ASX falls over 1pc as Woolies disappoints

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The Woolworths result quickly reversed market sentiment on Thursday. Photo: Patrick ScalaConsumer stocks led n shares sharply lower on Thursday following a dreadful quarterly sales report from Woolworths, while ANZ reported full-year profit numbers and Blackmores shares briefly hit $200 each.

The market started the day in positive territory following strong gains on Wall Street, which reached two-month highs. The Dow Jones lifted 1 per cent after the US Federal Reserve implied it was more open to a December rate hike.

However, the Woolworths result quickly reversed market sentiment, especially as Wesfarmers shares were also sold off as a result.

Consumer staples was by the far the worst sector on the day, losing 5.3 per cent. All sectors bar utilities stocks were in the red as the benchmark ASX200 index fell 1.3 per cent to 5266.9 and the broader All Ordinaries declined 1.2 per cent to 5310.2.

The banks were also down, with ANZ falling 2 per cent to $28.17 after reporting record full-year profits of $7.2 billion, but also slowing earnings growth, flat dividends, and shareholder returns squeezed by the dilutive effect of its recent capital raising.

Commonwealth Bank shed 0.6 per cent to $77.17 and National Bank declined 4 per cent to $30.46 but Westpac performed relatively well, finishing flat at $31.92.

Woolworths crashed 9.8 per cent to $24.70 after warning that net profits will fall as much as 35 per cent in the December half to between $900 million and $1 billion.

Same-store n food and liquor sales fell for the second consecutive quarter –  down 1 per cent in the three months to October 4 – as Woolworths struggled to reverse customer perceptions that its prices are higher than Coles.

The decline in first-quarter same-store food and liquor sales followed a 0.9 per cent drop in the June quarter, indicating that Woolworths supermarkets are continue to lose momentum. ​Analysts had been forecasting same-store sales to fall between 0.5 per cent and 1.1 per cent.

Fears of continuing price wars in the grocery sector resulted in competitor Wesfarmers dropping 4.3 per cent to $40.18, while Metcash was walloped even worse than Woolworths, losing 10.4 per cent to $1.20.

“There’s a big question now over some of these consumer stocks,” said Invast chief market analyst Peter Esho. “Woolworths can only fight its way out of this through pricing – and if they discount the rest of the market has to discount and it’s going to drive down margins.

“Woolworths is not just a short-term earnings thing. There’s big questions now over where strategy is at, where management’s at, where the board is at. The whole thing is falling apart.”

Overnight, iron ore slumped 3 per cent to $US49.95 per tonne – under $US50 – although oil recovered somewhat, with Brent crude up $US2.10 or 4.5 per cent, to $US48.91 per barrel.

BHP weakened 1.3 per cent to $23.47 and Rio Tinto slipped 1.8 per cent to $51.14. Pure-play iron ore miner Fortescue gave up 2.2 per cent to $2.20 and Woodside Petroleum fell 1 per cent to $29.34 despite the improving oil price.

Telstra retreated 1.4 per cent to $5.50.

Blackmores surged 12.9 per cent to $175.51 after news it was expanding beyond its core business to enter the infant formula market through a partnership deal with dairy group Bega Cheese, as profits continue to surge from vitamins sales to China.

Blackmores has experienced an incredible near 500 per cent rise in its share price over the past 14 months because of heavy demand for its vitamins and health supplements in China.

Newcrest’s chances of meeting its full year gold production guidance have taken a blow with the company confirming a major piece of kit at its most important mine will be out for longer.

An important part of the production process at the Cadia mine in NSW failed about 12 days ago, and Newcrest said today it would be “at least five weeks” before it was fixed. The gold miner crumbled 7.6 per cent to $12.72.

Southern Cross Austereo upgrades earnings, implores government to move on reform

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Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley presented an earnings upgrade to shareholders. Photo: Louise KennerleyAll-day live streaming of metropolitan television channels could have a “pretty damaging effect” on the regional marketplace and Southern Cross Austereo will consider it when negotiating a new affiliate agreement, the regional television and radio broadcaster’s chief executive Grant Blackley says.

The media company upgraded its earnings expectations for the first half on the back of improved revenue across the business, particularly from radio, which includes The Hit Network and Triple M.

Southern Cross’s current affiliation deal is with Ten Network Holdings, where Mr Blackley was chief executive for six years until 2011, and expires in July 2016.

“We’re keen to see what [Ten are] doing next year, we’re keen to see the content they’ll have … I think television more broadly has to market itself better, so what’s Ten’s views and plans on that because I think radio as an industry does it better than television,” Mr Blackley said following Southern Cross’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

Ten chief executive Paul Anderson told Fairfax Media that there was a lot of hype around live streaming and, for now, Ten will not broadcasting all its channels over the internet 24/7 like its rivals Seven and Nine plan to.

Mr Blackley said he had no preference for a short- or long-term agreement as long as it resulted in a better economic outcome for Southern Cross.

He said streaming would be a consideration in negotiations because “it’s a growing concern”.

“We look at the media reform proposition; I think what you’re seeing is that one of the debates and discussion in market is about streaming services into markets which effectively is coming into our market unencumbered, particularly with national ads, [and] there’s not as much localisation into the regional communities,” Mr Blackley said.

“We see it as something that we have to be highly cognisant of as an affiliate, but again it can have a pretty damaging effect on our marketplace, particularly if it is not a geo-filtered ad insertion model into the marketplace which we participate in.” Media reform ‘an urgent issue’

Mr Blackley said media reform was an urgent issue and implored the government to scrap the reach rule preventing TV networks from broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the population, the two out of three rule preventing media companies from owning a TV station, radio network and newspaper in the same market, as well as a reduction in broadcast licence fees.

At Southern Cross’s AGM on Thursday Mr Blackley announced to shareholders that the company is now expecting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation between $87 million and $89 million in the first half, up 2 per cent to 4 per cent on the same period last year. In August it had forecast flat growth.

Southern Cross shares jumped on the news, trading up 3.1 per cent in afternoon trade at 97.75¢.

The upgrade came as a result of better revenue forecasts, especially in its radio assets. Southern Cross is expecting metro radio revenue to be up between 7 per cent to 8 per cent in the half, while regional radio is forecast to improve between 3 per cent  to 4 per cent and TV revenue to rise around 1 per cent.

“[We’re] very pleased. The radio side did well, and it’s obviously improving. We’re seeing improvements in both metro and regional. It’s probably the second best performance in market only to out of home media,” Mr Blackley said.

Luck turns for Canberra Capitals with WNBA guard Renee Montgomery to debut

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The Canberra Capitals’ wretched run of luck has finally taken a positive turn with Minnesota Lynx point guard Renee Montgomery cleared to make her WNBL debut after resolving her visa issues. 

Montgomery will suit up for the Capitals in Saturday’s home game against Melbourne in a major boost to a roster crippled by injuries.

The 28-year-old’s arrival will help appease the loss to perimeter player Hanna Zavecz, who retired from basketball this week after aggravating a rib injury. 

Canberra’s season is already in danger of slipping away after losing their first five matches and the Boomers match is virtually must-win.

Capitals coach Carrie Graf confirmed on Thursday that Montgomery will debut at AIS Arena, but doesn’t expect her to play a huge role given her travel after helping Lynx win the WNBA title.

“She’s on a plane as we speak. She’ll have medicals tomorrow [Friday] and we’ll suit her up and give her some game time,” Graf said.

“Straight off the plane you’re not ready to play 35 to 40 minutes; jet lag takes a couple of days to get over.

“It’s a confidence boost for our team. Our roster is undermanned due to circumstances out of our control and adding a player of her ilk is a plus for us.

“She’s a quality player, can hit the three-point shot and get deep in the lane to score.

“She’s going to create opportunities for the rest of the group, but she’s not going to be the magic formula in a day,” she said.

Montgomery’s inclusion will allow the Capitals to cover for Zavecz by playing regular point guards Alice Coddington and Abbey Wehrung with Montgomery at the same time.

Graf insisted they’re focussed on playing “with what we have” after eight players suited up in the last-start loss in Bendigo, but will keep their ear to the ground for possible replacements.

The Capitals showed plenty of grit before Bendigo’s clear size advantage ground them down in the 77-66 defeat.

“Two days isn’t enough time to get a starting perimeter player into your group,” she said.

“Right now we’ll sit tight and we’ll look at potential options out there in coming weeks.

“We’ve been without players for a while and been on numerous searches, but there’s not a lot out there.”

The injury dramas mean young n Opal Stephanie Talbot has taken on a much bigger role offensively for Canberra, averaging 20 points per game.

She said she was relishing the extra responsibility but said a greater focus on intensity led to a more competitive showing against Bendigo.

“Throughout the game our grit and team defence took it up a lot, we were so much better at that, and that put the pressure on them,” she said.

“Down the stretch their size and our point guard [Wehrung] getting fouled out [hurt], they overtook us, which was disappointing, but the effort we put in was much better.”


WNBL round four: Canberra Capitals v Melbourne Boomers at AIS Arena, 7pm

Tickets available from Ticketek

NBN one street, web drop-outs the next

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Watson resident Petra Bright has experienced poor internet connectivity at her home. Photo: Graham TidyNBN Co buys 1800 kilometres of copperNBN’s first satellite launches successfully

Watson resident Petra Bright knows too well the frustrations of unreliable internet.

Yet less than two kilometres away residents in the central suburb’s most northern streets enjoy the reliably fast speeds of the National Broadband Network.

“I’m probably about one or two kilometres from where the NBN is but I’m about five kilometres away from the exchange for ADSL and ADSL2 so, I’m a fair distance from the actual exchange which has caused a few issues with my internet – it tends to drop out,” Ms Bright said.

“It went down for about two weeks a few weeks ago and there was next to no answer for it.

“My ISP tends to blame the distance from the exchange for everything. Five kilometres is a fair distance but at the same time I can’t fix my location.”

Ms Bright’s ordeal, like that of many Canberrans, reflects a digital divide not only across the capital’s regions but within old and new suburbs.

A pocket of streets in Casey were among the only ones in the entire Gungahlin region to miss out on the capital region’s initial NBN rollout, aside from the next stage underway in Nicholls.

Although about 81,000 Canberra and Queanbeyan homes are a step closer to having NBN access, with a raft of suburbs announced earlier this month to have construction on the broadband network begin by next September, many others remain in limbo.

Tuggeranong has emerged the biggest loser with only Wanniassa and Kambah earmarked for the NBN in the next three years.

While Ms Bright does not categorise herself among the unluckiest internet surfers in Canberra, she has had to accept limited connectivity throughout her house, including rooms where she can’t jump online at all.

“Basically, I’m on the furthest limit of what [my internet provider] can provide for ADSL2,” she said.

“I can get Netflix and all those types of things [but] I can’t get Wi-Fi in my bedroom, for example, because it’s already become so slow [after] hitting the router. By the time it gets to my bedroom or other parts of the house, it’s dropped out by then.”

Dr David Tuffley from Griffith University’s School of Information and Communication Technology said the country’s digital divide stemmed from a “hybrid set-up” of ADSL copper wire and glass fibre.

It’s the result of a switch from the former Labor government’s fibre-to-the-premises NBN plan to the Liberal government’s fibre and copper mix, he said.

“They’ve run as much speed out of these copper wires as they absolutely, possibly can – they really can’t manage anymore,” Dr Tuffley said.

“Some areas are fairly well connected with fibre and they’re enjoying fast speeds. The ones that are really slow are ones that are largely copper and there’s a lot of people connected to the one node. The more people that connect, the slower it all becomes.

“So as more people subscribe to Netflix and Stan and other streaming services and of course, those naughty people who torrent stuff, there’s more and more load.”

Dr Tuffley said ‘s internet, ranked 44th in the world earlier this year, was “deplorable” and “embarrassing”.

He said there seemed to be a mentality of leaving problem streets alone in lieu of the NBN’s eventual rollout.

“It is false economy to skimp on providing the right infrastructure for now and the future,” he said.

“What the government is providing is barely adequate for now and it doesn’t really provide terribly well for the future.”

Dr Tuffley said there weren’t many options for people stuck without ADSL2.

Consistent 4G or 5G coverage could be one way around physical shortcomings in urban areas in the future, however this would be a long way off.

Ms Bright said she looked forward to eventually accessing the NBN but was a little jealous of her friends up the road already delighting in speedy internet access.

“You sort of feel like you’re living on dial-up speed sometimes,” she said.

“It’s more just a jealousy thing at the end of the day, that they have much faster internet than you do.”

Residents removed from Tomaree Lodge to group homes under NDIS

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THE removal of 38 residents from Tomaree Lodge, the Port’s lone state-run disability care hospital for the past 28 years, has started.

The residents, predominantly aged from 65 and suffering from intellectual and physical disabilities, will be rehoused into group homes accommodating up to six people as houses become available.

A Family and Community Services (FACS) spokesperson has confirmed that the NSW government was committed to the redevelopment of Tomaree Lodge by June 30, 2018.

“These large centres will be replaced with contemporary accommodation in the community designed to provide a home-like environment, with more privacy, flexibility in daily living and opportunities for increased participation in the community,” the spokesperson said.

“FACS is committed to consulting with staff, their industrial representatives through an industrial relations working party, and local consultative meetings.”

Minister for Disability Services John Ajaka last week announced that the government was seeking expressions of interest from non-government organisations to build and operate disability housing to replace Hunter lodges including Tomaree at a cost of $58 million.

Mr Ajaka said closing the institutions would help ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence, choose the people they live with, be closer to their families and integrate more with the community.

However, according to the sole surviving relative of one Tomaree Lodge resident, many of those living at the Shoal Bay facility are unable to communicate their wishes and do not have anyone speaking for them.

“It’s a sad reality that many of these residents do not have a voice,” said Judy Bourke, the sister-in-law of Angelman syndrome sufferer Marea Bourke.

“While the National Disability Insurance Scheme has many health benefits, there are a minority who will fall between the cracks, including my sister-in-law who has resided at Tomaree since 1988.

“She needs 24-hour specialist nursing care, and would not cope in a smaller property.”

State MP Kate Washington has labelled the government’s decision to release the plan to the business sector before being shared or discussed with residents’ families or advocates as “disgraceful”.

“The residents of these services are the most vulnerable people in our community, and we must ensure that what’s being proposed is consistent with the NDIS principles of choice and control, not a ‘one size fits all’ accommodation with no safeguards,” Ms Washington said.

“And there are still no answers as to how the health needs of these residents will be managed once they are rehoused.”

The FACS spokesperson said there were 54 staff at Tomaree Lodge and FACS was finalising its approach for the workforce.

“Future plans for the site following relocation of residents are yet to be developed and FACS is unable to provide an estimated value of this property.”

In 2012, Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie caused a huge outcry when he suggested the land be turned into a tourist development complete with casino.

Rodney Lawrence in court charged with cold case murder of Elizabeth Dixon

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Elizabeth Dixon was found slumped across the front seat of her own car in the bush. Photo: Police Media Police at the scene where Elizabeth Dixon was murdered in 1982. Photo: Allan Jolly

Detective Sergeant Frank Tracey investigated the death of Elizabeth Dixon in 1982. Photo: Chris Cole

A man charged with the murder of Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon in Newcastle 33 years ago has appeared in Maitland Local Court.

Ms Dixon’s body was found slumped across the front seat of her car in bush near Ashtonfield in Newcastle’s north-west in 1982. An autopsy found she had suffered 27 stab wounds.

Rodney Lawrence, 64, from Stockton, made no application for bail as he was led into court in handcuffs on Thursday.

Duty solicitor Peter Cleaves told magistrate John Chicken: “I cannot be in a position today to make a substantial bail application.

“This warrants a bail application and my suggestion is that next week in Newcastle I can be in a position to make that application.”

The magistrate formally refused bail and Lawrence was remanded in custody, to appear by way of audio visual link in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday next week.

Bearded, with a moustache, Lawrence was dressed in jeans and a dark jacket.

According to police papers tendered to the court, Lawrence murdered Ms Dixon at Ashtonfield between April 3 and 4, 1982.

Ms Dixon flew from Northern Ireland in 1979 for a year in and decided to stay.

The Saturday before Easter in 1982, Ms Dixon, 31, left the Greenhills Hit-N-Dip Sports Centre, where she was a regular squash player, and vanished.

She was known to have made a quick visit to some nearby shops and possibly went back to her flat in Metford.

The following Monday, a jogger found her body.

A murder investigation continued sporadically until Lawrence was arrested on Wednesday.

The suspect, who was a well-known Maitland sportsman in 1982, was arrested at his home at Stockton and taken to Maitland police station for questioning.

The Maitland Mercury, Newcastle Herald

End of an era with Rozelle Markets takeover by Blue Sky Markets Pty Ltd

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Jeanne Albrecht (right) with her daughter Ilana Albrecht at Rozelle Public School. Photo: Kate GeraghtyAfter 25 years, Jeannie Albrecht’s project is over. The P&C mum who started the Rozelle Markets out of her own car is being edged out by the pros.

It was announced earlier this week that the department of education will turf out Mrs Albrecht in favour of Blue Sky Markets, a company which has about 10 market businesses in Queensland and NSW.

“It’s very important not to squash someone who’s worked very, very hard, and not just for themselves, and discard them” said Mrs Albrecht. “Take away a piece of community here and a piece there and soon you have something soulless”.

Mrs Albrecht began the weekend market in 1991, after the success of a P&C car-boot sale. She shook hands with the principal on a deal to use school land on weekends in exchange for rent.

She threw in her life savings, took out a loan and hung tough through lean days with her daughter Larna who sold grassy heads made out of old stockings.

The site has since grown into Sydney’s major second-hand market and Mrs Albrecht says one-third of her stalls are set aside for casual community stalls.

But last year a Department of Education decree stated that all schools’ commercial arrangements be reviewed and opened to tender.

“It’s a hobby and my passion,” said Blue Sky owner Ross Alexander.

Rozelle will make for Blue Sky’s 10th market property, including in Bondi, Manly and (after similar tender takeovers) in Chinatown and Brisbane.

His critics argue Mr Alexander’s approach gives markets a samey feel and they fear stallholders will be squeezed.

Mr Alexander says he has not raised stallholder fees in the past and is ruling out any at Rozelle. He wants to maintain the market’s bric-a-brac feel and says he profits only by making markets better in the long-term and offering landowners a better deal.

“We got a very well known designer to come up with a brand for what Chinatown is,” he said.

Mr Alexander says that his operation will give the school a fairer share of revenue. “If it’s a commercial operation in a school then I think that’s important”.

But some stallholders are not happy.

Lesley Fairbairn, who has sold second-hand books, bric-a-brac and miscellany at Rozelle since its beginning says she will not work for new management.

A signal example of the difference in management styles, stallholders say, is Mrs Albrecht collects her rent on the morning of the markets. That means they don’t pay for rainy days, which can be the bane of a stallholder’s life.

Blue Sky collects in advance.

“The idea that someone comes round collecting cash these days…,” Mr Alexander said. “There’s a major security issue, I don’t think it’s appropriate to put staff in that position”.

Sydney man Zane Alchin likely to plead guilty to harassing slut-shame protesters

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Zane Alchin is expected to plead guilty. Photo: Nick MoirMan charged over slut shaming, harassment of Sydney woman for her Tinder profile

A Sydney man will likely plead guilty to harassing women who defended their friend from online slut-shaming, a court has heard.

Zane Alchin​, 25, appeared before Newtown Local Court on Thursday, charged with using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend.

His lawyer indicated Mr Alchin was expected to plead guilty to the crime, which carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.

Mr Alchin allegedly committed the offence on a Facebook thread about the online abuse of Sydney woman Olivia Melville.

A photo of Ms Melville’s profile on the dating app Tinder had been uploaded to Facebook. Her profile caption quoted a lyric by the hip-hop artist Drake: “Type of girl who will suck you dry and then eat some lunch with you.”

Ms Melville was derided online by strangers. Her friends responded by reposting the original post and criticising the commenters for their attitudes toward women.

Mr Alchin is accused of harassing these friends in ranting, obscene comments, writing at one point “[sic] your all f—ing basic sluts”.

He also allegedly referred to “the best thing about raping feminists”. Fairfax Media has chosen not to publish other, more explicit messages in the series.

The alleged targets of the abuse told media they had reported the messages to police, who initially “offered little support to our case”.

They then began a Facebook group called “Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced”, which gained more than 8000 followers. Their petition to the governments of NSW and  for tighter laws and more resources to tackle online harassment gathered more than 15,000 signatures.

Mr Alchin was charged on Monday. “We would like to thank the Newtown Local Police for their hard work on this case,” the group wrote on Facebook.

“Not every person who experiences online violence has the time, resources or support network to start a campaign after being harassed. That’s why, regardless of the outcome of this legal case, SVWBS will continue to fight for better laws, training and education surrounding online harassment.”

Mr Alchin’s matter will return to court on December 8.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Dressmaker

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Stars: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Kerry Fox, Shane Bourne, Hugo Weaving

Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse

Screening: general release

Rating: ★★★★

JOCELYN Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker is about the return of a prodigal daughter, and you might say it was made by one. While Moorhouse still has a high reputation as an n filmmaker, she has not shot a feature in her homeland since her debut Proof in the early ’90s. But this hectic, clattering Gothic farce, based on a novel by Rosalie Ham, finds her back with a vengeance.

In dead of night, the glamorous Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) arrives in the remote wheatbelt town of Dungatar, her Singer sewing machine by her side. As we soon discover, this is the home she was sent away from as a child, under ambiguous circumstances, which saw her implicated in the death of a schoolmate.

Even now, in 1951, the rumours haven’t subsided: Tilly herself fears she may be cursed, and Mad Molly (Judy Davis), her cranky old bag of a mother, initially refuses to recognise her. But Tilly is determined to set things right, or at least find out what really happened on that fateful day. She moves into Molly’s hilltop shack and, having learned her trade in the great fashion houses of Europe, she sets about introducing the local matrons to the joys of haute couture.

Teddy McSwiney’s (Liam Hemsworth) role as Tilly Dunnage’s (Kate Winslet) love interest isn’t conventional.

Whatever may be suggested by this synopsis, The Dressmaker is not one of those sentimental fables in which a free-spirited stranger brings new life to a repressed community. Like many outback towns in n cinema, Dungatar is something of a hellhole, its very name suggesting a smelly place where the hapless get stuck.

Its citizens also tend to be given blunt allegorical names, from the vicious schoolteacher Beulah Harridiene (Kerry Fox) to the slimy civic leader Evan Pettyman (Shane Bourne).

Those few characters worthy of sympathy tend to be outsiders of one kind or another – such as Sergeant Horatio Farrat, a friendly policeman and closet transvestite played by Hugo Weaving.

Another partial outsider is Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth), a rugged hunk from a family of rubbish collectors who serves as Tilly’s love interest, though his role isn’t quite what it would be in a conventional feelgood entertainment.

The great scene-stealer is Davis, who’s able to make Molly into an outlandish comic figure without eliminating all nuance, since the shamelessness belongs as much to the character as to the performer. Molly may be a recluse, but she relishes having an audience to play to.

Truth be told, Moorhouse has so many characters and subplots to juggle that her storytelling can feel disjointed: some weighty developments are skated over so rapidly we might wonder if they really happened at all. On the other hand, the lurches from broad comedy to grim melodrama and back are evidently intentional – part of a strategy for throwing the viewer off-balance, along with the dramatic colour contrasts and spatial distortions of Don McAlpine’s cinematography.

This cartoonish yet confrontational approach recalls the work of Moorhouse’s husband P.J. Hogan, who collaborated with her on The Dressmaker’s script. Absent, however, is Hogan’s softness of heart. By the end, it’s clear that Moorhouse wasn’t joking when she publicly compared the plot of The Dressmaker to Clint Eastwood’s great revisionist Western Unforgiven – though the film could also be seen as the long-delayed feminist answer to Wake In Fright.

Either way, it’s not for nothing that Tilly’s favourite colour, bright red, evokes both fire and blood.

All questions of taste and plausibility aside, The Dressmaker is a hoot and a healthy shock to the system. n cinema may never be quite the same again.


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Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Emma Thompson, Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Uma Thurman

Director: John Wells

Screening: general release

Rating: ★★★

BRADLEY Cooper’s chef, Adam Jones, comes out of the Gordon Ramsay school of kitchen tantrum. At least he starts that way. Burnt is the story of his long and noisy journey towards the embrace of teamwork and a civilised demeanour.

How much you enjoy it is likely to depend on your taste for the cult of the celebrity chef. I’m resistant, so I spent much of the action wincing over the size of the seafood bill as he hurls successive plates of seared scallops and poached turbot fillets at the wall because they don’t meet his exacting standards.

Bradley Cooper’s intense, blue-eyed stare does a lot of the heavy lifting in Burnt.

The film is directed by John Wells, best known as showrunner for ER and The West Wing and, more recently, as the director of August: Osage County.

When we first meet Adam, he’s just arrived in London, having undergone a long rehabilitation after years of abusing drugs, alcohol and best friends, few of whom have any desire to see him again. Nonetheless, he perseveres – or rather, bullies them into giving him another chance. In particular, he persuades his long-suffering friend Tony (Daniel Bruhl), who happens to own the Langham Hotel, to let him take over the hotel’s restaurant.

Cooper’s intense, blue-eyed stare does a lot of the heavy lifting in these scenes. He also employs quite a bit of the fighting spirit that he sported in his last film, American Sniper. In that, his co-star was Sienna Miller, cast again here as a talented young chef.

There are many loving shots of colour co-ordinated helpings cunningly arranged on white plates. And they’re usually served up as part of a montage, a device that tends to be the first refuge of a director lumbered with a script lacking enough lines worth saying.

There is some banter, much of it wisely assigned to Emma Thompson as Adam’s therapist, and to Matthew Rhys, who does a great job as his former friend. But Adam himself is so pickled in his own ego that he wouldn’t know a witticism from a witlof.

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