Saturday, 28 December 2013

Has "Vicious" improved? Series 1 Christmas episode, ITV

Against my better judgement I gave this tepid sitcom another go, bearing in mind how great Derek Jacobi was in Series 2 of "Last Tango in Halifax".
Nothing has changed. Obviously filmed straight after Episode 6, early in 2013. Same tired dialogue and obvious, crass situations ("Truth or Dare" resulted in Frances de la Tour having to mention Ash's penis). She must go home, look at the script and cry.
The studio audience must have been primed up with booze and chocs - laughing at almost anything (e.g. Ash's comments about his perennially drunk mother brought inappropriate titters).
How this waddle deserves a second season is beyond me. Perhaps if there was more mincing in "The Hour" and "Ripper Street" BBC wouldn't have cancelled both. No, silly comment, these were big budget dramas, whereas this sitcom is cheap (and nasty).
I know it's called "Vicious" but Gary Janetti ("Will and Grace", "Family Guy") seems to have forgotten how to write funny, gay stuff.
America's PBS has bought the rights (the prestigious cast must been a factor). Didn't they watch it?

This dross reminds me of Stanley ("Singing in the Rain") Donen's 1969 misfire "Staircase" starring Richard Burton and Rex Harrison as the aging queens. Perhaps the play was better.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Is Season 2 of "Lilyhammer" as good as Season 1?

So far I'd have to say "Ja".
It's just as quirky. Take Episode 5's hair-removal interrogation in the spa or Episode 6 featuring the Bieber bank heist follow-up, sheep rape and the f-bomb as Bjorn's first word. Some of the Norwegian humour and cultural references might be lost on some viewers, like me (e.g. the integration of migrants).
Loyal but thick Torgeir (Trond Fausa) has more to do in this series. The bi-curious bit with the new African chef was delightful. Bespectacled, grinning Jan (Fridtjov Saheim) is always good value. We have a new ball-busting female cop, Silje Torp (Mette Hansen) to keep Frank on his toes. The photography is movie-quality and the locales are still stunning. Episode 5 saw the rogues travelling to Oslo.
I miss the interplay with Frank's Norwegian girlfriend and her teenage son in Series 1. There are some new villains - loved the English hardman in the first episode of the new series. Use of music is spot on, even a bit of Springsteen and the E Street Band (for obvious reasons). You never tire of Steven Van Zandt's character - the charmer - foul-mouthed, wise and brutally honest. Loved the final scene with the twins asleep on Frank's lap.
Episode 8 being set mainly in New York brought everything to a head. Hitmen, Norwegian tourists in Manhattan, a Glee-tribute and reindeer racing. What's not to like?
Badabing badaboom. The show has come full circle. Frank/Johnny has come "home" to Norway. A nice way to close what has been a great ride.
Producers, please stop at Season 2, end on a high.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

"Melbourne Now" NGV Exhibition Mark Hilton's "Don't Worry"

This eclectic art exhibition runs until March 23 2014. One of the highlights is Mark Hilton's stunning work, "Don't Worry".
Walking into a darkened room, the large piece on the far wall is somewhat overshadowed by more flamboyant works and installations.

But as you move closer....

Each letter is crawling with disturbing, tortured figures. You can make out Melbourne references such as the suburban train carriages and school scenes. They are supposed to represent the 37 year old artist's experiences from childhood through to adulthood. Looks more like a medieval vision of purgatory. Anyway, it'll knock your socks off.

Images Copyright Mark Hilton

"Melbourne Now" is spread over 2 venues

  • National Gallery of Victoria St Kilda Road, Melbourne (where the above piece is housed)
  • Ian Potter Gallery Federation Square Flinders Street, Melbourne

Friday, 13 December 2013

"American Horror Story Coven " FX, 9 cool things about Episode 9, "Head" Plus a cool cameo in Episode 10

9 cool things about Episode 9:

  • The Herschell Gordon Lewis inspired gore fest dinner party with Myrtle's melon balls.
  • Kathy Bates' talking head (shades of 80's cult horror "Reanimator") being re-educated, watching Queenie's "Roots"/Civil Rights movie marathon.
  • Nan's nifty clairvoyance with comatose Luke
  • Patti LuPone gets to sing (even though it is only "Just a closer walk with thee")
  • The tantalising thought of an alliance between Fiona and Marie Laveau against the boys of Delphi.
  • Hank getting the voodoo doll treatment.
  • The final scene: hair salon massacre/LaLaurie's 'conversion' with moving anthem "Oh Freedom". 
  • Howard Deutch ("Pretty in Pink") directed the episode.
  • Frances Conroy's campy Myrtle continues to chew up the scenery (contrast her work in "Six Feet Under).
Just when you thought AHS couldn't get any better, we get Stevie Nicks as Fiona bestie in Episode 10. She even sings "Rhiannon" at the piano and gives some twirling lessons to the swamp witch (Lily Rabe). Lily Rabe is starting to steal scenes (a tough gig with Lange and Bassett). She is stunning as the swamp witch, such a jump from the mad nun in Series 2.
Also the mice in the maze scene/raid on Delphi was inspired.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

11 things you might not know about the James Bond films

  • In "Dr No" Ursula Andress's voice was dubbed by Monica Vander Zyl because her Swiss accent was unacceptable. The casting director said she sounded like "a Dutch comedian".
  • Noel Coward (Ian Fleming's Jamaican neighbour) was offered the role of Dr No. Coward's telegram read: "Dr No. No, no, no."
  • In "Goldfinger" Gert Frobe's voice was dubbed by Michael Collins. Frobe knew little English. 
  • Both he and Sean Connery were golf novices. Connery developed the love for the game during filming.
  • In 1962, Ian Fleming's wife, Ann was having an affair with the then leader of the U.K. Labour Party, Hugh Gaitskell.
  • Pussy Galore was nearly changed to Kitty Galore for the U.S. censors.
  • "Diamonds are Forever" owes its plot about a kidnapped Las Vegas billionaire (Willard Whyte) to a dream producer Cubby Broccoli had about his friend, recluse Howard Hughes.
  • Christopher Lee (Scaramanga in "The Man with the Golden Gun") was a cousin of Ian Fleming.
  • Aston Martin was saved from near bankruptcy in 1964. Sales nearly doubled after the release of "Goldfinger". Thanks goes to Sir Ken Adam (the brilliant production designer) who plugged for Aston Martin instead of Lotus.
  • The "Moonraker" title song was offered to Frank Sinatra, then Kate Bush before Shirley Bassey.
  • "A View to a Kill" villain Max Zoran - David Bowie, then Sting were considered before Christopher Walken was cast.

I'm reading a great book about the James Bond franchise. The above trivia is from this book. With thanks:
"The Man with the Golden Touch" (2008) by Sinclair McKay

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

"Masters of Sex" Showtime, Episode 10, Episode 11, Episode 12 season final

This show goes from strength to strength. The intelligent script explores gender inequality, relationships and 50's society. No sex to speak of in these episode, not even a double entendre or lame sexual pun.
Masters and Johnson begin Episode 10 like a bickering married couple. Bill continues to be an aloof, selfish prick while Virginia once again is wise, fair and enlightened in her dealings with the world. No wonder she has taken up with team Du Paul. Even Ethan comes across as a good guy.
The scene in the hotel bar with the hooker where Margaret realises that hubby Barton is gay is beautifully handled. Plucky, all-rounder Jane pashing geeky, but nice Lester was a cute moment.
Setting the action around a nationwide nuclear attack drill was inspired.
The acting and casting in this series raise this show well above titillation fodder.
With Episode 11 Ethan has morphed into a new age guy, minding the kids and offering to be a house husband so Virginia can advance her career. Scenes when Bill turns to (ghost) Virginia for guidance were inspired. Michael Sheen's portrayal is subtle and multi-layered. He is icy and prickly one moment, tortured and about to explode the next. What does the lovely Libby see in Bill?
I am glad the Dr De Paul part has been expanded. Lillian and Virginia make a great couple. Virginia sums up the male/female careers dilemma with: "Having a dick doesn't hurt".
Jane ("You yelled, sir.") is a treasure. Still impressed by the exacting recreation of the era: references to Norman Vincent Peale, the streets filled with 50's cars and the brief fairground scene with Virginia singing in the recording booth.
Still think the new opening titles cheapen the proceedings - smoking pre-teens, cheesy visuals, closing office door.
Episode 11's title, "Phallic Victories" must be up there as one of the most intriguing titles in TV history. It's hardly "The Waltons" territory.
Episode 12, season final was wholly satisfying. Parallelling man in space with exploring sexual frontiers sort of worked. This series has always taken risks, though. Bill finally explodes (the fire extinguisher through the office window) as well as showing he can be loyal and caring (e.g. sharing writing credit with Virginia and saving the provost's neck).
 Lots of truths are told - the Scully's sham (or is it) marriage, Ethan's Californian proposal and Bill's confession to Virginia. Who will she choose? Well, we know the outcome, Masters and Johnson finally married in 1971. But what happened in those 14 years? Hence Series 2 should be equally fascinating.

I know this show has taken some liberties with facts but so what, it's damn entertaining as well as a fascinating recreation of the era.
Coincidence: The wonderful Julianne Nicholson (Dr Julian DePaul) plays Ivy in "August: Osage County" who has cervical cancer.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Nature Strip Makeover, Before and After - Gardening tip


I wanted to cut down on my mowing and weeding, as well as stop people parking on my nature strip, making dust in the summer and mud tracks in the winter.
I transplanted established drought-resistant native grasses from the back garden and added leaf litter/mulch from my bush garden. No cost (apart from my sore back). My local government body/council lets you apply online for a free nature strip planting permit.


"Dracula" NBC Episode 5 "The Devil's Waltz" review

5 great things about Episode 5:

  • Van Helsing's glorious steam punk laboratory with wondrous glass ceiling, walls of dials and levers, pipes, pumps and bubbling vessels. "I don't have the equipment!" he complains. Huh? It's the size of a few cricket pitches.
  • "Downton Abbey" meets the Spanish Inquisition with a demented nanny character torturing Renfield before his boss flies in.
  • The fight scene in the "Wild, Wild West" inspired train car complete with henchmen flying through the air and a decapitation courtesy of Grayson.
  • The continuing use of atmospheric Bulgarian locations to replicate London.This is the best looking network show for 2013.
  • The back story with Renfield - loyal employee and lawyer - a huge improvement on the insect devouring slave in Bram Stoker's original tale.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The mystery of the chocolate bars

Every Sunday morning four Cherry Ripe bars are placed on a rock near a busy Melbourne suburban street. Who is this mystery donor?
Last year four chocolate bars would be left on a log along a nearby walking track/reserve.
Thank you, Chocolate Fairy.

13 cool things about "The Day of the Doctor" BBC

  1. Tom Bloody Baker!
  2. The final tableau of all 13 doctors.
  3. Bromance banter from Matt Smith ("Chinny") and David Tennant ("Sandshoes").
  4. The impreccable John Hurt ("Grandpa") as grumpy old man Doctor.
  5. References to "dots" in the old Tardis.
  6. Billie Piper as flirty but wise "bad wolf"/"the conscience".
  7. Murray Gold's orchestral score.
  8. CGI, big budget movie quality.
  9. The Tardis suspended from the helicopter, landing in Trafalgar Square.
  10. Joanna Page as Queen Elizabeth I.
  11. The secret archive under The Tower, with a glimpse of a pair of ruby slippers.
  12. Steven Moffat's mindblowing script.
  13. Daleks!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

"American Horror Story Coven" FX Series 3, Episode 7 "The Dead"

Brad Falchuk wrote this episode, and it shows. Punchy dialogue. Emma Roberts' soliloquy on her self-involved generation and her inability to feel is a stunner. Falchuk, the new Adam Sorkin (10 years age difference).
Scariest thing in this episode is hearing Toto in the opening frat boy/tattoo parlour scene.
Kyle (Evan Peters) as Frankenboy is always fun. Having a threesome (2 out of 3 being reanimated) has obviously banished memories of creepy mom. The scenes with Jessica Lange and Danny Huston (Axeman) sizzled.
Other good stuff: Spalding's enchanted tongue and the flashbacks of young Fiona.
Two weeks to wait to find out Madame LaLaurie's fate. Such a great character can't be killed off yet. I haven't researched the real Delphine LaLaurie, will wait until the end of the series.
I'm over 'Riff-Raff'/Spalding, though.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Best episode so far: "Masters of Sex" Showtime Series 1, Episode 8 "Love and Marriage"

Was it me, or was this the best episode yet? Definitely the funniest.

Dr Masters has a thing that no mayonnaise should be left around his research area.That weird bit about chocolate brownies.
Lester, the movie geek, recruited to film 'interior' shots for the sex researchers, makes a throw away comment about Bogie and Agnes Moorehead in "Dark Passage" (Oh, pl-ease!). Then Jane does a Gloria Swanson with, "I'm ready for my close-up" (Mr DeMille). (Best line of the night)
Walter, the young handyman (yes, we are in Douglas Sirk 50's melodrama territory) teaching Libby the tango. That black dude beats Arthur Murray.

Then things get serious - Libby is pregnant again, selling pap smears to disinterested male doctors and evaluating marriage with Ethan (being forced to jump in the deep end too early) and Austin (jaded, part-time husband/father, sex addict).
"Married men live longer" (Ethan)
"It just seems longer" (Austin)
The confrontation in the bar with Margaret, Barton and Dale. Allison Janney is heartbreaking.
Barton and Dale talking about aversion therapy. Another strong scene.
The realisation that the glacial Dr Lillian DePaul is dying with cervical cancer. Wow, this explains a lot.
A great episode.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

What to do with your old t-shirts...

In the 90's and 00's I used to buy heaps of Tin Tin t-shirts when we visited Bangkok. They were well made and 100% cotton. Often a conversation starter with flight crew.
These tees were well loved and well used. A few years ago my wife labelled them with a permanent marker "HUO" (Home use only) as they were getting threadbare and frayed around collars and cuffs. But I persisted in wearing them as they were big and comfy.
Last year she (who must be obeyed) made them into cushion covers for our spare room. It's a compromise I can live with.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

"Masters of Sex" Showtime Series 1, Episode 7 "All Together Now"

Showime has introduced a cheeky new opening title sequence. Lots of cheesy sexual visual analogies.
Because of the calibre of the two actors, Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, the scenes where the two researchers  clinically document their sexual performance (labelled "Plateau", "Orgasm" and "Resolution") are engrossing but never sleazy.
This series is lurching into soap opera (a la 'Young Doctors in Love') but is saved by the competent acting, script and impeccable evocation of the period.
No dodgy puns this week, except the "ladies (coming) first" line.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Why "The Paradise" (ITV) is a delight...

Now well into its second series, this show goes from strength to strength. I thought losing Miss Audrey (I used to love watching Sarah Lancashire channelling Maggie Smith) would affect the chemistry of the show but we have great new characters like Myrtle, the sweet but blowzy cook, and super scoundrel, Tom Weston (Ben Daniels).
The budget seems to be more extravagant than in the first series. Long tracking shots showing off the sumptuous sets and costumes. The scheming and backstabbing are balanced with the likability of The Paradise's employees (except Clara, she's a bitch). Machiavellian Jonas (David Hayman) is a particularly intriguing character. The in-house Music Hall scenes that concluded Episode 3 were a delight.
Sure this is a soap opera, but high class and richly textured. It's "Downton Abbey" for shopaholics (but faster moving).

Thursday, 7 November 2013

"American Horror Story: Coven" FX Series 3, Episode 5 "Burn, Witch, Burn!" review

13 cool things about this episode:
  • The bitchy banter between Fiona and her no-good son-in-law.
  • Zombie siege (Nice prosthetic, dude, comments one hapless neighbour, soon to be disemboweled)
  • Taissa Farmiga doing some fancy chainsaw work.  
  • Zombie bonfire in the back yard... more cedar chips please.
  • Poignant stillborn baby scene (Fiona Goode does good)
  • Atmospheric hospital lighting (shades of ITV's "Whitechapel" possessed police station)
  • Surreal witch burning setting 
  • Use of Dr John's R&B "Right Place, Wrong Time"
  • The Veronica Lake, "I Married A Witch" reference (forerunner of TV's "Bewitched")
  • Spaulding playing with one of  his dollies.... a bit too roughly... Snap.
  • The continuing bonding of Queenie with LaLaurie.
  • Angela Bassett's levitation bit.
  • How Fiona is always 3 steps ahead of everyone else, this time using Queenie to trap Myrtle. Fiona tempting Queenie with the promise of being the first black Supreme (hang on, make that the fourth). 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

"Dracula" NBC TV Series 1, Episode 2 "A Whiff of Sulphur", review

Look, I know it's cheesy and the accents are a worry, but I haven't had so much fun since "Orphan Black".
The idea of having Dracula and Van Helsing forming an alliance (can I say, potential bromance?) is delicious. Jonathan Harker being seduced (not as in the book, by the brides of Dracula) but the promise of property and position, is inspired.
We have Renfield - not a mindless slave but a strong, black dude with a sardonic sense of humour. Opium fiend-twins occult "seers" pursuing Drac through London (Prague?) alleyways courtesy of a magic mirror.
Loved Drac's horseless carriage also.
Had a problem with modern phrases like "having some agenda..."
The coolest opening title credits since "Elementary" plus atmospheric lighting (diffuse light, fog, candles, gaslight, you name it) plus a bit of soft core porn and a visit to a Victorian gay bar. What's not to like?
Well done NBC (and Carnival... I saw Gareth Neame in the credits, movie heritage there, his grandad, Ronald directed "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972). But I digress...

Thursday, 31 October 2013

"American Horror Story: Coven" FX TV series, Episode 4, "Fearful Pranks Ensue"

Loads of "fearful pranks" and surprise visits tonight.
A fun visit from the Council of Witchcraft, featuring Quentin (think Truman Capote + Karen Walker's nemesis from "Will & Grace"). Check out Frances Conroy's (Myrtle Snow) funky red wig.
We get 18th century zombies in a cool trick-or-treat final scene.
Another fascinating character, Spalding, the servant who has tea parties with his little dollies (and one big doll) and builds one mean bonfire tableau in the front garden. Oh, and we discover the secret of his missing tongue. Erk.
I love the way the writers of "American Horror Story" like to hop back in time - 1961, 1971 in this episode.
What is the story with Hank? A sleaze, as well as a travelling killer.
Where has poor blood-spattered Kyle loped off to?

Trivia: Writer/co-producer of AHS, Jennifer Salt was lead actress in the cult TV horror movie "Gargoyles" (1972). Well worth a look.

"Tabloid City" a novel by Pete Hamill, 2011, review

If you like stories about gutsy reporters working frantically through the night in bustling newsrooms, this one is for you. Add to the mix: socialites, artists, fraudsters, bloggers, a seasoned NYPD detective, a disabled Iraq vet with a rifle, a compassionate Mexican immigrant and an Islamic extremist plotting a massacre. These isolated characters are gradually linked over a 24 hour period. Love, loneliness, art, family and the demise of print journalism are the interwoven themes.
Hamill vividly paints the wintry New York scenes, particularly the downtown area around Chelsea, Soho and West Village.
You can see Mr Hamill has a rich background in the newspaper business as he reflects fondly on the 'old school' journalists and editors.
It's a quick read at 278 pages.
Recommended, particularly if you love New York.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

"The Wrong Mans" BBC2 TV Series 1 "Running Mans" final...Series 2

Looks like there is going to be a second series. Why else have the bomb strapped to the car? Hope not, though. The boys went out on a high, tying things up beautifully. Having the go-cart scene meant the series has come full circle. Loved the "pesky kids" Scooby Doo reference.
This has been a cleverly scripted and performed series with glossy, "filmic" production values.

Second series for 2014 UK Christmas period: more compact (2 hours, 4 eps), great locations (filmed in South Africa standing in for USA South West), impeccable cast (Rebecca Front and Dawn French are back) and convoluted, witty script.
More please.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

"Masters of Sex" Showtime Series 1, Episode 6, "Brave New World"

Lots to enjoy in this episode. No wonder a second season has been ordered.
Starting with the lecture scene with Anna Freud (bearing a resemblance to Austin Powers' Frau Farbissina) clarifying her father's theories on the female orgasm. The sad scene with the proctor's wife realising the even sadder state of her sex life; contrasted with the randy senior citizens (Barry Bostwick plays the old lecher) using "Pop goes the Weasel" as a turn-on. An interesting analogy (during ladies' mahjong) about comfortable shoes and sexual pleasure.
Fabulous art direction in the Miami hotel (circa 1957) and an appropriate sexual dalliance after a screening of "Peyton Place".
Lots to say about sexual inequality, not just in the bedroom, but in the workplace. I liked Virginia's line, "Freud was a lousy lover".
It seems each episode must have one dodgy double entendre. This time:  The blond doctor worried about erectile dysfunction while a guy in the elevator cries, "Going up?".

Monday, 28 October 2013

"Masters of Sex" Showtime Series 1, Episode 5, "Catherine"- spoilers

The first 40 minutes are slow moving and mannered. Then ka-boom! All hell breaks loose.
A spooky scene where William mistakes Virginia's child in the hospital corridor for the daughter he might have had. A truly devastating scene in the operating theatre with Dr Johnson holding his dead child (to be named Catherine). A bitter confrontation with his mum. Then the final scene where Bill's calm facade finally shatters. "Close your eyes", he desperately tells Virginia. Caitlin Fitzgerald is damn good as Libby Masters.
My own daughter (20 years) left the room about 20 minutes in, telling me I was watching "porn". She should have stuck around for the real drama.

"Dracula" NBC TV series Episode 1

Don't you love a bit of steampunk?
Sorely missing from US network television. Remember CBS's "The Wild Wild West" (1965)? Yes, we have had steampunk movies with horror fiction connections ("Van Helsing", "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" - triumphs of art direction and production design but hated by critics). Yes, this new retelling of the Bram Stoker novel is all over the shop, but so what?
We have had myriad silly retellings of  "Dracula" (from Dracula's Dog to "Blacula"). Just sit back and enjoy the ride. I think the "LA Times" critic nailed it.
It looks great, as is a prerequisite for steampunk opuses. The Prague locales are sumptuous. The lush budget shows on screen. It comes up with some wild connections (a Jack the Ripper cover up, a cartel of energy industrialists battling Dracula and Jonathan Hawker as his PR man). The casting of Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("The Tudors") is perfect.
A few times during the show I did find myself saying: "What the ....?" (e.g. the light bulb bit) or "Where is this going?"
But just sit back and enjoy it. It's network TV that is not a crap sitcom, police, reality/talent/cooking shows.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

"American Horror Story: Coven" FX TV Series 3, Episode 3 "The Replacements", mini-spoilers

Lots of flashy camera angles and flashing knives this week. Mare Winningham (remember "St Elmo's Fire"?) has some disturbing scenes as Kyle's (Franken-boy) incestuous mother. Joan Ramsey (Patti LuPone), the new bible-bashing neighbour, gets a housewarming gift (lemon cake and blazing curtains).
There is an amusing scene with Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) watching (with disbelief and disgust) black President Obama on "the magic box". Queenie has a moonlit tryst with LaLaurie's ex-slave (Minotaur-boy).
Body count tonight : 3 (2 mothers and a teen witch). Didn't see that last one coming. New rug, please.
This show is overwrought with a capital "O" - and O, so good.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

"The Wrong Mans" BBC TV series Episode 5 "Wanted Mans"

Tonight spooks, double crosses, not on "the good settee", assault with a stapler, "mucky ladies", Dawn French performing garage surgery amongst Phil's train set, the wonderful Rebecca Front as a bitchy MI5 head and a bit of Jason Bourne action. Two cute bits - Phil's childhood memories and Marat's tearful goodbye with Sam. Baynton and Corden have great onscreen chemistry. As they gradually unravel the puzzle, it should be a cracking final episode next week.

The worst puns in the world? 12 painful puns. It dozen get any worse.

  • Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
  • Know how Moses makes his tea? Hebrews it.
  • A dyslexic man walks into a bra ...
  • When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble!
  • Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.
  • A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray was a seasoned veteran.
  • Energiser Bunny arrested. Charged with battery.
  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • This girl said she recognised me from the vegetarian club, but I've never met herbivore.
  • I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I can't put it down.
  • I know a guy who's addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop anytime.
  • They told me I had Type A  blood, but it was a Type O.
Benny Hill would blush.
Coming to a Christmas cracker soon....

Monday, 21 October 2013

"Masters Of Sex" Showtime TV series Episode 4

This episode focused on its flawed male characters. Bill Masters (Michael Sheen), the cold fish, misery guts, physically abused as a child and eager to right wrongs (the abused patient and her son). Ethan, also obsessed with Virginia, unstable and violent. Virginia's ex-husband is an opportunistic no-goodnik.
Each week Bill's complicated character is further unravelled.
Interesting quotes:
Bill says with a straight face after his sex research session, "Thank you for coming." (also the title of the episode).
Also, about Virginia's ex-hubby's sex interview, "I don't recall a Johnson".
At last some light relief.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

"Peaky Blinders" BBC2 Episode 6 Series final... Series 2?

I hope a second series is not made. But it will be. Campbell (Sam Neill) probably topped himself rather than Grace. Tom may have some adventures in New York (steering clear of Nucky Thompson's territory, of course).
The search must be now on for a replacement arch-nemesis for Tom and the Shelbys. The character of Aunt Pol (Helen McCrory) is too good to waste. Wasn't she brilliant in Episode 6 - the pub scene with Grace? This stylish series will play well overseas. Its ratings in the UK weren't shabby either.
I just wish shows would stop when they're on a high. Remember "Dexter"?
On the other hand BBC cancelled the wonderful "The Hour" (also on a cliffhanger). The show could have have a third series - look at all the juicy 60's news they could have used (e.g. the Profumo affair). Just when retro shows are so popular ("Mad Men","Call the Midwife", "Masters of Sex", "Breathless"). Perhaps there's a glut of these late 50's/early 60's TV shows.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

"American Horror Story: Coven" FX TV series Episode 2 "Boy Parts"

With tongue firmly in the cheek, more fun in New Orleans. Alligators getting revenge on bayou hunters, build-your-own-boyfriend in the morgue, Stevie Nicks is a witch, a Witch Vs Voodoo Priestess showdown in the beauty parlour and "Sabrina, The Teenage Cracker".
Lots of boy parts in the morgue but the girls have the best parts in this show.
This series provides the opportunity for 'older' actresses to really strut their stuff. Jessica Lange has the juiciest lines, though. Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett have delicious roles too. It's like "Dynasty" goes to Salem. So far these first two episodes have rated far better than the earlier series.
Next week, Patti LuPone!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

"Murder in Mississippi" by John Safran, true crime, 2013

I have followed John Safran's ballsy and brave documentaries since the mid 90's. His wry humour, as well as the ability to get himself into (and out of) explosive situations, make his films compulsive viewing.
In his series "Race Relations", Safran spends time with Richard Barrett, a white supremacist in the Deep South. In 2010 Barrett is brutally murdered by troubled black youth, Vincent McGee. Safran turns from filmmaker to investigator/author.
True crime books are not my bag, however I could not put this one down. Carefully constructed, witty and insightful. The characters Safran tracks down, the twists and turns, the secrets, the politics and culture of Mississippi, the honesty of the interviews are astounding. It's amazing how people just open up and tell Safran so much. It highlights the huge differences between Australians and Americans. John Safran (raised in a comfortable part of Melbourne, Australia) has an amazing knack of fitting into any situation, letting people tell their stories while he stands back, without making judgements.
There is a lovely little bit about one third of the way through where the author reflects about the impact parents can have, referencing his own experiences in his late teens.
Part history lesson, part crime story, part personal journey.

When you finish the book .... go on Vincent McGee's (use lowercase "g") Facebook page ...chilling.

"Murder in Mississippi : The true story of how I met a white supremacist, befriended his black killer and wrote this book" John Safran, author.
Highly recommended. Published by Penguin Books, 2013, 368 pages
U.S. edition title "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

PS A nice companion piece is HBO's moody and dark "True Detective" - Southern Gothic set in Louisiana.

"The Wrong Mans" BBC2 Episode 4, "Inside Mans"

This show just gets better. Not only full of laughs but stylishly filmed. Loved the shot when the camera pulled back from inside the lads' Mercedes until the shot was from a (CIA?) satellite image of the planet.
Mathew Baynton in the skimpy V-neck twerking for the Russian agent was hilarious. Paul and Sam are described as "a male Clare Balding and a scrawny hobbit". Loved the Steven Seagal reference.
Please Tom Basden (Noel), when does "Plebs" Series 2 start? Get writing!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

"American Horror Story: Coven" FX, Series 3, Episode 1 "Bitchcraft"

Campy fun, stellar cast, stylish direction, pushing all the right buttons.
What a masterstroke enlisting Kathy Bates into the proceedings. Gorgeous art direction, atmospheric New Orleans locales, familiar faces from the other two series (Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy), Jessica Lange (out of the nun's habit but looking great in black) chewing up the scenery again, bitchy dialogue, a Minotaur, albino Men in Black, an exclusive boarding school (think "Charmed" goes to Mean Girls' Hogwarts), even a Nicholas Cage reference.
The opening episode had enough plot for three eps. This series is going to be stronger than the last because of the likable characters. We only get a glimpse of Frances Conroy as the intriguing Myrtle Snow escorting Zoe with her band of albinos.
The four young witches are played by Taissa Farmiga (Vera's little sis), Emma Roberts as the dodgy movie star, Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious") and Jamie Brewer (Addie from Series 1).
Looking forward to seeing Patti LuPone and more of Voodoo Queen, Angela Bassett in the next episode.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Why the Brits make the best TV panel shows

There is a great heritage of brilliant radio panel shows in the UK. "My Word", "Just A Minute", "The Unbelievable Truth" come to mind. Word play, anecdotes and witty personalities abound.
On television you have "Qi", "Never Mind the Buzzcocks", "Would I Lie To You?", news review panel shows like "Mock the Week", "8 Out of 10 Cats", "10 O'clock Live", endless "Big Fat Quiz" formats and "Have I Got News For You" (now up to Series 46). The Brits pioneered news satire with David Frost's "That Was the Week That Was" in 1962.
This week another panel show (Channel 4) was launched. Specialising in quotations, the sublime David Mitchell hosts "Was It Something I Said?". With team captains Micky Flanagan and Richard Ayoade, this show was a delight. I know the same faces pop up on various shows, Jimmy Carr, Dara O'Briain, Phill Jupitus, David Mitchell, Lee Mack, Jo Brand, but who cares, they are always good value.

There have been some classic US panel shows like "What's My Line?", but the tradition hasn't continued. "Chelsea Lately" and "Real Time With Bill Maher" is about as good as US panel shows get but these are probably classed as talk/tonight shows.

Australian panel shows have emulated UK shows. The ill-fated "Randling" (a tedious word game competition) was drawn out over 26 weeks. ABC might have better luck with Series 2 of "Tractor Monkeys", although Episode 2 was dire. Network 7's "The Unbelievable Truth" should never have made the transition to television. ABC had huge success with "Spicks and Specks" (modelled on "Never Mind the Buzzcocks"). In August 2013, Network Ten started the very witty, but low rating "This Week Live" (shades of Ten's classic "The Panel" and Channel 4's "10 O'Clock Live").

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Add a word, ruin a movie

Saw this on Twitter. This is contagious. Here are mine. Apologies for Melbourne locales in some:

  • "Last Tango in Paris Hilton"
  • "La Dolce Vita Brits"
  • "Pirates of the Caribbean Market"
  • "The African Drag Queen"
  • "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Boots"
  • "Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert Trolley"
  • "Raging Turnbull"
  • "Night of the Tab Hunter"
  • "Schindler's Shopping List"
  • "The Deer Park Hunter"
  • "Blade Runner Bean"
  • "Jurassic Noble Park"
  • "An American in Paris Hilton"
  • "From Russia, with Courtney Love"
  • "Goldfinger Buns"
  • "Thunderball Sac"
These are credited to Luke Buckmaster:
"Dog Day Afternoon Tea", "The Life of Meat Pi", "Whatever Happened to Baby Bob Jane?", "Lawn Bowling for Columbine", "His Girl TGI Friday"

Thursday, 3 October 2013

"Whitechapel" ITV, Series 4 - more like "Scooby Doo"? Episode 5, Episode 6 final

The police station is lit like some German Expressionist film. Plus we have constant dripping water and flashing light fittings (What, no rattling chains?). The vast art-deco building seems to be illuminated by half a dozen light bulbs. All the detectives seem to be on the verge of mental breakdowns (except the female pathologist).
The first minutes had the team running around in a zombie house of horror 'team building' exercise. Great fun. Then into the mix we get more gore, mutant pigs in the sewers, cryptozoology, lanced boils, more long shadows, another sewer abduction, an attempted suicide, a graveyard attack and the scent of cannibalism. Looks like we might have a bit of C.H.U.D. action.
It's naff, but never dull (plus it's stunningly lit and Phil Davis is always good value).
Episode 6 tried up lots of loose ends with some nifty plot twists regarding plumbing, cults, exclusive dinner parties, a surprise angel and a message from Chandler's dead father.
Hope there is a Series 5, featuring more exploits from that creepy old bird.

Monday, 30 September 2013

10 free things to do in Melbourne (CBD)

  1. Federation Square (Fed Square) grab a deck chair and people watch, free wifi.
  2. Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) lower level galleries including "Screen Worlds" (within Fed Square). Also Shaun Tan exhibition until mid Jan 2014. Allow at least 90 minutes.
  3. Ian Potter Gallery  Australian art. Allow 1 hour, also in Fed Square. 
  4. Yarra River walk from Fed Square, cross the Princes Bridge and walk downstream along Southbank. Allow 1 hour return.
  5. Free exhibitions in the Art Centre, St Kilda Road, 3 minutes walk from Princes Bridge - currently Geoffrey Rush exhibition (until Oct 27).
  6. Arcades and alleyways (get a map from very helpful Tourist Information booth in Bourke Street Mall)
  7. State Library galleries and dome/reading room (world class) Corner Swanston and Lonsdale Streets
  8.  Walk up Collins Street to Spring Street, one of the most elegant streetcapes in Southern Hemisphere.
  9. At top of Spring Street is the historic Treasury Building, exhibitions, explore underground gold vaults.
  10. Parks and gardens - Treasury Gardens, lead on to Fitzroy Gardens; Royal Botanical Gardens on other side of the Yarra. Allow 2 hours for Botanical Gardens (walking from Fed Square).
Most of these are non-touristy, things 'locals' do.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Farewell "The IT Crowd" Channel 4

After the lukewarm reception of "Count Arthur Strong", Graham Linehan's sublime series goes out on a high. It was like nothing had changed in the basement. Great to see Noel Fielding again. Check out his 'Vlad' exit.
Women's trousers make superheroes, the limitations of Twitter, Anonymous revealed and Jon Snow's cameo. So much to savour. Closing credits are not to be missed.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Marvel "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." TV series, Episode 1, Episode 2, ABC

What's not to like?
Mega-budget, attractive people, spouting Joss Whedon-isms, driving classic (flying) Corvettes or hanging out in even cooler aircraft?
This continuation of "The Avengers" won't disappoint Whedon fans (note the "cosplay" fan reference) and will make some new ones watching on ABC. Like watching a live action "Archer" episode with lots of snappy dialogue - even sending up the acronym title in an early scene. Loved Coulson emerging from a dark corner ("I think a bulb is out").
Knockout Union Station climax. Rousing Bear McCreary musical score. This pilot was a a winner. With a full set of episodes now commissioned by ABC, I hope this series won't wear out its welcome.
No foul language, sex or (only comic book) violence, no wonder the pilot drew 12 million viewers at 8:00 p.m. in the US.
Episode 2, though not written by Joss Whedon, was still loads of fun, showing off the wonderful plane set and ending with a lovely cameo (think: the first "Iron Man").

Will I keep watching "The Wrong Mans"? BBC TV

The jury is still out after watching Episode 1 of "The Wrong Mans".
Here are the pros:
  • Beautifully photographed, cool editing.
  • The crashing BMW was specky.
  • The two hapless dorks are likable
  • James Corden making sushi.
  • The "Fight Club" reference in the operating theatre.
  • The last scene had me guessing.
As long as you suspend common sense (Wouldn't you just hand the phone in to the police? Doesn't the NHS use identity bracelets?), this could be an enjoyable thriller/bro comedy.
Hoping for more Hitchcockian references next week.

Episode 2 was better .... combining a coughing code, a grumpy Chinese kidnapper, a catchy council slogan, Dawn French's hot water bottle and a bag of poo.
The labyrinthine plot is turning out to be loads of fun.

Episode 3 .... I'm sold. I laughed a lot in this one plus it was genuinely exciting to watch.  Another meeting with Dawn French, more plot twists, an embarrassing dinner party, two nasty murders,a crap film quote quiz in the back of the car, the blood drenched Mercedes, more plot twists and hectic chases.
And don't forget the 'recovery position' doesn't work with the deceased.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

8 reasons "The Blacklist" will be a hit - spoilers

  • James Spader (Raymond Redington) having a lot of fun as the campy criminal mastermind. And boy, doesn't he love his food and booze.
  • Episode 1's truck scene on the bridge (wasn't expecting that). The opening shot on the container ship in Episode 2. Filming is as good as a Hollywood action blockbuster.
  • Elizabeth Keen's husband's secret life - he certainly chose to bleed over the wrong floorboards.
  • The pressie in the kid's backpack and subsequent bomb defusing scene - tick, tick, cutting the red wire cliche - lots of fun though.
  • The promise of a new super villain to hunt down each week.
  • Great guest stars. Episode 2 had the venerable Jane Alexander and a juicy part for Isabella Rossellini (looking more like mum, Ingrid Bergman, every time I see her, with or without insect sex).
  • The FBI might be smarter than the dolts in "The Following".
  • An interesting premise: Hannibal Lecter + a mysterious network of super criminals + possible father/daughter chemistry.
PS Don't trust Megan Boone with a ballpoint pen. Even Red made a joke about it in Episode 2.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

"Masters of Sex" Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 Showtime TV series, review

This is mature and intelligent television. I'm not sure about the title, play on words aside. It's probably ratings-driven. I prefer "Masters & Johnson" for a title, but Thomas Maier's novel has the same title as the TV show.
No wonder Welsh actor Michael Sheen got on board. What a versatile actor. He has played everyone from a "Twilight" villain, to David Frost, PM Tony Blair, and ultra camp Kenneth Williams (in the TV biopic). His portrayal of the crusading and aloof Dr William Masters is a highlight. Lizzy Caplan is strong as his associate, Virginia Johnson.
Annaleigh Ashford (any relation to the series' creator, Michelle Ashford?) steals every scene she is in. She plays Betty, the brutally honest prostitute (who lets Masters hide in her closet and later use the local brothel for his research). She bears a resemblance to Courtney Love. But I digress.
The mid-fifties are beautifully recreated. The contrast in social mores of the time is fascinating. The scene in the cafeteria, with doctors and nurses smoking like there was no tomorrow, was a nice touch.
There are lots of sex scenes, as you would expect, but it is never tawdry or exploitative. But it is fun to see Beau Bridges peering through the transparent dildo/camera device. Not sure what the U.S. Bible Belt will make of this show.
Episode 2 had some cheeky humour ("a saline douche, then dinner and dancing"...."My mother told me, don't put anything in your mouth unless you know where it's been"). I liked the scenes of Johnson practising how she was going to decline Master's sex research offer.
Episode 3 provides insight into Provost Scully, through flashbacks and Bill's 'research'. Beau Bridges shows what a damn good actor he is - the scene where Bill subtly blackmails him about his closet homosexuality. There is an awful pun during the frantic bunny humping opening scene: "The buck stops here". Betty and the Pretzel King was a nice subplot. There is also a poignant scene with one prostitute recounting her sexual abuse as a child.
This could be the best mini-series of the season. It is certainly the bravest.

PS Clever title design on the art work/poster.

"Father Figure" Episodes 1-5, Episode 6 BBC 1, review

Jason Byrne's TV sitcom is old school stuff, quite fun, if you don't mind lots of slapstick, food fights and manic Irish mammies. It's "Father Ted" meets "My Family". Pauline McLynn (doing a variation on her Mrs Doyle from "Father Ted") does well as the obsessed gran. I used to like Karen Taylor (playing Elaine, the mum) in "The Sketch Show".
My wife and I got a few laughs - "I'm a human poo", grandpa stuck in the couch and the kitchen wrestling match.
It's all a bit broad, the slapstick and the kids could get a bit wearing (lacking the charm of "Outnumbered") after a few episodes.
Episode 2: How getting a new TV turned into a search for a lost child and a dogging misadventure in the family 7-seater wasn't worth the journey. Three laughs in 28 minutes - not a good strike rate. But it's funnier than "Big School" and "Bad Education" ... which isn't hard.
Episode 3: The 1978 flashback of the "Housewife of the Year" contest had shades of "Father Ted" lunacy. I did enjoy the "getting in touch with your inner mammy" training. Pretty silly, but probably the most consistent episode so far.
Episode 4: More chins than a Chinese phone book. A cute intro scene with chin 'puppets', Peter Serafinowicz's dulcet tones and Mount Rushmore-like chin, "Tai chin", chin-envy and Jason Byrne does some funny business with fitted sheets and duvets.
Episode 5: Meh? Forgettable. Something about going cold turkey with gadgets.
Episode 6 was the best so far. "Mother Figure" had dad having a phantom-pregnancy. This show is plain silly with no hidden agenda - just to make you laugh. It's not smutty like some UK sitcoms (see above).
It succeeds about 50% of the time, not a bad strike rate compared to some of the slop coming from the US fall season sitcoms. Poor Rebel Wilson ("Super Fun Night") and don't get me started on Robin Williams' ("The Crazy Ones").

1964 - a good year for films

From a baby boomer's perspective, 1964 had some outstanding (English speaking) movie releases.
Here's my top 10 (in no special order, last 4 are strictly guilty pleasure flicks):

  • "My Fair Lady"
  • "Fail Safe"
  • "Seven Days In May"
  • "Goldfinger"
  • "Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"
  • "The Pawnbroker"
  • "Marnie"
  • "The Fall of the Roman Empire"
  • "The Carpetbaggers"
  • "What a Way to Go!"

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

What I have learnt from Twitter

After having a Twitter account for a week, here are my findings:

  • You CAN get enough of Stephen Fry.
  • "Eat a bag of dicks" is a valid reply to someone you disagree with.
  • It's not just me who should get a life.
  • The secret pleasure in Unfollowing a celebrity.
  • There is often more twats than tweets.
  • You can be just as mundane on Facebook, but with less characters.
  • It's addictive if you stalk follow the right people.
  • Being a sycophant fan can be fun.
  • Second screening spoils a good mini-series on the box #crapattentionspan.
  • Being favorited to me means someone you admire has bothered to read your tweet.
  • Be quick to reply, snappy one-liners/ pop culture references mandatory.
My crap formula:

T = (SP)+(rt)+v

where T=Twitter, SP=self-promotion, r=rant, t=trivia, v=voyeurism

Monday, 16 September 2013

"What Remains" Episode 4, final

It amazes me that BBC can produce such puerile dross as "Big School" as well as a series as brilliant as "What Remains". This four parter was a moody, atmospheric (check out creepy art direction of the stairwell), slowly paced affair with a rip snorting conclusion. Roman Polanski meets the archetypal Brit damaged/obsessed copper.
Harper's plaintive: "I don't want to be alone" will stay with you.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Things I have done since I've retired...

  • Eaten more cheese
  • Wine o'clock
  • Showered less
  • Weekly shave
  • Grumbled just as much
  • Read more
  • Used garden hammock more
  • Downloaded more
  • Started using Twitter, Facebook
  • Asked "What's for tea?" more
  • Taken longer to do the housework
  • Visited my father more often
  • Bought a dog
  • Exercised more, not just taking pup for walks
  • Started this blog

To all spammers and porn merchants...

Dear spammers/porn merchants,
Stop f**king around with my blog and wasting your time and mine.

Friday, 13 September 2013

"Peaky Blinders" Once Upon A Time In Birmingham, BBC2, review

From the stunning opening scene (dude rides into town on a horse??) featuring Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand", atmospheric Birmingham alleys aglow with furnace blasts, you knew this was going to be one out of the box. The scene by the fog shrouded canal (with a windmill in the left frame - think Sergio Leone) and slowly approaching canal barge, will knock your socks off.
Cillian Murphy (wily, but tormented Thomas) is charismatic and Helen McCrory (I liked her in "North Square") is perfect as the knowing family matriarch who can tote a gun with the best of 'em. Sam Neill chews up the scenery as the evangelical police chief who is sent to clean up the town.
Sure it's style driven, more like a Western than a Midlands crime drama, but it had me from the first minute. Thomas's opium smoking scene reminded me of "Once Upon A Time In America" (Sergio Leone again).
"Boardwalk Empire" has some competition. Interesting to note that writer/creator Steven Knight used to write for Brum icon Jasper Carrott.

Episode 2 was even better. Two great scenes - Tom and CI Campbell having afternoon tea and Billy Kimber's meeting in the pub with the Shelby clan.
Episode 3 - I'm hooked. This show goes from strength to strength. The warehouse confrontation between Tommy and Freddie was riveting. The race track scenes were opulent. The visuals in this show are quite beautiful. Production values rival "Boardwalk Empire". Arthur had more to do in this episode. Some nasty violence in the gents' lavatory. Disturbing seeing the little tyke brandishing the cleaver. Tommy is a wonderfully complex character. As is Grace.
Episode 4 Brilliant scene with Sam Neill and Cillian Murphy in the garage. I am getting used to the hodgepodge of accents. Tom shows again he is the master negotiator. Loved the big fat gypsy wedding. I think Grace has finally shown her hand.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Hi ...Witaj, Polska

I have no idea why there are so many page views of this blog from Poland. 
Spammers or are you actually interested in the crap that I write?

Do widzenia, do zobaczenia.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

"I'm So Excited" (2013), I'm so disappointed

Pedro Almodóvar's new movie is a pretty silly sex comedy. Imagine "Airplane!" meets "Priscilla". It was fun to see Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas in the first scene, explaining the plane's later predicament. It's definitely a lot lighter than the director's other recent work. 
As usual it looks gorgeous - striking colours and design. The setting - a Business Class cabin staffed by three outrageous queens while the whole of economy sleeps (due to mass doses of "muscle relaxant") - was nutty and quirky. But after that, I didn't get a whole lot of chuckles. 
Loads of sex, boozing and drug use. The galley's concoction - "Valencia Cocktail" - champagne, OJ, gin and mescaline and the mincing cabin crew's Pointer Sisters' dance number were the highlights.
No great character development, even though all the pointy-end passengers go through their back stories.

I sometimes wonder when I'm watching a foreign film - do the subtitles tell my brain: "Oh, this has subtitles, it must be more arty" (and worthy of my respect, than if I was watching a Hollywood flick).

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

My favourite bits in "The Newsroom" Series 2, Episode 8, "Election Night Part 1"

  • Marcia Gay Harden (Rebecca) saying she looked like "liquid sex".
  • The Maggie's hair/Joey Heatherton quip (you have to be over 40 to get it)
  • The beautifully edited scenes gearing up for the election night coverage
  • Reece's manic recollection of his conversation with his mum, Leona (Jane Fonda)
  • Taylor Warren sparring with Will and Sloan on the election night panel
  • The good boyfriend/"you're fired" scene with Will and Mac.
  • Charlie (everyone's favourite uncle, Sam Waterston) suddenly going postal in the final scene. By the way, he was the best thing about the 1974 version of "The Great Gatsby")
Looking forward to the season closer.

"Ghost Story" (1981) - From the Video Vault - Great cast horror film/Universal slick

Based on Peter Straub's novel, this movie was overlooked when it was released in 1981. I have always been a fan of Universal Studios slick and stylish production values of the time - using veteran Jack Cardiff for cinematography, Albert Whitlock for visual effects, Rick Baker and Dick Smith - horror make up gods. Newcomer (at the time) Alice Krige is marvellous - sexy/creepy.
The four old timers from vintage Hollywood - Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr and John Houseman - are the draw cards. Patricia Neal is also in the cast. Haven't seen so many old fart movie icons since "Cocoon" (1985).
There is a body falling from a skyscraper scene that has stayed with me. It now looks a bit cheesy (this was the 80's pre-CGI). Haven't seen this film for over 30 years. I read Straub's book after seeing the film - probably a good idea - as it is very different. Critics didn't like the adaptation. Stuff 'em. I like this film even though it plods at times.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The pain of being a crap blogger

You're about to go to sleep.... when you think of a great idea for a blog post.
Movies with exclamation marks in their title - it's a dead giveaway - they're either horror/exploitation movies (countless drive-in fodder), trying too hard ("What A Way To Go!), a pisstake ("The Informant!", "Airplane!", "Mars Attacks!") or a musical "Oliver!", "Moulin Rouge!", "Oklahoma!", "Mamma Mia!"). Well, that was my great (original?) idea. Sounds good at 11:30 at night.
Then I google the punctuated movie titles.
Crap ... stacks of posts already, better written and researched than the above.
But my theory stands.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A sad, true Melbourne story

Thousands of Melbourne train travellers would get a warm glow from this sight each day - a display of soft toys decorating the Burnley Station signal box window. If jaded commuters got a charge, (I know my wife and I did), then small children would have been rapped, anticipating this delightful tableau, making the train journey to the city seem quicker. The display would change during the year - especially Christmas. How this custom started, I do not know.
Yesterday the signal box window facing the trains was empty. Only a sign: "Eric Sibly, R.I.P."

Apparently Mr Sibly was a much loved Station Master, train buff, traveller and employee of the Victorian Railways (now privatised). He was 73.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Just when I thought I couldn't love "The Newsroom" any more.... Two great actresses strutting their stuff

Just when I thought I couldn't love "The Newsroom" any more ... you get Episode 7, "Red Team III".
Two awesome actresses chewing up the scenery - Marcia Gay Harden playing the take-no-prisoners legal eagle, Rebecca, and Jane Fonda as media boss, Leona, wearing a kickass cocktail dress, pissed off (and a little pissed) because she missed out on Daniel Craig.
Calling Mac "Twiggy" and telling Charlie, Will and "Mc Mac": "You will resign when I fire you out of petty malice and not before!"
Adam Sorkin, rant maestro.
Fonda's last line in the episode will have you cheering.

Monday, 26 August 2013

What to do when your favourite TV series finish...

Having withdrawal symptoms, now my favourite TV series have finished their seasons. Have to wait until 2014 for new seasons of "Banshee", "Orphan Black", "Da Vinci's Demons", "Elementary", "House of Cards" and the French "Les Revenants".
At least I still have "The Newsroom", but not for long.
Consolation: "Boardwalk Empire" starts this month.
Going to turn to a good book in the hammock, now Melbourne's Spring is here.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Can "Orphan Black" get any better?

How can you top the chop-the-tail-off-the-human scene in Episode 7? (Why would you want a tail, anyway? When would you get the chance to wag it? Kinky, Olivier)
Can this show get any better?
  • Tatiana Maslany's tour de force performances - streetwise Sarah, manic but loyal Alison, intellectual hipster Cosima, "pro-clone" Rachel, tortured spoon-sucking psycho Helena .....
  • The imaginative art direction, photography
  • Cool, atmospheric musical score.
  • The crap-I-didn't-see-that-one-coming plot twists.
  • Stalwart hustler Felix (Jordan Gavaris) playing every woman's dream camp friend. Seeing him have to dress "suburban" to visit Alison was a hoot.
  • Maria ("The Tudors", "Dexter") Doyle Kennedy's passionate, gutsy foster mum with a secret.
  • sinister Dr Leekie (Matt Frewer, I remember him from eighties cult TV "Max Headroom")
How can Season 2 top this? Or just maintain the quality?
Best guilty pleasure TV series of 2013?

PS Hope Tatiana's agent negotiated appropriate salary for her multiple roles.

Friday, 23 August 2013

"Time After Time" (1979 film) When H.G. Wells Meets Jack the Ripper

Don't you love 'time travel' movies?
What about the meeting of two famous or fictional characters? Take Nicholas Meyer's "The Seven Per Cent Solution" (1976) when Sherlock Holmes meets Sigmund Freud? How about a film that combines the two ideas?

Three years later Nicholas Meyer (mainly known for directing 3 early "Star Trek" films) made "Time After Time". Sci fi author H.G.Wells follows Jack the Ripper to present day San Francisco. This movie is delicious fun.
The time machine looks quite different to George Pal's 1960 version of "The Time Machine". Looks more like a helicopter cabin. The special effects reflect the meagre budget. Apparently director Meyer insisted on veteran Miklos Rozsa to compose the musical score. it's very overwrought and 40's syrupy but beautiful to listen to. The disco scenes in San Francisco, with lots of vile suits and polyester shorts are quite jarring, but I'm quibbling.
Meyer originally wanted Derek Jacobi as H. G. and Mick Jagger as Jack. Wow. A shame.
They settled on Malcolm McDowell as Wells and David Warner for the ripper, who was later typecast as baddies in fantasy films - "Tron" (1982), "The Golden Child" (1986).
Mary Steenburgen is great at H.G.'s love interest. She is sort of channelling Cyndi Lauper - Queens accent - but still cute as a button. McDowell and Steenburgen met on set and were married from 1980-1990.
The final explanation of H.G.'s real fate and personal life is quite touching (no spoilers from me here).
Update: Nicholas Meyer wrote the biopic two parter "Houdini" for The History Channel in 2014. Adrien Brody came out of this cheesy opus unscathed.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The best episode of "Ray Donovan" so far, "Bridget" Episode 8 review

Ann Biderman wrote this beautifully structured episode. A lot to like this week - revolving around the brothers' yearly toasting ceremony for Bridget's birthday. Loved:

  • Lesbian Lena (Katherine Moennig, from "The L Word", is she being typecast?) getting love advice from Ray's Israeli henchman, Avi.
  • Mickey (Jon Voight) asking Rosanna Arquette (David's sis, remember her?) whether she would twerk for him.
  • The piercing episode with young Bridget (as a parent of a teenage daughter, I can empathise)
  • Learning a new way to negotiate price with a real estate agent (using a tazer)
  • Bridget and dad ending the ep with a cuddle and a singalong.
More please (oh and some more James Woods, also).

Monday, 19 August 2013

Why "Big School" was a big disappointment, BBC1, Episodes 1-4 review

I expected this to be great. Look at the cast, the premise, the writers. It was puerile, predictable and dull. Got a laugh with the principal (Frances de la Tour - last seen in the dreadful "Vicious") taking home the confiscated booze. As an retired teacher I thought I'd get a few more giggles. The opening bit with the David Walliams' spectacular science experiment - would a teacher sequence a lesson like that? I know this is a comedy, but it put me off to start with. Ogling and groping Catherine Tate and talk of erections, silly old duffers going to the toilet in the wrong place .... please... thought I was watching Benny Hill.
Hope later episodes improve.
Have now watched episodes 2-4. Still pretty awful. Frances de la Tour came out of it unscathed - had the best lines. Talent show had its moments - David Walliams' flute business.
David Arnold opening theme music - classy, as always. Episode 3 - more broad humour and one dimensional characters. The drugs theme was tired. Perhaps if more of the characters were vaguely likable, it might help.
The intro scene with Pat, the lab assistant, was "Little Britain" territory. Catherine Tate has not a lot to do,   with lines like,"Thank you for not fingering me." Oo-er, nurse.
The Principal having a joint in her office....lame. Luke, the pretentious Music teacher, reminds me of Mr G. from "Summer Heights High"
Episode 4 - the school play/Maasai warrior script was the pits. An embarrassment, had to look away at times, it was so cringe-worthy. The tossing off/overcoat reference by Walliams/Mr Church was a new low. Why am I still watching this dross? Going by the preview of Episode 5 (more dick jokes), I'm not bothering to watch anymore. This crap has been sold to Australian commercial television. It won't rate. Imagine this dross with edited to fit into a 30 minutes block (including 9 minutes of advertisements).
Just watched "Bad Education" (Series 2, first ep). Also terrible. A shame, as I like Jack Whitehall's work. Best thing was seeing the actor who played Kylie in "Beautiful People" again.

If you want to see a funny show about high schools - Chris Lilley's "Summer Heights High".
Bring back "Please Sir!" (1970). Or even U.S. remake: "Welcome Back, Kotter"

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

"Count Arthur Strong" BBC Episode 6 "The Seance" series final review

The series final was big on heart rather than laughs. A nice gag in the opening scene with Katya's stalled coffin. Arthur's line at the seance: "My mother was an extra large medium" and smooching in the dark with Michael and the lovely Sinem (Zahra Ahmadi) made me smile.
Katya's leg send off was a nice touch.
Michael's parting gift to Arthur with its poignant book dedication (which scored an honest reaction from the live, NOT 'canned' audience) rounded off this sweet little series.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Five cool things about "Ray Donovan" Episode 7 "New Birthday"

1. The recreation of the 90's action movie.
2. The stark Boston graveyard scene, little white dog tramping through the snow.
3. Ray meeting James Woods (Sully) in the chapel.
4. The boozy girls' lunch ("Ruth has a dick!") ending with a spot of impromptu Rodeo Drive shoplifting.
5. In the beauty parlour, Sully's mom (100 year old actress, Connie Sawyer) telling Ray to go f**k himself.

This show is getting better with each episode as Ray's past is slowly unravelling. Liked Lesli Linka Glatter's direction this week. She has directed "The Newsroom" episodes in both seasons.

Tony Abbott, obviously an Austin Powers fan

Yes, Australia's next likely PM is a "suppository of all wisdom". Not since Doctor Evil's "Preparation H" line have I laughed so much. Mr Abbott was a Rhodes Scholar?! As Scott Evil would say, "What an A-hole!"

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

"Count Arthur Strong" BBC2 "Doctor Two" Episode 5 review

Never work with animals or Count Arthur Strong.
A mixed bag, this time. A slow start. Some nice business with dog walking, "The Human League Convention" and monkey's bottoms. Michael (Rory Kinnear) under anaesthetic was riotous. Also liked the police sketch artist, "It's out of my expertise, I'M AFRAID!" and the Arthur (as doctor) montage. Things took a sharp right turn into pathos with Katya (Ruth Posner) and her "shadow of death" in the last few minutes.
Graham Linehan just got away with it in the final scene - lolly pops in the taxi. A brave, well structured balancing act.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Why I enjoyed "Ray Donovan" more than "Dexter"

By Episode 6 of "Ray Donovan" I was won over, after a few patchy earlier eps. My reasons:
  • Some great Bunchy scenes this week. Dash Mihok is a great actor - to upstage Jon Voight takes something.
  • Elliott Gould in a hospital johnny showing his tush on the L.A. streets
  • The acid scenes with OCD, "Star Wars" figurine-loving FBI Agent Miller were inspirational
  • The 5 star hotel sperm bank. Puts a whole new meaning to 'room service'. 
  • Lampshade obscuring the guy's junk in said hotel room. A tribute to Austin Powers' lampshade/naughty bits schtick?
  • Introducing James Woods in the final scene. Good move, Showtime.
The final season of "Dexter" was all over the shop. I've stuck with him for eight seasons. Bringing the serial poisoner back into the mix was silly. Dr Vogel became a bore as was ghost dad.
The final episode of "Dexter" was a change in tone and helped to redeem the series. The scenes on the Dexter's boat, heading into the storm were haunting and surreal. The mute, numb lumberjack .... who saw that one coming? I have my doubts about Harrison in Buenos Aires, though. That kid has been pushed from pillar to post ... must be a resilient little tacker.

Whereas "Ray Donovan" Series 1 has been consistently engrossing as well as good fun.

Episode 10, "Fite Night", was dynamite. In Episode 11, the scene in the gym with Ray and the priest knocked my socks off.  The look on Abby's face when she sees the priest said it all. I also liked Conor playing video games with Avi, the ex-Mossad agent.
This series went from strength to strength.
Episode 12, a totally satisfying conclusion to Series 1. The marina shootout was stunning. Final scene on the beach with Ray's family, a delight. What a coup getting Michael Apted (master documentary director - "7 Up" series) to film the final episode.
Series 2 has much to live up to.
Apology: this is the crappiest post I have written, jumbled and haphazard. Written too late at night.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

ABC3 Kids Television

Quality kids television (aimed at the 8 year+ age group) that blitzes the cable alternative (Nick/Disney) on Australian TV ... and it's FREE.
Friday night has amazing anime (albeit English dubbed). Witty, well produced British kids shows (far superior to Nickelodeon pap). Plus new episodes of the Australian produced "Nowhere Boys", U.K.'s "Horrible Histories" and repeats of the sublime "Outnumbered".
BUT, NO ONE WATCHES IT. Last night's ratings were 0.5% viewers.
Go figure. I am assuming the shows do better in the overseas market.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

"Count Arthur Strong" BBC2 Episode 4 review

This episode was all over the shop. Or should I say, at the back of the caf.
Youth riots, Eggy's sudden pathos then an over long Michel Legrand tribute. Very patchy. A few funny bits - the medley of show tunes, Hilter/Twitter confusion, Bulert as the human cocoon, the flatulent pills and the 'Faux-lympics'.  The "we band of brothers" soliloquy finishing with a reprise of "The Windmills of Your Mind" kind-of worked. Not a great episode, but worth 28 minutes of my time. Rory Kinnear is really making this inconsistent show.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Things I really miss...

  • my much loved Tin Tin tee-shirts,Thailand circa 1990 (getting a bit ragged around the collar), turned into cushions by my other half. They look good, but ....
  • Windows XP (thank God my old laptop still has it, Windows 8 is an acquired taste)
  • Watching Bill Collins give his rapturous spiel on "The Golden Years of Hollywood" before each movie.
  • When kids brought a box of coloured pencils and building blocks to gran and pop's place (rather than an i-pod or mum's smartphone to play with).
  • plastic bags that open easily
  • Watching black and white movies on free-to-air television
  • Reading to my daughter at bedtime
  • W-i-d-e  seats in Business Class
  • In Australia, the only bottled water for sale was Mineral, Soda or Tonic Water. Buying drinking water in Australia is a ludicrous waste of money and resources. Don't get me started about the litter.
  • Groceries being packed in brown paper bags.
  • Going to the cinema when people were considerate and .... silent.

  • This is a work in progress....

Friday, 26 July 2013

"The Ship" by Stefan Mani - Good read? How did I get on to John Carpenter?

Opening a new book by a new author (to me, anyway) is like exploring a new land. I know that sounds a bit of a wank but books are a great escape and a great way to travel in the mind. I saw on last night's TV news a volunteer program called "Footpath Library" where each night a van drops off a range of books free to the homeless in central Sydney. The rationale being so these people, living on the street, can escape into a good book. But I digress.
I grabbed "The Ship" from my local library. The blurb said the author, Stefan Mani, was "the Icelandic Stephen King". That sealed the deal. Scandi-noir is all the rage and Stephen King used to be my go-to author for spooky thrillers. The first 70 pages introduces the characters through cleverly interwoven incidents in Reykjavik. Then it moves on board the huge freighter, bound for South America. You know there is something evil afoot.
In the movies, having characters stuck in one place, whether it's an Arctic research station, like "The Thing", or a besieged police station in "Assault on Precinct 13" or a interplanetary vessel, like "Dark Star" or later "Alien") is a juicy suspense setup.
Stefan Mani writes a very 'cinematic' novel. He dips his lid to Stephen King with a quick reference to "Christine", comparing the book with the movie). Anyway, I'm only a quarter of way through, but things are chugging along nicely. Hope I'm not disappointed by such a flashy start. The stormy descriptions onboard are so vivid, it may cause the reader to feel a bit seasick.
I just realized all the movies I just mentioned (except "Alien") were directed by John Carpenter. Hope he buys the movie rights to "The Ship".
Finished book. Perplexed by the ending, but definitely kept my interest. Icelandic writers do bleak very well.

Get the full story before you sign up: Accor Vacation Club

This is not to be confused with Advantage Plus and Le Club Accor.

We went to one of those hard sell Accor Vacation Club information sessions during a stay at a Queensland resort.  We had a morning to kill and the offer of $150 credit for your hotel bill was enticing. You have to sit and listen to the spiel for at least 90 minutes. These guys are professionals, they know every trick in the book. You need your wits about you.
They have to give you a Product Disclosure Statement, but they don't want you to read it while they are doing their 'smoke and mirrors' floor show. They have a choreographed patter to deliver. If you ask questions like "How much?"- you will be told, "Later, later, let me tell you this first ..."
Read the Product Disclosure Statement.
They want you to sign up on the day.... hurry hurry, think quick, you get bonuses if you sign today... look at all the money you'll be these this slick video.... let me draw another enticing multi-coloured graph. When we seemed a bit restless after 75 minutes, our chirpy consultant turned a bit narky with the line, "I've got you until 10:30 you know!" The veneer was slipping.
It's not what they say, it's what they DON'T say.
Extra fees
There is an annual club fee (which could be over $1000 yearly). This will increase over the years. You might have to pay for special club fees and rooms servicing (starting at $85 per room). When making an international booking, getting the room you want, in the place you want, at the time of year you want, could incur hefty costs.
Only 21 Accor properties are offered in Australia, N.Z. and Bali (only one, and that's in a crap part of Nusa Dua, away from the beach). We have already stopped at most of these properties, we would only return to 2-3 of these resorts. Accor may pull out of this arrangement down the track, if you read the PDS.
Anyway, you can get better deals through internet special, particular out of school holidays through Accor Advantage Plus and Le Club Accor, without being tied down for decades. We do belong to Accor Advantage Plus (Asia Pacific). For $300 per year we get half priced dining, a free night and killer deals (e.g. $75-$120 a night). This blitzes the AVC idea.
Other considerations
Points expire if you don't use them after two years, so beware.What about if your circumstances or travel preferences change?
It's time share, let's face it. They want your money NOW ($46000 was the suggested quote for our needs, this was a mid range quote). They then invest this money ... remember compound interest).
I am no financial wiz but a careful read of the PDS will put a sour taste in your mouth compared to the euphoric chat that your sales rep gives you.
Once you sign, you have it for life, so be damn sure what you are doing. If it is so great, why use such a big carrot for you to attend these sign up sessions?
The big argument touted is that you are inflation-proofing your money. But if you put $46000 in a low risk/conservation superannuation account, after 20 years compound interest, you'd have more money that 20 years of AVC membership.
Trying to sell your points/membership
You only have to look at all the people (5 pages) who desperately (e.g. "ONO", "reduced for quick sale", "negotiable", "for family reasons") want to sell their membership on the Vacation Club Resales website.
Buyer beware.
My wife and I stopped at the same Queensland resort this year. We were approached to do the 90 minute sales pitch again. We were given even less accurate information after 100 minutes. Lots of prattling on about the consultant's overseas jaunts. No mention of annual fees/maintenance. Doing our own research (staying in some of these properties and using the Accor website) revealed three things:
1. Not all Accor Vacation Club properties are now managed by Accor (e.g. Legends in Surfers Paradise, Queensland and The Links Lady Bay, South Australia).
2. Some of the units are on low floors with limited views.
3. "Exclusive" Flight Centre "bargains" on flights (an extra 'benefit' if you signed up on the day) weren't that great, we could beat them going directly through the airlines' websites.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

"Count Arthur Strong" BBC2 Episode 3, "The Radio Play" review

I'm getting used to Steve Delaney's daffy Count now. Being a buffet pilferer from way back, I nearly wet myself with Arthur exploits at the BBC - stuffing biscuits in his pocket, salmon swiping. Also liked when he asked the female staff, "Are any of you going to make the tea?"
The bit of business with Michael in the caf was pure Abbott and Costello. Rough diamond, John the Watch, is a real find ("Sorry, I have pilates"). The character of Michael (the great actor, Rory Kinnear) was fleshed out in this episode - the ping pong story and his little tizzy in the cafe over author rivalry. Got a giggle out of Michael in the cellar with the stuffed fauna in search of Elvis (or should I say, the other chap, Tommy Steele).
Favourite bit: "Who's Colonel Vesuvius?" (after the wanker actor said "carnal Vesuvius"). Dame Agnes (Lindsay Duncan - seen her in loads of Brit stuff) looked suitably perplexed.
The show is building nicely. Wonder why the Beeb changed the show to a different night? Not rating?
Don't miss the final bit after the credits. "Salmon in the Toilet"  - Lovely stuff.

Monday, 22 July 2013

It's not easy being green - energy saving devices installed in your home/solar power - the drawbacks

Have you been visited by the polite young man who offers you free energy saving devices? This Victorian Government (Australia) is commendable and sounds good on paper but...
Being a whingeing old fart, here is my rant.
We already had been visited by another friendly young man with free devices to save electricity – powerboards that turn off automatically, you have to keep pressing your remote each hour or the television goes off.
Yesterday another visit from another energy saver. My wife said yes. Because this dude also offered some good stuff: weather seals on front and back doors and a nifty inflatable damper that fits up your chimney to stop heat loss (free pump – looks like a sex aid – I think).
This stupid balloon thing spread soot everywhere each time you removed it and deflated over time.

The not so good stuff:
He replaced our low water pressure shower head with his version (boring and no adjustable flow). The replacement shower head in our daughter’s bathroom leaked, not much of a water saver, so I had to reinstall it when he left.

Now the really crappy stuff:
He took all our light bulbs, replacing them with 24 of his, except the dimmers he couldn’t change – thank Christ for that! The new bulbs are so dim it is like mood lighting, tough luck if you drop a tiny object and want to search for it. The ceiling recessed downlights used to have globes that fitted perfectly. These new screwy, ugly looking bulbs leave a huge gap so draughts from the roof cancel out any energy saving from other means. So this morning I’m up in the ceiling placing cloth around these circular gaps to stem Melbourne’s wintry winds.

An extra word on solar power:
Unless you have at least 8 panels (2 person house) or 12+ panels for a large house/family the outlay isn't viable. It also concerns me that people cutting down north-facing trees so they can get more sun for their solar panels. In the Southern Hemisphere, surely north-facing (particularly deciduous) trees are environmentally (as well as aesthetically) desirable.

As a cute amphibian said once, “It’s not easy being green”.

Friday, 19 July 2013

This week's guilty pleasure: "Behind the Candelabra" Liberace biopic review

Released theatrically to the rest of the world, this HBO movie is fantastic. Michael Douglas is a revelation as the flamboyant but savvy showman, Matt Damon playing Liberace's lover (one of Steven Soderbergh's go-to actors) is always good and Rob Lowe, as the creepy plastic surgeon (who isn't a great advertisement for his own work), is worth the price of admission.
Clever casting - getting Debbie Reynolds as Li's mom, Frances. Nice to see Scott Bakula and Dan Aykroyd also.
Why the major studio's turned this one down is a puzzlement. Some steamy sex scenes, juicy dialogue, great 1970/80's Vegas decor and fancy keyboard work from Mr Douglas made it a diverting two hours. Let's hear it for HBO!

"Contagion" The thinking person's mega-budget zombie apocalyse movie

All right, it's not about zombies, but those scenes in Minnesota were damn close. "Contagion" was released a few years ago, but it's well worth a look.
Spoilers in last paragraph. Steven Soderbergh is an accomplished director (and versatile, compare this with Oceans trilogy, "The Informant!" and "Behind the Candelabra", but all starring Matt Damon). The stellar cast (Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard), international locations, great Cliff Martinez musical score and believable situations make this an absorbing 100 minute film. Jude Law does a passable Australian accent as the opportunistic blogger.
You won't forget the Gwyneth Paltrow's early death scene and the subsequent skull removal. The scene with a dying Kate Winslet passing her coat to a fellow victim is touching, without being mawkish. The film starts with "Day 2" of the global pandemic and concludes with "Day 1", explaining the origin of the infection. This is a smart flick.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

"Count Arthur Strong" BBC2 Episode 2 review

You have to be in the right mood for this surreal little show. I must have been. The Christine Keeler reference in the life drawing class got me from the first scene. The running joke about the poor chap being mistaken for a newsagent, ending up being stalked by Jack the Ripper in an icecream van was like a bit of "Father Ted" lunacy. The slow motion shot of Michael through the window, with his finger to his lips as a gobsmacked kid watched the van glide away was the highlight of the episode.
The harried Michael continues to try to research his famous comedian dad (being played by the accomplished actor, Rory Kinnear, son of the comedy actor, Roy Kinnear). This is a tasty bit of casting.
I thought this episode worked better than the first.
But ignoramus Arthur, spouting malaprops could get a bit wearing, if you are not 'in the right mood'.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Why Showtime's "Ray Donovan" is good viewing

Just watched the first two episodes of "Ray Donovan". By now you know if a show is a fizzer or not. This is smart, involving, "water cooler" television drama. This show has got it all - juicy Hollywood goss on the surface, but underneath, themes like: regret, guilt, passion, the nature of evil.
Ann Biderman has written beautifully complex characters: the tormented, multi-layered Ray (Liev Schreiber); the charismatic but morally bankrupt Mickey (Jon Voight - normally playing Mr Nice Guy in movies); stalwart, but strident Bridget (Paula Malcomson), trying to hold her family together. Elliott Gould's (who was one of the biggest stars in the early 1970's) savvy but flaky, Ezra, is priceless.
Strange scenes that come out of nowhere: When Ray gives heartfelt advice (and later, cash) to the young transsexual or when Grandpa Donovan gives some prison wisdom to his teenage grandson "...don't take it up the ass". Looks like Conor is being groomed on the internet by the sex addicted movie star, Tommy.
The show looks great, LA locales, the mansions to the seedy gyms. Allen Coulter seems to be the go-to director for classy cable series - "Boardwalk Empire", "House of Cards", "Six feet Under", "The Sopranos". I also liked his work in the under appreciated flick "Hollywoodland" (2006).

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Odd Musical Collaborations, that worked (last century), from an old fart's point of view

Shirley Bassey + Propeller Heads "History Repeating Itself" (1997)
Run-DMC + Aerosmith "Walk This Way" (1986)
Dusty Springfield + Pet Shop Boys "Nothing Has Been Proved" (1989)
Tammy Wynette + KLF "Justified & Ancient" (1991)
Liza Minnelli + Pet Shop Boys "Results" album (1989). I think I was the only one who bought it in Australia (found it in a bargain bin of cassettes).
Bing Crosby + David Bowie "Little Drummer Boy" (1977)
David Bowie + Pet Shop Boys "Hallo Space Boy" (1996)

Any suggestions?

"Count Arthur Strong" BBC2 Episode 1 review

Hated the laugh track. There were few big laffs. The mucus bit at the eulogy didn't work. Liked Barry Cryer's cameo. Liked the one-legged Polish crone in the ambulance. ("Give her the Heineken Manoeuvre"). Liked the delightful caf characters, especially the frustrated Bulent. "Two teas?"

I didn't listen to the original Radio 4 show. Not sure where this is going, but I'll give it a go next week. Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd, Father Ted) has a good track record. He obviously likes quirky, eccentric (daft?) characters.
Do I want to spend 30 minutes with a silly old fart? (or is he?)
Bring back Father Jack.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Why Melbourne is the best place to live in Australia

  • The maritime climate means four definite seasons. My favourite season in Melbourne is Autumn, though.
  • we dress better (not necessarily me), the cooler weather means, cooler clothes
  • CBD streetscape - architecture, arcades, laneways, public spaces like Federation Square, wide streets, easy grid pattern to find your way around
  • sense of humour (Melbourne is the home of Barry Humphries), Melbourne Comedy Festival
  • live music scene
  • trams 
  • sporting venues and events - AFL Grand Final, Australian Open, The Melbourne Cup
  • best theatre venues - grand old theatres have been restored, not demolished
  • restaurants - multicultural mix
  • Southbank Arts precinct
  • parks and gardens
  • fabulous post-Gold Rush Victorian architecture - Treasury Buidling, Parliament House, State Library, Exhibition Buildings
  • edgy shopping precincts in inner suburbs - Fitzroy, South Yarra, Richmond, South Melbourne
  • Melbourne International Airport (Tullamarine) is the best in the country. Domestic and international terminals are combined. Compare the chaos of connecting from international to domestic terminals in Sydney.
  • Melbourne (like Brisbane) is a city where freeways actually go somewhere, not terminate in suburbia like Sydney's M2.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Melbourne vs Sydney....Views, fashion, laneways, TV and wearing black

I love winter. Reading a trashy novel by the open fire. It's bleak in Melbourne, Australia at the moment - 13 degrees MAX but the wind makes it feel like 5 degrees (Celsius). By the fire, this is my 'room with a view'.
Melbourne people dress well in winter (cool clothes, cool climate). You see some Sydney cashed up matrons swanning around Double Bay, trying to wear cool coats in Sydney's winter - it just doesn't work. You can slag off our chilly winters but you can't slag off our fashion sense (well, except mine).
I am going to make some gross generalisations here, but it's my blog so stuff it.
Melbourne people don't normally worry about views when they are dining - you only have to see the lines of alleyway cafes and bistros in the CBD. Sydney people crave views - around its beautiful harbour, waterways, from tall buildings. Once you're walking around downtown Sydney, it's pretty drab. No lanes, atmospheric alleyways, impressive 19th century architecture like Melbourne. But more Melbourne residents are quite happy at home watching the box. You only have to look at the higher viewer numbers in the Melbourne TV ratings (compared to the Harbour City).
Let's talk television some more. Melbourne also produces better quality television than Sydney. Made in Melbourne (mostly live) shows like "RocKwiz", "Adam Hills Tonight", "Spicks and Specks", "The Project", "This Week Live". Melbourne pioneered the live talk show/variety show in Australia with Graham Kennedy's IMT ("In Melbourne Tonight") in 1957.
David Williamson wrote a play about Sydney called "Emerald City" - style over substance, bling and banality. I'm probably pissing off Sydneysiders. I am a biased Melburnian. One last shot: Melburnians wear black better.
Back to the open fire.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

How to minimise arguments with your partner - 5 tips for domestic bliss?

After living together for nearly thirty years (as well as being in the same workplace for 20 of those years) I may have gleaned a few tips....

1.  Listen more. There is that great remark about some conversations - one person isn't listening to the other, only waiting for his/her turn to speak.
2.  Count to 5, before replying during an argument (this is hard, I know, if you are as impulsive as me).
3.  Don't try to 'have the last word', it never works. Point scoring, it never works. My wife is always 3 steps ahead of me in an argument. I can't multi-task either. By losing, you win.
4.  If in doubt, keep shtum.
5.  At home, the regular five o'clock cocktail hour.

If only I could follow these 5 tips more. I'm pretty good at the last one, though!

"Mr Shivers" by Robert Jackson Bennett, review

The first half really grabbed me. The premise is a doozy, Depression-era hobos on a quest for an evil entity. Think "The Grapes of Wrath" meets Homer's Odyssey. The Coen brother's movie with George Clooney "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" has already blended these two themes.  The Dust bowl setting is powerful. The hobo code sketches at the start of each chapter was nifty idea.
The language gets a bit self-indulgent (shit, I'm writing a mere blog, I'm no expert), but it's a debut novel, so you cut the guy some slack.
Bennett packs in some atmospheric and wildly cinematic scenes -  the fight in the train car, the night time carnival with the teenage fortune teller (very 40's film noir), the deserted town, the (Grimm's fairy tale) cottage in the middle of the forest where three prophetesses dwell (think Macbeth's three crones or mythical Stygian Witches). Connelly (the man on a quest) reminds me of Stephen King's Roland character, 'the Gunslinger' from "The Dark Tower".
The conclusion was a bit of a metaphysical mishmash, some would say cop-out but I'd still like to try Bennett's later novels. This young author (from hipster mecca, Austin TX) has something, though.

What is the story with Austin, Texas? Cool capital?

It's the state capital of Texas with a small population, compared to other U.S. cities (under 1.9 million). In recent years (2008-2009) more adults in their 20's and 30's moved to Austin than any other U.S. city. Why? Creative, divergent thinking people choose to live there? Hipster reputation? Arts and festival scene (e.g. SXSW)? Austin bills itself as "Austin, Live Music Capital of the World" so it must have a thriving live venue scene.
Take film directors - arty Terrence Malick, quirky Wes Anderson (Didn't you love "Moonrise Kingdom"?), Tarantino buddy and multi-tasking Robert Rodriguez, horror buff Tobe Hooper - all come from Austin or call it home.

I just finished a weird hobos-on-a-quest book ("Mr Shivers") written by Robert Jackson Bennett. Where does he live? You guessed it, Austin.
My 20 year old daughter's favourite Internet comedy group (at the moment) is Rooster Teeth - based in Austin, TX.
There is a pattern here.

Monday, 1 July 2013

From the video vault: "Death Line" (UK), "Raw Meat" (US) Low budget horror from 1972/1973

Let's get the negatives out of the way first.
It's under 90 minutes, but the uneven pacing makes it seem longer. The musical score is atrocious, the dialogue ranges from banal ("My shampoo, please!!!") to seemingly improvised (see Donald Pleasence in the pub) to surprisingly witty. The acting of the young couple is woeful.

Now the other side of the coin: it's wildly atmospheric, well photographed (the derelict station scenes make this low budget effort look amazing) and quite poignant in parts. The idea of descendants of the original tunnel workers surviving in a disused line (circa 1890's)of the London Underground is intriguing and original, being infected and reduced to cannibalism (tube commuters, beware) - gory, graphic and creepy. When the remaining mutant screams "Mind the doors!" you think: "Where was this line in those lists of memorable movie quotes?" This is a cult classic territory.
The decidedly odd tone of the film begins with the bowler hatted pervert doing a Soho tour of sleaze and continues with the bizarre cameo of Christopher Lee as a MI5 toff.  The underground tunnel home of the cannibals features an incredibly long tracking shot with dripping (blood, seepage) the only sound. Donald Pleasence (he has top billing) has great fun in the role of the manic police inspector - ranting Cockney-esque "this is my manor", berating the office's teabags, switching to a toffy accent, throwing darts at his door and making throwaway sardonic comments. He is a joy to behold.
Lots to like. Two Bond villains in the cast (Blofeld and Scaramanga), the settings look like actual tube stations, albeit disused.
Trivia: Russell Square is on the Piccadilly Line (but the platform sign reads "District Line"). The train is correctly labelled "Cockfosters". The director was American (Gary Sherman). Definitely worth devoting 87 minutes of your life to.

NB. God dag, to all my Swedish readers, why so many page views, or is this just a pesky spammer?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Weird photo collections - manhole covers in Japan

Travelling around the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, Japan we were bowled over by these beautiful drain covers in city streets. These beautiful designs feature motifs or stories from each city. Photos from Kobe, Tokyo, Nagoya, Takayama, Kyoto, Okayama, Nagasaki and Kamakura. Trust the Japanese to put beauty into even sewerage covers.