Newstead Roots Festival

Since November last year, The Triffid has showcased original roots music every Sunday afternoon with live performances in the Beer Garden. So, on the Queen’s Birthday weekend this year, things are going to get a little bit bigger for Triffid Roots with the staging of the inaugural Newstead Roots Festival on Sunday, June 7.

Kicking off at 1:00pm and continuing into the evening, the Newstead Roots Festival will feature local and interstate artists playing in the Live Room as well as acoustic performances in the Beer Garden.

Roots Festival

Artists playing at the Newstead Roots Festival include Andrew Morris, Danni Carr, Starboard Cannons, Karl S. Williams, Sahara Beck, Chocolate Strings, Kingfisha and OKA, with DJ sets from Triple J’s Sarah Howells as well.

As is the case with every Triffid Roots session on a Sunday afternoon, entry to the Newstead Roots Festival is absolutely free! For event information and set times, click here.

Triffid

Of course, Triffid Roots will also be on tomorrow (May 31) as usual and continue each Sunday after the festival. The schedule of upcoming free Sunday sessions is as follows:

May 31 – Shaun Kirk and Marcello Milani

June 7 – Newstead Roots Festival

June 14 – Black Rabbit George and Hannah Rosa

June 21 – Garrett Kato and The Sunburys

June 28 – Glenn Skuthorpe and Luke Daniel Peacock

July 5 – Jason Kerrison and Fieu

July 12 – Chris Tamwoy, CKNU and Black Smoke

July 19 – Little Georgia and Creature Kind

July 26 – Sissybones and Sian Evans

There are also myriad live performances from some of Australia’s best bands and artists scheduled at The Triffid over the next few months, including the likes of The Church, The Whitlams, The Grates, Ash Grunwald, Drapht, Allday and Tim Rogers with The Bamboos. Tickets and information about all upcoming events are available via The Triffid website.

 

West End Film Fest

Fancy a few short films?  Like the idea of hanging out in one of Brisbane’s most cosmopolitan inner-city suburbs? Well, this weekend you can do both at the 2015 West End Film Festival. On Sunday (May 31), the 2015 WEFF will showcase some of Australia’s best short films with a program that includes comedy, drama, documentary and animation.

West End FF

Now in its sixth year, WEFF is one of the few film festivals dedicated to showcasing Australian films, with 19 productions selected by the judges for inclusion in the festival screenings. There will be five $1000 awards presented in different categories, including Best Film.

The space behind the The Rumpus Room bar in Russell Street will be transformed into a pop-up cinema for the two screening sessions, the first of which runs from 5:00pm to 7:30pm. Session two gets underway at 8:00pm and runs until 10:30pm. Click here for the full festival program.

Tickets are $20 per session or $35 for both sessions and can be purchased online through the festival website.

Danny Collins

The chance to see Al Pacino back on the big screen is perhaps the best reason to see Danny Collins, the directorial debut from screenwriter Dan Fogelman. That is not to say the movie is bad per se, but nor is it anything that is likely to resonate after you leave the cinema. It is clichéd, sentimental and predictable, but there is some joy to be found in watching Pacino ham it up as the titular past-his-prime rock star who has a crisis of conscience after being gifted an artefact from his past. It is based very tenuously on a real life circumstance in which British folk singer Steve Tilston discovered a letter written to him by John Lennon some 34 years after the fact. In the film, when the letter from Lennon is presented to Collins as a birthday gift by his manager and best friend Frank (Christopher Plummer), it triggers a crisis of conscience that prompts Danny to make some significant changes in his life in a bid to reconnect with his family and rediscover his talents as a songwriter.

Danny Collins poster

You see, whilst Danny’s early success came courtesy of his own songs, much of his career has been spent rehashing his early work and performing songs written by others. Presenting as a cross between Rod Stewart and Neil Diamond – his biggest hit Hey, Baby Doll sounds remarkably like Diamond’s Sweet Caroline – , Collins has become a nostalgia act whose concert tours draw the same greying groupies who have followed him for decades but continue to fund a decadent lifestyle that includes nightly binges on cocaine and booze and a 20-something fiancé. However, upon receiving the Lennon letter, Danny quits his current tour and decamps to a Hilton Hotel in New Jersey in an effort to write new material and track down Tom (Bobby Cannavale), the son he has never met. Of course, the choice of location seems to be more about churning out those typical movie barbs about the region than anything else, with Frank lamenting on more than one occasion about having to visit New Jersey to see Danny.

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Tom is happily ensconced in suburbia with pregnant wife Samantha (Jennifer Garner) and young daughter Hope (Giselle Eisenberg), who apparently suffers from ADHD but actually seems like a typically boisterous primary schooler. When Danny’s initial overtures are rejected, he sets out to secure redemption with the only tools he has at his disposal; fame and money. Much drama ensues as Tom finds himself torn between his determination to forego his father’s generosity and the needs of his family. Whilst Cannavale is really good as a man who is beaten down and worn out from his efforts to support his family in the face of a potentially fatal illness, Garner finds herself in yet another role of little substance. Danny, meanwhile, between his efforts to ingratiate himself with Tom and write new material, also finds the time to flirt with hotel manager Mary (Annette Bening) in an effort to secure himself a more age-appropriate girlfriend. In fact, the repartee between Bening and Pacino is a lot of fun as she resists his every effort to woo her, despite an obvious attraction to the bonhomie she sees lurking beneath the surface of his more bombastic public persona.

Danny Collins 2

This is definitely not an exploration of the dark underbelly of the music business like the far superior Crazy Heart, and it seems likely that Fogelman was always aiming for a film with much broader appeal given his background as the writer of releases such as Guilt Trip, Last Vegas and Crazy, Stupid Love and Disney fare Tangled, Bolt and the two Cars movies. The role is hardly a challenge for Pacino and, whilst a quality story and script should always be the foundation on which any film is built, Fogelman has assembled a cast that have, to a certain extent, been able to overcome shortcomings in the writing. Yes, we know exactly how it will all pan out, but Pacino is a lot of fun (and looked like he was having a lot of fun) and the likes of Bening, Cannavale and Plummer offer solid support to save Danny Collins from swaying too much towards melodrama.

Brisbane’s Festival Season Begins

With the searing heat of summer having made way for balmy autumn days and winter now looming, Brisbane comes alive with a host of community festivals across the city over the next few months. The annual Paniyiri Greek Festival at South Brisbane gets the festival season underway this weekend, with several other great events to follow, many of which are free. Whilst each festival is unique, food, market stalls and live music are common ingredients. Given the variety of festivals on offer, there really is no excuse to spend your weekends at home. Here is a rundown of some of the major festival events happening across Brisbane in the weeks ahead.

Paniyiri Greek Festival – May 23 and 24

As many as 50 000 people flock to Musgrave Park in South Brisbane each year for the Paniyiri Festival, a celebration of everything Greek. Food, music and dance are the staples of the weekend with a wide range of exhibitors and cooking demonstrations, including appearances by Maddie and Lloyd from My Kitchen Rules.

Paniyiri

George Mason and Bonnie Sveen from Home and Away will be at the festival on both days, along with 7-time World Surfing Champion Layne Beachley and Kirk Pengilly from INXS. There will be a kids zone with face painting and arts/crafts activities on offer and Saturday night will close with a fireworks show.

Queensland’s longest running cultural festival and the largest Australian Greek Festival of its kind, Paniyiri is now in its 38th year. Tickets are $10.00 from QTix, with children admitted free.

Stones Corner Festival – May 31

This year the Stones Corner Festival welcomes a wide variety of Brisbane’s best food trucks offering all manner of culinary delights, including Festival Char Baby, Chip Tease, Fiery Deli, Gourmet H-Dogz, How We Rolls, Juan More Taco, King of the Wings, Little Back & The Doughnut Bar.

Festival goers will also be able to sample craft beers, ciders and wines from over 20 local and national brewers, along with food stalls, market vendors and free children’s activities including a jumping castle and interactive petting zoo.

Stones Corner

Live entertainment gets underway at 12:00pm with musical performances throughout the afternoon. The Andrew Taylor Duo kicks things off at 12.00pm, followed by The Lyrical at 2.30pm and Round Mountain Girls at 5.00pm. Headlining the festival stage this year will GANGajang, the group responsible for some of Australia’s most iconic songs, such as Sounds of Then (This is Australia), House of Cards and Gimme Some Lovin’.

The Stones Corner Festival runs from 10:00am to 9:00pm on Sunday, May 31 and entry is FREE. For more information, click here.

Caxton Street Festival – June 7

Celebrating its 21st year in 2015, the Caxton Street Festival will again take place on the Queens’s Birthday Long Weekend with a literal feast of food, wine and entertainment.

Since launching as a seafood and wine festival, the event has evolved into a much broader celebration and each year features a great live music program on multiple stages. There will be a huge selection and variety of food, wine, craft beers and cocktails served up throughout the festival, which is staged smack bang in the middle of the Caxton Street restaurant and hotel precinct.

Caxton Street

The live music program announced thus far is very impressive with The Beautiful Girls, DZ Deathrays, Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon), Thelma Plum, The Snowdroppers and Hey Geronimo amongst those who will take the stage from 12:00pm and into the evening.

The Caxton Street Festival will be held on Sunday, June 7 with tickets available from Oztix for $29:00 (plus BF).

Teneriffe Festival – July 4

Now in its sixth year, the Teneriffe Festival has quickly grown to become one of Brisbane’s premier community events. The festival celebrates the history and cultural diversity of Tenneriffe and includes more than 100 market stalls along Vernon Terrace and surrounding streets.

Teneriffe

There will also be food stalls, restaurants and pop-up bars galore to satisfy all tastes, along with fashion parades, live music on multiple stages, children’s activities and historical displays that trace the commercial origins of the area.

Held amongst the historic residential and commercial buildings of Teneriffe alongside the Brisbane River with easy access by bus and ferry, the Teneriffe Festival is a free event.

Details about the live music program and other events have not yet been released, so visit the festival website for updated information.

Ex Machina

Alex Garland is nothing if not versatile; a novelist, screenwriter and producer with a body of work that fluctuates from the great (28 Days Later) to the middling (The Beach, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go) to the god-awful (Dredd). With Ex Machina, Garland makes his debut as a director and it might just be the best thing he has ever done.  This is intelligent, thought provoking and prescient science-fiction in which the technologies at play do not seem very far removed from developments in the world today and it is this sense of possibility that makes the events of Ex Machina so unsettling. Unlike, say, Star Wars and the like, which are so far removed from the time and place in which we live that we accept them as fantastical and engage with them at that level, Ex Machina is very much in the here and now, delving into the possibilities and perils of artificial intelligence. With a magnificently mesmerising performance from Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, this is a movie that is clever, creepy and utterly captivating. Ex Machina poster Little time is wasted in getting through the set-up, in which Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb, a 20-something coder at the world’s largest internet company wins an opportunity to spend a week in the secluded and highly secure mountain retreat of company CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Caleb soon learns that there is more to his visit than simply hanging with the boss and he finds himself conducting a Turing Test to determine whether Ava, a robot Nathan has created, can exhibit intelligent behaviour that is indistinguishable from that of a human. Nathan’s choice to house the robot in a female humanoid form becomes apparent over time and Caleb finds himself drawn to Ava (Vikander) in more than a purely scientific sense. The interactions between Caleb and Ava are fascinating and Vikanders’s embodiment of her character’s mannerisms is remarkable. Such is her personification of Ava, it is very easy to believe that this is an actual robot rather than a real person embellished with some exquisite digital effects. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when Caleb also finds himself conflicted about how he does feel, as opposed to how he is supposed to feel, about Ava. Is she a prisoner? Is that even possible if she is a robot? Is she manipulating him? Ex Machina 1 Caleb is a smart, nerdy nice guy who finds himself being manipulated by the arrogant Nathan, a man who, despite his untold wealth, has spent so much time with only silent servant Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) for company that he has become a self-destructive, narcissistic, paranoid and somewhat pathetic individual crippled by his own intellect and exiled in a prison of his own creation. The mad scientist of the new millennium if you will; a cross between Mark Zuckerberg and Dr Frankenstein who might ordinarily be the most fascinating character if not for Vikander’s vulnerable portrayal. There is a constant sense of unease that permeates the interactions between Caleb and Nathan and the tension is only enhanced by the sprawling, yet claustrophobic, confines of the concrete abode to which our trio are confined. Garland presents an ending that subverts expectations and sets up the possibility of extending this narrative well beyond the confines – both narratively and physically – of this film. Ex Machina 2 Although not a typical mainstream thriller, Ex Machina is skillfully executed and deserves to be seen by a wide audience. It’s a contemplative, engaging exploration of the potential of science and the fine line between good and evil. Furthermore, it is visually striking courtesy of beautiful cinematography from Rob Hardy. Gleeson (About Time, Frank) and Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year) are both fine but, ultimately, it is Vikander who brings the film to life and it is no surprise to learn that she has six films in various stages of production at the moment, in addition to the in-cinemas Testament of Youth. Those who doubt that a first time director could deliver such a seductive, salient science-fiction drama should think again. Having tried his hand at so many things, perhaps it is behind the camera that Garland has found his true calling, although only time will tell if he can do it again.

Clouds of Sils Maria

Kristen Stewart was roundly lambasted for her performances in the insipid Twilight films, as if to suggest that she was responsible for the movies being so god-awful, rather than the material with which she was lumbered. For whatever reason – and it seems to have more to do with her perceived personality than her ability as an actress – Stewart has continued to draw fire from critics ever since. However, recent roles (Still Alice, Camp X-Ray) have enabled Stewart to prove herself an actress of considerable talent and her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria alongside Juliette Binoche has seen her become the first American actress to win a César, the French equivalent of an Academy Award. In Clouds of Sils Maria, Binoche plays Maria Enders, an actress who agrees to appear in the revival of a play that launched her career, with Stewart as her assistant Valentine. Both women are terrific in a film that becomes much more than it first seems with an unexpected, for me at least, event late in the piece left me questioning everything I had seen up until that point. Clouds of Sils Maria poster Written and directed by French filmmaker Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep, Something in the Air) and shot on location, as the title suggests, in Switzerland, The Clouds of Sils Maria is highly relevant given the current discussions around the dearth of roles for women in Hollywood, particularly for those over 40 (unless you are Meryl Streep). You see, Maria is at the peak of her career when she is asked to perform in a revival of Maloja Snake, the play that made her famous some 20 years earlier. Back in the day, Maria played the role of Sigrid, a young girl who bewitches her boss, Helene, and drives her to suicide. However, now Maria is being asked to take on the role of Helene, an offer that leads her to question what the future holds for her as she gets older. Maria retreats to the Alps with Valentine to rehearse and the parallels between their relationship and those in the play become more apparent as the film progresses. In essence, this is a psychological drama that offers considerable insight into an actor’s preparations for a role, the nature of celebrity, aging and the passage of time. Clouds of Sils Maria 2 The first moments of the film revolve around Maria’s preparations to accept an award on behalf of her friend Wilhelm Mechior, the reclusive playwright responsible for Maloja Snake and, effectively, launching her career. However, on their way to the ceremony, Maria learns that Wilhelm has died, the details of which become more clouded as the film progresses. In addition to coming to terms with the loss of her friend, Maria is also forced to confront the changing nature of her industry and reflect upon her own place within it through the prism of Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young Hollywood starlet with a penchant for scandal who has been tapped to take on the role of Sigrid in the play. Through Maria’s fits of self-doubt and frustration, Valentine remains the voice of reason as the two women hike the hills, read lines and take in the scenery that has been captured in all its glory by cinematographer Yorick La Saux (Only Lovers Left Alive). There are others who flit in and out of the narrative, but it is Binoche and Stewart who lift the film with their performances; Stewart is particularly naturalistic and nuanced in her portrayal of this highly competent young woman. Moretz is also fine in a much smaller role and, in a far cry from the Hollywood tradition of 30-year-olds playing teenagers, she looks almost too young to play this actress whose talent is almost outstripped by her capacity for chaos. Clouds of Sila Maria 1 Assayas blurs the lines between fiction and reality, with the title of the play-within-the-film drawn from a real meteorological phenomenon in which thick white clouds wind their way through the Maloja Pass.  First captured on film in the 1920’s, this black and white footage appears in the film and inspires Maria and Valentine to venture out and see it for themselves. Some might find Clouds of Sils Maria somewhat dry and abstract, but there is lots going on that make it an intriguing and thought-provoking piece that affords Binoche and Stewart the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents.