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.