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.