Harley-volution (Pt. 7)

[Continuing my compulsive cataloguing of Harley Quinn‘s various on-screen appearances, in (roughly) chronological order. Contains will-crushing fist-bumps and SPOILERS!!!]

Harley Quinn in “Justice League Action” (ep #1.25)After her brief cameo in an earlier instalment of the short-and-snappy Justice League Action cartoon series, our ‘Harley’ (Tara Strong) returned for a slightly more substantial (though still sadly subordinate) appearance in ep #1.25, aka “Garden of Evil”. Once again written by co-creator Paul Dini, the episode saw her playing bridesmaid to gal-pal ‘Poison Ivy’, who was using her apparently-unlimited plant-control powers to manipulate ‘Swamp Thing’ (Mark Hamill) into marrying her, and destroying the eponymous super-hero squad as a wedding gift! I have to say I found Ivy’s voice especially alluring this time around, but it wasn’t until the end credits rolled that I realised that was because she was being played by none-other-than Natasha Leggero! Although Ivy was the main antagonist of the episode, Harley did get to bust out her old “Boingy! Boingy!” catchphrase while bouncing around on spring-heeled shoes, and even managed to take down the far-more-powerful ‘Firestorm’ (P.J. Byrne) with nothing more than a sucker-punch with a boxing-glove! Hurrah!

Many months later, she managed to score a more central role (and titular namecheck) in ep #1.42 (“Harley Goes Ape”), though she didn’t actually show her face on-screen until two minutes into the episode, which only ran to ten minutes total! Tch! Still, at least she was credited with the crazy criminal cunning to exploit the distraction/danger of a giant ape attack in Metropolis to sneak into an abandoned jewellery store and bag herself some bling. Her heist was rudely interrupted by the do-gooding ‘Stargirl’ (Natalie Lander), who turfed Harley back out onto the street, where she had an impromptu encounter with the rampaging primate, ‘Titano’, an old chum from her days as a behavioural zoologist at S.T.A.R. Labs (who was subsequently shot off into space and embiggened by a Kryptonite comet). Unfortunately, he was now being piggy-backed and worked like a furry meat-puppet by ‘Gorilla Grodd’ (David Sobolov), so the reunion was sweet, but short-lived.

Harley Quinn in “Justice League Action” (ep #1.42)After ‘Superman’ (Jason J. Lewis) and Stargirl managed to prise the malevolent mind-controlling monkey* off of Titano’s back, he went rogue, and scooped Harley up for the inevitable King Kong spoof. “I seem to remember seeing something like this in a movie”, she observes, as they scale the Daily Planet tower, before noting that “It didn’t end well!” Thankfully she and Stargirl were able to sooth the savage beast with a song (and a giant promotional teddy-bear), before he took a fatal tumble… but then Supes “rewarded” our anti-heroine for helping to save the city by shoving her in the back of a meat-wagon with Grodd, simply because she still happened to have some “hot rocks” on her person! Harsh! That said, it did give her a chance to bust out her therapy pad, and offer the stewing simian some free psychoanalysis, so all’s well that ends well, eh?

Overall, this episode (once again written by Dini) was a very enjoyable romp, with numerous humorous highlights… such as Harley hyping herself as “America’s screwball sweetheart” (and rather less plausibly as “Batman’s arch-enemy”), and the ease/alacrity with which she casually picked the lock on her standard-issue police handcuffs! I also dug her odd-couple dynamic with Stargirl, who she nick-named “powerpuff”… presumably as an in-joke-y reference to one of Strong’s (many) other voice-over roles, as ‘Bubbles’ on The Powerpuff Girls…?

Harley Quinn in “The Lego Batman Movie” (2017)Meanwhile, over in a whole other animated “universe”, Harley returned to the world of sticky toy-bricks in The Lego Batman Movie (2017)… which, much like its predecessor (The Lego Movie (2014)), made me chuckle and gasp many times, but never laugh-out-loud. They’re both superficial frantic fun, and very enjoyable in the moment, but much harder to care about after the credits have rolled, imho. Although I’d been looking forward to hearing Jenny Slate’s take on Harley, I found myself rather underwhelmed by the end result… largely because she wasn’t really given a substantial role to play, or any ear-catching dialogue or memorable jokes to work with. The same goes for the other supporting female characters, voiced by ringers like Riki Lindhome (as ‘Poison Ivy’ and ‘Wicked Witch of the West’), Kate Micucci (as ‘Clayface’), Zoë Kravitz (as ‘Catwoman’), Ellie Kemper (as ‘Phyllis’, gate-keeper of The Phantom Zone), and Laura Kightlinger (as ‘Reporter Pippa’ and ‘Orca’)… though Rosario Dawson fared a lot better as ‘Barbara Gordon’ (aka ‘Batgirl’), one of the main antagonists in the movie, who succeeded her father as Gotham’s Police Commissioner, and attempted to end the egotistical vigilante’s lone-wolf law-bending. Btw, why does every single Lego-based Batman movie have to kick-off with ‘The Joker’ (Zach Galifianakis) recruiting the rest of the “rogue’s gallery” to wreck up his home city? Seriously, this is the third time that’s happened now, and it’s getting kinda boring… meh…

Note: IMDb has now discontinued its character-centric filmography pages, which will make it much trickier to keep track of Harley’s appearances as she flits from screen to screen. Dammit!

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* I know that technically Grodd’s also an ape, not a “monkey”, but that spoils the alliteration/pun.

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Sink Or Swim (Redux)

Every now and then I try to check the links I’ve posted here, to see if they’re still active… and earlier this morning my attention was drawn to the fact that one year on, The Nottingham Post has taken down its post-task-win interview with former The Apprentice (UK) hopeful Frances Bishop (presumably because they don’t have infinite server-space to store all their old articles on?) Anyhoo, for the sake of posterity, I’ve salvaged the page using the marvellous Internet Archive “Wayback Machine”:

Frances Bishop a la "The Apprentice" (UK) 2016Project manager Frances Bishop finally wins a task on The Apprentice

By Stewart Thorpe – Posted: November 17, 2016

Keyworth’s Frances Bishop celebrated her first victory in The Apprentice after six consecutive losses brought her closer to Lord Sugar’s firing line last week. The Pud! store business owner and reality game show contestant coasted to victory as Team Nebula’s project manager turning on her “totalitarian” side to secure her first win. Episode six, screened last week, left Frances as the only person in the process not to win a task and Lord Sugar warned the 25-year-old that she needed to impress. Following his remark, the business tycoon appointed Frances and Karthik to lead Team Nebula and Team Titan, respectively, in this week’s sales task.

Candidates were tasked with tapping into one of the UK’s biggest markets – the boating and leisure industry. Speaking to the Post Frances, who was tasked with managing Sofiane, Jessica, Trishna and Paul, said: “I only had a few minutes to get a strategy together with my team. I knew that Paul and Sofia didn’t work well together and split them up and I knew that Paul would be a good sub team leader. There were all a bit taken aback because I had such a strategy quite quickly.” Coupled with Harrods worker Sofia, Frances’ sub team took responsibility for selling the high-end items with surprising success in the dreary weather conditions – especially considering Frances cannot swim. “The BBC said if you can’t swim you can’t do it but I wrote a declaration saying that if anything goes wrong I take that risk upon myself,” said Frances. “Thankfully it was fine. I didn’t die.”

After picking their products to take to the Poole Harbour Boat Show, for once, Team Nebula team ended up more successful than Team Titan. “When they were reading out the results I actually cried. I was like ‘I have finally won!'”, added Frances. “The strategy was sell, sell, sell and that is what we did. Normally I have quite a relaxed management style but if you don’t know the people you have to lay down the law and I was dealing with some big characters.” Team Titan finished with almost £43,000 in sales whilst Karthik – despite calling himself a “brilliant project manager” for ‘project managing’ his son’s conception – lead Team Titan to defeat as they took home just £188.90.

Frances Bishop in "The Apprentice" (UK) (ep #12.7)Frances’ victorious Team Nebula went to one of the world’s most famous rowing clubs – The Leander Club – where they were met by double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell for a rowing lesson. Frances said: “It was fun to finally get to go on a treat but James Cracknell was taking the mic out of me because I can’t swim. I was the only one made to wear a life jacket!”

Since then Bishop has scaled the heck out of her Pud Store chain, which recently won “Best Independent Apparel Retailer” (2017) at the Progressive Preschool Awards. So snaps to her (and her staff) for that.

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Kittens For Sale!

The Lounge Kittens circa 2017Britain’s foremost lounge-style-rock/rap-covers comedy act, The Lounge Kittens, are having an end-of-year-ish sale over on their site, and that means you can pick up their debut E.P. (Just The Tip) and album (Sequins & C-Bombs) for a song. Pun! They’ve also slashed the prices of their T-shirts, but most are only available in “small” sizes at this point.*

Sadly, when the Kittens passed through my neck-of-the-woods earlier this year, it was to host a vocal-training workshop, rather than to play an actual gig… and I’m totally tone-deaf, so if I had gone along it would have just been a huge embarrassment for me, and an ear-ache for everyone else… so I just sat at home and watched their videos from a safe distance instead. Hopefully they’ll be putting out another album soon (apocalypse-permitting), or at least giving a proper live performance a little closer to my Hobbit-hole…

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* Those pesky small people get all the best/cheapest clothes! Tch!

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Auktion Over!

Danza Direct's "Pasta Dog" spaghetti-tidy, as featured in "Get Krack!n" (S1)The Get Krack!n eBay prop auction ended earlier this morning (UK-time)… and even though the bids slowed down considerably after the first couple days, they still managed to raise an impressive amount of cash for their chosen charitable “kauses”.

The “Pasta Dog” spaghetti-tidy brought in $455 (Australian-money) for the Butucarbin Aboriginal Corporation, which “works to facilitate and coordinate relevant community programs and activities that contribute to the support of the Aboriginal community”… while the “Kroombe” kitchen gadget thingy brought in $162.71 for the Human Rights Law Centre, which “protects and promotes human rights in Australia and in Australian activities overseas, using a combination of legal action, advocacy, research, and capacity building.”

So a hearty “Good onya!” to everyone who bid, and my seething envy to the eventual winners…

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Happy Halloween! (2017)

Sadly the spookiest (and therefore best) month of the year is coming to an end now, and all of those adorable smiley pumpkins and skellingtons are already being nudged off the supermarket shelves by Santa and his snobby reindeer. Boo!

Kate McLennan in costume for a Halloween skit on “Get Krack!n” (S1)However, there’s still some spine-tingling fun to be had courtesy of the Get Krack!n gals, who’ve posted a (NSFW) skit to mark the occasion, and comment on our all-too-real geo-political horrorscape. Meanwhile, Samantha Bee has provided some simpatico last-minute costume ideas inspired by the demonic residents of what she calls “the swirling hell pit of the White House”. Eeek!

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* Kate McLennan wore that same Frankenstein’s-Monster costume for a couple scenes in a previous episode of the series, and it genuinely freaks me out, because I can hear her voice coming from the character, but I can’t see her underneath the make-up/wig, so there’s a really unsettling dissonance there. Shudder.

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Not Dead Yet: The Release!

The DVD cover of “L7: Pretend We’re Dead” (2017)The L7 documentary Pretend We’re Dead has finally been unleashed on “home video” in the States (and on Amazon video, here in the UK)… though, as a backer of the initial Kickstarter campaign, I actually received my (signed) copy a couple weeks ago, and watched an exclusive online stream of an earlier edit several months back. I’m not sure how much appeal the film will hold for people entirely unfamiliar with the band and their music, but as a long-time fan I found it fascinating, and loved all the old-timey video/film footage that the doc’s director, Sarah Price, managed to assemble to illustrate their “rags-to-riches-to-rags-again” story… alongside specially-recorded interview snippets with the likes of Joan Jett, Shirley Manson, and CSS testifying to the importance/awesomeness of our out-spoken, hard-rockin’ heroines. If nothing else, it’s a salutary lesson that fame and fortune don’t always go hand-in-hand, and that an artist can be both “ahead of their time, and behind on their rent”!

Besides the main feature, there’s also 30 minutes of bonus on-tour “home movie”-type footage, and “L7: The Beauty Process” (1998), a 45-minute pseudo-documentary directed by Krist Novoselic (of Nirvana fame), comprising scripted/semi-improvised (?) skits and live performance footage. Although the Blu-Ray disc included in the dual-format retail release seems a bit superfluous, as it doesn’t contain any extra features, and the documentary itself is mostly comprised of low-definition archive footage, the set is a total steal at just $16!

SPOILER: I think Slap-Happy (1999) is a great album… in fact, I still have the T-shirt, and often wear it around this time of year due to its Halloween-y artwork… so it broke my heart to learn that it was such a commercial flop, and that all of the unsold copies were unceremoniously buried in a landfill pit. Harsh!

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“Shareable Kontent!”

Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan in “Get Krack!n” (S1)The first season of Get Krack!n screeched to a halt last week, and the eight episodes just seem to have flown by! For those who haven’t seen it, this vicious Australian spoof of daytime “magazine” television stars co-writers Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan as the slowly-unravelling hosts of a would-be-breezy breakfast show, that is constantly verging on (and often plunging head-first into) a nervous breakdown, due to its extremely-early-morning timeslot, and the relative inexperience/ambivalence of its fictional cast and crew.

At first I thought the show was vastly inferior to its creators’ previous collaboration, The Katering Show… but by the end of the second instalment, I realised that this was because I was trying to read all of the jokey captions/news-crawls when they appeared, and missing what was actually happening in the scenes behind them. So I resolved to watch every episode twice… first paying attention to the action/dialogue, and then looping back around to focus on the text… thus allowing me to properly appreciate how densely-packed and hilarious the show really was. It’s like the comedic equivalent of a Beach Boys album… you’re smacked in the face with a wall of jokes, operating on a variety of levels, from the silly, to the sweary, to the satirical, to the unsettling… and it takes a couple passes to absorb it all on a conscious level. Meanwhile, the format of the show allows them to tackle a mind-boggling array of topics, from Katy Perry to kids’ lunches to Aboriginal reconciliation, all with the help/hindrance of their many guests and “Kracksperts”, played by the likes of Anne Edmonds, Charlotte Nicdao, Michelle Lim Davidson, Kat Stewart, Miranda Tapsell, Nakkiah Lui, Ming-Zhu Hii, Deborah Mailman, Madeleine West, and Robyn Butler.

Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan in “Get Krack!n” (S1)I was impressed by the Kates’ commitment to “positive discrimination”, both in terms of the actors they cast, and the way in which they tackled various hot-button issues… though their marked tendency to side with ethnic/oppressed-minorities while snarkily deriding the white-majority/patriarchy seems to have provoked a bit of a backlash in the user-review sections of sites like IMDb. Personally, I consider McCartney & McLennan to be two of the sharpest and funniest comedians on the planet right now, but I can see how this sort of irreverent vulgarity might not be to everyone’s taste… and that’s fine, so long as there are enough fans pulling strings at ABC to ensure these girls* get a second season!

Note: Earlier this morning (UK-time) a couple of props from the show’s faux-infomercials were put up for auction on eBay, with the proceeds going to various good causes… but before I even had a chance to figure out the exchange rate, the bidding war had escalated well beyond my meagre means. Dammit!

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* Correction: They’re thirty-seven-year-old women!

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