Sting Like A Bee

Samantha Bee a la "Full Frontal" (S1)It’s been a looong time since More4 stopped rebroadcasting The Daily Show over here in the UK, but back when I was watching it every week-night, Samantha Bee was one of my fave correspondents… and this Monday saw the premiere of her very own satirical late-night talk show on TBS. Hurrah!

As a Brit, I’m not always as au fait with the subject matter of topical American comedy as a native would be, but thankfully this week’s show was largely focussed on the Democratic and Republican Presidential Campaigns, which are also getting a lot of coverage on this side of the Atlantic (largely due to the balls-out craziness of some of the candidates). Considering her years of experience on the Daily Show, it’s no surprise that Bee made for a very assured and engaging host… but she also managed to hit the ground running with enough smart and funny material to make this an extremely auspicious debut.* As the end credits rolled, she raved about how excited she was to be “going on this ride” with us, and now I’m excited too!

Fun fact: According to a piece on the NYMag site, the show’s writers were hired “blind”, solely on the basis of their submissions, without any knowledge of the applicants’ gender/ethnicity/experience-level… resulting in a staff that is approximately 50% female and 30% non-white.

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* SPOILER: There’s also a great cutaway gag in the opening scene where she participates in a sinister witchy ritual to ensure the show’s success, that Horror fans should really get a kick out of…

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Super (Kawaii) Troupers

Suzuka Nakamoto as 'Su-metal' in "Babymetal: Live at Budokan"Last month got off to a rather miserable start, with Mercury retrograde (it’s an astrology thing… don’t ask), and cold/wet weather wearing away my post-Xmas buzz, leaving me with a sniffly nose, sore throat, and bunged-up ears. Meh! To cheer myself and cure my ills, I decided to order Babymetal‘s Live at Budokan: Red Night & Black Night Apocalypse (2015) DVD… but sadly this self-medication only proved to be partially successful…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly exhilarating to watch Yui and Moa perform their tightly-choreographed and hyper-active dance manoeuvres live (on video), while Sui sings her heart-and-soul out, with the band shredding their instruments in the background, and the home-crowd singing/chanting along and waggling their glow-sticks in the darkness… but I couldn’t help worrying for the young girls’ safety as they careened around the raised stage and scurried past open spouts of flame, without anything to protect their bare limbs (and fluttery outfits) but the goodwill of the Fox God they frequently invoke in their act! Thankfully, they managed to stay out of harm’s way for the majority of the first (Red) night… but then, during the song “Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!”, I noticed that their dance-formation had become distinctly asymmetrical, as one of their number was mysteriously missing. According to various reports, this is because Yui slipped/fell from the stage (off-camera) and had to take a little injury break, before valiantly returning for the finale. Bless her. I hope she got “hazard pay” for that, poor thing!

The terrifying stage used for "Babymetal: Live at Budokan"The second (Black) night’s show seemed far more subdued than its predecessor… though I’m not sure if that’s just me projecting my own concerns onto the screen, or if the girls were genuinely in lower spirits for that performance, because of Yui’s accident… or because all the higher-energy songs/dances were scheduled for the end of the set (in contrast to Red Night’s running order), so they were just pacing themselves for the final push? Either way, I didn’t really enjoy this show as much as the first one… though I was glad to see that the belatedly-installed safety barriers ensured that all three members survived to climb into their ill-fitting coffin-rockets, which then carried them off into the sky, towards the welcoming ears and eyeballs of Europe. Hurrah! Still, I can’t help but worry about the girls… I mean, clearly they’re putting their all into these performances, and slips/sprains/injuries are an occupational hazard for dancers of any age, in any genre… but these Metal-Babies are so insanely adorable that seeing them get hurt would be extra-specially heart-breaking, dammit!

Yui Mizuno as 'Yuimetal', and Moa Kikuchi as 'Moametal' in "Babymetal: Live at Budokan"On the upside, Yui’s predicament did prompt me to make more of an effort to identify which of the “screamers” was which… I mean, I could already tell them apart as individuals, I just wasn’t sure which name went with which face. To short-hand it: Yui has wavier hair and rounder cheeks, while Moa has dimples and a little beauty mark on her left cheek. They’ve also started wearing a single glove on opposing hands, but that won’t help you very much if the photo you’re looking at has been flipped!

Oh, I should also mention how well-filmed and edited these shows are… they really capture/cover the concert as completely as you could hope for… though I should just warn any potential purchasers that the bit on the back of the case that states “Language: English” simply refers to the fact that you can select an English-language menu to access the show and individual chapters… there aren’t any subtitles to help you understand any of the prologue/epilogue videos, which is a real shame, imho.

In case anyone’s curious, my fave song (so far) is “Doki Doki – Morning“, and my fave dance move is, er, pretty much everything they do during that song… though I’m also a fan of the sideways hop during “Megitsune”.

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Valellientines

Janeane Garofalo as ‘Paula’ in “The Larry Sanders Show” (S3)Now that we’re knee-deep into Valentine’s Month, I’ve decided to distract myself from the howling vortex of loneliness by contemplating which fictional lady-person I’d most like to go on a date with. Fun?

Of course, I’m still crushing pretty heavily on ‘Paula’ from The Larry Sanders Show (as portrayed by Janeane Garofalo) at the moment… but, based on the episodes I’ve seen so far, I strongly suspect that she’d either stand me up completely, or cancel at the last minute, because some guest had pulled out of (or been bumped from) the show, and she was busy trying to wrangle a replacement. Even if she did turn up, we’d probably have to spend the whole evening stood outside the pub/restaurant so that she could chain-smoke and bitch about all the celebs/agents who’d spurned her that week. Obviously in real life I’d be more understanding and supportive of her career… but that’s not really the stuff that romantic day-dreams are made of, is it?

Ellie Kendrick as 'Allison Larkin' in "Being Human" (UK) (ep #4.6)And so I find myself leaning towards an age-appropriate (and non-werewolf-y) version of ‘Allison’ from Being Human (UK) (ep #4.6), as portrayed by Ellie Kendrick. When the series first started, back in 2009, I found myself unable to watch more than the first few episodes, because the premise and style of humour was far too close to the sort of comical Urban Fantasy that I was trying to write/sell at the time. To make a thematically-appropriate analogy, it was like seeing a girl you’re in love with going out with a far more successful and popular guy, who kinda looks like a handsomer version of you. Gah! And that aversion had endured throughout the subsequent years, despite several friends frequently raving about the series, until my newly-acquired affection/admiration for Kendrick compelled me to get over my petty grudge and check out her featured episode.

Ellie Kendrick as 'Allison Larkin' in "Being Human" (UK) (ep #4.6)Sadly, I can’t give her character an unqualified endorsement, because the way that Allison was depicted came dangerously close to insulting “geek-face” stereotyping at times… but some of the other characters were also quite exaggerated caricatures, so clearly that was par-for-the-course for the show at that point in its run, and not a targeted attack on geek-girls in particular. In fact, a behind-the-scenes video about the creation of the character suggests that the writers were very fond of Allison, who they praised as a diligent, well-mannered, and kind-hearted “good egg”. Of course, Kendrick’s innate adorability shone through, making her very easy to root/fall for, even when she made some terrible tactical errors while tangling with antagonistic vampires. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so that’s all I’ll say about that… but anyone who’s interested in seeing the character in “action”, without watching the whole episode (or season), should definitely check out the faux-vlog that she posted on YouTube. Imho, this is the cutest that Kendrick has ever looked on-screen… which is saying a lot, because “super-cute” is pretty much her baseline setting.

Ellie Kendrick as 'Allison Larkin' in "Being Human" (UK) (ep #4.6)As for the date itself… based on what I saw in this episode, I’m guessing it would be a daytime rendezvous, involving a visit to one of the hundreds of museums or historical attractions that Allison can access using her much-vaunted Blue Peter badge. We’d wander around the exhibits, chatting and joking (and learning, of course!), share a cosy packed-lunch on a convenient bench or flight of steps, then maybe dress up in historical costumes for a fun souvenir photograph together. After that, we’d head back to her place for some friendly debate practice (and a little light-petting?), before parting at a respectable hour and retreating to our respective bedrooms to journal about our day together. Swoon!

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“Hide The Rum!”

[Contains bone-cages and SPOILERS!!!]

Naomie Harris as ‘Tia Dalma’ in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest”It’s been a looong time since I last watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), and I’d foolishly forgotten that (despite its bum-numbing length) it was only the first part of a two-part story, which ends on some pretty nail-biting cliff-hangers. I’d also suppressed all of the old-school racism that soils the movie from start to finish, such as the duplicitous/disposable crew-members-of-colour, the highly controversial (and totally unnecessary) “Cannibal Island” detour, and the inclusion of a thickly-accented “Sinister Other”/“Magical Negro” character, ‘Tia Dalma’.* In the latter case, the “behind the scenes” featurette on the second disc reveals that when director Gore Verbinski first started casting the role, the script-writers (Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio) had only provided sketchy “placeholder” scenes for her, which depicted the character as little more than a “two-dimensional fortune-teller” (in Verbinski’s own words). In fact, the writers were still polishing the script for this movie (and it’s shot-back-to-back sequel) long after principal photography had commenced… which may explain why they never had the opportunity to step back from what they’d written, and see the bigger picture. That’s not an excuse, of course, but you do get the sense that the bread-head studio brass were pushing the movies into production purely as a money-making venture, and that once the juggernaut was set in motion (and burning through its budget), everyone was determined to keep it rolling forward at full-speed, regardless of whether they had a script that was actually worth shooting or not! Unfortunately, the thoughtless and outdated depiction of ethnic minorities seems to be an unfortunate side-effect of this blinkered, arse-about-face approach to blockbuster movie-making…

According to a wiki fan-site for the PotC franchise, Walt Disney Pictures was “questioned by the National Garifuna Council, a representative body of the Garifuna people, for what they feel is a racist portrayal of the Calinago, or Caribs, as cannibals”, but nothing ever came of it, or the other objections that were raised in numerous negative reviews. In fact, the movie managed to break several box office records and bring in well over a BILLION dollars world-wide, against a budget of $225 million… and that’s not even counting the subsequent DVD and merchandise sales! At least I can take some comfort in the fact that my money went to a local charity shop, rather than the careless corporation that profited from this casual recycling of largely discredited colonial propaganda. Feh!

Keira Knightley as ‘Elizabeth Swann’ in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest”Meanwhile, back on a feminist-y tip, ‘Elizabeth Swann’ (Keira Knightley) did get to take part in several epic sword-fight sequences this time around, and all of the actors seemed to agree that Knightley was equally fearless and kick-ass off-screen… with the stunt co-ordinator (George Marshall Ruge) suggesting that she could easily carve out a second career as a stunt-woman, if the fancy took her! The making-of featurette also revealed that Knightley’s hair was cropped short at the time (for her role in Domino), so she was required to wear a long blonde wig for all of her scenes here… despite the fact that Elizabeth spent a significant amount of time disguised as a boy so that she could stowaway aboard a trading ship, meaning it would have made much more sense for her to have short hair in (and after) that sequence! Apparently, in this case, prettiness was a higher priority than plausibility and the actress’s personal comfort. Gah!

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* I can’t remember exactly how things play out in the next movie, but I’m dimly aware that she may be “selflessly” aiding the main (white) characters as part of an evil masterplan… so there’s no point hammering that point too hard until I get around to watching the sequel…

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Con Envy: 4/16

Erica Gavin, back in the day...As of this morning, if someone asked me my dream holiday destination (at least for the last week of April), I’d confidently reply: “Parsippany, New Jersey, of course!” Why for? Well, that’s where my long-time crushes Erica Gavin and Nell Campbell (aka “Little Nell”) will be appearing as guests at the Chiller Theatre Expo, along with Campbell’s Rocky Horror co-stars Patricia Quinn and Barry Bostwick! In theory they’ll be present for the entire three-day-weekend, though there aren’t any specifics on the website about what they’ll actually be doing, or how much they’ll be charging for autographs and/or photos… sorry.

Meanwhile, I’m still debating whether or not to book a ticket for the far-more-convenient BFCC in March… no GoT-related guests have been announced so far, but Farscape‘s Virginia Hey might be there (minus her life-threatening ‘Zhaan’ make-up, of course), which could be kinda cool… though I don’t really have enough time to re-watch all of her episodes before the convention, to refresh my reference-bank. Pesky!

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A Quote About Quotas…

Katherine Ryan a la "Kathbum" (2015)The topic of “affirmative action” is trending again at the moment, as a storm brews over this year’s all-white Oscar nominations… so I thought I’d share this tidbit I read while “researching” my post about Katherine Ryan yesterday. To block-quote from a recent Telegraph piece about the top-class comedienne:

“For as long as anyone can remember, female comedians have been denied the same level of exposure as their male counterparts. Since February [2014], the BBC has attempted to address the problem by banning all-male line-ups on panel shows such as Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You. The decision has not been universally popular: Mock the Week presenter Dara Ó Briain argued that any female comedian on a panel “will suddenly look like the token woman”. But something is working. Over the past few years, comedians including Sarah Millican, Josie Long, Sara Pascoe and 2013 Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner Bridget Christie have finally started getting the recognition – both on television and on the live circuit – that their material deserves… 

You can now add to that list the name of Katherine Ryan… [who] has become a panel-show regular, her cut-throat contributions making a mockery of the “token woman” tag… “I got into comedy at exactly the right moment,” she says… “It’s like the dotcom people who started working for Microsoft in the Eighties. All of a sudden, the industry went, ‘We need some female comedians, are there any of them?’ and you put your hand up and you’re like, ‘I’ve been quietly working away at this for 10 years.’”

Sooo… if the BBC hadn’t initiated and enforced a quota for female panelists, then Ryan might never have achieved the level of recognition she’s currently enjoying, and I wouldn’t have gotten to see her perform live in my hometown. To me that’s undeniable proof that “positive discrimination” is a force for good in our world!

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“Euchhh… White People!”

Harriet Kemsley (circa 2015)It isn’t very often that a name comedian visits our tiny, end-of-the-line town, so God bless “TV’s Katherine Ryan” for gracing us with her dazzling presence, along with up-and-coming support act Harriet Kemsley. Our volunteer-run pavilion theatre was jam-packed for the event, and it was comforting to be surrounded by so many appreciative comedy fans of all ages (and genders).

It was a very cold and rainy night outside, so Kemsley had the unenviable task of warming up a chilly/soggy audience… but she braved the lukewarm room, and her cheery charm soon won everyone over, as she delivered gags-aplenty about working for the NHS, the perils of falling in love, and her mother’s increasingly bizarre insistence that Santa personally selected all of her Xmas presents. There was also a rather sweet moment during her sign-off when she started to re-state her name, then remembered that it was emblazoned across the backdrop in huge brightly-lit letters! Bless. Oh, and she does a very good “manic laugh” too, which is always a plus in my book. Definitely someone to keep an eye on in the future…

Harriet Kemsley and Katherine Ryan live and blurry (23/1/16)After a brief interval, and without any introduction whatsoever, Ryan strode onto the stage wearing a pair of killer stilettos, gorgeous black ensemble, large sparkly necklace, and full make-up… which easily assured her status as the most glamorous woman I’ve ever set eyes on in this town. I tried to take some snaps of both comics with my new (used) digital camera, but haven’t quite figured out how to use it properly yet, so they all came out very shaky/blurry. In fact, I spent so long trying to get a decent shot of Ryan that an usher tapped me on the shoulder and told me to put my camera away… just moments before the lady herself declared that she didn’t care about the theatre’s rules, and that she was happy for people to text and take photos throughout her set! Still, I didn’t want to spend the whole night mucking around with my camera, so I should be grateful for the reminder to focus on the live human being on-stage in front of me, rather than the fuzzy version on my LCD screen!

An empty stage waiting to be owned by Katherine Ryan (23/1/16)I don’t want to spoil (or misquote) all of Ryan’s jokes, but suffice to say that her Kathbum show is an accomplished, crowd-pleasing combination of vicious celebrity satire and endearing anecdotes about her miserable Canadian childhood and proud single-motherhood, littered with strong swears, clever call-backs, and cute puns (my fave being when she noted that her hometown of Sarnia “sounded like Narnia, but with more sandwiches”!). I’ll admit that before last night I only really knew Ryan from her (very funny) appearances on comedy panel shows, but this was such a sophisticated and skilfully delivered show, she’s leapt way up in my estimations and is now my No. 1 fave British stand-up. She absolutely owned the stage, and had the audience roaring with laughter… or cringing and awww-ing where appropriate. I know this sounds like a cliché metaphor, but when I went to bed last night my sides were still literally aching from laughing so hard!

Katherine Ryan a la "Kathbum" (2015)If she’d had a merchandise stall out in the foyer, I would’ve gladly bought as many goodies as I could afford… but she didn’t, and there don’t seem to be any available online either! Ryan doesn’t even have a DVD out, which seems like a crime against comedy to me… hopefully this extensive nation-wide tour will help to cement her reputation, and raise her profile in time for an Xmas splurge…? Either way, if you get the chance to see her at a venue near you, I highly recommend snapping up tickets ASAP… assuming there are any left, obviously…

Note: I’ve come to realise that I’m actually a pretty awful audience-member for live comedy… in the sense that I’m too insecure/introverted to shout out when the comedian asks general questions, and have a near-silent laugh… so, I feel kinda guilty that I wasn’t giving anything back, beyond an occasional burst of applause. I just hope they could feel my amusement and enthusiasm on an unconscious/subliminal level…? Probably not… so on the off-chance Ryan does ever read this, I’d like her to know that I’d be more than happy to pop around and tell her she has “too many cats”, any day of the week…

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