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Issue 10, 2016

Money

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News

  • Why hasn’t he quit?

  • Weldon leaves, no one cares.

  • VUWSA gives WCC oral submissions

  • “The limit does not exist.”

  • Time to think twice about becoming a teacher

  • There’s a big ol’ widdle behind the couch: Panama Papers scandal continues

  • Government steps in now middle class NZ are at risk

  • Thane Kirby, you’re a dick

  • Building a brighter future

  • AUSA keen to GTFO of NZUSA

  • Fun News

  • Features

  • uber

    Better the Uber you know than the Uber you don’t

    Just a few years ago a standard Friday or Saturday night on the town would have ended one of two different ways: stumbling home drunk, precariously avoiding dodgy alleyways, and attempting to make the late-night cheeseburger last until the inevitable hazy descent into a drunken stupor; or by paying a cab from one of the […]

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    Merv’s

    Merv’s Azean Food is a small restaurant in the heart of the sleepy suburb of Naenae, decorated with floral tablecloths and indoor plants. Photographer Lily Paris West visited the restaurant over summer, and wanted to use it as a location ever since. For the photo-shoot, the stylists wanted to take glamour to a quiet suburb; […]

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  • finn

    How to Spend $100,000

    Last year a group of four young women—Claris Jacobs, Minnie Grace, and sisters Elsie and Sally Bollinger—submitted an application to NZ On Air (NZOA) with the hope of acquiring funding for a new project. The group, who banded together a few years ago as The Candle Wasters, already had two successful web-series under their belts, […]

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  • uber

    Better the Uber you know than the Uber you don’t

    Just a few years ago a standard Friday or Saturday night on the town would have ended one of two different ways: stumbling home drunk, precariously avoiding dodgy alleyways, and attempting to make the late-night cheeseburger last until the inevitable hazy descent into a drunken stupor; or by paying a cab from one of the […]

    by

  • 1

    Merv’s

    Merv’s Azean Food is a small restaurant in the heart of the sleepy suburb of Naenae, decorated with floral tablecloths and indoor plants. Photographer Lily Paris West visited the restaurant over summer, and wanted to use it as a location ever since. For the photo-shoot, the stylists wanted to take glamour to a quiet suburb; […]

    by

  • finn

    How to Spend $100,000

    Last year a group of four young women—Claris Jacobs, Minnie Grace, and sisters Elsie and Sally Bollinger—submitted an application to NZ On Air (NZOA) with the hope of acquiring funding for a new project. The group, who banded together a few years ago as The Candle Wasters, already had two successful web-series under their belts, […]

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  • Arts and Science

  • Starting here, right in this room

    I have been eagerly awaiting winter. This is the time when you can appropriately hermit, hide away in small warm places amongst the objects and people you choose to populate your private everyday with. I love my room, and my things, and being in my room with my things. The objects I surround myself with are touchstones for experiences and representatives of people I love. So, in this issue I am not going write about art in the white cube, I’m focussing on the cosy, the familiar, the opshop art, gifts, ephemera, photocopies, and found things that fill the creamy golden cuboid of my bedroom.

    Above my desk is taped an A3 photocopy. The black and white image shows two Felix Gonzales-Torres posters, laying wet and abandoned on the sidewalk, after his show at the American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. It is the perfect representation of the fragility and ephemerality of his work, I am sure he would love this photograph.

    On the shelf above my desk, a scrunched handful of remnants from a letter writing and shredding workshop, run at In Good Company by Jessica Francis. I wrote (and shredded) several letters, one an angry rant to an ex, the other an apology.

    Again, taped to the wall, a poem, “You Reading This, Be Ready”. Photocopied by Dad, once for my brother and once for me. The final stanza—“What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?”—always makes me feel cheesily #mindful.

    A bright blue rubber glove attached high on the wall using a bandaid. This is a component of the installation Leave of Absence (2015) by Callum Devlin. All the elements in the work were purchased from Countdown Newtown. The latex in the glove is beginning to perish, the bright blue fading in the sun. Sometimes I wonder if I should just go buy a new glove.

    Two reproductions of The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet with handwritten yellow price stickers stuck to the front. Reproduction one is a print ($15), reproduction two has been painstakingly completed in cross-stitch ($10). Both purchased from the Greytown Vinnies. Right next to this, Madame Matisse, as painted (during after school art classes) by my brother aged around eight. Arguably a better portrait than the original.

    Hanging on the wall, a long fluffy pink chain, made from hundreds of florets cut from woollen blankets. This is a work from Lucy Wardle’s installation, Wandering Objects. Lucy gave this one to me, as this certain shade of pink didn’t really match the rest of the collection. It used to live on my bed, but it made me sneeze.

    Next to the bed is the first piece of art I ever bought, purchased at the tender age of ten, a small text based artwork called my diary, Jongsuk Yoon. Bought as part of the Muka Youth Prints programme at The Dowse. Original prints from contemporary artists, sold for around $65 to people age five to eighteen. No adults allowed, not even in the gallery.

    A black and white poster print of a silver vanity set, combs, brushes, and mirrors. The image is a reproduction of one of many photographs taken by the artist, Petra Steuben’s grandmother in Germany during WWII as documentation, to save their personal belongings from disappearance. In an interview about the work, the artist asks, “what things do we surround ourselves with? What do we see in these that make us want to keep them?”

     

    Whats on

    Dead Bug Live

    New work by Kate Lepper, at Toi Poneke, May 7–28.

    Turn Left at the End of the Drive,

    Jay Hutchinson, at Enjoy Public Art Gallery, May 12—June 4.

     

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  • Five TV Shows That Were Cancelled Too Soon

    Party Down (2009–2010)

    Party Down was a really decent sitcom about a catering company made up of struggling actors; it was a sort of darker, slower, Parks and Recreation. Unlike Parks and Rec, it never really got the chance to find it’s footing, in part because the latter show stole lead actor Adam Scott. Very bleak and offbeat but also very sweet and funny, if a little hit and miss, it lasted two seasons and had a great cast including Means Girls’ Lizzie Caplan and Freaks and Geeks’ Martin Starr. Starr’s character is such an unredeemable asshole but I like to think he would have softened if the show had made it to season three, like how Leslie Knope used to be a real bitch then they made her a perfect angel and hoped you would just forget about it.

    Firefly (2002–2003)

    You would think space cowboys and secret government experiments would be enough for a show to stick around, but cult favourite Firefly was cancelled before it even finished airing its first season. Stylistically very much in the same vein as creator Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show’s large and passionate fan base led to the film follow up Serenity in 2005. I was going to write about Buffy for this, which was also cancelled, but I feel like seven seasons was a good place to end. Actually every single TV show Joss Whedon has ever made has been cancelled, but now he’s got all that Marvel money so who’s laughing now? Not me because I don’t like those movies and I feel betrayed.

    Popular (1999–2001)

    Like Joss Whedon, Ryan Murphy is another brilliant but messy showrunner who just can’t keep things together. Popular is an amazing, underrated Y2K-era cult classic that took every teen show’s after school special ever and threw it in a blender—think an extremely meta proto-Glee without all the singing and the morals. Set at a time when Gwyneth Paltrow actually meant something, the show featured such iconic characters as the deranged hook-handed science teacher Bobbi Glass and future serial killer Mary Cherry. With more butterfly clips, blue eyeshadow, and glitter lipgloss than your nostalgic millennial self could ever dream of, Popular is a super fun and crazy ride that was understandably (but so sadly) cancelled after two seasons.

    Freaks and Geeks (1999–2000)

    The ultimate source of cancellation rage, Freaks and Geeks was cut short after one season for no good reason other than to make people sad. Created by the now huge Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, it also launched the careers of many future stars like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and James Franco. No show better portrayed the brutal reality of high school social hierarchies better, when being branded a loser was the worst thing that could possibly happen because you thought high school was the be-all and end-all of your existence. There were so many places Freaks and Geeks had to go that we will never get to see and it’s genuinely gutting. And James Franco was at his absolute prettyboy peak.

    All of Those VH1 Dating Shows

    Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, I Love New York, Charm School… all incredible shows that kept giving and giving were brought to you by trash titans VH1. However they were all cancelled when former Rock of Love spin-off Megan Wants a Millionaire contestant Ryan Jenkins brutally murdered his then-wife while the show was still airing. Jenkins had placed third on the show and between marrying his wife shortly after filming and murdering her, he had been cast in and won another VH1 spin-off show I Love Money. With Megan Wants a Millionaire immediately pulled off the air and I Love Money pulled from the schedule, the whole franchise lost momentum and ceased to exist. There was an SVU episode about it and everything.

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  • An interview with Gary Henderson

    A major New Zealand playwright, Gary Henderson’s plays include An Unseasonable Fall Of Snow, Peninsula, Home Land, Mo & Jess Kill Susie, Stealing Games, and the internationally successful Skin Tight. Gary received the Playmarket Award in 2013. It’s a Friday afternoon. We sit down with Gary vis-à-vis skype, and in twenty-five minutes he shares with us his journey as one of New Zealand’s most celebrated playwrights. In Trimester Two he will be coordinating CREW 353: Writing for Theatre, right here at Victoria. 

     

    How did you get involved in writing plays?

    It all started when I was a schoolteacher at Parkway Intermediate in Wainuiomata, Hutt Valley. The first major production they did was in my first year of teaching. I thought it was… not very good. The next year I put my money where my mouth was and wrote something for them. It was one of those big sprawling intermediate plays that had hundreds of people in it, so every kid could do something.

    Then I left teaching, went back to Victoria University where I studied theatre and film. I started putting on children’s theatre for the age group that I’d been previously teaching. In the 80s that middle teenage group weren’t really catered for in theatre. I moved onto other things in the early 90s. I’ve just kept going since then!

    Why do you set your plays in New Zealand?

    It’s just a natural tendency. Quite a few things I write about are drawn from things I’ve witnessed or things I’ve seen around. All of my plays are set somewhere very specific, that you could actually go and visit, and go “there is the place!” That is partly a personal foible I guess, because it’s easy to get my head around somewhere that’s real. Once we start realising that our stories are valuable to our country-men, our neighbours, why not tell them? Why not set them here?

    Tell us about the CREW 353: Writing for Theatre course. What can people expect to learn from it?

    There will be lots of games in class and sharing out loud—it’s fun to hear each other’s work and it often elicits great responses! The bee in my bonnet at the moment is that theatre is always going through fashions, and my current fashion is trying to make writers aware that they are doing much more than simply writing down what the actor’s should say.

    A writer should understand how all the components of a play work, so that they can write in a way that provokes responses to their words. A lighting designer should be able to imagine how the lights will look simply because of the language of the script.

    My teaching process will start with where to find stories. You don’t make up stories, you find them. You get down a story as fast as you can write—as clunky and as artless as it might be—and then you dig into it and see what’s really there. It’s trusting the instinct of your thoughts. And then of course, we talk about the technical stuff such as how conflict works, how relationships between characters change, and how little you can get away with saying (and not overwriting!).

    The course is mostly just about the joy of creating a story and characters that didn’t exist last week. I never get tired of that, there is always a thrill in inventing.

     

    CREW 353: Writing for Theatre

    When:  Trimester Two, Fridays, 10.00am–1.00pm

    Where: International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML)

    Application Deadline:  June 21

    More Information:  email modernletters@vuw.ac.nz, or ph: 463 6854

     

    Much Ado About Nothing

    Victoria University’s THEA302 & THEA308 have decided to hit Shakespeare where it hurts. Is he past it for the millennial generation? Can we turn Much Ado About Nothing, a full length Shakespeare, into something for people with attention spans conditioned to Snapchat, Vines, and 140 Twitter characters?

    When: May 17–21

    Where: Studio 77, Fairlie Terrace, Victoria University

    Book online.

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  • Death Grips: Bottomless Pit  

    ★★★★

     

    First we were praying for the death of “Jenny,” and now we are worshipping a pit. It’s hard being a fan of Death Grips man. It’s almost comical, the amount of shenanigans that accompany a Death Grips release. In fact, the lack of shenanigans surrounding this new record is so uncharacteristic of Death Grips it’s being classified as shenanigans. So why listen to them? I’ve heard Death Grips classified as everything from “meme rap” to “true patrician music.”  It’s a mess, an Anthony Fantano assisted mess, simultaneously endorsed and denounced by /mu/. They have records with vulgar covers, vulgar lyrics, vulgar beats, and it’s fucking fantastic. Their popularity is attributed in no small way to their eccentricity and their complete lack of apparent common sense. A master class in the unconventional. Got a new record? Leak it online. Just released an album? Sweet, now break up! Enjoying the hiatus guys? Awesome, now announce a new album in two weeks’ time. To say they are testing my patience would be an understatement. It’s the musical equivalent of Jackass.

    However, they always release a record that fans lose their collective minds over. They fall into the realm of “you either get it or you don’t.” You have an MC who shouts depraved lyrics like he’s at a protest, and comes up with a few of the catchiest hooks I have ever heard. A producer and music engineer who comes up with the most bizarre beats I have ever witnessed, and finally a drummer so talented I have to sit back and just take it in a beat at a time. They don’t even have a damn genre. We tried calling them “industrial hip hop” then they started including guitars and sounding more like an insane punk band. I’m three coffees in and I am struggling to think of a way to properly describe them. It’s almost tribal at this point. Watch as Death Grips fans emerge from the void to post about how insane the new record is and how “noided” they are. Then Death Grips go and break up again. Being a fan is an infinite self reciprocating cycle of antagonism. We’re talking Game of Thrones Ramsay and Theon Greyjoy style torture here. Except it has a sweet soundtrack.

    Death Grips have eight albums (that I can confirm). Each one wilder that the last. Exmilitary, the one with all the samples and Guillotine (Y U H). The Money Store, the commonly referenced “true patrician” album with several ten out of ten ratings. No Love Deep Web, the one with the… well the dick on the front. Government Plates, the semi instrumental one with the sick aesthetics. Fashion Week, the actual instrumental album. The Powers That B, the supposed “last album.” Then “Interview” comes out with more instrumentals, and now Bottomless Pit. Their discography is getting so complicated it reads like some Shelly-sold-sea-shells tongue twister than a list of recorded works.

    So what should you expect on Bottomless Pit? Blast beats, slow tribal beats, frantic and skittish electronic drums from Zach Hill. MC Ride is shouting at you; he has that type of insane chant-esque voice that makes you want join a fight club. Flatlander once again brings the weirdest synth hits and bass that makes Skrillex and Diplo look like kindergarteners. Basically if you are reading this you either know about them or morbid curiosity got the best of you. For the fellow Death Grips fans, it’s LIT. Then again you are probably already listening with every spare second you have. Godspeed and stay legend y’all. To the inquisitive, if you want a sonic kick in the teeth, give this record a listen! Come join us in our circle of noided friends.

     

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  • Drake

    (noun) definition: a business, man.

     

    Drake’s VIEWS came out on April 29. Old news—you already knew that. Plastered all over Apple Music, its cover art meme’d before any of us even heard it, and no doubt the cause of many a text to an ex—everyone and their goldfish has an opinion about Drake’s fourth album. Some feel it was overhyped, others cite VIEWS as Drake’s fullest realisation of his multitudinous sound, and further listeners (prone to binary album commentary) have declared it “fire.” Still, it sold approximately 600,000 overnight, lead single ‘One Dance’ jumped to #1, and is already setting streaming records.

    How did this happen? Back in 2013 when Nothing Was The Same (NWTS, Drake’s third album) was released, Drake was still considered rap’s whiny little brother. Something “for the girls,” the singing rapper who everyone listened to, but no one wanted to admit to loving. It was a simpler time: YOLO (“The Motto”) and “Started From The Bottom” were trendy-ish, early signals of Drizzy’s power over pop culture. He was huge, but nothing compared to the Drake of 2016. The period between NWTS and VIEWS—full of twists, turns, and surprises—represents a masterclass in marketing, image management, and salesmanship. Drake is indeed a business, man.

    In July 2014, nearly two years before VIEWS was released, the build up began. Following an announcement that his new album would be titled Views From The 6, Drake released “0 to 100 / The Catch Up” one of the best songs of his career, including lyrics implying an autumn (NZ) 2015 release. Yet, in the middle of February 2015, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late appeared—with no previous announcement, bar a short film released just hours earlier. It wasn’t VIEWS, but it was damn good. He was sure to let us know that we were spending our pretty pennies on a mixtape, not an album. This was not to be held to the same standards, it was merely the trailer to his feature film. Still, no VIEWS.

    And thus the commercial mixtape was born. Essentially the musician’s version of premium content, Drake gambled on fan’s willingness to pay to experience him—and he was right. Even with the knowledge it wasn’t his full effort, every one of the album’s 17 songs charted, running with your woes became a meme, and the mixtape went double platinum. Redefining what it meant to be an album, his late-2015 mixtape, What A Time To Be Alive, mirrored this. Accentuated by sharing the release with Future (the biggest name in 2015 street rap), Drake reinvented his image in light of this newfound masculinity—the boy had become a man. Even with little marketing, no singles, and the explicit definition of ‘mixtape’, every song charted and Drake scored his second platinum release in less than a year. It was an entrée to his magnus opus. Still, no VIEWS.

    Of course, we’re forgetting what happened in between. Meek Mill talked shit and Drake responded in full force. Tweets and memes were posted, diss tracks released (again, sold as premium content), Twitter weighed in, and Drake walked away the victor—two charting diss-tracks and a Grammy nomination in hand. But it was another song released during this period of loosies that made the biggest impact, a little dancehall track named “Hotline Bling.” Aided by a hilarious video, Drake’s remix of “CHA CHA” by D.R.A.M. (again, sold as premium content) went quintuple platinum, hit #2 on the Billboard charts, and defined the meme in 2015. Capitalising on viral culture, Drake made the most of his not-too-serious image and memed himself—skillfully balancing his image as a hardened trap rapper with that of the playful pop singer. Still, no VIEWS.

    Across all 36 pre-VIEWS tracks, the album is only name-dropped once (in the final line of “Back to Back”). Yet it seemed as though everyone with an internet connection knew it was coming. Last week, it didn’t matter whether or not the music was good. It didn’t matter what the critics thought. It didn’t matter that the single with Jay Z and Kanye really sucked. All that mattered was that Drake was big, we knew it was coming, and we wanted to hear it—bad.

     

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  • A Tale of Two Betas

    When it comes to online multiplayer games, the most important period pre-launch is the open beta testing. For a few precious days your game will be free to the world and in the hands of the harshest critic of them all—the general public. Generating hype to get people buying your game is all dependent on whether the beta is a success, not just in terms of behind-the-scenes multiplayer tech, but if people had fun playing it. Passing that test will lead to higher chances of a successful launch. Screw it up, and your game will be dead on arrival.

    I enjoy open beta periods not just because I get to play games I probably can’t afford for free, but because I want the games to leave a good first impression so I can buy when I do have the cash. It is a period of discovery, an opportunity to explore a game’s potential, and that moment when you suddenly realise you’re actually having fun is incredibly satisfying. It’s the same when the game is a pile of shit, because then you can set the controller down and affirm that you just avoided wasting your money.

    Two recent betas managed to give me these moments of realisation after a few hours with each. First up was the Doom beta, which I’d been kind of looking forward to. I’m a fan of the arena shooters of the early 2000s and I hoped Doom would provide something similar. Geez, there were health and armour pickups, it had to be good! Then I had to pick a loadout.

    Pro-tip, if you want to make an authentic arena shooter, don’t use loadouts. Like, at all. I want to blow up a guy with a shotgun then pick up his rifle and blast a few rounds further away, and this Doom did not let me do that. Besides the gunplay was nowhere near satisfying enough, nothing like the original Doom’s gunplay where every shot had meaningful impact. It’s a dud, new Doom can piss off.

    And then, from the heavens above, a shooter so glorious, so mesmerising, so brain-meltingly awesome that it could only have been crafted by absolute masters of their craft. Oh Overwatch, you give me hope, you are the beacon that will guide us into a new era of shooters that are actually fun!

    Blizzard Entertainment’s first shooter is possibly the most enjoyable time I’ve had since my days playing Unreal Tournament as a twelve-year old, and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t sure if they could pull it off. I’ve only really known them for their franchises (Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo) which are vastly different kettles of fish since they require such a large time investment. With Overwatch I’ve found myself able to just pick it up, play a few rounds, convince myself that one more round will be enough, then go at it for another two hours. Since my typical shooter playstyle is “run around like an absolute madman and hope not to die cheaply,” I’ve been drawn to Tracer as my main, but since there are twenty-one heroes to choose from you definitely will find something to like. It is pretty to look at as well, combining the cartoony zaniness of Team Fortress 2 with the polish you expect from a Blizzard title. I think I’m in love with a video game, for the first time in a long while…

    Goddamn it, just buy Overwatch when it comes out. I cannot stress this enough, it’s fun! I’m not a shill, I swear…

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  • The Witch (2015)

    ★★★½

    Director: Robert Eggers

     

    As it made its way around the International Film Festival circuit, The Witch began to gather a reputation as contender for horror flick of the year. An article published on Indiewire claimed that the film had been officially recognized by the Satanist church as a true satanic film. Please, don’t buy the hype.

    This film introduces itself as a composite of different folk-tales and urban legends; it adopts the ‘based on a true story’ misnomer, only with less conviction. Set in the early 1600s, it follows a family who are seemingly forced out of their Protestant community for being too righteous, and consequently settle on a meadow on the edge of the woods in the hope of starting a farm of their own. Without giving away too much of the plot, as we know from Hansel and Gretel: where there are woods, there is a witch.

    There aren’t any particular flaws that stand out here and in fact the film does a lot of things very well. Robert Eggers presents a realistic version of a familiar story, through the use of dialogue, costuming, and low-key lighting. In this way he effectively presents the film’s physical and temporal setting. He also manages to create a prolonged sense of expectation that lasts throughout the film, through the use of drawn out takes and minimal editing techniques. And that is exactly the problem.

    From the quiet hype surrounding the film, and the construction of the film itself, it’s easy to find yourself sitting there in the theatre waiting to be blown away. But that’s just not something that this film will do. Although creepy, this film never quite manages to be scary. Although it is mostly well constructed, there isn’t anything particularly special about its construction. This film is, overall, a pretty good one. Just as long as you don’t ruin it for yourself by expecting it to be great.

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  • London Has Fallen (2016)

    ★½

    Director: Babak Najafi

     

    London Has Fallen, the sequel to the 2013 blockbuster Olympus Has Fallen, does not necessitate prior knowledge of the recurring characters, nor does it require an appreciation for good cinema. You do need a strong stomach for violence and a predictable plotline.

    The film follows the exploits of Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the Secret Service agent in charge of protecting the US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), as a terrorist plot unfolds in London. The funeral of the British prime minister creates the perfect opportunity for Pakistani arms dealer and terrorist financier Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) to avenge the murder of his family, and he masterminds the assassination of the attending world leaders.

    Frankly, I found the film shallow and heavy on the clichés. Banning is a standard action figure with a wonderful and supportive wife and a weakness for patriotism. The death of his colleague, Secret Service agent Lynn Jacobs’ (Angela Basset), is expected. The presence and identity of the mole is anticipated well in advance, and we all know what the finale is going to be—no way the President dies, right? Full of un-spectacular action sequences, nothing positive stood out in this film.

    The depiction of the terrorists was very limited and their motivations (aside from those of Aamir and his son Kamran) are not explained at all. There is a very clear divide between the Pakistanis (pigeonholed as evil terrorists) and everyone else (the Western world, thus the good guys), with the exception of the mole. As a piece of media London Has Fallen has the responsibility of portraying a balanced interpretation of every culture, or at least offering an alternative viewpoint, instead of supplementing already fertile tropes. However, that doesn’t happen.

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  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)

    ★★★★

    Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

     

    While not as impressive or gripping as Captain America: Winter Soldier, the Russo brothers deliver a satisfying and fun followup to their first film. Filled with amazing action, mostly impressive characters, and thought provoking ideas, the brothers have made a film that balances out a plethora of superheroes—something that Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon could only imagine.

    The story of Civil War is centered around the differing ideologies of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Captain America (Chris Evans) and their ultimate confrontation, yet it is Cap’s relationship with Bucky (Sebastian Stan) that is most important. This relationship helps bring emotional depth to the film and also helps raise the stakes in regard to the other characters relationships.

    The cast is impressive in the roles that most of them have become comfortable with. Vision (Paul Bettany) is endlessly entertaining, and his relationship to Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who thankfully dials back the Russian accent, is an interesting storyline I hope is explored further in the future.

    The newcomers hold their own against the Marvel veterans. Chadwick Boseman shines in his regal role as Black Panther, with amazing action scenes and a very cool costume. I can’t wait to see Black Panther’s solo film, but his thunder is somewhat stolen by another newcomer, Spider-Man (Tom Holland).

    By and far the most interesting part of the film, Holland as the ‘web-slinger’ is nothing short of superb. Though he is for the most part expendable to the story, Holland is the best, kindest, and most accurate Spider-Man ever seen on screen. During the visually stunning and fun airport sequence, he steals the show with some great lines and cool moves. I can’t imagine how depressing the film might have been without him, or Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), to bring the funny.

    All in all, the Russo brothers have delivered another top-tier story in Marvel’s ever-growing cinematic universe. Now, onwards to Infinity War.

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  • Sport 44: New Zealand New Writing 2016

    ★★★★★

    Editors: Fergus Barrowman, with Kirsten McDougall & Ashleigh Young

    Publisher: Victoria University Press

     

    Sport is an institution of New Zealand publishing and has shared short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction with a wide audience since 1988. Published annually, it’s a fantastic way for both new and established writers to showcase work, and serves as a roll call of our most highly-regarded voices.

    The 44th issue of the magazine features cover art from Elyjana Roach, and is packed to the brim with exciting work. Poetry stalwarts Bill Manhire, Jenny Bornholdt, and Gregory O’Brien are here, as well as a bevy of newer voices: Lynley Eameades, Nina Powles, Alexandra Hollis, and many more.

    In the fiction category, Kirsten McDougall brings Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector back from the dead to cook eggs in a world without internet; Kate Duignan writes affectingly of the complexities of motherhood in a story of two women meeting on a beach; Damien Wilkins shares an excerpt from an intriguing new work.

    In nonfiction, Helena Wiśniewska Brow tells of the pitfalls of memoir writing: “But I’d wronged him. In my book, his truth was hollowed out, unrecognisable.” Chris Tse writes of photographs, memory, and travel; Nick Bollinger recalls nights spent at the Union Hall, immersing himself in local music. In an emotional piece, Emma Gilkison shares the story of her unborn son, who suffered from ectopia cordis, a condition where the heart grows outside of the body.

    While Sport publishes work from all over New Zealand, Wellington has a strong presence and lurks amongst its pages. Aro Valley, Ngaio Gorge, Miramar Peninsula—even the Mount Street cemetery, still a favourite haunt for students and cigarette breaks—jump out to meet you. There’s something special about reading what you know, the thrill of I know that place!  

    The selections in Sport 44 took me to the other side the world, before whisking me safely home.

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  • The Vegetarian

    ★★★★★

    Author: Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

    Publisher: Portobello Books

     

    Sinister, surreal, beguiling—that’s how I would describe this fantastic novel from South Korean author Han Kang. First published in South Korea in 2007, the novel was translated to English by Deborah Smith in 2015. The Vegetarian is currently on the shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize (2016), an award given for foreign fiction.

    What I thought would be an interesting look at a woman changing her diet turned out to be so much more, consisting of multiple layers of dreams and twisted reality. Yeong-hye lives with her husband, Mr Cheong, in an apartment in Seoul. Prompted by bizarre and bloody dreams Yeong-hye gives up eating or cooking meat, much to her jerk husband’s annoyance. It turns out that vegetarianism isn’t very common in South Korea, especially not for any moral standpoint, and Yeong-hye is treated by those around her with bemused fascination and concern. But this isn’t just a simple case of not wanting to eat meat—Yeong-hye’s mental state seems to be spiralling downward, culminating in a disastrous family visit. From there the story only gets stranger, and more compelling.

    The novel is split into three parts, told from the perspectives of Yeong-hye’s husband, her sister’s husband, and finally her sister. We are given little insight into Yeong-hye’s mind, just a few snatches of the dreams which haunt her, and the brief conversations which her family are able to coax out of her as she retreats further and further from the ordinary world. Her sister’s husband, a wayward artist, finds himself drawn to her with disastrous and unsettling consequences.

    The novel deals with childhood abuse, sexual abuse, and eating disorders—so be warned if these are topics that you’re sensitive to. Ultimately this is a story of mental illness, with supernatural overtones, which held me firmly in its grip from start to finish.

    by

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