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Cracking the Happiness Code | Regional News

Cracking the Happiness Code

Written by: Dr Pamela Stoodley

Nationwide Books

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

What better way to start the new year than with a book that may just help you achieve the ultimate goal of happiness?

Cracking the Happiness Code was not, at first, a particularly alluring book. Something about the cover and the subject matter felt overworn, i.e. another book on happiness, that oft-elusive emotion. However, it turned out to be an impressive and meaningful delve into the mechanisms of achieving happiness.

In Cracking the Happiness Code, author Pamela Stoodley, a medically trained doctor, neuropsychologist, and counsellor, is well placed to offer insights into happiness and how and why it might elude you.

The first half of the book is the why, highlighting the thoughts, behaviours, and circumstances that may be contributing to unhappiness. The second half details the how; the strategies and practical changes that can ultimately lead to a happier life.

The chapter titles can sound a little harsh: Victimisation, Infestation, Retribution, and Elimination, to give you an idea. Elimination got me thinking. As a large consumer of news, both good and bad (possibly more bad), I wondered could I ‘unconsume’, go on a ‘news diet’? Stoodley suggests liaising with an equally minded friend who also partakes heavily in a media-saturated environment, to update you with news truly relevant to you each week, and to do this with no emails, no forwards, and no screenshots. You will find that the news that’s actually important to you will significantly diminish. Stoodley says to connect with real humans and learn about their real stories first-hand.

Cracking the Happiness Code contains real-world strategies. There’s even a chapter called Consumption, which takes a look at how nutrition can affect our moods. With vast skill and experience, the author outlines what keeps us from happiness and ways to help us achieve the deep-set emotion most of us strive for, but do not always obtain.

The first step, says Stoodley, is action – it’s not about what has caused you to be unhappy all this time, it’s about taking charge and doing something about it.

The Tempest | Regional News

The Tempest

Presented by: Wellington Summer Shakespeare

Directed by: Megan Evans

Wellington Botanic Garden, 11th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Summer Shakespeare is an institution in the city and an annual highlight of our arts calendar. The Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington Season of The Tempest sees many a happy camper sprawled on The Dell lawn to enjoy an eco-ethical production of William Shakespeare’s tragicomedy that asks what maketh man a monster, and what maketh monster man.

The Tempest is set on an unnamed island, where the usurped Duke of Milan Prospero (James Bayliss) and his daughter Miranda (Tori Kelland) have taken refuge. Prospero has enslaved the island’s only other inhabitants: the half-fish, half-man Caliban (Rachel McLean) and a host of otherworldly beings commanded by the spirit Ariel (Maea Shepherd). When a storm sees Prospero’s brother Antonio (Tom Vassar) and other members of the Naples royal family shipwrecked on the island, Prospero seeks his revenge. 

Shakespearean language can be hard to wrap your head around – even for someone who studied it! For me, the key to understanding the dialogue is in the vocal delivery of it, and it’s clear here that each cast member has a good grasp of their character’s intent. I want to give a particular shoutout to the imperial Bayliss; Shepherd, who has the most stunning singing voice; and the impassioned McLean for helping me to follow the action with the exceptional delivery of their lines. Another special mention to the hilarious Philip Nordt as the drunken butler Stephano and Anna Kate Sutherland as the jester Trinculo for the comedy gold they sprinkle into an already-sparkling sea of talent.

Megan Gladding’s production design makes for a magical viewing experience and works in harmony with Neal Barber’s lighting design, a treat to watch come to life and light as the sun goes down. Sarah Bell’s costume and wardrobe design is outstanding, particularly when it comes to Caliban’s floating fish head, which has a huge bearing on the way the audience relates to the character.

I did find the background spirit dancers a little distracting, but overall this was a totally absorbing production that gave me a much-needed break from reality – to an island far far away, where magic and mayhem reign supreme! 

Guy Williams Presents: Comedy Plus Time Equals Tragedy | Regional News

Guy Williams Presents: Comedy Plus Time Equals Tragedy

Te Auaha, 8th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

After introducing himself in the mic from the wings, Guy Williams comes charging out on stage to Dark Horse by Katy Perry, energy and enthusiasm up the wazoo. When our lacklustre response is not to his satisfaction (in our defence, it’s Wednesday and we’re not tiddly), we’re barraged by a relentless stream of insults and expletives. Wellington sucks, we’re told, as we’re called f-wits and the like.

I bloody love it.

I’m a big fan of Guy from 7 Days, Jono and Ben, and New Zealand Today, but had only seen his stand-up in small bursts as part of gala nights. I was interested in seeing how he might structure an hour-long set and fare in a long-form comedy setting. He nailed it.

Comedy Plus Time Equals Tragedy has Guy take “a break from arguing with people on the internet to try and make the world a better place”. Conversations billed are racism, colonisation, and misogyny, but we’re treated to much more taboo topics too. While some comedians broach these subjects just to shock and provoke their audience, and I’m personally someone who’s very easily offended (nothing wrong with that), Guy’s comedy is somehow… charming? It’s random and clever, padded with layers, context, and bizarre segues that make very little sense but wind up being my favourite parts of the show. His loud, somewhat erratic delivery keeps the momentum going and the laughter flowing well after the curtain call. In this case, the curtain call is WAP by Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion.  

My only feedback is that I’d love to see Guy get a little more personal. I’m thoroughly entertained but want to feel something a bit deeper too – as if comedy isn’t hard enough, right? Although it’s oddly timed (about a quarter of the way in), Guy’s support act and sister Maria Williams’ set resonates with many of us. The heartfelt interlude means that by the end of the show, all my boxes have been ticked.

I snorted, bark-laughed, and had a brilliant evening with a comedian at the top of his game. Cheers, Guy.

Caburlesque: Rock & Rhinestones  | Regional News

Caburlesque: Rock & Rhinestones

Presented by: LadyTramp Designs Ltd

The Fringe Bar, 4th Feb 2022

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

For those of you who haven’t been to a Caburlesque show, think of it like cabaret meets burlesque… then pour a pound of glitter over it and amp it up to a thousand. For Rock & Rhinestones, we have SpongeBob SquarePants meeting Billy Idol, pole dancers meeting shotgun weddings, Tina Turner meeting rhinestone cowboys, and oh so much more. The theme is rock music, and the dress code? Sparkles, sparkles, and more sparkles.

The night opens with a warm welcome from our shiny-silver-suited MC Sadie Von Scrumptious, who has a good sense of timing and a knack for reading the room. Between acts, she engages us with terrible jokes (excellent) and witty banter but never for too long, keeping the momentum flowing at all times. Sadie also hosts air-guitar and best-dressed competitions straight after half time, a tried-and-true Caburlesque format that gets us involved and helps us release some of the energy and over-excitement we’ve built up over the past hour. The energy in the room is electric from start to end.

Some absolutely stunning acts take the stage over the course of the evening. Pandora Cherie mesmerises the crowd with a sensual, silky burlesque dance to Disturbed’s cover of The Sound of Silence, while Pip E-Lysaah & The Red Queens: Gold Edition sizzle with an incredible showcase of strength and agility on chairs. Also showing a chair who’s boss is Velma Cherry, who puts on one of the most charismatic, infectious performances I’ve ever seen to Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah) by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. Fun and fab Felicity Frockaccino finds the naughtiness in Tina Turner’s Simply The Best, and a moustached Maree & Giada set my jaw a-tumblin’ to the floor with remarkable pole feats as hilariously aloof cowboys.

There’s a reason these are the longest-running regular burlesque variety shows in Wellington. Get your bling on and go see for yourself.

Babylon | Regional News



189 minutes

(3 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

If you loved Singing in the Rain but wished it had been a bit more debauched, decadent, and depraved, then Babylon is the film for you.

Written and directed by Academy Award-nominee Damien Chazelle, Babylon tells the story of three Hollywood dreamers during the rise and fall of the silent film era, from the 1920s through to the 50s. Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) is the king of silent films, but his talkies prove less popular. Nellie La Roy (Margot Robbie) knows she’s a star before she even steps foot in Hollywood; she gets a lucky break when she sneaks into a party but falls hard when cinema adds sound. Manuel Torres (Diego Calva) slowly climbs the ranks through his determination and commitment, but will his devotion to Nellie be too much to endure?

Cinematographer Linus Sandgren and editor Tom Cross are truly a match made in heaven. Sandgren has a way with light and colour as demonstrated in Chazelle’s La La Land, and his influence on Babylon is evident. Sandgren’s visuals combined with Cross’s fast-paced editing creates a thrilling rollercoaster ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Perhaps the biggest praise however should go to production designer Florencia Martin, who creates a world as fantastical, complex, diverse, grotesque, and saturated as a Fellini film.

Though beautiful, exciting, and undeniably entertaining, I think the film is decidedly unoriginal. The story seems more like a rip-off than a tribute to Singing in the Rain and The Great Gatsby. The underlying theme of Hollywood’s brutality, in which fame is delusional, and cinema is a business that uses creatives in its machine, is not only tired and over-used, but executed in a way that leaves no room for redemption or sympathy.

Don’t get me wrong, the actors and crew all did a phenomenal job on the technical side of this film. The first two-thirds are engaging and decadently beautiful. However, I feel as though the final segment of the story somehow lost its way. Nevertheless, Babylon absolutely deserves a watch and some Oscar buzz.

Avatar: The Way of Water | Regional News

Avatar: The Way of Water


192 mins

(3 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Director James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water continues the saga upon the moon Pandora. Ex-human, ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has established a family with Na’vi partner Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and they live in prosperous happiness. However, when the humans return to Pandora to extract its resources, Jake and his family are hunted. They escape to the safety of the island nations of the Metkayina people… or so they thought.

Centered heavily on the importance of family, Avatar also highlights themes of bravery and loyalty, underscoring the importance of doing the right thing and staying strong in the face of adversity. Avatar continues its commentary on environmental destruction, paralleling the ruination of Pandora through resource extraction to the devastation of our own planet by a common enemy: humans.

Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual tour de force and, unsurprisingly, a milestone in the world of CGI and VFX. Featuring new technologies from Wellington’s own Weta Workshop, the film is exceedingly beautiful. With an immersive seascape as the setting for this episode of the Avatar series, every new creature, every element of flora, every tiny detail is saturated with vitality and vibrancy; every being breathes with the eager effervescence of new creation. Russell Carpenter’s cinematography paired with a 3D experience, well balanced to be immersive but not overwhelming, ensures the viewer experiences the story from within Pandora herself, dripping and oozing with life.

Though Avatar is visually arresting and undeniably groundbreaking, the exceedingly lengthy runtime – of which a substantial amount is taken up by a repetitive unending final battle – leaves much to be desired. The dialogue’s informality feels incongruous and distracting. Though the story itself has some poignant and interesting moments, it essentially mimics the first movie with the classic trope of human vs Na’vi, good vs evil. 

Nevertheless, Avatar: The Way of Water is an incredible and unparalleled visual experience that is definitely worth a watch.

Summer Improv | Regional News

Summer Improv

Te Auaha, 20th Jan 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Improv is one of my favourite things to watch. Often integrated into the action, the audience becomes one giant sponge, absorbing the adrenaline coursing through the cast as they scramble to make up scenes on the spot. It’s thrilling when things go right and equally so when things go wrong. It’s a communal experience for both its makers and those witnessing their creation: a show that can’t be repeated, will never be seen, again.

When you line up some of the best improvisers in Wellington – in this case, Alayne Dick, Jennifer O'Sullivan, Dianne Pulham, Matt Powell, and Wiremu Tuhiwai, with special guest David Correos from Christchurch – you’re pretty much guaranteed a great night.

Interestingly, the players only take one audience suggestion (the theme, Easter), instead of prompts for each scene. While I’ve seen the latter more often, I prefer the Summer Improv format – without interruptions, the action has more momentum than a bear devouring an entire jar of manūka honey that its flatmates were entitled to two-thirds of. Big shoutout to Tuhiwai here, whose portrayal of a bear that can’t get its scat sorted at home or work is one of the highlights of the night.

Animals – both fictional and real – become a recurring theme. We have the Easter Bunny (but of course), not one but two bears, and the Squirrel Squad – Trash Squirrel, Ocean Squirrel, Air Squirrel, and Forest Squirrel, a gang pictured here that I desperately wanted to assemble again. While I did fight the urge to cry out for a Squirrel Squad encore, the players incorporate many a great hark-back, consistently getting the audience in on the joke.

Just a few more gold nuggets include O’Sullivan’s wise-man Mark, Pulham’s gaslighting mother, Correos’ sober driver, Dick’s incompetent manager, and Powell’s irate flatmate. Matt Hutton’s improvised keyboard soundtrack and Sam Irwin’s snappy lighting transitions tie it all up neatly in a bow befitting for a young girl named Gavin.

Summer Improv is on for one more Friday in January, though I hope to see it become a regular fixture on our stages. It’s certainly earned its place!

Gaylene’s Take | Regional News

Gaylene’s Take

Written by: Gaylene Preston

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Ruth Avery

I thought I knew some stuff about Gaylene Preston but I knew nothing! This book is a great insight into the way the world has moved on since the early days of filmmaking in New Zealand, especially when directed by a sheila. Gaylene was pretty resilient to get through some of the tough shoots and situations unscathed. She’s tenacious as nothing came easy, and boy did she fight for it.

It sounds like she had a lot of fun along the way and ‘faked it till she made it’. She did time in the UK, as is the Kiwi way, and worked in psychiatric wards putting on shows. I thought that was very brave but when you are young and fearless, you can do anything. She has worked with the best in New Zealand including Alun Bollinger, who she fondly refers to as AlBol (I always think of champagne). In those days you had to fill the cinemas across New Zealand and so she bought the Paramount for two weeks for $6000 to accomplish this. The Paramount, now sadly closed, used to show soft porn in the afternoons back then, but not when there was a Preston movie to screen.

Her family is her strength and she shares fond memories of her parents, even providing a sausage roll recipe from Tui (her late mum). The recipe starts: “Go down to the dairy and get frozen puff pastry, taking care to have a yarn with the shopkeeper about more than just the weather.” My kind of recipe and I will try it out.

As a storyteller, she has a great turn of phrase: “With the financial jersey not unravelling any further, we were sailing again.” “Tui was named after that dark metallic rainbow bird that swaggers and coughs through the New Zealand bush.”

I learned a lot about filmmaking and Gaylene’s successes from Gaylene’s Take. It took me back to a simpler time before tech got in the way. Happy days.

Waxing On | Regional News

Waxing On

Written by: Ralph Macchio


Reviewed by: Kerry Lee

For someone who has never thrown a punch in their entire life, watching The Karate Kid for the first time in the 80s was pure wish fulfilment. And now with Ralph Macchio’s new book Waxing On, we get to see how all the stars aligned to create what many consider to be one of the best movies of 1984.

From his very first audition for the role of Daniel LaRusso, to meeting the late great Pat Morita for the first time, Waxing On goes in depth into what it was like making The Karate Kid trilogy and the impact it had on Macchio’s life and subsequent career.

His down-to-earth personality bleeds onto the page and is reflected in his writing style, which makes him a more relatable storyteller. There are no airs or graces that you might associate with a Hollywood celebrity here, nor are there the kind of outrageous stories about wrecking hotel suites or extramarital affairs that plague other memoirs. Instead, he’s humble about his achievements, honest about his mistakes, and thoroughly entertaining along the way.

Little anecdotes litter the entire book. I interpreted some as teachable moments, while others were fun little titbits that had me gasping for joy as a huge fan. One such story that caught and held my attention was the almost universal concern people had about Pat Morita’s match fitness for the role of Mr Miyagi. Even Macchio admitted to harbouring concerns about Arnold from Happy Days in one of the leading roles. Fortunately, Morita blew them all away with his audition and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s stories like these that make Waxing On such a pleasure to review.

And on that note, I always try to approach my reviews and give feedback in a balanced way, but I really can’t find any downsides to Waxing On. If you have the opportunity to pick this up, don’t hesitate – just do it. It is a must read for 2022.