Book of Mormon

August 7th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Book of Mormon tickets are sold out almost up to a year in advance, unless you pay around US$450 a ticket for premium tickets. On our first day in New York we checked the theatre out and by chance they were having their daily lottery, where for half an hour you enter into a draw and 11 sets of 2 tickets are drawn out, which you can buy for $32 only. There’s over 200 people queued up, so your chances are around 5%, and we didn’t win.

We saw Chicago instead, which was really good. But didn’t give up on seeing Book of Mormon, and so I headed down early Saturday morning to queue up and see if any tickets were available from overnight cancellations. Jackpot – there were. I managed to get two tickets in the very middle of the theatre just six rows from the front. Perfect. And the tickets were at a more affordable price, so all go.

The show was the funniest show I have ever been to in my life, and probably ever will go to. I can’t undersell how great it was – not just the humour, but the sets, the costumes, the script, the acting, the music. At the end of the show, all 1,100 in the audience gave a huge standing ovation.

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The musical won nine Tony awards, and was called the best musical of this century by a New York Times reviewer. It is by far the hardest show on Broadway to get tickets for.

The show was created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker of Southpark fan. However it is definitely not a musical version of Southpark. It is about two Mormon missionaries – the charismatic one with the huge future and the nerdy overweight one. Elder Price (The former one) is sure he is going to be posted to Orlando (his dream location) but instead gets Uganda with Elder Cunningham.

Their attempts to get the locals interested in the Book of Mormon, are hilarious. A highlight is when they are telling the locals how God cursed the Lamanites with black skin so they would not be so enticing to the Nephites (which is in the Book of Mormon). As their all black audience stares at them, they stutter and suggest they skip that part.

The villagers are more worried about AIDs, a local warlord that wants to circumcise all the women in the village, famine and poverty. Their way of coping with such gloom is to sing and chant “Hasa Diga Eebowai”. The mormon elders join in until they ask what it means and get told “Eebowai” means “God and “Hasa Diga” means “Fuck you”.

But don’t think this is an anti-mormon, or even anti-religious show. While it does mock and lampoon some of the proclamations in the Book of Mormon, it portrays Mormons as very kind well-intentioned people, and at the end of the show you have the villagers saying that they understand the book is about parables and metaphors, and not to be taken literally – so they should follow the intent, if not the the literal word.

The LDS Church has not condoned or condemned the show, and even advertise in the show programme suggesting people try the actual book, as being even better than the musical. It is a rare thing to hilariously lampoon a religion, but to do so in a way that is funny, not nasty, and even respectful in an obtuse way.

As I said, the show was beyond first class. If you plan to be in New York at any stage, then book tickets as far in advance as you can.

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The guy on the left is Matt Doyle who played Elder Price. He has a hilarious dream scene where he thinks he gets sent to hell due to his sins, and there he meets Jeffrey Dahlmer, a very gay leather clad Adolph Hitler, Genghis Khan and amusingly famed defence lawyer Johnnie Cochran.

It’s great the stars come out after the show to do autographs and photos.

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This is Cody Jamison Strand, who played Elder Cunningham. He succeeds where no-one else does, in converting the whole village to Mormonism. However he is a pathological liar, and having not read the Book of Mormon, he just invented his own. All goes well, until the LDS President visits to congratulate them, and the local village puts on a performance of their own based on Elder Cunningham’s teachings, without him knowing they planned to do this.

All I’ll say is I’ll never look on frogs the same again!

If Book of Mormon ever tours to New Zealand, I’ll be going again. Hell if I’m in New York again, I’ll try to go again. It really is the musical of the century.

 

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Yes Prime Minister

July 9th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Around a year ago I purchased tickets for the Wellington production of “Yes, Prime Minister”, based on the famous TV series of the 1980s.

So with great excitement on Friday night I went along to the State Opera House to see the show.

However I left slightly disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a very good show, and I enjoyed it. It is definitely worth seeing if you enjoy politics and humour.

But it was also a reminder of how almost perfect the TV series was. The actors, the scripts, the mannerisms were sublime.

I spent the first 15 minutes of the show thinking that isn’t how Sir Humphrey would speak, that Bernard is too old, and that Jim Hacker not enough of a klutz.

After a while you do get used to the new cast, but they don’t gel quite as well as the originals.

The plot, which is needing a deal with a fictional Middle East state for an oil pipline to bail out Europe is well done, and has some classic elements of the show such as Sir Humphrey trying to sneak past Hacker that the deal will require the UK to join the Euro.

All in all, a good show, and a pleasant reminder of the TV series. But not in the same league.

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“C” – A Musical

July 8th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

C – A Musical is a musical about the Big C, or cancer. Paul Jenden is a long-time creative force at Circa, but this time the production was about himself – his battle against chronic lymphocytic leukameia.

It’s a sad topic for a musical, and at parts of the show, you do feel downright depressed. Mortality is not an easy topic. But despite that, the show is also uplifting and great fun.

It’s not a typical musical.  It is described as a play with song and poems.

Danny Mulheron plays Jenden himself, and is captivating and lively. He is so convincing, you would think he really was Jenden, the way he described the chemotherapy, receiving the news etc.

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Photo by Stephen A’Court

Beyond any doubt the star is Jackie Clarke who plays the voice inside his head, and sings the songs. Clark is simply fantastic and was a knock out. Her acting, her voice, her costume were all flawless.

Jane Waddell plays Paul’s Mum, who died from cancer also. Some very poignant scenes, but also some funny ones. The one that sticks in my mind is when she is talking to an angel and keeps asking him how much more time she has. He keeps avoiding the question until he finally points out that if you are talking to angels, the answer is pretty obvious!

Sue Alexander does an excellent job on the piano and Louis Solini silently plays Carcinoma most effectively.

On the technical side, the lighting used was done incredibly well. Great use of lights to capture emotions and states.

Most of us know someone who has fought cancer – some successfully, and some not so. The lyrics of “say si si to C” are a statement we can all aspire to.

As I said the play is not a barrel of laughs. At times it is very funny and uplifting. At times very sombre and sad. You ride a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, but well worth seeing.

Threatreview also has a review.

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Tu

June 17th, 2013 at 7:20 pm by David Farrar

Tu is an intense drama.  A Maori East Coast family is torn apart both emotionally and literally by the shafts of love, strife and war.

The play is based on the novel by Patrica Grace. Old Tu (Tammy Davis) recounts what happened to him and his brothers and family as they went to war in the 1940s.

The three brothers are Philomel, or older brother; Boydie and Tu. They’re played by Jarod Rawiri, Taungaroa Emile and Kimo Houltham respectively. Boydie is the flashy charmer. Philomel is looking forward to life with Jess (Aroha White) and Tu is the typical younger brother. Tina Cook performs wonderfully as their Ma, and Kali Kopae is the at home daughter taking an interest in the US marines stationed in Wellington.

The set is surrounded by audience on both sides of it, making it an unusual viewing experience, as you can see the reactions of those seated opposite.

It’s a hard show to summarise, as so much of it is caught up in the emotional intensity of the scenes. You spend the last 20 minutes almost on the edge of your seat – even though you sort of know the inevitable ending.

A great NZ production, that resonated with the audience.

Also reviewed at Theatreview.

 

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This House

June 16th, 2013 at 9:17 pm by David Farrar

Just been to The Penthouse Theatre to see National Theatre: This House. It’s filmed version of the play, and if you are into politics, I’d call it a must see.

It is based in the House of Commons from 1974 to 1979 and shows the machinations of both Government and Opposition Whips during that five year period of minority government or very unstable majority Government.

Almost all the events shown are based on real life incidents such as the MP who faked his own death and the Liberal Party leader charged with murdering his gay lover.

The play ends with the 1979 vote of no confidence in the Callaghan government which the Opposition won by 311 to 310.

It is on Monday night at 7 pm and Wednesday morning at 10 am. A three hour show, with an interval. Superbly done and a must see for politicos.

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Herald on Fork & Brewer

June 16th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reviews the Fork & Brewer in Wellington:

Tucked away in a former pizza joint just off Wellington’s Willis St, this pub presented me with something of a problem when I first found it. Having been to an event where the troughing and grazing were top-notch, the stairs were a struggle for me.

However, that was the only struggle I had as I found an absolute gem of a bar at the top; a haven for those who love not just great beer but exceptional food as well.

The place is large enough to accommodate both a generous bar area and a quieter dining area, despite having a brewery slap in the middle of it. With 40 beers on tap, you need to give yourself a bit of time when you visit.

The beer selection is nicely democratic, offering mainstream as well as craft versions, which allows the customer to decide what to drink. Among the craft beers are some stand-out drops, like Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale, Yeastie Boys’ Pot Kettle Black and Fuller’s London Pride among many others. The bottled selection is strong, with a nice choice of beers from around the world.

The wine list is well thought-out and handily priced, while the spirits selection is great.

The service is great, too, with attentive, knowledgeable and, best of all, chatty and genuinely funny people behind the stick, making it the sort of place where even a solo drinker can linger.

The food is simply divine. Chef Anton Legg loves beer and it shows in how he uses spent grain from the brewery as an ingredient in his cuisine. He also makes his own vinegars, which are sensational. If you order the glorious hand-cut, spent-grain-slated chips, make sure you request some of the pale ale vinegar to dip them in. Try the spicy chicken wings, too.

I can thoroughly recommend the chicken wings also!

Wellington is packed with great beer bars (something Auckland should be taking note of) and this is a one of the better ones, taking a simple concept – good beer and good food – and turning it into a real art form. Go there, and enjoy, but make sure you don’t have anything on afterwards because you won’t want to leave.

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Service: 5
Menu: 5
Drinks: 5
Atmosphere: 5
Overall: 5

You can’t complain about a review like that.

Fork & Brewer is my favourite bar in that area of town. Not only does it have great beer, food and service – it also has power plugs at every table for laptops!

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Karen and her Fellow Sinners

June 7th, 2013 at 8:38 am by David Farrar

Enjoyed a cool jazz show at Bats Theatre last night, called Karen and her Fellow Sinners.

Karen Anslow does a funny and talented routine of 14 songs ranging from Lover Man to Paint It Black. The show is called a musical celebration of love, lust and longing and it definitely has all three. As always, be careful of sitting in the front row if you’re a bloke!

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The three band members provide a great musical backup to Anslow’s singing. She combines a sultry voice with a captivating presence.

The show only lasted an hour, and I was dissapointed when it finished. If you’re enjoy jazz and are looking for a fun night out tonight or tomorrow, worth going to.

The show is part of the Jazz Festival.

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After Juliet

May 27th, 2013 at 3:55 pm by David Farrar

After Juliet was written by Sharman Macdonald after her 13 year old daughter saw the film version of Romeo and Juliet and asked “What comes next?”. Macdonald’s daughter went on to act in the play itself, and is fairly well known today as Keira Knightley.

I greatly enjoyed the Circa production of After Juliet. It’s a lively sequel to the famous classic. Those with a good memory will recall that before Romeo loved Juliet, he had an unrequited infatuation for Rosaline. It turns out that the infatuation was in fact mutual, but Rosaline was just playing hard to get. Now Romeo is dead, and she blames the Montagues for it.

The play is produced by 1st Gear Productions, and all the cast were aged between 17 and 23. It was a nice showcase of emerging talent.  Neenah Dekkers-Reihana shone as the lead Rosaline. She was feisty and commanding.

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Photos by Stephen A’Court

Also a great performance from Sylvie McCreanor who played Bianca. Bianca is a cousin of Juliet who suffers from petit mai seizures, and she is very convincing.

After the deaths of Romeo and Juliet there is a truce between the Montagues and Captulets, laid down by the Prince of Verona. You also have a number of trials of those deemed responsible for their deaths, such as the nurse and the apothecary that sold Juliet the poison.

Rosaline is torn between her lost love, her anger, and another apparently unrequited love interest. She wants the feud to continue, and is challenging to be leader of the “Cats”, the younger members of the Captulets.

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The set consists of a corrugated iron fence, a tangled scaffolding type tower where the Montagues gather, and at the bottom of it flowers marking the graves of Romeo and Juliet.

One thing I loved about the play was the mixture of old and new. you had Montagues and Captulets battling it out with swords, while some of the Montague girls were videoing it on their iPhones!  While it is an ancient setting, they used modern devices to get across that this could also be a modern day story.

There were a few good laughs during the play, but mostly it is dramatic tension between the various cast, and most of all to see whether it ends with war or peace – or both.

The play lasted 90 minutes, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was good to see a talented cast of younger actors and actresses and a sequel to a Shakespeare classic.

Also reviewed by John Smythe at Threatreview. It is on at Circa 2 until Saturday 8 June.

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LG

May 23rd, 2013 at 6:35 pm by David Farrar

LG had a little expo down at Chaffers Wharf yesterday. I popped in for a bit, to see what they were promoting. I knew I’d be interested in the TVs, but to my surprise also found myself interested in one of their washing machines.

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Yes that is a washing machine balanced on four wine glasses, and yes they demonstrated in action on a spin cycle, and it didn’t move at all. Whomever came up with the idea of demonstrating its lack of movement and vibrations with balancing it on wine glasses did well.

LG use a direct drive motor in their washing machines, and it really does make them both very quiet and also relatively still. I felt the machine as it was working, and you really just pick up minor vibrations from it – way different to most washers.

What I was really there to see though was this:

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Ignore the reflection that makes this a bad photo, and try to concentrate on the colour. This is their 84 inch ultra high definition TV.

The picture quality is an incredible eight million pixels, four times the normal high resolution. And trust me you can tell the difference. The quality is superb. The resolution is 3840 x 2160.

It also does 3D television. We watched a few minutes of Life of Pi, and it really was just as good as watching it in the cinema.

The TVs are $25,000 so really for pubs and bars or commercial offices. They will be rolling out a 55 inch model later this year, and are pricing it up at the moment.

The 84 inch TV is 2.8 times the area of an 50 inch TV. Not one for a small apartment!

All the TVs there now come with an ethernet port and built in WIFI. Clearly the future is TVs running programmes off the Internet or local computers. My only worry is what many GB would a one hour TV show be at ultra high resolution – can anyone do the sums?

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Midnight in Moscow

May 21st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Midnight in Moscow, at Circa, is a lively story of love, loyalty and politics. It is set in the NZ Embassy in the USSR in 1947. At times it is a bit like a murder mystery, but instead of working out who was the killer, it is more who was the spy?

You also get intrigued by whether that gay man and the young girls’ blossoming friendship may in fact be something for her aunt to worry about. Will the wife find out her husband’s affair with the mistress of Boris Pasternak?

There is of course a political theme to the play, as expected from playwright Dean Parker. Young Madeleine (played by Chelsea Bognuda) have a naive appreciation of the wonders of the worker’s paradise. Her aunt, and head of mission, June (Carmel McGlone) lays out the reality of what the Soviet Union was really about – political prisoners and repression.

Other embassy staff have some surprising views, which reveal themselves during the play.

The star of the show for me was Gavin Rutherford as the witty, urban, flamboyant and promiscuous Kit. His character provides many of the laughs. he provides the signature quote from E M Forster “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country”. Stephan Papps also excels as Boris Pasternak.

Jon Pheloung and Jessica Robinson play husband and wife Hugh and Sophie. Hugh is helping the famous Boris Pasternak  translate Doctor Zhivago into English, and also having an affair with Boris’ mistress Olga (Miranda Manasiadis). Hugh’s character is based on NZ diplomat Patrick Costello, who was suspected of being a Soviet spy. The debate continues today as to whether he was. For my 2c I think he was.

There is a chilling moment when Pasternak gets a phone call from Moscow, and it turns outs to be Stalin himself. This is of course based on real life, and I’d encourage people to read the awful treatment of Pasternak and other authors under the USSR.

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Photo by Stephen A’Court

Parker has crafted a very clever play that shows how awful the USSR was (and certainly was not an apologist for it as a Herald review suggested). There were also some lovely moments such as when the three female staff rehearsed for their role in The Mikado, bing out on by the British Council.

I enjoyed the play, but I did have a couple of criticisms.

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The set was very well done, but I found the suits worn by the men (especially Kit) did not look anything like the 1940s. They looked like very modern suits. Maybe I’ve been spoilt by how well shows like Mad Men get the look and feel of an older era so well, but the suits did jar with me, as not fitting into the era.

Another minor point was the idea that a woman would be head of delegation in 1947. I know of course that a play is fiction, but again it made it harder to get into the play. The best plays are where you forget it is a play, and you are one the edge of your seat wondering how it will all end.

I also like a play that grabs your attention at the beginning, and found the opening monologue didn’t quite do that. Also the poetry scene with Hugh and Pasternak went on a bit too long for my simple tastes. The play lasted two hours 15 minutes (plus a 15 minute interval). I thought the first half dragged on a bit and could have been shorter or brisker. The second half though was much more enjoyable, and overall was a very good production.

John Smythe at Theatreview has also reviewed the play. It runs at Circa One until Saturday 8 June.

UPDATE: I am informed that in fact the head of delegation in 1947 was indeed a woman, so wasn’t NZ progressive!

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Review: Ewen Gilmour’s Midlife Circus – San Francisco Bathhouse Wellington

May 8th, 2013 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

Review: Ewen Gilmour’s Midlife Circus – San Francisco Bathhouse Wellington

By Dave’s Flatmate

 I don’t know about you but I seriously can’t believe David has become one of those people who seems to be the ‘go to guy’ as the resident New Zealand agony aunt of politics.

I hardly ever see him at the apartment he’s that busy. He’s always out attending things like art gallery openings, MCing events, chairing debates, polling, talking on radio, making shit up and laying his hands on the Young Nats curing them of their belief that John Key is the second coming – evidently that’s Judith Collins.

And now the latest is that it seems all the serious journalists. art critics and reviewers have been marginalised to writing for the wasteland of the NZ Listener’s “Life in NZ’  as David steps up and now becomes NZ’s resident comedy critic.

This truly is the land of opportunity. So, anyway, he comes home and says something like…”Hey C#@t we are going to see Ewen Gilmour’s show tomorrow night, and because you were born and schooled in Huntly, you’ll get the humour and can write the review.”

And that’s the rub, he says it in such a way that at face value it sounds reasonable and logical, yet really it’s like the Emperor has no clothes and no one is going to pull him up about the way he makes vacuous authoritive statements.

Now. For all of the two readers of this ‘My Space page’, the show was held at the San Francisco Bathhouse in Cuba Street Wellington. It’s exactly like the comedy club in Auckland, but a little bit shit.

We grab our seats. Here’s the funny part. I had to pull David from sitting up the front. He said why?

Now, I know, everyone else in New Zealand is in on the joke, but it pained me not to break his little heart and I held back from saying to him…”Mate, a little short four eyed, bald, David Bain look-alike winner will be the first person to be picked on by a comedian in the front row.”

Instead, like the rest of us who cover for Dave, I said….”Mate, if we sit back, we can check out the talent!”  I really should be a Spin Doctor. He bought it, and it saved me the embarrassment of being picked on by Ewen as the red-headed Huntly kid with the mini-me best friend.

Ok, so we settle in and its Bogan central – no one from the beltway is to be seen.

“Dave, want a beer?” I’m thinking as in Rome do as the Patricians do and let’s just fit in. “Nah, grab me a Diet coke”. I gave up providing Dave with any spatial awareness and head to the bar.  

Ewen then comes on stage, and it’s the first time I’ve seen him do comedy. And to be honest, I normally think NZ comedians are crap. But he is a genuinely funny guy. Sure there was plenty of toilet humour, and a few groans, I can’t believe he went there. However there was plenty of downright burst out loud laughing as he pokes at his mid-life crisis.

As for the show, he show covered the whole range of taboos not normally heard in polite Wellington Society. As the blurb says: Tattoos; motorbikes; beer; fast cars; overseas trips; beer; cholesterol; hearing aids; beer; glasses; prostate checks.

So, you can’t complain that you didn’t know what you were up for.

In particular Ewan’s take on his extra curricula activities in hotel rooms was side splitting funny. His dog with ‘that weeping gland’ problem was right down there with cringe, but delivered in the funniest way that even Chris Finlayson would have to admire the comedic artist at work.

Of course he picked on the two guys in the front row. Predictably an IT nerd and some something or othererer (sic) –I sat there smugly thinking how the innocent next to me had no idea what I had saved him from.

Then there were a couple of awkward…do I laugh or not moments. One was about his wife’s death a few years ago. The other was about blow-jobs. I won’t go into repeating what he said, but the sad moment was having to explain to my 45 year old flatmate what a blowjob is. No Kiwiblog Ladies, I’m not an idiot. I didn’t tell him what it really is, I told him it was what hairdressers do to dry ladies hair in the Hair salon.

Could you imagine David with that piece of information at his little fingertips. It would be like Winston finding out Russell Norman is an Immigrant.

The show lasted about an hour, and as I said, it was everything one would expect of from Ewen

And as Kiwiblog’s resident comedic reviewer. I give the show 2 Michelin Stars. Well worth the detour and a fun way to avoid a night at home.

Ewen’s in Wellington tiil the 11th of May at San Francisco Bathhouse

http://www.ewengilmour.com/gigs/

DPF: The show was hilarious. Laughing almost non-stop. I will never ever stay in a hotel room again, that Ewen Gilmour has been near! Note also that my flatmate lies and has invented most of the above conversations!

One of the Kiwiblog readers who won free tickets e-mailed me this morning and said:

Thanks heaps for the tickets would have liked to thank you in person but I had to get my wife home, she had surgery a few weeks ago and laughed so hard she was a bit sore!

Even without surgery, you could hurt yourself laughing.

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Date Weekend with a BMW 320i

April 15th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

By David’s Flatmate

People ask me where are you living these days. Well, due to Heidi Klum not returning any of my many emails, txt’s or skype calls I’ve ended up with David Farrar as my flatmate. Shoot for the ground and you can’t miss I say.

Now, evidently he has a little known/read blog which I think is called “Kiwioil Meathead Captured Cooked”…I’m not too sure as I tend to engross myself in the IRD’s Blog titled “How much do I owe in Child-support to my numerous ex -wives”.

Anyway, I digress. So David’s my flatmate, and flatting with him is like living with a born again Richard Simmons. I’ve known him for well over 20 years and seeing him turn into a Health food zealot often borders on Monty Python-esque humour.

In fact, a typical evening’s conversation from David goes along the lines of….”Hey did you know I ran 673 kms at the Gym, came home, devoured a brussel-sprout and am thinking now I’m thin and skinny I’ll get married”.

Too funny right! I know, but pretend I’m laughing at Southpark which is the only television programme we watch…..he’s none the wiser…… poor man.

So, last Friday night he actually surprised me, I was expecting the normal… “G’day, today I ran 49 billion kms, ate a single uncooked grain of brown rice and am thinking of walking to Antarctica this weekend”…Instead he said “Come look at this I need you to write up a Car Report for me…..BMW have given me this white car and you know a bit about cars, so take it for a drive and write the report.

I said…. “Dave, I’m a good looking guy, I’m single and it’s Friday night…I have options”……He pointed out that I’m an Orang-utan with many ex-wives and that a white BMW was about as lucky as I was going to get on any night.

So, like the cool young hip things we are, we jumped into the latest BMW 320i and went Friday night cruising in Wellington.

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Dave’s driving, and it seems an opportune time to begin the review.

Ok, so this is where we review of the bad stuff first. Like any good motoring journalist you have to put the ‘boot’ (cleverly hidden car pun right there) in somewhere. And as we are both nowhere near ever becoming motoring journalists I think it’s best to get the negatives out the way first.

The first major drawback of the car is that it’s a 320i. And this was compounded by the fact that it had the 320i badge on the back. Sure, it’s true, Dave and I have no shame, but seriously Mr BMW person, you could have saved our dignity and given us something with a big donkey in it. The one saving grace is that it has tinted windows, so we didn’t lose our cool.

Then there is the English lady who was on the Sat Nav. It was like listening to my English mother…she kept mispronouncing Wellington Place Names. So that was worth a laugh. However I don’t blame BMW about that, because after all this really is a Remuera car, and I’m sure the English voice settings are perfect in its natural environment……probably something like…..“Benson Road Cafe, 20 metres, and you have reached your gorgeous trophy wife”. I sooooo miss Auckland.

The next major drawback was that the stereo immediately picked up David’s iPhone song list……. Turn on the car and being accosted by Sonny and Cher’s – You got me Babe was a low moment. BMW, there are apps to jam both Sonny and Cher and the Carpenters.

It gets worse…..seriously.

So Dave’s driving the car right, and he’s trying to sound like he knows what he is talking about.

This is a verbatim record of his observations about BMW’s most popular car; “Fuck, it’s got bright indicators”. “The Brakes work”. “It turns tight“. “It goes fast”. “I like this car”.

So, those were the low points of the drive.

Now for the good bits of the 320i. We know Mr BMW is hanging on our every word so as to use one of our quotes in their next NBR advert.

I take over the driving from David. NB: I will declare my interest in BMW’s…I love them, having owned three in the past.

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This 320i really is a great car to drive. I it just feels at home on the road and nothing phased it at all. We didn’t even bother looking at the instruction manual – mainly because we know that Whale’s a big follower of this blog and would take our man cards off us if we even knew where the instruction manual was.

On the Sunday, we headed off to Petone foreshore to kayak over to Soames Island. However, we get there and it’s cutting up rough…southerly, rain, freezing…a typical Wellington summer day…and we were trash talking how we will make it to the Island.

In between the trash talking I was playing with the entertainment system, audio and sat nav etc. It is easy to use and very intuitive! We even changed the clock settings due to Daylight savings giving me an extra hour in bed. So, all the crap that Jeremy Clarkson goes on about not being able to work BMW’s thingamabob icontrol button system, seems to be nothing more than that of a man clinging tightly to his iPhone 4s and not embracing new technology.

Ok, so it’s blowing a Southerly, the trash talk is getting up there, then Mr Kayak man turns up.

We get out of the snug Beeeemer and are ready to go!

“Ah…sorry, it’s too rough for you to go out there”. Said the Kayak delivery man. Farrar sold out and was back in the car ready to go home. I pushed a little harder and explored the options. The response from the kayak man was soul destroying and a salutatory lesson in listening to the experts…..”Listen, I would go out there but I’m a pro, you aren’t and I kinda like my kayaks”.

So, back into the car and off to Days Bay in Eastbourne in atrocious weather.

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Driving round to Eastbourne in a Southerly is a real test of any driver’s mettle, the car feels solid on the road, and the pounding rain doesn’t phase the car.

After a quick café stop, where David said to the waitress…”Hold the ice, I don’t eat solids” …seriously, I don’t make this stuff up….. we went off driving.

And the driving part is actually fun in this car. The 320i doesn’t feel like its underpowered or lacking in get up and go -I was genuinely surprised. We headed up into the twisting hills of Khannndaaalaaaah….as our Sat Nav woman pronounced it and this car just felt a delight to drive.

Another thing, when driving was that everything felt familiar in the car. As I said, I’ve owned 3 BMW’s and when I jumped in it seemed so easy to know where things are. So anyone who has owned a BMW in the past will quite happily feel at ease in this cockpit. Can I say cockpit? Oh, yeah I can, because I’m not a real journalist and this is a little read blog.

Now, I know that all 2 readers of this blog want to know the more ‘grunty’ stuff about the car…or techy bits. So, for all you detail nerds out there, here are some of the more technical aspects:

  • Engine stuff…have no idea, we didn’t bother lifting the bonnet, but it goes well and sounds quiet.
  • Fuel consumption was care of BMW’s fuel card, so it was fucking fantastic!
  • Co2 emissions ….not sure as we never ever looked in the rear-view mirror.
  • The boot looks like a boot. Dark, uninteresting and no doubt can hold 400 litres of whatever they measure boot space with.
  • Full or space saver spare tyre? LOL, like who cares.  The last time I got a flat tyre was when I was rally driving dad’s Mark 5 Ford Cortina Sport on Waikato Roads.
  • Reverse camera with guidelines and even radar……shows just how close you really are.
  • Lots of leg room behind David when he’s driving.
  • And of course the most important thing that us motoring journalists focus on “Is the car value for money”. I’m of the opinion that if you can afford this car brand-new, then you have a sound grasp of the value of money.

So, Mr BMW, thank you for lending us the latest BMW 320i to test drive.

And judging from the feedback, all 2 out of 2 Kiwioil Blog readers agree this is a great car.

Anyone who wants to read more about the 320i, and I have no idea why, because I’ve said it all and more…here is the link to the official website:

http://www.bmw.co.nz/com/en/newvehicles/3series/sedan/2011/showroom/introduction.html

No doubt will be full of boring advertising speak like…”So you’ve finally made it, why not go the extra step and really finally make it by driving a BMW, you deserve the best, no seriously you do, because you have finally made it…now punch the air”.

So that’s the review, and while having to hand back a cool car, I begin to doubt myself and think I haven’t finally made it, but my melancholy is rapidly replaced as I walk back into the flat and see the child-like delight on David’s face as he beams proudly;

“Hey, did you know that each individual pea is less than a calorie?”

I think how can life not be great!

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Tribes

April 8th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

When a play gets the half time interval, and you are annoyed that there is a break, its a good sign that the play has managed to grip your attention and you want to see how it ends.

Circa’s production of Tribes was excellent. A great mix of tension, humour, light and sound.  Thoroughly enjoyed it.

The set is a typical living room, with a large screen behind it. The screen is an essential part of the show, where the sign language is translated, and very amusingly sometimes the private thoughts of the cast also.

The play by Nina Raine, originated in London, and has won three major international awards.

The cast is primarily a family of five, all creative. Father Christopher is an academic critic who critiques everything from his children’s boyfriends and girlfriends to the deaf community and Northerners. His long suffering wife Beth is writing a a book that was originally about a marriage breakdown but hilariously also includes a murder mystery now.

The kids are all in their 20s. Daniel and Ruth have both moved back home, and ignore their father’s entreaties to “fuck off” and get real jobs. She is an wannabee opera singer and he is writing a thesis on language. Daniel has some psych issues (his father blames on pot) and hears accusatory voices all the time. He used to have a stutter, and it returns when his brother Billy moves out.

To a degree the show is about Billy. He was born deaf. His siblings are very protective of him. His father has been determined not to let his disability define him and he has learnt to lip read par excellence, rather than use sign language.

The family is charming and engaging in their mild dysfunctionality, and then things get interesting when Billy meets Sylvia. She can do fluent sign language as her parents are deaf. She was not born deaf, but is losing her hearing and becoming deaf.

Now don’t think this is some sort of woe are the deaf, how miserable their lives are play.  It is a play about tribes – the family tribe and the deaf community.

Father Christopher is very sceptical of Sylvia and asks her at one point about the “deaf community”. She replies that it is very hierarchical with people judging you on whether or not you were born deaf, or became deaf, if you can sign or lip or both, etc etc. She also  comments “Plus of course, we’ve all slept with each other” which rarks the family up as Billy has never had a girlfriend.

Jeffery Thomas is excellent as Christoper, Billy’s father. He provokes and frustrates, and provides much humour. Nathan Mesiter also was very good as Billy’ brother. He is both smart and suave and stammering and lacking self-confidence.

The play is 140 minutes long, with a break. As I said at the beginning I found it got me interested from the first scene, and never let go. There are so many tensions that you want to find out where it all leads. There are no saints in this play, just a mosaic of flawed but loving family.

A lot of humour keeps you engaged also. The thoughts on the screen. The asking Sylvia to sign a translation of “Fucking her was like making love to a concrete mixer” was memorable.

When a local theatre takes on an award winning international play, the worry is that they will not do justice to the original. But the production team and cast have shown this is not the case – it was a great play, and well worth seeing.

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Eternity The Film

March 28th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I went to the Wellington premiere of Eternity, at The Paramount last night.

Eternity is a New Zealand made film by local filmmaker Alex Galvin. It was filmed in New Zealand and Hong Kong. In fact one scene I recognised as being in Hobson Street opposite my apartment, and Old St Pauls and the Wellington Town Hall are also featured. Oh yes the Parliamentary Library also.

The film starts with a gripping interrogation scene and turns into a murder mystery with a twist. The police detective is in a virtual world which has been infected with a virus and has to solve the mystery before the system reboots and the day starts all over again. 

He has to work out not just who did it, but how it was done – which is much harder. He can access two virtual assistants – Helpdesk and Sherlock – but Sherlock is a once only assistance.

The film is around 90 minutes and it absolutely succeeds in grabbing you, and keeping your attention as you want to discover who dun it (my guess was wrong), why, and how.

The special effects are well done, and I loved the music. Also the personal assistant was hilarious (you’ll work out why).

My one criticism is that I didn’t find the lead character was someone you developed an emotional attachment to. You want your lead character to be someone you are rooting for, or against, and that you feel emotionally charged at what may happen to them. I never quite felt it with Detective Manning. That may be deliberate – that the focus was on solving the mystery, more than whether Manning would be reunited with his family or not.

A great little movie which would have done a modern day Agatha Christie proud.

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Mike and Virginia

March 24th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Mike and Virginia opened at Circa on Saturday night, and it was 100 minutes of almost non stop laughs.

It is billed as a romantic comedy about romantic comedies. The lead characters of Mike and Virginia are both lecturers in film studies and the audience at times are their class. Virginia is the ice queen who tells you how romantic comedies always have an incompatible couple (due to personality, background etc) who implausibly overcome all barriers to show love conquers all, even though it doesn’t.

Mike is the popular wise cracking Kiwi bloke, who is a published author as well as a lecturer. Of course Virginia hates him, and vice-versa and of course they form the focus of their own romantic comedy.

There is some audience interaction, which was also comic. Mike has a thesis that all films have a monster. He goes through various films such as Shawshank Redemption and asks who the monster is. He then gets to Love Actually and asks the audience who is the monster in that film. The woman behind me yells out “the writer” and we’re all in hysterics.

There were five actors making up the cast, and while in some plays there are one or two stand outs, I thought in this play all five nailed their characters.

Gentiana Lupi (you may have seen her in Eagle vs Shark) was the icy Virginia. Her character started slightly one-dimensional but as the play progressed you saw her sense of humour and playfulness.

Will Hall (Kip from Shortland Street) was perfect for laid back wise cracking Kiwi bloke Mike.

Jennifer Martin was hilarious as the young and beautiful but rather clueless student poet who falls madly in love with, well I won’t give the plot away. But you’ll love her performance.

Stephen Papps and Perry Piercey play the respective best friends of Mike and Virginia – their characters are Harry and Sally!

Papps’ Harry shares his nuggets of wisdom in a very droll fashion and generates aughs a plenty. He just fits the role of down to earth tradesman so well.

Piercey’s Sally is an actor, and gets possibly the best lines of the play. I won’t give too many plot details away but one part of it is how they are meant to be just friends with benefits but Virginia freaks out when Mike holds her hand at one point. She heads home alone complaining to Sally that Mike is getting too intimate. Sally responds with “You’ve had his dick in your mouth with no problems, and you’re complaining that he held your hand!” – classic.

The music and sound effects were done incredibly well, adding to many a dramatic moment with comic effect.

Mike and Virginia was hilariously good fun. Is on until 20 April, and well worth seeing.

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Talking of Katherine Mansfield

March 10th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve lived in Thorndon for around 20 years, and in the area of Thorndon that is within 100 metres of so of the Katherine Mansfield birthplace. Despite that I only visited her birthplace for the first time a few weeks ago.

I never studied Mansfield at school, and don’t actually know her story and her works as well as many New Zealanders. So the Circa show Talking of Katherine Mansfield seemed a good opportunity to get to know her better.

The 80 minute show is by Catherine Downes, who is a Mansfield expert. She’s been playing her for over 30 years. The play is a mixture of Catherine talking about Mansfield’s life and reading out some of her writings.

I found it a bit slow to engage initially, but perked up with the recital of Leves Amores and the references to The Thistle Hotel in Thorndon. And from there we learnt of her outraged father who was happy to have her go back to London after she published such scandalous (for the times) prose.

You learn about her relationships and influence on so many other leading literary figures such as D H Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and of course John Middleton Murry. Murry is not the most sympathetic of figures as you heard about how he would write to Mansfield complaining how hard her dying was on him!

This isn’t a play for everyone, but if you are a fan of Mansfield or just wanting to know about her, it’s a pleasant introduction to her work. Downes has a real passion for Mansfield’s work and she doesn’t just act off a script but engaged the audience in her recital of Mansfield’s life and works. I suspect every night the show is slightly different.

The lighting in the show is worth a mention. The final scene where Katherine dies is done beautifully and to powerful effect as her face fades from view.

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Beep Test*

March 4th, 2013 at 10:43 pm by David Farrar

I was sitting at home waiting for poll data to come in and my computer reminded me I was due at Beep Test* in half an hour. I thought to myself “What the hell is Beep Test*” and then remembered it is a Fringe Festival production I had been invited to attend and review.

So I quickly headed down to the Thistle Hall on Cuba Street and entered the hall. The first thing I noticed is that (apart from John Smythe) I was possibly the oldest person there. This is quite different to many theatre outings when I am almost the youngest :-)

As I sat down I couldn’t work out who and what was or was not part of the show. There were drinks for sale, and also people making sandwiches next to them. Were the sandwiches for sale also or part of the show? (was the latter) There were a group of people doing exercise warm ups. Were they actors or audience or both?

So I sat down reasonably confused, and having no idea of what it would all mean.

At the end of the night, I’m not sure I was any wiser about what it all meant, but I did enjoy a cool night of frenetic fun. It was classic fringe festival where you are equal parts amused and bemused.

If you spend too much time trying to work out why she is wearing a gold cocktail dress on top of her gym gear, you’ll go mad. You just enjoy that she is, and somehow it works.

Normally in a review I’d give an outline of the production, but I don’t want to give too much away as the fun is in finding out what happens next. But a few details.

The main event so to speak is seeing the two actors (Simon Haren and Isobel MacKinnon from Binge Culture) run from end to end of the hall as the robotic voice tells them to. The pace gets faster and faster and you get quite enthralled at seeing how long they can last. But it isn’t just them, audience members are encouraged to take part also and around 20 start off doing it. And they don’t just run – they bounce off the walls, they do high fives, and more.

That wasn’t the only audience participation (the whole show is about audience participation). One unlucky soul gets picked to go up onto the sofa for a multi-choice interview, again against an ever quicker count down. I was unfortunately the chosen one in this case and had to answer a dozen questions such as whether at school I was popular, weird or other (I said all of the above). Then as the clock runs out, the two hosts end up leading the audience in dancing and somehow Isobel and myself spend a couple of minutes doing a Tom Cruise impression holding hands and jumping up and down on the interview couch in best Oprah style. Very hilarious and surreal. Luckily for the couch this production wasn’t a year ago :-)

There’s other fun segments also such as the maths tests and the stand up comic routines. The whole show lasts an hour, and was an excellent way to live up an otherwise boring weeknight.

Not everyone is into fringe humour, but if you are this is a great fun show to go along to.

I enjoyed it so much, I am almost considering going back on Thursday. Not so much to see the show again, but because I regret not taking part in the running segment. I reckon I could have lasted until the final few. Mind you they were saying that one of the guests at a future show is a marathon runner so best you don’t try to keep up with him!

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Django Unchained

February 21st, 2013 at 6:10 pm by David Farrar

Went to see Django Unchained at the Empire Theatre in Island Bay. A great little theatre, which was well patronised. A nice place to see a movie, and then dinner afterwards at Original Thai just down the road.

Anyway – to the movie.

It is classic Quentin Tarantino. The corny music, the oversized text, the blood and splatter, the lethal protagonist.

If you liked Kill Bill, you’ll like Django Unchained.

Jamie Foxx stars as Django, but my favourite character was Dr King Schulz played by Christoph Walz. An elderly softly spoken German who surprises often.

Leonardo DiCaprio excels as a charming but nasty slave owner. And Samuel L Jackson is unrecognisable as the “house nigger” who hates Django.

There are heaps of scenes where you will laugh out loud, and a large number of great gun battles.

It is a wonderful spaghetti western. Highly recommended if you like Tarantino’s work.

My only complaint was no strong female character.

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This graphic from Vanity Fear shows the death toll and method for each film.

 

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Kings of the Gym

January 20th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Kings of the Gym had its premiere at Circa last night. It was fabulous fun, with some stand out acting.

The play is set at decile 2 Hautapu High School, and pokes lots of fun at education bureaucracy, political correctness, Destiny Church and even Novopay gets the odd mention! The set was very authentic, with even the fluorescent tube lights in the office reminding you of your own school days.

Ginette McDonald plays Viv Cleaver, the school principal. The principal, referred to as Cleavage by the PE HOD Laurie, is a politically correct bureaucrat who is obsessed with improving the NCEA grades and making sure her friends in the education bureaucracy think highly of her. It is a tribute to McDonald’s skills that she doesn’t just make Cleaver a caricature – but actually turns a pretty unsympathetic character sympathetic.

McDonald has some comic gold lines, and is just superb.

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Paul McLaughlin portrays his character perfectly.  Laurie drives Cleaver mad. He mocks the curriculum and files it in the bin. He states how the PE curriculum mentions well-being 73 times, and winning just once – to stress it is not important. His idea of a class is to play soccer. He’ll often delegate the ref to someone else so he can watch TV and bet on the TAB.

But Laurie is a likeable rogue, and his kids all love him. In fact one of them has become the 2nd teacher in the department, and has seemingly thrown away any ambition and his degree, to be a mini-Laurie. That is Pat, played by Richard Dey. The chemistry between Dey and McLaughlin helps make the play so excellent. The looks they give each other, the hassling, and especially Laurie’s expression when he finds out the girl Pat likes is already engaged. Many comic moments.

You never see the kids on the stage, but they are used to humanise the characters. Cleaver and Annie are horrified that the Vietnamese student is called “Chopsticks” by Laurie, despite he fact that is the name he prefers. He is so good at soccer he is told he must play left footed. Laurie also tells the kids they must have at least three girls on each team, otherwise the boys will win. Hilarious, harsh judgement calls.

But Dougal is the student you hear most about. If he scores a goal, it is worth five points as Dougal has Downs. At first you think such statements are so insensitive, but you later hear how he helps Laurie after school stack up the gym equipment (even though Laurie can do it quicker by himself) and realise behind the gruff, Laurie is hugely protective of Dougal.

Acushla-Tara Sutton plays Annie, the student teacher. At first she is just an over eager high achiever who insists on goals for every class. She is also a top sportswoman, and on the verge of making the Silver Ferns. But the real tensions comes when it emerges she is a born again Christian, and a member of Destiny Church (they don’t call it Destiny in the play – but it obviously is). The real tensions come when in biology class she refers to there being two schools of thought on where humans came from. She also sets up a church youth group, and has some of the students make purity pledges.

The play isn’t mocking of Christians, or the church. In fact she plays tribute to how they helped her, and the real message of the play is about tolerance.

There are some great one liners such as how pregnancy and STDs are the only two areas where the school over-achieves, and a line by the principal about how if one particular female student abstains for even a week, that will reduce the chlamydia rate. Many laughs through the whole play. The first half was a bit more tense at times, while the second half which had the big plot twist and the eventual happy ending had more of those laugh out loud moments – not the dignified giggles – but the forced laughter as it was so hilarious.

Kings of the Gym was a terrifically funny play which made for a great night’s entertainment. Dave Armstrong has produced a very New Zealand comedy that has near universal appeal.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 2 – First Impressions

January 11th, 2013 at 12:46 pm by speters

 

Recently Telecom were kind enough to send me [note author is Stuart Peters, not DPF] the new Samsung Galaxy Note 2 to play with. These are my first impressions of the device.

The first thing that struck me on opening the box was just how ENORMOUS this phone is – 80.5 x 151.1 x 9.4 mm apparently. I’m not sure if it’s the biggest smartphone on the market but it’s certainly the biggest I’ve ever seen, and dwarfs the iPhone. In fact my immediate thought was that it was far too big, and would be a pain to carry around all day. On this I have been pleasantly surprised – the Note 2 is reasonably slim and light (182.5g), and I haven’t had an issue carrying it in my pocket.

The upside to the size of the phone is the fantastic display. I understand the Note 2 is being marketed as a sort of hybrid device that combines the functionality of a phone and a tablet, and the impressive 5.5-inch (140.9mm) HD Super AMOLED display (the iPhone 5 has a 4-inch display) is key to this. I thought the iPhone was easy to navigate but the extra space that the Note 2 provides makes navigating the device an absolute delight.

I was surprised to find the trim and battery cover are entirely made of glossy plastic, with no metal surfaces. The plastic battery cover feels flimsy and cheap when you remove it (I thought I was going to break it the first time I took it off!), but seems solid enough once attached. While the Note 2 is undoubtedly well-constructed and the phone feels robust in the hand, the full plastic case still feels a bit cheap and nasty for such a high-end phone. The glossy plastic case is also a fingerprint magnet!

This was my first experience with an Android, and the UI was initially a bit daunting. The Note 2 runs a modified Samsung-specific version of Jellybean, the latest (I think) Android OS. I can’t comment on how the OS compares to other Android systems but it certainly doesn’t hold your hand quite as much as Apple’s iOS does! On turning on the phone I was immediately presented with the option to pick “Basic Mode” or “Easy Mode”, without much explanation as to what each offered. I initially went with Easy Mode, which I later realised automatically populates your home screens with what it thinks you will want access to. I switched to Basic Mode fairly quickly and found that much more useful.

Actually manipulating the device is brilliant, the touchscreen is highly responsive and everything happens smoothly and fluidly. Having used Androids belonging to friends to send texts and the like, I’ve always found them highly frustrating to manipulate compared to iOS. The Note 2 is the first Android that seems to match Apple for smooth navigation, and might even better it.

I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen of the Note 2 so far, and will be posting further thoughts on the device once I’ve had more time to play with it.

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The Life of Pi

December 21st, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Russell Baillie at NZ Herald reports:

As he sat on a wharf bollard to have his photo taken, Ang Lee eyed the Waitemata below with a slight grin.

Maybe it was because the Oscar-winning director, who was in Auckland yesterday, has spent a good deal of the past few years at sea – or in a giant wave tank replicating it – as he filmed Life of Pi.

The movie is a spectacular 3D adaptation of the supposedly unfilmable Yann Martell bestseller which tells of the adventures of a teenage Indian castaway sharing a lifeboat with a tiger named Richard Parker.

The film is great. I saw it a couple of weeks ago at a fundraiser for the Wellington branch of the Sensible Sentencing Trust along with around 150 others.

The reservation many had over the film, was that you will know from the beginning that Richard Parker is a tiger.  But that does not detract from the film.

The animal shots are incredible in 3D. Richard Parker looks magnificent, but everything does. The storm is amazing, the lost island beautiful and the other animals almost human like. The only issue was that the 3D was not done correctly in the first two minutes, and most of the audience were taking their glasses off and on trying to work out what was happening. May have been an issue on that copy only, but anyway was all okay after a couple of minutes.

Definitely a great film to see. Despite the fact you know how it ends if you have read the book, there are some nerve racking scenes on the life boat.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

December 15th, 2012 at 9:39 pm by David Farrar

Just got back from seeing Part I of The Hobbit films.

The 48 rate frame speed is quite incredible, especially combined with 3D. It definitely does take around 10 minutes to get used to it, and the early scenes with the dwarves seem almost unreal and you wonder if it is CGI. But then when you get some NZ scenic shots, you realise how amazing it is.

The movie starts with a history of the dwarf kingdom under The Mountain and the coming of Smaug. You never see Smaug, just his tail and devastation.  His full glory will be in Part II. The scenes of Erebor in its glory are amazing.

The Bag End scene is very faithful to the book, and a lot of fun. It did drag on a few minutes longer than necessary in my view, but overall the movie was well paced for what it got through in 140 minutes.

The troll scene was quite comic, and in fact there were many laughs during the movie – tinged with a bit of darkness.

The wargs were absolutely terrifying, and Jackson’s battle scenes remain unsurpassed.

Radagast the Brown was generally okay and funny, but I can see how one reviewer said he had a tinge of Jar Jar Binks about him. But they pulled him back just in time. His rabbit powered sleigh was absolute genius though. Radagast plays a key role in uncovering the growing evil at Dol Goldur, which will be a major aspect of Part III I am sure.

The dwarves are difficult to distinguish at times, despite their physical differences. The best guide to their different personalities is actually in the Air NZ monthly magazine.

Saruman and Galadriel play minor roles which add little, but help set up Part III also. Azog makes a great baddy, and you see how Thorin got the name Oakenshield.

The highlights are the scenes in the Misty Mountains. Great battle and running scenes. Barry Humphries excels as the Great Goblin and Andy Serkis captures Golum in all his complexity. I especially like it where Bilbo spares Gollum’s life, as this is so significant later on.

Seven of us viewed it, and everyone loved it. Can’t wait for Part II which will have a lot of action also – Beorn, Wood Elves, Giant Spiders, Bard and Smaug.

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Te Papa Game Makers Exhibition

December 14th, 2012 at 8:18 pm by David Farrar

Sometimes being pseudo-media has its perks, and today was one of them. I got invited to a media preview of the Game Makers exhibition opening at Te Papa tomorrow.

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I got the high score (to date) on Missile Command. The photo isn’t great quality but in person the old arcade games are in great condition, and playing them all again was like being back in the 1970s!

The Te Papa website will be showing high scores for the various games, so people can beat their mates.

But this isn’t just a large spacies parlour. They are full of info on the actual creators of the games. We may all know a game is Atari, or Nintendo – but what do we know of the individuals who created them. Their games are a form of art, which has impacted our culture a lot.

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More memories.

IMG_0823This dance game will do doubt prove very popular.

But again it is more than just a collections of games. Don’t get me wrong, heaps will flock there for the ability to play old favourite ganmes for hours on end for just a $16 admittance fee. But there’s a lot of fascinating history on the games and their makers also.

Note if you are planning a long session, they have no toilets in the exhibition, or food and drink, so make sure you are well fed, and emptied, before you go in. The doors open at 10 am.

IMG_0828The exhibition space is pretty  large, so hopefully won’t get too cramped.

It brought back so many memories for me. The playing of spacies at the fish and chip shop while waiting for our orders. Then as we got older, the parlous in town.

And you know what, playing on the PC or an isomething isn’t the same as those old classic arcade games. The big screens. The simple icons. The graphics on their walls.

A great exhibition for young and those no longer so young!

 

 

 

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A Christmas Carol

December 12th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I suspect while almost all of us know the basic themes of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, few of us have actually read the novella. What we know is the change in Ebenezer Scrooge after being visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

It has been made into no less than 28 films, at least 36 different stage productions and the story is deeply embedded into English and American culture.

The production I saw at Circa last night was different to many, as it was a one man show, with Ray Henwood narrating the book and playing all characters. Henwood not only looks the part, but sounds it also.

Most will know Henwood from his role in the fabulous Gliding On series. Henwood is also one of the founders of Circa.

There is no ad libbing in this play. Every word of dialogue is from the original novella. For someone who has never read the book, I found it deeply satisfying. Henwood has a gravitas that was made for the production and was supported by a simple yet effective script, some wonderful period costumes and sympathetic lighting.

The play is not just a reading. Henwood gyrates between narrating the story at the lectern, and acting the roles across the stage.

If you’re never read the full story of A Christmas Carol, this is a great chance to have it performed in front of you over a couple of hours. It is on until 22 December.

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The ImpoSTAR

December 7th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

When I saw Jason Chasland perform with the Beat Girls at Circa, I blogged:

So how do you beat the Beat Girls? Simple – you add in Jason (Jay) Chasland.

Chasland was a rock and roll star.  At first glance you might think he is an unlikely star being not very tall and slightly chubby. But my God he was a great performer. He sang and crooned the songs marvelously, and had a real charisma and presence about him. His Ray Charles parody was side sidesplittingly funny. Chasland alone would be worth going to see.

I got my wish. For 75 minutes last night at Bats Theatre Chasland did a solo show that was terrific.

Chasland has incredible vocal ability. He can sing in the style of pretty much everyone – from Elvis to Julie Andrews to Lady Gaga to Johnny Cash. We saw and heard all those and dozens more last night.

Not only does he sing as them, but he mimics them so well. His facial expressions are priceless, and he dives in and out of his six suitcases on stage to grabs wigs and clothes galore.

The audience was in near non stop laughter and applause, and as the end of the show he got a rare standing ovation. It really is a great show, and a fun night’s entertainment for almost anyone. He performs until 15 December.

While Chasland is the star and solo performer, I must mention also the excellent use of lighting, props and dry ice to create an excellent environment. The show came together so well.

Especially loved the Barbra Streisand act, as he came out in darkness, and at first all you could see was her nose as he started to sing.

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