Sunday, 31 March 2013

Doctor Who - old and new, BT Tower/The Shard

Watching Matt Smith's Doctor Who ("The Bells of Saint John") last night featuring London's latest architectural marvel, The Shard, made me think back to William Hartnell's Doctor Who. Remember the mid 1960's episode featuring London's latest dramatic landmark, the Post Office Tower (BT Tower)?  I am sure Steven Moffat knew what he was doing. Nice touch.

"Harper, The Moving Target" Cool Paul Newman movie. From the Video Vault of Forgotten Films

Remember "Harper" (called "The Moving Target" in U.K.)? I saw it at the drive-in with my parents in 1966. I thought this was the coolest movie ever. It stands up pretty well today. It hasn't been on Australian television for decades. It's a pity. Paul Newman was at his peak. He plays the L.A. private eye Lew Harper (from Ross MacDonald/Kenneth Millar's novels) hired to find Lauren Bacall's missing husband. No wonder he disappeared, she is a bitch on wheels.
The opening title scene, with jazzy score by Johnny Mandell, is a treat in itself. Following Harper from his dingy office/pad along L.A. freeways to Bacall's Bel Air mansion.
I know Bogey did it better in "The Big Sleep", but look at the talent involved in this movie. Apart from Bacall (playing "Lady Macbeth" -  as her slutty daughter, Pamela Tiffin, describes her), you have Julie Harris, Janet Leigh (Harper's ex), Robert Wagner, Arthur Hill, Harold Gould and Shelley Winters (as a faded movie queen).  Shelley's seduction scene with Newman is hilarious, as well as poignant. Strother Martin plays a disturbing Californian nutbag cult leader. The L.A. locations are terrific, with Newman zooming around in his clapped out convertible (Karmann Ghia?).
William Goldman ("The Princess Bride", "Marathon Man", "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", "All the President's Men") scripted and Jack Smight ("The Illustrated Man", "No Way To Treat A Lady") directed.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Baby names parents did not think through.....

Without descending into "Carry On"/Austin Powers territory, here are a few real names that parents should have thought through before it was too late ....

Lee King
Wayne King
Wayne Kerr
Bob Down
Neil Down
Iva Biggins (I don't believe the last one)

I could go on, but I'm sure there are better sites out there with better dick jokes.

"Lilyhammer" - TV series review Episode 1, no spoilers

I know it was made in 2011, but it is new to Australian TV. This show is a delight. Steven Van Zandt ("The Sopranos", E Street Band guitarist) cruises through the first episode as the mobster hiding out in Lillehammer, Norway. The culture clash theme is not a new idea but this time around it looks fresh. Frank (the fish out of water) proves himself to be a most capable "immigrant". Norwegians seem to be fixated with "immigrants". Our 'hero' is a killer who has a soft spot for dogs, sheep and people being hassled by train yobs. Economically scripted, with wry humour, stark but beautiful locations and quirky characters this is my new favourite TV show.
Perfect Saturday evening 'old fart' TV viewing:
7:30 pm "Last Tango in Halifax", 8:35 pm "Lilyhammer".
Thanks SBS for buying the broadcast rights.

Friday, 29 March 2013

"Top of the Lake" TV series Episode 1, Episode 2 review

I have watched the first two hours of "Top of the Lake". I've avoided reviews. I have seen only one Jane Campion film. I thought "The Piano" (1993) was beautifully filmed, impeccably acted, but full of unsympathetic characters and a bit of a moody wank.
"Top of the Lake" so far is .... beautifully filmed, impeccably acted, but full of unsympathetic characters and a bit of a moody wank. No wonder ABC did not want to buy it for Australian free to air.

Granted the first scene with Arthurian tones, Tui silently gliding into the lake, was mesmerising. The Queenstown lakes district of New Zealand's South Island lends itself to this atmospheric stuff. In the NZ's South Island, even a crap photographer like myself, CANNOT take a bad photo. See above, this was out the hire car windscreen. It is so picturesque (or in Kiwi speak "Pucturisque").
Elizabeth Moss ("Mad Men") does a passable Australian accent, but the production is littered with Australian accents and only a few distinctively Kiwi ones. How come? Many of the actors are Australian, David Wenham, Robyn Nevin. The wonderful Peter Mullan (scary Scottish head of the crime family in Channel 4’s "The Fear") plays a scary Scottish head of a dodgy family.

'Paradise', the women’s refuge lead by head nutbag, Holly Hunter, provide much needed comic relief.  One women lived with a chimp, another one ploughs into the local pub, plonks $NZ 100 (about $A 80) on the bar with the line: “I need a f**k, I’ll be in Room 6, 7 minute job and I’m timing it”.
There was also a throwaway line about the local Austrian paedophile, some card chimes in “Does he have a cellar?
Ever been to the South Island? It is frigging cold, even in Summer. Yet the locals gents walk around bare-chested. We have hippy crones streaking in the meadows.
I will stick with this show because I want to find out where Tui is and who got her pregnant.

Another 5 episodes to go, no more naked old birds, please.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

"The Mimic" TV series, Episode 3 review

I wasn't enthused about this week's episode. Starting with the cringy scene in the computer store, this episode was more pathetic than pathos. The blind woman scene in the zoo was mildly sweet. There was a quick David Mitchell bit that made me smile. The best scene was the visit to Martin's family. Nice to see Denise's uncle from "The Paradise" as Martin's dad and Mrs Warboys ("One Foot in the Grave") as Martin's caring old gran.
Hope next week's episode has more chuckles.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

"Bates Motel" Episode 2 "Nice town you picked, Norma" review

"Nice town you picked, Norma" sums up the episode.
A whole can of worms has been opened in ep 2. This town has as many skeletons in its closet as "Twin Peaks". Sorry, that was a crap sentence. The writing in this episode is a LOT better.This is a pretty smart series, so far.
For a start Momma Bates' (Norma.... who knew?) first born appears, Dylan (Max Thieriot). What a charmer, not.  Needless to say the bros don't kick it off. Norman has a new study-buddy (Emma) with cystic fibrosis (terminal, as Norma indelicately enquires on their first meeting). Emma is a great little detective, as well as a William Blake fan. It is hard to run from rifle toting dudes when you have an oxygen bottle strapped to you.
Momma Bates is being seduced by dodgy Deputy Shelby, who hints at the underbelly of his town. Don't f**k with the city fathers. Well for a start, they have some sex slavery ring going on - see sketches of semi-naked Asian girls from last week - Norman found a pad last week in a motel room (No 4?). Two people have been incinerated in a 24 hour period - one in a BMW 7 series, another hanging artistically in the town square. Nice location photography in British Columbia, by the way.
The labyrinthine plot has nods to Psycho.  Check out the Norman's girlfriend's taxidermy store. The whole of the Bates' house and motel is stuck in a 1960 time warp - that decor in the kitchen!  Norman watches a classic black and white movie in his room.
Weird observations:
Is it just me or is Vera Farmiga looking more and more like Felicity Huffman? No relation, the former having Ukrainian parents.
The sheriff resembles Anthony Perkins circa 1960's - that haircut.

Bring on next week, it's gettin' good. Can the scriptwriters maintain this cracking pace? I am wearying of "The Following", it's running out of puff....Ryan better catch some high ranking dudes pretty fast, perhaps in ep 10...but I digress).

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The best and worst movie stage musical adaptations

Which musicals made the transfer from stage to screen unscathed?  Here's one person's opinion.

The best musical adaptations:
  • "Les Miserables" 2012
  • "My Fair Lady" 1964
  • "Little Shop of Horrors" 1986
  • "Oliver!" 1968
  • "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" 1967
  • "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" 1966
  • "Gypsy" 1962
  • "Chicago" 2002
  • "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" 2007(Tim Burton doing Sondheim! How good can it get?)
The worst musical adaptations:
  • "Annie" 1982 version (poor John Huston)
  • "Jesus Christ Superstar" 1973
  • "Man of La Mancha" 1972 (calling this a turkey is high praise)
  • "Hair" 1979 (just because the timing was wrong, 1968 becomes 1979?)
  • "The Wiz" 1978 (poor Sidney Lumet)
  • "Evita" 1996 (Madge as Evita sounded good on paper)
Too easy section (the makers couldn't possibly stuff it up):
  • "The Sound of Music" 1966
  • "West Side Story" 1961
  • "Oklahoma" 1955
  • "South Pacific" 1957
  • "The King and I" 1956
  • "Fiddler on the Roof" 1971
  • "Funny Girl" 1968
The jury is still out (I'm fence sitting)
  • "Hello Dolly" 1969
  • "Paint Your Wagon" 1969
  • "Camelot" 1967
  • "Sweet Charity" 1968
  • "Grease" 1978
  • "Dreamgirls" 2006
  • "The Producers" 2005
  • "Guys and Dolls" 1955
  • "A Chorus Line" 1985

Friday, 22 March 2013

Is my dog a genius or just normal?

As a proud owner of a two year old terrier cross (terror?), I am compiling a list of words our dog understands. This is my first dog so I never realised how smart they are.We avoided puppy school and hate the idea of yelling at your dog to obey commands.

Langly's vocabulary so far:
dog, cat, maggy (magpie), bird, possum, outside, park, shops, car, train (he loves it when we take him to town on the train), up (onto the couch command), duckie/duck, meat, ready (for a walk), walk, go, move (off the bed), kitchen (go round to the kitchen door), postie, bedtime, mummy, daddy, Maisie (daughter), Rohan (boyfriend), cheese, treat, bone (these last three will send him running from anywhere).

"The Mimic" Episode 2, Channel 4 British television series review

Matt Morgan's "The Mimic" continues to be a delight. It's nice to watch a television series about warm and caring people, people you would invite into your house. Perhaps I'm just sick of the sniping, competitive, mealy-mouthed types you get on many (scripted) 'reality' shows. Martin, Jean, Chelsea, Neil the newsagent, Steven and his mum are gentle, flawed and believable characters. The filming reminds me of Ricky Gervais's "Extras" in its tone (without the bitter after-taste that sometimes spoilt it).
The impersonations came thick and fast: Christopher Walken, Arnie, Jason Mason, Alan Rickman, Peter O'Toole, early Alec Guinness, Sir Ian McKellan. It looks like we are going to get a riotous Wogan running joke in each episode. Let's hope U.S. television doesn't remake it (cringe)....but I wouldn't be surprised.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Avco-Embassy, Joseph E. Levine guilty pleasure movies

Image Copyright Sony Corp/
Joseph E. Levine was a movie producer who founded Embassy Pictures. He once said that you can fool everybody if the advertising is right. And he was a master. He produced classy pictures like "The Graduate", "The Producers", "The Lion in Winter", "Carnal Knowledge" and the war epic "A Bridge Too Far"; but mostly they were trashy but fun movies.

Being a teenager and a young adult in the 70's and early 80's I watched a lot of schlocky Avco Embassy films. Here's my guilty pleasures for what they are worth:

"The Carpetbaggers" 1964 roughly based on Howard Hughes, trashy = sex+Hollywood+planes+power, this ain't Scorsese's "The Aviator".
"Robbery" 1967, based on the Great Train Robbery in 1963.
"The Day of the Dolphin" 1973 Mike Nicholls directed this George C. Scott movie about training cute sea mammals to blow up the US President.
"The Manitou" 1978, Tony Curtis does horror (to pay his debts obviously)
"Murder by Decree" 1979 Christopher Plummer and James Mason (as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson) meet Jack the Ripper in this nifty Canadian production. Directed by Bob Clark - a versatile director - from teen flick "Porky's" (1982) to the delightful "A Christmas Story" (1983). Now that's a big jump!
"The Fog" 1980, John Carpenter horror
"Escape from New York" 1980, John Carpenter sci fi with Kurt Russell kicking butt.
"Scanners" 1980, David Cronenberg horror sci fi
"The Howling" 1981, Ground breaking werewolf makeup, Joe Dante has a lot of fun in this, avoid sequels.
"Swamp Thing" 1982, Wes Craven directed.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The joys of farting

Being 57 years old, the sphincter isn't what it used to be, nevertheless farting is a liberating, pleasurable, albeit essential, experience. So here's my prattle....

Farting on an aircraft relieves stomach cramps plus it is hard to nab the culprit. In flight noise is your ally.
Farting on a lift (rapidly becoming 'elevator' worldwide) is fraught with danger unless you can execute a 'silent but deadly' one after promptly departing the car. Some arsehole did the same thing to me, he/she must have got off on <G> and we got on at <1> being surrounded by the stench, another couple got on at <2>.... so we got the blame.
When you are first in a relationship, you would never dream of 'letting Fluffy off the chain', especially not in bed with your beloved.
Ater living together for nearly 30 years, letting one rip on the couch is not uncommon and playing 'Dutch ovens' in the doona is almost de rigueur.
One draws the line at the dinner table though. One has to have standards.
There must be a direct correlation between your age and the length of your farts. Is it just me? By the time I'm seventy, I'll be tooting off "The Minute Waltz". I can almost perform a sentence now.
Let's hear it for Monsieur Joseph Pujol (Le Petomane).

Excuse my puerile post.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

What teachers really mean in their students' reports

I was a teacher for 34 years, that's quite a few reports to write. Teachers hate writing reports because what you put in writing is IN WRITING (at the back of your mind you think: legal ramifications). Parent interviews are more useful than reports, particularly the end of year written report. Why put a dampener on things so close to Christmas? So here are some student report comments..... followed by more honest staffroom comments about the same student. Purely fictitious, of course.

Report comments .........                                              Staffroom  comments

_ has a quiet manner in class........            creepy, isolate, wouldn't like to meet in a dark alley 10 years on.
_ is always early to school, eager to start the day........    dumped at school 70 mins before school starts, parents refused before-school care.
_ can be distracted in class........                      needs daily dose of Nitalin.
_ possesses a quirky sense of humour........              sadist
_ has an artistic flair........                           prime suspect for graffiti daubed around school.
_ has a small circle of friends........               shunned, smelly, obnoxious personality, FLK (funny looking kid).
_ shows attention to detail is her work........              stressed-out perfectionist and she's only seven!
_ is always confident speaking in front of an audience.......  class clown, attention-seeking knob.

"Bates Motel" new tv series on A&E - Worth a look

This could have been a tawdry piece of crap but the cast and the script rise above this.
Vera Farmiga as mama Bates (starred with Clooney in Up in the Air) plays the best multi-faceted nutbag since Jessica Lange donned the nun's habit. English child actor Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) nails the part of Norman Bates.
The first episode treads the tightrope between creepy and camp. The attempted rape scene is not for the squeamish. The scene with the policeman investigating the motel bathroom is delicious. And what was that soft porn sketch book Norman found under the carpet? How did Mr Bates really die?
Lots to like. I am sure this will only be a one season, 10 episodes affair. How far can they stretch it? That being said, I'll definitely give it a go next week.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Banshee Episode 10, Season 1 finale, review - no spoilers

So much to enjoy in the season finale. From Hood's Sherlock-like deduction tricks with the attractive prison psychologist (flashback) to the assault on Rabbit's compound (the rocket launcher bit is a stunner). Lots of juicy stuff hinted at for the second season. Job done up like Pris (Darryl Hannah) in Blade Runner was a bonus. Proctor is becoming my favourite character.
'More is more' is the mantra for the makers of Banshee.  Let's hope they don't drop the ball in Season 2 (like what happened to Smash).

Saturday, 16 March 2013

People who make me laugh. People who DON'T make me laugh

I know I'm not a comedian, but this is from a grumpy's perspective, with too much time on his hands....

People who I find particularly funny:
  • Sean Lock
  • Dylan Moran
  • Robert Popper (writer of Friday Night Dinner, brilliant - but the "Mr Morris" episode really annoyed me - the old shit should have been mauled by Wilson, the German Shepherd)
  • Simon Amstell
  • Shaun Micallef
  • Dave O'Neil (warm, wry, Melbourne, my generation)
  • Kitty Flanagan
  • Paul O'Grady (Scouse gold, wrote a ripper autobiography)
  • Chelsea Handler
  • Seth MacFarlane
  • Sarah Millican
  • Miranda Hart
  • Jo Brand
  • Lee Mack
  • Eric Morecombe  R.I.P.
People who I find unfunny:
  • Chris Lilley
  • Steve Carell movies (but he is funny live or on chat shows)
  • Jimmy Fallon
  • Jim Carrey
  • Cheech & Chong (yes, I know this is very '80s)
  • Will Ferrell (same as Mr Carell, charming when on live TV)
  • Keith Lemon
  • anyone on "The Footy Show"
  • anyone remotely connected to Two and a Half Men

"The Mimic" TV series, Episode 1, Channel 4, review

I know this is The Brady Bunch, but I got lazy.
My wife and I watched  a sweet little comedy last night.When you aren't expecting much, television can surprise you. Blending poignancy, gentle humour and excellent voice impersonations, this show works. Terry Mynott spouts Terry Wogan, Gok Wan, Owen Wilson, Al Pacino, Allan Carr and in a delightful final scene, Sir David Attenborough.The impersonations support the storyline, rather than detract from it.
Best 'dramedy' since Coogan and Brydon's "The Trip". Looking forward to next week's episode.

Friday, 15 March 2013

John Irving's "In One Person" book review

Copyright Simon & Schuster, Garp Enterprises 2012
Opening up a new John Irving novel is like re-establishing contact with an old friend. You pick up where you left off. You know what you are going to talk about already. This book has many common themes with "The World According To Garp" published back in 1978 - boarding school, weird families, wrestling, sexuality, cross dressing, fame and story telling. The bears theme even reappears but this is Irving's little joke - we ain't talking about brown, black or grizzlies either.
I love Mr Irving's writing style - personal, leisurely, self-deprecating, witty, but also confronting and at times raunchy. He peoples his novels with rich, quirky characters. You won't forget in a hurry Bill's cross dressing grandfather or the crusty old wrestling coach Herm Hoyt. This book is written in first person - the life of a Bill Abbott, a bisexual writer, stretching from the late 50's in New England (surprise, surprise) to New York City in the middle of the 1980's AIDS crisis through to present day.  It contains more dialogue than I remember in other Irving books.  I have read only read 6 of his 13 novels: "The World According to Garp", "The Hotel New Hampshire", "Last Night in Twisted River", "A Widow for One Year" and "The Fourth Hand".  The last two on my list are my favourites - full of haunting descriptions and rich prose.

Mr Irving has the ability to blend tragedy with wild humour. His plea for tolerance of diversity and respect for individuality is done with style, rather than beating the reader over the head with it. It's also a page-turner, taking the reader to San Francisco, New York, rural Vermont, Vienna and Madrid. You want to find out the fate of Bill's friends and family. This is a passionate and intensely moral book. Life is complicated. People are complicated - so show compassion.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Movie studio turkeys - a list of crappy blockbusters 1956-1982

"The Conqueror" 1956 The behind the scenes story is more interesting than the film. Blame Howard Hughes.

"Pepe" 1960  Poopy is more like it. Watch the stellar cast look uncomfortable for over 3 hours!

"Casino Royale" 1967  a royal stuff up, even Woody Allen's antics and Burt Bacharach's music can't save this multi-million dollar dud.

"A Countess From Hong Kong" 1967 Charles Chaplin wank fest, good cast wasted, his last movie, thank God.

"Doctor Dolittle" 1967 Is there a doctor in the house, this movie has no pulse. Another way of blackmail your sprogs to be good.

"Boom" 1968 (Bomb, methinks)  Elizabeth Taylor,Richard Burton, Noel Coward, Joseph Losey directing. What could go wrong? Everything.

"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" 1968 If your kids are misbehaving, threaten to hire this, they will be angels. 145 minutes of steaming faeces

"Skidoo"  1968 Otto Preminger made this unfunny comedy one year after the lame "Hurry Sundown"

"Darling Lili"  1970  Blake Edwards directed his then-wife Julie Andrews in this overproduced mess. Glossy but sooooo long. Scriptwriter Blatty went on to write "The Exorcist" (ka-ching, he would have been set for life)
"Man of La Mancha"  1972  One of the reasons Hollywood stopped making so many musicals.

"Lost Horizon" 1973  Peter Finch sings to Liv Ullmann in Shangri-La. Hope your sphincter holds out.

"Airport 1975" 1974 Camp value only - part inspiration for "Airplane!" piss take

"Rosebud" 1975  No connection to Citizen Kane. Unwatchable Otto Preminger dross.

"Exorcist II:The Heretic" 1977, so much talent wasted in this crap sequel - John Boorman, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, James Earl Jones

"The Swarm" 1978 Michael Caine and killer bees - a B movie - unintentionally funny disaster flick.

"Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band" 1978 Mr Stigwood, more is less,okay?  Worst mash up since "Casino Royale" 1967. Blame all the coke available at the time.

"The Wiz"  1978  Yes, Sidney Lumet directed this. Oh dear.

"Wholly Moses!" 1980 Dudley Moore....more is less. A cast full of top comedy actors being unfunny.

"Popeye"  1980 Only worth seeing for the Sweethaven built in Malta.

"Annie"  1982  Everything you loved about this great Broadway show, you will hate in this. John Huston's worst movie. The great songs are ruined.

Monday, 11 March 2013

50 movies that shaped the baby boomer generation - from "A Summer Place" to "Summer of '42"

I was born in 1956. Baby boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964 according to U.S. Census definition. Most of the films listed are Hollywood produced. During this period, movies reflected changing mores and social change.
This film listing is from 1959 to 1972

My coding is as follows:

B = Big Box Office popularity
G = Ground breaking movies, taboos broken - sex/violence/language on the screen
A = Art house, new trends, political/social comments

1959 "A Summer Place" G
"Some Like It Hot" B, G
"Pillow Talk" B
"Imitation of Life" B
"North By Northwest" B

1960 "Psycho" G
"The Magnificent Seven" B
"The Apartment" G
"Spartacus" B

1961 "West Side Story" G, B
"La Dolce Vita" A, G

1962 "The Manchurian Candidate" G
"Lolita" G
 "To Kill A Mockingbird" G
"Lawrence of Arabia" B

1963"The Great Escape" B
"Tom Jones" G
"Dr No" B
"8 1/2" A

1964 "Dr Strangelove, Or: How I learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb" A
"A Hard Day's Night" G, B
"Goldfinger" B

1965 "For a Few Dollars More" G
1966 "A Man and a Woman" A

1967 "Bonnie and Clyde" G, A
"The Graduate" G, B
"Blow Up" G, A
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" G
"In the Heat of the Night" G

1968 "Bullitt" G
"Rosemary's Baby" G
"Planet of the Apes" G
"2001: A Space Odyssey" G, A
"Midnight Cowboy" G
"The Producers" G
"Night of the Living Dead" G

1969 "The Wild Bunch" G
"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" B
"Easy Rider" G
"Alice's Restaurant" A, G

1970 "Woodstock" G
"M*A*S*H"  G, B
"Five Easy Pieces" A

1971 "Dirty Harry" G
"The French Connection" G, B
"Shaft" G
"A Clockwork Orange" G, A
"The Last Picture Show" G
"Summer of '42"  B

1972 "The Godfather" B, G

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Confessions of a 57 year old male

Well happy f**king birthday to me, I'm 57 today, so what have I learnt after 20 819 days? Not a lot.
So here are my top 7, gentle reader, make of them what you will:
  1. Listen, wait and think before opening your mouth.
  2. Whatever you think or say, someone has already thought it and said it a whole lot better than you. Nothing is new under the Sun, so move on...
  3. More is less, in all situations, except Point 4
  4. Read more, read widely.
  5. Your wife chose you more than you chose her, otherwise you would not still be married, dumb ass.
  6. Being negative achieves nothing.
  7. Having 'the last word', never works (see Point 1).

Thursday, 7 March 2013

A chance discovery - Nintendo in Kyoto

Wandering through Kyoto streets on a rainy afternoon we lucked upon this strange Art Deco building. Getting closer, we saw a small plaque by the door explaining that this is the Nintendo Card Company (established 1889). A larger sign sternly warns off trespassers, stating No Tourists. We quickly took this photo. Peering through the window, it looked like a small office/ museum with display cabinets.
Nintendo has a fascinating history starting with playing cards, then trading cards, toys, a taxi company, a love hotel, a television station, food products ('instant rice') before electronic games in the 1970's.

"The Following" Season 1, Episode 7, Episode 8, Episode 9, Episode 10 review

Episode 7 
This was a good one, but I am getting a bit sick of the one step forward, ten steps back formula. Another follower pops up just in time to foil the FBI, SWAT, Ryan Hardy. Each episode seems to have a "Booo!" moment (Kevin Williamson  wrote Scream), the baddie jumping out from nowhere. By episodes 3 and 4 I was tiring of  the 'oh no, not another follower' format. But the last two eps have been solid. The Edgar Allan Poe gimmick is a good one. Hardy's team provide interesting subplots.
The last scene reminded me of the final scene in Rosemary's Baby, well sort of.
Season 1 pros (so far)
Kevin Bacon's rounded performance, James Purefoy doing Hannibal Lector meets Professor Higgins (villains need English accents, it seems), the elfin but evil Emma Hill character (Valorie Curry) hope she doesn't get written out for a while.
Episode 8
Okay, now I'm getting a touch frustrated. I'm sick of the psychos being one step ahead all the time. The goodies arriving too late and shooting at the escaping cars/helicopters. Too repetitive. We need to see some chinks in the followers' armour, some dire mistakes.The closest we got were the fake (?) gay  couple several episodes back. Where are they? Shawn Ashmore's character better recover quickly.
Going by the last few scenes in episode 8, the sexual shenanigans and fierce competition of the inner circle followers at Chateau Psycho could be their downfall.
Episode 9
Loads of fun. New psycho recruit scores Tarantino points with a nasty spear gun scene in a diner.
Episode 10
Yay, the return of Dexter's Angel Batista (Ryan's stalwart FBI buddy). David Zayas playing the nice guy again. A frustrating scene in the motel "safe haven". How many stuff-ups is the FBI allowed per episode? Why would an agent wait behind a door, knowing there are two Uzi toting assassins on the other side?
Liked the hidden website bit for recruiting 'followers'.The Jacob and Emma relationship is becoming more interesting each week. Jacob (now even nuttier than before) could become a thorn in Joe's side. Here's hoping....

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Travelling around Japan with Japan Rail

Buy your Japan Rail Pass in your home country. This is crucial. Decide on 7, 14 or 21 days. One 7 day pass is about the cost of return Tokyo - Kyoto, so it's great value. Green Car is First Class (a LOT more) and not worth the money. Shinkansen ('bullet trains') are very comfortable, lots of leg room, reclining seats, pull down tray tables. Don't travel in busy periods like Summer/Festival times and you won't need reserved seats. Most of the carriages have unreserved seating. Ample luggage storage in carriages. Because it is Japan, everyone is beautifully mannered. The ticket inspectors and attendants bow to the whole carriage before exiting.  Some carriages even have "quiet cars" no cell phones. Yay!

If you land in Osaka (Kanzai Airport), you can use your Japan Rail Pass as soon as you have activated it (Japan Rail Office in the terminal). We had a night at the airport hotel (an easy walk across the walkway). Train Stations are under the terminal. Be sure use JR lines and stations not Private owned lines. High speed trains are ALWAYS on time. They leave on time, TO THE SECOND.

If you land in Tokyo (Narita Airport) you can use your JR Pass to board the fast Narita Express to Tokyo. The JR pass lets you use some subway lines (the huge JR circle lines which surround both Tokyo and Osaka metropolises get you anywhere) and even some ferries on the Inland Sea. 
Download Hyperdia. Indispensable journey planner and timetable. Put in the time you want to depart and the method of transportation and it shows you times, platform numbers, length of journey. Print out for the days ahead or save offline pages.
Buy delicious, freshly made Obento (segmented boxes of Japanese goodies) in the vast underground shopping arcades under major train stations, or buy boxes (still made fresh) on the platform in kiosks or food and drink (including reasonable priced beer) is sold on board by efficient roaming trolley dollies (I'm sure there is a more polite Japanese term). 

Using a base city/cities
Tokyo is an excellent base to explore Nikko, Kamakura, Hakone, Fuji area.
Kyoto or Nagoya are excellent base cities for day trips. Osaka great for day trips to Nara, Kobe, Kyoto.
Stay in ryokan (traditional inns) in smaller towns (Takamatsu has some excellent one).
Booking is through Japan Tourist Bureau website or many have own websites.
Because of the high speed trains you can travel hundreds of kilometres easily in a day. Average speeds of 300  km/hr. Every town on the main line between Hiroshima and Shin Osaka seems to have its own stunning castle, Himeji (featured in 007's You Only Live Twice) and Okayama are notable.
We travelled from Nagoya and Nagasaki, over 900 km and arrived fresh and ready to explore a new city.
We took a day trip from Osaka to Miyajima Island, all trains, ferries covered on your JR Pass. The red tori gate is even better than in the photo.
Kyoto needs at least 4 days to explore, without leaving the city. If basing yourself in Osaka, Nara is the   must-do day trip. Osaka itself is a very cool city, smaller than Tokyo but with a definite personality. Osaka Castle was a big surprise.
Nagasaki is worth the visit, despite the distance. The most European of all Japanese cities. Japan is a great destination. Bone up on a bit of history before you go. It will enhance the experience.
This was our fourth trip and we are raring to go again.
Golden Pavilion, Kyoto

Being grumpy is useless

Grumbling about the state of things (anything from bitching about people dropping litter to global warming) achieves nothing. Am I changing anything for the better?
Vitriol achieves only a short term "buzz" but long term it's fruitless. Negativity only breeds more negativity.
Here endeth the lesson. As Charlie Brooker would say, " go away!"


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Banshee Season 1, episode 8, review

Most fun l've had since Dexter Season 7 finished. You look up "Guilty pleasure" in the dictionary, you get Banshee. Starting with the obligatory sex scene, but this was edited into a marathon, when does this guy find the time to be a sheriff? The pastoral Amish scenes were straight out of Witness. Loved the scene when Proctor goes bat shit with his dad. We had the longest fight scene in television history, definitely when 'woman-on-Russian mafia-henchman' is entered into the equation. Excuse the typing, I'm on my crappy tablet.
The Amish nymphet in the shower was pushing it a bit, but this is Cinemax.
There was more plot and revelations in this episode than you get in 3 eps. Tune in just for the epic fight scene. Full marks to the sound editor.
A great episode, but I miss the gay Asian hacker accomplice.
Update, just watched episode 9. It just gets better! Last ep of season approaches.

RKO Movies you must see

Copyright RKO Pictures LLC/image

One of 'the big 5 studios' declined rapidly once Howard Hughes took over in the late 1940's.  

What Price Hollywood? (early version of A Star is Born); The Most Dangerous Game 1932 (filmed on the same set as King Kong, seriously weird)
King KongFlying Down To Rio 1933
The Lost Patrol 1934 (early John Ford effort, Boris Karloff featured)
The Informer 1935 (John Ford again); Top Hat (Astaire and Rogers at their peak, Irving Berlin music, great supporting cast, over the top sets, even if dancing isn't your thing, this movie is still a delight)
Winterset 1936 (ground breaking curiosity piece, Burgess Meredith starred)
Stage DoorSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937 (released by RKO)
Bringing up Baby  1938 (screwball comedy, much copied (see What's Up, Doc?,1972)
Gunga DinFive Came BackThe Saint in LondonThe Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939 was a great year for movies - see my  post on 1939 classic films
Pinocchio (released only); My Favourite Wife 1940 (remade as Move Over Darling)
Citizen Kane 1941 (Orson Welles peaked early)
The Magnificent Ambersons (a magnificent failure, Robert Wise edited 40 minutes from it) 1942
Cat People; I Walked with a Zombie (two Val Lewton films = creepy classy production on a shoestring budget) 1943
The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, kicking butt) 1944
A Game of Death (Robert Wise remake of The Most Dangerous Game) 1945
The Spiral Staircase (this is a seriously scary film, as good as Hitchcock); NotoriousThe Best Years of our Lives; It's a Wonderful Life (what a Wonderful Year!!) 1946
Crossfire; Out of the Past (Robert Mitchum doubleheader, we are firmly in film noir territory here) 1947
Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House (Cary Grant made every picture watchable) 1948
The Setup (boxing theme mini gem, 80 minutes) 1949
The Man on the Eiffel Tower 1950
The Thing (James Arness in a carrot costume) 1951
Rancho Notorious (Marlene goes camp out West, quelle surprise!); The Narrow Margin (another gem, better than Gene Hackman remake, great twist) 1952
Second Chance (Mitchum again, in 3D!) 1953

a sad ending to a great studio....

The Conqueror 1956 One the greatest turkeys of all time, see John Wayne as a Mongol ravish Susan Hayward. Urban legend? Wayne, cast and crew including director, Dick Powell, later died of cancer due to A-Bomb testing in the Nevada desert after 13 weeks of filming, plus the same sand was brought back to Hollywood for more scenes! Hughes bought up all the movie prints.

1939 - the year of the classic movies

Check out the incredible films released in 1939, in no particular order:

Stagecoach, Goodbye, Mr ChipsThe Wizard of Oz, Ninotchka, The Roaring Twenties, Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights, It's a Wonderful Life, Beau Geste, Destry Rides Again, Gunga Din, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Women, Dark Victory, The Cat and the Canary, The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, my only foreign pick), Only Angels Have Wings, Mr Smith Goes to Washington,
oh, and a little movie called  Gone with the Wind.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Things that make me smile .....

  • our family dog (Langly) lying on his back like a split chicken, waiting for a tummy scratch
  • those Google home page animations/designs, they're informative, too
  • getting an unexpected birthday greeting when you open up Google (see above)
  • those Ikea commercials
  • hearing a kookaburra some mornings
  • Graham Norton's "Red Chair" segment
  • watching Margaret and David disagree over films in The Movie Show
  • hearing the local school bell sound at 9 o'clock when I am still reading in bed (I am a retired primary school teacher)
  • using 'in-house' phrases and words that only my wife and daughter understand the context of
  • turning left (pointy end) rather than right (cattle class), boarding a plane (unfortunately not often enough)
  • hearing the pop of a sparkling wine/champagne bottle being opened
  • being woken up by a sloppy lick/kiss from the dog in the morning
  • reading advertising signs like: "Sweeney Todd Medical Waste Removal"; a retired doctor's B&B called "Bedside Manor" ....or (for HR Model Holden car parts) "HR Parts and Stuff"           
  • going to the fridge and discovering a chilled bottle of wine hiding at the back

Friday, 1 March 2013

70's TV Guilty Pleasures (10 of the best)

Not The Brady Bunch, thought it was naff. Liked the two sendup movies, though.
I did watch The Partridge Family (for Susan Dey). You must bear in mind I was between the ages of 14 and 23 in the seventies.  Here we go, in order of what I would most desperately like to see again ....

U.S. 70's shows
  1. Columbo (Where do I start? I think the first few seasons are my favourite) "Er....just one more thing....." 
  2. The Name of the Game (glossy Universal telemovies with rotating stars, I'm also a sucker for great opening titles/theme music)
  3. Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  4. Night Gallery patchy Universal horror anthology series with great guest stars and soon to be famous directors (Steven Spielberg)
  5. Search (Probe was the pilot movie, loved the Dominic Frontiere theme music and the changing stars format)
  6. Rich Man, Poor Man mini-series (polished Universal production)
  7. Laugh In (1968-1973)
  8. MacMillan and Wife (Universal again, John Schuck really annoyed me!)
  9. Banacek (Cool Peppard rowing down the Charles River)
  10. The Snoop Sisters (shortlived but not forgotten, those old birds were good)
British 70's shows
  1. Family at War  must-see wartime melodrama
  2. The Sandbaggers  I preferred this to Callan, but my wife will kill me for saying such sacrilege.
  3. Bouquet of Barbed Wire  miniseries, pretty raunchy, if I remember.
  4. Journey to the Unknown   another horror anthology series, creepy introductory whistling music. I know it finished in 1969 but I didn't see it until 1970, it's my blog, it wouldn't be the first time the truth has been 'bent' on the Internet.
  5. Thriller (from the creator of The Avengers, Brian Clemens)
  6. The Persuaders big budget Lew Grade series, Tony Curtis was great, so were the cars.
  7. Doctor in the House (loved Professor Loftus)
  8. Morecambe & Wise (Brit gold)
  9. Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee episodes)
  10. Doctor Who (Tom Baker episodes)

60's U.S. Television sitcoms - variations on a theme

U.S. Situation comedies in the late 50's tended to be the W.A.S.P.(White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) family like Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver (June says to Ward Cleaver in bed, "Dear, I think you were a bit hard on the Beaver last night" .... ooo, er, Nurse! but I digress, it's still a classic joke though, but not mine).

Then some bright spark in the early 60's came up with the idea of the dysfunctional family or the unconventional home situation - 'fish out of water' premise. And all the networks jumped on the bandwagon. Here are the variations on the same theme, in no particular order:

  • My Favourite Martian (I think it was a rip off of Gore Vidal's play A Visit to a Small Planet, also a Jerry Lewis movie)
  • My Living Doll (I think my first TV crush was Julie Newmar, this over 10 years before Westworld did the robot gimmick)
  • The Munsters (not based on a cartoon like next show, Universal had all those 30's horror movies to reference)
  • The Addams Family (it is line ball which of the last two shows came first)
  • Bewitched (loved Edora, as soon as Tabitha came into it you knew 'jumping the shark' was nigh)
  • The Beverly Hillbillies (typical 'fish out of water' premise like: Tarzan in New York, Crocodile Dundee, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, numerous Brendan Fraser movies: Blast from the Past, Encino Man, George of the Jungle - he specialises in looking cute but bemused). Shit, this blog post should have been entitled "How to get off the subject"
  • Green Acres (another 'fish out of water' idea like The Beverly Hillbillies but flipped around - urban to rural)
  • I Dream of Jeannie (setting it in Cape Canaveral was topical and a winner)
  • My Mother, the Car (this was short-lived for good reason, a variation on Mr Ed, the joke was all in the title) 
Then some bright spark in the 70's came up with the 'let's have social commentary' sitcom. So we had: All in the Family (rip-off of UK 'Til Death Do Us Part), The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude, The Jeffersons (both Archie Bunker spinoffs).

But that's another story....