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.