The FX Network Actually Sucks, Even Though We All Think It Doesn’t For Some Reason

The FX cable network in the US is often spoken of in the same terms as HBO, Showtime and AMC – a premium cable network that produces quality drama above all else. It’s programming is described often as “Edgy”, “original” or a “fresh take”.  That is all bullshit.

Owned by Rupert “Lower-than-the-lowest-common-denominator-and-a-scumfuck-despot-maniacal-devil-spawn” Murdoch, FX actually makes crap that is more offensive to my sensibilities BECAUSE it tries so hard to be original.  Like hipsters striving to be “individuals” by all shopping at the same trendy inner-city op-shop.  What you end up with instead is a feeling of insincerity and manipulation, that you have fallen for some kind of scam built on your own desires and that YOU, the viewer, were somehow complicit.  How does that old saying go, “Don’t fuck me and call it a rose”?  Something like that.  At least with big network guff you know what you are getting, like buying lard from the supermarket – it is what it is labeled as.  There is no pretense to higher intellectual or emotional goals.  “We will get your rocks off and numb you to your depressing little lives” they whisper seductively to you as they advertise the latest comforting string of good-guys-catch-the-bad-guys-using-science hokum and pretty-girls-just-want-love vapid-a-thons.  And they’re not lying to us, they are fucking us and telling us straight that they are fucking us.  And sure, sometimes it feels good but when you want something a little less sleazy, a little deeper, you go to Premium Cable.  But not to FX.

“Lights Out”, the latest truckload of sanctimonious drivel is heading for a well earned cancellation after failing to make any impression whatsoever in the cable ratings, being routinely belted by absolutely everything anyone wanted to put up against it.  The premise, a retired heavy weight boxer hits hard times and has to do unpleasant things to support his family, is bad enough to begin with but when you weigh a lead balloon down with things like: a brother who makes “bad deals” with the mob; a degenerative brain injury as a result of his boxing; a chance to have a rematch with the guy that “robbed” him in his last fight then you are seriously drowning in some uncomfortably sentimental jam.  The main character is a cheese wrapped, deep-fried cliché and every scene is painfully melodramatic and over acted. All of the support characters are cut-outs that are there to simply dress up the drama, providing a clumsy counterpoint to the central characters “difficult journey”.  In short, it makes me LITERALLY vomit in my mouth to think that anyone thought this show was good.

The show it replaced was the critically adored “Terriers”, a cute little story about a couple of down-on-their-luck so-cal PI’s who get caught up in tangled web of deceit through no fault of their own and have to save themselves, their families, the town, the mayor etc.  A clear cut case of a maguffin running rampage Godzilla style, laying waste to the plot and story all around it while the characters cower in fear and scream “What are we gonna do?!?” to one another.  It too began badly and slipped down the ratings finally ending up with a smaller audience share in the US than “The Mentalist” gets in Australia.  The audience blamed the networks marketing, the network blamed the audience and not one person stopped to consider that the show itself was just a bit crap.

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom over at Club Tedium, some of their shows rate quite well, like the appallingly confused and misdirected “Sons of Anarchy”, a touching family drama about a group of Bikies who have sworn off the evils of running meth in order to keep their town nice.  They are of course deep-down-really-good-guys-who-care rather than actual bikies who are murderous drug peddling lunatics.  Created by Karl Sutter, who worked extensively with Shawn Ryan on “The Shield” it is no surprise that SOA (as the kids are calling it these days) lacks any sense of moral compass, the former being particularly guilty of divesting characters of apparent standards as a plot device.

FX’s main problem seems to be a lack of proper direction for their programming. They bill all of their shows as edgy, original and creative trying to join the big boys HBO, AMC and Showtime, but the quality is just not there. Having said that though, the quality is not actually bad enough to get the kinds of ratings that say “Jersey Shore” gets.

If FX really want to be taken seriously they need to take heed of the critical AND popular success the other marquee cable networks consistently manage.

Of course, it’s not all bad, “Justified” suffers none of the pretensions of earlier programs and “Archer” is just great fun.  But two shows does not a network make

As a last resort there is always just chucking it in and doing reality TV involving teenagers getting plastic surgery whilst pregnant, now there’s a ratings winner!

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Sofia Coppola… She’s, like, Francis’ Daughter right?

Having just sat through the entirety of Sofia Coppola’s interminable bore of a film “Somewhere” i feel the need to offer my perfectly reasonable and carefully composed opinions on the career of ms Coppola.

I really, truly, deeply and with great passion, despise this woman’s films.

“Somewhere” centers around a period in the life of fictional movie star Johnny Marco, played by Stephen Dorff (best known for his work in the critically acclaimed, worldwide box office smash “Blade”) with a subtle blend of coma inducing boredom and less screen presence than a talking guinea pig.  He obviously tortuously depressed despite being so hugely successful and this is shown by him hardly uttering a word for the first half hour of the film.  Great scriptwriting there Sofe.  When he gets an unexpected call from his ex-wife informing him that he has to take his daughter for an indeterminate period of time he is forced to reconnect to his life and rediscovers the small joys that are what means most.

Now ordinarily i like a good insiders look into stuff but his film is spectacularly uneventful and incredibly drawn out.  The overriding themes of isolation and ennui are not new territory when it comes to artists and are given a full feature treatment to what would have made quite a good short film.  The whole thing also reeks of the cool, privileged kids talking amongst themselves and sharing a private joke like the self-indulgent wankers they apparently are.  Somehow this film won an award at the Venice film festival and i honestly suspect that it is her fathers name that is the only reason anyone cares about her movies at all.

Prior to “Somewhere” was the insipid and jarring “Marie Antoinette” which purported to explore the loneliness of being a noble-born woman in a mans world.  Instead it was a fluffy piece of cotton candy that had as much depth as a puddle of urine without the sense relief one normally associates with urine.  Sofia has said that she didn’t want to make an historical document but an interpretation so rather than write her own original story she appropriated one of the most important periods in the western words history to make a “poor little misunderstood rich girl flick”.  The choice of New-wave and Post Punk 80’s retro-chic soundtrack further added to the sense that this film was just “Pretty in Pink” for French queens in the 18th century.  Somehow it got nominated for some awards and i honestly suspect that it is her fathers name that is the only reason anyone cares about her movies at all.

Prior to that was the critical darling and academy award winning “Lost in translation” another myopic window into the lives of poor, sad isolated little celebrities.  Bill Murray is Bob Harris, an bitter old actor in Japan to film an advertisement.  He is sad and lonely and isolated (hmm… i’m recognising a theme here) and drinks alone in the bar of his luxury hotel in central Tokyo.  There he meets Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson who until then had been best known for her role in the psychological thriller “Eight legged Freaks”.  For some reason they sort of have a kind of love affair thing with no sex and no real conversation.  Then he leaves and whispers something to her that we can’t hear, my money is on “Do you believe that your character would ever find mine attractive?”.  Once again this is a window into a privileged word and how sad it is for those that live there.  Even the humor littered through the film is of the bitter, self referential kind – Bill Murray’s exchanges with the Japanese director as example of things being lost in translation and so on.  One thing lost in translation is the notion that just because they’re foreigners don’t mean they have to be caricatures.  Most of the Japanese characters are depicted as a rolling series of cliches gleaned from the latest western J-pop fetishest website.  Somehow it was nominated for several oscars and WON one!  But i honestly suspect that it is her fathers name that is the only reason anyone cares about her movies at all.

Then of course, way back in the dark dawn of the 21st century, was “The Virgin Suicides”, an asinine and monotonous film that i LITERALLY slashed my wrists to get away from and Sofia’s breakout film.  This one concerned themes of, wait for it, isolation sadness and ennui.  Five Sisters, for some unfathomable reason, all decide to kill themselves but not before goading a bunch of witless neighborhood boys into thinking they have a chance.  Why they did it is all a big mystery but presumably has something to do with an incredibly sheltered life in which innocence can only survive against the rigors of the world by being preserved in death.  Or some-such nonsense.  Really all that happens for two hours is wispy soft focus shots of sepia toned suburbs accompanied by a painfully hip soundtrack comprised of the indie-est of indie cool and the euro-est of mind numbing euro lounge synth.  Somehow this movie garnered widespread critical praise and i honestly suspect that it is her fathers name that is the only reason anyone cares about her movies at all.

So having made 4 versions of essentially the same crappy film with different curtains, over a period of 11 years, why should i should i care?  Because she is Francis Ford’s daughter?  Because she is Carmine’s grand-daughter?  Because she is Nick Cages’ cousin?  At the risk of becoming isolated, lonely, sad and full of an inexorable sense of ennui i choose to not care and to continue, fervently to believe that she is just a spoiled little daddy’s girl that has been indulged beyond the point of reason.  It’s time for Frank to wake up and smell the excrement his daughter keeps leaving behind her and stop encouraging her by producing her films.  And make her change her name.  And have her arrested for crimes against the movie-going public.  And take out an injunction against all of her 4 features effectively banning them from being seen by anyone ever again.

And to the critics that seem totally beguiled by her?  Wake the fuck up retards!

El Bludgerino (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing)

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The Awesomest reality TV horror show finally arrives on Australian TV

Reality TV has always held a special place in heart.  Ever since as a small child i first watched an Arkansas red neck get tasered multiple times by police on “Cops” through to the sensitive relationship-advice/girl-fight-inciting “Cheaters” i have always made time in my schedule to watch a group of intellectually disabled exhibitionists in their natural environment.

The evolution didn’t stop there though as genius TV producers around the world schemed to make reality TV more interesting by making it faker.  Enter the Reality Game Show, an oxymoron so retarded it couldn’t help but become a huge global TV phenomenon leading to a plethora of jaw-droppingly stupid contrivances to make people earn their 15 minutes of fame by paying with their dignity.  “Big Brother”; “Survivor”; “The Bachelor”; “The Apprentice”; “Race around the World”; Rock of Love”; “Beauty and the Geek”; “Australian Princess”; “Ladette to Lady”; “Chains of Love”; “Farmer wants a Wife”; “The Biggest Loser” – the list goes on.  Carefully vetted casts find the least stable narcissists all of these programs force people into unnatural situations and encourage them to act like badly written soap opera characters using a scientific blend of incentive and humiliation.  Especially popular is putting opposing types of people together and forcing them in interact, i.e. racists and minorities; or homosexuals and homophobes.  Very occasionally the results are worth watching, in the same way as the autopsies of victims who have died of an exotic disease, as a fascinating and retch inducing insight into the frailties of humanity.  Most of the time it was simply incredibly tedious.  Of course this combination of crushing boredom and the misery of others is narcotic to the average TV watching moron so a plethora of variations continue to emerge.

As any statistician worth their Informative and Non-Informative Priors knows, the larger a group gets the further and more extreme the edges become.  Suddenly there were titles appearing like “Who wants to be a Porn Star” which is pretty self-explanatory; “Who’s your daddy” where an adult who was adopted at birth is placed in a room with 25 random men and if they guess which one is the biological father they win $100,000;and last but most disturbing “The Swan” which featured a group of women unhappy with their appearance who go through several cosmetic surgery procedures and then compete in a beauty pageant at the end to see who has become the lovely swan and who is still an ugly duckling.  For some reason the PTC and other guardians-of-taste groups were silent about this latter program and its obvious intent to incite suicide, for some reason choosing instead to boycott Brittany Spears latest fragrance because she admitted to having a vagina.  Thankfully audiences were even less enthused and FOX canceled the show after only 2 seasons.

Dr Terry J Dubrow, not satisfied with the brevity of his work on “The Swan” teamed up with Cris Abrego and Mark Cronin of 51 Minds Entertainment to create the ultimate reality game show, a kind of freebased reality show that would include only the best elements of all that had gone before and leave the viewer curled into a fetal position and viciously scratching at themselves in a feeble attempt to get clean.  The result was “Bridalplasty”.

Every bride wants to look her best on her wedding day but for the women competing on ‘Bridalplasty’ only perfection will do. Show brings together engaged women who are seeking complete image transformations before their big day. They want the dream wedding and the dream body to go along with it. These brides-to-be are willing to do whatever it takes to beat the competition in order to get that perfection. Throughout the show, as they put together their dream wedding, each week one lucky bride will also get one piece of her dream body, going under the knife for one of the surgeries off her wish list. The last bride standing will have the opportunity to have an extreme plastic surgery makeover and win a wedding fit for the stars where she will unveil her shocking new look for the very first time to the man that she’s about to marry

It sounds great doesn’t it?  Due to the baffling oversight of Australian free-to-air networks passing on this show, and Foxtel only now getting it’s act together to broadcast the first season I have not actually seen the show.  However I have known about it for some time and use it as one of my personal signs of the coming apocalypse, along with cyclones, floods, fires, locusts etc.  The punditry were not kind.  It scored 21 on metacritic with the “Time” reviewer James Poniewozik saying*:

Bridalplasty essentially takes every misogynistic premise that has been baked into any reality show, ever, and combines them: the focus on appearance, the stereotype of the bridezilla, the validation of one’s worth through one’s boobs and the bogus fairy-tale warped into a celebration of consumerism—here, that “Every bride wants to look perfect on her wedding day,” and so should write a check to her cosmetic surgeon, stat.

The best bit is the perverse, Black-Swanlike obsession with perfection.  When the Brides are voted off after losing a challenge they are told “You will get to have your wedding, it just won’t be perfect.”  Ouch.

So set your Foxtel Tivo gadgets to record on March 2nd, i will be back with a full review and we can all celebrate!

El Bludgerino (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing)

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I Love You Natalie Portman!: Part III – Revenging Wordsmith (Zing!)

I wrote this for you Natalie.

Well I adapted a timeless theme and customised it to perfectly suit you and express how i feel…

ahem…

Her eye discourses; I will answer it.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?                                                                      It is the east, and Natalie is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.   It is my lady, O, it is my love!                                       O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.                                                                                                     I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.

O, that I were a glove upon that hand

What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,                                                                              As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven Would through the airy region stream so bright
That swans would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,             That I might touch that cheek!                                O Natalie, Natalie! wherefore art thou Natalie?
Deny thy fiance and refuse thy name
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Bludgerino.

With Love

El Bludgerino (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing – and i know you’re not)

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Episodes, the new Showtime sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc, is AWESOME! Yes, you heard me, AWESOME!

When one thinks of Matt LeBlanc one immediately recalls his indelible 3 episode arc on that classic, marquee comedy series “Married With Children”.  Who can forget his vacant, innocent charm as Vinnie Verducci, flashing his now familiar smile and swaggering through scenes with the panache and style we had come to expect from such a landmark series.

Matt LeBlanc uproariously doing that old devil-vs-angel-on-the-shouders bit

Oh how we laughed and wondered when we would to see more of this genius on TV.   Then, in 1994, a little show called “Friends” made its’ debut.

For those of you who don’t remember (where were you, Lost In Space? geddit?) “Friends” was a “Seinfeld” rip-off that substituted “funny” for “awww”.  Plaguing the world for 10 years, it delivered to us such cultural phenomena as “The Rachel”, Brennifer Piniston, and another Arquette (like we needed more of those).  For NBC however, 10 years was not nearly long enough to subject us to Leblanc’s ubiquitous “Ehh, how YOU doin” – so they created “Joey”.  Where “Friends” was an ensemble, “Joey” was Matt’s very own star vehicle, allowing his full range to be displayed and focusing solely on developing his characters’ mutli-dimensionality.  As with all spin-offs though, there is always temptation to compare to the source material – often unfavorably. Critics were largely not impressed with one notable review from the LA Times in 2005* stating:

Watching “Joey” this season was the TV viewing equivalent of being sent to Abu Ghraib for 30 minutes every week.  Amidst the sense of not being able to get enough air and fearing imminent death you also couldn’t help but suspect that, at any moment, a group of NBC executives were going to burst through your door, put a bag on your head and make a German Shepard have sex with you.  And whilst you teeter, naked in a human pyramid of similarly unlucky viewers, those heartless television terrorists would pose next you for photographs and shout mockingly “How you doin’?”.  Honestly, I would rather burn to death in an oil fire that be subjected to one more minute of this horrific abortion.

Thankfully, after 46 torturous episodes, NBC came to its senses and cancelled “Joey” allowing us all to breathe a sigh of relief and fervently pray that we would never again have to see Leblanc on TV.

Just when we thought it was safe, that the danger of a comeback had finally passed, troubling reports started to emerge that Matt was on the comeback trail.  Initial responses to the news were largely restrained, with few outbreaks of violence and fewer suicides than greeted the announcement of a Whedonless “Buffy” re-boot, but the overall mood was undeniably jittery.  All of our fears, and recurring nightmares, proved unfounded though as “Episodes” debuted in early January and was very, VERY good.

“Episodes” is the brainchild of “Friends” creator/writer/producer David Crane and fellow TV writer and producer of “Mad about you” (remember that show?  I don’t – i drank a lot of turpentine to forget that one) Jeffrey Klarik.  The two had previously collaborated on the short-lived dramedy “The Class” which, despite registering reasonable ratings (averaging about 8.5 million viewers) was canceled by CBS after a single season and replaced with Chuck Lorre’s “Big Bang Theory”.

How YOU Doin?

Surprisingly the latest production from these two long time TV staples was not produced by one of the big US networks after a protracted bidding war but rather is a co-production between Showtime and the BBC.  Lampooning the current rash of English remakes on US TV “Episodes” is about a British writer/producer team Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Brits Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig respectively) who are invited by US network Exec Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) to take their TV show “Lymans Boys” and adapt it to American audiences.  They are initially dazzled by the rise in their fortunes as they arrive to find a palatial mansion provided for their accommodation but of course the “reality” of the TV industry soon sets in.  The star of their show, Julian Bullard (Richard Griffiths), is asked to audition and then found wanting due to his “Britishness”.  This leads the studio to try to get the aforementioned Matt Leblanc, playing a fictionalised version of a Matt LeBlanc/Joey Tribiani Frankenstein monster, to play the part of the title role, the “verbally dextrous and erudite” Headmaster Lyman.  Within a short space the show is suddenly renamed “Pucks” and rather than an erudite headmaster the main character becomes a hockey coach.  This of course leads to tension between the Lincolns themselves, between the Lincolns and LeBlanc, between the Lincolns and the studio and so on.

“Episodes” is carrying on a fine trend of late in US TV, insider humour, and in doing so joining the likes of  “Entourage”, “30 Rock” and “Party Down” at the top of the heap.  Amongst all of these great shows “Episodes” stands out as unique in that it has a very British feel to much of the production.  THis is due largely to Mangan and Greig actually being British, but there is also a British essence to the writing.  There is wit to some of the dialogue that is absent in even the most intelligent US of comedies and the timing of the two leads is often impeccable.  Subtle changes to body language and facial expressions during a bath running can ony be funny when done properly by a couple of very talented poms.  Tamsin Greig, who many of you will remember as everyone’s favourite alcoholic neighbour Fran from “Black Books”, is especially good, her shrill English manners a great counterpoint to the American Vulgarities of LeBlanc and the network folk.

LeBlanc himself clearly relishes the role of “Matt LeBlanc”, having the chance to really stab Joey in the back and having a great time doing it.  He is excellent as the spoilt-dumb-actor  that Crane and Klarik have written for him, deftly weaving media distorted reflections of himself with strands of Joey and the fictional Matt LeBlanc.  Seeing this I actually feel bad

"Is it just me or did he seem a little... butlery?"

for him that he was so routinely disregarded as being of any comic value following 12 years of the mind numbing idiocy that was Joey Tribiani.  Of course, he is extremely rich – swings and roundabouts i suppose.

While there is a definite English influence it also contains some fine US style humour.  Vicious cynicism and irony, as only Americans can do, abounds in the scenes set in the world of the TV studio and it’s executives.  Merc Lapidus is a suitably boorish ignoramus, making faces and mock hanging himself in front of his blind wife whilst an entire table full of dinner party guests look on aghast.  Katherine Rose Perkins is great as Carol Rance, the studio VP who’s sleeping with her boss and is always unflappably optimistic to the point of obstinacy (she has some of the best lines in the whole show so far).  Myra, the studio head of comedy played by Daisy Haggard, while a fairly minor role is hilariously humorless with a constant visage of constipated ignorance.

While it is not a total laugh-riot (like say “Austin Powers 3” which had no right to be as funny as it was simply because a guy had a mole) “Episodes” is smart and i will take smart-funny over dumb-funny any day of the week.  The English-American synthesis is something new and interesting and i will certainly be watching this series in its entirety, while it still exits, and being suitably distressed when it is canceled after only one season, as inevitably it will be.  Nothing this witty, sharp and smart will survive the rigors of US television ratings, not even on cable (RIP Party down.  If you haven’t seen it – DO!).

El Bludgerino (if you’re not into that whole brevity thing)

*review may not have actually been written

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I have a Man-Crush on Casey Affleck (and other reasons he’s going to be a star)

I have a man-crush on Casey Affleck.  It’s true, i can’t deny these feelings any longer, i have to give into them and allow myself to deal with it in my own way.  Perhaps the most unsettling thing about this whole situation is that i first became truly conscious of my feelings for Casey while watching him pummel both Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba to death in the highly sinister “The Killer inside me”.  Hmm…

The killer inside me was directed by the often controversial Michael Winterbottom and this film was no exception.  The graphic and sadistic nature of the violence drew the ire of many critics, predictably leading to calls for it to be banned.  The story is narrated by Deputy Lou Ford (Affleck *sigh*) and tells the story of his eventual undoing for a series of callous, self-interested murders.  Shot and styled after the American gothic neo-noir oeuvre, it is a grueling endeavour but Afflecks performance is absolutely worth it.

While the violence is shocking it is never without context, the character of Lou Ford is a psychopath and it is in these scenes and the way he responds after the events that we see how truly disturbed he is.  It is through these episodes that we see the deft touch of Affleck, lulling us into a false sense of security with his comforting, caramel southern drawl then chilling us with his sociopathic, calculated savagery.  He plays both sides so effortlessly is difficult at times to be able to determine where the line is, if anywhere.

A little taste for you below:

While for a long time Casey had only minor roles (one of the crazy monster truck driving brothers in the Oceans trilogy) the last few years have definitely been building up to bigger and better things.  In 2007 he was in three films – “Oceans 13”; “The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford” (as the coward Robert Ford – and he was excellent in a wholly excellent film) and “Gone Baby Gone”, his brother Ben’s critically acclaimed directorial debut.  Now well and truly outside of his brothers shadow his next couple of films are:

-an all-star cast comedy heist featuring the likes of Eddie Murphy; Jon Voigt; Dave Chappelle; Alan Alda and Matthew Broderick

-a Ridley Scott directed 1930’s gangster flick (when Ridley’s done with the non-Alien prequel Alien prequel.  If you know what i mean…)

So be on the lookout for Casey Affleck to set your hearts a-flutter and your Oscars a-gonging in the years to come, hopefully he has good things in the future.

“I’m still here” notwithstanding.

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I Love you Natalie Portman! Part II – Attack Of The Drones

There have been some scurrilous rumor’s orbiting the Inter-Webs that Natalie Portman may miss out on an Oscar due to a forthcoming Movie called “No Strings Attached”.  It is being uncharitably labeled as Natalies “Norbit”, the film that theoretically cost Eddie Murphy an Oscar because it was released after nominations had closed but before voting had.  It was apparently so awful that the academy couldn’t bring itself to award the most prestigious statuette in the history of thespianism to such a hack no matter how good he had, or had not been, as James Early in “Dream Girls”.

Those types of comparisons are grossly unfair to both the project and the talent involved in “No Strings Attached”.

First, and most likely foremost, is Natalie’s co-star, the highly talented comic genius (and son of Bruce Willis – Zing!) Ashton Kutcher.  Who can forget that wonderful day in 2003 when televised comedy was revolutionised by the brilliant and thoughtful “Punk’d”?  Or that millennial masterpiece of mystery “Dude, Where’s my Car?”?  And let’s not forget the gentle, sensitive consideration of modern love and relationships that was “Beauty and the Geek” which he executive produced.

Doesn't it look Awesome??

But it doesn’t stop there, oh no!  The director of this modern-day-romeo-and-juliet-story is veteran directorial Legend – Ivan Reitman.  The man who brought us the trilogy of Arnie at his side-splitting best: “Twins”; “Kindergarten Cop” and, who could forget, “Junior”.  Not only is he a directorial colossus but as a producer is almost unparalleled in excellence.  Immortal titles like “The Columbus of Sex”; “Death Weekend” and “Cannibal Girls”.  Cinematic classics like “Stop! Or my Mom Will Shoot”, the Beethoven movies (the talking dog, not the pianist) and of course, who could forget the ethereal, “Spacejam”.

And if, despite the stellar array of talent involved, the movie fails to meet the lofty expectations of the academy i’m sure YOU will still be excellent.

With Love

El Bludgerino

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Vampires versus Zombies: The ultimate No-Holds-Barred Cage-Match Smackdown… With Statistics!

Vampires or Zombies?

The question has haunted TV and Movie pundits for the last several weeks and the debate shows no sign of abating.  If you look in the horror section of any bookshop you would think that Vampires had already triumphed, taken the trophy to Transylvania and started massacring virgins by the score.

Or staring pensively at the pre-dawn light wishing they could sunbathe just last time and toying lovingly with a heart-shaped pendant given to them by some emotionally challenged 15-year-old.  Whatever.

But like all good horror villains – Zombies are down but not out.  That takes a head shot! (pause for applause) Try the fish, I’ll be here all week…

But who reads books anymore?  Antiquated symbols of a forgotten era when learning was about thinking and… stuff.  If you want anyone to care, put it on TV.

the makeup team is incredible... those dummy's look incredibly lifelike don't they?

“The Walking Dead” premiered on the US cable network AMC on October 31st and became an instant hit.   The ratings were so impressive that it was renewed for  a full second season of 13 episodes almost immediately despite only being scheduled to run for six in its initial run.  Also despite the creator firing all the writing staff and doing it all himself.  Also despite verging, at times, on the tiresome side of cliché ridden predictable garbage.  Also despite some of the acting being so wooden as to make it hard to see the actors for the trees so to speak.  Also despite reportedly moving so far from the original source material that by the end of season one the TV series no longer bore any resemblance to the graphic novel series that inspired it.  Despite also stealing my awesome idea that i had, like, a year ago! (curse you Darabont!)

Having said all of that though it has Zombies in it.  Shuffling around, chewing stuff.

Coming out to bat for the Vampires though is HBO’s runaway success “True Blood”.  “True Blood” features both wussy Vamps (boo) and nasty vamps (yay!); also werewolves (so 20th century) and were-panthers (choke); shape-shifters (blah) and his family; Maynads (whassat?) and fairies (aww shucks).  However, it does include Anna Paquins breasts on occasion and also features Alexander Skarsgard, the sexiest Scandinavian there ever was.  And of course Deborah-Ann Woll, simply the most gorgeous creature on TV today.

So the TV teams line up pretty well evenly on paper, what about the Ratings, the only score worth keeping in television (for the next few years anyway).

and what a tasty slice of swedish beef he is

“True Blood” has been the highest rated show HBO has ever produced.  The finale of season 3 cashed in 5.4 million total viewers in the US on subscription cable, with no data for DVR or internet downloads.  That was the second highest rated episode of the season, 60,000 short of the season high the week prior.  So, using some fuzzy math you could estimate a weekly average across the season, conservatively, at between 4 and 4.5 million.

On the other side however, we have a clear winner with the “Walking Dead” pulling in a season average, albeit over only six episodes, of 6,644,000 total viewers, making it the 5th most watched premium cable show for the year.  As well as that though it topped the rankings for the all important 18-49 demographic pulling an average 4,545,000 in that demo alone.

Zombies 1: Vampires 0.

Aha, i hear you ask what about movies?  Surely with the enormous suck-cess of the pouty bloodsuckers and the virginal rebel, Vampires are clearly going to even the score?  Let’s check the 2010 box-office results for the judge’s decision.

For the Vampires, the champion and MVP “Twilight: something-or-other” and the lamest supernatural beasties ever what with their constant blue-steel faces and their incessant whining about “oohh, i can’t touch that”.  Total global box office takings of $US629.9 million.  Another bloodsucker is the imaginatively titled “Vampires Suck” created by the genius behind top flight films: “Scary Movie”;”Epic Movie” etc.  Total box-office $US36.6 million.  Making up the bench for the fangers is the american remake of the swedish film adaptation of the novel “Let Me In” with $US12.1 million.  I never saw the American film but I imagine it wasn’t as good as the Swedish one, which wasn’t as good as the book.

So based on these 3 plus another 10 million or so for crappy foreign movies that don’t rate a mention (ie “Daybreakers”, the Australian abortion featuring a particularly depressed looking Sam Neill) that brings the total up to about $US690 million.

Starting a fair way behind for the Zombies is “Resident Evil… um… 3…? 4…?” The latest and by far the least coherent.  Also, Milla Jovovich’s acting seems to have inexplicably gotten worse as the series and gone on.  There are slo-mo bits, there is the selfish one who gets eaten and the heroic survivor – all set to a faux Reznorian soundtrack.  Fresh!  Box-office takings $US282.3 million.  Also on team Zombie, “The Crazies”, a remake of a 1973 George Romero classic where a virus is released in a small town blah blah blah – you know the rest.  The 2010 reboot does star Timothy Olyphant at his smoldering best playing a… you guessed it, a small town sheriff.   Total box-office $US39.1 million.  After that it’s pretty slim pickings for Zombies so add another $US10 million for random foreign films (i’m sure the Koreans or the Thais have made a couple) that makes about $US 332 million.

So After the scores are tallied it looks it’s a tie on all fronts – Zombies are clearly the favoured TV beastie of choice but the Pouty Mormonisms of the Twilight juggernaut just keeps on rolling, and with two more due this year and the next respectively, the future looks bleak for the shambling, moaning masses.

Still, there’s always “Left4Dead”, try making a computer game where you get points for love, hippies.

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I love you Natalie Portman! (and you should win the Best Actress Oscar for Black Swan)

She’s Done it!  After only 1 previous nomination the delightful Natalie Portman has all but assured her place on the Oscar walk of Fame by picking up the highly dubious, but highly visible, Golden Globe Best-Actress-in-a-Drama-or-Documentary-or-Pet-Show-or-Aeroplane.  That she did so without being taunted by the hilariously acerbic Ricky Gervais as he roasted, er hosted this years ceremony simply proves that she is Americas little sweetheart.  This win virtually closes the books on the Oscar providing that Warren Beatty doesn’t pull any strings to get his wife another award.  And Hilary Swank is always dangerous at the pointy end of the season even if nobody knows the name of the film she is in.  Colin Firth appears to have closed out the best actor category with is victory in “The Stuttering King” or whatever it’s called.  As a result any suspense regarding the 2 premier acting statues would appear to have deflated as the critical and popular plaudits continue to flow almost universally towards these two fine actors.

Not having seen the King’s Speech as yet i cannot comment on the merits of Mr Firthses reprisal of King George the 9th, or whatever, though all signs point to a resounding win, Bridges or no Bridges.  I can, however,  expound liberally on why Natalie Portman should win for her pirouette in Black Swan.  And i will…

But first, for those of you who have not yet seen this film, a short description.  But you really should see it though, it is excellent.

Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is an unusual film, a seeming hodge-podge of sexy-thriller, decent-into-madness-psychodrama, dancer-coming-of-age, and intimate-look-at-the-torturous-world-of-ballet.  It is a difficult film to describe, never mind categorise.

I would describe it in Player-speak as Fight Club meets Center Stage… with a heart.

The film revolves around a prestigious New York Ballet company as they prepare to launch a new season with that old toe-tapper Swan Lake.  Natalie Portman plays Nina, a gifted but naive dancer, who wants this to be her breakout role but has to convince the sexy-but-sleazy choreographer Thomas (played by french guy Vincent Cassel, about whom i know nothing) that she can be the temptress the role of the Black swan demands.  He insists she confront her awakening sexuality in order to fully inhabit the role when along comes the Dark and sexy Lily (Family Guys’ Mila Kunis… you know, the voice of Meg?).  After some mild hanky-panky between Nina and Thomas she is cast as the title role.  From here Nina starts to unravel and becomes progressively more unhinged, loosening off into fantastic hallucination sequences and an increasing sense of paranoia.  This all culminates in a wonderful ballet-within-the-film-within-the-ballet dance number finale that features Nina achieving perfection as a real swan and aggressively making out with Thomas between numbers.  I won’t reveal the final twist, needless to say it involves a swan…

Some Black Swan

The Best Bits of Black Swan

As i said earlier it is a film that almost defies description without seeing it for yourself but it is the enthralling performance of Natalie Portman that… well, enthralls the audience for the duration.

She takes us inside Nina’s cossetted little world, helps us to feel her naive innocence and her deep love of dance.  We feel her pain as she undergoes the rigors of professional ballet and the strain that places on her body (her pain was not solely acting either – there is a scene where Nina is receiving physio for an injury but in fact this was an unscripted sequence filmed after Natalie suffered a rib cartilage injury and received on set treatment from the New York Ballet physiotherapist on site).  Portman inhabits Nina so completely that we cannot help but feel her righteous anger as she breaks her mothers hand and then twists it to escape after being locked in her room.  When she cries, you want to cry with her – genuinely, without the interference of an obnoxious score.  During the love scene between Nina and Lily you feel the unbridled release of sexual tension as she does.  It is the sensitivity with which Natalie portrays Nina that is most startling.  Her shy restraint makes the other actors in every scene look a wooden by comparison.  No disrespect to Kunis et al but Ms Portman is literally acting on a higher level here.

Undoubtedly Natalie is a very attractive woman and has exactly the right flavour of demure to be convincing as the virginal White Swan but that is what makes her eventual transformation to the Black Swan so very powerful.  That and some excellent make-up and visual trickery from Director Aronofsky.  Bur still…

So in conclusion, having seen all the competition for this years best Actress race – except Nicole Kidman whom i shall soon be watching in Rabbit Hole – this year is a lock, It’s Natalie all the way for mine.

 

P.S. Kidman uses Botox – it’s official!

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