Former GG urges compassion for refugees

Former governor-general Sir William Deane is urging Australians to reflect on their family’s migrant journeys to Australia to better understand the plight of asylum seekers.

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In Canberra on Tuesday Sir William launched a collection of essays by not-for-profit think tank Australia21 that calls for an overhaul of mandatory and offshore immigration detention of asylum seekers and a more compassionate public debate.

He reflected on his great-grandfather’s family voyage to Australia in 1851 on a wooden sailing ship from Europe.

“They sought asylum on this side of the world from the devastation of the great famine,” Sir William said.

“We Australians should have understanding and compassion to the actions of those who subject themselves and their families to serious risk of disaster at sea to escape from violence or terror or unbearable hardship.”

Sir William said most Australians would see asylum seekers of the 19th century as people bravely seeking better lives for themselves and families.

He said Australia must acknowledge that other countries were facing much larger refugees numbers, particularly Lebanon, which was accommodating 800,000 people escaping Syria’s civil war.

He quoted parts of a recent report by the United Nation’s refugee arm into the mistreatment of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

“One cannot but fear that at least some of the findings, particularly those relating to children in detention … are justified,” he said.

“If they are, the United Nation’s reports diminish our country’s hard-won and long-justified international reputation as an upholder of human rights and dignity.”

Essay contributor and former refugee Widyan Al Ubudy told reporters the Australian public should see asylum seekers not as “queue jumpers” but as human beings.

“These so-called illegals have faces, families, hopes and aspirations just like you and I,” she said.

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Tomi Juric slated for Wanderers comeback

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic will have a near fully-stocked armoury of players at his disposal for Monday’s clash with Central Coast, as strike weapon Tomi Juric prepares to return from injury.

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The 22-year-old has missed the Wanderers’ past five A-League matches after injuring his knee in last month’s win over Melbourne Heart.

But the electric forward, who scored three goals in the season’s opening five rounds, re-joined his teammates for three training sessions this week.

And that has Popovic smiling.

“Once he gets this week in, if all is well and the medical department clears him, then he has a good chance to be available,” Popovic said on Tuesday.

“We want him back, of course we want him back – we want all our players available.

“But when he’s ready, that’s when he’ll be back.”

The Wanderers have been without several star players due to injury in recent weeks, including the likes of marquee man Shinji Ono, Youssouf Hersi and Brendon Santalab.

However Popovic is hopeful all – except midfielder Shannon Cole – will be available for Monday’s home game at Pirtek Stadium, partly thanks to the 10-day turnaround from last weekend’s victory over Newcastle.

“(It’s) great news,” he said.

“Shannon’s the only one that will be a doubt, but the rest are all training today and with a longer week that actually gives us a good opportunity to see whether the players have been out if they can be made available.”

But the lengthy break has last round’s winning goalscorer Mark Bridge less than happy.

“To be honest I hate it,” the veteran said.

“I wish it was only a couple of days in between games.

“But that’s football and I’m sure the coach has got a plan to keep us refreshed during this period.”

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Sydney taxi fare freeze recommended

A proposed freeze on Sydney taxi fares will mean a pay cut for drivers and ignores soaring prices for LPG, the NSW Taxi Council says.

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The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) proposed a freeze on Sydney taxi fares for 2014/15 in a draft report released on Tuesday.

It also recommended issuing 190 new annual taxi licences.

IPART says cost is the main reason people don’t catch taxis, and the recommendations, if adopted, would make cabs more affordable and easier to find.

But NSW Taxi Council chief executive Roy Wakelin-King said IPART had ignored market realities, such as the 20 per cent hike in LPG.

At the same time, the council released research that shows the industry contributes $1.15 billion each year to the NSW economy, and provides 17,500 full-time equivalent jobs.

Mr Wakelin-King said IPART had dudded the taxi industry, recommending drivers get 3.5 per cent lower wages next year, and “flooding the market” with new licences.

“There is a significant oversupply of taxis for most of the year and those involved in the industry are battling to earn reasonable incomes,” he said.

He said IPART’s recommendations would force people away from the industry, which would be bad for customers.

The report prepared for the taxi council by Deloitte Access Economics found the industry delivered up to $20 million in annual revenue to the NSW government.

IPART had considered lowering fares from July 2014, but decided freezing fares struck a better balance for drivers and the public.

IPART recommends that maximum fares for urban areas including Newcastle, Wollongong, the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast continue to be the same as fares in Sydney.

Submissions on the draft report close on January 31.

IPART provides its final report in February 2014, with Transport for NSW to decide on the number of licences to be released by the end of March.

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Leishman sets sights on Scott and Day

Australia’s No.

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3 Marc Leishman has set his sights on joining countrymen Adam Scott and Jason Day among world golf’s elite.

At 65th in the world Leishman has ground to make up on world No.2 Scott and No.11 Day, but the 30-year-old Victorian isn’t content to stay in their shadows.

He has earmarked the next few months as his chance to break inside the world top 50 for the first time and doesn’t intend to settle for that.

It begins with his debut at the WGC-Match Play Championship in Arizona this week where he faces world No.8 Sergio Garcia first up.

“I feel like I am playing well enough to knock on Jason’s (Day) door and give him a run for his money and on my day I know I can compete with both of those guys (Scott and Day),” Leishman said.

“It is certainly an opportune time for me to make a move in the rankings.

“If you can go deep in this tournament you can make a significant jump and then it runs into more tournaments like Bay Hill and the Masters where I’ve played well before.”

A former US PGA Tour rookie of the year and a one-time winner on the tour in 2012, Leishman led last year’s Masters after the opening round before finishing tied fourth behind winner Scott.

He also played clutch golf as a captain’s pick his Presidents Cup debut.

But Leishman’s confidence shouldn’t be mistaken as arrogance.

“I know I still have to play good golf,” he said.

“Nothing is just given to you out here, I know that, and I intend to keep working hard so everything comes together.

“Adam and Jason have played a lot more consistently then me in the last few years and have earned their place and the respect that comes with it.

“Consistency is something I need to improve on but it is definitely a goal of mine to firstly break into the top 50 and then start looking at the top 20 and top 10 after that.

“I have shown I can mix it with the best and play well in big tournaments so it is just a matter of continuing to do that and still play well in the other events.

“I have to consistently keep my finger on the button.”

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Burberry show was crazy: Suki Waterhouse

Model Suki Waterhouse says walking in the Burberry Prorsum show was crazy, exciting and nerve wracking.

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The British model has fast become one of the hottest names in the industry and has had a busy week walking in various runway shows for London Fashion Week.

On Monday, the 22-year-old took to the catwalk for Burberry.

“(It’s) crazy, really exciting and nerve-wracking. I kind of want to do it again now,” Waterhouse gushed to British magazine Grazia backstage.

Waterhouse said it was a dream come true.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but it was always what I wanted to do from the start.”

Walking alongside Cara Delevingne and Jourdan Dunn, Waterhouse and the rest of the models sported monogrammed ponchos for the finale of the show.

Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey showcased a more relaxed bohemian take on the Autumn/Winter 14 trends.

Suki didn’t have time to let nerves set in ahead of the presentation as she only heard she’d be walking at the last minute.

“I didn’t find out until really recently, you don’t always know. So there wasn’t much time to prepare.

“It’s all so calm backstage. I love everyone here. I love Christopher Bailey … I love all the hair and make-up people. Because it’s such a high standard everyone’s very relaxed,” Waterhouse said.

The show drew in an A-lost front row, including the model’s boyfriend Bradley Cooper.

Harry Styles also took in the new trends, as did former bond girl Naomie Harris.

The audience were treated to live music from Paloma Faith to accompany the new collection.

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Bail for man who ‘threatened’ NSW parly

A disgruntled former taxi driver who allegedly threatened to blow up himself and NSW Parliament House has been granted bail.

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Abdula Ganiji, 58, sparked a dramatic two-hour stand-off with riot police last December after parking outside state parliament with two fuel containers in his car.

Ganiji then allegedly called ‘Triple 0’ and said “there’s a bomb in the car and I’m going to blow this house”.

The siege put the government building into lockdown, with NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell holed up inside.

In granting Ganiji bail in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Justice Peter Hidden said that psychological assessments revealed the former cabbie was unlikely to harm others.

The court was told Ganiji had become obsessed with the injustice of losing his job as a taxi driver in Wollongong in 1999.

He has since written repeatedly to state MPs and had held a hunger strike outside parliament for eight days in 2012.

Quoting a psychiatrist’s report, Justice Hidden said Ganiji had “strong thoughts of dying of a hunger strike or dying of burning himself in front of Parliament House”.

He noted that Ganiji’s psychiatrist of more than 10 years believed the former taxi driver had a strong moral code and was “unlikely to ever be able to harm anyone”.

Appearing on video link from Bathurst Prison, Ganiji remained expressionless throughout proceedings.

He has been charged with offences including threatening sabotage, possessing an explosive device to damage property, and threatening to destroy or damage property.

Ganiji has been placed under strict bail conditions, including not going to Sydney’s CBD without adult accompaniment.

He is also not able to approach any member of parliament but he is still allowed to write to them.

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Prof raises alarm over cancer ‘cure’ hype

One of Australia’s most respected medical specialists has raised the alarm about hyped-up promises of genetic cures for cancer and other diseases.

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The hype has the potential to do more harm than good, says Dr Robyn Ward, Director of Cancer Services at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital and Professor of Medicine at the University of NSW.

People with serious illnesses are reading and being told on TV that their their genetic information is going to revolutionise their care.

However, the last time cancer treatment was truly transformed was in the late 1990s with the leukaemia drug Glivec.

But treatments like Glivec and Herceptin for breast cancer did not arrive as sudden breakthroughs.

Developments that improve the prospects of cancer patients typically involve small steps and rigorous research over many years.

A decade of promises about personalised cancer medicine has not come to fruition, says Prof Ward in an editorial in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.

“With Glivec, people thought that because you had that one transformational change to one rare disease, the same model would apply to the majority of other cancers,” she told AAP.

“But that has not proved to be the case.

“Sometimes there are commercial interests behind the hype.”

A particular concern is the touting of over-priced new treatments to patients before rigorous trials expected for all new medications are completed.

So far there had been real but small benefits for some patients, Prof Ward said.

“But it’s not about a cure. It’s about prolonging life, and mostly only by months.”

The over-hyping of treatments put a lot of pressure on doctors and could cause dismay for patients and families.

“People come along with the expectation that you have a magic bullet in your back pocket.

“We can end up replacing proven treatments with something that is shiny and new when the old thing would have done a much better job.”

Another concern was misleading information about the value of sequencing a person’s DNA.

“There is important research going on, but it will take time before the information from gene sequencing is useful to patients.”

She said this concern was backed by the US Food and Drug Administration, which had ordered the personalised genetics company 23andMe to stop marketing a $US99 ($A110) DNA test to the public.

Doctors wanted progress, she said.

“But we want to be confident we are advising patients on the basis of good evidence.”

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Half-year profit triples for Ebos

Ebos Group says its first-half profit has more than tripled after acquiring Australian drug wholesaler and distributor Symbion.

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Profit was $NZ49.9 million ($A46.36 million) in the six months to December 31, up from about $NZ15 million a year earlier, the Christchurch-based company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Sales jumped to $NZ3 billion from $NZ755 million.

Ebos had forecast a profit of $NZ48.7m on sales of $NZ3.17b at its annual meeting in October.

Last year’s $NZ1.1b purchase of Symbion was a game-changer for Ebos, more than tripling annual revenue in a deal that gave Symbion’s owner, Zuellig Group, a cornerstone 40 per cent stake in the New Zealand business and adding to the Hong Kong-based group’s 30 stake in chemist chain PharmacyBrands.

The company has grown to include medical products distribution, pet products and now pharmaceuticals with 19 acquisitions in 12 years.

Ebos Chairman Rick Christie will retire at the company’s annual meeting in October after 10 years in the role and will be replaced by the company’s chief executive Mark Waller. In turn, Mr Waller will be replaced by Symbian CEO Patrick Davies.

Ebos chief financial officer Dennis Doherty, who held off retiring pending the Symbion purchase, will be replaced by Symbion’s CFO John Cullity.

Ebos will pay a first-half dividend of 20.5 NZ cents a share.

The company operates as two main divisions, healthcare and animal care. In the first half, revenue from healthcare soared to $NZ2.8b from $NZ673m a year earlier, reflecting revenue from Symbion, while profit climbed to $NZ52.2m from $NZ12.8m.

Animal care, made up of the Procter & Gamble pet care, Eukanuba and IAMS pet food, and the Vitapet grocery brands acquired with the 2011 acquisition of Masterpet Group for $NZ105m plus debt, lifted sales to $NZ177m from $NZ81m and profit rose to $NZ9.5m from $NZ6.4m.

The company said it assessed “a number of acquisition opportunities” in the first half though none had met its shareholder returns criteria.

With the addition of Symbion, Ebos got $NZA2.09b of its revenue across the Tasman, while New Zealand sales accounted for $NZ649.6m.

Profit from Australia was $NZA41.7m and from New Zealand was $NZ14.8m.

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Chile film shot with mobile phones screens

The first Chilean film shot with mobile phones – 09 La Pelicula – is a suspense movie produced by Martin Carcamo and filmed with the telephones of its leading characters.

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“Three (mobile) phones are filming at the same time during the movie,” Carcamo said in an interview with EFE.

Carcamo, a television host, is making his debut as a screenwriter and executive producer with this creation.

The film, hyperrealistic in style, tells the story from the subjective points of view of Carolina, played by actress Juanita Ringeling, Andrea (Isidora Cabezon) and Florencia (Catalina Gonzalez).

“It’s a different kind of story, a little dirty in style and was filmed by the actresses themselves,” Carcamo said.

The plot follows the experiences of three journalism students who shut themselves up in a house to work on a university project, when suddenly police warn them that just a few kilometres away, a couple has been murdered.

The college girls, forced to stay in the house, decide to do a report on the psychological processes they suffer throughout that day.

“It’s a realistic film that could really have happened. Youths use their mobile phones to make videos of themselves at a party or when they’re engaged in some activity, but these girls are filming each other during an entire day,” said Carcamo, who took part in the production of Gloria, a prizewinning movie at the Berlin International Film Festival.

09 La Pelicula, the first work by director Javier Aguirrezabal, will screen in Chilean cinemas starting March 13. Its creators foresee the movie doing the rounds of international film festivals in the near future.

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Fulham confirm Meulensteen exit

English Premier League strugglers Fulham bowed to the inevitable by confirming the departure of former manager Rene Meulensteen.

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The west London club took dramatic action last Friday in a bid to preserve their top-flight status by bringing in Felix Magath as their new manager with just 12 games of the season left.

However, at the time Fulham made no mention of Meulensteen’s fate or that of assistant manager Ray Wilkins and technical director Alan Curbishley.

But a Fulham statement issued on Tuesday says the trio have all left Craven Cottage as Magath brought in his own backroom staff.

“Fulham Football Club have officially announced the appointments of Tomas Oral as first-team coach and Werner Leuthard as conditioning coach, both reporting to new first-team manager Felix Magath, effective immediately,” the statement said.

“The club simultaneously made the formal announcement that Rene Meulensteen, Alan Curbishley, Ray Wilkins, (coaches) Mick Priest and Jonathan Hill have departed Fulham. Terms of the parting are complete and confidential.”

Former Manchester United coach Meulensteen had been in charge of the Cottagers for little more than two months after being promoted from within the west London club’s backroom staff to replace fellow-Dutchman Martin Jol on December 1.

However, Wednesday’s 3-2 home defeat by Liverpool — where Fulham twice took the lead before losing out to Steven Gerrard’s stoppage-time penalty — left the Cottagers bottom of the table and four points adrift of safety.

And that was enough for Fulham chairman Shahid Khan, a Pakistan-born US-based businessman, to sack Meulensteen.

It was the second time this season Meulensteen had been dismissed after he was fired just 16 days into his time in charge of Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in August.

Meulensteen responded to his effective sacking Friday by accusing Fulham of “freaking out” and “hitting the panic button on the emotions of fear”.

Former Bayern Munich manager Magath’s first match as Fulham boss will be away to West Bromwich Albion, themselves just above the relegation zone, on Saturday.

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US minimum wage hike ‘would cost jobs’

Boosting the federal minimum wage as US President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are proposing would increase earnings for more than 16.

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5 million people by 2016 but also cut employment by roughly 500,000 jobs, congress’ nonpartisan budget analyst says.

In a report containing ammunition for both supporters and opponents of the Democratic election-year proposal, the Congressional Budget Office said gradually raising the minimum from $US7.25 ($A8.05) hourly to $US10.10 would lift 900,000 people above the federal poverty level by 2016.

That is out of 45 million who would otherwise live in poverty without an increase.

But the analysis also noted a downside – about 0.3 per cent fewer jobs, especially for low-income workers; higher costs for business owners and higher prices for consumers.

The study was unveiled as the senate prepares for a March debate on a plan by Democrat Senator Tom Harkin, ramping up the minimum in three steps to $US10.10 by 2016.

The proposal is backed by Obama and is a keystone of Democrats’ campaign-season plans to highlight their effort to make incomes more equitable, but it faces strong Republican opposition and long odds of approval by congress.

The analysis, which examined increases very similar to Harkin’s, immediately added fuel to the partisan dispute over the proposal.

It put authoritative weight behind longtime Republican claims that increasing the minimum wage would cost jobs by forcing companies to spend more on wages, putting Democrats on the defensive.

“This report confirms what we’ve long known – while helping some, mandating higher wages has real costs, including fewer people working,” said Brendan Buck, spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

“With unemployment Americans’ top concern, our focus should be creating – not destroying – jobs for those who need them most.”

The budget office said its estimate of employment losses was approximate.

It said the actual impact would likely range from a very slight employment reduction to a loss of 1 million workers.

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Waratahs star Beale fittest he’s been

The penny has finally dropped for Waratahs playmaker Kurtley Beale that he can no longer rely on talent alone.

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Beale is the fittest he’s been heading into a Super Rugby season, as he prepares for his new running role at inside centre.

Coming back from off-season shoulder surgery, Beale has trained hard and according to coach Michael Cheika has even surprised himself with the benefits.

“Kurtley is starting to learn that hard work is actually quite rewarding,” Cheika told AAP.

“He’s seeing it on the field. He’s come back from his shoulder op early and played 70 minutes and 65 minutes in the trials, and he’s wanted to play more.

“I didn’t know him before, but he’s in good shape.

“He’s pushed himself hard. Every time it looks like he’s going to walk, there’s someone kicking him saying ‘run.'”

Beale’s prodigious talent carried him so far so early that fitness and discipline has often run a clear second.

Last year he was sacked by Melbourne with his behaviour hardly deserving of teammate of the year honours.

But so impressed has Cheika been with Beale’s attitude since arriving back at the Waratahs, he’s paid him the ultimate compliment of being “a real team player”.

Rather than kick up a stink at being a marquee signing and missing out on his preferred position of five-eighth, Beale has embraced Cheika’s plan for him to play outside Bernard Foley at No.12.

“His application to the game has been great. He’s learnt a new way to play, he’s fitting in well … and he’s just got that X-factor in his game,” said Cheika.

“You saw a moment in the (trial) against the Blues where he went to first receiver and Foley went out wide and threw him a ball and he went straight through. You can’t coach that.

“That’s just two guys that know how to play footy.”

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TV highlights for Thurs, Feb 20

THE CHECKOUT – ABC1, 8.

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00pm

The Checkout isn’t done with exposing companies that rip off and trick Australian consumers – clearly, there’s a lot more shonky business to expose yet and audiences have proved eager to lap it up and find out just how they are being scammed. The Chaser stalwarts Julian Morrow and Craig Reucassel are back with a second season to poke fun at and embarrass those who don’t heed the saying that the customer is always right. Armed with its irreverent style and humour, the team have successfully turned what could be a dry subject into something that is both entertaining and truly informative, giving customers the upper hand.

ITALY UNPACKED (PG) – SBS ONE, 8.30pm

British historian and art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon and revered Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli wrap up their Italian cultural adventure tonight in the northern region of Piedmont, which boasts a beautiful landscape featuring mountains and thriving forests. The good friends’ level of expertise lifts this travelogue above mere exclamations, with the art and cookery bent proving to be pleasingly entertaining and intelligent. The pair go truffle hunting and prepare a decadent breakfast with their riches straight from the soil. Andrew explores the baroque architecture which characterises Turin and the pilgrimage site of Sacro Monte in Varallo is explored.

THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (2005) – 7TWO, 7.30pm

Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel. The late Douglas Adams’ literary favourite finally materialised in this bright, booming, bizarre film that perfectly captures the essence of his tales. Martin Freeman (Sherlock) plays the Brit everyman who hitches a ride to outer space with his incognito alien buddy (Mos Def) just before the destruction of Earth. Hooking up with the last remaining female human (Zooey Deschanel), the trio becomes involved in the wild schemes of the galaxy’s zany president (Sam Rockwell). A wonderfully wry sci-fi comedy with jaw-dropping effects and shrewd pondering of the “meaning of life”.

xXx: THE NEXT LEVEL (2005) – GO!, 8.30pm

Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Samuel L. Jackson. Owing to a contract dispute, Vin Diesel did not reprise his role of knucklehead secret agent Xander Cage for this sequel. Clearly not the man to fill Diesel’s boots (c’mon, we’re talking about a tubby, pioneering rap star who’s better known for clipping hair in Barbershop), Ice Cube plays ex-Navy SEAL Darius Stone. Poached from prison by the shadowy Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), Stone is inducted into the xXx program and forced to stop the assassination of the US president. This desperately mindless action spectacle is so bad – we’re not talking “gangsta” bad – it’s funny.

STAYING ALIVE (1983) – ELEVEN, 9.30pm

John Travolta, Cynthia Rhodes, Finola Hughes. When not plotting how to get Rocky Balboa back in the ring for another sequel, Sylvester Stallone wrote and directed this monstrously entertaining camp-athon. Many people forget that this is actually a sequel to Saturday Night Fever. Yep, Tony Manero (John Travolta) becomes a Broadway dancer! Keep an eye out for an amusing blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Sly, and an ear out for his brother Frank who shares an equal, but entirely forgettable, number of songs with The Bee Gees on the soundtrack. Perplexing, but then again, most of the ’80s was.

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