A Dog’s Purpose review: Paw exploration of life, friendship

FILM A DOG’S PURPOSE ?????(PG) General release (100 minutes)???
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Josh Gad’s acting mannerisms drive me up the wall, but I can’t deny he was well cast as a cringing comic henchman in the recent live-action version of Beauty and the Beast.

He’s equally in his element as the first-person narrator of Lasse Hallstrom’s??? A Dog’s Purpose, pondering the mysteries of existence in husky, ingratiating tones which advertise that he poses no threat.

Based on a bestseller by the humorist W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose concerns either one dog or a whole troupe of them, depending how you look at it.

For most of the first half of the film, the narrator is Bailey, a beloved golden retriever owned by a family in rural Michigan in the 1960s.

When Bailey passes on, he’s reincarnated as a Chicago police dog, then as a corgi in Atlanta.

Along the way, he switches from male to female and back again – but none of this affects his naive, enthusiastic personality, or his ability to provide comfort and companionship to his various owners.

In later adventures, the dog longs to be reunited with one owner in particular: Ethan, a clean-cut Michigan boy played as a child by Bryce Gheisar???, as a teenage jock by K.J. Apa, and as an older man by Dennis Quaid.

Not even death, it seems, can destroy this bond, though it’s not clear why Ethan should be given priority over subsequent owners such as the equally loving Maya (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), unless this simply reflects the deference due to a middle-class white man.

The chauvinism here surely isn’t conscious, but it’s part and parcel of the film’s commitment to affirming homespun values rather than taking advantage of the satirical potential of a panorama of American life viewed through a dog’s innocent eyes.

Despite the involvement of talented screenwriters such as Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear), this remains a textbook example of what the website Snopes南京夜网 refers to as “glurge” – the kind of gooey uplift associated with the novels of Nicholas Sparks and their film adaptations (such as Hallstrom’s own Safe Haven), and with so-called “faith-based cinema”.

In this instance, the tone is religiose, but in a carefully non-specific way.

Evidently the notion of reincarnation is not meant to be taken literally; rather, it’s a device that allows Hallstrom to reassure us that life goes on, even as he tugs on our heartstrings with a series of doggy death scenes.

Between this and The Zookeeper’s Wife, animal lovers are doing it tough at the movies at the moment.

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Forget Toorak, Melbourne multi-millionaires are moving to Ringwood

Living the high life in a designer apartment towerBrunswick could have another 13 storey buildingRingwood: is it Melbourne’s Mordor?
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Outer-suburban apartments are giving inner-city homes a run for their money, with a Ringwood penthouse recently fetching a stunning $2.42 million.

It comes as high-density living continue to spread to the suburbs, with soaring house prices driving more demand for larger apartments.

The four-bedroom penthouse in Ringwood is among a string of $1 million-plus off-the-plan sales in Eden SQ, a six-storey development 23 kilometres east of Melbourne’s CBD.

At $2.42 million, that’s on par with the median house price in Malvern and more expensive than a typical house in Fitzroy, Eaglemont and St Kilda, Domain Group data shows.

The penthouse buyers, empty nesters from Wonga Park, combined four two-bedroom apartments to create their own 288 square metres of living plus balcony, with access to communal lifestyle amenities including a yoga studio, cinema and dining room.

It is one among 15 apartments in the Nelson Street project that have sold for more than $1 million, and one of two with a $2 million-plus price tag.

Marshall White Projects directorLeonard Teplin said the buyers ??? like some others downsizing into larger apartments from suburbs including Chirnside Park and Lilydale ??? chose Ringwood because they could stay close to family and friends and infrastructure they were familiar with.

“Moving to South Yarra or moving to Toorak, where they can afford to live, just doesn’t suit their needs,” Mr Teplin said.

Eden SQ was near Eastland Shopping Centre and EastLink, he said, adding that suitable downsizing opportunities close to where those buyers lived was scarce.

With Ringwood being named as a metropolitan activity centre, alongside Box Hill, Sunshine and Frankston in Plan Melbourne, the traditionally low-rise suburb is set to grow denser.

Off-the-plan apartments in Greensborough ??? 19 kilometres north-east of the CBD ??? are also fetching house-like prices. A two-bedroom home at 25-33 Grimshaw Street sold to a local downsizer for $585,000 last year.

The 133-square metre apartment is nestled in a three-storey complex, a short walk to Main Street, Greensborough Shopping Plaza and trendy cafes emerging in the area.

Alex Karbon Real Estate’sAlex Puglia said expansive views and large terraces on the top floor appealed to empty nesters, who preferred low-maintenance living.

On the other side of the city, Williams Landing is also growing taller with Cedar Woods developing the suburb’s second apartment building “Oxford Apartments”, which will include 97 one- and two-bedroom apartments, three townhouses and a ground-floor retail precinct in their master-planned community.

A top-floor two-bedroom apartment in the developer’s first four-storey building, Newton Apartments, fetched $425,000 last March. The most expensive two-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of the developer’s “Oxford Apartments” is expected to sell for $439,000.

In St Albans, another suburb on the cusp of seeing more apartment developments, a first-home buyer paid $347,000 in February for a top-floor two-bedroom home with city views.

According to Westside Real Estate’sMichael Nincevic, the internal space in the fourth-floor apartment at 14 Albert Crescent was about 63 square metres.

And in Werribee, a top-floor three-bedroom apartment in Watton Street which sold for $650,000 to a local empty nester about three years ago would now be worth between 20 and 30 per cent more, First National Westwood’sRob Westwood said.

“There is certainly a large number of local people who have moved to apartments in the city … because at the time, there was nothing available here,” Mr Westwood said.

“[Apartments] are becoming more predominant because of rising land cost, due to first home buyers and investors being so busy in the market.”

Though buyers could purchase a family home in Werribee for $500,000, the apartment offers views of treetops and the Werribee River and is close to the train station and shops.

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Jarrett becomes dual rugby international

ROUND 4 FIXTURES: Lakes v Souths; Kurri Kurri v Maitland; Macquarie v Wests (Saturday); Central v Cessnock (Sunday).MALTAcalled againfor Matt Jarrett, but this time it was a different code.
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The Hunter product, who has represented the Mediterranean island nation at rugby union World Cup qualifiers previously, switched to rugby league for a Test against Lebanon in Sydney on Saturday.

The playmaker came off the bench for the last 20 minutes, but the underdogs went down 24-4 to their World Cup-bound opponents.

*HUNTERSports High were beaten 26-16 by All Saints College, St Mary’s Campus, Maitland, at Cessnock Sportsground on Wednesdayin the opening round of the GIO Cup, or the latest version of the national schoolboys competition.

St Mary’s were led around by Knights SG Ball duo Jock Madden and Tyran Ott and next face Holy Cross, Ryde, at Leichhardt Oval on June 7 in the round-robin stage.

St Gregory’s, Campbelltown, are also in the group.

* JAKE Finn could be back on the paddock sooner than anticipated.

The Central Newcastle prop hopes to return after 10 weeks, rather than the entire season as first feared, meaning a push for the finals could be in play from around mid-July.

His knee injury was sustained during a melee against Kurri in the opening round.

* MOTHER’S Day will be marked with a splash of pink at St John Oval thisSunday.

Host teams from Central Newcastle will wearspecially-made pink uniforms in fourth-round fixtures against Cessnock while staff and the leagues club itself across the road will also bein theme.Proceeds from the inaugural “Pink Test” will go to the McGrath Foundation, raising money for breast cancer.

* STILL on charity and next weekend’s NRL matches(May 18-21) will be designated“Beanie for Brain Cancer Round”.

It comes with Matt Callander, former Footy Show producer and son of racing personality Ken, battling the disease and follows the death of Sharnie Kimmorley, wife of former halfback Brett, from the same illness in March.

And of course it’s thecause close to the heart of Kurri-born Knights premiership winner Mark Hughes and forged the formation of afoundation in his name raising money for research, awareness and support.

*SEVENNorth Newcastle players will push their case for state selection at North Sydney Oval on Sunday.

With the men’s concept finishing up, the inaugural NSW Women’s City-Country Shield will include Donna Sutton, Kylie Hilder, Phoebe Desmond, Margaret Watson, Jerry Burgmann, Amy Broadhead and Alicia Martin.

The Blues squad will then be announced before attempting to defendtheir title against Queensland later in the year.

* AND anyone hoping to get along to see Knights immortal Andrew Johns at next month’s “Tales & Ales” event in Newcastle is too late.

The State of Origin-themed luncheon at The Squire’s Maiden on June 16 is sold out.

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George Calombaris charged following altercation with Sydney FC fan

MasterChef judge and celebrity chef George Calombaris has been charged following an altercation with a teenage fan at the A-League grand final on Sunday night.
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Calombaris, a keen Melbourne Victory supporter, was caught on camera losing his temper with a 19-year-old Sydney FC fan and pushing him in the chest after the nail-biting game.

Sydney pipped Melbourne Victory 4-2 in a penalty shootout to win the championship after scores were locked at 1-1 after extra time.

NSW Police confirmed on Wednesday morning that a 38-year-old man had been issued with a Future Court Attendance Notice for common assault.

He is expected to appear in the Downing Centre Local Court on June 29.

The Melbourne restaurateur has been under fire for the past month after an internal audit revealed that he underpaid 162 of the 430 current staff at his restaurants including The Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic, which form part of his Made Establishment Group, over the past six years.

In the video, fans are heard baiting the chef, and one is heard yelling “pay your staff, you dodgy bastard” just before Calombaris heads towards the fence.

In an interview with A Current Affair, the 19-year-old, who concealed his identity, admitted to partaking in jeers about staff payments.

He claimed Calombaris baited the teen to come on to the field before walking over to confront him in the stands.

He rejected claims from Calombaris that the heckling was directed at the chef’s family.

In a statement released on Monday morning, Calombaris said he was “really disappointed” with what occurred.

“I was genuinely shocked when post-match football banter turned into personal abuse about my family. I regret the way in which I reacted, I am disappointed that I let it get to me, and I sincerely apologise for offending anyone. While I am not proud of my reaction to the situation, I was offended by a spectator yelling out abusive and derogatory comments about my family.

“I have spoken to Melbourne Victory FC and Football Federation Australia today to report the situation and I’m truly sorry that this has happened.”

A Melbourne Victory club spokesman couldn’t say on Wednesday whether Calombaris would lose his spot as the club’s number one ticket holder.

“There has been no discussions about it but I doubt he would,” the spokesman said.

Network Ten said on Wednesday it was standing by Calombaris.

“This is a personal matter (but) George has apologised for his regrettable and out-of-character reaction, which was in response to highly inflammatory insults about his family,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

“He is not proud of his actions, has taken responsibility for them and has the full support of Network Ten.”

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The Zookeeper’s Wife’s cuteness and whimsy dull power of wartime

??????(M) General release (126 minutes)???
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The true story behind The Zookeeper’s Wife could have been dreamed up by a Hollywood screenwriter – how Jan and Antonina Zabinski, keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, gave hundreds of their Jewish fellow citizens a refuge during the Second World War.

It’s a remarkable yarn, even as relayed in the irritating pseudo-poetic prose of the American writer Diane Ackerman???, whose 2007 book has been brought to screen by New Zealand director Niki Caro (Whale Rider).

But there is something fundamentally unsatisfactory about this film. What makes the source material compelling also makes it tricky to handle: the mix of real-life horror with elements that, rightly or wrongly, seem almost too fanciful to be true.

Rather than trying to minimise the incongruity, Caro starts out by setting a deliberate fairytale mood.

Jan and Antonina, played by Johan Heldenbergh??? and Jessica Chastain???, are portrayed as rulers of their own little kingdom – living in a villa on the zoo’s grounds, and speaking English in what are presumably meant to be Polish accents.

While it doesn’t take long for their paradise to come under threat, the sense of unreality persists.

Occupied Warsaw looks strangely clean and prosperous, with only glimpses of the Jewish ghetto. Chastain is used as an uninteresting symbol of virtue, striking the noble poses which are her speciality.

At least her co-star Daniel Bruhl??? has a character to play. As the Nazi zoologist Lutz Heck, he’s a creature of pure boyish vanity, who spouts unlikely theories about “breeding” and uses his position of power to sexually harass Antonina while persuading himself she truly cares for him.

The film has some powerful scenes, particularly those that show the killing or mistreatment of animals.

Even here, however, questions persist about the tone and approach. After all, the Nazis justified their worst acts by maintaining that their victims were less than human – and so animal suffering may not be the most appropriate metaphor for Nazi evil in general.

At times during The Zookeeper’s Wife, I thought back to Agnieszka Holland’s much more effective 2011 film In Darkness, which told a parallel true story about an “ordinary” Pole who becomes a protector of persecuted Jews.

Holland’s hero worked in the sewers rather than at the zoo, giving her fewer opportunities for whimsy. But in dealing with this kind of subject matter, perhaps it’s preferable to do without cutesy animal reaction shots.

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Sydney FC CEO quits club to return to Melbourne

Sydney FC’s longest serving chief executive will step down from his role during the off-season, after Tony Pignata announced his departure from the club on Wednesday.
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After five seasons with the Sky Blues, Pignata will leave the club in early June and return to Melbourne to be closer to his family.

Pignata’s tenure encompassed a turbulent era for the Sky Blues, but ends on a high note with Sydney winning their first title in seven years and being in their strongest ever financial position.

Pignata played a significant role in signing Serie A star Alessandro Del Piero shortly after joining Sydney in 2012. He soon oversaw the signing of coach Frank Farina before steering the club through a difficult two seasons that saw tensions with fans grow and Sydney scrape into the A-League finals just once.

He helped the club rebuild its relationship with fans with attendances increasing 25 per cent and the appointment of coach Graham Arnold who led Sydney FC to the double this season.

Pignata’s best results however are listed on spreadsheets with Sydney FC, reflecting how he attracted record sponsorships and memberships over recent years.

A flurry of high profile friendly games were secured during his time with the club, including matches with EPL giants Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Had the club not continued to spend more than $2 million per-season on marquee players, Sydney would likely have turned a profit this season for the first time.

“I would like to thank David Traktovenko and Chairman Scott Barlow for their support,” Pignata said.

“To the Board, staff, Graham and players it has been an amazing season and to cap it off with the double is the icing on the cake.

“I now look forward to my next adventure and will return home to Melbourne before taking a good break”.

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Danger zone or hidden gem? The truth about Silverwater

The Sydney suburbs set to see big changes in 2017Desperate first-home buyers queue for units in Sydney Olympic ParkSilverwater and Homebush have highest rate of obese children in Sydney
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It’s best known for its sprawling maximum-security prison complex, but Silverwater in Sydney’s west is also developing an unlikely reputation as a smart pick for first-home buyers.

The suburb, about three kilometres east of Parramatta near Sydney Olympic Park, is divided roughly into thirds: there’s the jail, an industrial area and a residential pocket made up of detached houses and a number of apartment blocks.

Newington and Wentworth Point, Silverwater’s neighbours to the east, are popular with aspirational buyers because they’re relatively affordable, convenient to transport and close to the Parramatta River.

By contrast, Silverwater is largely ignored.

“It’s far cheaper to purchase in Silverwater than the neighbouring suburbs, but you’re still essentially in the same location,” says Roy Halabi, a local real estate agent. “You’re close to the M5 and Parramatta Road, and within easy reach of both the CBD and Parramatta.”

Halabi continues: “It’s a poorer cousin, for lack of a better term, of the more established suburbs nearby.”

The current median house price in Silverwater is $844,000, according to Domain data. The apartment median is $560,000. Next door, in Newington, the median house price is $1,305,000 and the apartment median is $722,000.

Some agents believe the jail has kept prices in Silverwater lower than they should be. But the proposed Parramatta Light Rail, which would run through Silverwater, as well as Sydney’s relentless housing boom are prompting buyers to reconsider the area’s potential.

Halabi’s agency, Guardian Property Specialists, is one of the companies betting on Silverwater’s imminent ascension. The agency is currently marketing residential and commercial units in the newly completed Silver Square development, which comprises 118 apartments and 28 shops.

Silver Square is already home to a supermarket, a cafe and a beauty salon, plus a Guardian Property Specialists shopfront. Halabi says a medical centre will open soon.

Nearby, a 15-year-old complex by Meriton, Sterling Apartments, has a mix of renters and owner-occupiers across its 131 units. On-site residential manager Peter Greer says the apartment block has long been popular with first home buyers. Its proximity to Newington is also a boon.

“We’re in the catchment area for Newington Public School, which is one of the top ten primary schools in the state,” says Greer. “We have people who rent here for a year just so they can enrol their child in Newington then move back to their original house.”

Sales representative Pauline Brown and her husband moved into Sterling Apartments 12 years ago after relocating from Canberra.

Brown says Silverwater has changed considerably in the past decade as parts of the industrial area have been modernised or rezoned for apartments. “It’s more of a hustle-bustle place now,” she says, “and there are more families in the area.”

But what about the jail?

“The funny thing is that Silverwater jail is actually closer to Newington than it is to the Silverwater residential area,” Halabi says.

He’s correct: the correctional complex sits in the suburb’s north-east corner and is separated from the residential zone by the industrial area – but some homes in Newington are within 200 metres of the jail.

“I’ve never felt insecure or unsafe,” adds Brown. “I’m a bit of a stress-head but I have always felt safe in this area.”

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Daniel Saifiti keen to keep leading the way

HIGHLIGHT: Newcastle Knights and Fiji prop Daniel Saifiti crashes through the Tongan defence to score in Saturday night’s Pacific Test loss at Campbelltown Stadium. Picture: Getty ImagesDANIEL Saifiti doesn’t take much notice of statistics.
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If he did, Saifiti would know he has carried the ball 907 metres – 227m more than any other Knights forward – this season.His average of 100.8m per game also leads the Newcastle pack and is 25m better than front-row partner Josh Starling.

Not bad returns for a player in just his second season of NRL who celebrated his 21stbirthday last week while in camp with the Fiji Bati team.

But for Saifiti, “it’s hard to look at stats when we’re losing games”.

Something that meansmuch more to the 193-centimetre, 123-kilogram prop were the words of his idol and Fiji assistant coachPetero Civoniceva last week.

Civoniceva, one of the great front-rowers of the modern era, said Saifiti and his twin brother Jacob had been “thrown into what’s been a tough situation at Newcastle”.

“As young forwards leading that side around the park I think they’re doing an amazing job,” Civoniceva told NRL南京夜网.“Every week has been a battle for them but they’re still upbeat and are handling everything well. I’m blown away by their maturity and being able to hold it all together, they’ve got huge futures in the game.”

Daniel went on to scorea try for Fiji in their 26-24 loss to Tonga on Saturday at Campbelltown Stadium and he looms as a key part of their pack for the World Cup this year.

He was doing his best to take the praise fromCivoniceva in his stride when he returned to Knights training on Tuesday ahead of the home clash with Canberra on Sunday.

“For him to say that, it’s sort of unreal,” he said.“It’s hard to believe, but I’m not going to let that affect me,andjust get on with the way I’ve been playing.It definitely gives me confidence but at the same time not overconfidence. I’m just going to keep doing my thing.”

So far that has been leading the way up front for a Knights pack light on experience because of departures and injuries.Saifiti, though,was happy to accept theresponsibility at a young age.

“I wanted to take on that role but I’ll just do whatever is right for the team,” he said. “If that’s what the team needs, I’ll do it.

“I’m all right with it.I think that’s what the teams needs right now and me and Starlo are getting on the front foot, but there’s a few errors we need to fix up.

“It has come early, but I’m just happy to do my job for the team and lead the boys, which I hope I have been doing.”

As forCivoniceva’s praise about his and Jacob’s maturity, Daniel said: “I suppose we needed it being so young, and being front row, it’s the hardest position on the field and coming through and starting, you need to be mature.”

Saifiti was focused on fixing “a few things in defence”and improving his fitness, and he hoped his time in camp with Fiji would help.

“Just being around all those experienced players, I got on really well with Api Koroisau and Kane Evans and they are playing good footy at the moment,” he said of what he could take out of last week.

“I picked their brains, and especially Petero Civoniceva, he was the assistant coach, he’s my idol and I was speaking to him a fair bit about what I need to do to improve my game and hopefully I can implement that for my game at Newcastle.

”It’s always good to go to those camps, it was my third year in a row and I’m extremely close to all the boys now.

“Leaving it was a bit upsetting but it’s good to get back with the Newcastle boys and hopefully I canhelp them move forward.”

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Making great Connexions

ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS: Matt has been able to get his Ps with the help of his mum and staff at Challenge Connexions and has already driven by himself.A new NDIS-inspired service is launching in Newcastle this month, which will allow young people living with disability to connect with each other and gain valuable skills.
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Meet Matt. He is just like any other 20-year-old: working, volunteering, studying and socialising. However, due to his learning difficulties, Matt requires a bit more support to achieve his goals than others his age.

Matt has a very busy and fulfilling life, and the support provided by Challenge Disability Services has allowed him to gain valuable experience in his areas of interest.

With the launch of the new Challenge Disability Services Connexions program, more young active adults living with a disability who have low support needs, like Matt, will have the same opportunity.

Despite his learning difficulties, Matt is a conscientious worker with a special knack with children. He volunteers as a teacher’s aide and fortnightly cleans windows for businesses. Matt started washing windows for a local hairdresser, and now he services an additional four businesses.

“I am a teacher’s aide at the local primary school,” Matt said.

“I help any of the students, from Kindergarten to Year 6, that are having difficulties. I enjoy assisting them with their maths and art.”

With Challenge’s support, Matt was also given the opportunity to volunteer for his local PCYC’s Vacation Care for primary school children during the school holidays.

“I have also completed a TAFE course, Certificate IV in Interactive Digital Media, and learned about animation, cartoons, and editing,” he said.

Challenge Connexions can also support participants towards obtaining a driver’s licence. Matt recently passed his Provisional License test and is working towards buying himself a car, with his mum’s help.

With Challenge, Matt spends time in the gym on Mondays and group activities on Thursdays including trampolining, learning how to cook and playing basketball.

“My favourite activity so far was our excursion to the Irukandji Shark & Ray Centre at Port Stephens, it was interesting and I learnt new things,” Matt said.

“I liked going to school, but I prefer the time I spend at Challenge Disability Services. I really enjoy my time and the staff are all really nice. I have made quite a few new friends, and I have recommended Challenge’s services to my friends.”

The support provided to Matt will now be available to more people in the community with the launch of Challenge Connexions. The program is eligible for NDIS funding, providing the chance for 18 to 35-year-olds with low support needs to gain essential work, social, and life skills with people their own age.

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Sting’s ‘ very un-rock-star’ New York penthouse selling for $76 million

Manhattan condo to smash New York price recordDemi Moore’s Central Park triplex penthouse sells for $60.6 million, after two yearsGwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin sell lavish New York penthouse for $13 million
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British musician Sting and his wife, film producer Trudie Styler, are selling their New York penthouse and it’s surprisingly subdued for the hefty price tag.

The couple has listed the home, which spans across the top two levels of Manhattan’s 15 Central Park West building, for the rock-star price of $US56 million ($76 million).

Originally two separate apartments that they combined, the pricey pad only has three bedrooms and five bathrooms. However, it has a huge balcony overlooking Central Park.

The couple bought the home for $US27 million in 2008, meaning they’re hoping to flip it for more than double what they paid.

It has 500 square metres of floor space but that’s not enough for the couple who want a larger home to accommodate their growing family, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The penthouse has custom-designed interiors by Lee F. Mindel of Shelton, Mindel & Associates, who put in an all-white chef’s catering kitchen with two fridges, four ovens and three dishwashers

Separating the living and dining rooms on the lower level is an ornate gas fireplace, and around the corner is a private library and a private sauna room.

Most of the second level is taken up by the master suite, which can be accessed by elevator or the grand foyer staircase.

The master bedroom boasts oversized windows and French doors overlooking New York’s skyline, two large dressing rooms, as well as an enviable bath with stunning views.

Designed by “starchitect” Robert A. M. Stern, Central Park West is an an exclusive complex, that Judy Garland, John Lennon and Yoko Ono have all lived in.

Its residents have access to a full staff, landscaped motor court, fitness centre, lap pool, steam and sauna, screening room, private restaurant, wine rooms, a library, a children’s playroom and more.

The couple also own a unit at nearby 220 Central Park South, also designed by Stern.

The apartment has incredible views of Central Park and Manhattan. Photo: Sotheby’s

The couple bought the home for $US27 million in 2008.Photo: Sotheby’s

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