DVDs: Reviews and giveaway

SPOOKY: Kai Lennox plays a stressed-out dad in the paranormal thriller Apartment 143.
SPOOKY: Kai Lennox plays a stressed-out dad in the paranormal thriller Apartment 143.


The Newcastle Herald and SBS are giving away five copies of series two of the popular SBS program Go Back to Where You Came From, and five copies of Stories that Matter

In series two of Go Back to Where You Came From, six prominent and outspoken Australians take a risky refugee journey. 

Stories That Matter includes locally produced, breakthrough programs such as Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta, Immigration Nation: The Secret History Of Us and First Australians, as well as a host of international titles. To enter and be in the running to win one copy of each DVD, send the keyword "SBS" with your name, address and daytime contact number via SMS to 0427 842 179 or email livefreebies@theherald.com.au. 


The winners of Assassin’s Creed III are P. Ernst, of Rutherford; K. Apthorpe, of Abermain; L. Nicholls, of Denman; D. Stolzenhein, of East Maitland; and L. Richards, of Gloucester.



Hopscotch, 77mins

THIS movie just starts. There’s no pretence at trying to ease the viewer into the plot, and you are thrown into the midst of some kind of crisis. And your immediate reaction is ‘‘Oh no, not another Paranormal Activity’’. 

There is paranormal activity here, certainly, and hand-held cameras, and quite a few bumps in the night. But it’s not a mindless Paranormal Activity rip-off, rather a considered,  informative and entertaining education on the paranormal from a scientific perspective.

Can the events occurring in an apartment occupied by a father and his two children be explained scientifically, or are they the result of something more sinister (and frightening)?

You can make educated guesses as the plot unfolds and the family’s dirty laundry is aired, but it is not until the final frame that you get your answer. 

In a nutshell,  a team of university parapsychologists stay with the widower and his children and, in this apartment, it’s not just at night that things go bump – and you jump.

Regular watchers of the genre know to expect the unexpected, and not to make a judgment call about characters in haste. Apartment 143, like all worthy thrillers of the horror persuasion, keeps your mind ticking over with possibilities and probabilities. The scientific angle, however, is a little long-winded and confusing at times. And Michael O’Keefe, who plays the brainiac psychologist who explains on numerous occasions how the psychological can manifest itself in the paranormal, is sometimes difficult to understand, resulting in a feeling of having missed something crucial.

As it turns out, you haven’t. 

Kai Lennox is convincing as the stressed-out dad, Gia Mantegna nails the role of the angry teenaged daughter and Damian Roman is engaging as the  inquisitive young son.

One complaint: why do DVD covers, and the menu page, give so much away about the movie? Apartment 143 is a case in point. There’s one image that you notice before you press play, and without even wanting to, and then you wait the entire 77 minutes expecting to see it.

It detracts from the shock factor.

Rating: ***

– Lisa Rockman



THANK goodness for pay-TV in America. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Hell on Wheels, The Big C.

The creative incubators allowed by realistic subscription figures allows writers and directors, and actors, to take more chances and reach an audience who want more depth and less fluff.

This series is certainly an experiment. Laura Dern stars as Amy Jellicoe, a career woman who blows it all up over an office affair – and then comes back to the same workplace.

It’s set in Los Angeles and has plenty of dirty personal laundry and emotional instability built into it. LA seems like such an appropriate place for it, where life imitates fiction by the bucketload.

Luke Wilson is her ex-husband, Levi Callow, and Diane Ladd plays her unaffected mother (Ladd is Dern’s mother in real life).

This can be shaky ground to watch because of the torrid emotional issues constantly coming to the surface, but it’s a helluva change of pace from Two And A Half Men.


– Jim Kellar


Icon, 95mins

WRITER Michael Lucas and director Peter Templeman have made one of the best Australian movies of the year in this cool package.

The urbane vibe is thoroughly modern, and while the plot may seem to be a reach, it’s executed with style and humour.

Leading actors Ryan Kwanten (as Jonah), Ryan Corr (Gus) and Sarah Snook (Stevie) handle the words with care and authenticity. 

The three inner-city housemates are cruising through life, hosting weekly parties (and making money) and taking a dig at real careers, when the diagnosis of Jonah with testicular cancer abruptly changes their outlook.

The subsequent actions feel real. The difficult terrain draws the viewer right in – you can’t help but thinking, ‘‘What would I do?’’ and ‘‘What will he do?’’.

The soundtrack, often a distraction, fits like a groovy glove (The Black Keys, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, The Offcuts, etc.).

Rating: ***

– Jim Kellar


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