Archive | July, 2013

Poh’s Kitchen: On the Road

22 Jul

pohkitchen_road Welcome to the decade of food worship! With the celebrity chefs storming our TV screens and the sexification of food production, the ability to wield a ladle has taken on an almost God-like status. Amid all the breathless hype and name-dropping, Malaysian-born artist-turned-chef Poh Ling Yeow emerges as refreshing as sorbet.

In this entertaining and educational series, MasterChef Australia alumna Poh hits the road to mix with chefs, foodies and farmers in fabulous locations around Australia and overseas.

Poh’s adventures include an expedition with an abalone diver in South Australia, cooking with beer in the Australian Alps, learning how to bake sourdough with an artisan baker in Tasmania, and exploring the thrilling food scenes in Singapore and Thailand.

pohkitchen_road_picPoh whips up a dizzying array of dishes in this series, but don’t worry, her recipes can be perused at leisure on her website, along with tips and techniques.

What makes Poh’s Kitchen so enjoyable to watch is her natural exuberance and zeal for cooking, and her willingness to try anything; whether she’s jumping on a horse in Western Australia’s remote East Kimberley or swallowing a Coffin Bay oyster fresh out of the ocean, she does it with her trademark wide grin.

Fresh and fun, this series is highly recommended for foodies and amateur cooks keen to dive into new things.

Twentysomething – Series 1

22 Jul

twentysomething Jess (Jess Harris) and Josh (Josh Schmidt) are best mates in their 20s living a crazy life together in Melbourne. While their friends are busy studying, climbing the corporate ladder and settling down to have kids, Jess and Josh only live to party.

After the pair are kicked out of their sharehouse they embark on a series of harebrained schemes to try to stay afloat – including taking backpackers on “alternative” tours of Melbourne, running an erotic house-cleaning service and finding lost dogs for reward money.

Shy Josh is occasionally reluctant to throw himself behind Jess’s kooky plans, but her sheer force of personality drags him into the most ludicrous of situations, with occasional help from ditzy friend Abby (Leah de Niese, Offspring).

twentysomething_picThere’s a lot to like about Jess and Josh – Josh’s sweet humility is the perfect foil to Jess’s brash vivacity. Hamish Blake is adorably scruffy as Jess’s old flame Billy, who returns from a trip abroad to try to woo her back. Simon Russell is spot on as Josh’s snobbish older brother Nick, who pesters Josh to get a “proper” job and invest in property.

While Jess and Josh portray unreliable kids to whom the idea of commitment is anathema, in real life, this series grew out of years of dedication and hard work to bring their ideas to fruition. Written by Jess Harris, the series began as a low-budget, one-cameraman affair on Channel 31. Luckily the ABC, as it has done before with shows such as The Marngrook Footy Show, recognised the pair’s talent and invited them to remake the show with a bigger budget.

The DVD extras reveal that the bond between Jess and Josh is real: the pair have been friends since they were 14, while Jess picked Hamish Blake for the role of Billy as they are also good mates. Extras also feature deleted scenes, a drinking game and a peek at the original Channel 31 version.

With sparkling dialogue and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, this six-part series reflects a universal phenomenon that any young person who has ever dreaded the question, “What are you doing with your life?”, can relate to.

M, ABC, 198 mins

Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides

22 Jul

pirates_stranger The fourth chapter of this swashbuckling franchise opens with cannon blazing as the protagonists set sail for the Fountain of Youth.  

While the story is loosely based on a 1987 historical fantasy novel by Tim Powers, like its predecessors, the plot takes a back seat to Johnny Depp’s strutting eccentricity, tropical backdrops and comically choreographed swordfighting scenes. Jack Sparrow (Depp) is ordered by King George (Richard Griffiths) to guide a ship helmed by Jack’s old enemy, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to seize the Fountain of Youth before their archrivals, the Spanish. Jack dexterously escapes his duties, but winds up kidnapped by jilted ex-lover Angelica (Penelope Cruz), daughter of Captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane) who forces Jack on board Blackbeard’s supernaturally evil vessel, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, to help them find the fountain.

The competing parties discover that their quest is not that simple – first they have to find two silver chalices on a dead Spanish explorer’s ship, get hold of a mermaid and extract a tear from her, so that when both chalices are filled with magic fountain water, the person who drinks the chalice containing a mermaid’s tear will obtain the life of the other drinker. Complicated, yes, but it does give us an excuse to go mermaid hunting, in a frankly hilarious scene in which the siren-like temptresses (led by Australian Gemma Ward) lure the sailors into a lovesick trance, before erupting in a frenzied cross between sharks and supermodels. When a beautiful, less homicidal mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) is netted, it is a race to the finish line amid a whole lot of swordplay, double-crossing and pauses for pirate puns.

As always, Johnny Depp oozes charisma, and the feisty Penelope Cruz is a welcome replacement for the aloof former Pirates heroine Keira Knightley, and the chemistry and badinage with Jack is far more convincing and fun to watch. Pirates regular Orlando Bloom is also absent, but the presence of superbly sardonic McShane (Deadwood) more than fills the void. Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), this adventure romp is as thrilling and frothy as the theme park ride that inspired the series.

M, 2011, Disney, 136 mins

QI – Complete series 1-3

22 Jul

Image What Caravaggio did on a tennis court? What would you do with a pencil and a lesser anteater? If you just can’t get enough of this zany quiz show hosted by the absurdly intelligent Stephen Fry, this DVD comprising the first three seasons is guaranteed to tantalise the grey matter and tickle the funny bone.

Points are awarded to panellists who give correct or interesting answers, while points are deducted from those who give incorrect or pathetically obvious answers. Which generally means that regular sidekick Alan Davies racks up about minus forty points during each episode, with his impish inability to restrain himself from blurting out the wrong answer, or as Fry describes it: “rushes headlong like a puppy into the wall of ignorance.”

Drawing on some of the world’s most interesting comedians and personalities, the variety of witty panellists who grapple with the tricky questions include Bill Bailey, Hugh Laurie, Rob Brydon, Top Gear‘s Jeremy Clarkson and Australian comedian Julia Morris. Each episode has a theme and while the panellists often embark on rambling tangents, quizmaster Fry always brings the conversation back on topic with a wry remark and a sardonically raised eyebrow.

The Next Three Days

22 Jul

Image Russell Crowe stars in this action thriller remake about a man who plans to break his wife out of jail. Life is idyllic for John and Lara Brennan (Crowe and Elizabeth Banks) and their young son Luke (Ty Simpkins), until the cops bust through the door one morning and arrest Lara for murdering her boss. Convinced of her innocence, John, a teacher at a community college, dedicates himself to her appeal, until his lawyer (Daniel Stern) tells him the appeal will fail. Lara turns suicidal at this grim news, and John decides to abandon legal action and instead break her out of jail.

Heading to the library, John researches the ins and outs of prisons, and learns some underworld skills from YouTube videos, such as how to make a “bump key” to force locks. While John maps out an elaborate plan to rescue his wife, the stakes are upped when Lara finds she is going to be moved to a high security prison in three days.

What starts out as a desperate but noble plan turns increasingly violent, as, a few scenes later, John emerges bloodied from a drug dealer’s house he has robbed to get funds for their escape. As the body count grows, we begin to wonder whether freeing Lara, whose innocence is never completely proved, is worth all this bloodshed, and whether Rusty should just hook up with sexy schoolmum Nicole (Olivia Wilde) who’s been giving him the eye in the playground.

Written and directed by Paul Haggis, whose impressive credits include the Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby and Crash, as well as slick Bond flick Casino Royale, this torpid remake lacks the adrenaline of the French original, Anything For Her.

While there are a few action-packed sequences, the tension is watered down by repetitive scenes of John visiting a weary Lara in jail, while son Luke peers out impassively from under his Dulux dog haircut. At just over two hours long, this film is more of a prison sentence than the wild ride it tries to be.

A cameo from Liam Neeson as intriguing ex-con Damon Pennington, who gives John some tips on jail-breaking, is all too short. Special features include a video about how to make a “bump key”, in case you too have a loved one you need to break out of jail.

Rated M, 2010, 128 mins, Lionsgate