Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Melbourne's ugliest building

This concrete and blue swirl nightmare is near the corner of Flinders and Exhibition Streets in downtown Melbourne. It looks worse to the naked eye.

Monday, 22 December 2014

How a dog took over a household

Day 1
Adopted RSPCA rescue dog (Jack Russell Cross 9 weeks old). Bought dog basket, intending pup to sleep in the laundry.
Day 2
Dog basket put under kitchen table. Kitchen door closed at night. Scratching at door from 6 a.m. to be let into rest of house.
Day 150
Dog allowed on bed at night.
Day 200
Dog sleeps in bed.
Good night
Good morning

Saturday, 20 December 2014

2014's top 10 TV drama series ... with some disappointments & guilty pleasures

This is one old fart's top 10:
  1. Fargo
  2. Happy Valley
  3. The Missing (Season 1)
  4. Penny Dreadful (Series 1)
  5. Lilyhammer (Series 3)
  6. Peaky Blinders (Season 2)
  7. Babylon (Channel 4)
  8. The Fall (Season 2)
  9. House of Cards (Season 2)
  10. Boardwalk Empire (final season/Season 5)
Honourable Mentions:
  • Ray Donovan (Season 2)
  • Broadchurch (Season 1, ITV)
  • Orphan Black (Season 2)
  • Orange is the New Black (Season 2)
  • The Newsroom (Season 3, I'm getting sick of Sorkin-based Twitter hatred)
  • Ripper Street (Season 3)
  • Masters of Sex (Season 2)
  • True Detective (Series 1)
Disappointments (all second seasons):
  • In the Flesh (BBC3)
  • Banshee
  • Bates Motel
  • The Following
  • From Dusk to Dawn
Guilty Pleasures
  • American Horror Story (Season 3 and 4)
  • Gotham
  • Marvel's Agents of Shield
  • Da Vinci's Demons (Season 2)
  • The Strain (Season 1)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A cheap bastard's household tips

  1. After a shower, immediately squeegee excess water/soap scum from glass and tiles (it will save time cleaning the shower later, plus you dry off in the shower as you squeegee!).
  2. Old toothbrushes are great at cleaning hard-to-get-at places (e.g. between taps, cooktop knobs, faucets, grouting).
  3. Clean your fridge seals yearly with warm soapy water and a sponge (preventative maintenance, seals are expensive).
  4. Bicarb soda is the cheapest and most effective cleaner for toilet stains (urine), bathtubs and shower recesses.
  5. Use old waxy plastic bags (e.g.cereal bags like Weetbix) to store vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower (keeps for 1-2 fresh in fridge).
  6. Bicarb soda is also great for removing fridge odours.

Lilyhammer Season 3: As quirky as ever

Warm, quirky characters (Roar and the lovable Torgeir are back), black humour, crazy crims, cartoonish violence (e.g. the flare gun scene) and great locales from wintry Norway to steamy Rio - it's all there in the third season of "Lilyhammer".
It's great when shows don't go 'off the boil' after return seasons (unlike "Banshee", "Bates Motel").
The final episode, "Loose Ends", features Maureen Van Zandt, Steven (E Street Band) Van Zandt's real wife, as Frank's ex-wife and Bruce Stringsteen, as Joey the Undertaker. Don't turn off during the closing credits, either.
Season 4 must resolve poor Sigrid's bathroom predicament with her dead ex-boyfriend (Milk pervert).

Monday, 8 December 2014

My list of great train movies

I have omitted some obvious ones (like "North by North West" and "Murder on the Orient Express"). This list is purely personal.

  • 1932 Von Sternberg's "Shanghai Express" 
  • 1945  Deanna Durbin is terrific in "Lady on a Train"
  • 1951 "Strangers on a Train" (you have to have at least one from Hitch)
  • 1952 "The Narrow Margin" (the little B movie that could)
  • 1963 "From Russia with Love" (just for Robert Shaw)
  • 1964  Frankenheimer's superb "The Train"
  • 1976 "Silver Streak" (great cast, great ending)
  • 1978 "The First Great Train Robbery" (ingenious Michael Crichton period piece, helped by knockout cast and Jerry Goldsmith score)
  • 2013 "Snowpiercer" (imaginative sci-fi, incredible sets)

Guilty pleasures:
  • 1968 "The Wrecking Crew" (cheesy Matt Helm, saved by Sharon Tate's performance)
  • 1971 "Live and Let Die" (not a great Bond, but has its moments)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Our Christmas Tree is a Memory Tree

For the last 21 years we have bought ornaments for our Christmas tree. When our daughter was younger, we purchased a new ornament each year, labelled with the year or (e.g.)  "___'s 5th Christmas".
Each year we also buy tree decorations from somewhere overseas or interstate. January sales are great!
Each Christmas, as we trim the tree, memories flood back. Our daughter, now 21, gets as much of a buzz as we do.
Surfing Santa from Oahu, Hawaii

Sheep from New Zealand and reindeer with Mai Tai (Kauai, Hawaii)

Our daughter's 3rd Christmas

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The best 5 minutes of any James Bond film: "You Only Live Twice"

Start at the 42 minute mark of "You Only Live Twice". In those glorious five minutes you get a lot of bang for your buck:

  • Bond and Aki zipping around Japan's newly completed motorways in a nifty white sportscar (Toyota 2000GT) with rear seat Sony TV.
  • The helicopter picking up the baddies' Toyota Crown with a giant magnet, dropping it in Toyko Bay (to the strains of John Barry's soaring "A Drop in the Ocean"). Tanaka (head of Japanese Secret Service) asking: "What do you think of Japanese efficiency now?"
  • Cut to a cheesy front projection on a country road (Tokyo to Kobe is over 500 km!) with Aki not moving the steering wheel as they turn tight corners. 
  • Next, the nifty chase/fight scene in Kobe docks with a splendid helicopter shot of Bond being pursued by dozens of surly stevedores, complemented by more sublime John Barry.
At 47 minutes (on board the Ning Po) it just gets silly. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

"American Horror Story - Freak Show" Season 4 The best bits - spoilers

  • Creepiest opening titles (no mean feat)
  • Jessica Lange (think Marlene Dietrich/Madeline Kahn in "Blazing Saddles")
  • Fraulein Elsa's rendition of Bowie's "Life On Mars". Who cares if it was written nearly 20 years after this story is set (Sarah Poulson has 2 heads, Angela Bassett has 3 breasts, for crying out loud!)
  • Lobster Boy (Evan Peters) spicing up a 50's Tupperware party
  • Kathy Bates (with endearing Maryland accent) as the bearded lady
  • Angela Bassett's unique rack
  • Finn ("The Normal Heart") Wittrock as creepy momma's boy, Danny Mott. Liked his 'double date' at the movies in Episode 6.
  • The use of John Morris's score for "The Elephant Man" in Episode 1.
  • Hearing a new version of Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Spellbound" (1981) in Episode 2.
  • The nifty black and white sequence in Episode 3, filmed like a German expression silent film.
  • Roxy Music's "Avalon" in the 1952 gay bar.
  • Wondering if Episode 5 is the most homoerotic episode of AHS to date.
  • Elsa bombing bigtime singing "Life On Mars" to the rubes.
  • Finn's unique puppet show featuring mom and the Avon lady (Episode 9)
  • Finn's Tupperware themed pool party (also Episode 9)
  • The recreation of two classic scenes from "Freaks" in Episode 12 (penultimate ep)
  • Danny Huston playing a variation on Pinocchio's Geppetto with Crab-boy.
  • "Noone gives a shit about Cole Porter" (Episode 13)
  • The reprise of "Life on Mars" and the theme from the "The Elephant Man"
  • Elsa wows Hollywood in 1960 and final scene freak reunion (to the tune of Bowie's "Heroes")

This season makes you want to rewatch all of Tod Browning's "Freaks" (1932).

Monday, 29 September 2014

"Plebs" Season 2, ITV2, review

The boys are back. It's puerile but irresistible. It's "The Inbetweeners" meets "Up Pompeii". The Roman sets are even more extravagant (thanks to leftovers from epics like "Hercules", filmed in the same studio in Bulgaria).
Look carefully for Tom Rosenthal's dad, Jim, as the sportscaster in Episode 1. It was good to see Lauren Socha from "Misfits" as Amanda, the prostitute, in same same episode.
Episode 2's stag night was lots of fun. "The Baby", Episode 3, was almost sweet, but it still had enough time for the fair share of boob references, boffing and butt plugs. Grumio (Ryan Sampson with his strident Mancurian accent and atrocious bowl haircut) constantly steals scenes.
Hugo from "The Vicar of Dibley" (James Fleet) tries to make Stylax his boy toy in Episode 4 (also awash with bodily function gags).

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The secret of perfect pork crackling (by a lazy cook)

Nine times out of ten crackling is soggy and inedible. You don't need to pour boiling water over it/rub  in salt/turn heat up, etc.
If you need to score the rind, use a Stanley knife, much easier than a chef's knife.
This is all you do:

1. Cut off the crackling when pork is cooked and standing.
2. Cut/scrape away the whitish fat, so you have crackling less than 1 cm thick.
3. Wrap in a large paper towel. A clean oven is a happy oven (plus paper absorbs fat).
4. Microwave on HIGH (1100 W) for 1-2 minutes.
5. Open paper towel and expose crackling to air. If it isn't crisp enough (you should be able to smash it), repeat Steps 3-5. Try only 60 seconds on HIGH for smaller amounts.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Richard Maibaum, screen writer of classic Bond

New Yorker, Richard Maibaum (1909-1991) wrote screenplays for the first 13 Bonds (except "You Only Live Twice" - part witty but sexist, Roahl Dahl script/part "Thunderbirds" - and the dated, blaxploitation effort, "Live and Let Die").
His last Bond script was "Licence to Kill".
He was responsible for some of the classic Bond lines delivered by Sean Connery.

Maibaum co-wrote the 1949 version of "The Great Gatsby".

Monday, 1 September 2014

"The Silkworm" by Robert Galbraith (J.K.Rowling) 2014

"The Cuckoo's Calling" was a ripper detective yarn. Beautifully structured, atmospheric London descriptions and wonderfully complex characters. Cormoran Strike continues to outthink Scotland Yard, this time the setting is the bitchy, self-obsessed world of publishing (as compared to the bitchy, self-obsessed world of supermodels, in the first book).
A particularly gruesome murder, more background details on loony ex-girlfriend Charlotte and further unresolved sexual tension between Strike and loyal offsider, Robin are some the delights of this novel.
Looking forward to the third in the Strike series.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

10 cool things from 60's movies

  • Ken Adam's war room set in "Dr Strangelove"
  • Derek Flint's ring tone/ Z.O.W.I.E. chief Cramden (Lee J Cobb) hotline to the President.
  • The black armchairs in the Pentagon in "You Only Live Twice" (Ken Adam again)
  • Use of split screens (circa 1968, e.g. "The Thomas Crown Affair", "The Boston Strangler")
  • Saul Bass credits e.g. "Spartacus", "Walk on the Wildside"
  • The interior of Robert Mitchum's private jet in "What A Way To Go!"(1964)
  • Michael Caine's glasses in the Harry Palmer films
  • The multi-level set in Jerry Lewis's "The Ladies Man" (1961)
  • The first 10 minutes of "Goldfinger" (1964)
  • Dr No's underwater living quarters (complete with recently stolen Goya painting)

Friday, 15 August 2014

Five classic chairs from 60's spy movies

  • The sheik's (Eames) executive lounge chair atop his hydrofoil in "Modesty Blaise" (1966)
  • The swivel (Eames again?) chair Derek Flint straddles in the poster for "Our Man Flint" (1965)
  • The chaise longue James Bond is dropped into, falling from a chute in the Tokyo underground (Tanaka's HQ) "You Only Live Twice" (1967)
  • Blofeld's super wide supervillain wing chair in his volcano lair (accurately lampooned in the Austin Powers trilogy).
  • The tan leather armchairs in the Pentagon in "You Only Live Twice" (Ken Adam again). 1967 was the high water mark for cool movie chairs.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Ten great Pet Shop Boys songs

  • Was It Worth It? (anthemic)
  • Left To My Own Devices (How can you resist: "Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat"?)
  • Dreaming of the Queen 
  • Decadence
  • Heart (Sir Ian McKellen plays a randy vampire in the video)
  • Love Comes Quickly
  • Paninaro
  • Opportunity (Let's Make Lots of Money)
  • Love, etc.
  • Two Divided by Zero

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The cheapest transport in Cairns - Sunbus to Palm Cove

Background: My Australian family visits Queensland each year.

Palm Cove is closer to Cairns than the over-rated Port Douglas, with lots more charm.

Leaving from Lake Street (CBD), you can catch a 110/111 bus to Palm Cove (26 km) for $5.50 for one adult, one way ($2.70 Seniors/Concession).
You might want to use the day pass option, so you can hop on and off the bus, tour all the Northern Beaches, Cairns Zoo, Botanical Gardens/rainforest walks, shop at Smithfield Shopping Mall on the way to Northern Beaches (Palm Cove,Clifton Beach, Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach, Yorkey's Knob).

Punctual service, friendly drivers, download timetable: website.

If arriving at the airport (6km from CBD) and there is at least 2 of you, I'd grab a taxi to Cairns. Only 10 minutes, taxi fare $20-$30.
Cairns Botanical Gardens/Red Arrow Track

Friday, 25 July 2014

"The Mimic" Series 2, Channel 4

Surprisingly we get a second series of this bittersweet little show. I thought six episodes pretty much covered Martin and his world but writer, Matt Morgan has more to tell. I enjoyed Morgan Freeman as a hobbit, the altercation with the living statue busker (why people worldwide enjoy these gilt painted plonkers, I'll never understand) and a quick Harry Potter repertoire.
After watching the second episode there is definitely a sameness about this little show. I think the producer should have stopped at the perfect first series. Highlights: the dying mum's video to her son (not maudlin, though) and the use of Kermit and David Attenborough as sex aids. Oh and we did get a smattering of Wogan in the mix.
Episode 3's highlights were "The Shining" routine in the factory and duelling impressionists in the tunnel.
In Episode 4 we got more Michael Caine(with this show and "The Trip" I think we have Michael Caine overkill).
Episode 5 (the stag weekend in the health spa) was the most satisfying so far. Nice to see the Peter Wright (Denise's uncle in "The Paradise") and Doreen Mantle (Mrs Warboys in "One Foot in the Grave") as Martin's dad and gran. Martin's prospective brother-in-law is a perfect foil for nervous Neil (Neil Maskell).
Satisfying conclusion in Episode 6.
Two delightful scenes: the mistaken identity bit in the toilet cubicle and the final scene with Martin swapping stretch limo for pink Fiat.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Jo Nesbo's "The Son" 2014 novel The sins of the father...

Not in the Harry Hole series, this stand alone novel is just as dark and shares many of the Oslo locations. Jo Nesbo explores the nature of morality and obsession in its two central characters: Simon Kefas (wily old school detective with a gambling addiction) and Sonny Loftus (escaped prisoner/heroin addict/avenging angel).
The reader is taken from Oslo's underbelly (the homeless, the addicts) to corruption in high places. Some nifty detective work (especially the red toothbrush DNA puzzler), a plucky young detective (Kari Abel), a nasty master criminal (The Twin) and three interrelated love stories make this a satisfying read.
How can you not like it, what with Sonny's Depeche Mode references throughout the book?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

"Ray Donovan" Season 2 Better than ever? F**k yeah.

You think you had a bad day?
Spare a thought for our hero (anti-hero):
In the first episode: a buried-alive nightmare, angry early morning sex with the wife, followed by marriage guidance/psychologist meeting, his son is suspended from school, hounded by the Feds/daughter arrested for possession, tricky shooting cover-up for a client followed by a quick night drive to Mexico for his boozed, sociopath daddy. At least he had a clean shirt for the Parent-Teacher meeting (which he changed out of before brandishing his baseball bat in Baja).
Cracking season opening. Bonus: Hank Azaria as FBI officer and scrabble/wife swapping fiend. Bit weird seeing Agador Spartacus from "The Birdcage" in this part.
Tequila-soaked Mickey swimming with talking Flipper (Rosanna Arquette) was the cherry on the Showtime cake.
By Episode 3 you realise that family is the core of this show, not sex and violence.  The resemblance between mother and daughter is uncanny. Elliott Gould is a trick in this show, stealing ever scene that he is in.
Nice to see Ann-Margret as the former Hollywood goddess.
Episode 7: possibly the worst 14th birthday party ever, saved by Ray and birthday boy dancing to "Walk this way".
Episode 8 guest appearances by /60's/70's star Richard Benjamin (weird hearing him say "couldn't find a clit in a forest of clits) and Paul Michael Glasser (Starky) as the sleazy producer. Knockout final scenes: bedroom fireworks at Chez Donovan and brutal street slaying. No wonder David Hollander (script writer) has been 'promoted' in Season 3, booting out producer, Ann Biderman.
Episode 12 season finale: series creator, Ann Biderman, wrote this one, lots of loose ends tied up, a classy swansong.

"Masters of Sex" Season 2, Showtime

It is reassuring to see that this show is just as engrossing as the first season. Complex 'grey' characters (e.g. the selfish, hardly likable Bill Masters), female bonding (e.g. Virginia and Lillian, Betty and Rose) and the welcome return of 'The Pretzel King' and his sardonic wife, Betty, the ex-hooker. I hope Danny Huston (last seen in "American Horror Story") is used as an ongoing character in this season.
The art direction in Episode 2 is a standout (Gateway Memorial Hospital set design). Bill's speech about sexual dysfunction compared to being labelled "deviant" could be this season's raison d'etre. I am really enjoying ballsy Betty, too.
Episode 3 (surely Emmy-nomination worthy) was primarily a hotel room-based two hander with Bill and Virginia discussing sexual identity, power and the psychology of boxing. The intercutting of the operation scenes concerning the hermaphrodite infant was poignant. This season gets better and better.
With Episode 4 and 5, integration and race relations is becoming a dominant theme. Nice to see Sarah Silverman return as Betty's old "friend".

Monday, 7 July 2014

C.J. Box "Stone Cold" A good Winter read for cityslickers

This is the 14th Joe Pickett novel. No 15, "Shots Fired" comes out in July, 2014. This is check-your-brains- in-at-the-Library-desk stuff, just relish a good read. Think Jack Reacher meets Bear Grylls.
Pickett, the Wyoming game warden/trouble shooter for the Governor, has a savvy wife, three dissimilar teenage daughters, the mother-in-law from Hell and a loyal Labrador, Daisy. Nate Romanowski, family friend, falconer and part-time assassin, is an intriguing character.
The author lives in Wyoming and clearly loves its wild, remote and desolate landscape. I knew nothing about Wyoming apart from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" featured Devil's Tower National Park. Mr Box has made me open up Google Earth and explore this spectacular scenery.
Curl up in front of the fire with a whisky and enjoy.

G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin 372 pages

Monday, 30 June 2014

"Penny Dreadful" Season 1, Episode 8, "Grand Guignol", Season 2, Episode 1, "Fresh Hell"

"Do you really want to be normal?" the man of God asks Vanessa in the final scene. She then thinks long and hard about it. Roll credits.
This series has promised a lot in its 8 episodes and it delivered in the series final.

  • We had the welcome return of "Madame Kali" (Helen McCrory). Expect more of her scene-stealing in Season 2. 
  • A touching farewell from theatre producer, Vincent: "Remember us better than we are," he tells The Creature, Caliban
  • The show has never been afraid of filming in half dark, e.g. the vampire-hunting scene in the Grand Guignol. 
  • Frankenstein's throwaway line after he has smothered Billie Piper (future mate for The Creature): "Don't worry, I'll take care of the body."
  • In the riverside pub, the long awaited wolfman transformation scene.

Let's hope in the second series we get some full moon action, a look at Dorian's hidden portrait and loads more of Eva Green, dishevelled hair and smoky voice, acting either horny or possessed (or both).

Season 2, Episode 1 has a nifty solution to The Creature's employment worries - working in a cut price waxworks featuring grisly tableaux of recent murders. Writer John Logan has added a coven of witches into this already meaty stew. There's a thrilling attack on a Hansom cab and a creepy scene with Frankenstein fondling Billie Piper's breasts (Caliban's soon to be reanimated mate).

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Stephen King "Mr Mercedes" His first crime/detective novel?

Stephen King has written three very different novels in the past 18 months - the nostalgic "Joyland", "The Shining" sequel to "Doctor Sleep" and now this, "Mr Mercedes", his first detective novel. The dedication is to James M Cain.
You sometimes think you are reading a Dean Koontz crime/thriller - the psycho killer, the quirky dissimilar characters, misfits, a middle-aged love story. But King's black humour and wry observations are aplenty. The reader as always, is in good hands.
The overweight, retired detective, Bill Hodges, is a fine creation. There are two quick references to vintage King (creepy "Pennywise" and a haunted Plymouth). No Maine locales in this novel, King chooses the Midwest for this yarn. The race against time finale (think "Black Sunday") meant I read into the early hours to finish the book.
A light weight, engrossing read. Recommended.
Scribner 448 pages

Monday, 23 June 2014

"Penny Dreadful" Season 1, Episode 7, "Possession" Showtime

I hope Eva Green is on a lucrative contract, because she worked her butt off in this episode. Her possession scenes made Linda Blair look like Penny Pocket.
Such carryings-on! Talk of "corpse photography", man on man action, f -bombs and the c-word aplenty, tormenting virginal Victor Frankenstein, biting off a priest's cheek, the Victorian version of "Changing Rooms" courtesy of demonic possession. And that rich, smoky voice of Ms Green.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

"The Name of the Game" cool sci-fi episode "L.A. 2017", 1971

This prophetic episode, directed by 24 year old Steven Spielberg, covers lots of ecological /political ground in its 73 minutes. You have to hand it to Universal TV/NBC, with a budget of $375 000, you get a lot of bang for your buck in 1971.
Great to see Gene Barry, no stranger to sci fi (remember 1954's "War of the Worlds"?) as Glenn Howard, the thinking man's Murdoch. Don't expect to see perky secretary, Susan St James in this episode. Edmond O'Brien has a juicy bit. Blink and you'll miss Joan Crawford. (Spielberg worked with her earlier in a "Night Gallery" episode). Louise Latham, always great, is wasted as Barry Sullivan's creepy wife. The wealthy in underground LA sip milk like it's single malt whisky. The final scene of the dead sea bird on the highway still packs a punch.
A great swansong for the third and last season. Loved that Dave Grusin theme music and cool opening titles.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Kick-ass Musical Scores for Epic Movies 1958-1962 Five great years for the epic

  • "The Big Country" (1958) Jerome Moross
  • "Ben Hur" (1959) Miklos Rozsa
  • "Exodus" (1960) Ernest Gold
  • "El Cid" (1961) Miklos Rozsa
  • "Spartacus" (1962) Alex North
  • "How The West Was Won" (1962) Alfred Newman
  • "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) Maurice Jarre
Miscellaneous prattle:

They don't make true epics anymore. CGI just doesn't cut it.

1961 was a bumper year for the epic - as well as "El Cid", we had "King of Kings", "Barabbas", "The Tartars". After "Cleopatra" (1963), the bottom fell out of the movie epic-market. Twentieth Century Fox was nearly bankrupted. Sword and sandal/biblical epics became uncool in the swinging 60's.
Special mention goes to mega-producer Samuel (nephew of Trotsky?!) Bronston (his last epic was 1964's "The Fall of the Roman Empire"). Hollywood gave the biblical epic one last go in 1965 with "The Greatest Story Ever Told". Dino de Laurentiis tried in 1966 with "The the Beginning".

"Penny Dreadful" Season 1, Episode 6, "What death can join together", Showtime/Sky, review

Great things about Episode 6:
  • Director Coky Giedroyc directed the excellent BBC mini series "What Remains" (2013)
  • Billie Piper's realistic consumptive cough
  • Beautifully underplayed scene between The Creature (Rory Kinnear) and Maude in his "Phantom of the Opera"-inspired under the theatre digs. Kinnear's plaintive, anguished humming was a nice touch.
  • The original "Varney the Vampire" penny dreadful gets a mention from Van Helsing.
  • The line from Dorian Gray about him preferring paintings to photography.
  • The nifty attack of the white-haired harpy/vampires in the ship's hold (shapely Morlocks?)
  • Dorian Gray's vast candlelit portrait room
  • The rough sex scene between Vanessa  and Dorian (a dagger as a sex toy?)

Sting's "The Last Ship" Bound for Broadway

I was watching the marvellous Tony Awards last week and saw Sting perform the title song from his musical. Stirring and very folksy, "The Last Ship" draws on memories of Mr Sumner's early life in Newcastle upon Tyne and its once booming shipyards.
In 2013 Sting released an album (2 CD's), followed by the PBS/BBC TV performance of his work. The book was co-written by John Logan ("The Aviator", "Skyfall" and the deliciously gothic TV "Penny Dreadful"). The shipyard foreman will be played by Sting's friend and also Tynside-born, Jimmy Nail ("Auf Wiedersehen, Pet"). The show is having a tryout in Chicago before coming to Broadway in late October. Perhaps the first Broadway musical to feature the haunting Northumbian pipes?
Images Copyright: BBC Nation On Film and Daily Mail, UK
I am now off to get another Geordie fix... watching another episode of ITV's "Vera". Is that orright, pet?"

Monday, 9 June 2014

"Penny Dreadful" Season 1, Episode 5, "Closer than sisters", Showtime, review

Half way through the series, we get a nifty flashback to explain the alliance between Vanessa and Sir Malcolm. Beautifully told, filmed and acted, the first half of the episode resembled a Henry James novel or Merchant/Ivory period film. Then, bammo, lust in the hedge maze, boffing among the taxidermy (guess who was doing the stuffing - poor Mina's randy fiance), gruelling asylum scenes (including a nasty primitive lobotomy), possession and demon sex back in Chez Ives).
Once again Eva Green puts in a bravura performance.
With the perfect casing, elegant production design and John Logan's stylish, evocative script, no wonder the show has been renewed for a second season.

Monday, 2 June 2014

"Penny Dreadful" Series 1, Episode 4, "Demi-monde", Showtime/Sky

The gothic/Victoriana boxes continue to be ticked in this opulent and well paced bit of silliness.

  • Great scene in a luxuriant conservatory with Dorian and Vanessa, sexual tension amongst the belladonna. 
  • Dorian Gray's orgy scene, you name it, he's into it.
  • Rat-baiting behind secret doors. Will The Hellfire Club be featured next week? Here's hoping.
  • A stirring recreation of Grand Guignol (last week it was Sweeney Todd, this week The Wolfman, for obvious reasons)
  • Van Helsing (David Warner) appears as noted hematologist.
  • Absinthe and bisexuality (absinthe makes the heart grow fonder?) back at Chez Gray.  Ethan (Josh Harnett) two-timing poor TB-riddled Brona (Billie Piper).

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Has "Da Vinci's Demons" run out of puff? Season 2 finale, Episode 10

Season 2 of "Da Vinci's Demons" has been all over the shop. Running half way around the world in search of The Book of Leaves, Leo's momma, the fall of the House of Medici and the naughty Labyrinth boys popping up to enlist Risario.
Risario saw a nifty salt water torture device, this time on (especially his eyeballs) the receiving end (shades of "A Clockwork Orange"). It was fun to find out that chubby young Nico will become sanguine, political strategist Niccolo Machiavelli. In reality, he was 17 years younger than Da Vinci, both from Florence and later did work with Leo (see the Borgias and for fun, "Assassin's Creed"). Machiavelli would make a great mini series.
The finale (with Leo about to demonstrate his latest military invention) was merely a warm-up for Season 3.

Monday, 26 May 2014

"Penny Dreadful" Series 1, Episode 3, "Resurrection", Showtime

From the syrupy musical score and overwrought opening titles you see what you are getting with "Penny Dreadful". Yet this cheesiness works because of great acting (Rory Kinnear steals every scene as the ever-so articulate Creature), stylish art direction and colour design (e.g. Frankenstein's flashback to his mother's death) and engrossing plot developments (e.g. the idea of using the Grand Guignol as The Creature's home).
Alun Armstrong ("New Tricks") pops up as the kindly thespian and the Renfield-like character has some juicy scenes.
The steamy, toe-curling sex scene between Josh Harnett and Billie Piper mid episode seemed gratuitous, but what the hell, it's Showtime. All boxes have been ticked.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

"Penny Dreadful" Season 1, Episode 2, Showtime/Sky


  • Billie Piper's articulate Irish prostitute (Brona Croft)  meeting Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney). The Victorian version of a sex tape.
  • The Madame Kali's kick ass seance (the glorious Helen McCrory* from "Peaky Blinders"). Eva Green's tour de force with heavy duty cussing. I haven't heard the c- word used with such abandon in a costume drama.
  • Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle's (Simon Russell Beale) theatrical hair and beard. He has some great lines, too. 
  • The touching scene with Dr Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) introducing "Mr Proteus" (Alex Price) to the outside world.
  • The final unexpected scene. Hello Rory Kinnear (the creature). I'll miss the gentle Mr Proteus.
  • So much plot (in two episodes we have had: vampires, jaded sharpshooters, wise prostitutes, debauched Dorian Gray, seances, reanimators, the ancient Book of the Dead and the threat of the apocalypse  - and they are all linked. Credit goes to creator/writer John Logan ("Skyfall")  This was the problem with NBC's "Dracula" (now cancelled), not enough plot.

* Damian Lewis's other half

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Stephen King's "Joyland" book review

There is a lot to like in this retro tale of summer, spooks, 70's young love, and amusement park life. Stephen King again proves he is a master story teller. His characters are sympathetic and richly drawn. We have "Madame Fortuna"/Rozzie Gold from Brookyn, the carny mentalist; Mrs Shoplaw, the worldly landlady; Erin, the feisty coed;  Mr Easterbrook, nonagenarian owner of the park and Mike Ross, the dying child with "the sight" and yummy mummy/sharpshooter, Annie Ross. Our hero is college student, Devin Jones, who dreams of being an author much like Mr King. Devin takes a summer job in a B grade amusement park (think Jesse Eisenberg in the marvellous "Adventureland" flick from 2009, though this park is on the North Carolina coast ).  One of Jones's jobs is to "wear the fur" (dress up as the park's mascot, a giant dog). Is this a nostalgic nod to Scooby Doo (and those "meddling kids" investigating spooky carryings-on in fun parks)?
Okay, I might be pushing my luck with that one.

Amusement park/sideshow alley settings tap a rich vein for mystery, horror and the macabre (e.g. books like "Nightmare Alley", "Something Wicked This Way Comes", Koontz's "The Funhouse", films like "Freaks" and "The Seven Faces of Dr Lao").
I enjoyed the amusement park lingo used by the staff and the behind-the-scenes descriptions of the amusement park. This novel has a lot of heart, chills are secondary. A quick pleasurable read, celebrating Americana gothic and pulp fiction.
Hard Case Crime books, 2013, 283 pages
Note the retro, lurid cover.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Ten things that piss me off at the moment

Apart from Australia's destructive federal government (of course)

1. Facebook dependency and self-indulgent photos of their kids.
2. People who buy bottled water in Australia, particularly in the eastern states. Melbourne's tap water is of a high standard. It's disheartening to see empty plastic bottles dropped everywhere - ending up in stormwater drains and ultimately our waterways/oceans.
3. Wankers walking around with their coffees in disposable containers that end up in the street, bus stops, waterways. Here's an idea, you love walking around with your cups of java, well... WALK to the f*cking bin with it.
4. Parents in the supermarket who hold up a cereal, biscuit packet, etc and ask their young ones sitting or hanging off the trolley, "Would you like this?" "How about this one?" Don't pander to the kid, don't give 'em a choice for God's sake, just buy the generic/cheapest brand or the healthiest one. Too many choices, kids want/need structure in their life not more decision making.
5. Idiot parents who don't get their kids vaccinated.
6. "Maccas" ...let's face it, it's a global monolith, nothing Australian about it, call it McDonalds, don't patronise me.
7. People drop junk takeaway wrappers from their cars (see No.6).
8. People using their smartphones, who are not smart enough to walk around me when in a busy street.
9. Smokers who think their butts aren't classified as rubbish so they stub them out/drop them anywhere. Smokers in general.
10. Dog shit... the latest thing to do in my park is for owners to bag up their dog's poo, then later turf the plastic bag in the bushes. Plastic is probably more harmful to the waterways than dog crap. Go figure.

Monday, 28 April 2014

"Penny Dreadful" TV review, Season 1, Pilot, Episode 1, Showtime/Sky Not cheap, not dreadful, great gothic fun

Victorian England seems to be in fashion. This lush production promises lots of scares, gore (the first confrontation with the nest of vampires was spectacular) and camp silliness. More graphic than NBC's "Dracula", more fun than "Ripper Street" (this show doesn't take itself too seriously).
 I am reminded of the patchy but rollicking flick (2003)/graphic novel "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" with its 19th century horror characters. In this show we have vampires and Mina Harker, Dr Frankenstein and like the aforementioned film, Dorian Gray.
All the Victoriana staples are here: opium dens, Egyptologists, foggy gaslit alleyways, ritzy gentlemen's clubs, Ripper-like mayhem.
The cast is terrific: retired Bond, Timothy Dalton as the intrepid explorer; Eva Green (another Bond link) as the cool but gutsy Vanessa Ives (with the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes) and Josh Hartnett as the troubled sharpshooter/adventurer.
Sam Mendes is the executive producer, John Logan (Skyfall), the creator/writer (two more links with James Bond).
The idea of a "demi monde" is an intriguing one.
More please. Looking forward to seeing Rory Kinnear as The Creature.
PS. the camera isn't shy with the male nudity.

Stephen King "Doctor Sleep" A return to form?

Don't you love a page-turner? This is a return to form for Stephen King, as good as his horror classics from the seventies. You don't need to have read "The Shining" to appreciate this sequel, though.
Danny Torrance, the little boy with the shining, is now in his thirties, battling alcoholism as well as his psychic powers. King's own experiences with alcoholism makes this novel stronger and more pertinent than other recent efforts. He explores near family ties, death and the plight of the elderly (obviously close to King's heart). The hospice scenes are extremely well handled. The final chapters show King in a more compassionate and contemplative vein. It was over 35 years since he wrote "The Shining".
Abra, the feisty 13 year old with mega-shining is a likeable and well drawn character. The travelling vampires (masquerading as retirees/grey nomads) who feed on children for their life force is amusing as well as terrifying.
Some of the most disturbing passages are derived from sordid real life (e.g. the soiled diaper toddler crying "Canny"). Rose, the head of the vampire clan, is a worthy adversary for Dan and Abra.
Stephen King writes: "Watch out for those Winnebagos and Bounders. You never know who might be inside. Or what."
A great curl-up-by-the-openfire book.

486 pages, hard cover, Hodder & Stoughton.

Friday, 11 April 2014

"The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" (1970) From the Video Vault

Billy Wilder's flawed masterpiece (United Artists insisted it was cut from 3+ hours down to 125 minutes) is rarely seen. It has impeccable credentials. Co-written by longtime Wilder collaborator, I.A.L. Diamond), sumptuous sets (check out the London club and the street scenes), beautiful Scottish scenery; classy Maurice Binder titles; sublime, melancholy Miklos Rozsa score; perfect English cast (Irene Handl as Mrs Hudson is priceless), Christopher Lee (who at the same time was king of Hammer Horror) as older, smarter bro Mycroft.
Critics were lukewarm when it was released in 1970, making a lot of fuss about the homosexual element (Russian ballet, first story). Now, nearly 45 years later, this film (even though only 2 or the 4 tales remain) compares favourably to recent Holmes remakes: Guy Richie's overkill and BBC's "Sherlock". The 7% solution (cocaine) reference pre-dates the 1976 film of the same name.
The witty, ingenious script has Holmes regretting his biographer's efforts in "The Strand Magazine", grumbling about having to keep up with his image, coming off second best with superspy Mycroft (compare with BBC's "Sherlock"), encountering Queen Victoria, dead dwarfs, gravedigger Stanley Holloway and going all steam punk in Loch Ness.
What about the missing sections? A flashback to Sherlock's university days, 2 more mysteries (one concerning a corpse in an upside-down room, which remains in the Laser Disc edition) and a present day scene. Tantalising, but tragically lost.
From a deleted scene, Sherlock in a fez...delicious fun

Monday, 7 April 2014

Things I like about "Da Vinci's Demons" Season 2

  • Leonardo doing a credible Risario impersonation in Episode 3, complete with his signature camp sunglasses (though the wrong shape)
  • The Pope's Bond-villainesque lair, atmospheric lighting, flashy art direction (all villains must have posh British accents, this is a prerequisite)
  • The show soars whenever Leo brings on on of his inventions (usually inspired by nature - e.g. submarine in Episode 3 - even though a row boat at night probably would have sufficed)
  • Clarice Orsini (Medici's take-no-prisoners, gutsy missus) has a beefed up role in the second series
  • It never takes itself too seriously - each episode usually has some nice throw away lines (often delivered by Leo or Zoroaster).
  • All that green in Episode 5, now Leo has reached South America. Don't know how he ended up in the Andes and what looks like Machu Picchu but hey, who cares? This is such enjoyable claptrap and Risario is there, too.
  • This season gets nuttier each week. Episode 7 looked more like Indiana Jones, plus we had "Carry On, Constantinople"

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

I love "Bluestone 42" Series 2/3

Isn't it great when the second season maintains the quality of the original series? I reckon the second was even an improvement. Funnier, richer characters (e.g. Bird, Nick, the Lieutenant-Colonel), great new characters (Tower Block) as well as suspenseful situations. What about that cliffhanger final scene?
Series 3 loses cynical Nick, gains keen-as-mustard Ellen, but it is the strongest and most consistent series so far. The puerile but lovable Scottish pair (Mac and Rocket) have developed a great comedy double act. Episode 5's the-net-beats-all-weapons was priceless.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The best (full body) $5 massage in Legian, Bali?

Anggita Spa (Jalan Lebak Bene, off Jalan Melasti) is a little gem. Very daggy, but cool inside and a massage table that fitted my head and was long enough for my legs. I had a young bloke ("Ian") and my wife had "Retha". Ian started off by walking across my back, necks and legs - think tenderising meat. Jokes aside, he was an excellent masseur. A perfect blend of strong and relaxing. For an hour - finishing off with a killer neck and back massage. A bargain at 50 000 rupiah (about $5 Australian). A superb massage.

The salon above is now a tattoo parlour. As if there isn't enough. As Australians continue to gain weight, I suppose there's larger "canvases"to work with.

New favourite for 2016:

Green Beauty Salon. One block down Jalan Lebak Bene, Gg. Senen No 3, off Jalan Melasti. Even better. Same price. Ignore brochure price. One hour. My wife assures me the older Balinese masseur was the best.

NB. Comments option on this post has been disabled, due to spam content.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Bali Bogan Checklist ... Spot the Aussie

  • Stay in Tuban/Kuta (Legian if you are upwardly mobile)
  • Wear Bintang tank tops, Rhonda/Ketut tees have gone out of fashion, I was hanging out for some Schappelle Corby t-shirt banter, but no takers.
  • Wear peaked cap (with knockoff Designer sunglasses on top- indoors as well)
  • Over weight
  • Hair braids (including beards)
  • Walk around streets sucking on a large Bintang after breakfast (or in lieu of)
  • With kids (called Cooper, Maddison or Jayden - out of school holiday period) and grandparents (as baby sitters)
  • Last but not least, this is the clincher, tattoos - everywhere - arms, legs, backs, chests. All ages 18 years to old-enough-to-know better. I've seen old farts in their 70's get inked here. The nursing homes are going to be full of wrinkled bodies with dragons.
I suppose it is much cheaper in Bali to get tatts. Back in Australia it could cost thousands. With the cost of budget airfares (e.g. $400-$500 return) you come out a head (a dickhead).

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The rubbish problem in Paradise - South Lombok, Kuta Bay

Locals dropping rubbish (plastic bottles, wrappers, plastic bags) is a worldwide problem. I know I speaking as a cashed up Westerner, lucky enough to visit these beautiful places, but they won't stay beautiful. Snorkelling in this bay, plastic bags and wrappers outnumber the pretty fish.
The idea of taking your litter home with you in places of scenic beauty isn't the done thing.

This is a popular spot for the locals. The Novotel Lombok is in the background (its grounds are litter free, but the other side of the fence - a dumping ground).
This is a closeup of the last photo.

Monday, 24 March 2014

"Da Vinci's Demons" Season 2 Episode 1

I've missed this rollicking silliness. The over the top flash forward in South America (complete with Las Vegas showgirl costumes and gory ritual sacrifice), with Leo and Risario as unlikely comrades, will ensure a loyal fan base. More backstabbing, fruity language, a rudimentary blood transfusion and lots of mumbo jumbo flashbacks for Leo. This is a rattling good yarn.                                    
Once the scene changed to onboard ship, the tone was more like "Sinbad"/Saturday Matinee adventure.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

I drank Bali tap water and survived...

I refilled a 600 ml mineral bottle with tap water (to test the seal - it's a long story that involves transporting duty free vodka on a domestic flight). Anyway we took the wrong bottle to the pool and drank about half before we realised. Tasted okay, looked clear.
It's been 24 hours and no after effects. I wouldn't make a habit out of it, though. We have travelled in Asia, Africa, South America for 30 years and have always boiled tap water for coffee/tea or making ice cubes (when desperate). Good quality hotels use purified water for their ice. Bottled water is cheap, anyway. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

What A$10 can buy you in Bali... Kuta Currency

A$10 in Kuta gets you....

a dinner for 2 (see below)  or

4 large Bintang beers  or

a full body massage for one hour for you and a friend  or

a metered taxi (e.g. from Hard Rock Hotel) to the airport (including generous tip)

  • Beer - Bintang, Bali Hai, Anchor is roughly the same price whether you buy it at Matahari Supermarket, convenience stores or at cheap restaurants/warung
  • 2 large Bintang = 1 body massage for 1 hour in Kuta = 50 000 rupiah
  • 4 main meals at Gong Corner, a popular cafe off Poppies Lane 1 (e.g. Cap Cay, Nasi Goreng, Gado Gado, Satay + 1 large beer + 1 banana juice + 15% tip = 100 000 rupiah
  • 100 000 rupiah = 2 body massages for 1 hour
  • Australian currency conversion (March 2014) roughly drop 4 zeroes to get rupiah                  e.g. 10 000 IDR = $1

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Kuta, Bali Swimming and Body surfing... with the beach to yourself

It's near the end of March (before the Australian Easter holidays and Nyepi Day - March 31), so it's fairly quiet in Kuta. This morning around 7:00 a.m. I had the beach to myself (apart from four frisky dogs).

I'm talking about the strip of Kuta Beach from Hard Rock Hotel to the BeachWalk Mall/Sheraton Hotel.
If you swim in the middle of the day, the tide is in and the waves break too close to the shore - in other words, crap for body surfing.
The beach is quite clean, apart from the occasional plastic bag/sweet wrapper brushing past your legs. The beach graders and cleaners work on the sand early each morning.
If it rains, which it will in March (it's the end of the Wet Season), the beach is nigh on deserted in the middle of the day. No hassling, no sunburn, no glare off the water, no surf schools getting in your way. Very relaxing.
After 16:00 hr is a good time (as the tide is out).
Legian Beach (1km further north) is cleaner. Surf seems to be better in the afternoon, too. Doesn't break as close to the shore.

Tip: To avoid 'swimmer's ear' (earache), wear earplugs. Good old Blu Tack works just as well. If you do get swimmer's ear, you can buy strong eardrops/antibiotics at a local pharmacy (Apotik 15, near Kuta Square). I had acute earache, throbbing, couldn't chew without pain. After 24 hours of treatment, all good.  Price 55 000 rupiah (50 000 rupiah on Jalan Legian, near Jalan Melasti)  A bargain.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

"Bates Motel" Season 2, Episode 10, Episode 3, A&E, spoilers Episode 4, Episode 5

I swore I wasn't going to watch this soapy stuff anymore... but the Faye Dunaway-style "Chinatown" revelation was a ripper (he's your uncle/father, Norman).
No "South Pacific" for Norma. Shame, I would have loved to hear Norma sing, "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair" (in the style of Janet Leigh, of course).
Norman got hit on by a gay dude and Norma got hit on by a wealthy divorcee. Oxy-girl (Olivia Cooke, surprisingly from Manchester, England, great US accent, girl) got hit on also, before chucking her cookies.
Dylan (part-time gravedigger) got royally screwed in Caleb's Costa Rica scam (I'm assuming).
I like Norman new feisty girlfriend, though. Norman might be a psycho, but he's a straight psycho (with a Mother Complex).
Episode 4 was deadly dull, then redeemed itself in the final minutes with Norman finally 'becoming' his mother in front of  incestuous Uncle Caleb, brandishing a knife a la Tony Perkins. Will this  how get its mojo back?
Episode 5 - the season stalls again - White Pine Bay is becoming more like a teenage Banshee. The drug subplot is a yawn. This show is supposed to be creepy, isn't it? Too much teen bonking, not enough weird stuff.
Episode 10 - best bit was the final look at demented Norman. This second season has been a dud. Too much padding, not enough gothic/creepy business. Season 3, big ask....

Snorkelling on the cheap in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia

In the past I have thought Nusa Dua was overrated, soulless and bursting with same-same 5 star resorts. And some people like that stuff. A big surprise however was the not bad solo snorkelling opportunities from your resort.
I stayed at the Sofitel (near Nusa Dua Beach Hotel). Here are my tips:
  • Snorkel and mask, of course. I use sunblock and wear a t-shirt.
  • Bring reef shoes for wading out past the breakers (when low tide) or flippers (high tide)
  • Aim to snorkel at high tide (usually middle of the day - check tide times online) to avoid trampling out for 100-200 metres at low tide. Sea urchins can spoil your holiday.
  • Getting back to shallow water is easy, just catch a wave (body surf).
  • Observe where glass bottom boats are anchored (for the best coral and fish). Usually only one or two craft, never crowded.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

"Banshee" Season 2 finale, "Bullets and Tears", Episode 10, Cinemax

By the first 10 minutes, all the boxes have been ticked. Nasty murder (check). Sex scene (check). Drag act/fight scene (check).
This show resembles a graphic novel, helped by the way it is shot. Note the use of colour, lighting and the Tarantinoesque shootout in the church.
The cutting between past and present was effective. Job frocked up as Marie Antoinette was welcome comic relief. RuPaul, eat your heart out.
Interesting to spot the Twin Towers in the Soho scene. Bit of a gore fest ("I am the ThunderMan!") in the last 10 minutes. Don't mess with little Rebecca.
The add on scene: the return of the Indian warrior (Chayton)  in the New Orleans fight arena was gratuitous and sloppy. Sheriff Hood's Season 3 nemesis is one dimensional, unlike Proctor (next season, he looks like he's going to have his hands full with his naughty niece, if you get my drift).
I think the producers are pushing their luck with Season 3.
3 words - jump/the/shark.

PS Remember that nice British/Jewish chap (played by Mr Rabbit, Ben Cross) in "Chariots of Fire" (1981)?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

"Bates Motel" Season 2, Episode 2, A&E, Will I keep watching? Maybe This Time...

"Bates Motel" is at its best when goes for quirky/unhinged.
 Like... Norma asking her gyno questions about blackouts; the "Mr Sandman" duet; Norman (British actor Freddie Highmore) going nutso on mom outside the community theatre; Norma wowing the crowd with a tune from "Cabaret" ("Maybe This Time"). For a minute I thought I was watching "Smash". Don't get me wrong, Vera's got a good voice (she is also one of the producers for the show).
Norman auditioning for "South Pacific" (an inspired choice). There was a shower scene in that show. Was Janet Leigh thinking/humming "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair"?
But there isn't enough of this nutty Twin Peaks meets Peyton Place stuff.
The drugs subplot is deadly dull. Bradley was also a bore. Oxy-girl (Olivia Cooke) is wasted.
We can only hope Norma's long lost brother will inject more quirky/unhinged elements into a fairly pedestrian second season (so far).

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The problem with TV second seasons

Okay, the first season was great, there was a teaser to get you to watch the second season.... then you tune in.....
It could go either way.
First there's disappointment. Exhibit 1. (as Rod Serling used to say) "Bates Motel"
It was a flimsy idea to start with, but the charisma of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore must have convinced producers. It seems this show is treading water. Where is it going? We know what happens to Norman, but the journey is no fun anymore.
Exhibit 2 "The News Room"

Then there's surprise:
"Hannibal" Struggling with the ratings, many thought it wouldn't return. The quality and style of this show has always been consistent. This new season is compelling and, if anything, richer than last year. This is a prequel that works, unlike Season 2 of "Bates Motel".
Season 2 of "Orphan Black" is better than the first season, fleshed out characters and more complicated setups.

Jury's out:
"Da Vinci's Demons"
(Even though both have been given a third season.)
BBC3's "In The Flesh" (3 extra episodes in this series, was it a good idea?)

"Hannibal", NBC, 13 interesting things about Season 2

  1. A suspenseful opening scene, it seems cornfields are mandatory in thrillers.
  2. "I love your work" intones Hannibal from the top of the silo. We all laughed.
  3. An elegant departure from Dr Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). Or is it?
  4. Now I know how to cook Osso buco.
  5. The photography and design in this show is top shelf. If you see the eye/death/mural in the Tate Modern I wouldn't be surprised. 
  6. The beehive man, the flight into the hive scene. Stunning/macabre.
  7. I'd forgotten how great Amanda Plummer is at doing deranged characters on screen. See "Pulp Fiction".
  8. The body cross-sections under glass (a real "Oh my God! moment) in Episode 5.
  9. Michael Pitt ("Seven Psychopaths" and Jimmy Carmody from "Boardwalk Empire") as Mason Verger giving the creepiest performance of the season, a psycho-Willy Wonka. Making the little boy cry in the stable in order to take a tear sample, then tossing him a chocolate. An inspired turn. He seems to be channelling Christopher Walken/Robert Downey Jr, with a touch of Jerry Lewis's Nutty Professor. Love the Dr Strangelove hair. Mason Verger is definitely standout psycho of both seasons. The face-feeding scene was almost too hard to watch in Episode 12.
  10. Freddie Lounds' resurrection, didn't see that one coming.
  11. The huge Shiva statue rearing up at Will and Hannibal in Episode 11.
  12. The return of Gillian Anderson. She now specialises in playing the ice-queen character (see BBC's creepy and compelling "The Fall").
  13. Spectacular (and gory) season finale. Don't turn off when the credits roll!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Lawrence Block novels - good 'airport' reads

If you want to kill time at an airport (rather than "Angry Birds") or in the air, Lawrence Block's Keller books are good fun. The contract killer who is also a hard core philatelist tickled my funny bone. Dot, his dry-as-a-chip booking agent is a great character. The books include a travelogue of US places as well as fascinating historical details - courtesy of our (anti)hero's stamp obsession.
He may be the Enid Blyton of NYC crime novels but a good read is a good read. Check your brain in at the library desk and enjoy...

"Bluestone 42" Series 2, 2014... Goodbye BBC3

Good to see the standard of "Bluestone 42" has been maintained in the second series. Richly drawn characters from a diversity of UK backgrounds, the clever single camera work and just the right balance between comedy and drama - in this show about 70-30 (I hate the term 'dramedy').

So many inventive shows have been nurtured by BBC3 over the years ("Gavin and Stacey", "Torchwood", "Little Britain" and most recently the brilliant "Uncle"). It is a shame BBC3 will now be only online.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

"Bates Motel" Season 2, Episode 1, A&E, Was it worth the wait?

No, not after this season opener. If it wasn't for the screen charisma of Farmiga and Highmore, I don't think I'd be bothered.
Only four highlights:

  1. Norman in the basement stuffing a beaver (It's a cheap laugh, but it was a pretty dull episode).
  2. Mum and teenage son driving traumas in the Mercedes (Okay mom, YOU drive). 
  3. My wife still likes the fact that the sheriff bears a resemblance to Anthony Perkins.
  4. Norma's rant in the Council Chambers (reminiscent of Harper Valley PTA business).

Slim pickings.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

"Hannibal" Season 2, Episode 1, NBC A great opener

For me the standout in his show is its visual style. This season opener is just as beautifully shot. The stunning image of the antlered demon (Hannibal?) rising out of the stream or the closing image of the entwined corpses (think Saul Bass meets mad old Ken Russell's "The Devils" meets Dante's Inferno/William Blake).
What a brave idea (the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink fight between Jack and Hannibal) jumping forward to the climax of Season 2 (I'm assuming, as the rest of the episode flashed back to 12 weeks earlier).

  • Last year it was French gastronomic titles, this season it's Japanese.
  • Great to see Gillian Anderson is back, calmly paring back Hannibal's layers. It was fun to see Cynthia Nixon playing the icy investigator (describing her job as 'putting down' the battle wounded). Bet she'd be a riot at the FBI Christmas party.
  • Will our hero, Will, being locked up slow down the pace in this season. Solving cases behind bars is tricky. Liked the sorting of photos according to colour palette.
  • Prissy Dr Frederick is still annoying (but I suppose he serves his purposes).
  • 'Psycho of the week' has been tweaked so it carries over to the new episode.

Still thinking of that stunning final creepy tableau. Quite groundbreaking for network television. Hope Bryan Fuller can keep this standard up.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Films I am ashamed of liking - guilty pleasures

Howard Hughes (reportedly) watched "Ice Station Zebra" over 100 times. I have never seen it... but here are my guilty pleasures, meaning I have watched them at least twice and wouldn't mind if they popped up on TV in the near future.
In no special order:
"Airport" (1970)
"Bring It On" (2000)
"The Wrecking Crew" (1968)
"The Maltese Bippy" (1969)
"10 Things I Hate About You" (1999)
"You Only Live Twice" (1967)
"Where Eagles Dare" (1968)
"16 Candles" (1984)
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1966)
"Gypsy" (1962)
"What a Way to Go!" (1964)
"Goldmember" (2002) the first five minutes are priceless (Cruise, Britney, Spielberg, Spacey and Quincy Jones!)
"Carry On Screaming" (1968)
"Clueless" (1995)
"The Holiday" (2006) great cast plus Eli Wallach as Hollywood yoda

any Universal Frankenstein/Dracula/Wolfman/Mummy movie before 1940

(this is a work in progress)

The A-Z of terrible movie titles

Africa - Texas Style (1967)
The Banger Sisters (2002)
Can I Do It ... Til I Need Glasses? (1977)
Dracula's Dog (1978)
Ernest, Scared Stupid (1991)
The Fickle Finger of Fate (1967)
Ghosts Can't Do It (1999)
Humongous (1981)
I Sailed to Tahiti with an All Girl Crew (1968)
Jesus' Son (1998, could he afford an extra s?)
Krakatoa East of Java (1969, buy a map, it's west)
Leonard Part 6 (1987)
Man from O.R.G.Y. (1970, by the 70's they should have known better)
Nobody's Perfekt (1980, too kute)
Oh Dad, poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Bad (1967, it's the title song, too, you have to hand it to the 60's, don't you?)
Phat Girlz (2006)
Quick, Let's Get Married (released in 1971, made in 1964)
Rockula (1990)
Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948)
They Came From Beyond Space (1967)
Underwater! (1955)
Vasectomy: A Delicate Matter (1986)
Want a Ride, Little Girl? (1974)
X, Y and Zee (1972)
The Yum-Yum Girls (1976)
Zotz! (1962)

Friday, 28 February 2014

The A-Z of crappy/disappointing movies

Annie (1982, millions wasted, John Huston directs a musical!)
The 'burbs (1989, great cast, Joe Dante directing, huge yawn)
Camelot (1967, looks amazing but no charm, goes on too long)
Doctor Dolittle (1967, a bad year for musicals, Fox tried to make another box office winner after "Sound of Music", bigger isn't better)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999, yes it's Kubrick, yes it's tedious, his worst, albeit final film)
Firefox (1982, great web browser, crap film, Clint Eastwood directs a dud, a rarity)
Gable and Lombard (1976, terrific idea, bungled by Universal)
Hook (1991, great cast, Spielberg turkey - overstuffed)
Interview with a Vampire (1994, looks great, but it's still a dull vampire movie - if that's possible)
Jinxed! (1982, the title says it all, Bette Midler comedy directed by Don "Dirty Harry" Siegel!!)
Kiss Me, Stupid (1964, Billy Wilder's one dud film)
The Ladykillers (2004, Coen Brothers remake of the Ealing 1955 classic - terrible reworking, poor Tom Hanks)
Murderers' Row (1965, I have a fondness for Matt Helm silliness, but this is forgettable, Ann-Margret and Karl Malden are wasted)
Neighbours (1981, Aykroyd and Belushi, the latter's last film, no redeeming features)
Octopussy (1983, I love James Bond films, but this is the pits - everything from the title tune to the lacklustre villain)
Pirates (1986, Walter Matthau and an international cast - Roman Polanski should have walked the plank)
Querelle (1982, Fassbinder's unwatchable "Art" flick, crap whether you're gay or straight)
Rosebud (1975, Otto Preminger has made a few turkeys, this looks cheap as well)
Superman 3 (Audience Nil, 1983, Richard Pryor is even more annoying than usual)
The Towering Inferno (1974, overblown twaddle, unintentionally funny, e.g. Jennifer Jones and Fred Astaire scene)
Under Capricorn (1949, even Hitchcock can make a dud)
Van Helsing (2004, I saw this on a plane and enjoyed it, I must have had lots from the drinks trolley)
When Time Ran Out (1980, when the disaster movie ideas ran out, makes "The Poseidon Adventure" look like a masterpiece.
Xanadu (1980, ON-J + ELO = CRAP)
Yellowbeard (1983, crammed with comedy greats producing unfunny dross)
Zardoz (1974, some stunning visuals, hard to fathom sci-fi from the director of "Deliverance", best bit is the explanation of the title: The Wizard of Oz).

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The A-Z of forgotten (but good fun) films

The Assassination Bureau (1969, Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg)
Bedazzled (1967, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore)
The Cat and the Canary (1939, Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard)
Danger: Diabolik (1967, see it just for John Phillip Law's bonkers underground lair)
Experiment in Terror (1962, who knew Blake Edwards could make thrillers?)
The Face of Fu Manchu (1965, typical Hammer Films class)
Hackers (1995, Jonny Lee Miller, and a punky Angelina Jolie)
Into the Night (1985, John Landis includes a truckful of his favourite directors in cameos)
The Jokers (1966, yes, Michael Winner can make a good film)
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977, see it for the Bruce Lee sendup movie)
Lady on a Train (1945, nifty whodunit, Deanna Durbin even gets a chance to sing)
Murder by Decree (1979,versatile director Bob Clark's take on Sherlock vs Jack the Ripper)
The Nanny (1965, another Hammer gem, Bette Davis chewing up the scenery)
The Only Game in Town (1970, Elizabeth Taylor, Warren Beatty, George Stevens directed)
Pretty Poison (1968, the gorgeous Tuesday Weld and weirdo Anthony Perkins up to no good)
Queen of Spades (1949, atmospheric British gem)
Raw Meat (1972, cannibals in the London underground, originally titled Deathline)
Starstruck (1982, Australian pop music/media satire, great score, look out for Geoffrey Rush)
Take the Money and Run (1968, Woody Allen's first movie as actor/writer/director, patchy but some gags are the funniest he has every written)
The Uninvited (1944, ripper haunted house flick, Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey)
Valley Girl (1983, Martha Coolidge's 80's time capsule, Nicolas Cage has hair - gelled of course, great soundtrack)
What a Way to Go! (1964, huge cast, black comedy/movie genres satire, overblown but very watchable)
X - The Man with X-ray Eyes (1963, Roger Corman's creepy B sci fi set in Las Vegas, killer finale)
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985, great production values, nice tone, stay around the post-credits scene)
Zulu (1964, riveting, excellent British cast, you won't forget the image of the warriors lining the ridge)

Sunday, 23 February 2014

"Banshee" Season 2, Episode 7, Episode 8, Episode 9, Cinemax

Episode 7: A fairly pedestrian affair.
The nubile Rebecca (Lili Simmons) didn't have much to do this week, apart from parade around in a skimpy white bikini (that's probably enough) and stare morosely at mince meat (formerly Jason Hood). We had a brief fight scene in a junkyard (why is it always bald/tattooed dudes) and one helluva explosion courtesy of Job. Lots of m.f. cussing and sassiness from Job and a half-hearted apology from the deputy - (as hard to make as) "a prostate exam".
Observation: the head of the Indian council is also the casino owner, Dan Lannigan (Gil Birmingham), Tusk's ally in "House of Cards" (Season 2).
Episode 8: Is there a pattern emerging here? Another disappointing effort - turgid soap opera mixed with nastiness. Hope Job tracking down Mr Rabbit in NYC will help this season get out of the doldrums.
Episode 9: Two great action scenes (Job going all "Die Hard" in church and finding a novel way of hailing a cab and hospital mayhem with the Russian mafia) surrounded by too much banality and soap opera. Too much soul searching and wringing of hands over Emmett. Cheesy dialogue like, "I don't even know who you are!"
The final episode - Rabbit Season in New York - should be a ripper, though.
You know Clark Kent (Kai's right-hand man) means business when he takes off his glasses.
It is helpful to watch "Banshee Origins" - quite a few overlaps in Episode 9.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

"Banshee" Season 2, Episode 6, Cinemax, Why Season 2 is better than Season 1

Richer, more resonant situations, smarter direction (courtesy of Babak Najafi), inventive characters (e.g. Quentin feeding whisky-soaked bread to the pigeons) - as well as the usual quota of sex and violence - that's the second season of "Banshee".
Episode 6 saw an inventive highway fight scene culminating in the decapitation of the Brit hardman by an 18 wheeler. Kai's righthand man (a kinky Clark Kent/Mr Smithers variation) has a great cleanup scene in the motel room. I'll miss Jason (but at least he died happy).
Request for next episode: More teenager Driver Education, more Clark Kent and more Job (being surly as well as sashaying).

Thursday, 13 February 2014

"The After" Amazon Studios TV pilot, review

A disparate group of characters (French would-be actress, young Hispanic policewoman, Irish yobbo, dodgy lawyer, Revelations-quoting buxom blond, wealthy old lady, black dude with a heart of gold and a BIG shotgun, gay clown/entertainer) have to survive in a post-apocalypse LA. Yes, it's a bit derivative but after 20 minutes, it got me in.
This pilot was written and directed by X-Files' Chris Carter. This will be enough for some people.
In the final scene, the tattooed crab-walking demon/gargoyle/critter will stay with you for quite a while. Some intriguing ideas - the bond of the same birthdays (March 7) and same tattoos as on the critter's body.
Some patchy acting (the yobbo's Irish accent is pretty lame) combined with spectacular crowd scenes (think a scaled-down "World War Z") and tight editing (the tense build up scenes in the elevator and underground carpark) with some witty lines thrown into the mix. No big names. I only recognised Adrian Pasdar (from the spooky "Mysterious Ways" TV series).
The viewer is filled with unanswered questions. What happened? Why these people? How did they skip a day? What was the red-eyed demon spouting (sounds like "Twin Peaks" gibberish) before he scuttled away (think the John Carpenter's "The Thing")?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

"Banshee" Season 2, Episode 5, "The Truth About Unicorns", Cinemax, review

What's this? "Banshee" goes gooey? Arty editing, slow mo/shampoo commercial, cavorting toward the wisteria-entwined verandah of the 'locket-house'?
"Fuck it" as our hero tells Sugar in the final line. We get a ripper kitchen chat with wily Racine and an inspired scene in a wheatfield (almost Hitchcockian). Loved the aerial shot of the three trails. Nice work by Babak Najafi (he directed Episode 4 also).

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

"Fleming; The Man Who Would Be Bond" BBC America, 4 part miniseries, review

Well, the title says it all. This is enjoyable codswallop. Much like the films. The fun is to try and spot the links with the movies/novels e.g. martinis, exotic locales, playing chemin de fer with abandon, starains of Monty Norman's original James Bond theme in the score, the red leather door on the boss's office, Miss Moneypenny/Monday character in naval intelligence ("Why Monday, I don't know what I'd do without you!" exclaims Fleming). But it really is incredibly cheesy and surprisingly dull and predictable in parts. The first scene lost me with the too modern-cut red bikini worn by Ann Fleming (1952?).
This fluffy mini-series looks great, is mercifully short (each of the 4 episodes only 42 minutes) and Dominic Cooper (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) is suave but far too good looking for the hawk-nosed author/bon vivant.
Episode 3 features the phrase "licence to kill" as well as a heavy dose of sado-masochism.
Clunky dialogue: "this bloody war" "You're playing with fire"... and exclamations like, "Surely the Germans won't take Paris!" I can imagine "The Guardian" reviews now....
I rather enjoyed the final episode, though. Fleming anticipating the Cold War, his shenanigans in the Tambach fortress (blurring the lines between fact and fantasy), the exploding pens/micro cameras and Ken Adam inspired set in the opening scene. Later I spotted the fabulous glass ceiling in the German lab, last used in NBC's "Dracula".

If you want a more accurate tale full of booze and bitchery, seek out the docu-drama "Ian Fleming: Bondmaker" (2005). In this version the Flemings fought constantly. Ann Fleming had an affair with the then Labour Party leader.
The 1956 film of  "The Man Who Never Was" is also recommended (see Episode 3).

Sunday, 2 February 2014

"Banshee Origins" Cinemax, web series, prequel 2014, review

Web series "Banshee Origins" is required viewing for fans.  Economically told, well acted one scene pieces. No sex (tiny bit in "The Fields") and violence (apart from albino-prison flashback) but great back stories, filling in lots of gaps.

Season 1 consists of 13 1-2 minute episodes (deleted scenes?) filling in details about Allenwood Prison, Mr Rabbit, the albino, how Kai helps Sugar, Siobhan (drunk and in a miserable marriage) before she was a police officer, a lovely 'sisters' scene with Siobhan bumming a cigarette from Kai's niece, the all-important locket and the real Sheriff Hood arriving in town. Flashbacks range from 15 years ago up to 2 weeks ago and "Today".

Season 2
Episode 1 (14 mins) takes place 15 years earlier in a police interview room (in 3 parts)
Episode 2 (4 mins) Job teaching our hero to hotwire a car, 17 years in the past.
Episode 3 (5 mins) Kai visits black boxer Sugar/later to be Sheriff's ally in prison, 17 years ago/4 years later (in 2 parts)
Episode 4 (<3 mins) "Carrie" (Ivana Milicevic) meets hubby to be, Gordon, 15 years ago.
Episode 5 (4 mins) A very pregnant "Carrie" moves in with Gordon, 15 years ago.
Episode 6 (5 mins) Mr Rabbit (Ben Cross) meets his brother, now a NY priest (Julian Sands), 11 years ago. Two English actors from the 80's doing dodgy Russian accents. Why are English used so much as baddies?
Episode 7 (6 mins) Rabbit's brother is questioned by Agent Racine (Slovenian-born actor Zeljko Ivanek playing a US agent). But what the Hell ... Antony Starr is a Kiwi (New Zealander).
Episode 8 (3 mins) Five years ago featuring Kai's niece. Amish nymphet frolics in the wheat fields with knife wielding elder spying. See S02, E04 for more about the Amish "teacher" character.

Save money on spa/jacuzzi chemicals

Use the same quantity of household Bicarb soda.
Don't pay around $A12 for 500 g of Poppits Water Balance (on the label it reads:  99-100% sodium bicarbonate) for increasing pH and raising Alkalinity of your spa/jacuzzi.
You can buy 500 g of bicarb soda (sodium bicarbonate) at the supermarket for under $A2 (e.g. Aldi $1.79 for 500g packet).
Bicarb soda is an excellent bathroom and toilet cleaner as well. Forget expensive toilet cleaners and powders.

"Banshee" Season 2, Episode 4, Cinemax, review, spoilers,

Sheriff Hood has this knack of getting into fights with big dudes. This week it's the Amish "teacher"/psycho. You knew something was brewing as soon as he put on the kettle (and it wasn't Earl Grey).
A splatter fest of flying axes, pliers and spikes (the last two courtesy of Dr Proctor, frontier dentist).
The obligatory sex scene, a spectacular car wreck and Hoon Lee (Job) wearing a fetching white bodice (RuPaul goes to the sticks) tearing strips off teenage Hood make this another fun episode.
The final scene with the surprise return of wheelchair-bound Russian villain Mr Rabbit (Ben Cross) was the cherry on a very cheesy cake.
And remember "Love, truth, insanity".

Friday, 31 January 2014

"Uncle" BBC3 TV comedy Series 1 Series 2

I'm going to go out on a limb here, but "Uncle" is the best UK comedy (I'll  specify 'family based', so I don't count the sublime "The IT Crowd") I've seen since "Beautiful People".
Lovable misfits, Andy (comedian/musician Nick Helm) and his 12 year old nephew, Errol (Elliot Speller-Gillott) have knockout chemistry together. You can see similarities with "Moone Boy" and to a lesser extent the Jack Black film "School of Rock".
Oliver Refson wrote and directed the first 3 episodes (and co-wrote the rest). The pilot started off at Channel 4, the producer then going over to BBC. Their loss.
Episode 3 featured a nifty 80's homage "I don't like you/ I like like you" (co-written by Nick Helms). I'm sure it has loads of hits on YouTube.
Episode 4 taught us useful tips: Jeremy Kyle and teenage knowledge, stress relief (screaming into your elbow) and dealing with panic attacks (the "diarrhoea"song). This show is full of believable and likeable characters (like the delightful "The Mimic" from last year).
Episode 5 resembled a French farce (lots of dashing out of doors and windows), Andy trying to juggle 3 girlfriends, as well as his needy, but sweet sister and Errol's school camp traumas. Best lines: "The Beatles...the Labrador puppies of pop music", Casper the Emo Ghost, balls dropping and "Geronimo!"
Episode 6 - a good way to go out. No soppy resolution, a realistic outcome. Only in "Uncle" could you find a link between killing zombies and farting daintily. Andy goes gangsta with "I'm f**king famous, bitch" and Errol goes Noel Coward/Flanders&Swann with his Germs/Salmonella Song.
Catch this little gem, only 6 episodes.
P.S. Nice to see the "Clockwork Orange" /kinky coffee table in the record producer's office.

Series 2 is just as good. Errol is one year older, and wiser. His relationship with Andy is even more symbiotic. This little gem has even made it down to Australia on SBS2.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

"The Following" Season 2, Episode 2, Fox TV, review

Two episodes down and this show is getting mighty repetitive. The villains once again being one step ahead of Ryan again. The twin psychos (Sam Underwood resembling a young Val Kilmer crossed with Tom Cruise circa "Interview With A Vampire") creating Family tableaux (very "Hannibal" psycho-of-the-week from last year). Underwood was probably the best thing in the final season of "Dexter". How come so many film villains have to be British?
I did smile with the grumpy French assassin cooped up in the hotel room.
I cannot buy the caravan hooker mom/black teen/randy reverend setup. Joe (James Purefoy) complaining about his "dystopian squalor" in front of his hosts then going completely OTT with his orgasmic stabbing scene. "Mom won't like this..." whimpers the daughter.
This is overwrought pap. Having just watched another stunning episode of "True Detective", you sort of get spoilt by HBO quality.
I'm over this stuff. I don't even think elfen Emma (Valorie Curry) can save this series.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The cheapest way to get from Sydney Airport to the CBD

If you are arriving at Domestic Terminal 2 or 3, take the 400 bus (outside Terminal 3) to Mascot Station (the next but cheaper underground station) $2.30 Adult fare. It's the first stop after the bus turns right off Bourke Street. You can buy your ticket from the driver but have the correct money. Or PrePay, buy tickets at shops displaying PrePay signs.
The 400 bus stops at International Terminal (T1) before T3.
At Mascot Station the fare is $3.80 (as of February 2014) to St James (Hyde Park) or Circular Quay (Sydney Harbour).
If you take the train from Domestic underground station (under the terminal) it will cost $16.40 Adult one way.
International Terminal (Airport Link) costs $17.20 for same destination (but if you are jetlagged or you are travelling with 2+ people), I'd taxi it or take that train from International underground station (if travelling solo).
In summary: $15.90 train or $6.10 bus+train.
The same 400 bus continues onto Bondi Junction from Terminal 3. Bargain.

"Banshee" Season 2, Episode 3, Cinemax, review

The second season is really getting interesting. A juicy murder mystery/love story involving the Amish and Native American communities, the appearance of the real Lucas Hood's son, two excellent fight scenes (one with a huge Indian dude who has the mellifluous tones of James Earl Jones; the other involving Kai doing some fine work with a baseball bat to the balls) and a steamy love scene in the world's widest trailer.
This season could surpass the first.

Friday, 24 January 2014

"Dracula" Episode 10, finale, NBC TV series, 2013, spoilers

"Dracula" went out with a bang, literally. Bye bye to wireless electricity.
 Lots to like in the final episode (with possibly no Season 2 due to low ratings). The creator, Cole Haddon, was the writer for this finale. Although Harker and Van Helsing (love his nifty crucifixes) seem to be geared up for a vampire hunt in the last scene (shades of  the final scene of 1979 version of "Salem's Lot".
Van Helsing goes postal - mayhem in his lab, knifing good one Renfield (I'll miss that big dude) and a creepy revenge scene (kids putting the bite on daddy in the cellar). As Nigel Powers told Austin, "Never trust the Dutch, son."
The Italian seer was underused (loved his cool specs). The Jane/Grayson fist fight could have been much longer (a la "Banshee" fight scenes).
It's been a fun (and sumptuous to look at) ride - Victorian melodrama, bodice-ripping, dismemberment, blood lust, steampunk, a spot of lesbianism, secret societies, revenge and eternal love.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Annoying stuff my daughter does

She's 20, lives with us and is, by and large, a good kid.
BUT... she annoys me at times.
Here is my trivial rant, but it gets it off my chest, rather than nag at her all the time.

1. How does she succeed to get toothpaste drips UNDER the sink?

2. Powerboards always have stuff charging whether they are being used or not.

3. Cracks her knuckles.
4. Uses toilet paper by the metre.
5. Her 5-2 diet.
6. Newly ironed clothes that accumulate on the bed over time.

HANG ON.....  okay, she has piercings, and dyes her hair weird colours but... she works hard at Uni,
she doesn't smoke, take drugs, have tattoos or drink to excess.

What am I bitching about?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

"The Musketeers" Episode 1 BBC review

Fine production values, atmospheric wintry locales, an appealing cast and just the right balance of drama with tongue-in-cheek. I think "Da Vinci's Demons" covers a lot of similar ground - swashbuckling, buxom wenches, well toned abs, spies, carousing in the tavern, evil church figures, pretty European scenery. All actors with English accents.
Yes, it's a 'romp' and will rate well.....but
... if you want to see the best version, seek out Richard Lester's "The Three Musketeers"(1973) and "The Four Musketeers" (released a year later but filmed together).
Great cast of British actors: Frank Finlay, Oliver Reed, Christopher Lee, Spike Milligan, Roy Kinnear. Charlton Heston having fun as Richelieu. Faye Dunaway as a kickass Milady. Raquel Welch in her best role as the klutzy Constance. All the cast have English accents (some Working Class, to denote the French class system), none with the "Allo, Allo" accent. This accent idea was quite groundbreaking for 1970's cinema.
Richard Lester combines action, steam punk (check out Richelieu's gadgets) and cheeky humour.
The definitive retelling of an old favourite.

Best line in the BBC version:
"Want to go to Heaven for 50 sous?"
"Are you a religious nutcase?"
"It was a metaphor."

Happy First Birthday to my crappy blog

Started January 16, 2013. 

As a retired old fart, it keeps me busy, lets me ramble on about trivia/pop culture and doesn't hurt anyone. 
Comments gratefully accepted.

Monday, 20 January 2014

"The Following" Season 2, Episode 1, "Resurrection" Should I stick with it?

A great opening episode, well crafted and intriguing new characters. But I remember I was suckered into this series after an impressive opening to Season 1. Disappointment soon set in.
The subway massacre was nasty stuff. The new psycho/necrophiliac with male model looks (Sam Underwood) could be an asset. As long as he (and his twin) don't overdo the "Weekend at Bernie's" routine. "Huggy Hug" ... karate chop.... stand in the corner plus a grumpy French chick. Funniest scene in the series so far. Well done Kevin Williamson.
Keith Carradine (so good in "Dexter", before that show went off the rails too) brings some class to the show. Valorie Curry's punky new look (resembling my daughter) was a disappointment. I liked her elfen, smiling psycho look from Season 1.
I'll give it another go next week (but I said that last year....up until a dud Episode 15).

Sunday, 19 January 2014

"Banshee" Season 2, Episode 2, Cinemax, A spot of Bible-bashing

This show has always focused on the visceral. This episode ticked the boxes. Soft core porn, nymphets, female prison shenanigans, exploding cattle trucks (and the resulting buckets of cow parts in the jacuzzi), lots of fist fights (this is almost a running joke now - witness the sheriff's assault on the Indian casino), loads of emotional closeups and revenge on no-goodnik ex-husbands.
The Bible-bashing (yes, literally) was the coup de grace.
Kai's Clark Kent offsider turning on the jacuzzi blowers was a nice touch. Bloody good. (Ignore that).
Sheriff Hood interacting with Proctor is always the highlight of the show, though. Not the gratuitous sex and violence.
Much better episode than last week.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

"The Spoils of Babylon" the best bits, US TV miniseries spoof, IFC

  • All of Will Ferrell's introductions (honourable mention to Doris, the waitress in the background)
  • Episode 1's Devon reading Jonas's compass inscription ("....Your Fat")
  • Episode 2 "Welcome Home Darin" banner. 
  • The breakfast scene with nutbag Cynthia (Kristen Wiig) and Lady Ann York (Carey Mulligan).
  • Post coital bedroom scene (Devon lying covered with mannequin body parts).
  • Episode 3 Tobey Maguire's beat poet scenes/drug montage, loved the Dylan wig.
  • Episode 3 Tim Robbin's death scene.
  • Episode 6's beach love scene, booming waves and strange body part silhouettes.
As each episode is under 30 minutes, the jokes and tom foolery don't wear out their welcome.

Makes you want to re-explore those overblown but addictive mini series of the mid 70's. "Rich Man, Poor Man" was my guilty pleasure.

For a sendup of 80's horror schlock, seek out UK Channel 4's "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" (2004). There are several similarities: a wanker author to introduce the series, use of crap models, histrionics from the entire cast and dodgy editing.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Melbourne Midsumma Festival 2014 January 12

My wife and I are in our late 50's. Each year we make a trip to the CBD for the opening day of the Midsumma Festival (Celebrating Queer Culture). It's free and only 5 mins walk across the Yarra from Fed Square (in the Alexandra Gardens). This was a huge improvement on the dusty Birrarung Marr where the carnival was held in 2013.
Great atmosphere, friendly people and very inclusive. Homophobes could learn a lot by visiting and observing. Nearly 100 000 people visited the carnival on the day.
We returned for the T Dance on the Main Stage until 10 p.m. Lots of fun. Must bring our dog for the dog show next year.
A big thanks Festival organisers and the Melbourne City Council.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

"Banshee" Season 2, Episode 1, Cinemax, ...Same, Same

I must admit being underwhelmed by the season premiere, after such a kickass finale last year. Too much talk, not enough overwrought silliness. There was the usual feverish bonking and an inspired highway heist mid episode. Looking forward to more Procter action next week. Not sure about this new dude, Agent Racine, either.

Monday, 6 January 2014

"Los Angeles" A novel by Peter Moore Smith, 2005, review

Sometimes it good to just grab a book off the library shelf and take a punt. This was worth it. A strange little book about a reclusive albino, Angel, son of a powerful movie producer, who meets then loses "Angela", a stripper who lives next door.  Angel relies on mind altering mediation, bourbon and TV dinners. He is obsessed by physics (especially the nature of light and the concept of alternative worlds). He has "Blade Runner" constantly playing in his rathole West Hollywood apartment. It's a love story of sorts, a quest (Angel searches for his lover all the way to Rio). It's a portrait of the movie capital as well as a LA noir in some respects. The characters are well drawn, the back stories of Angel's Hollywood mogul family fascinating, the portrayal of mental instability is vivid and unflinching.
As I was reading this weird but engrossing tale, I wondered whether the author was going to 'drop the ball' in the later chapters. He doesn't. The resolution was slightly hokey but satisfying.
If you like a book that combines LA noir, mental instability and quantum physics - this one is for you.

340 pages, published by Hutchinson, 2005

Trivia: The author is Julianne Moore's brother.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The evil twins gimmick - 60's US TV sitcoms

It's a tried and true storytelling gimmick - the twin sister/brother/cousin, usually evil or moneyed. Think the old switcheroo with "The Prince and the Pauper" or "The Prisoner of Zenda".
US 60's sitcoms constantly used this ruse to stretch their shelflife/ratings. Here's my list, I'm sure you can think of others:

  • "The Patty Duke Show" (inspired by Disney's "The Parent Trap" 1961)
  • "The Flintstones" (Fred and Barney had doubles at different stages)
  • "The Addams Family" Morticia had the nutbag relative, Ophelia, she had daisies growing in her hair, from memory, if she tried to pull one out, her knee bent upwards
  • "The Munsters" with Herman's conniving brother, Charlie
  • "The Beverly Hillbillies" Max Baer Jr (Jethro) frocked up as twin sis Jethrine. Inspired! Looking like Jack Lemon in "Some Like It Hot"
  • "Bewitched" Samantha's sister, black-haired Sabrina trying to seduce the hapless Darrin
  • "I Dream of Jeannie" - those dark wigs come in handy - Jeannie II, the wicked sister.
  • "Gilligan's Island" had Gilligan and Ginger with doppelgangers. There were only 7 castaways on the island so you had to spicy it up somehow.