“You’re Not Superman, You Know.”

Kirsten Dunst as ‘Mary Jane Watson’ in “Spider-Man” (2002)I recently finished working through Jenny Nicholson’s (hilarious) guest appearances on the Screen Junkies show Movie Fights, and her impassioned advocacy for Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie (2002) set me scouring the shops for a copy, so I could better understand her arguments. My shorthand review would be that some of the jokes and FX have aged badly, and the plotting seems a little rushed/clumsy (often the case with origin stories), but the performances and direction/editing are pretty faultless, and it’s got a lot more heart/soul/charm/humour than most of the recent MCU movies. I mean, they’ve all been very entertaining, but never particularly memorable or distinctive… whereas this was clearly the work of a quirky craftsman, with an “oddball” sensibility alongside a more poetic sentimental side. I certainly wouldn’t think any less of someone who listed this as their favourite film of all time, though if I’d been judging that particular episode of Movie Fights I’d probably have sided with Alicia Malone, who nominated Amélie for her pick in that category. Swoon!

Although I easily spotted Raimi-regulars Bruce Campbell (as the wrestling-match “Ring Announcer”) and Ted Raimi (as harried Daily Bugle staffer ‘Hoffman’), as well as future-Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (in a brief-but-amusing cameo as the wrestling-contest “Check-In Girl”), I completely failed to recognise two actresses I really ought to know by sight: Lucy Lawless (as the pervy “Punk Rock Girl” giving a vox-pop interview to camera), and Elizabeth Banks (as ‘Betty Brant’, the “Girl Friday” to irascible editor ‘J. Jonah Jameson’ (J.K. Simmons)). Shame on me… shame, shame, shame!

Lucy Lawless as ‘Punk Rock Girl’ in “Spider-Man” (2002)For his part, Raimi gives Spencer and Banks glowing references on the commentary track, praising their ability to shine in small, underwritten roles. He’s also very complimentary about his lead actress, Kirsten Dunst, of course, praising the layers and generosity in her performance as the troubled (and frequently imperilled) girl-next-door ‘Mary Jane’. In an accompanying featurette, co-star Tobey Maguire also describes her as soulful and fun to be around on set… which is lucky, because they were contracted to appear together for another couple sequels!

Meanwhile, on the commentary track, Dunst notes what a pain it was to spend so much time in the freezing fake-rain for their iconic upside-down-kiss scene, and how annoying she began to find the sound of her own screams, after multiple takes of her “damsel-in-distress” moments. She also claims that when she was first contacted about the movie, she assumed she’d be playing the character ‘Gwen Stacy’ since the two of them are both blonde… but I think it’s fair to say she makes an equally adorable red-head!

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Galaxonbury

Suzuka Nakamoto as 'Su-metal' and Moa Kikuchi as 'Moametal' at Glastonbury Festival 7/19Last weekend three acts I’d dearly love to see live were playing Glastonbury Festival: Vodun, The Lounge Kittens, and Babymetal… though there was never any chance of me actually attending the event, because I hate the outdoors, and “roughing it” in general… so praise be to the Beeb for at least posting the latter band’s set online, for my couch-potato-y appreciation.

Apparently Babymetal are now utilising a revolving trio of “brave avengers” to fill in for founding member Yuimetal (who retired last year when her survival instinct finally kicked in), with one of them possibly getting the gig on a permanent basis once they’ve proven their mettle to the Fox God…? Either way, this was a relatively short and contained afternoon-matinee on “The Other Stage”, and sadly they didn’t seem to get nearly as much feedback from the sun-stroked audience as their adorable, high-energy performance really deserved. Personally I couldn’t help nodding along and throwing fox-signs in the air as the band thrashed away and Su-Metal sang her socks off, because seeing them always gets me buzzed. That said, I’m not sure I would have been much more use during the slightly awkward moments where she turned the microphone towards the crowd, and expected them to echo her vocal gymnastics. Repeating a simple call-and-response chorus is one thing, but going “woooah-oooah-oooah-oooah-oooah” in perfect harmony and cadence is quite another!

Ah well, I hope they enjoyed themselves, and hooked some new fans into the fold, while also inspiring (relative) veterans like myself to pre-order their forthcoming album, Metal Galaxy (due to be released on October 11th). Yatta!

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“It’s A Miracle!”

[Contains damp embroidery and SPOILERS!!!]

Aubrey Plaza as ‘Sister Fernanda’ in “The Little Hours”Consider this: Aubrey Plaza and Kate Micucci dressed as nuns, swearing like sailors on shore-leave and making out together, before dancing (mostly) naked in the woods with a coven of witches. I know it sounds like something a sweaty-palmed perv like me would (and does) day-dream about, but it’s also an actual sub-plot in the medieval sex-comedy The Little Hours (2016)!

Loosely based on The Decameron, a collection of C14th novellas by Giovanni Boccaccio, this semi-improvised indie flick is centred around a small, isolated convent in the Italian countryside, run (rather poorly, it turns out) by ‘Mother Marea’ (Molly Shannon) and ‘Father Tommasso’ (John C. Reilly), who are unaware of what their profane charges are getting up to behind their backs, until the employment of a hunky young groundskeeper (Dave Franco) ramps up the friction and frustration felt by jealous “bad girl” ‘Sister Fernanda’ (Plaza) and spoiled “good girl” ‘Sister Alessandra’ (Alison Brie), leading to violence, drug abuse, and black magic/humour.

Kate Micucci as ‘Sister Ginevra’, Alison Brie as ‘Sister Alessandra’, and Aubrey Plaza as ‘Sister Fernanda’ in “The Little Hours”I’m not a big fan of comedies with a lot of adlibbing, because all-too-often the characters and stories become distorted by actors attempting to say the funniest thing they can think of, rather than the most consistent/convincing thing… but thankfully that isn’t the case here. The jokes are all pretty low-key, and firmly rooted in the cast’s established screen-personas, working hand-in-glove with the plot, to achieve an admirably cohesive whole. Although the contemporary speech and behaviour might warrant accusations of “anachronism”, they never threaten the fourth wall with references to future inventions/people, or break the spell of the strangely sweet little world they’ve created.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve fallen pretty hard for this film, and would happily rank it among my “Top 20 Comedies of All-Time”, if such a list existed. It’s also given me a slew of new images to use as my desktop wallpaper, though I’m sure I’ll eventually return to a pic of Plaza as the curly-haired-psychotherapist version of ‘Lenny’ from Legion, which returned for a third and final season earlier this week, and is even trippier than ever thanks to the addition of (intentional) time-traveller ‘Switch’ (Lauren Tsai). All hail “The Breakfast Queen”!

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PunkWatch: Queen Barb

‘Queen Barb’ in “Trolls World Tour”I wasn’t aware of the Trolls musical movie franchise until the trailer for a forthcoming sequel started appearing on various news sites this week, touting the heavy metal tuneage and cameo voice-overs. According to the blurb, there are six different Troll tribes scattered over separate lands, each devoted to a different kind of music (Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop, Rock), and the “villain” of this instalment (voiced by Rachel Bloom) is a pierced-and-punky bad-ass who wants to destroy all the other genres, so that guitar-shredding will reign supreme. Hurrah!

I’m not generally a toy collector, and I’ve never had any impulse to pick up any “troll dolls” before now, but I can easily see myself buying a bunch of Barb merch when this flick drops in… er… April 2020!? Wow… they’re really getting the hype-train rolling early, eh?

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Brictory!

Patti Harrison a la “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” (6/19)Although IMDb informs me that I’ve seen her in several shows before, I didn’t really “discover” the comedian Patti Harrison until earlier this week, when Full Frontal with Samantha Bee drafted her in to present a field-piece on the history of Pride Month, and the central role that Transgender women-of-colour played during the “Stonewall Riots” of 1969. I thought she was hilariously acerbic, and super-cute to boot, so I started searching for more clips of her, and found that she’s posted (approximately) a gazillion skits on YouTube!

Highlights (so far) include the bizarre dating-at-a-dog-show “Barkchelorette” parody… a series of cliché-shredding interviews with other Trans women, during which she half-heartedly attempts to turn them “cis” again with “convers(at)ion therapy”(!?)… and Unsend, the bitchier-than-thou social-media-mocking web-show she co-hosted with Joel Kim Booster. Her performance of an unsolicited song submission for Dua Lipa is also something to behold! So, yeah… I’ve become an adoring fan of her acidic* style of humour in a remarkably short space of time, and hope to see much, much more of her in future…

The Phluid Project's "Pride by Patti" Tee, illustrated by Daniel SpenserOh, FFwSB has also teamed-up with The Phluid Project to produce a “Pride by Patti” T-shirt (illustrated by Daniel Spenser, who’s provided plenty other graphics for the show), which is being sold to benefit the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Hurrah!

UPDATE (17/7/19): Having watched as many skits as I could find on YouTube, I’d just like to add my appreciation for her short webseries Patti Reviews Exotic Animals, co-hosted by actual animal-trainer/party-edutainerNature Nick”! I love the double-act dynamic they have, pitting Patti’s aggressive absurdity against Nick’s sincere enthusiasm/concern for his critters, combined with his snarky disdain for her tomfoolery. Apparently it only ran for a couple months back in 2017, but I could happily watch this adorable odd-couple review every damn creature on the face of the Earth… and then move on to reviewing all the humans too…

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* “Acidic” in both the caustic sense, and also the trippy/surreal sense…

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Velvety Chicken?

Natasia Demetriou and Ellie White circa 2018After developing a serious crush on Natasia Demetriou in What We Do in the Shadows (TV), I “discovered” that for many years now she’s also been the comedy-partner of The Windsors‘s Ellie White! To be fair, I’m sure I watched some of their skits back when the “Royal Wedding Special” aired a year ago, but I was mostly focussing on White then, rather than her collaborator, so now I can watch them again with fresh eyes… and also enjoy a new 18-minute “pilot” that the BBC have posted on their iPlayer thingy, stuffed with surreal sketches and discomforting characters. Fun!

Meanwhile, this Wednesday sees/hears the return of White’s onscreen-sister Celeste Dring to our airwaves, in a new series of spoof Radio 4 “human interest” podcast The East Coast Listening Post, co-written and presented with her “Lazy Susan” comedy-partner Freya Parker. Also fun!

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M-B-E-2-M-I-A

M.I.A. (aka Mathangi Arulpragasam) circa April 2019I was a little surprised when I read the news that British-Sri-Lankan rapper/provocateur M.I.A. (aka Mathangi Arulpragasam) was being awarded an M.B.E. (aka The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) this year for her services to music… not because she doesn’t deserve it, but because I didn’t think it was the sort of shiny establishment bauble she’d accept. In fact, there’s a rather sweet reason for why she is “honoured to have this honour”, namely that her Mum used to make the very ribbon that she’ll be receiving! According to her Insta: “I want to honour what my mum spent many hours of her life doing! She is one of the 2 women in England who hand stitched these medals for the last 30 years. After receiving asylum my mum and cousin took this job in 1986, because it was the only non-English speaking manual labour she could find. She spent her life in England hand sewing 1000s of medals for the Queen. No matter how I feel or what I think, my Mother was extremely proud of the job she had. It’s a very unique situation for me where I get to honour her most classiest minimum wage job ever.” Bless.

Apparently she also uncovered a spooky co-inky-dink concerning one of her predecessors: “The last time a TAMIL got a MBE was 1954. It was a man called ARULPRAGASAM (not related) and he died the year I was born.” Yikes! I hope it’s not some sort of Highlander-type situation (i.e., “there can be only one”)…?

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