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.