Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bye bye 2008!

As 2008 gasps its last breath, is there anyone looking back at the last 12 months and thinking "that was awesome, let's do it all again next year!"? Anyone? Bueller?

While there were some fun times, on the whole my 2008 was a lousy pile of suck. Personally and professionally, it's been a fucking difficult and not at all fun year. I've come very close to quitting and (I recently discovered) I came quite close to being sacked. I don't have a boyfriend, I'm still in masses of debt, blah blah blah.

And 2009 doesn't look like it's going to be any more fun right now. So, for the first time in a while, I'm making some resolutions that will give me some focus and hopefully make 2009 that little bit more bearable than 2008.

1. Join Facebook. Resistance is apparently futile. I will not be playing any fucking Scrabble though.

2. Lose weight. I battled with my weight this year and did manage to drop 30 pounds. While that's not to be sniffed at, it's not exactly earth shattering either. I can, and will, do better.

3. Hit my savings target. I have a goal and I'm not exactly a million miles away from it. I have to dip in to the savings next month to bail out the New York trip but after that I have to sort my shit out and knuckle down so that by this time next year, my savings goal has been reached and I can breathe easy.

There that's it. I know it's hardly an exhaustive list but given that my only resolution for the past few years has been to not make any resolutions, I think that's pretty good.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Bit Of A Do(n't)

I'm sure it can have escaped nobody's attention that it's the holiday season and Christmas is so very nearly upon us. We're firmly into "Work Christmas Party" time. I work for one of the bazillions of companies that have been negatively impacted by the global recession so the festivities were on something of a smaller scale than in previous years.

And yet still, somehow, it managed to be a messy messy evening. I had originally planned to stay for one or two drinks and be home at a reasonable hour. Why I planned this I do not know as it never ever works. So of course, there I was at midnight, seven hours after arriving, drunk off my ass, snogging straight boys (who had snogged me first), snogging girls (who asked me to), telling people things I swore I would never breathe a word of (in vino veritas to the max). It actually got pretty intense for a while too. For the people keeping score, I have been hating my job for a fair while now. When I was really in the thick of hating it, I was acting out a lot and not really thinking about what I was doing. Never a wise move and I got into a long and drawn out conversation with a colleague about what issues that behaviour had caused. It was not fun. Luckily I'm in a better place and was able to deal with it, but on top of the unexpected tongue kissing and the blabbing about all the people on our floor that I would have sex with and whose cocks I'd taken peeks at at the urinals in the staff toilets, it was all just a little much.

Yesterday was lost to hangover (I haven't had a hangover in a really long time, so I wallowed) and I am supposed to be at the gym right now but I find myself still in bed, updating the blog on my laptop. I got really sick when I came back from NYC, I got a really bad cold/very mild flu and was off work for a day and a half with it last week. I am still waking up with a tight chest and wheezing like an 80 a day smoker with emphysema so I figure it's not wise to go charging to the gym unless i want to end up in an oxygen tent or something. But it's frustrating the everloving crap out of me! I feel really fat and bloaty right now and just want to be back in the routine at the gym. Said routine is going to be even more thrown out of whack in the next two weeks by Christmas and New Year. I am in the dangerous place whereby if i lose my impetus I may never go back and that CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"The phrase 'Mom's pussy' seemed a bit gauche"

On Saturday, I went to see August: Osage County at the National. The jet lag came back around for a last hurrah and woke me at 4am. Consequently I was concerned I would nod off during the show. Not a chance. I was rivetted to my seat for every single one of the show's 210 minutes.

Arriving in the UK on a tidal wave of acclaim and awards, we get 9 out of 13 original Steppenwolf cast members and of the 4 additions, only one of them has had no previous affiliation to the show. It's a pretty fucking top class ensemble with some absolutely mind bendingly fantastic performances. Deanna Dunagan may have won the lion's share of the performance awards, but for me Amy Morton absolutely stole the show.

And what a show. It is one of the most well crafted, exquisitely well observed and written, wonderfully staged and flawlessly directed shows I've seen. Ever. Is it a perfect play? Of course not. It's slow to start and takes its sweet time to get to the final curtain too. It has perhaps one subplot too many and veers a little too strongly toward soap opera every so often. But these, you must understand, are minor quibbles. Is the show an American masterpiece? Without a doubt. I am a little saddened that it's closing here on January 21st at the end of its 8 week limited run. I would love to see it again. And again. As it is I will have to cherish the memory of one of the most glorious afternoons in my theatrical history.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I love Will Young

I didn't watch a single second of Pop Idol when it started in the UK. I didn't really care when Will beat stuttering Gareth Gates to the title. I didn't even care that much when he came out. But when he began to free himself from the shackles of Pop Idol and produced some great songs as well as proving that he could really sing, I began to be interested. Also, in every interview he ever gives, he always seems very sweet, funny and self effacing, not to mention genuinely happy to be where he is and loving doing what he's doing. Compare his attitude to some other people who got their start the same way he did (Alex Parks, Girls Aloud), and it's easy to see why he's so popular.

Currently in the middle of a concert hall, rather than arena sized, tour to promote his latest (and I think best) album, Let It Go, I went to see him perform the other night. And I was blown away. He was fabulous, funny, energetic (a friend who had seen him earlier in the tour said it was like watching Tigger, and I have to agree). This is the first time I'd seen him live and I do think this type of performance (just him and a band, no fuss no mess) suits him down to the ground. Apparently his arena tour for the Keep On album was fabulous too but here's hoping he's found his niche and continues touring like this for the foreseeable.

Also, what a difference a new camera makes! Comparing these pics to the Tori Amos non events of last year, well, there is truly no comparison.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Naked Farmer for December

So here he is. 2008's naked farmer swansong. I feel a little bit sad that it's all over.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

One more step to the top of the city

So when I was in NYC, I did something touristy for the first time in ages. Usually I just hang out with my friends, eat drink, make merry, see shows and shop. While some of that could be deemed touristy, I never really do sightseeing type things. But I went to Top of the Rock, since I'd never been there and I've done the Empire State Building a few times. I took some pics with my new camera and I am actually genuinely proud of some of them.

I went up just as the sun was setting and it made for some really pretty pics I think.

I also took a pic of Radio City just because it looked so gosh darned purty.

And I went to the top of the new TKTS booth in Times Square, since the back of it is now a giant staircase, and took some pics from there too.

The middle picture there is also the wallpaper on my iPhone now. It's easy to forget just how beautiful NYC can be so I'm glad I took these pics to remind me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The play's (not) the thing, Part Two

So here I am, all packed and waiting for the car to come and take me to the airport so I thought I would fill in the time with updating on the final shows I saw on my trip.

You CAN Stop The Beat

Just getting a head start on all the article headlines that will be published on Jan 4th. I had a rule that I would not see any shows that I had already seen or that I could see in London. I broke it twice over when I saw Hairspray and I broke it for one reason: Harvey Fierstein. He was the best thing about the show when I first saw it and so his return could not be missed. I was supposed to see it with a friend who loves the show as much as I do but he bailed on me at the last minute, so fuck him. As it was, I WAS SO GLAD I saw it alone because I forgot until it started that the show makes me weep. So I boo hooed my way through "I Can Hear The Bells" in Act One and then through "Without Love", "I Know Where I've Been" and "You Can't Stop The Beat" in Act Two. I could see the woman sat next to me giving me curious glances in Act One (I wasn't like sobbing or anything but I had tears pouring down my face) and I wanted to just say "yes ok, I'm crying. Problem?"

Harvey Fierstein is without a doubt the most consistent performer I have ever seen. The performance he gave then was the same caliber that I saw in 2003. Phenomenal. So wonderful. A joy. There's only a few weeks left so please, see this show while you still can.

Pink, ponies, happy, sky

Shrek as a musical is not a good idea. It's a show that I went back and forth about seeing but in the end decided that I would go mainly out of a love for Sutton Foster. The rocky out of town tryout in Seattle saw a new choreographer flown in, who also helped with the direction and prior to its Broadway bow, two actors left the production (one not through choice). So I must admit I wasn't expecting great things.

And I didn't get them. But I did have fun. It's a cute and funny show with a solid performance from Brian D'Arcy James in the title role and absolutely magnificent support from Sutton Foster as Fiona and Chris Sieber as Farquaad. John Tartaglia has oddly high billing for such a tiny little role as Pinocchio though. Daniel Breaker, as the new Donkey was fantastic. The songs aren't memorable though and the staging is so very big, so very busy and actually quite ugly. Whether it will succeed or not remains to be seen as their opening night is still several weeks away.

Hi everybody! My name's Katie. What's yours?

All My Sons is quite possibly one of the finest plays of the twentieth century. I saw what is now considered to be a landmark production at the National Theatre back in 2000, starring Julie Walters, Ben Daniels, Catherine McCormack and James Hazeldine. It was so incredible that I went back to see it again when it was brought back by popular demand, this time with Laurie Metcalfe replacing Walters as Kate Keller.

With the bar set that high, it was always going to be tough to get near it. That this new production falls so enormously short is a real surprise. The problem is the direction. A play as incredible as this does not need to be so frantically and fussily directed. We don't need the cast to be sat visibly on the stage when they're not actually in a scene. We don't need them all to randomly cross over the stage during key monologues. We don't need "important lines" of dialogue to be amplified, thereby underpinning their importance. We certainly don't need John Lithgow to announce to the audience that they're about to perform the play and read the initial stage direction. Nor do we need projections, telling us which Act it is, when it's intermission and also projecting war imagery for no good reason throughout. With that to contend with, the play has to put up a valiant fight to be heard. It emerges, bloody but unbowed, proving the strength of the original material.

Dianne Wiest, one of the main reasons I wanted to see this production, was out. Annoying. John Lithgow was fine, Patrick Wilson was serviceable, Becky Ann Baker was fantastic in a small but key role. Katie Holmes obviously took it to heart that the main criticism levelled at "Hollywood" actors when they come to Broadway is that you can't hear them so she bellows her way through the role. The performance is otherwise fine, kind of like Jennifer Garner in the Cyrano revival last year, she neither embarrasses herself, nor does she blow you away. I just could not get past the unnecessary and intrusive direction. Horrible.

I know bad, I've been bad

Mamet briefly had two plays revived on Broadway in the same season. The terrible American Buffalo opened at the beginning of last week to predictably bad reviews and has already closed. Speed-The-Plow is doing significantly better. It does of course have the curiosity factor of being the show Madonna made her Broadway debut in.

I've seen clips of the pivotal "I've been bad" speech from her and it's pretty horrible. Luckily, the revival has three absolutely stellar performances to carry it along. Jeremy Piven and Raul Esparza are both terrific but the stand out is Elisabeth Moss who was so quiet and unassuming in her performance that you never really knew if she was trying to give herself a leg up in the job world, or tear Piven down. I thought she was fabulous. The play is a mere 70 minutes and so is performed without intermission. 25 minutes into the play, a latecomer appears. She's front row centre. Somehow, she's allowed to take her seat and climbs over people, holding on to the stage for balance. Jeremy Piven singled her out during the Broadway Cares speech for some embarrassment, which was pleasing. I could NOT believe she was allowed to take her seat and didn't stand at the back for the performance.

Every night. Bended knee.

Horton Foote is about a million years old and still going strong. He wrote Dividing The Estate a fair while ago and it's had regional stagings in the past twenty years but has never been in New York. When it was off Broadway, he pulled it from award contention when, due to the age of the play, the Lortel committee wanted to consider it a revival. One wonders, now that it's opened on Broadway and has Tony possibilities, whether history will repeat itself.

Kind of August: Osage County Lite, the play concerns a family who are cash poor but land rich and the infighting that goes on between parents, grandparents and siblings over whether the estate should be divided or not. It was charming and amusing enough (particularly the playwright's 55 year old daughter Hallie, who looks incredible for her age) and Elizabeth Ashley is regal and imposing enough as the owner of said estate. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't swept away and bowled over by it.

Short and sweet

I spent Thursday with my dear friend Lottie and then had the evening to myself before meeting Christina at 11 for the midnight showing of Twilight (it had to be done). So I had some time to kill, I took myself off to TKTS to see what was there, hoping for Pal Joey. Nope. Not there. That is the last Broadway show I wanted to see, so I looked at the off-Broadway listings and selected Saturn Returns, a play at the Mitzi Newhouse, which is a gorgeous little theatre and sounds intriguing enough.

It's one man, seen at thirty year intervals of his life, aged 28, 58 and 88. Three different actors take on the role and are all wonderful, particularly John McMartin as the oldest incarnation. Special mention has to go to Rosie Benton who plays three different women in his life and is absolutely glorious at all of them (at 88, she's his care nurse, at 58, his daughter and 28, his wife). It's a beautiful and moving play and as it unfolds and you learn about this man's tragic life, it's absolutely heartbreaking. It is the best play I've seen on my trip in fact.

Bewitched, bothered and bored to tears

Oh Pal Joey. I got a ticket to see this on Saturday night. Christian Hoff was off for the weekend with a foot injury and so I saw his understudy, Matt Risch. As we all now know, Hoff is gone for good and Risch has the role permanently. So technically I didn't see the understudy, I saw the first performance of the new lead actor. Of course, gossip and rumor are flying that Hoff was not that injured and it's a cover story for getting rid of him as he wasn't working in the role. Whatever.

All I know is, the show itself doesn't work. This time there's been a book overhaul, characters eliminated, songs moved around and still, still it's not an interesting show. The problem may be the fact that you don't like any of the characters. Or that only two of the songs in the whole damn show get any room to breathe (Bewitched, bothered and bewildered and of course, Zip!). There's just something that doesn't quite work.

I can't really judge Risch as he'd had like a day of rehearsal before being thrown on the stage but he coped very well and I'm sure by opening night his performance will be fully there. Stockard Channing was a bit of disappointment. Her comic timing was fine enough but her singing was horrible. She actually spoke all her songs and didn't seem terribly interested in them while she was doing it. The show belongs to Martha Plimpton, who, as Gladys Bumps, now gets the act two showstopper of Zip! and knocks it out of the park. See it, if only for her.

And that, as they say, is that. It's been a wild ride in NYC and I'm really sad to be going back home but all good things have to come to an end I guess.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The play's (not) the thing (part 1)

So I'm heading towards the end of my trip now and I haven't mentioned a single show since Gypsy and I've seen a ton of them! So here, in chronological order, are my takes on them:

American Buffa-huh?

Why did they think casting Cedric The Entertainer in a Mamet play would be a good fit? And Haley Joel Osment has not grown into his looks. His looks have, in fact, stayed exactly where they were and his head has grown which makes him look like he's a little bit simple. They're both outclassed by Jon Leguizamo, the only one of the trio who is a good fit to Mamet and looks like he knows what he's doing on the stage. The play itself has not really aged well and I was left wondering why they'd bothered with this revival. Clearly I am not alone in thinking that as after opening night this past Monday brought them a wealth of mediocre reviews, they will be closing this Sunday. Don't see it, even though you still can.


I had such high hopes for A Man For All Seasons. These were cruelly dashed. It's a hugely boring play and while Frank Langella is absolutely wonderful, he's so much better than literally EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE CAST, it's like he's in a different play altogether. I had a couple of beers with dinner which was a mistake because, try as I might, I could not stay awake in Act One. So dull.


The Seagull is an odd play, being somewhat self reflexive as it focuses on actors and writers. It does have, at its centre, an absolutely remarkable performance from Kristin Scott Thomas, which everybody should see. The casting of a few American actors has unbalanced the show, unfortunately, but it is still worth seeing, if only for her.

I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love

The revival of South Pacific is, without a doubt, the best show I've seen on my trip. I only booked it because it was THE show to see, I wasn't necessarily interested in the piece itself. My only exposure to the show up to this point was seeing the godawful TV movie version with Glenn Close as a woefully miscast Nellie Forbush. Well, this is an absolutely wonderful production, with some fabulous performances in it. Kelli O'Hara is glorious, luminous and radiant as Nellie Forbush. Paulo Szot, as Emile De Becque, brings the house down whenever he sings, particularly in "This Nearly Was Mine". Matthew Morrison is also wonderful in the smaller role of Joseph Cable. And he takes his shirt off, which is never a bad thing. I was very moved and a little tearful by the curtain call. Loved it so much. Would see it again in a heartbeat only it's sold out and it's damned expensive.

Artificial Respiration

The New Group have chosen to revive Kevin Elyot's seven year old play, Mouth to Mouth and give it a New York airing. Why, I don't know. I saw it in the UK when it had its premiere and I loved it. The cast, with the exception of the wonderful Elisabeth Jasicki, struggle with the British accent. The play is still slight but heartbreaking and worth seeing. It's a shame I'm not here for The New Group's next production, as a revival of Mourning Becomes Electra with Jena Malone and Lili Taylor sounds thrilling.

Christ, I've seen so many I'm gonna have to split this entry in half!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gossip Girl here....

No, not really. I have the WORST record for spotting celebrities. I spent a 15 day vacation in LA and saw NOBODY! But since arriving on this trip, I haven't been doing too badly. So, in order to tie in the title of this entry:

Spotted, in the west village: Famke Janssen.

Spotted on the L Train: Julianne Moore.

Spotted at the Walter Kerr Theatre box office: John Turturro.

Spotted in the audience of Shrek: The Musical: John Lithgow and Wilson Cruz.

Seeing any one of those would have been unheard of for me. But to see all of them is frankly ridiculous. But fun.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm a pretty girl, Momma!

So here we are on day 3 of my NYC trip and it seems Gordon Brown is intent on ensuring my stay in debtor's prison. Thanks to the UK's endless bleating about just how awful the economy is, the exchange rate is at a new six year low of $1.48. This time last year I was getting about $1.97 and I didn't a new iPod then.

Aside from that, I am having a pretty glorious time so far. I headed off my cold at the pass with a major dose of Theraflu on Tuesday, which is good. I had a suspicion that sitting in wet clothes on a plane for hours on end would result in my getting sick and when I woke up with a sore throat on Tuesday morning I just thought "hell no". Usually I ignore being sick and don't do anything about it but not this time. I also hit the shops on Tuesday and got some winter boots and a few things from Old Navy but I wasn't overly inspired by the flagship store on 34th Street. I'll check out the one in Chelsea today and see if that's any better. After the shopping and a spot of lunch, Eric, another friend and I headed for Jacques Torres to get some Wicked hot chocolate which was absolutely glorious. I then left them and met with another friend for dinner at Cafeteria. The food was pretty incredible but man was I ever full by this point! After that it was hauling ass to get to Gypsy on time. Thank God they're one of very few shows who don't do Tuesday at 7.

The show is all about the Lupone. I think Gypsy is hamstrung by the fact you're not allowed to do anything different with it in terms of staging and you have very little wiggle room in direction. But this is directed by Laurents himself and Lupone has been dying to sink her teeth into Mamma Rose for years and the lightning in a bottle that pairing has created is a must see. Of course, Lupone has always been Little Miss Mushmouth and some of the speedier delivered lyrics (parts of "Some People", most of "Mr. Goldstone") is a little garbled. But her performance is in every other way a tour de force. Both "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn" are intense to the point of being almost frightening. Laura Benanti is wonderful too though I was less impressed with Boyd Gaines than the Tony voters were.

Also, is it me, or is Patti Lupone as Mamma Rose

actually Miss Bertha from Acorn Antiques?

After Gypsy I met up with a friend who finished work right around the time the show got out. Due to the cold medication, I thought drinking was not wise and lord knows I couldn't have eaten another thing if you'd paid me, so we went for coffee and then ended up in Virgin Megastore where I manfully resisted buying anything (he wasn't quite so restrained).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hey world*, here I am!

*Well, NYC anyway.

Yes, I have arrived. The much desired 15 day stay in the Big Apple has finally begun. The process to get here was beset by minor annoyances, not least the fact that yesterday morning had world endingly dreadful weather. It was raining fit to beat the band when I left my flat to walk to the station (it was rush hour and raining, a cab was clearly never going to happen) and it had clearly been raining all night as there was a LOT of water around. By the time I got to the station I was soaked from head to toe and had managed to step in a puddle that turned out to be ankle deep. Great. Especially as I was wearing summer shoes as new winter shoes are top of the purchase list in NYC.

So I get to the train station and the Gatwick trains are delayed so the concourse at the station is rammed full of harrassed looking commuters. Brilliant. The delay turned out to be minor (ten minutes) but by the time I got on the train it was standing room only, which was a pain. When I got, to Gatwick, they wanted to see the credit card I'd booked with before they would check me in. Which would be fine if it hadn't been stolen and then the replacement fucked up and not arrived in time. So that took some smooth talking. Then I got frisked at security, then I had my bag searched by security, both of which were travel firsts for me.

I purchased some new socks and another book for the flight (I finished Breaking Dawn, can I get a "thank fuck"?) and then boarded. I'm sat next to a super cute guy which was a blessing but then there's some electrical fault with the plane that delays our take off. Whatever. That gets sorted out and aside from some minor turbulence when we first take off, the flight is then completely event free and I also breeze through immigration and customs to find there is NOBODY waiting for cabs! Awesome. Then the last minor annoyance kicks in and we sit in traffic for what feels like an eternity and I don't get to the diner to meet Eric until almost 4pm, when I was aiming for not much after 3pm.

But it doesn't matter anymore. I'm here and all is right with the world again. This morning sees the beginning of my shopping myself into debtor's prison (Old Navy here I come!) and then tonight it's Gypsy with Ms LuPone. I've already eaten a slice of red velvet cake the size of a kitten (last night for dessert while watching Chuck you understand, not this morning for breakfast) so I feel like I'm home again

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Breaking Bad

No, I'm not going to blog about the dark dark dark show concerning a science teacher turned drug dealer after finding out he's dying of lung cancer. You'll notice that only half the title up there is in italics. No, I want to take a moment to talk about this:

It's absolutely jawdroppingly, breathtakingly shit. I've come so far and I'm so determined to finish this stupid saga (and I plan on going to midnight showing of the movie when I'm in NYC with a friend who has a similar relationship to these books as I), but sweet mother of God is this one ever testing my patience. When a human/vampire hybrid baby being born ISN'T the most retarded event in a narrative, then you know you're in trouble. The saga spans some 2560 pages and I refuse to cave now, with only 300 to go. I'll finish it on the plane on Monday as that way I won't have anything else to distract me (I don't do in flight movies).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Naked Farmer for November

He's a little late. But I think he's worth the wait. I clearly lied in March when I said the best was now behind us.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Piaf encore

On Friday I took a much needed half day from work and went to London to spend the afternoon with a friend of mine I haven't seen in over a year. We've tried to meet up several times but events have conspired to keep us apart so we set Friday in stone. I've been raving about Piaf to anyone who will listen since I saw it, so we went to see if they had any tickets. By some miracle, we got two of the £10 day seats, two rows from the stage.

Sometimes, when intimate little shows move onto bigger stages and play to larger auditoria, something gets lost in the transition and what worked so beautifully then seems so overcooked and flat now. Not so with Piaf which feels every bit as intense and vital as it did the first time I saw it. While my first experience of seeing it can never be recaptured (as I was so completely blindsided by it), I was very happy that a repeat viewing didn't change my overall opinion. I will see it at least once more before it closes, purely for Elena Roger's magnificent portrayal.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Important lessons I learned yesterday

1. Don't eat too much breakfast before going to the gym.

Every weekend, on one of the days I will get up at my usual weekday work time and head on out to the gym to be there for when it opens at 8am and consequently is empty so I can do my work out in peace. On those days, I will grab something tiny on my way out the door to tide me over until I get home for breakfast proper (usually it's a biscuit). However, yesterday I was not coming straight home, I was heading into town first to buy some new pillows for my bed as my old pillows are shite and I've been sleeping badly for a while now. So I figured, to stave off feeling hugely hungry before getting back home, I'd eat breakfast properly first thing, before heading out to the gym.

Big mistake. I thought an hour would be enough time to let the food digest (and it's not like I ate a HUGE breakfast or anything), but I was wrong. I had a huge stitch during most of my workout and it felt a lot more challenging than usual. I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that I sweat a lot during my 45 minutes of cardio but yesterday it looked like I'd been briefly lit on fire before someone thoroughly extinguished me.

2. Pillows are heavy.

I don't know why but it simply didn't occur to me that buying four new pillows, plus their packaging, would be heavy and cumbersome to carry home. By the time I was half way I was beginning to wonder if I would ever regain the feeling in my left arm. Was totally worth it in the end as the pillows are fab and I slept like a dream.

3. There is such a thing as too much television.

I recently discovered the joys of downloading and am currently balancing a whole lot of tv shows.

Currently watching legally:

Eli Stone Season 1
Prison Break Season 4
Heroes Season 3
Medium Season 4
Bones Season 4
Grey's Anatomy Season 4
Fringe Season 1
Breaking Bad Season 1

Currently watching less than legally:

Supernatural Season 4
My Own Worst Enemy Season 1
Easy Money Season 1
The Big Bang Theory Season 2
Californication Season 2
Dexter Season 3
Pushing Daisies Season 2
The Closer Season 4
Chuck Season 2
Weeds Season 4
Dirty Sexy Money Season 2
The Ex List Season 1
Gossip Girl Season 2
Psych Season 3
Ugly Betty Season 3

When the new year rolls around (which will be in a frighteningly short amount of time) and the mid season replacements all start up, there's going to be no room for them! Thank God I don't really have a life so I can try and fit them all in anyway.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gone In (much less than) Sixty Seconds

Yesterday, I went to London for the day. I had tickets for the matinee of Ivanov, the inaugural production of the Donmar's West End Season, starring Kenneth Branagh. In the evening, tickets for a new production of Oedipus, starring Ralph Fiennes. Quite the wonderful day of classy theatre.

After the matinee, I met up with my friend who I was seeing Ralph poke his eyes out with and we went over to Gabriel's Wharf for dinner. While we were there, for the first time EVER, I didn't pay any attention to my bag, I just left it hanging on the back of my chair, under my zippy top.

So of course, some total cunt stole it.

My whole life was in that bag. I'm such a fucking dumbass for leaving the bag where it could be taken without any difficulty (the restaurant was packed to the hilt, my chair backed into a walkway from the outside seating area to the inside so people walked by all the time). My wallet, which had every card (including a brand new card I only got on Thursday of last week) in it, my iPod (which was only just six months old), my security pass for work, my house keys (though mercifully I don't live that near London and there was nothing in the bag that had any address details on it) and finally not one but the two books I am (was) currently reading. Oh, and my train ticket home ,so I had to borrow money from my friend to buy another one to get home. Talk about insult to injury.

I was hugely relieved that just the other day, I took my passport out of my bag. I was also relieved that if this had to happen, it's happened with enough time to get all my cards replaced in good time before I head off to NYC for my desperately needed vacation. I'm only angry at how inconvenient this all is. Having to wait for the new cards to arrive, buying a new wallet, a new bag, a new iPod (which is the costliest thing stolen and the thing I am the maddest about). I already had all the cards stopped, none of them had even attempted to be used since being half inched so all the thief got out of it was my iPod and a couple of books. They probably took my wallet out and ditched the rest of the stuff into the Thames. Then, when they saw there was no cash at all in the wallet, it probably followed swiftly thereafter. All in all, it really took the shine off my day.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Naked Farmer for October

Pinch punch, bitches! I won't bore you with more dull droning on about how I can't get my head around the speed 2008 is running at and statements of "holy crap it's already October". Instead, let's focus on the naked man. We've seen him before, as it's the guy on the cover, but they obviously thought he was hot enough to be featured twice.

And who am I to argue?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hot Guy Monday: Zacahary Levi

I have been very neglectful of my blog lately. It's been a combination of working 6 day weeks on overtime, training a bunch of new hires and simultaneously loathing my job. More about that when I have the energy to write about it. Also, trying to read Eclipse is taking far more effort than it really should. I find myself not wanting to read it yet I refuse to give up. I'm an enigma.

Anyhoodle, today sees the return of the Hot Guy Monday. And what better way to bring it back than with the star of my favourite new show of last year? On the day the second season makes its US debut no less? I loved loved loved Chuck and it was in no small part thanks to the tip top performance from Zachary Levi. I'd never even heard of him before seeing an episode of Chuck (and if I'm honest, it's doubtful I would have watched the show but I was in NY just after its first season started and EVERYONE I knew was enjoying it). But just 20 minutes into the pilot and I was a firm fan of the Levi. Not only was his portrayal of the titular Mr Bartowski a joy to watch, but sweet ever loving Christ, is he hot. Ridiculously tall and unbelievably handsome, I developed a TV crush that is yet to wane.

Seriously, can you blame me?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I couldn't have said it better myself

I just finished reading New Moon recently. It's absolutely godawful. Awful. I can't even begin. I'm sort of saving all the vitriol until I've finished all four of the books. However, I found a review of the book on Pajiba that really went to town. It's one of the most hysterically funny reviews I've read in a long long time and the comments thread beneath it has some corkers in it too. This paragraph made me laugh until I cried:

"New Moon is like what would happen if a coven of mentally delayed witches got high as hell and concocted a brew made up of Romeo & Juliet, “Roswell” the series, a random assortment of romance novel clich├ęs, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, and some disjointed vampire and werewolf stories told to them by a seven-year-old with ADHD. Then the witches feed the brew to a grizzled old dog with rabies, wait for the product of the resulting intestinal distress, smear it all over some paper, and have the unmitigated gall to call it a novel."

Check out the full thing here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Theatrical update

I have recently seen two incredible shows. Work has run me so ragged these past two weeks though that I haven't had the time or the energy to blog about them. How sad is that? Anyway, first things first:


I very nearly didn't bother with this show, several times over. I have a minor obsession with Edith Piaf since seeing La Vie En Rose. When this revival was first announced, I thought "oooooh" and then it was announced that Piaf would be portrayed by Elena Roger and I thought "oh". My only exposure to Elena Roger is the cast recording of the London Evita revival, which is absolutely fucking shocking. She sounds like a cat in a blender on it so I went back and forth and back and forth over whether or not to see it now. Then they announced the rest of the cast and the combination of Luke Evans and Steve John Shepherd were enough to convince me to buy a ticket. And about three days after I did, the entire run had sold out, and this was a few weeks before the first preview.

On the day I was due to see it, I worked an overtime shift from 6am to 1pm and by the time I had got home and got showered, I was so very tired that I almost didn't bother getting myself to London. However, I gave myself a buckle down speech and hauled myself on to a train. And my god am I ever glad I did. Piaf is one of the most outstanding productions I've seen in the last decade and I am SO happy it's transferring to another theatre for 14 weeks due to demand. I plan on seeing it again. And again. The play itself is lightning fast, shrinking her life from discovery to death into 95 minutes and peppering it with a fair few of her most well known songs. But it works with fluid and clever staging and taut direction to match the tight and fast play.

But the real revelation was Elena Roger. She had some pretty big shoes to fill with this, firstly Piaf's and then Marion Cotillard's performance in La Vie En Rose, which will surely be recognised as one of the greatest performances of the last decade soon enough. But Roger rises to the challenge and absolutely tears it up. She's simply phenomenal as Piaf, riveting and fearless. What's more, her singing is absolutely fucking amazing too. Famously Argentinian, Roger is not even slightly French but has learned all the songs for the show phonetically in French, so she sings them in a French accent with flawless pronunciation. It was a bold and brave move for her but it pays off spectacularly. "L'Accordeoniste" is worth the admission price alone. The staging of "Mon Dieu" is breathtaking. But it's the closing of the show with "Je Ne Regrette Rien" that brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. It was so simply and beautifully done that it absolutely slayed me. Gratifyingly, the audience were going bonkers before the lights came back up for the curtain call and when Roger took her solo bow, the reception was deservedly deafening. See it when it transfers. You won't regret it.


Unless you were either very lucky or you are very rich, alas you won't be able to see this most recent revival of Hamlet. The casting of David Tennant in one of THE plays has caused a frenzy, to put it mildly. It is currently in the middle of a three month run at the RSC's home in Stratford-Upon-Avon. In December it transfers to London for another month. The performances in Stratford were sold out a year before performances began and the London run, which went on sale on Friday, sold out in three hours. Tickets are currently on eBay for insane amounts of money.

By luck rather than judgement, I had a ticket for this past Monday evening. My housemate (the crippled lesbian, remember her?) had booked disabled access seats but was too unwell to attend (she has tickets for the last week in Stratford and is going to see it if she has to be carried in on a body board so it's ok). I took a friend of mine who lives a fair distance from me and I don't get to see often enough instead. The Courtyard Theatre, where Hamlet is playing seats 1000 people but feels like it's the size of my front room. There is an enormous stage with seating on three sides in a horseshoe shape. I was in row J but honestly felt like I was practically on stage.

It lives up to its hype and expectation. Tennant is a wonderful Hamlet, amping up the comedic aspects and the lost child aspects of the role but nailing the anger and the tragedy too. His confrontation with his mother resulting in the murder of Polonius was absolutely electrifying and the final showdown was both exciting and beautiful. He is more than matched by Penny Downie as Gertrude of course, who sweeps about the stage in a succession of amazing costumes and delivers a glorious performance. There is not a weak link in the cast, because when you have actors of the calibre of Tennant, Downie and Patrick Stewart, you can't afford one. Mariah Gale, as Ophelia, is out of this world, her mad scene borders on terrifying.

It's telling that this production runs for over three and a half hours, with only one interval and it felt like it was over in no time at all. The first half is just short of two hours but you don't notice or care that your bladder is yelling at you for the pre show drinks you had with dinner. David Tennant has been a stage actor for years and of course has sky rocketed in the fame stakes since becoming Doctor Who. This is a perfectly timed performance to remind everyone that there is an awful lot more to him than that and there is no better way to prove you really can act than by taking on this role. And I say brava. Jude Law closes the Donmar's West End season next summer with their production of Hamlet. The compare and contrast will be fascinating.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Twilight update

I have finished the first book in the Twilight series. I actually quite enjoyed it. I can totally see why there are pre-pubescent girls the world over going absolutely gonzo for it. It's interesting that they're pushing Stephenie Meyer as the next JK Rowling. They're both great story tellers but neither are what you would call amazing writers. Some of the prose in Twilight is so clumsy it's almost painful ("my traitor tears, betraying me" caused me to wince and say "yeah, that's what traitors DO"). But then there were some sequences that were really great, like the "you're my brand of heroin" scene.

However, I am now on to New Moon, the second book in the series, and it's making me want to claw my face off. Bella Swan is a whiny little bitch and the first 150 pages of the book are self indulgent teenage moping at its worst. I found myself shouting "do you EVER fucking cheer up?" at the chapters. And when the moping and the hopeless teenage rebellion is delivered with Meyer's clunky prose and limited vocabulary, it makes it all the more grating. The sentence that mentions "the other unique vampire family" very nearly sent the book hurtling across the room. I wanted to email Meyer and say "Dear Ms Meyer. If something is unique then there cannot, by definition, be something else like it. Love and kisses, PCB". While my patience with the books are really being tested, I am determined to finish them. And with the backlash against the final book currently at full tilt, it looks like I have my work cut out for me.

And as for the upcoming movie? Well I hate to say it but I think it's gonna be a great big pile of suck. Many many internet forums have been overrun with ardent lovers of the book decrying pretty much every aspect of the film's production. Some of the casting is a little bit of a headscratcher (Carlisle in the book sounds absolutely nothing like Peter Facinelli that's for sure. Not least in the fact that he "is claiming to be 33, but can barely pass for 30." Facinelli is 35 and looks it.) But the two trailers that are currently online are just breathtakingly awful. The cutting is so lightning fast that it's pretty difficult to discern what is going on but they seem to have something from New Moon in there and have moved locations and changed costumes for no real reason. I have a feeling that the pre-release hysteria will look like nothing when the fans finally lay eyes on the finished film. If you want to watch the whole movie condensed into 90 seconds then please click here and watch the clips. It's staggering how much they give away. And how bad they look.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

PCB's Television Round-Up 2008. Part 4

Better late than never....


Ok I know this is technically from last year as season 2 is soon to begin airing in the US and its run finished in the UK a while ago, but this is a show worthy of inclusion. If ever a show were to be defined as "classy", it's this one. An intelligent thriller with a complex, nay labyrinthine plot, each week's episode was a masterclass is acting, writing and direction. Glenn Close has started to resemble Mr Punch with the amount of work she's had done and this was occasionally a distraction but other than that I didn't have a single complaint about this show. Some people found the revelations in the finale a little hard to swallow, arguing that the sudden volte face to focus on Patty was just a way to drag the show out to more seasons. I do not agree, as Ellen was very clearly playing Patty at her own game and now will be playing both ends against the middle. If the writing stays as strong and focused, then the next season could be delicious.


Why do I watch this show? Now in its fifth season, I actually gave up on this show a few episodes into season four. I swear the show was cancelled at the end of that season and so I think what drew me back in to the show was to find out exactly what was so brilliant that it had been brought back from the dead. Answer; NOTHING. Relocated to LA, the show spent season five moving ever further into Sunset Beach territory with unbelievably over the top story lines that broke the suspension of my disbelief far too many times. And yet for some reason, I watched the entire season (except for the one episode that was done in a reality show style, that episode I had to switch off it was so godfuckingawful). It was a frustrating experience as the writing constantly undermined what could have been a fun watch. The issues and themes of each episode are writ large with such a heavy hand that it all ends up feeling forced and desperate. And it's a shame because they had some fine guest spots this season, most notably Sharon Gless's batshit crazy turn as Sean's stalker.

Battlestar Galactica

Talk about coitus interruptus. I finally got round to catching up with all things Battlestar and mainlined the miniseries pilot right up to the end of season three in the space of a month, in time for the airing of episode 6 of this current season. As the show had not really been on my radar up to that point, I was not up to date with what was going on with it, production wise. So imagine my surprise to find out that season 4 had been split in half, with 10 episodes airing this year and 10 episodes in 2009. What the fuck? Stupid writer's strike.

Anyway, I personally think season 4 is very very strong. It is one of the best shows around full stop, pretty much. It doesn't try to be glamourous, it doesn't pull a single punch and it doesn't care about killing people off, which is nice as it means nobody is safe. Also, after season three's Cylon revealing finale, the elusive twelfth Cylon could be just about anybody. The show is getting darker and darker as it goes on (season 3 was so relentlessly downbeat that watching it all back to back was very trying) and the mid season cliffhanger of earth being discovered only to find it's in ruins would indicate that season 4 part 2 won't be a barrel of laughs either. And when everything about a show is a flawless as it is on Battlestar, then that is a VERY good thing.


I loved this show. Loved it. It's geektastically ridiculous and in less committed hands a premise as shaky as this would be a disaster. But everyone in the show quite obviously believes in it 110% and it shows. Zachary Levi is both fantastic and super hot in the title role of the nerd who becomes an unwitting super computer and has to be guarded 24/7 by the CIA. The first season was so strong that when the writer's strike stopped this show like it did every other, a full second season was ordered. And I say brava.


I never expected this show to a) last as long as it has or b) be as good as it's become. Did anyone? I mean, McG (about to drive the final nail into the Terminator franchise) is the show's producer. But the easy chemistry between the two leads and the humour that the show never loses sight of are just two of the things that managed to elevate this into "must watch" territory. This season seemed to lose focus of its central premise (Dean's deal for his soul) and introduced an important character far too late, but once again I'm blaming the writer's strike for that. And I am hoping that the massively incoherent ending to the season finale will be explained in the beginning of the imminent 4th season. This season really wasn't afraid of going to some dark places with some seriously creepy storylines. And the final shot of the finale was truly the nastiest this show has ever been. Keep it up!

Gossip Girl

I know I know. I'm not the show's demographic, but do you forget I'm also reading the Twilight books? Anyway, in full disclosure, I only watched the show because I know someone who works on it. But that didn't stop me thoroughly and guiltily enjoying the show. Superficial, bitchy, glossy, tons of fun and packed with ridiculously pretty people, what's not to like? I did like that when the show called for it, it didn't shy away from adapting a more serious tone too. But for the most part, this was Dynasty in high school and I just loved every minute of it. I know that season 2 has just started airing in the US, it won't start here until 2009 I don't think.

That is currently that for 2008. Ugly Betty's second season finally picks back up in the UK this week, and season 4 of both Medium and Grey's Anatomy start up in a couple of weeks. Breaking Bad and Burn Notice make their UK debuts pretty soon too. Is there nothing I won't watch? Yes. Private Practice. What a pile of shit.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Another one bites the dust

The Talk. He blew me away in Mauritus and so I'm all for seeing Bobby Cannavale again.

After Godspell cancelled its Broadway run the same day I posted my list of shows I wanted to see, I wondered to myself if any other show on the list would end up not materialising. Yesterday, Naked Angels announced that The Talk had been withdrawn from its line up. No real surprise given that it was supposed to begin performances in less than a week and since the original announcement there had been NOTHING said about it. But still, it's disappointing.

In other theatre related news, and on a more positive note, it was confirmed yesterday that the London run of August: Osage County would have all but 4 of the original Broadway cast. The two Tony winners, as well as Amy Morton will all be present and correct. I'm even more excited about it now than I was after I managed to book tickets on the hopeless National Theatre website.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Naked Farmer for September

I realise it's become a recurring theme on this blog of late but seriously, where IS this year going????? Where did the summer go? It's a madness I tells you. Anyway here's this month's naked farmer. Enjoy him.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An open letter to the National Theatre

Get a better website. And while you're at it, hire more staff for your box office and install more phone lines.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to join the National Theatre as an Advance Member as it barely cost a thing and it gives you a week's head start on the great unwashed when it comes to booking tickets. As their upcoming season contained the UK premiere of the awards juggernaut August: Osage County as well as the world premiere of a new David Hare play, Gethsemane, not to mention an additional booking period for their runaway hit War Horse, I was expecting it to be busy.

What I did not expect was the frailty of their website. I logged on at a fraction after 9am to book tickets for the first two plays I mentioned in the earlier paragraph. It should have taken minutes, given that I had a specific date in mind for both shows and wasn't going to be trawling through months of performances to get the best seats or anything. at 9:25am, after multiple crashes, freezes, and most frustratingly of all, website time outs that emptied my order and released the seats I was trying to buy, I decided a two pronged attack was in order, and I called the box office. I get a recorded message telling me their opening hours are from 9:30am. Fine. I call back at 9:30am, I get the busy signal. Not an eternal wait in a queue, oh no. I can't even get through. So I put my headset on and constantly press redial with one hand and battle with their website with the other, becoming increasingly vocal with it all as time goes on and people from several desks away are starting to eye me warily, in case I suddenly go all James McAvoy in Wanted on them.

At one point, I'd somehow, thanks to their evil and hopeless website, got 6 tickets in my order for Osage County when I only needed 2 and was completely unable to access the seating plan for Gethsemane. It drove me absolutely fucking NUTS, especially when I decided to approach with caution and book the shows separately only to have the payment page continually crash on me. After my final time out during payment for Gethsemane, when I got the message that my order was empty, I tried very hard not to cry and then went back to the seating plan. The seats I'd been booking are gone. Hmmmmm. I checked my email, lo and behold there is a confirmation email for my failed booking. Whatever. All I know is it's now 10:20am and it's taken me 80 minutes to do what should only have taken 8. And not once did I manage to get anything other than the busy signal on the phone. After this, if the shows are disappointing, I'm gonna torch the fucking building.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I never met a phenomenon I didn't like

I resisted Harry Potter for several years before caving in and becoming an ardent fan. It was the movies of the books that did it. I watched the first one and thought "Wow this is a TERRIBLE movie, surely the book is better" and so I was compelled to find out.

In a serendipitous twist, the latest Harry Potter movie has been delayed by eight months because Warner Bros are a bunch of money grabbing asshats. That left the pre-Thanksgiving weekend wide open and so the Twilight movie ran to fill the gap. I've become increasingly curious about the books but everything I read about them points out they couldn't be aimed at me less. I'm neither a teenager nor a girl. But as I'll be in the US when the film opens and will go to see it so I can see what all the fuss is about, I also caved in and bought the books.

So, like Kaleb Nation, I am also a guy reading the Twilight books. I'm only reading them indoors as I can't be bothered to justify my reasons for reading them to everyone I encounter with a raised eyebrow (which would probably be like, everybody). So in public it's all about the grown up stuff. I'm a teenage girl in secret. So no change there then.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Return to the Homeland

In just under three months, I'm going back to NYC for a 12 day vacation. I'm very very much looking forward to it. In addition to catching up with old friends, eating, drinking and generally making merry, I will of course be catching some shows. When I originally booked my flight, there were just 3 shows I was wanting to see. But wouldn't you know, the number keeps on growing. Currently on the hit list is:

All My Sons. The cast is amazing with one exception. I'll leave it to you to guess who I mean.
American Buffalo. Since I saw Mauritius on my last trip, it seems fitting to see the play which heavily inspired it this time around.
Dividing The Estate. Controversially withdrawn from awards consideration by its author when running off-Broadway, I figure as I'm seeing August: Osage County in London, this will fill that gap.
Godspell. Gavin Creel has never really wowed me but then I've never seen him in anything that would really give him cause to. Maybe this will change it all. Or not.
Gypsy. I missed Bernadette Peters when she did it five years ago, so Patti will be my first Mama Rose.
A Man For All Seasons. I have a sudden intense interest in Henry VIII, so this has become something of a must see.
Pal Joey. With a cast including Martha Plimpton and Stockard Channing, this should prove endlessly fascinating.
The Seagull. Leaving aside my current insane loathing of the title creature, I am just dying to see this. I didn't have a chance to see it in its original sold out London run, and now it's heading to Broadway, the main players intact but for one crucial change. Chiwetel Ejiofor has been replaced by Peter Sarsgaard. I am a HUGE fan of Peter Sarsgaard so I'm even more excited to see this now.
Shrek. I know, I know. This has potential to be absolutely godfuckingawful and I will wait until the reviews from the recently commenced out of town tryout are in before I decide on a ticket purchase.
South Pacific. The big award winner of the 2007 season, this is a seriously hot ticket. So much so that I am going to have to book it pretty much now to ensure I get a seat.
Speed The Plow. My love of Jeremy Piven knows no bounds.
The Talk. He blew me away in Mauritus and so I'm all for seeing Bobby Cannavale again.

Inevitably, I won't get to see all of these. But in an ideal world, I'd fit all these in and more besides. We'll see.....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It's a good thing I just had a pay rise

I don't think anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds looking at my blog can not know that I am a HUGE fan of Tori Amos. My devotion briefly wavered with her latest release American Doll Posse, but then right thinking kicked back in, I saw her twice on tour in NYC and was back to the full time devotion of her that has had many of my friends rolling their eyes at me and saying "still?"

Yes, still. The tour for American Doll Posse produced some of the best live performances she's ever done and since every show she does is different, the illegal recordings of her performances have been both plentiful and highly sought after. For the 2005 solo tour to accompany the release of The Beekeeper saw her release six "official" bootlegs, one of which was the London show I attended where she was joined on four songs by a gospel choir and is still one of the best concerts I've ever been to, ever. For the Posse, Amos took it to the next level and recorded 22 of the shows for release, starting with the show the night AFTER I saw her.

These recordings were only available via download to residents of North America and Canada, on a website called Legs & Boots. Not long after the end of the tour, the website closed down and that, I thought, was that. But recently, Epic decided not to renew her contract (hardly a shock since each album she's produced for them has been progressively less successful) and so Tori Amos is finally truly independent and free to do as she pleases. And if you look over yonder at my iTunes purchases, you'll see that one of the first things she has seen to is making all 22 shows available on the iTunes store in Europe, as well as the USA and Canada. Some, though by no means all, have a bonus track from the sound check into the bargain. I am in gay fan boy heaven and while my wallet is going to be hurting, it's going to be worth every penny.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Naked Farmer for August

No, I can't believe it's August either. So here's the pic of the farmer I am going to have adorning my desk for the next 31 days. The past couple of months seem to have demonstrated I did the calendar a disservice back in March when I announced it would all be downhill from there on in. What do we think?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Some good thoughts for The Boogs

My dear friend Southern Boy, whose hospitality I abuse on a regular basis is one of my favourite people on this earth. He also happens to be proud daddy to one of my favourite pooches on this earth, his pug Xander, aka The Boogs. This weekend just gone, Xander had a big fat health scare and for a few horrible hours, it looked like the cutest pug you ever did see was not long for this world.

Happily, he is now on the road to recovery and it looks like by the end of this week he'll be back to his crazy adorable self and everything is right with the world. Phew. So think good thoughts, people. Southern Boy and his pug could use them.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I wanted to love this. I really truly did. I went into it wanting to emerge as if I hadn't breathed for two and a half hours. But I couldn't do it. I didn't love it. I only enjoyed it sporadically. It was, overall, a crushing disappointment.

There are many good things about it, don't get me wrong. Aaron Eckhart did a bang up job and had the most satisfying character arc in the movie as Harvey Dent. His evolution into Two Face was beautifully done and he handled it just right. Every single action sequence, from the opening heist onwards, was thrillingly executed. And of course, Heath Ledger steals the film as The Joker with a performance that inhabits the role to an occasionally frightening degree. When he's onscreen, he is absolutely mesmerising. And that's not hyperbole because he died at 28 and before the film was released either. It's a seriously intense portrayal.

Bale as Wayne is great too, but in all honesty I didn't love his Batman and a lot of that was to do with the entirely ridiculous bass growl he affects for that persona. Maybe the suit constricts his vocal chords, I don't know, but what I do know is I couldn't really understand what he was saying half the time. The film runs two and a half hours and could have taken a complex plot filled with complex characters and given them all room to breathe. Instead, it takes about three complex plots along with myriad sub plots and suffocates them all with hyperkinetic editing before screeching to a halt for some seriously ham fisted and clumsy preaching.

Ultimately, I think this was (for the most part) incredibly well acted film that was also astoundingly well directed. It was just let down by a script that had simultaneously too much and not enough going on.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A cinematic glance ahead

Since I'm suddenly in a movie frame of mind (geddit?), I thought I'd take a look at what's waiting for us once the summer is out of the way. While this summer has been far better than, possibly even the best of, recent years, there's still no denying that the summer can leave those who like to leaven their blockbuster intake with some quieter and more thoughtful movies, a tad bit unsatisfied. The one film that looks capable of satisfying both at once arrives tomorrow, having smashed records practically every five minutes since opening last weekend in the USA. Yes, I'm talking about The Dark Knight. So what's coming up further ahead that's arousing my interest?

Eden Lake (September 5th). Yes yes, I realise I'm starting a supposedly cerebral list with what looks like a tacky horror movie. But the thing is, I love Kelly Reilly and would see her in anything, including this. She's a fiercely intelligent not to mention staggeringly talented actress who I've been besotted with for some time now. Plus this comes from Optimum Releasing, who just opened the surprisingly good Donkey Punch (which I saw over the weekend, more on that later).

The Duchess (September 5th). I'm torn about this as it looks like a sumptuous period drama with a fabulous supporting cast (Ralph Fiennes, Hayley Atwell, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper and so on). None of that can detract from the fact it has Keira Knightley in the title role as the Duchess of Devonshire. She is a horribly limited actress and her refusal to unclench her jaw when she speaks drives me up the fucking wall.

Pineapple Express (September 12th). Not doing well on the cerebral front am I? I'm sure there are people out there who are well and truly over Judd Apatow and his compadres. I enjoyed but was not floored by Knocked Up, Superbad or Forgetting Sarah Marshall though it has left me with a mad crush on Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. Only one of them is in this movie of course. The story of two slacker stoners on the run after witnessing corrupt cops commit a murder is hardly mining new territory but the trailer made me chuckle a few times, though I hope it's not a case of the only funny parts being in the trailer.

The Women (September 12th). I have to say I had completely forgotten about this movie being made and it's highly likely that while watching it, I'll keep getting the giggles thinking about Elaine Stritch's story about being in a touring production of this show, told in At Liberty. But it will be fascinating to see the likes of Annette Bening and Carrie Fisher completely upstage Eva Mendes and Meg Ryan, don't you think? I have to say that I do.

Brideshead Revisited (October 3rd). Now this is more like it. A sumptuous looking adaptation of what has already been a classic and much loved television series and is of course based on Waugh's timeless novel. The cast has old school brilliance (Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson) mixed with the pick of up and coming talent (the three key roles of Charles Ryder, Sebastian and Julia Flyte are taken by Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw and Hayley Atwell, all of whom are fearsomely talented). I cannot wait. Here's hoping, after her Woody Allen disappointment, this is Atwell's breakthrough. Anyone who has seen her in The Line Of Beauty will know exactly what she's capable of.

Burn After Reading (October 17th). I am not in any way a die hard Coens Brothers fan. They've made some astonishing movies and they've also made some astonishingly bad movies. The former does of course outweigh the latter and when they get it right, they really get it fucking right (Fargo, No Country For Old Men). This cast makes me just about shit my pants in anticipation as well. I've loved Tilda Swinton for over 15 years now, she has such an incredible presence I could and will watch her in anything. Same goes for Frances McDormand. So if this film turns out to be the two of them reading the ingredients off the back of a cereal box for 90 minutes, I probably wouldn't mind. Certainly not if Brad and George were in the background.

Quantum Of Solace (October 31st). Yes, so it's a horrible title. It's still better than Tomorrow Never Dies, as titles go. Daniel Craig is the best thing that has ever happened to Bond and the franchise. While Casino Royale is not quite the slam dunk it thinks it is (weak villain, horrible third act), it's still mightily entertaining stuff and it's just full of tantalising promise. It's difficult to tell from the hyperkinetic editing of the teaser trailer whether the promise has been fulfilled or not, but I'll happily pay my money to find out. Plus, Judi Dench, the second best thing to ever happen to the Bond franchise is still front and centre as M. Good good.

Blindness (November 14th). Early reviews at Cannes were disappointed with the latest film from Fernando Meirelles. I have to say the plot sounds like Day Of The Triffids without the Triffids. Also, the trailer simultaneously intrigues and excites me, but also makes me think there's potential for this to be 2008's Children Of Men (which is to say an inexplicably publically adored piece of shit). Julianne Moore rarely sets a foot wrong and there's also Mark Ruffalo and Gael Garcia Bernal in the mix. Oh, and Sandra Oh. Also, City Of God and Constant Gardener were two jaw dropping films from a direction perspective. So the odds are on the film's side if you ask me.

Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince (November 21st). Is there anyone not looking forward to this? After turning the longest book of the series into the shortest movie so far, it'll be interesting to see what they do with Book 6, in which there's an awful lot of padding and not much happens until the final third. I was interested to read that all of the big action sequences which take place off the page and are merely discussed on the page will be shown in the movie, and apparently writ large. I still think cutting the final book into two movies is the worst idea possible (just write a really fucking good adaptation! You can pare some of the midsection of the book down to a montage without losing anything for the love of God) but at least Prince would seem to be shaping up nicely.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (December 12th). Could this be the role Keanu Reeves was born to play? When I first read about this happening, I thought it was shocker of an idea. Big sci fi remakes of alien invasion movies could only conjure up a flashback to Spielberg's War Of The Worlds, which caused me some serious acid reflux. But then I saw the trailer and thought "well, I'll be. They might just make this worth watching after all." Reeves seems to fit the role in a way he hasn't since Neo and while I'm sure there will still be some fist swallowingly terrible moments from him, they will hopefully be fewer and farther between than usual.

For 2008, that's pretty much it right now. Stay tuned for the joys of 2009.