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:

Piaf


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.

Hamlet

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....

Damages

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.

Nip/Tuck

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.

Chuck

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.

Supernatural

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.