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HALF OF A YELLOW SUN (111 minutes) M★★★★

In the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70, starvation was used as a weapon against the Biafrans. The images that reached Australia were horrible. Half of a Yellow Sun uses real TV news reports to background political events, but sparingly and threateningly. While Kainene (Anika Noni) takes over the family business, her twin sister, Olanna (Thandie Newton), goes north from Lagos to teach sociology at the university town of Nsukka, where she has fallen in love with Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a radical professor. By delaying the intrusion of politics, the film establishes a sense of what is about to be lost, and how easily things can go bad. The turmoil closes in on the characters almost without their noticing. We see almost no films from this part of the world. This is a UK-Nigerian co-production filmed in the country, with a rare degree of passion and commitment. It is a superb piece of work. PBSelected release


There is nothing wrong with children’s entertainment having an agenda, but big-screen Hollywood animation seems to be getting too sophisticated in the worst ways. Take Mr Peabody and Sherman, directed by Rob Minkoff from a script by Craig Wright, known for middlebrow soap operas such as Six Feet Under. Wright has been encouraged to stay true to himself as an artist, with tiresome results: there are jokes about Philip Glass and the Oedipus myth, dialogues sodden with subtext, and a story that serves as a barely veiled allegory about the struggle of non-traditional families to win acceptance. The film appears to be marketed mostly at parents, for few children are likely to recognise the central characters, who first appeared half a century ago in sketches on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Peabody, voiced by Ty Burrell from Modern Family, is a gifted dog whose inventions include a time machine that allows him to tour the hot spots of history with his young protege, Sherman (Max Charles). Good intentions aside, Mr Peabody and Sherman is a chore to sit through. The jokes are bad, whether or not they are supposed to be, and the time-travel plot has a pointless intricacy that recalls Disney’s forgettable Meet The Robinsons. JWGeneral release

THE RAID 2(148 minutes) R★★★☆

In plot terms The Raid 2 has little more than a nominal connection to its predecessor, but the fight choreographer Iko Uwais makes a return appearance as the hero Rama, an unassuming yet exceedingly agile Jakarta cop. This time he goes undercover in jail, where he befriends Ucok (Arifin Putra), the son of the mob boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo). After his release, Rama starts working for Bangun, while striving to keep a rein on Ucok, a hothead keen to stir up trouble with the gang’s Japanese competition. The dialogue scenes have an exaggerated stillness and stiffness, with lots of symmetrical head-on shots; when chaotic violence breaks out, the camera too goes crazy, flailing to keep up. For some viewers, it will all be too much. There are times when the phrase ”the pornography of violence” applies rather too literally, such as the bloodcurdling scene in which Ucok casually slaughters a row of bound prisoners. Yet even these sadistic touches are mandated by genre convention: it is doubtful that Evans himself has anything whatever to say. At most, he seems to comment on his own blankness. JWSelected release

ROMEO AND JULIET(113 minutes) M★

This new Romeo and Juliet is supposedly a traditional adaptation, but something feels amiss right from the opening, set at a jousting tournament found nowhere in Shakespeare. Shooting on location in Verona and elsewhere, Italian director Carlo Carlei supplies swaggering youths, candlelit revelry, and a gloppy score (by Abel Korzeniowski) ladelled indiscriminately over the images. Douglas Booth as Romeo is bland, and Hailee Steinfeld as Juliet, who was so effective in the Coen brothers’ True Grit, strikes moony poses and rattles off her speeches as if she is afraid that slowing down might make her forget them. Of local interest is the fact that Romeo’s sidekick, Benvolio, is played by Australian Kodi Smit-McPhee, who has grown up considerably since his child-star period, but not even he can do anything to redeem the embarrassing ending. Never was there a tale of more woe. JWSelected releaseThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Russell Crowe gets wet and wild for Noah

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There is something appropriately biblical about my introduction to Russell Crowe on the set of Noah. Arriving at a New York State park just outside Long Island’s Oyster Bay close to midnight, I reach a clearing where a heavy fog miraculously lifts to suddenly reveal the bushy-bearded Crowe waving at me from high on top of a massive ark, built, in fact, to the actual specifications listed in the Bible – 300 cubits long, by 75 cubits wide, by 45 cubits high.

Dressed in a short-sleeved leather tunic over brown shirt and pants, Crowe is filming multiple takes of a scene in which he’s watching his son, Shem (Douglas Booth), and daughter, Ila (Emma Watson), make their way back to the ark while being chased by an angry mob of men with spears and hatchets.

When he finally gets a break from the incessant rainfall, delivered by sprinklers strung high above the massive set, Crowe comes down to dispel the archetypal expectations of his new role (and there’s no sign of a God complex). ”Darren [Aronofsky, the director] promised me two things when he pitched me the film,” Crowe recounts. ”One, I will not be required to wear sandals, and two, there will not be a scene with me on the bow of the boat flanked by an elephant and a giraffe! Once he said that, I said, ‘Let’s start talking’.”

Noah is the latest cinematic retelling of the Genesis story in the Bible of a man who is given a mission from God to build an ark and collect two of every specimen, as well as his own family, to save creation from a coming apocalyptic flood. ”People ask me about the spiritual connection between Noah and God, and it’s like, ‘Well, you can’t really be that certain he has been talked to by God’,” Crowe volunteers matter-of-factly. ”I think the basis of Noah’s relationship with the Creator is one of simplicity, but it gets more complex when he starts hearing voices and ideas start coming to him. So for a good portion of time he’s probably feeling like he is going crazy.”

Hollywood has long had a fascination with stories from the Bible, and the tale of Noah’s Ark has already been tackled three times, the first dating back to the 1928 version written by movie mogul Daryl F. Zanuck. This version, from the Oscar-nominated director of Black Swan, gets a $US130 million budget to not only build the entire ark from scratch, but to also digitally insert all the animals and help deliver a flood that looks as though it really could wipe out the entire population. Of course, there’s plenty of real water, as three large trucks parked nearby with ”Rain for rent” plastered on the sides will testify. Crowe says one take alone required more than 25,000 gallons (113,500 litres) of water, and he proudly breaks it down to ”eight football fields full of rain – one of the largest rainfalls for a movie, even bigger than Perfect Storm.”

That all this rain is landing on the Oscar-winning actor isn’t something Crowe likes to complain about.

”It’s a little bit of the old Chinese water torture now, being stuck in it night after night,” he says with a shrug, ”but the thing that I do before every take is just look out, watch the water come out of those sprinklers like watery fireworks and accept the beauty of that.”

Crowe was also full of praise for the beauty of Iceland, where he filmed exterior shots for four weeks. ”We shot on everything from glaciers to volcanic plains to mountains to beaches,” he says. ”There is a scene where I jump in the water and it’s 39.6 Fahrenheit [4.2C]. That night we were talking about it in this little cafe and this guy says, ‘Where are you shooting?’. I told him where and he said, ‘It’s the most dangerous beach in Iceland – every day four or five people get swept to their death’, and I was like, ‘Excuse me?’.”

While there is already controversy about whether the movie is biblical enough to get the support of the Christian movie-going audience (the film studio Paramount was forced to add a disclaimer it was only ”inspired” by the biblical story), but not too religious for the action movie crowd, Aronofsky says he hopes to bridge the gap between the two. ”This is a movie about miracles,” he insists. ”There is a mythology to the movie that we are being truthful to. Yes, we did create our own rules, but only to make an audience understand. This is like our Lord of the Rings and so there is room for miracles to happen.”


Genre Drama

Buzz The story about the second-most famous boat in history (behind the Titanic) could deliver on its hype of sink like the other vessel. The verdict is still not in.

Stars Russel Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson

Director Darren Aronofsky

Released Out now, rated M

Welcome to Holy-wood

From Moses to Monty Python’s naughty boy, Tinseltown has long had a soft spot for the good book, writes Jenny Cooney Carrillo.


The most famous of five movie versions, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Charlton Heston as Moses, the Egyptian prince who turns his back on his royal heritage to lead his people out of bondage, er, slavery.


Featuring one of the great rock opera soundtracks of all time, Norman Jewison’s film version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical starred Ted Neeley as Jesus and Yvonne Elliman as his squeeze, Mary Magdalene. However, it’s a fair bet that whatever version of the crucifixion you learnt at Sunday school didn’t include fighter jets, army tanks and King Herod dancing in silver hot pants.


Under the direction of Terry Jones, the Python lads delivered an outrageous religious farce that followed Brian (Graham Chapman, pictured), a man who is mistaken for Jesus but turns out to be not the Messiah, just “a very naughty boy”. It also features one of the more memorable closing scenes in film, with Eric Idle, nailed up on the cross, leading a chorus of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Cue whistle.

DOGMA (1999)

Kevin Smith’s irreverent take on Catholic dogma follows two fallen angels, Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon), who are attempting to make their way back to heaven via Wisconsin. Rude, crude and slightly mad, it also stars Alan Rickman as the voice of God and singer Alanis Morrissette as actual God (yep, he is a she).


Director Mel Gibson’s serious, bloody and controversial Aramaic-language take on the final hours and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, played by Jim Caviezel, earned the wrath of critics but three Oscar nominations and a record-breaking $US611million worldwide.

with Louise Rugendyke

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The Raid 2: The raider of the lost art

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In 2011, two of the most intriguing independent features on the festival circuit were unexpected genre films by young British directors. Gareth Edwards made the eerie science-fiction thriller Monsters, while Gareth Evans put together the brutal Indonesian action flick The Raid. Both films took styles that had become formulaic in the mainstream and recharged them, and both filmmakers were feted.

Three years later, however, they’ve taken opposing paths. The Englishman, Edwards, is putting the finishing touches on May’s Godzilla reboot, a Hollywood blockbuster. The Welshman, Evans, has stuck with his Indonesian crew and colleagues to make a sequel to The Raid. The former spent $US160 million ($175 million) on his new movie, the latter $US4.5 million, and Evans couldn’t be happier with his decision.

“The Raid 2 was always the project I really wanted to make, and it had been in my head for three years at that point,” Evans says. “If I’d gone off to pursue something elsewhere I would have had to cast it aside, and I would have regretted that forever. This was my one-time opportunity to make it happen.”

An amiable cinema buff happiest when enthusing about framing mass brawls or how the right sound mix can make the audience wince when a character is punched on the screen, Evans is calling from Jakarta, his home of seven years now. He lives there with wife and fellow producer Rangga Maya Barack-Evans and their young daughter, and is happy to spend his days quietly studying the everyday world around him, wondering how he could destroy it.

“I can’t go to a restaurant or a hotel now without looking at the architecture and wondering how it would look if a character jumped off something – or crashed through it,” Evans says. “It actually impinges on my day-to-day lifestyle now.”

The Raid was set in a single Jakarta slum building, where a young police officer, Rama (Iko Uwais), had to survive an unsanctioned mission and literally fight his way to freedom through increasingly bloody confrontations. The Raid 2 takes the same plucky character into the outside world, where he goes undercover to infiltrate a crime syndicate. Evans’ intricate, elegant set-pieces are now divided by reams of plot and classic gangster-movie elements.

“With the first one I just wanted to make a film; nothing else mattered,” he says. “For this one I wanted to add more substance to it. Many of the characters, for example, have problematic relationships with their father.”

Evans, who has introduced the Indonesian martial art pencak silat to action-film devotees worldwide, writes, directs and edits his films, along with collaborating on the highly specific fight choreography. He knows each shot he wants, and how they will fit together, before he begins production. Most action films have been overwhelmed by rapid-fire editing and a lack of spatial awareness; they’re deliberately meant to be a blur.

Evans, by contrast, frames his sequences to provide visual information, while actors who are also pencak silat experts means involved shots that don’t require stunt doubles or excessive cutting. His fight scenes are technically exciting and physically exhausting to watch, even if Evans himself is humble about his work.

“I really don’t think we’re that innovative,” he insists. “The way we shoot action, for example, is to use what worked on something like The Wild Bunch, a film that hasn’t aged in 45 years. The action sequences are so clear and so detailed, you feel the whole thing. We’re not doing anything new – we just take what people like [Sam] Peckinpah pioneered and someone like John Woo mastered and stick to that.”

While comparatively small, Evans got impressive value for his budget in Indonesia, while bringing in new collaborators such as respected Hong Kong car stunt director Bruce Law. The pair fashioned a car chase sequence short on digital effects and long on physical momentum and mayhem. They had seven cars available to them, and happily destroyed them all.

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Google Flu Trends predictions not reliable: researchers

Predicting flu outbreaks is best left to the experts, say Harvard researchers. Predicting flu outbreaks is best left to the experts, say Harvard researchers.
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Predicting flu outbreaks is best left to the experts, say Harvard researchers.

Predicting flu outbreaks is best left to the experts, say Harvard researchers.

Google has failed in its attempts to formulate algorithms which accurately predict the prevalence of flu, according to Harvard researchers who accused the search engine giant of technology “hubris”.

When Google announced the Flu Trends application to track flu outbreaks in real-time, right down to the street level of those suffering from it, the company promised a new era in health, where new technology would more efficiently and quickly disperse the information required to allow doctors and pharmacies to prepare for an outbreak in advance.

Google failed, according to Professor David Lazer and his team at Harvard Kennedy School in the US, who said Flu Trends, which uses search queries to compile its results, tends to overestimate the occurrence of flu when compared with data produced by decades-old organisations that manually collect influenza reports from labs.

The researchers said Google Flu Trends reported too many cases for 100 out of 108 weeks of each flu season between August 2011 and September 2013. It overestimated the prevalence of flu by more than 50 per cent.

The researchers said it was hard to predict outbreaks based on search results because people searching might not actually have the flu or might have self-diagnosed incorrectly.

“The most common explanation for [the] error is a media-stoked panic last flu season,” the researchers wrote in the report.

Google Flu Trends will never match the accuracy of established surveillance networks, according to Ian Barr, deputy director at the Melbourne-based WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza.

“It’s fine for use as a general guide, for the high season, low season, when the season starts,” Barr said. ‘‘But if you’re expecting to pick up very specific, recent trends, such as the slight increases in cases we’re seeing here in Australia over the summer season, then you’re expecting a lot.’’

Initially Google Flu Trends omitted peculiar search terms, which contributed to the application completely missing the nonseasonal H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic in 2009, which spread when the application was still a few months old. Google rejigged the algorithms soon after but it wasn’t enough to escape the ongoing ire of established researchers, who still hold up lab surveillance as the gold standard.

“Even three-week old [lab surveillance] data does a better job of predicting current flu prevalence than Google Flu Trends,” they wrote.

The criticism of Google’s app is unfair because all data collection systems are imperfect, according to Craig Dalton, co-ordinator of the Newcastle-based program FluTracking, which detects flu epidemics by surveying more than 10,000 national respondents every week.

He said results can be skewed by people being told to get tested, such as the 2009 pandemic, and also having the same number of flu cases but the varying strains of flu having different levels of impact.

Google invited Dalton to visit the company’s New York offices in 2010 to consult on the flu trends project, and he said the results have improved since the algorithms were rewritten.

The art to predicting the spread of the flu, or any other trend, is to integrate all the different sets of data and analyse massive amounts of unstructured data, a technique referred to as ‘big data’.

“I think some people take joy in attacking Google Flu Trends,” Dalton said.

“From a holistic perspective researchers should take joy and interest when there’s a significant departure from the norm. They shouldn’t say ‘this is an error’, they should ask ‘why did it depart?’”

“Many studies coming out and attacking Google Flu Trends I think are flawed themselves. It has an incredibly important place in the whole suite of data trends that support flu monitoring.”

Indeed, the Harvard researchers argued that there needs to be more collaboration, and that Google would have benefited from incorporating lab surveillance data, as well as sharing the formulas and search terms that power its top-secret algorithms.

“Instead of focusing on a ‘big data revolution’, perhaps it is time we were focused on an ‘all data revolution’, where we recognise that the critical change in the world has been innovative analytics, using data from all traditional and new sources, and providing a deeper, clearer understanding of our world,” they said.

A Google  Australia spokesman said the algorithm was contantly under review.

“We review the Flu Trends model each year to determine how we can improve. We welcome feedback on how we can refine Flu Trends to help estimate flu levels and complement existing surveillance systems.”

In October 2013 Google admitted that its application overestimated influenza-like illnesses, because increased media coverage prompted earlier that year prompted the highest every number of searches on the subject. Google subsequently changed its algorithm, which will be in place for the upcoming American flu season.

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Melbourne Rebels have a month to turn season around: Scott Higginbotham

Melbourne Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham has set his team the task of turning around its season within the next month.
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The Rebels will start that challenge with the daunting prospect of playing the Australian conference-leading Canberra Brumbies at AAMI Park on Friday night, armed with a game plan to stop rival full-back Jesse Mogg from strutting his stuff.

Higginbotham said while the team could use reasons, such as inexperience, for its disappointing 1-3 start,  its season was approaching the point of no return, which will be marked by its second bye in round 11.

The Rebels embark on a New Zealand tour next week when they will face the Highlanders and Chiefs, and their next home game will be against the Western Force in round 10, on April 18.

”It’s obviously frustrating but we’re still a young side and an inexperienced side and we’ve still got a lot of work to do, and it’s just going to take time,” he said.

”I don’t want to be saying with eight games down that’s it’s still early in the season and there’s still time. Something has to happen definitely before our next bye. We really need to clock up some wins.”

Higginbotham said the Rebels knew what to expect from the Brumbies and go into the game attempting to restrict Mogg’s opportunities.

”The Brumbies play a very structured game,” he said. “They’ve been playing the same brand of football for the last couple of years – the thing about that is that they do it well.

”I think basically it’s just about how hard you’re willing to work to challenge that style of football. It’s a very straight-forward style that they play so for us you’ve just got to work hard and maybe we haven’t been working hard enough.

”Mogg has got a great boot on him and you saw when they played the Waratahs, if you give him space and time to figure out what he’s going to do, he’ll make you pay.”

Higginbotham said the Rebels could go a long way to changing their fortunes by reducing the number of needless penalties.

”Sometimes you’ll get decisions where a lot can go either way and, to be honest, I think that’s the way refereeing is going at the moment. It’s no excuse, we’ve just got to be harder. And with those breakdown penalties, we’ve got to play more to the book and be a bit more straight-forward with our technique.”

Rebels coach Tony McGahan has made six changes to the team that was overrun by NSW, with half-back Luke Burgess relegated to the bench in favour of Nic Stirzaker, who will be playing his first game since suffering an ankle sprain in the first trial game.

McGahan said he was looking for a ”new voice” to direct the team and has placed his faith in the inexperienced halves pairing of Stirzaker and Bryce Hegarty.

Colby Faingaa has also replaced blindside-flanker Sean McMahon in the line-up and will be looking to prove his value as a starting player against his former club.

”I’m just trying to play good rugby and I’ve been in and out of the starting team,” he said. ”I’m not trying to prove anything to the Brumbies, I’m trying to prove my worth to the Rebels and keep my spot.”

Meanwhile, Wallabies inside-centre Christian Lealiifano will make his Super Rugby return from the Brumbies’ bench after undergoing ankle surgery five months ago.

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St Kilda coach Alan Richardson wary of Giants

St Kilda’s Sam Fisher continues to battle a hamstring injury. Photo: Paul Jeffers St Kilda’s Sam Fisher continues to battle a hamstring injury. Photo: Paul Jeffers
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St Kilda’s Sam Fisher continues to battle a hamstring injury. Photo: Paul Jeffers

St Kilda’s Sam Fisher continues to battle a hamstring injury. Photo: Paul Jeffers

St Kilda will continue without a pair of best and fairest winners for at least the next two games, and perhaps for longer.

Reigning Trevor Barker Award winner Jack Steven, and dual club champion Sam Fisher are taking longer than hoped to return from their respective foot and hamstring injuries.

St Kilda coach Alan Richardson said Steven is “a couple of weeks away” while Fisher remains a less certain proposition.

“[It’s] a frustrating one for him. It’s been a week for probably about a month now,” Richardson said.

“He hasn’t quite been able to respond to the extra load we’re putting in.

“He’s a chance to be ready next week; probably looks a little bit more likely to be another week, but we’ll just wait and see.”

Richardson is not underestimating what will be a confident Giants side after their  round-one upset of Sydney.

“We copped them two weeks before that up at Wagga Wagga and they were very impressive,” Richardson said.

“They’ve got some incredible talent; they’ve got another pre-season into their young runners and it shows.

“The way that they played, the physical nature of their game against Sydney, suggests that they’re going to be really physical in there, too, so we rate them very highly.”

The first-year coach was generally pleased with how his young charges were tracking.

“There were some areas of the game [against Melbourne] we were really happy with. We thought our attack on the footy, our ability to put pressure on, was good,” Richardson said.

“There’s certainly some areas to work on, there’s no doubt about that, we have no illusions about the fact that we’ve started on a journey.

“There’s going to be some young players and with that potentially is some inconsistency and some non-compliance, not through lack of want, but that’s what you get with young groups.”

Richardson also agreed that the recently mooted idea of the Brisbane Lions’ list manager to make future draft picks available for trade had significant merit.

“That makes sense. I think speaking to some at the AFL, their concern is if clubs were to get that wrong, what does that do to the future of your footy club?” he said.

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If it is urgent, please wait in the queue

THANK you for calling the Minister for Immigration and his department. Unfortunately, due to a high volume of traffic, all our spin doctors – sorry, operators – are busy at the moment.
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Otherwise, please feel free to call back at a time that suits you. For your reference, please also note this definition from the Online Etymology Dictionary: Urgent, mid-15c., from Middle French urgent “pressing, impelling” (14c.), from Latin urgentem (nominative urgens), present participle of urgere “to press hard, urge” (see urge (v.)). Related: Urgently. If English is not your native language, there are a number of translation services available on the internet.

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Please be aware an emergency under department guidelines is defined as an incident about which the minister is – sorry, you are – unlikely to have a solution.

Warwick McFadyen works for The Age newspaper.

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Mandatory sentences may deter guilty pleas

CONCERN: Minimum terms for violence might not work, a lawyer warns.THE NSW government is implementing a range of measures designed to combat drunken violence within our community, but there are significant concerns about many of these measures, especially mandatory sentencing.
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Whilst society should not tolerate such behaviour, doubts have been raised at to whether increasing penalties and introducing mandatory sentences is the answer.

The first series of changes passed through the Parliament in January 2014, including the creation of a new criminal offence known as Assault Causing Death. It applies when any person unlawfully assaults another person and the assault causes their death. Death can be caused either directly by the injuries received from the assault, or as a result of the person who has been assaulted striking the ground or an object as a consequence of being assaulted.

A maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment is set for this offence. However, if an intoxicated person commits this offence, the maximum penalty is 25 years with a mandatory minimum penalty of eight years imprisonment.

The second series of changes introduced into the State Parliament in February are yet to be enacted, having failed to pass the Upper House of Parliament. They were returned to the Lower House with proposed amendments, which the government rejects.

If the laws are enacted in the form proposed by the government, they will increase by two years the maximum penalty applicable to a number of existing crimes, if committed in public by someone who is intoxicated. They also introduce mandatory minimum sentences for a number of offences, again if committed in public by someone who is intoxicated.

This raises two questions for the community: do the penalties need to be increased, and should those penalties be greater if the crime is committed by an intoxicated person than the lesser penalty handed out to a sober person?

It remains to be seen whether these laws will actually reduce the level of alcohol related violence in the community. People involved in drunken violence are not likely to stop and think in the heat of the moment about the length of prison sentence they will receive if they commit a violent crime.

The Law Society of NSW also suggests that experience over many years shows that an offender’s fear of being caught is a much better deterrent then a potential severe penalty in the event that they are caught.

The imposition of mandatory minimum jail sentences may reduce the likelihood that people brought before the court are actually able to be rehabilitated so that they do not reoffend.

Instead of a person being diverted to some form of rehabilitation program (or entering into such program at an earlier stage), offenders will face lengthy periods of prison time. It is widely considered that such sentences do not necessarily foster rehabilitation.

Our legal system has, for a very long time, proceeded on the basis that a maximum penalty is prescribed for a criminal offence. The maximum penalty provides an outer limit that the sentence cannot exceed. It acts as an indication to the courts of how seriously the community views the offence.

When someone is found guilty of, or pleads guilty to, a criminal offence, it is then for a judge to decide on a sentence. The judge is free to consider the particular circumstances of the offence, and the individual circumstances of the person being sentenced. The judge then applies established rules of sentencing to arrive at a sentence anywhere up to the maximum that is appropriate for the particular crime committed.

It is feared that the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences interferes with this discretion, and has a real potential to create injustices in some cases. It prevents judges from imposing more lenient sentences when a particular aspect of the crime or offender justifies leniency.

It has long been accepted that people who plead guilty to a criminal offence are entitled to a reduction in the sentence they receive. This practice encourages people who have committed crimes to admit their guilt. That in turn has the benefit that it spares victims, police and the courts the distress, costs and inconvenience of lengthy court cases.

The introduction of mandatory minimum sentences may in practice have the effect of nullifying the reduction that offenders receive for pleading guilty. Instead offenders who know what mandatory minimum sentence awaits them may “take their chances” and run their cases to trial in the hope of being found not guilty.

Despite community outrage about recent tragic “one punch” incidents, the legal fraternity continue to have doubts that these laws will have the effect that the government and community desire.

Nicholas Amos is a criminal lawyer at Baker Love Lawyers.

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Floor-to-floor works of art at Rahmani’s Rugs

NCH WEEKENDER , Word of Mouth. Image shows Sam Rahani from Rahmani’s Rugs in Parry street.14th March 2014 pic Darren Pateman NCH WEEKENDER , Word of Mouth. Image shows Ben from Rahmani’s Rugs in Parry street repairing a rug.14th March 2014 pic Darren Pateman
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LAST year a Persian rug from the early 17th century made world news when it was sold by Sotheby’s auction house in New York City for $33.7 million.

The Clark Sickle-Leaf carpet trebled the previous record sale of a carpet, which was $9.6 million sold by Christie’s in London in 2010.

The sale served as a snappy reminder that for many people, Persian carpets are not just a floor covering but a piece of art.

While it’s not an art gallery or an auction house, Rahmani’s Rug Gallery in Newcastle does offer a taste of the exotic.

If you’re in the market for something around $1 million, they can help you out. Of course, if you want to start small, you can get a hand-made wool doormat-size piece for around $45.

Every piece of carpet has a story, as Sam Rahmani can tell you. The piece he’s holding in the picture is Persian carpet showing the Seirafian central medallion, with the gate of heaven and trees of life.

“It has a soft cream background with harmonious colour combination throughout,” Rahmani says.

It was made from super-fine Kork woven wool on a silk foundation, with 870 knots per square inch.

It took more than two years to make the carpet. The price: $28,000.

When you are in this line of business, your customers are often a bit special.

“The carpet is not part of furniture,” Rahmani says of the Seirafian. “It is a work of art. With art, emotion comes into it. They like a particular colour, or the age of it. Once the emotion takes over, they don’t have to think about it too much.”

Sam’s father started the business in Newcastle 29 years ago, and it’s always been in his blood.

What does he like?

“My taste is towards tribal [design]. They have a lot of character and charm. The city carpets are finer and more expensive. They are like a fine, classic painting. The tribal style is like Impressionist painting,” Rahmani says.

Of course, if you are going to sell products in this category, you’ve got to be able to service them. Rahmani’s offers a cleaning and repair service. The store’s repair genius, Ben, has been in the industry for more 40 years.

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Lego Movie depicts awesome brick empire

Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture – © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Titles: The Lego Movie (2014) Lego movie
Nanjing Night Net

THE Lego phenomenon of brick building fun has been made into various forms of entertainment such as cartoons, successful direct to video movies including the best-selling DVD Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers, to an abundance of fan-made clips on YouTube.

Toy of the Century winner, Lego is much more than a toy to so many. Collectors are eager to buy every unique piece they can, as some designs have restricted availability in certain parts of the world with only limited numbers produced.

Even large department stores can hold exclusive rights to designs.

Founded in Denmark in 1932 by a master carpenter, the company has since become universally treasured and part of our cultural history.

A brand new and first-ever feature-length adventure film about to be released to eager Australian audiences will not disappoint. A permanent smile beamed across my face the whole time.

Movies based on toys or board games have not always fared well. Recently, Battleship was a financial disaster for Universal Pictures, thankfully putting a halt to a proposed Monopoly feature.

The retro Care Bears Movie and Transformers epics are two exceptions for toys becoming hit films.

The Lego Movie provides fascinating fun on an ambitious scale.

There are no rules when building with Lego on the bedroom floor and the film adopts that initiative.

Over the years Lego has allowed models in conjunction with certain iconic film franchises such as The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Star Wars to produce film-inspired set pieces.

The Lego Movie reverses the roles, with cameos from those movies – and more – appearing here.

Not only did I remain attentive from the opening credits, one of the most pleasing aspects is that the production company responsible for the groundbreaking animation was effects company Animal Logic, based in Sydney. I spoke to three of the creators on their thoughts on a movie they lovingly worked on for the best part of three years.

Producer Amber Naismith was also part of a previously made Lego Star Wars film so she had a history with the toy on screen.

Computer graphic supervisor Damien Gray said over 2000 bricks were modelled, with two teams spending almost two years individually defining them. The level of detail cannot be seen by the naked eye at times, so each team member wore special jewellers glasses as all bricks have marks, scratches or fingerprints and purposely injected mould points.

The Animal Logic team had an entire life-size wall sent over by the company for them to study and work from.

Production designer Grant Freckelton, a veteran Animal Logic member of such hits as the original 300, worked on development to give the characters and backdrops a homemade feel.

He had a part in pitching new characters and designs with the co-directors who encouraged collaborative input from everyone while ensuring a level of secrecy outside the studio walls.

The final product, which has already become an American box office sensation, is a family-oriented spectacle, colourful and hilarious.

Unlike most animated films, the digital graphics reflect the stiffness of the bricks with awkward movements retained.

It is so busy, including much going on in the background, a second or third viewing may be necessary.

The Animal Logic team mentioned quite a few scenes did not make the final cut as the script changed.

They also said there were multiple “easter eggs” as hidden surprises for those viewers who look closely enough, including an ongoing theme of pigs.

“Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team” is a catchy theme song and embodiment to this clever, action-packed send-up of the never-ending superhero genre that’s rich with personality. The popular interlocking bricks which can be made into just about anything make up the different worlds within this movie.

The story of construction worker Emmet as an unlikely master builder as suggested in a prophecy from a blind lord (with Morgan Freeman’s voice) is the basis of a cool, fast-moving trip across the Lego universe. The villain Mr Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) plans to use a frequently enjoyed public gathering (Taco Tuesdays) as a staging ground to glue them to the spot, robbing them of their creativity. As far as the plot goes, that is probably too much information to examine in a world that includes Unikitty (unicorn/kitten). Abraham Lincoln even appears alongside a Ninja Turtle.

Pop culture references are rife and sure to find a place in the hearts of all ages who may have had Lego as part of their lives. Batman, Green Lantern and Star Wars were my memorable moments in a bunch of standouts. The character of Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a would-be romantic interest for Emmet, had me from the start. I was totally involved with her sincerity and Lego street-style quips.

Channing Tatum voices Superman while Liam Neeson possibly steals the show, if that’s possible, as Good Cop-Bad Cop, the constantly switching persona of law enforcement.

The larger, younger-skewed concept of Duplo blocks even gets a mention – very funny indeed.

A human element towards the end is a nice relatable way to adjust the chaos that came before.

While suitable for all ages, children affected by flashing bright lights may want to avoid it, as the effects are non-stop, particularly in effective 3D.

Unsurprisingly, a sequel is in the works for a 2017 release, even if the creators I spoke with were coy on revealing details. With endless possibilities it should be worth waiting for.

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