Mar 10

DVD review: The Great Gatsby


Warner Bros, 143 minutes

BAZ Luhrmann should make only musicals.

The Great Gatsby is a quasi-musical. Its jittery camera moves seem as if they’re trying to catch the rhythms of the Charleston and one of Gatsby’s guests is right when he likens a party scene to an amusement park.

The turrets and crenellations of the Gatsby castle on the shores of Long Island Sound bear a strong resemblance to the Disneyland logo.

Every line of dialogue is underlined by music. Not that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose is neglected. The voice-over narration is relentless, delivered by Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway, whose reedy drawl battles to do justice to the more mellow music of Fitzgerald’s sentences.

Maguire has to anchor the film and he’s not nearly strong or interesting enough for the job. He’s fine during the lighter moments. His mild manner and habitually quizzical expression strike the right comic notes, but the more serious stuff leaves him blank-faced.

Fortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby is more compelling and now the baby face has matured into classic handsomeness, he can turn on the Gatsby glamour but he, too, has difficulty fighting against the distractions of the surrounding sights and sounds.

In the film’s first half, Luhrmann’s direction is so nervy that he can’t let a sequence run for more than 30 seconds without interruption. There is much inter-cutting and overlaying with swooping transitions between locations and a proliferation of funny angles.

The script does some tinkering with the novel. Nick is telling the story from a sanitarium where he’s gone to recuperate from a breakdown following his experiences with Gatsby, Daisy and Tom, her boor of a husband, played with swaggering conviction by Joel Edgerton.

Nick’s therapist (an avuncular Jack Thompson) suggests his patient would do better to write an account of what has happened instead of trying to talk about it. And it’s not a bad ploy since it puts the following events in context without giving away too much too soon. But you don’t really need to see Nick’s typed words come floating towards you as he utters them.

Amid the overkill, there are assorted delights. One of them is Elizabeth Debicki’s Jordan Baker, the elegant young golfing champion with whom Nick falls half in love. And there’s the film’s greatest success – Carey Mulligan’s Daisy. Not only is she graceful enough to carry off costumes which might have swamped another actress, she has the voice for the part. Her silvery tones help craft a seemingly guileless performance edged with a languid sophistication. It also allows her to crack now and again, to reveal the helplessness that makes Daisy so dangerous.

But you don’t get much chance to dwell on these nuances until the film’s second half, when Luhrmann finally allows his stars some breathing space. And even then, he and his co-writer Craig Pearce are busy underlining everything. One of the joys of Fitzgerald’s style is his delicacy. He leaves room for your imagination to do some work of its own.

Gatsby’s efforts to rewrite the past are translated into the sense of longing and regret he feels as he contemplates the stretch of water which divides him and his excesses from the old moneyed estates like the Buchanans’ on the other side of the bay.

As he stands gazing at this glittering expanse and the green light which shines from Buchanans’ dock, he might be wishing he could walk on water. It’s a message you get from the film, as well. But no imagination is required. It’s hammered into the dialogue with an insistence that strips the story of its ambivalence and its mystery. They really should have gone all the way and made

Gatsby: The Musical.

Rating: ★★★

– Sandra Hall


Universal Sony, 110 minutes

COLIN Farrell and Noomi Rapace make a provocative pair in this New York thriller with an explosive ending.

This dark, brooding story is unpredictable and unsavoury, yet grabbing.

Both actors have difficult roles, coming from two different places to an emotional meeting place in the middle of a dangerous situation. Rapace, who still seems to be on the outer of the American cinematic scene despite her fantastic lead as Lisbeth Salander in the original Dragon Tattoo movies, slowly reels in Farrell, eventually getting him to do her bidding.


– Jim Kellar


Hopscotch Entertainment, 91 minutes

CRIME thrillers are such a saturated genre, it’s hard to find a new seam, a new vein, that captures your attention and draws you in.

Perhaps the secret in this case is the attraction of the two leading actors, Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde, as brother and sister Addison and Liza. They are on the run, a cunning pair with Bana the emotional master of his sister ever since their traumatic childhood days.

Bana is fearless, ruthless and violent, a bedeviling spirit with a just a touch of kindness.

Wilde, forced to find her own way out of trouble, is befriended by a just-out-of-jail Charlie Hunnam, and shows signs of pulling away from the potent force of her big brother.

The showdown comes at Hunnam’s parents’ country house, with Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek teaming up as wholesome parents who only want what is best for their son.

If you can stomach Bana as the bad guy, you will get your thrills out of this flick.


– Jim Kellar


THE winners of last week’s DVD, The Walking Dead Season three were: Kathy Kelly, of Kahibah; Diane Grogan, of Whitebridge; Jann Bessant, of Raymond Terrace; Martin Laws, of Hinton; and Edward Kucharski, of Rutherford.

OVERKILL: Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan are highlights in The Great Gatsby.

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Mar 10

OPINION: We support pet-friendly rental properties

RECENTLY theNewcastle Herald reported on the difficulty some renters have finding properties that will allow them to keep their pets.

We at Mark Dowling Real Estate strive to educate our landlords about the positive aspects of letting their property as a pet-friendly rental.

Part of our story began when we were renting a property ourselves in 1997. We were forced to move as our rented home was put up for sale and at the time we had a blue cattle dog that made inspections difficult.

We found it very hard to find a rental house and we ended up renting a barely livable property in Broadmeadow. It was a completely rundown house but it did have good fences and the dog loved the backyard.

As we started MDRE Property Advantage in Mayfield, we had a lot of space in our windows, so we contacted pet rescue groups and displayed their animals in the window, and we also started to accept donations for the animals such as blankets, beds and food.

We have some great people in the area that drop off items for the dogs all the time.

We have been very successful in convincing our landlords to accept pets and currently 86per cent of our rental properties are pet-friendly.

Many new landlords and investors are not aware of the recent changes to the Residential Tenancy Act.

The act states that only tenants with pets can now be asked to have their carpets cleaned when they vacate a property.

We find that tenants with pets in general make an effort in looking after their rental property as they know how difficult it is to get another pet-friendly house.

We have a number of tenants with pets that we have retained over the years. When the property they were living in sold, we then moved them on to another of our properties.

We also work closely with Dog Rescue Newcastle and display the dogs that they have up for adoption in our window.

We try to educate tenants and other clients about the importance of adopting a pet from a rescue group instead of buying it from a shop or breeder. There are literally hundreds of dogs and cats, every breed and age available, in the Hunter today.

We also make sure that we match the type of pet with the correct property, large breeds and puppies need more room to move, while smaller and older pets are better suited to smaller yards, or units and villas, depending on the strata bylaws.

Some applicants nowadays, when they apply for a property, include a pet resume with a photo of the pet and information about the pet. Some even provide a pet reference from a previous real estate agent or landlord.

I feel that it’s important to work towards a change in attitude about allowing tenants to keep pets.

Investors need to realise that a huge number of people have pets today and we need to change the way we think and not hold on to old-fashioned ways.

Fatima Dowling is a real estate agent and co-owner of Mark Dowling Real Estate, Mayfield.

Mar 10

Knox trial on again but minus accused

Florence, Italy: A court hearing Amanda Knox’s second appeals trial on Monday accepted a request to run additional DNA tests on the presumed weapon in the murder of Meredith Kercher, but rejected most other defence requests for new testimony or evidence.

Presiding Judge Alessandro Nencini said the court agreed to test one DNA trace not previously examined because it had been deemed too small. A court-ordered review in the first appeals trial, which acquitted both Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, discredited DNA evidence on the kitchen knife linked to Kercher.

The court also agreed to the prosecution’s request to again hear testimony from a jailed Mafioso, Luciano Aviello, who has accused his brother in the murder. Aviello, a mobster who has been convicted of several crimes including defamation, is to testify on Friday.

Italy’s highest court in March ordered a new trial for Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, overturning their acquittals in Kercher’s gruesome 2007 killing. The star defendant and her former boyfriend were both absent at its opening Monday.

During opening statements, lawyers for Knox and Sollecito requested an array of new expert opinions and evidence to reach a definitive verdict, but the court rejected most of them.

Knox defence lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said there was a risk of an “infinite trial,” since the charge of murder has no statute of limitations. Sollecito’s lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, asked the court to accept only “reliable evidence,” saying the intense media attention on the case had affected the three previous trials.

The appellate court in Florence is expected to re-examine forensic evidence to determine whether Knox and her ex-boyfriend helped kill the 21-year-old Kercher while the two women shared an apartment in the Umbrian university town of Perugia. The prosecution advanced the theory that Kercher died during a sex-fuelled game gone bad.

Knox, now a 26-year-old University of Washington student in Seattle, has not returned to Italy for the current trial, nor is she compelled by law to do so. The appellate court noted the absence both of Knox and Sollecito, but did not declare either in contempt.

“We refute the idea that because Amanda is not coming, that Amanda is guilty, that Amanda is using a strategy. Amanda always said she was a friend of Meredith’s. Amanda has always respected the Italian justice system,” one of Knox’s defence lawyers, Luciano Ghirga, told reporters before the trial opened.

Knox and Sollecito, now 29, were convicted and later acquitted in Kercher’s death. Knox served four years of a 26-year sentence, including three years on a slander conviction for falsely accusing a Perugia bar owner in the murder, before leaving Italy a free woman after her 2011 acquittal.

The bar owner, Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, showed up at the trial Monday, saying he did so to underline the damage he suffered from Knox’s false accusations. “I say the same thing I said six years ago. I think she is guilty, and that is why she slandered me,” Lumumba told reporters.

Knox’s conviction for slandering Lumumba has been confirmed by the high court, but it asked the Florence appeals court to examine whether to reinstate an aggravating circumstance that Knox lied to derail the investigation and protect herself from becoming a murder suspect.

In its first move, the Florence court rejected a motion by Knox’s lawyers to exclude Lumumba from the new appeals trial as a civil participant, a status that allows him to seek further damages. His lawyer says Lumumba is owed more than 103,000 euros ($149,235) in legal fees.

Knox’s protracted legal battle in Italy has made her a cause celebre in the United States and has put the Italian justice system under scrutiny. The Italian system does not include US Fifth Amendment protection against a defendant being put in double jeopardy by government prosecution.

At the same time, the trials have left the Kercher family without clear answers in the death of their daughter.

Kercher’s body was found in November 2007 in her bedroom of the house she shared with Knox in Perugia, a central Italian town popular with foreign exchange students. Her throat had been slashed.

A third man, Rudy Guede, was convicted in the slaying and is serving a 16-year term. That court found that Guede had not acted alone.

“We are still convinced of the presence of all three of the defendants at the scene of the crime,” Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca told reporters. “I think (Knox) is talking too much, sincerely, and this attitude of continuous playing the victim is inappropriate.”

In its stunning 2011 acquittal that overturned Knox and Sollecito’s convictions, a Perugia appeals court criticised virtually the prosecution’s entire case.

The appellate court noted that the murder weapon was never found, said that DNA tests were faulty, and that prosecutors provided no murder motive.

Yet the Court of Cassation ruling was likewise strident, criticising the appeals court ruling and saying it “openly collides with objective facts of the case”. The high court said the appellate judges had ignored some evidence, considered other evidence insufficiently and undervalued the fact that Knox had initially accused a man of committing the crime who had nothing to do with it.

Amanda Knox’s retrial for her alleged role in the murder of British student Meredith Kercher is the latest chapter in a tortuous legal process that has dragged on for six years.

While the trial will reopen old wounds for the families involved, the two main players will be absent from court.

Ms Knox, 26, has confirmed in recent interviews she will not return to Italy – not because she fears being incriminated again, she insists, but because she is innocent and also cannot afford the air fare.

Her co-accused, Raffaele Sollecito, 29, with whom she was having a relationship in the days before the murder was committed, is also unlikely to attend the start of the trial. Neither he nor Ms Knox is obliged to be in court.

Prosecutors claimed Ms Kercher, 21, from Coulsdon in Surrey, died as a result of a sex game organised by Ms Knox, Mr Sollecito and Rudy Guede, a drug dealer who was born in Ivory Coast.


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Mar 10

Tensions run as high as the stakes in Indonesia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is greeted by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on his arrival in Jakarta for an official visit. Photo: Alex EllinghausenIf there were any feelings of tension between Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Tony Abbott over boat policy, both were doing their best to hide it as they gripped hands and grinned at the Halim airforce base in Jakarta yesterday afternoon.

Mr Abbott lurched up to Mr Natalegawa for a two-handed shake, his Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also smiling behind him as she descended the steps.

The Prime Minister began his first overseas trip as Prime Minister yesterday afternoon, and the stakes could barely be higher. Mr Natalegawa has been adamant since March 2010, when Mr Abbott first announced his boat tow-back policy, that it was unacceptable, and his opposition is only growing, on the basis that it offends Indonesian sovereignty.

With that in mind, Mr Abbott’s first call on Indonesia could be interpreted as a sop to Indonesian sensitivities.

At the Heroes Cemetery in the Jakarta suburb of Kalibata, 7000 veterans of the Indonesian battle for independence from the Dutch are buried.

It’s a proud and well-kept patch of ground, with helmets placed on every grave. It’s also a well-trodden route for foreign leaders. Then Defence Minister Stephen Smith went there in April; British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012.

Each came looking to use a symbol to deepen the relationship with Indonesia; but neither confronted the hurdles that Mr Abbott has erected between himself and goal.

As he mounted the marble steps to the Merdeka (Freedom) Palace for his meeting with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Abbott’s fists were clenched.

He knows he’ll need more than a two-handed shake and a grin to get what he wants in Jakarta.

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Mar 10

Better halves: Manly pair thrive on greater role

As they set about trying to finish Manly’s season in the best possible way, the Sea Eagles’ brilliant halves have reflected on the advice they received before the start of it.

In the off-season, coach Geoff Toovey told halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and five-eighth Kieran Foran to become more involved in the team’s attack – even if it meant making more mistakes. The result has been clear: their form has been one of the key reasons they will chase their second premiership as a halves combination against Sydney Roosters on Sunday.

“The coaching staff has been a big part in us getting our hands on the ball more, which has led to us making more mistakes, but also coming up with better options,” Cherry-Evans said. “Our gameplan has been altered – not changed, but altered a little – so me and Kieran are getting our hands on the ball more, and also getting the strike players the ball more, Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai and Brett Stewart.

“I think it’s been a good move. As everyone does in the pre-season, you just try to better yourself, and better your side. That’s what the coaching staff has done this year.”

The pair is already considered the best halves combination in the competition, and according to many the best in some time, yet the scary part about the partnership is how much better 23-year-old Foran and 24-year-old Cherry-Evans could get.

“For us to stand around and think we’ve done it all would be absolutely ridiculous,” Cherry-Evans said. “That’s not the type of person me and Kieran are. We’re competitive, we’re always trying to take our game to the next level, and we’ll continue to do that for seasons ahead for as long as we’re playing next to each other.”

Said Foran: “We’re still very early on in both our careers. The more experience we get, and the more games we play together on the biggest stage, we’ll just grow and grow.

“I don’t think there’s a limit on how good you can get as a player.

“We work really hard on our combination together, we do talk a lot of footy together and discuss what we feel we can do out there each week. We put a lot of effort into it. It’d be great to be together for many years to come.”

Cherry-Evans, contracted until the end of 2015, has been linked with a move to Brisbane in recent months, but Foran is desperate for his partner to hang around for the long haul.

“I don’t want to see him go anywhere,” Foran said. “I think he’s been great for us here, and I think he’s got so much good footy left in him at the club.

“I’d love him to hang around, along with the fact that I love playing with him as well. All the other boys do too. Hopefully he hangs around. I think he knows how I feel about that. I don’t want to see him go.”

For his part, Cherry-Evans said he wouldn’t be, in the short term.

“I don’t know what more I can say for it to go away,” he said. “I’m contracted with Manly for the next two years. I have no intention of breaking that.

“I honestly smile and laugh at it, because there’s nothing I can do for it to go away.”

In many people’s eyes, Cherry-Evans has been the form halfback of the competition this year, while Foran, as tough as they come in his position, complements him. Many feel that together they will rival or even better the most successful halves combinations of recent decades.

A win on Sunday, against the Roosters’ pairing of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney, will only strengthen their standing among the great partnerships.

“It’s still surreal, to be playing in my second grand final,” Foran said. “I’m just very fortunate to be involved in such a great footy club. You hear about blokes that go through their whole careers and don’t feature in one grand final, and don’t win one comp. I’ve been fortunate enough to win one here, and playing for a second.”

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