an emerging Aboriginal (pakana) author from Tasmania.  The collection comprises sixteen stories, often brief, but always impactful. In spite of this brevity, Thompson is…

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Sundance Film Festival Review: Censor is an enjoyably reverential and visually stimulating psychological horror experience

When a filmmaker decides to venture into the topic of filmmaking as a narrative, their efforts can be fascinating in terms of storytelling. When the horror film Censor had been announced as an entry for Midnight Madness at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, it was particularly intriguing for a few reasons. Firstly, the topic of…

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Sundance Film Festival Review: In the Same Breath is a sobering, harrowing account on the origins and cover-up of COVID-19

There really is no way for yours personally to say this in a pithy fashion so it is best to just say it straight. One of my most anticipated films this critic wanted to see was In the Same Breath by director Nanfu Wang, a talented documentary filmmaker whose work in indicting the government workings…

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Film Review: High Ground takes a deceptively simple story to heights of excellence

High Ground is the latest film from Stephen Maxwell Johnson, whom is best known for his 2001 acclaimed film Yolngu Boy; a powerful coming-of-age story about three Aboriginal men who strive to become great hunters as they deal with social, economic and especially filial factors in maturing from adolescence to adulthood. Since then, Johnson has…

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The Forest of Moon and Sword

Book Review: Join Art on the quest to save her mother in Amy Raphael’s middle grade folk tale The Forest of Moon and Sword

In the dead of night, the Witchfinder General’s men came to Kelso and snatched away Art’s mother. Narrowly avoiding being taken herself, Art was left with nothing but a sword, her mother’s trusty book of remedies and salves, and her faithful horse Lady. It’s not much, but with the forest to guide her, she sets…

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Book Review: Andrew Pippos toasts community and family in his debut Lucky’s

Debut author Andrew Pippos has used his own family history as a leaping off point for his first novel Lucky’s.  The multi-generational family saga details the rise and fall (and rise again?) of Lucky, a second-generation American-born Greek entrepreneur, restauranteur and erstwhile family man. Having found himself stationed in wartime Australia, impersonating clarinetist Benny Goodman…

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