Their Finest review: Bill Nighy scores the best bits of this Blitz pic

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???????????(M) 116 minutes
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Nostalgia for the Blitz has become one of Britain’s most marketable commodities, especially now collective memory of the reality is starting to vanish.

Early in Lone Scherfig’s??? Their Finest, I had the awful feeling that the heroine Catrin (Gemma Arterton), who works at the Ministry of Information, would wind up coining the phrase “Keep calm and carry on”.

Thankfully, this does not occur. The story follows the making of a film within the film – an (imaginary) wartime propaganda piece inspired by a heroic rescue undertaken by two sisters during the Dunkirk evacuation.

Catrin, a talented writer, is drafted to help out with dialogue for women – or “slop”, as her collaborators call it, flaunting the kind of misogyny that’s joking only to a point.

These collaborators include the outwardly no-nonsense Tom Buckley, played by Sam Claflin, who with period spectacles, pencil moustache and Brylcreemed hair is less openly smouldering but much more winning than he was as the suave quadriplegic in Me Before You.

Inevitably, a romantic triangle takes shape, the third corner being a self-absorbed left-wing artist played by Jack Huston – who gives the impression of rehearsing to play the dying George Orwell, and might do so quite successfully when his face has a few more lines.

Adapted by screenwriter Gaby Chiappe??? from a novel by Lissa Evans, Their Finest is crowded with characters and character actors: Richard E. Grant as the stuffy head of the film division, Bill Nighy as a hasbeen matinee idol, Eddie Marsan??? as Nighy’s agent, and so on.

There are times when the canvas seems overcrowded, but nearly everyone gets the chance to be both touching and funny. Inevitably, the best moments belong to Nighy, a happily shameless show-off who revels in his tailor-made part.

Their Finest is hokum, but it’s honest hokum – which, like John Lee Hancock’s underrated Saving Mr Banks, incorporates a defence of the simplifying, unifying value of popular entertainment.

In its modest, largely comic way, it paints an unusually convincing picture of how films are shaped by factors beyond the control of any one individual: the conventions of storytelling at a given place and time, the whims of a producer or director, the need to beef up the part of one actor or hide the weakness of another.

That said, the author of Their Finest itself is undoubtedly Scherfig, a Danish director who has now made several films in Britain – and who captures the spirit of the era rather more convincingly than Robert Zemeckis??? managed recently in his glossy thriller Allied.

True to the British convention of the stiff upper lip, Scherfig maintains a certain restraint in the tear-jerking scenes. Similarly, she portrays Catrin as a feminist by the period’s standards without turning her into a 21st-century woman in disguise.

The Technicolor of the 1940s is convincingly simulated, and while there may not be the budget for panoramas of a bombed-out London, Sebastian Blenkov’???s often beautiful cinematography catches the foreboding feel of an English winter where light starts to fade in the middle of the afternoon.

‘Ripping apart the nation’s capital’: government plans Canberra public service clear-out

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The Coalition government is trying to open the way for a mass clear-out of Commonwealth departments and the public servants who work there from the national capital.
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The government announced a policy on Wednesday that would force all federal departments to justify their continued presence and that of their portfolio agencies in Canberra and other capital cities or else face a forced move to rural or regional .

If the Nationals make good on their rhetoric, the policy could result in the most serious assault on the economic fabric of the national capital since its establishment 104 years ago.

As the controversy surrounding the compulsory relocation of the pesticides authority out of the capital continued on Wednesday, Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash announced that all departments in the 155,000-strong n Public Service were to be assessed for “decentralisation” from Canberra and other cities.

About 57,500 public servants, or 37.5 per cent of the federal bureaucracy, work in Canberra, a figure which is in steady decline.

But the Nationals’ latest move is a massive escalation of the party’s policy, pursued with the acquiescence of their Liberal coalition partners, of moving small agencies in the agricultural portfolio out of Canberra and into Nationals-held seats.

ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja broke ranks on the decentralisation push on Wednesday night, saying departments shouldn’t have to “waste time justifying why they should stay in Canberra”.

He stressed only non-policy related areas of the public service would be impacted.

“If the Commonwealth wants to consider moving government departments they should be moved from Sydney or Melbourne rather than Canberra, which is a regional centre.

“I have been on the record and made it very clear that I support Canberra as the national capital and the centre of government,” he said.

The cost of moving the n Pesticides and Medicines Authority with fewer than 200 public servants, to Armidale in the heart of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s electorate, has been estimated officially at $26 million but Labor says it might cost up to $60 million.

Now, giant operations like Immigration and Border Protection, Defence and Human Services, each of which has many thousands of public servants based in the capital, must justify their presence in Canberra or potentially face the same fate as the APVMA.

“I’ll be responsible for creating a template for government ministers to assess which departments are suitable for decentralisation by mid-year,” Senator Nash said on Wednesday.

“Departments will need to either indicate that they’re suitable to move to the regions or justify why all or part of their operation is unsuitable.

“All portfolio ministers will need to report back to Cabinet by August on which of their departments are suitable to be moved to regional , and relevant ministers will need to report to Cabinet with robust business cases for decentralisation by December.”

Senator Seselja, the Assistant Minister for Social services and Multicultural affairs, said he would fight to ensure departments remain in Canberra and stressed local impact assessments would be considered as part of any moves.

“The relocation of a small department like APVMA was difficult enough and resulted in the loss of a large proportion of highly trained specialist staff,” he said.

Shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh, who represents the north side of Canberra, accused the government of hypocrisy.

“The Turnbull government is trying to rip apart the nation’s capital,” Dr Leigh said.

“For a government which preaches efficiency and joined-up government it is immensely hypocritical that they are pursuing a policy that will make government more inefficient and more fragmented.”

Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, said he was skeptical of the Nationals’ ability to deliver on their ambitious rhetoric.

“Without a proper assessment of costs, decentralisation risks being an expensive policy failure, and an empty promise for regional and rural ns,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“Capital city and regional residents alike need to know whether Senator Nash’s National Press Club speech today reflects government policy or is just more political spin.

“Labor fully supports job creation in regional , and recommends the government start by properly staffing existing government agency offices in regional areas, including Centrelink and the ATO.

“The Turnbull government has a terrible track record in looking after public service jobs, has cut 18,000 jobs overall, including 200 ATO staff sacked in Townsville.”

Elizabeth Dixon murder accused Rodney Lawrence seeks bail

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Bail push for Dixon murder accused Police examine a car at the murder scene in April 1982 and inset, Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon. Main pic: Allan Jolly.
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Elizabeth Dixon

Det Sgt Frank Tracey in 1982 with a knife similar to one missing from Ms Dixon’s flat and her car key wallet, which is similar to a wallet which was missing.

TweetFacebookBetty Dixon’s storyA man who denies murdering a woman more than three decades ago has consistently maintained his dead father-in-law was the culprit, a Sydney judge had been told.

Rodney Lawrence, 66, appeared via video link in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday when his lawyer Chris Bruce applied for bail, saying “this is not a strong crown case”.

Lawrence is charged with the stabbing murder of Elizabeth Dixon, 31, whose body was discovered in her car in bushland at Ashtonfield in April 1982.

As well as having pleaded not guilty to the murder, he has denied an alternative charge of being an accessory after the fact.

His Newcastle trial is due to start on November 13.

Mr Bruce told the court that Lawrence had consistently maintained the “principal offender” was his father-in-law, William Phillips, who had since died, and who Lawrence said had threatened him.

Lawrence’s son had recalled a 2002 conversation when his father told him Mr Phillips had killed Ms Dixon and Lawrence had later assisted him “under duress”, the lawyer said.

“It is a very weak crown case in relation to the murder,” he said, adding it was strong in relation to being an accessory, but there was a defence to the charge.

The lawyer for the Crown opposed bail, alleging Lawrence had told lies and was the “perpetrator” despite maintaining his father-in-law was the culprit.

After Mr Bruce submitted that Lawrence had no record of violence, a man in the public gallery stormed out of the court, describing him as a “monster”.

Justice Elizabeth Fullerton was told Lawrence had been in custody for about 16 months, had been on a disability pension for many years and, according to his ex-wife, was an alcoholic.

The judge will give her decision on Thursday afternoon.

Accused ice syndicate member Ian Joseph Little committed for trial

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Drugs and guns seized following ‘ice’ supply investigation. Source: NSW PoliceA MAN accused of flooding Port Stephens with ice and amphetamines as part of a major drug supply syndicate between the Hunter and Sydney will face a trial in Newcastle District Court.
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Ian Joseph Little, 38, of Pershing Place, Tanilba Bay, appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday via audio visual link from Junee Correctional Centre where he pleaded not guilty to supplying prohibited drugs on an ongoing basis, supplying prohibited drugs and possession of an unauthorised pistol.

But Mr Little pleaded guilty to a separate charge of supplying prohibited drugs on an ongoing basis, admitting to supplyingice six times between June 9 and June 18, 2015, court documents state.

A raft of other offences, including eight counts of possession of a prohibited drug and six counts of supplying a prohibited drug, will serve as back-ups and related offences when the matter is ultimately committed for trial.

The matter was adjourned to Newcastle District Court on May 18.

Drugs and guns seized following ‘ice’ supply investigation. Source: NSW Police video still

Port Stephens detectives say they established Strike Force Doboy in2015 to investigate an extensive methamphetamine, cathinone and GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate) supply network operating between Port Stephens, Newcastle and Sydney.

Police allege they recorded a number of Mr Little’s conversations between July 4and August 15, 2015, during which he is accused of supplying ice and cathinone pills more than 30 times to a number of different drug customers, court documents states.When police raided Mr Little’s house on August 28 they allegedly uncovered a replica pistol pellet gun in an unlocked toolbox and 22.89 grams of cathinone pills, court documents state.

Police allegedly seized more than 6000 cathinone pills during a raid on one of the houses linked to the syndicate.

Another alleged syndicate member, Meagan Ford, had her matters mentioned in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday.

Ms Ford, 35,of Estramina Way, Tanilba Bay, did not appear on the audio visual link screen from jail.

She has been charged with 33 offences, including two counts of supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, which carries a maximum penalty of life in jail.

Her matter was adjourned to May 10 when she is expected to enter pleas.

A third co-accused, David King, was also committed for trial on three drug supply charges on Wednesday.

Jacob Saifiti on finding motivation and support close to home

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PUTTING IN: Jacob Saifiti at Knights training. The 194-centimtre tall forward put on seven kilograms of muscle to tip the scales at 118kg in pre-season but says he is back to 116kg. Picture: Marina Neil JACOB Saifiti didn’t have to look far for support –and motivation –when he was dropped to reserve grade in round five.His twin brother, teammateand housemate, Daniel, provides both.
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Jacob spent two weeks out of coach Nathan Brown’s NRL team before returning off the bench in Newcastle’s24-6 loss to the Roosters last Friday night. He is in line to come off the bench again against the Cowboys on Saturday night in Townsville and said the time in reserves had got him back on track.

“I started off the year good for the first few rounds and then the next two, I wasn’t up to the team standards,” Jacob said.“I think I just found that comfort zone, which I know is no goodfor the team, and Browny did the right thing.It was a good wake-up call.”

On the drop in form, he added: “We won and only just lost two games, and I thought ‘we’re doing good here’.I sort of slacked off and didn’t take the initiative on the field and just let other people do it. I thought I’d just be a part of it instead of really doing something. I’m sure I won’t do that again.”

Danielstarted at prop on Friday night andhas featured in every match this season for Newcastle, giving him bragging rights.And while Jacob said any sibling rivalrywas not as strong these days, the brothers were still a source of motivation and support for each other.

“We’re more our own harshest critics,” he said. “Sometimesif Daniel makes more runs or more metres than me, he’ll sneak in a little sly comment, but it’s not like when we were younger.We support each other and I think thatgives each other a good support base.If Daniel has a bad game or I do, we’ll be the first ones to give each other criticism, which is good I think.”

He said Daniel told him to “justknuckle down” after he was dropped.

“It would have been easy to go down there and feel sorry for myself but he said stay on your toes and get back in this team. It was a good motivation factor.”

Jacob admitted Daniel’s performances were also extra motivation.

”I think he’s been playing really good footy and the future is looking bright for him,” he said.“He’s a tad ahead of me now, he’s got that starting spot and I’m not just going to let him take it. I want to get there.”

The brothers, who hail from the Central Coast, moved toMayfield, “500 metres away” from the Knights training base, midway through last year.

“Welive just down the road – him,me and my partner,” Jacob said. “He’s third wheel at the moment, which is pretty funny, but we all get along well.

“We keep track of each other with our diet. Normally one of us is eating good and the other one might slack off so it’s good in that sense. We keep an eye on each other.”

Outside of football, Jacob said he and Daniel share a love of fishing and playing guitar and “pretty much the same food”.

“The only thing different about us actually, a weird fact, is he doesn’t like poached eggs and fried eggs and I do.He only likes scrambled.”

The brother, who are contracted to Newcastle until the end of 2018,are aiming to be part of Fiji’s World Cup campaign at the end of the year.

“Any time I can represent my family and heritage, I love it,” Jacob said.

“I didn’t play last year because I was injured but playing in 2015 was probably the best week of my life.”