Sense and Sensibility Brokeback Mountain think) in 2005 and Life of Pi 2012. His latest is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on an award-winning 2013 novel by American author Ben Fountain that has been compared with Joseph Heller’s satirical masterpiece Catch-22. Billy Lynn is a 19-year-old soldier on tour in Iraq. We start with news footage of him risking his life to help a wounded sergeant. Lynn is the screen debut of English theatre actor Joe Alwyn, who is superb as a young man hailed a hero by everyone but himself. His internalised performance subtly but edgily makes us think about post-traumatic stress disorder. Lee and screenwriter JeanChristophe Castelli are faithful to Fountain’s novel.
The Fencer (Miekkailija) (PG) This Finnish-Estonian coproduction is set in a small Estonian town in the early 1950s when the country has been forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. A young schoolteacher, while trying to keep a low profile because of his past, encourages his sportsstarved pupils to train in the sport of fencing, but faces a dilemma when the school is invited to participate in national championships in Leningrad. This true story is told with confidence and precision, even though it sometimes feels a little contrived.
Bad Santa (MA15+) I didn’t mind Bad Santa (2003), in which Billy Bob Thornton was a criminal Claus. Indeed when it ended, a bit sentimentally, I wished he’d been even badder. Well, careful what you hope for. Mark Waters’ Bad Santa 2 is up there with the worst films I’ve seen in recent years. Full of swearing, vulgar jokes and crude sex, it’s not deserving of such talented actors as Thornton and Kathy Bates, who plays his vile mother. And while I realise teenagers know more than I think they do, I wouldn’t take one to this MA15+ movie. It’s sub-juvenile.
A Flea in Her Ear Here is a modern adaptation by Andrew Upton of Georges Feydeau’s 1907 play that replaces the scandal of mere adultery with something outrageous enough to serve in these more decadent times. Simon Phillips directs this Sydney Theatre Company production with a feeling for the inexorable logic that underlies the absurdity of it all, and a splendidly choreographed cascade of stage business, full of doors, staircases, secret cupboards and pratfalls. We watch as the characters’ wily plans, secret desires and outraged reactions all lead to chaos. This is a work that exploits, to great comic effect, the constant surprise of human folly. There is a great deal of brilliant clowning in the performances. With Helen Christinson (pictured). Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point. Today, 2pm and 8pm. Tickets: $78-$104. Bookings: (02) 9250 1777 or online. Until December 17. Speed-the-Plow Byrne) challenges one of them to pitch a serious movie instead. The trouble with this revival is that this central conflict is now neither new nor particularly convincing. There is savage comedy and good performances but it is hard to understand why this play needed to be revived. Sydney Theatre Company, Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay. Today, 1.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets: $84-$116. Bookings: (02) 9250 1777 or online. Until December 17. Sometimes love just isn’t enough. Things didn’t work out for film pioneer Mack Sennett and his wildly popular discovery Mabel Normand, and they don’t for the Jerry Herman musical named after them. Genuine affection for Mack and Mabel’s score underpins the occasional revival but despite its handful of enduring songs the show will never be more than B-list at best, and then only if it gets a staging capable of diverting attention from its flaws. Herman’s score is eminently hummable — songs include I Won’t Send Roses and Time Heals Everything — but Michael Stewart’s book is lousy. Using clumsy flashback, it tells rather than shows and Normand (Angelique Cassimatis) is defined through her passion for Sennett (Scott Irwin). You miss the irrepressible, free-spirited joy seen in Normand’s films, and although director Trevor Ashley and choreographer Cameron Mitchell do their best to paper over the cracks, the piece fails to hold together. Hayes Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point. Today, 2pm and 8pm. Tickets: $70-$80. Bookings: (02) 8065 7337 or online. Until December 18. fault its abundance. Aladdin confidently contrives a standing ovation before interval, secure in the knowledge there’ll be another one at the end. Sure, there’s a wholesome story somewhere in here about being honest, generous and true to yourself, but essentially Aladdin is a supercharged salaam to fabulousness. There are a halfmillion Swarovski crystals bedecking Gregg Barnes’s eyepopping costumes, which gives some idea of the intense devotion to bling, and the flying carpet gives an astonishing “how on earth do they do that?” moment. Aladdin is billed — not wrongly — as a family musical, and youngsters undoubtedly will enjoy the spectacle, but this ebullient, knowing magpie of a piece has plenty of extras for grown-ups who know their showbiz. The undisputed ace in the hand is Michael James Scott’s fourth-wall-breaking Genie. His huge number Friend Like Me is a Busby Berkeleystyle extravaganza crammed into eight exhausting, enchanting minutes. As for Alan Menken’s score — by Genie, it’s got earworms. With Arielle Jacobs as Jasmine (pictured). it is far more, too, than an abstract concept. Time forms the basis of his practice. It is his life’s work. It may be, in fact, an obsession. Miyajima wears on his wrist a 24-hour watch, the single-handed instrument operating in two-hourly increments. In this way, time seems to stand still. “This way, I never really know exactly what time it is,” he says, smiling. “This, for me, is a good thing.” Miyajima was born in postwar Tokyo in 1957 in Edogawa City and grew up in the Japanese capital, the son of a carpenter. He developed a deep sense of his own mortality early in life. “There was a time in my youth I was seriously ill — the most serious ailment was kidney disease,” he says. “I was made to think about life and death, and within that awareness I became drawn to Buddhism and Buddhist thinking about the world.” Museum of Contemporary Art, The Rocks, Sydney. Fri-Wed, 10am-5pm; Thurs, 10am-9pm. Admission: $12-$22. Inquiries: (02) 9245 2400 or online. Until March. Nude This exhibition is a collaboration between the Tate London and the Art Gallery of NSW. It contains more than 100 major representations of the nude, including paintings, sculptures, photographs and prints by renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud, Henri Matisse, Louise Bourgeois and Sarah Lucas. Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney. Thurs-Tues, 10am-5pm, Wed, 10am-10pm. Admission: $14-$24. Inquiries: (02) 9225 1700. Until February 5. He started by photographing the trees, then trawled the National Archives to find information about the fate of the individuals commemorated. Australian War Memorial, Treloar Crescent, Campbell. Daily, 10am5pm. Admission free. Inquiries: (02) 6243 4211 or online. A History of the World in 100 Objects This exhibition is based on a series of radio broadcasts produced in 2010 by the then head of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor. The pieces, each originally discussed individually and in detail, were gathered together as an exhibition that has since toured internationally in modified form. The show includes 43 of the original objects. National Museum of Australia, Lawson Crescent, Acton. MonSat, 9am-5pm; Sun, 9am-7pm. Tickets: $8-$20. Bookings: 1800 026 132. Until January. Memories of the Struggle: Australians Against Apartheid This exhibition explores Australia’s involvement and leadership in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, focusing on the context and timeline of the anti-apartheid movement and highlighting the memories of those involved. Australian trade unions, the government, sporting icons, musicians and many individuals took part in the fight for justice. Museum of Australian Democracy, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes. Daily, 9am-5pm. Admission: $2. Inquiries: (02) 6270 8222 or online.