The Lowdown on: Dannii Minogue

September 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

main.jpgWhen I say Minogue, you say…?  Ok, so Dannii’s not always the first sister that springs to mind.  The younger sibling of Kylie, I’m sure she’s pretty sick of being accused of riding on the back of her sister’s fame and not carving her own niche in this world, but carve away she has.  Known these days largely for her seat next to Simon Cowell on the panel of X Factor and for her recently reported jealousy of popular new judge, Cheryl Cole, OntheBox thinks it’s about time we took a look at what has got Dannii Minogue to where she is today.

Early Talent Shows and Summer Bay

Danielle Jane Minogue was born in 1971 in Melbourne, Australia.  The youngest of three children, Dannii first started out on the Australian talent show, Young Talent Time.  Here, she was known for her industrious work ethic- the show’s host, Johnny Young, later described her as the hardest working for the 40 children in the show’s 18 year history.

Back to the Early Days in Young Talent Time

In 1988, Dannii gave up YTT and went into fashion after having had compliments from the audience responding to her self-designed outfits.  She released her fashion range, Dannii.

Oh, and she starred in Home and Away of course!

Music and Presenting

In the early ‘90s Danni signed a recording track and had a hit album, “Love and Kisses.?  This was not only popular in Australia but also got her a decent British following.  In 1992 she released a re-worked version of her debut album, “Love and Kisses and…? which was basically a collection of dance songs, comprised tacks and remixes from the original “Love and Kisses.?

Single: Love and Kisses

After a brief dip into the land of film and a luke-warm reception of “Secrets? (critics didn’t think her acting was all that convincing), she hastily got onto releasing another album, “Get into You?.  This included songs like “Show You the Way to Go?, “This is it? and “This is the Way? in 1993.

Somewhat of a dabbler in all things entertainment, in 1994, she presented Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast over in England alongside the smitten Chris Evans and a year later, released further records but eventually dropped her record label, Mushroom Records following a contract disagreement.  Thus, in 1996, she went back to The Big Breakfast and in the same year briefly hosted Disney Time and co-hosted It’s Not Just Saturday.

Theatre- there were worse things she could do…

For Miss. Minogue’s next trick, she fancied treading the boards and landed her first theatre role of rebel Rizzo in the 1997 musical “Grease: The Arena Spectacular? performing to great success in Australia and New Zealand.  Dannii was nominated for “Best Female Musical Theater Performer? at the 1998 MO Awards.

In 1999 she starred in a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival receiving mixed reviews.  One, Fiachra Gibbons, interestingly noted that Dannii’s “disco-queen-from-hell delivery works well? for her character, Lady Macbeth…  Two years later she appeared as Esmeralda in London West End’s Notre-Dame de Paris- again, she didn’t receive the most conventionally complimentary reviews for this one.  Nuf said.

Back with a bang

Once again, Danni was drawn back to her first love of music.  After her 1997 album “Girl?, though widely appreciated, failed to do as well as hoped, it was from early 2000s that she came out with some of her best stuff.  November 2001 saw the release of “Who Do You Love Now??, a collaboration with Dutch dance act Riva.  Two years later, Dannii released “Neon Nights? which included the singles “I Begin to Wonder? and “Don’t Wanna Lose This Feeling? and “Put the Needle On It.?  This was amazingly received and hailed as a great comeback.

On the back of this success, she hosted her own radio programme, “Dannii Minogue’s Neon Nights? in June 2003 broadcast in Australia and the UK.

Single: Put The Needle On It

Since then, Dannii has released “The Hits and Beyond”, her official greatest hits album and one off singles including “So Under Pressure? inspired by her sister, Kylie’s cancer diagnoses.  This does sound mildly like she was using her sister’s illness to sell records though she assures everyone of her pride at having been able to put her feelings into words.  OK, maybe we’ll forgive you…  She also performed Sister Sledge’s “He’s the Greatest Dancer? on BBC1’s Children in Need, of which a remixed version was released as a single.  More recently, she has re-released “Girl? and “Neon Nights? and a collection of previously unheard material in the form of “Unleashed.?   Her 2007 digital album, “Club Disco? came next and to this today she’s still working her socks off, continuing to release singles.

Rivalry with Kylie, That Lesbian Tape and Plastic Surgery

kyliedanniiminogue.jpgI wonder if Dannii is just numb now to the amount everyone goes on about how great they think her sister is?  Maybe any inadequacy issues have now become a kind of nonchalant resignation- Dannii: “Yeah, so Kylie’s all pixie-cute and has a fan-base who adore her, she might have done some show-stopping tours and had a life-threatening illness that only increased her fans’ love…blah blah blah…but I’m more edgy”  (This isn’t a real quote).  It is true though that Dannii has always sold herself on being the less wholesome one. 

Like her sister, Dannii has a huge gay following.  She has always actively supported gay rights and performed multiple times at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and London’s G-A-Y club.  Unlike her sister, Dannii famously romped with a buxom female stripper called Jupiter on a night out- CCTV pictures of the ladies up close made the front of the News of The World revealed this to the world.  However, she maintains that it was just “a bit of fun? and that she’s not gay.

And of course, we can’t talk about Dannii Minogue without mentioning her facial adventures into the world of plastic.  Just take a look at this before and after and tell me this girl hasn’t had much done.before-after.jpg

From X Factor Top Dog to Bitchy Back-biting

These days it’s X-factor that Dannii is most renowned for.  She got the gig after appearing on Network 7’s variety show, “Australia’s Got Talent? and has been a judge since 2007.  After everyone saying Sharon Osbourne felt threatened by her as the younger female presenter, as of late, it has been reported that Dannii is the one who is now unhappy at losing out on airtime now devoted to newer, younger judge, Cheryl Cole.

Quite frankly, OntheBox doesn’t care if they are at each other’s throats or it is all just another media frenzy.    Maybe she should slow down on the old surgery thing and accept that there’s always going to be a younger model out there but hey, that’s her thing.  Ultimately, Dannii  has proved she’s worked hard for her crust and she can belt out a good Euro dance tune when she wants, and that’s what counts.

Pick of the Week: Monday 29th September

September 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Film Four, Monday 29th September, 9pm Alert Me

Ang Lee’s BAFTA and Cannes-winning drama follows the stories of two families, Ben and Elena Hood (Kevin Kline and Joan Allen) and Jim and Janey Carver (Jamey Sheridan and Sigourney Weaver) and their adolescent children, including Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood. Set in Connecticut in the early ’70s, it follows their casual affairs, breakdowns, juvenile sexual experimentation and bad parenting, all of which leads to a dramatic climax of dysfunction during an ice storm that blankets the area with a frozen glaze. Read Review…

BBC 2, Thursday 2nd October, 9:30pm Alert Me

Olivia Colman, Meera Syal, Aidan McArdle, Layton Williams, Samuel Burnett and Luke Ward-Wilkinson star in Beautiful People, a comic memoir based on the story of Simon Doonan, who was born in Reading but is now creative director of the swankiest store in New York, Barneys. Each week, the narrative moves between New York City, “now”, and Reading, “then”. In this first episode, Simon is creating a window in the New York store when his assistant, Sacha, knocks over a vase. Memories come flooding back of how he got the vase; of how his mum, Debbie, drank too much of his dad’s homemade wine; of how his sister, Ashlene, was desperate to “hang with the crew in the hood”; of how his mum’s blind best friend, Hayley, betrayed a trust; and of how he came to be wearing a dress that belonged to his best friend, Kylie’s, mum.

Dawn Porter: Free Lover, Channel 4DAWN PORTER: FREE LOVER
Channel 4, Tuesday 30th September, 10pm Alert Me

Dawn Porter is 29, gorgeous and single. She’s had plenty of boyfriends, but no one she can imagine settling down with. Dawn is keen to look at the different ways it can be done. From polygamy and polyamory to mail order brides and geisha, in this new four-part series Dawn travels the world to look at the most extreme ways women find love, and live, with men. In this first episode, Dawn immerses herself in the world of polyamory, or free love. Her investigation takes in a free love school in California, and a polyamorous utopian commune in Germany.

BBC 2, Wednesday 1st October, 9pm Alert Me

The hit American drama returns with revelations that redefine familiar characters and shake the series to its core. The first chapter of Volume 3 kicks off moments after shots ring out, as the shocking identity of Nathan’s assassin and the reasons why the Texas press conference had to be cut short are revealed. Peter and Matt are immediately thrown into unexpected and uncharted territory. With his powers partially restored, Sylar decides that a visit to Claire could give him a boost. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Hiro and Ando are charged with safeguarding a family secret that could split the planet apart. They discover that the path to a grim future starts with shady speedster Daphne. In New York City, thanks to Maya, Suresh makes a startling breakthrough that could change the world – or just destroy his. And who is Tracy Strauss?

ITV 1, Thursday 2nd October, 9pm Alert Me
They are pushy, they are ambitious and they think they can sell anything to anyone – whatever it takes, and whatever the cost. Eight salespeople have put their careers on hold, their reputations on the line, and are risking it all over six weeks for the ultimate buzz – to close the biggest deal of their lives. The harder each salesperson works, the more they earn, the more they earn, the greater the prize. Each week, for one of the bottom two performers it will be the end of the road, as their fate lies solely in the hands of that week’s highest grossing salesman. By the final week, three salespeople will be left but only one will be able to be ‘top dog’.

Review: Dawn Porter’s Free Lover- Writhing in Oil is Cool but Free Love ain’t so Free

September 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

dawn-porter.jpgChannel 4, Tuesday 30th September, 10pm  Alert Me

Nothing in life or love is truly free.  That’s what Dawn Porter learns this Tuesday evening as she delves into the world of free love and polyamoury; having more than one lover.  And an oily hands-on lesson it is too.

The giggly courter of controversy known from such programmes as Super Skinny Me and Dawn Goes Naked is back and this time it’s with the aim of investigating how women live in different sorts of relationships all over the world.  The first of four documentaries, here she finds herself in America undergoing a touchy feely ritual involving chanting and genital touching to open her to the notion of free love before travelling to Germany to live in Zegg, a polyamourous sect, and get to grips with the multi-partnering way of life.

You have to admire this girl’s incessant curiosity even in the face of her own anxiousness.  Not only does she put up with a total stranger stroking her forehead telling her that he loves her and sharing a hot tub with a naked free-loving woman and her three somewhat identical looking lovers, but she also ends up stripping off herself and taking part in an ‘oil session’ (where the group is covered in oil and then writhes around touching each other as someone reads some pseudo-profound readings).  It’s intriguing to see her in the initial stages, worrying “this is so f*cked up? and then in post-oil sesh elation, proclaiming “I feel like they’ve made me into a real hippy!?

It’s not just about a personal journey for Miss. Porter though, she has some serious investigative journalism to do.  And her findings reflect a realistic take on the hippy dream.  A messy love triangle within the commune reveals to her that issues of jealousy, competition and abandonment are still a reality.  This is a particularly poignant strand within the show including touchingly frank chats from the people involved.

Free Lover demonstrates that it ain’t all a long-haired, dreamy romp outside monogamy.  The world of free love is simply another form of social order that has its own constraints.  Where mainstream western society might lay into a cheater, here, it’s the deserted that get told, “deal with it, love.?

By Susan Allen

Tonight’s Film Pick: The Ice Storm

September 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

The Ice Storm Review

The Ice Storm, Film Four, Monday 29th September, 9pm

Dir: Ang Lee

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Jamey Sheridan, Elijah Wood

Its 1973 in New Canaan, Connecticut. America is still just recovering from the Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal is escalating. It is a moment marking the end of an era of American history and would later give way to a more cynical 80′s.

The Hoods are suburbanite with a crumbling marriage and children in the confusion of adolescence. Their children, sexually curious Wendy (Christina Ricci) and disconnected Paul (Tobey Maguire) journey towards romantic and sexual discovery even as their parents Ben and Elena (Kevin Kline and Joan Allen) find their marriage breaking under the strain of Ben’s affair with their neighbour (played by Sigourney Weaver).

With intense, nuanced performances from the cast and restrained, knowing direction from Ang Lee, this is both a coming of age film and a delicate exploration of family and suburban life.

Told with an astonishing delicacy, this is a deeply poetic, insightful work from a master director. Do not miss it.

Weekend TV: Merlin Battles Evil- ish Knight

September 26, 2008 by  
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MerlinMerlin, BBC 1, episode 2, Saturday 27th September, 6pm

In this episode Merlin goes up against a Knight with a never-explained grudge.

Through magical means of enchantment Sir Valiant (ironic!) is able to make his shield come to life with CGI snakes. He uses these nasty buggers to bite his opponents as they battle it out in a Royal Tourney. While he’s there he also flirts a bit with the Lady Morgana – who is loving it by the way- and gets both Merlin and Arthur’s backs up.

Merlin struggles as Arthur’s servant- not helped by Arthur being all pompous and snotty although we can see glimmers of an honourable guy in there- not least when despite Merlin’s lowly status, Arthur chooses to believe him when he says Sir Valiant’s sheild is enchanted.

So there are all kinds of skullduggery in Camelot as the guys have to band together to save the day- throwing historical versimilitude to the wind and generally talking like a bunch of Hollyoaks characters.

A bit of a lame episode, but you will see the series improve in the next one. If you have nothing to watch and you are looking for an inoffensive way to keep everyone from parents to kids happy moderately engaged, this will do it.

Interview: Juliet Stevenson talks about her role in Place of Execution

September 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

juliet-stevenson-copy.jpgJuliet Stevenson found it easy to identify with her character’s all-consuming urge to find the truth about a missing schoolgirl in Place of Execution (Episode 2 shows on ITV 1, Monday 29th September, 9pm)

“It’s a very dark thriller.  I play a documentary filmmaker who gets obsessed with a murder case about a child who disappeared on the moors in the 1960s and was never seen again.  Catherine finds herself very drawn to the story; it’s like an itch she can’t scratch.

“Even after more than 40 years, the case can’t rest until the body is found.  I have always been haunted by the Suzy Lamplugh case – that girl was never found.  How do families and parents of loved ones cope without the lack of closure?  Also the McCanns whose situation has been so prominent for so long – all parents have been identifying very strongly with that case.  So our story is very current.?

The script was just one of the appeals of the drama for Juliet.

“I thought it was an exciting story and the role was intriguing because, like all interesting roles, there was a lot going on sub-textually.  Catherine is pursuing buried secrets from the past which have never been resolved but she also has secrets in her own life.  The narrative drive and her internal life make for an interesting combination.  I liked the whole package.

“I read the book, as I always like to, but my character differs a lot because in the book she doesn’t have a teenage daughter and that is a big part of the film.  The very first script didn’t have a daughter either and I loved it when I read the second draft and discovered she is a struggling single parent, going through a difficult time.  Her personal life is unravelling as the story unravels.?

Catherine is forced to confront her problems with her daughter Sasha (Elizabeth Day) when she accompanies her to Northumberland to investigate the story of missing schoolgirl Alison Carter (Poppy Goodburn).

Explains Juliet:  “Catherine is a workaholic.  She’s passionate about her work; she’s very direct, full of energy and a perfectionist.  Although she’s a strong woman she knows she’s probably not the best parent.  She found parenthood difficult to plait into her working life, her marriage has fallen apart and she and her daughter are locked in mutual frustration, misunderstanding and anger.

“Her own relationship with her mother is difficult and fractured too but I don’t think she realises it.  She is a woman of her time.?

Juliet Stevenson plays Catherine Heathcote (cont)

Juliet understands the pressures facing mothers to juggle family life and work.

“I have a very busy life with two children and two stepchildren so I don’t have that much spare time and I work a lot.  I have a son Gabriel and daughter Rosalind.  I am a hands-on mum – it’s hard work and means a lot of organisation and running around, but I really enjoy it.  I enjoy my children and they really make me laugh.

“I try not to work away but PLACE OF EXECUTION was very good because it was condensed with an intense filming schedule, but I could get away home for the weekend on the last train home, and the next working day shoot back up again.  It was always worth it, just to get home for a short time.  My husband is an anthropologist and does go off for stretches at a time, but he is home more than he is away.?

The drama, set in the present day with flashbacks to the 1960s, was filmed in Northumberland in two distinct parts.

“We never saw the 1960s cast, so my scenes are with Dave Hill and Philip Jackson in the present day.  I didn’t get to see Lee Ingleby, Tony Maudsley and Greg Wise.  The only actor who covers both eras is Joy Blakeman who plays Kathy Lomas.  She is aged by prosthetics to go from her thirties to her seventies.

“The 60s section was filmed first and then us, almost like two different films.  As we arrived all the other characters were saying fond farewells.  We felt like the new kids on the block.  It’s a strange feeling, almost as if the house belongs to someone else and you are walking into someone else’s bathroom.  Lots of relationships have been established there.  But of course in only a matter of days you take over the house – to flog the metaphor.

“We all stayed in the same hotel in Northumberland so we could sometimes all meet up in the evening.  I loved filming it as I love the north east and my family also came up to see me.?

Juliet began her career in another drama set in the north east, The Mallens, and received huge acclaim for her starring role in the multi award-winning Truly Madly Deeply.  Her other many credits include The Politician’s Wife, Cider with Rosie, Trial by Fire, A Doll’s House, The Snow Queen, Marple: Ordeal by Innocence and The Last Hangman (aka Pierrepoint) on television, and the films Bend it Like Beckham, Nicholas Nickleby, Drowning by Numbers and Mona Lisa Smile.

New work includes the forthcoming films Desert Flower, based on the international best-selling book by Waris Dirie, The Secret of Moonacre, starring Ioan Grufford and Dakota Blue Richards, and Triage, starring Colin Farrell and Christopher Lee.

Review: Final Episode of Lost in Austen

September 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Lost in Austen Review

Lost in Austen, ITV 1, Wednesday 24th September, 9pm Alert Me

So everything’s gone wrong for Amanda and the whole lot of the Bennetts, Bingleys and Darcys. Darcy is being all snotty (well he IS Darcy) and announces his engagement to the equally snotty but also a right b***h Caroline Bingley. At this stage I kind of think they deserve each other as there is something really charmless about this Darcy (sorry Elliot Cowan). Cowan seems to spend most of his time doing ‘smell the fart’ acting and trying really, really hard to be Darcy, which results in lots of grimacing and shouting and not a lot of just being distant and hot (which is why we loved Colin Firth).

Still, Amanda has wreaked havoc with the story and now nothing is going to plan, Wickham is not what he seems and Bingley has gone beyond being a bit of a softie and has become instead a total drunken wuss- which has terrible consequences that are definitely not in the original Austen.

Amanda manages to find her way home- to a gutted boyfriend and a comfortably modern, short haired (WIG!) Lizzie Bennett- but can she convince Lizzie to return? what about Darcy? What about Michael?

A nice idea for a show, which in execution has become slightly ridiculous. Still if you are loving the updated version, you’ll find it all ties up pretty neatly here in this final episode.

Sold?: Microsoft ‘Pride’ is just a bit irritating

September 24, 2008 by  
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Feeling a little left out after Apple’s Mitchell and Webb adverts slated their image as stuffy and out-dated, the new advert from Microsoft, a declaration of PC pride, intends to reconnect the brand with consumers.

Exhibiting a series of smug avowals from a variety of ‘interesting’ people all over the world from average Joes to famous faces such as Eva Longoria, all there to prove that there is no PC stereotype, it actually all comes across as a bit irritating.  In the same way that folks who blow their own trumpet about how great their life is and how they’re so happy with who they truly are get right on your nerves, so does this advert.  You have a life in a country in the world and you happen to use a PC.  So bloody what?

Essentially, the ad is a generally gagless quip back at Apple that, like the idealistic nerd in school, who with a lame  retort to his tormentor, tries to take the ‘I’m rising above this’ angle, simply opens themselves up for more abuse.  Just do your own thing Microsoft.  Don’t feel you have to pile on the cheese and sell yourself as the heroic ‘people’s computer’.  Just rely on the value of your product.

Review: ‘John Adams’ is TV at its best

September 24, 2008 by  
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John Adams Review

John Adams, More 4, Saturday 27th September, 5:30pm Alert Me

The American Civil War. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t set the spine tingling with excitement. Yet here is a show, John Adams, that absolutely wiped the floor at the Emmy’s, taking 13 of the awards- and guess when it is set? Not only does it take place in 1770 but our hero is the relatively unglamorous  John Adams. Who? You say.

Well, turns out he was an instrumental figure in the Civil War and the second president of the united states. Yeah, bet you didn’t know that. Unless you are a history buff in which case, well let’s just say if I was a teenager i might point at you and say ‘Neeerd’. I won’t though, because i’m far too mature.

Yet you would be seriously mistaken to dismiss this as one for the buffs. Starring the superb Paul Giamatti as John Adams and Laura Linney as his wife Abigail, this is a show that tackles an epic premise in a way that only HBO seems to be able to do.

From the opening shots of Adams plodding through the snow on his horse, beneath the skeletons of hanged men and signs crying ‘Join or Die’, John Adams evokes for us a dirty humanity that is caught up in what would become an epic struggle, arguably shaping the modern world by forming America as we know it.

As Adams returns from a lost case he hears shouts of ‘fire’. Running to help he discovers not a fire but a massacre of five men and boys at the hands of the British Red Coats. No-one except Adams will take the case to defend the men.

Adam’s himself is a complex man, both humble and hungry. His ambition is thinly veiled and yet he is at heart a man of enormous integrity.

This is a show that grabs a powerful premise, shoves it through the muck and mire of history and gives it a human face. These are people who saw great things in their life times and yet often we remember the history and the legends before we remember the men behind them. John Adams remedies that.

A truly excellent, utterly gripping show that is TV at its best. Not only is it dramatically absorbing, but it also gives brings life to a period that is usually relegated to history books and quotes about the Founding Fathers in legal dramas.  A must watch.

By McGee Noble

Review: Extraordinary People: The Million Dollar Mind Reader

September 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

derek-ogilvie.jpgChannel Five, Thursday 25th September, 9pm  Alert Me

Remember that odd little Scottish bloke from a few years ago who claimed he could psychically communicate with babies- “The Baby Whisperer? he was labelled?  Well, lucky us, he hasn’t gone away.  Nope, this Thursday night sees him back on our screens raving about how all children are psychic and then crying over how he’s not lying when he says they speak to him telepathically.

The Million Dollar Mind Reader is part of Channel Five’s Extraordinary People series and promises to put Derek Ogilvie’s self-proclaimed powers to the test.  Is he extraordinary or in fact, just conning his ordinary self and others and bagging a tidy fee and celeb-like status in the process?

Ogilvie agrees to undergo three scientific experiments to prove his psychic abilities.  After a bit of a breakdown in the first one, he takes on the challenge of the scoffing Prof. James Randy, who confidently offers $1 million to anyone who can prove they have psychic abilities.  I’ll let you hazard a guess at whether he succeeds or not.

Let’s just say that he sees the whole affair as a “journey? and seeks solace in a friendly scientist who offers to electronically read his brain and prove he’s not fibbing.  His reading of the findings is set against a soundtrack of spooky music that I’m sure is meant to be redemptive and make you believe he is in fact psychic as he learns he does use the part of the brain he thought he did but actually it just serves to make him seem a bit desperate.  Ultimately, Ogilvie comes across as an earnest, yet somewhat self-deluded individual, who truly believes he saw ghosts when he was younger, is definitely psychic and that all tests are set up to make him fail.

If nothing else, the show offers an interesting if brief taster of the opposing powers of scepticism and belief.  Is it better to be happy in the probably false belief that you’re exceptional or less happy but almost certainly more right in the doubtful position of ordinariness?  Watch it and see what you think…

By Susan Allen

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