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.